"That you, Dashaway?"
The room was lighter now, with the door half open. Dave rubbed his eyes and strained his gaze, and took a good look at the speaker.
"Don't you know me?" challenged the latter.
"Oh, yes," replied Dave, "I see now. You are the gentleman we rescued from the lake at Columbus."
"I don't suppose you think me much of a gentleman just now, Dashaway," spoke Ridgely, for, he was, in fact Dave's visitor.
His tone was somewhat regretful, and not at all unfriendly. Dave was shrewd enough to discover this, and politic enough to take quick advantage of it.
"Oh, I don't know," he said. "Of course you are with the crowd who had me locked in here."
"I'm sorry to say that's true," responded Ridgely.
"It's not pleasant here, I can tell you," said Dave, "and the whole thing is pretty high handed, don't you think so, Mr. Ridgely?"
"I don't think it, Dashaway, I know, it. See here, I've got nothing against you. On the contrary, I owe you a good deal. I'm not forgetting that you saved my life when my launch struck the rocks near Columbus."
Dave was silent, resolved to let the man have his say out.
"I was in a fix then, I was in a fix before I got there, and I'm afraid I'm in a fix now," continued Ridgely. "I've come to see you in the right spirit, Dashaway."
"How is that?" inquired Dave.
"Sick of the whole combination. I thought I was smart, but you and your people are smarter. Young Dawson convinced me that we could run things so our airship could make trips for a long time, and here you are on our trail within seventy-two hours."
"Yes, Mr. Ridgely," acknowledged the young aviator. "They found a clew and started pursuit right after you stole the Drifter."
"You mean you did. Don't be modest, Dashaway. I've learned a good deal about you, and if I hadn't about decided to quit business I'd offer you a job."
"What!" smiled Dave—"smuggling?"
"Well, it pays pretty big, you know."
"Does it?" replied Dave. "I fail to see it. I wouldn't like to be in a position where I was being chased half over the country."
"H'm, we won't discuss it," retorted Ridgely in a moody tone. "I came to tell you that you won't be hurt any."
"But I want to get away from here," insisted Dave.
"That will be all, too," Ridgely assured him. "You see, we know now that things are going to break up. I don't suppose you would tell me how closely the revenue officers are on our track."
"So close," replied Dave gravely, "that you won't dare to cross the border any more."
"Are they on the Canadian side yet?" questioned Ridgely anxiously.
"I don't know that, and I shouldn't feel right in telling you if I did," replied Dave. "You had better let me go, Mr. Ridgely. It won't sound well, when things get righted, that you kept me a prisoner here."
"I haven't all the say about that, Dashaway," confessed Ridgely in a rueful way. "I don't think the Dawsons will let you go until they are sure of making themselves safe."
"Do you know what became of our airship, Mr. Ridgely?" Dave asked pointedly.
"No, I don't—none of us do. Young Dawnson is pretty good in the air, but he didn't seem to know how to get off the water quickly. After we got you aboard, we lost a lot of time getting you ashore, and, up in the air again, when we started in the direction we had seen your airship go, we could find no trace of it."
"I hope nothing his happened to Hiram," thought Dave, very anxiously.
"If I get away," resumed Ridgely, "I want you to tell the people after me, if you can, that I'm all through with the smuggling business. I've had my fill of it."
The speaker turned to leave the room, but Dave halted him with the question:
"What are you going to do about me, Mr. Ridgely?"
"I am going to order the people here to treat you the best they know how," was the prompt response.
"That's all very well enough," said Dave, "but I have business to attend to."
"What business, Dashaway?"
"Our airship and my friend."
Ridgely looked troubled. He was thoughtfully, silent for a moment or two. Then he said:
"Look here, Dashaway, our men are looking for your airship, and that means your friend, too, of course. I've got to go to Brantford, but I shall leave word that they must look after your friend, and let you go the minute I send back word that the coast is clear for them to scatter."
"But what about the Drifter, Mr. Ridgley?" persisted Dave. "It is the property of my employers. I came after it, and I want it."
A faint smile of mingled amusement and admiration crossed the face of Ridgely. Reckless fellow that he was, he could not fail to recognize the fact that Dave, indeed, had business to attend to.
"You take it pretty cool, Dashaway," he observed.
"Because I am in the right," asserted Dave, "as you well know. The Dawsons are malicious people. I want you to warn them that if they do, any unnecessary injury to the Drifter, it will make it the worse for them in the final reckoning that is bound to come."
"I don't think they will do the airship any injury."
"You don't know them as I do. Desperate fellows like the Dawsons will do anything at times."
"Dashaway, don't you think you are rather hard on them—and on me?"
"I know the Dawsons—I don't know much about you."
"I am not so bad as you think I am."
"Then why don't you set me free?"
"We won't discuss that, now. You had better think it over."
"I have thought it over. I am grateful to you for saving me, but—well at present I can't do anything."
"You mean, you won't."
"Well, have it that way if you wish."
"You'll be sorry some day," said Dave, bluntly.
Ridgely left the room. He closed the door after him with an assurance to Dave that things would be "all right." Just then there was the sound of some one hurrying into the next room, and an excited voice shouted out in an exultant tone:
"Say, father, we've got the other one, too!"
The young aviator at once recognized the voice in the adjoining room which spoke the excited, words:
"We've got the other one, too!"
It was Jerry Dawson who had spoken. Dave knew that the statement could refer to no other than his missing chum. Dave was in something of a flutter of suspense. Then his eye brightened and a cheery smile overspread his face, as he caught the words in a dearly familiar tone:
"Say, do you want to kill a fellow?"
It was Hiram who spoke, in a resentful and disgusted voice. Its accents were as pert and ringing as ever, and Dave was overjoyed to know that his loyal comrade was alive and apparently unhurt.
"Say, Dawson," here broke in Ridgely, "I want to speak to you."
"Put this fellow in with Dashaway," ordered Jerry, and then the door of Dave's prison place was pulled open. A familiar form came limping and stumbling across the threshold, and the door was slammed to and locked after him.
"Hiram!" cried Dave in genuine delight.
He drew back as his friend faced him. He had noticed that Hiram limped. Now he saw that one arm was in a sling. Besides that, Hiram's face was one mass of cuts and scratches. One eye was nearly closed.
"Oh, Hiram!" cried Dave aghast.
"Look is if I'd been through a threshing machine, do I?" grinned the plucky lad.
"What happened?" asked Dave seriously.
"Dave," declared Hiram almost solemnly, "I honestly don't know. The machine drove upwards so quickly I wondered if some jar or the broken wire that was switching about didn't start the lever. By the time I got to the pilot's seat the machine was on a terrific whiz."
"What did you do?" asked Dave.
"Not much of anything, except to get rattled," confessed Hiram. "I tried to circle, and she went banking. Then the Machine took the prettiest drift you ever saw. All of a sudden one of the planes dropped and then we landed."
"On top of some trees. Right beyond was a deep basin, chuck full of undergrowth. The machine just took a slide off the tops of the trees, and slipped down to the bottom of the basin. Then she turned, I was thrown out."
"What then, Hiram?" pressed Dave in a concerned way.
"Well, Dave, we had briers and brambles on the farm, but nothing to compare with those Canadian thistles, or whatever they were. Look at my face."
"And your arm?"
Hiram shrugged his shoulders resignedly.
"The half breed who looked at it said it was broken. He seemed to be some kind of an Indian doctor. He rubbed my scratches and bruises with some leaves and set my arm in splints."
"Why, where did the half breed come in?" inquired Dave.
"Well, as soon as I got my wits from the tumble, I thought of you. I tried to get up out of the basin, but the sides were so steep I couldn't make it. So I—well, Dave," added Hiram with a queer laugh, "I sort of busied myself about the airship. It wasn't much battered up. I feared the Dawson crowd might come hunting for the machine, so—well, I sort of busied myself about the airship," repeated Hiram, with a strange chuckle. "I was resting when that half breed and another fellow came along. The Indian is a great trailer, I guess, for he was sharp enough to notice the tree tops and the bushes the machine had rolled over. Anyhow, down he came on a rope into the basin and found me."
"And the Monarch II," said Dave.
"No, he didn't find the machine," declared Hiram.
"Let me tell my story, Dave," interrupted Hiram. "He got me up aloft. Then he said I was badly hurt, and started in to mend me up. Then they brought me here. They kept talking about the airship, and tried to make me tell where it was. I wouldn't, and didn't."
"Wasn't it in the basin you spoke of?" inquired Dave wonderingly.
"Hush! We're going to have visitors."
This was true. There was a sound at the door of their prison room, and the padlock was displaced. Jerry Dawson stepped into view, his father behind him.
"Well," he said, with a leer meant to be clever, "I suppose you fellows know me?"
"We know you, Jerry," retorted Hiram, "only too well."
"I'm boss here," boasted Jerry.
"That's fine, isn't it?" said Hiram.
"And I've got you. We'll have your airship soon, too. You'll do some walking getting back home, I'm thinking."
"What do you want of us, Jerry?" inquired Dave, coolly.
"I want to know where that airship of yours is in the first place."
"Put it in the last place, Jerry," suggested Hiram, "for you won't find out from me."
"I'll bet I will," vaunted Jerry. "I have a good mind to punch you for making all the mischief you have."
"You're safe, Jerry, seeing I'm disabled," said Hiram.
"Bah! Say, Dashaway, who's working against us here or across the lake besides yourself?"
"You will have to, guess that, Jerry," replied Dave.
"You won't tell?"
"No. I'll say this, though: You had better try to even up things in some way. The Interstate people and the government know all about you, and you are likely to have some explaining to do."
Jerry looked worried, but he feigned indifference.
"I'll keep you two safe and quiet till I get ready to quit, all the same," he snapped out, and slammed the door shut and locked it.
Dave and Hiram listened in silence for some minutes to sounds in the next room.
They could only catch the echo of voices. Jerry and his father seemed to be engaged in conversation.
Suddenly there was an interruption. There was the sound of an excited voice, drawing nearer each moment.
A door slammed. Then heavy running footsteps echoed out, ending only as some one appeared to burst unceremoniously into the next room.
"What's the row?" the boys heard in the gruff tones of Jerry's father.
"Say!" shouted the intruder, evidently a member of their group, "they've done it!"
"Who have?" shouted out Jerry quickly.
"What do you mean?"
"They got Ridgely."
A cry of dismay and excitement ran through the next room.
"How do you know?" demanded the elder Dawson.
"I saw them myself—right near Brantford. What's more, they're coming this way to get the rest of us."
At this announcement came another cry.
"You are sure of that?"
"When was this?"
"How soon will they be here?"
"Who is responsible for this?"
So the cries and questions ran on. There was an excited discussion all around.
"Maybe Ridgely is a turncoat!" cried somebody.
"Well, we can't talk about that now—we must look out for ourselves," said another.
"Right you are. Let us get out of here as soon as we possibly can!"
"That's the talk!"
THE ESCAPE BY AIRCRAFT
"That's good," instantly cried Hiram Dobbs. "They'll have troubles of their own now, maybe."
He and Dave listening closely, could now detect bustle and excitement in the rooms beyond their own prison place.
They could hear Jerry Dawson fussing and bawling about, while his father's gruff voice seemed to give orders to the men in the place.
"I wonder what they will do with us now?" inquired Hiram.
"We shall probably soon know," returned Dave.
"Get those fellows out of there, you two," they finally heard Jerry Dawson order.
The door of the prison room was unlocked and thrown open.
"March out," ordered Jerry.
Dave and Hiram took their time about obeying the mandate. Then at a word from Jerry two of his men hastened them across the threshold, seizing them by the arms.
"Ouch!" roared Hiram. "Do you want to smash my arm all over again?"
The man who held him was less rough at this. In the room the boys saw Jerry, his father, the two men who held them and three others. Before Dawson lay a large, round bundle. A smaller one lay at the feet of one of the other men.
"Now, then," spoke Dawson, "ready and quick is the word. I've divided it up fair, and you'll find your share in that bundle. You three had better get it and yourselves to some safe place."
"Yes," spoke one of the men, "the revenuers will surely be here soon."
"You two," continued Dawson to the men had Dave and Hiram in charge, "bring the boys along."
"Where to?" was asked.
"Just follow us," was the surly response.
"Give a hand, Jerry."
The two Dawsons lifted the bundle at their feet and started from the room. There were sounds as if some one was pounding on the door at the front of the building. The Dawsons, however, did not go that way. They quickened their steps, the captives were led through several rooms, and finally a door at the rear of the place was opened.
"Hold them tight now," ordered Jerry.
"Yes, and if they make any outcry quiet them the way you know how," added his father.
Dave and Hiram were surprised to find themselves now in complete darkness.
"We're going through some kind of a tunnel," whispered the young aviator to his companion a moment later.
Their captors forced them along in the steps of the Dawsons. They must have proceeded several hundred feet thus, when the tunnel grew lighter. Then they arrived at an exit letting out into a deep, narrow ravine.
"They must have taken this route to escape from the revenue officers," Dave told his companion, in a guarded tone.
"Shall we set up a fight and yell?" proposed the audacious Hiram.
"Not with that broken arm of yours and four to one," dissented Dave.
"Broken arm, nothing! Say-hello! Why, they're taking us to their airship!" exclaimed Hiram.
They had come upon the Drifter at a point where the ravine spread out and a long level space showed.
"Now then, brisk is the word," spoke the elder Dawson.
He and his son carried the bundle up to the Drifter and managed to stow it aboard. Jerry climbed into the pilot's seat. His father drew some stout double cord from his pocket.
"Tie up those boys hand and foot," he ordered grimly.
"See here, Mr. Dawson," spoke up Dave, "what are you going to do with us?"
"You'll find that out very soon," was the gruff reply.
The two men proceeded to secure the arms and feet of the captives. Dave knew it was useless to resist the rough treatment he received. Hiram was not so patient.
"Say, this is an outrage!" he cried out.
"What's the matter with you?" demanded Jerry Dawson, leaning from his seat with a scowl on his face.
"What do you want to tie a one-armed fellow up for?" grumbled Hiram.
"That's so," said the elder Dawson. "Just attend to his feet and one arm. No use making him safer. He won't be very dangerous with only a broken arm free."
First Dave and then Hiram were lifted into the seats behind the pilot's post. As has been said, the Drifter could carry five passengers, and they were not crowded or uncomfortable.
"They are going to carry us away with them," whispered Hiram to his companion.
"Let them," replied the young aviator. "It may give us a chance to outwit them someplace along the line."
Hiram chuckled. Dave stared at him strangely, but his doughty companion did not explain what he had in his mind.
"All ready," announced Jerry, his hand on his lever.
His father got into the seat behind him.
"Wait a minute," he spoke to his son. "You two," he added to the men who had accompanied them, "better get to your friends, divide up your plunder and make yourselves scarce as soon as you can."
"That's what we intend to do," replied one of the men.
"Hold on!" exclaimed his companion, suddenly turning around at the echo of a loud shout.
"What's the trouble now, I wonder?"
"Hey, stop the airship! Stop them! Stop them!" yelled the strident voice of a man coming pell mell down the ravine path. He was in a frantic state of excitement and waving his arms wildly.
"Don't lose a second," spoke Dawson quickly.
Jerry gave the starter a whirl. Dave noticed that his father was quite excited and kept watching the advancing runner.
"Stop them, I tell you!" yelled this individual whom Dave recognized as one of the three individuals left behind at the hut with the other bundle.
"What for?" shouted one of the two men near the airship.
"Robbers-thieves! That bundle they gave us!"
"What about it?"
"No silks—nothing but a lot of worthless truck. They've cheated us and are making away with the real plunder."
Whiz! up went the airship. The three men ran after it. The newcomer shook his fist vengefully after the machine. The other two picked up rocks and hurled them in its wake.
"O. K.," chuckled Jerry, as the Drifter shot far out of reach of their deluded confederates.
"Do your level best, Jerry," spoke his father.
The revenue men may have another airship in commission."
"Oh, I guess not," retorted Jerry airily. "Say, what about the one these fellows had?"
"They know and won't tell. Some of crowd will find it, though I told them if they did to dismantle it. They can get something for the old junk."
"About all they will get, eh?" leered Jerry.
"I'm thinking so."
"You didn't give them any of the silk?"
"That was slick," chuckled Jerry.
"Hear him! He's a fine one, isn't he?" observed Hiram to Dave.
"Yes, Jerry can't be true, even to his friends," replied the young aviator.
Dave watched Jerry at the lever. He had to admit that his enemy knew considerable about running an aircraft. The only criticism he could make was that several times Jerry took some big risks in daringly banking, when the least variation of the wind would have made the Drifter turn turtle.
It was six hours later when the airship descended. At times the machine had made fully sixty miles an hour. Long since they had passed the apparent limits of civilization. The course was due northwest. Vast forests spread out under them. It was only for the first time in one hundred miles, as they neared a small settlement on a river, that Jerry let down on the speed, and they descended at a spot about a mile from a settlement in the center of a big field.
Dave and Hiram were left in the chassis, while Jerry and his father left the machine. They conversed for some time, then it was arranged that Jerry should proceed to the settlement and purchase some provisions. His father came up to the machine as Jerry departed.
"See here, you two," he spoke in his usual gruff way, "we'll give you something to eat and, drink when Jerry comes back."
"Where are you taking us to, Mr. Dawson?" asked the young aviator.
"We are taking you so far from home, that you can't tramp back in time to pat any more of your friends on our track," was the blunt reply. "Another couple of hundred miles, and, if you behave yourself, we'll set you loose."
The man spoke as if the proposition was perfectly simple and honest one.
"Another couple of hundred miles?" repeated Dave.
"That is what I said, Dashaway."
"You are carrying things with a high hand, Mr. Dawson."
"Yes? Well, I know what I am doing."
"You may overreach yourself."
"Humph! I'll take my chances on that. You are smart, Dashaway, but you can't scare me and you can't get the best of me."
"But the law will get you, some day or another."
"Bah! I'm tired and don't want to listen to your talk. I tell you I know what I am doing."
"You won't release us now?"
"That is final?"
"It certainly is, and you may as well save your breath and not mention it again. I am tired out and don't want any more of such talk."
"Well, see here—"broke in Hiram.
"I won't listen to any more. Shut up."
With the words Dawson went over to a hammock at a little distance, spread his coat over it, and lay down to rest. It was not five minutes before his captives could hear him snoring loudly.
Hiram had been watching his every movement in an intense way. Now he leaned over towards Dave. His eyes were snapping with excitement and there was a broad smile on his face, as he whispered into the ear of the young aviator one word. It was:
"Hurrah!" was the word that Hiram Dobbs spoke exultantly, and Dave looked at him in profound surprise.
Hiram had lifted himself up from the seat. Now he went through some movements that almost startled the puzzled young aviator.
Suddenly his arm shot out of the sling, and as suddenly Hiram, though with a wince, swung it around once or twice, and the three splints holding it cracked and split audibly.
"Hey, Hiram!" gasped Dave.
"S-sh!" uttered his assistant warningly.
Hiram ran his free hand down into his pocket. He drew out the big pocket knife he carried. It was more of a tool than a whittling toy, for he used it in tinkering about the airship.
With his teeth, Hiram opened its largest blade. He gave a slash at the cords surrounding his other arm and his feet. Then he leaned over towards Dave. A few deft strokes of the keen blade, and Dave, like himself, was free.
"Easy," he whispered, as Dave started up. "I'll watch Dawson. You get into the pilot's seat."
"Good for you, Hiram!" whispered back the young aviator, fairly thrilling with the excitement of the moment.
Dave took in every detail of the mechanism before his eyes. He made sure of no faulty start.
"All ready," he announced after a minute or two.
"Good-bye!" spoke Hiram, with a gay bold wave of his hand in the direction of the sleeping, Dawson.
"Put on the muffler," ordered Dave, as the exhaust began to sizzle.
Hiram did so. It was too late, however, to avoid sounding a warning to Dawson. The big man started up with a yell. He came to his feet roaring out:
"I hope you'll find the walking good!" shouted Hiram, waving his hand in adieu to the amazed Dawson.
"Hiram, you're a genius!" cried Dave.
The Drifter struck a course as true as a die. The splendid machine and the young aviator were both at their best. There was a last fading picture of a forlorn man convulsed with rage and despair. Then the two boy aeronauts turned their back on the enemies who had been hoisted by their own petard.
"It's great, its grand," cheered Hiram, bubbling over with joy, as the exhilarating air and their magical progress made him realize what freedom meant to its fullest extent.
"I don't understand. Your arm, Hiram?" said Dave.
His jolly assistant waved the arm in question gaily.
"Wasn't it hurt?"
"Yes, and badly, I thought," reflected Hiram. "It was numb and useless when the half breed attended to it, but he was mistaken and so was I in thinking that any bones were broken."
"They were not?"
"Not a bit of it. Don't you see? It pains, and I'm bragging when I swing it around as if it was as good as ever, but I can use it."
"You have used it to a grand purpose, Hiram."
"I didn't notice that I could use it until they locked me up with you."
"Why didn't you tell me then?"
"Oh, I wanted to surprise you."
"You have, Hiram."
"I thought I'd play 'possum on those smart fellows. I played the cripple strong. You see what has come of it."
When they had gone nearly one hundred miles, Dave saw that the gasoline supply was running low. Luckily they were near a little town. They made a descent on a river, much to the delight and wonder of the whole place, bought a new supply, and resumed their flight.
It was after ten o'clock in the evening when the welcome lights of Anseton came into view. Dave did not look around for some hiding place on the outskirts on this occasion. He startled a drowsy policeman by landing in the middle of some vacant lots on his beat.
A brief explanation was made to the officer, and a man hired to watch the Drifter until they returned. Then Dave and Hiram hurried to the hotel in Anseton where Mr. Price made his headquarters.
The revenue officer was found. He listened to the story of the two young aviators in amazement and admiration. Then he reported results of his own efforts.
Ridgely was under arrest, two of his accomplices were being then pursued by his assistants, and the smuggling combination was all broken up.
"The clews you have given us were fine ones, Dashaway," said the official gratefully. "You have done the government a vast service, I can tell you."
Mr. Price insisted on the boys taking a needed rest. He sent one of his men to guard the Drifter, and, after a famous meal, made his guests agree to sleep in a comfortable bed for the first time in nearly a week.
It was just after they had entered their room that Dave made the remark.
"You know we had better see if those friends of the Dawsons have found the Monarch II and made away with it, Hiram."
"Well, I can tell you that they haven't," replied Hiram, with a confident chuckle.
"How can you know that?"
"Why, Dave, when I was shut in with the machine in that basin, I took it apart. You know it was made to do that, so it could be shipped readily. Well, I'll bet you I hid those parts in places in that basin where nobody can locate them but myself."
"Good for you!" commended Dave heartily.
"I think the Interstate people will have something pleasant to say to you when they know all the wonders you've done in chasing their stolen airship."
It was the brightest day in the year, it seemed to the two young aviators, as they reached Columbus by train, and started at once for Mr. King's hangar.
Old Grimshaw had met them at the depot. He was full of friendly chatter, seemed to be chuckling over some secret surprise he had in store for them, and rushed them towards the headquarters of the Aegis.
"Yes, Mr. King is back," he advised the boys.
"Did he find Mr. Dale?" inquired Dave anxiously.
"He'll tell you."
Dave and Hiram had much to relate. Two boys probably never received a more pleasant welcome than they, when with the Drifter they reported to the manager of the Interstate Aeroplane Company.
Mr. Randolph had the president and two directors of the concern on hand to meet them. Their stirring story was taken in by the august business men with an attention and appreciation that of itself paid the lads well for all the duty done.
The boys had remained long enough at Anseton to have some men go with them and locate the hidden sections of the Monarch II, and arrange to have them shipped by rail back to the factory.
Dave felt pretty rich when he left the Interstate works with a check for five hundred dollars in his pocket, and an offer of advanced employment for himself and his loyal and useful assistant for two seasons ahead.
"I want to see Mr. King before I decide what I will do," Dave told Mr. Randolph, his mind full of the much discussed flight across the Atlantic in the giant airship. "You can have your two hundred and fifty dollars any time you like, Hiram." he added to his chum on their way to the depot.
As they now reached the Aegis hangar, Grimshaw stepped aside with a pleased laugh.
"Safe and sound and famous. Here they are, Mr. King!" he shouted.
"There's no doubt of that," chorused the friendly voice of the expert aviator. "Dave! Hiram! A thousand times welcome."
If he had been own father to the lads, Mr. King could not have greeted them more affectionately.
"You've done us all proud, Dashaway," he declared. "Got a telegram from the Interstate folks, and the noon paper. The paper has given you two columns. This way. A friend waiting to see you."
Mr. King pushed Dave across the little room in the hangar he used as an office.
A middle aged, noble looking gentleman arose from a chair as Dave entered. His face was beaming, and there was an eager light in his eyes.
"Dave Dashaway?" he said, half inquiringly.
"Yes, sir," assented Dave, grasping the extended hand of the gentleman.
"My best and oldest friend's boy," continued the gentleman.
"It is Mr. Dale, Dashaway," spoke Mr. King, following Dave into the room.
Somehow the young aviator felt his heart warm to the man of whom he had heard so much, but had never before seen. The old gentleman's eyes rested on him in a kindly earnest way that made Dave feel less lonely in the world.
Briefly Mr. King told of the chase he had made to locate Mr. Dale.
"I've got a long story to tell," said the aviator, when he could get a chance to talk. He turned to Mr. Dale. "That is, if you wish me to tell it," he added.
"Certainly," was the ready reply. "You can probably tell it better than I can."
"Well, to begin with, it was no easy task to get on the track of this fellow Gregg," commenced the well-known aviator. "I had to do some tall hunting before I could locate him and his two cronies."
"His cronies?" repeated Dave.
"Yes, he had two fellows in the game with him. I guess he found out that he could not manage it alone. The three of them called on Mr. Dale and at first got him to take an automobile ride. Then they took him to a lonely house down near Slaytown, and there they kept him a prisoner."
"Just as we were kept prisoners," muttered our hero.
"Mr. Dale says he was treated very nicely, for Gregg no doubt, had an idea he could get more money that way."
"Well, after a good deal of hard work I located the spot and saw Mr. Dale from a distance. I knew I could not rescue him single handed, so I went back to town and notified the police. I had hard work getting three officers to accompany me, because the police just then were having their annual inspection and parade and all wanted to be present. When we got to the lonely house we got a big surprise."
"How was that?"
"Gregg and the two men and Mr. Dale were gone."
"At first I couldn't find out. But we saw wagon tracks in the soft roadbed and followed these along the road and through a big field. Presently we came to a patch of woods, and there found what in years gone by had been a lumber camp. At the old house we saw a horse and wagon, and we knew the crowd must be somewhere around. We separated, and came up to the place from all sides. In a shed near the house we found Gregg and the two men. They were discussing the situation, when we pounced on them and surprised them."
"Did they resist?"
"Gregg did, and as a consequence he got a blow in the mouth from a policeman's club that broke off two of his teeth. Then all of the crowd gave up, and we handcuffed the lot and made them prisoners."
"And Mr. Dale?" asked Dave, with interest.
"We found him in the old house, tied up."
"And very grateful for the rescue," put in the old gentleman, warmly.
"All of us came to town in the wagon the rascals had hired. Then Gregg and his accomplices were put in jail, and Mr. Dale and I came on here," concluded Mr. King.
"I am mighty happy to see things have turned out this way," said our hero, heartily.
"I am so glad to find the son of my old balloonist friend," said Mr. Dale, "that I shall have to adopt you legally, Dave, before you slip away from me again. Let me be your second father, my boy, and take an interest in your progress. I stayed over here with our mutual friend, Mr. King, purposely to go over this wonderful plan to cross the Atlantic in an airship."
"Then you think well of it?" asked Dave.
"You do not have to ask that of an old aeronaut enthusiast, my boy," replied Mr. Dale.
"Yes, Dashaway," said the aviator, "Mr. Dale has promised gladly to furnish the capital to put through our newest giant airship scheme."
So, for the present, we leave Dave Dashaway, the young aviator, and his friends. What happened to them in their new and daring project, will be told in the next volume of this series, to be called, "Dave Dashaway and His Giant Airship; Or, A Marvelous Trip Across the Atlantic."
The young aviator had won his way through pluck and perseverance. Dave had already done some great things in his apprenticeship as a junior aeronaut.
Now, the friend, and assistant of a noted expert in aeronautics, he was eager and buoyant at the prospect of winning fame and fortune in an attempt that was the dream of the expert airman of the world.