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     The Motor Rangers' Cloud Cruiser

       John Henry Goldfrap / Young Adult
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CHAPTER IX.

SOME STRATEGY.

The first effect of a sudden and utterly unexpected disaster is,usually, to produce incredulity in its victims. It was so in this case.

“Nonsense,” spoke the professor, more sharply than was his wont, “Iguess, after all, I am mistaken; it must be an accident.”

“If so, it’s a remarkable one,” said Nat grimly. “The bolt has beenslid into a hasp on the outside.”

“Woof!” ejaculated Mr. Tubbs. “Then we are in the position of the mousethat wandered into a nice snug trap.”

“That’s the way it looks to me,” was Nat’s rejoinder. “What do you makeof it, Joe?”

The stout lad had, by this time, joined Nat on the stairway. But theircombined efforts failed to budge the door.

“It’s locked sure enough,” replied Joe. “Hush!”

“What’s up?”

“I thought I heard a sound of whispering on the outside.”

“So did I. That means there is some one out there listening to see howwe are taking it. Let’s give the door a good pounding. Maybe we canmake them give some explanation.”

The idea was voted a good one. The two lads shook and banged on thedoor with all the vigor they possessed.

They were rewarded by hearing a gruff voice growl out:

“Ain’t a bit of use your shaking that door. It’ll hold till we get goodand ready to open it.”

“That’s Captain Lawless,” declared the professor.

He raised his voice.

“What do you mean by this outrage?” he loudly demanded.

“Now, perfusser, don’t get hot in the collar,” was the rough advicehurled back at him. “I knows what I’m doin’. You don’t think that I’mgoin’ to stand trial before a maritime court just on your account, doyou?”

“You precious rascal!” hailed Mr. Tubbs. “I’d like to have my hands onyou for about five minutes.”

No rejoinder came this time. Evidently the skipper was not in a mood tobandy words. As a matter of fact, he was half beginning to regret hisaction in imprisoning the adventurers. To use the vernacular, he wasrather apprehensive that he had “bitten off more than he could chew.”

“We’ve got to get out of this somehow.”

It was fifteen minutes later, after an interval devoted to a discussionof their situation, that the professor spoke.

“Agreed,” struck in Mr. Tubbs, “but how in the name of the immortal AbeLincoln are we going to do it?”

“I’ve got an idea,” said Nat suddenly. “See that old lounge in thecorner there?”

They nodded and waited for his next words.

“It’s old and rickety, but it’s made of stout timbers. What’s thematter with using that for a battering ram?”

“Excellent!” exclaimed the professor, catching his meaning. “But whatare we going to do if we get out of here?”

“That’s a logical inquiry,” said Mr. Tubbs. “We haven’t got anyweapons, and those rascals may be well armed. I know that the captainand the mate always carry revolvers. I’m not sure about the others,though.”

“Humph!” murmured Nat. “I hadn’t thought of that. Tell you what we cando, though. Let’s make a search of the cabin. Maybe we can find somepistols or other weapons in one of them.”

“A good idea,” agreed the professor; “we’ll start by examining thecaptain’s boudoir.”

They had hardly commenced their search of that worthy’s room, before ashout from Joe announced that he had made a discovery. It was nothingmore nor less than a pistol in a case. On the wall, too, apparently asan ornament, hung an aged and rusty looking blunderbuss.

“Hurray!” cried Nat; “that’s something, anyhow. Professor, you take thepistol and I’ll——”

“If it’s all the same to you,” interrupted the man of science, “I had agood deal rather you boys took the weapons. I am short-sighted, and Iknow that my friend Tubbs is not over familiar with firearms——”

“Except in a shooting gallery at Coney Island,” put in Mr. Tubbsapologetically.

“Very well, sir,” said Nat. “Joe will take the blunderbuss and I’llcarry the pistol. Wonder if that old blunderbore is loaded, anyhow?”

“I’ve got an idea for testing it,” said Joe.

“What’s that?”

“Look here, why wouldn’t it be a good idea to place the muzzle of thisferocious weapon to the door at the point where we think the lock islocated? If it is loaded, it’s pretty sure to have enough slugs in itto carry away the lock, and the rest we’ll have to chance to luck.”

“That’s a good suggestion, too. At any rate, it won’t do any harm totry it. We can’t be worse off, unless that rascally captain makes uswalk the plank or something, and he wouldn’t dare to do that, I guess.”

“Let’s see if there aren’t some more shooting-irons lying round loose,”suggested Mr. Tubbs; “seems to me that mate always had some in hisroom.”

But a visit to the mate’s room resulted in the discovery of nothingmore formidable than a pair of ancient cutlasses, hung crosswise on thewall. The professor and Mr. Tubbs helped themselves to these, thelatter flourishing his in a truly awe-inspiring manner.

“How do you like the weapon?” asked Nat, who, despite the seriousnessof their position, could not forbear smiling at the moving-pictureman’s antics.

“Man alive!” rejoined Mr. Tubbs, “I only wish that it was possible toget a moving picture of ourselves going into action.”

“Now then, Joe,” said Nat, when they had scoured the cabinunsuccessfully for any more weapons, “it’s time for you to try yourstunt.”

Joe ascended the stairs and carefully placed the muzzle of theblunderbuss in position under the spot where he was certain the lockwas situated.

“All ready?” asked Nat in a strained whisper.

“All right here,” responded Joe, his finger crooking on the rustytrigger.

“Then let her go!” came the command.

But before Joe could press the bit of steel which he hoped woulddischarge the gun, there came a startling interruption.

Bang!

Another gun had been fired outside. What could it mean?

“That’s the _Nomad’s_ gun. They are attacking her and trying to makeDing-dong a prisoner!” cried Nat.

Bo-o-o-o-o-m!

The rusty throat of the old blunderbuss roared, and Joe was knockedclean off his feet by the accompanying “kick.”

At the same instant the door was blown into fragments, and a stentorianvoice could be heard roaring out:

“Howling tornadoes! What’s that? A volcano?”

“Reckon somebody was taking a siesta on that door and old MisterBlunderbuss disturbed him,” grinned Nat, as he caught Joe in his arms.

“Forward!” yelled Mr. Tubbs, brandishing his cutlass in the manner madefamiliar by the heroes of naval pictures of the olden time.

The others caught the infection.

“Forward!” cried Nat, and, shoulder to shoulder, they plunged up thecompanionway, burst through the shattered doorway, and rushed pell-mellout upon the deck of the schooner.


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