Infomotions, Inc.Curlie Carson Listens In / Snell, Roy J. (Roy Judson), 1878-



Author: Snell, Roy J. (Roy Judson), 1878-
Title: Curlie Carson Listens In
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): curlie; joe; curlie carson; map; joe marion; vincent ardmore; exclaimed curlie; message; stormy petrel; coles masters
Contributor(s): Beard, Dan, 1850-1941 [Illustrator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 38,688 words (really short) Grade range: 6-8 (grade school) Readability score: 74 (easy)
Identifier: etext19351
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Title: Curlie Carson Listens In


Author: Roy J. Snell



Release Date: September 22, 2006  [eBook #19351]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-646-US (US-ASCII)


***START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK CURLIE CARSON LISTENS IN***


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CURLIE CARSON LISTENS IN

by

ROY J. SNELL







The Reilly & Lee Co.
Chicago

Printed in the United States of America
Copyright, 1922
by
The Reilly & Lee Co.
All Rights Reserved




Curlie Carson Listens In



CONTENTS

 CHAPTER                                       PAGE

       I  A STRANGE MESSAGE                       9
      II  SOMETHING BIG                          20
     III  A WHISPER IN THE NIGHT                 34
      IV  A GAME FOR TWO                         46
       V  IN THE DARK                            55
      VI  A REAL DISCOVERY                       64
     VII  CURLIE RECEIVES A SHOCK                75
    VIII  CURLIE MEETS A MILLIONAIRE             84
      IX  A MYSTERIOUS MAP                       95
       X  THE FIRST LAP OF A LONG JOURNEY       107
      XI  "MANY BARBARIANS AND MUCH GOLD"       117
     XII  OUT TO SEA IN A COCKLESHELL           126
    XIII  A GHOST WALKS                         134
     XIV  THE COMING STORM                      141
      XV  S. O. S.                              151
     XVI  A CONFESSION                          160
    XVII  A BLINDING FLASH OF LIGHT             170
   XVIII  THE STORMY PETREL GETS AN ANSWER      177
     XIX  THE MAP'S SECRET                      185
      XX  A SEA ABOVE A SEA                     194
     XXI  THE BOATS ARE GONE                    203
    XXII  THE WRECK OF THE KITTLEWAKE           211
   XXIII  THE MIRACLE                           219
    XXIV  THE STORY OF THE MAP                  227
     XXV  OFF ON ANOTHER WILD CHASE             234






CURLIE CARSON LISTENS IN

CHAPTER I

A STRANGE MESSAGE


Behind locked and barred doors, surrounded by numberless
mysterious-looking instruments, sat Curlie Carson. To the right of him
was a narrow window. Through that window, a dizzy depth below, lay the
city. Its square, flat roofs formed a mammoth checker-board. Between the
squares criss-crossed the narrow black streets. Like a white chalk-line,
drawn by a careless child, the river wound its crooked way across this
checker-board.

To the left of him was a second narrow window. Through this he caught
the dark gleam of the broad waters of Lake Michigan. Here and there
across the surface twinkled the lamps of a vessel, or flashed the
warning beacon of a lighthouse.

A boy in his late teens was Curlie. Slender, dark, with coal-black eyes,
with curls of the same hue clinging tightly to his well-shaped head, he
had the strong profile and the smooth tapering fingers that might belong
to an artist, a pickpocket or a detective.

An artist Curlie was, an artist in his line--radio. Although still a
boy, he was already an operator of the "commercial, extra first-class"
type. So far as license and title were concerned, he could go no higher.
A pickpocket he was not, but a detective he might be thought to be; a
strange type of detective, however, a detective of the air; the kind
that sits in a small room hundreds of feet in air and listens; listens
to the schemes, the plots, the counterplots of men and to the wild
babble of fools. His task was that of aiding in the capture of knaves
and the silencing of foolish folks who used the newly-discovered
radiophone as their mouthpiece.

"Foolish people," Major Whittaker, Curlie's superior, who had called
him to the service, had said, "do quite as much damage to the radio
service as crooks. Fools and knaves must alike be punished and your task
will be to help catch them."

Wonderful ears had Curlie Carson, perhaps the most wonderful ears in the
world. In catching the fine shadings of diminishing sounds which came to
him through the radio compass, there was not a man who could excel him.

So Curlie sat there surrounded by wire-wrapped frames, coils, keys,
buttons, switches, motors, dry-cells, storage batteries and all the odds
and ends which made up the equipment of the most perfect listening-in
station in the world.

As he sat there with Joe Marion, his pal, by his side, his brow was
wrinkled in thought. He was reviewing the events of the previous night.
At 1:00 a.m., the witching hour when the crooked ones, the mean ones,
come creeping forth like ghosts to carry on doubtful conversations by
radio, a strange thing had happened. A message had gone crashing out
through space. Wave lengths 1200 meters long sped it on its way. There
was power enough behind it to carry it from pole to pole, but all it had
said was:

"A slight breeze from the west."

Three times the message had been repeated, then had come silence. There
had been no answer though Curlie had listened long for it on 1200 meter
wave lengths and five other lengths as well.

Sudden as had come the message, fleet as had been its passing, it had
not been too fleet for Curlie. He had compassed its direction; measured
its distance. On a map of the city which lay before him he had made a
pencil cross and said:

"It came from there." And he was right for, strange as it may seem, an
expert such as Curlie can sit in a hidden tower room such as his was and
detect the exact location of a station whose message has set his ear
drums aquiver.

The location had puzzled him. There was not a station in the city
licensed to send 1200 meter wave lengths. The spot he had marked was the
location of the city's most magnificent apartment hotel. The hotel
possessed a radiophone set. Its antennae, hung high upon the building's
roof, were capable of carrying that 1200 meter message with all that
power behind it, but the radio equipment of the hotel had no such power.

"Something crooked about that," he had mumbled to himself.

His first impulse had been to call the police. He did not act upon it.
They might blunder. The thing might get out. This law-breaker might
escape. Not five people in all the world knew of Curlie's detecting
station. He would work out this problem alone.

Now, as he sat thinking of it, he decided to confide this new secret to
his pal, Joe Marion.

"Yes," he told himself, "I'll tell him about it at chow."

At this moment his mind was recalled to other matters. New trouble was
brewing.

"A slight breeze from the west," his mind went over the message
automatically, "and the wind was due east. Don't mean much as it stands,
but I suspect means a lot more than it seems to."

Just above Curlie's head there hung a receiver. To the right and left of
him were two loud-speakers. Before him ranged three others. Each one of
these was tuned to a certain wave length, 200, 350, 500, 600, 1200
meters. Each was modulated down until sounds came to Curlie's delicately
tuned ear drums as little more than whispers. A concert was being
broadcast on 350. The booming tones of a baritone had been coming in as
softly and sweetly as a mother's lullaby. But now Curlie's ear detected
interference.

Instantly he was all alert. The receiver was clamped down over his ears,
a half dozen switches were sent, snap, snap, snap. There followed a dead
silence. Then in a shrill boyish voice, together with the baritone's
renewal of his song, there came:

"I want the world to know that I am a wireless operator, op-er-a-a-tor.
Hoop-la! Tra-la!"

Curlie smiled in spite of his vexation. He acted quickly and with
precision. His slender fingers guided a coil-wound frame from right to
left. Backward and forward it glided, and as it moved the boyish
"Hoop-la" rose and fell. Almost instantly it came to a standstill.

"There! That's it!" he breathed.

Then to Joe Marion, "It's a shame about those kids. They won't learn to
play the game square. Don't know the rules and don't care. Think we
can't catch 'em, I guess."

His hand went out for a telephone.

"Superior 2231," he purred.

"That you, 2231? Just a moment."

He touched a key here, another there. He twisted a knob there, then:
"That you, Mulligan?" he half whispered. "Good! There's a kid on your
beat got a wireless running wild. Yes. Broke in on the concert. Don't be
hard on him. No license? Yes, guess that's right. Take away his sending
set. Give him another chance? Let him listen in. What's that? Location?
Clarendon Street, near Orton Place; about second door, I'd say. That's
all right. Thanks, yourself."

Dropping the receiver on its hook he tossed off his headpiece, snapped
at five buttons, then settled back in his chair.

"These kids'll be the death of me yet," he grumbled. "Always breaking
in, not meaning any harm but doing harm all the same. I don't feel so
very sore about them though. It's the fellows that go in for long wave
lengths and high power, that break in on 500, 1200 and 1800, that do the
real damage. Had a queer case last night. Looks crooked, too." He was
silent for a moment then he said reflectively:

"Guess that's about all till midnight. It's after midnight that the
queer birds come creeping out. I'm going to tell you about that one last
night, over the ham sandwich, dill pickle and coffee. No use to try
now--we'd sure get broken in on."

Joe Marion, who had been taken on as an understudy by Curlie, was at the
present time working without pay. At times when trouble developed on
two different wave lengths at once, he took a hand and helped out. For
the most part he merely looked, listened and learned.

His pal he held in the greatest admiration. And who would not? Had he
not, when this great big new thing, the radiophone, came leaping right
into the world from nowhere, been able to take a hand from the very
beginning and become at once a valuable servant of his beloved country?
Had he not at times detected meddlers who were endangering the lives of
men upon the high seas? Had he not at one time received the highest of
commendations from the great chief of this secret service of the air?

To Joe there was something weirdly fascinating about the whole business.
Here they were, two boys in the tower of the highest building in a great
city. Five people knew of their presence. These five were high up in the
radio secret service. No message sent out by them could ever be traced
back to its source. They did not use the air. That would be dangerous,
easily traced. They did not use the telephone alone. That, too, would be
dangerous. But when a radiophone had been connected to the telephone
wire and tuned to a certain wave length, then they talked and not even
the person they talked with would ever know whence came the message.
This was a necessary precaution for, from this very tower, dangerous
bands of criminals, gangs of smugglers, and all other types of
law-breakers would ultimately be brought to justice. And if these but
knew of the presence of this boy in his tower room, some dark night that
tower would be rocked by an exploding bomb and the boy in his room would
be shaken to earth like a young mud-wasp in his nest.

"I'll tell you," said Curlie, as he rose to answer a tap on the door, "I
believe that affair last night was some big thing; but what it was I
can't even guess."

He opened the door to let in Coles Masters, his relief, then motioning
to Joe he took his cap and left the room. Down the winding stairs which
led to the elevator several stories lower down they made their way in
silence, at last to enter a cage and be silently dropped to the ground
hundreds of feet below.




CHAPTER II

SOMETHING BIG


"You see," Curlie began as he crossed his slim legs beside a small table
in an all-night lunch room, buried somewhere in the deep recesses of
this same skyscraper, "that fellow sent the message about the easterly
breeze that blew west and I located the station at that hotel. This
morning I went over to see how the place looked. It's a wonderful hotel,
that one; palm garden in the middle of it, marble columns, fountain,
painted sheet iron ceiling that'd make you dizzy to look at, and the
finest dressed people you ever saw walking around everywhere.

"Well, I found my way to the sending room of the radiophone and right
away the operator wanted to throw me out; said I was a fresh kid and
all that. But when I showed him my papers, he calmed down a lot and
showed me everything he had.

"I saw right away it wasn't his equipment that had sent that
message--that'd be like sending a Big Bertha bomb into Paris with a
twenty-two caliber rifle. He just naturally didn't have the power,
that's all. So I didn't tell him anything about it; just walked out and
went around back to where I could see the way his wires ran from the
sending room to the antenna.

"I hadn't any more than got there and had one look-up when along strolls
a man who wants to know what I'm looking at. I saw right away that he
wasn't a hotel employee for he didn't wear either a bandmaster's uniform
nor a cutaway coat, so I just smiled and said:

"Got a girl friend up there on the sixteenth floor. She's leaving this
morning and arranged to drop her trunk down to me so's not to have to
tip the porter.

"Well, sir, I hadn't more than said that than a girl did pop her head
out of a sixteenth floor window and stare straight down at me.

"The fellow actually dodged. Guess he thought the trunk was due any
minute.

"Funny part of it was the girl actually seemed interested in me, just as
if she had met me somewhere before. Of course she was too high up for me
to tell what she was like, but it made me mighty curious. I counted the
windows to right and left so I could find that room if I wanted to. The
window was only the third to the right from where the lead wire to the
antenna went up.

"Well, then, that fellow--"

"Mr. Carson?" a voice interrupted Curlie. "Anyone here by the name of
Carson?" It came from the desk-clerk of the eating place.

"That's me," exclaimed Curlie, jumping up.

"Telephone."

"All right. Be back in a minute, Joe." Curlie was away to answer the
call.

"'Lo. That you, Curlie?" came through the receiver. "This is Coles
Masters. Got a bad case--extra bad. Can't understand it. Fellow's
sending 600 meter waves, with enough power to cross the Atlantic."

"Six hundred!" exclaimed Curlie in a tense whisper. "Why, that's what
they use for S.O.S. at sea! It's criminal. Endangers every ship in
distress. Five years in prison for it. Get him, can't you?"

"Can't. That's the trouble. Every time I think I've got him spotted he
seems to move."

"To move!"

"Yes, sir."

"That's queer! I'll be up right away."

"Come on," exclaimed Curlie, grabbing his hat and dragging Joe to his
feet. "It's a big one. Moves, he says. Sends 600; big power. Bet it's
that same hotel fellow. Gee whiz! Supposing it turned out to be that
sixteenth story girl and she caught me spying on her. I tell you it's
something big!"

Impatient at the slowness of the up-shooting elevator, Curlie at last
leaped out before the iron door at the top was half open, then two
steps at a time sprang up a flight of stairs. Out of breath, he arrived
at the final landing, sprang through the door to the secret tower room,
then seizing his headpiece, sank into a chair.

By a single move of the hand, Coles Masters indicated the radio-compass
he had been listening in on.

"That's where he was, last time he spoke," he grumbled, "but no telling
where he'll be next. He's been dodging all over that stretch of
country."

Curlie's fingers moved rapidly. He adjusted the coil of a radio-compass
here, another there and still another here. He twisted the knob of each
to the 600 mark, then, twisting the tuning knobs, lined them all up to
receive on the same wave length. The winding of each was set at a
slightly different angle from any other.

"That about covers him," he mumbled. "Get the distance?"

"Near as I could make out," said Coles Masters, "it was from ten to
fifteen miles. He moves toward us, then away at times, just as he does
to right and left."

"Hm," sighed Curlie, resting his chin on his hands. "That's a new dodge,
this moving business. Complicates things, that does."

For a time he sat in a brown study. At last he spoke again, this time
quite as much to himself as to the other:

"Folks don't move unless they have a way to move. That fellow has some
means of locomotion. Anyway," he sighed, "it's not our friend of the big
hotel unless--unless he or she or whoever it is has taken to locomotion,
and that's not likely. Not the same side of the city. Out near the
forest preserve."

"Yes, or a little beyond," said Coles.

"What do you think," asked Curlie suddenly, "has he got an automobile or
an airplane?"

"Can't tell," said Coles thoughtfully. "You can't really judge distances
in air accurately. There are powerful equipments which might be mounted
on either automobiles or airplanes."

"The thing that puzzled me, though, was his line of chatter. All about
some 'map, old French,' and a lot of stuff like that. I--"

Suddenly he broke off. A grinding sound had come from one of the loud
speakers. There followed in a clear, strong voice:

"Map O.K. Old French is amazing. Good for a million."

Curlie's fingers were busy once more as a tense look drew his forehead
into a scowl.

"About fifteen miles," he whispered.

Then the voice resumed:

"Time up the bird. When?"

A tense silence ensued. Then, faint, as if from far away, yet very
distinctly there came the single word:

"Wednesday." This was followed by three letters distinctly pronounced:
"L.C.W."

A second later came the strong voice in answer: "A.C.S."

"That," said Curlie as he settled back in his chair, "in my estimation
ends the night's entertainment. But the nerve of the fellow!" he
exploded. "Sending that kind of rot on six hundred. Why, at this very
moment some disabled ship might be struggling in a storm on the Great
Lakes or even on the Atlantic, and this jumble of words would muddle up
their message so its meaning would be lost and the ship with it. The
worst I could wish for such a fellow is that he be dropped into the sea
with some means of keeping afloat but with neither food nor drink and a
ship nowhere in sight."

If Curlie had known how exactly this wish was to be granted in the days
that were to come, he might have experienced some strange sensations.

He straightened up and placed a dot on the map before him.

"That's where he was. I'll motor out in the morning and have a look at
things. May discover some clew."

Curlie was a bright American boy of the very best type. Like most
American boys who do not have riches thrust upon them, when he wanted a
thing he made it or made a way to get it. Three years previous he had
wanted an automobile--wanted it awfully. And his total capital had been
$49.63. He had been wanting that car for some time when an express train
hit a powerful roadster on a crossing near his home.

Having flocked in with the throng to view the twisted remains of the
car, he had been struck with an idea. This idea he had put into action.
The railroad had settled with the owner for the car. They had the wreck
of it on their hands. Curlie bought it for twenty-five dollars.

To his great delight he had found the powerful motor practically
uninjured. The driving gear too, with the exception of one cog wheel,
was in workable order. The remainder of the car he sold to a junk dealer
for five dollars. It was twisted and broken beyond redemption.

He had next searched about for a discarded chassis on which to mount his
gears and motor. This search rewarded, he had proceeded to assemble his
car. And one fine day he sailed out upon the street with the "Humming
Bird," as he had named her.

"Better call her 'Gravel Car,'" Joe had said when he saw that she had no
body at all and that he must ride with his feet thrust straight out
before him in a homemade seat bolted to a buckboard-like platform.

But when, on a level stretch of road, Curlie had "let her out," Joe had
at once acquired an immense respect for the Humming Bird. "For," he said
later, "she can hum and she can go like a streak of light, and that's
about all any humming bird can do."

No further messages of importance having drifted in to him from the
outer air, Curlie, an hour before dinner, made his way down to the
street and, having warmed up the Humming Bird's motor, muttered as he
sprang into the seat: "I'll just run out there and see what I see."

A half hour later, just as the first gray streak of dawn was appearing,
he curved off onto a gravel road. Here he threw his car over to one side
and, switching on a flashlight, steered with one hand while he bent
over the side to examine the left-hand track.

There had been a light rain at ten that night. Since that time a heavy
car with diamond-tread tires had passed along the road, leaving its
tracks in certain soft, sandy spots.

"Maybe that's him," Curlie murmured.

A little farther on, stopping his machine, he got out and walked along
the road. Examining the surface closely, he walked on for five rods,
then wheeled about and made his way back to the car.

"He was over this road three times last night. That looks like a warm
scent. Can't tell, though. My friend might not have been in a car at
all; might have been in a plane.

"We'll have a look at the very spot." He twirled the wheel and was away.

A half mile farther down the road, he paused to look at a map. "Not
quite here," he murmured. "About a quarter mile farther."

The car crept over another quarter of a mile. When he again came to a
halt he found himself on a stretch of paved road. "This is the spot
from which the last message was sent. Tough luck!" he muttered. "Can't
tell a thing here."

Glancing to his right, he sat up with a start. He had suddenly become
aware of the fact that he was just before the gate of the estate of J.
Anson Ardmore, reputed to be the richest man of the city.

"Huh!" Curlie grunted. "Car must have stood about here when that last
message was sent. Maybe it went up that lane. Maybe it didn't, too. J.
Anson's got a son, about my age I guess. Vincent they call him. He might
be up to something. There's a girl, too, sixteen or so. Can't tell what
these rich folks will do."

He stepped down the rich man's private drive, but here the surface of
crushed stone was so perfectly kept that no telltale mark was to be
seen.

He did not venture far, as he had no relish for being caught trespassing
on such an estate without some good explanation for his conduct. Just at
that moment he had no desire to explain.

As he turned to go back, he caught the thud-thud of hoof beats along the
private drive.

Fortunately the abundant shrubbery hid him from view. Hardly had he
reached the machine and assumed the attitude of one hunting trouble in
his engine when a girl rounded a corner at full gallop.

Dressed in full riding costume and mounted on a blooded horse, she swung
along as graceful as a lark. As she came into the public highway she
flashed Curlie a look and a smile. Then she was gone.

Curlie liked the smile even if it did come from one of the "four
hundred."

"Gee! Old Humming Bird," he exclaimed as he patted his car, "did she
mean that smile for you or for me? So there might be a girl in the case,
same as there seems to be in that one over at the hotel? Girl in most
every case. What if she sent those messages and I found her out? That
would sure be tough.

"But business is business!" He set his mouth grimly. "You can't fool
with old Uncle Sam, not when you're endangering the lives of some of
his bravest sons at sea."

He threw in the clutch and drove slowly along the road. Twice he paused
to examine the tracks made the night before. Each time he discovered
marks of the diamond tread.

"That radiophone was mounted on a car," he decided; "I'll stake my life
on that. Now if he keeps it up, how am I to catch him?"




CHAPTER III

A WHISPER IN THE NIGHT


The next night found Curlie in the secret tower room alone. Joe Marion
was away helping to run down a case of "malicious interference."

It was curious business, this work of the radio secret service. Though
he had been at it for months, Curlie had never quite got used to it. A
detective he was in the truest sense of the word, yet how different from
the kind one reads about in books.

He laughed as he thought of it now. Then as his tapering fingers
adjusted a screw, his brow became suddenly wrinkled in thought. He was
troubled by the two cases which had lately developed: the one at the
hotel and that other, the station that moved. How was he to locate that
powerful secret station in the hotel? How was he to discover the owner
of that mysterious moving radio? He could not answer these questions.
And yet somehow they must be answered. He knew that.

The operator in the hotel was sending on 1200 meter wave lengths. State
messages were constantly being sent across the Atlantic on 1200;
messages of the greatest importance. There was a conference of nations
at that moment going on in Europe. America's representative must be kept
in constant touch with the government officials at Washington. If this
person at the hotel persisted in sending messages on 1200 meter wave
lengths an important message might at any moment be blurred or lost.

Not less important was the breaking in of this moving operator on 600.
This was the wave length used by ships and by harbor stations. Great
steamships sometimes waited for hours to get a message ashore on 600. If
this person were to be allowed to break in upon them they might wait
hours longer. Thousands of dollars would be lost. And then, as we have
said before, the message of some ship in distress might be lost because
of this person's interference.

"When, oh, when," sighed Curlie, "will people become used to this new
thing, the radiophone? When will they learn that it is a great, new
servant of mankind and not a toy? When will they take time to instruct
themselves regarding the rights of others? When will they develop a
conscience which will compel them to consider those rights?"

The answer which came to his mind was, "Perhaps never. But little by
little they will learn some things. It is my duty not alone to detect
but to teach."

He shifted uneasily in his chair, then held his ear close to the loud
speaker tuned to 200. A message came floating in to him across the air,
a mysterious whispered message.

"Hello, Curlie," it said. "You don't know me, but you have seen me--"

Automatically Curlie's fingers moved the radio-compass backward and
forward while his mind gauged the distance. His right hand scrawled
some figures on a pad, and all the time his ears were strained to catch
the whisper.

"I have seen you," it went on, "and I like your looks. That's why I'm
talking now."

For a second the whisper ceased. There was something awe-inspiring about
that whisper. As he sat in his secret chamber away up there against the
sky, Curlie felt as if some spirit-being was floating about out there in
the sky on a fleecy cloud and pausing now and then to whisper to him.

"I saw you," the whisper repeated. "You are in very grave danger. He is
a bold and treacherous man. It's big, Curlie, _big_!" The whisper rose
shrilly. "But you must be careful. You must not let him know the place
where you listen in. I don't know where it is. But I do know you listen
in. Be careful--careful--careful, c-a-r-e-f-u-l-" The whisper trailed
off into space, to be lost in thin air.

Wiping the beads of perspiration from his face, Curlie sat up. "Well,
now," he whispered softly to himself, "what do you know about that?

"One thing I do know," he told himself. "I'd swear it was a girl's
whisper, though how you can tell a girl's whisper is more than I know.
Question is: Which one is it--hotel station or the one that moves?"

For a moment his brow wrinkled in thought. Then with an exclamation of
disgust he exclaimed:

"That's easy! I've got their location!"

He figured for a few seconds, then put a pencil point on a certain spot
on his map.

"There!" he muttered. "It's the hotel, the exact spot."

Suddenly he started. There came the rattle of a key in the door.

"Oh!" he exclaimed as Coles Masters shoved the door open, "it's you. I'm
glad you're here. Got something I want to look into. Want to bad. Mind
if I take an extra hour?"

"Nope."

"All right. See you later." With a bound he was out of the door and
down the stairs.

"That boy," muttered Coles Masters, with a grin, "will either die young
or become famous. Only Providence knows which it will be."

Curlie did not leave the elevator at the first floor. Dropping down to
the sub-basement, he wound his way in and out through a labyrinth of
dimly lighted halls, at last to climb a stair to the first basement.
Then, having passed into his accustomed eating place, he paused long
enough to purchase a Swiss cheese sandwich, after which, with cap pulled
well down over his eyes, he made his way up a second flight of stairs
into the outer air.

He shivered as he emerged into the open street. Whether this chill came
from the damp cool of the night or from nervous excitement, he could not
tell. The memory of the whispered warning bore heavily upon his mind.

Turning his face resolutely in the direction of the hotel, he walked
three blocks, then hailed a passing taxi. When the taxi dropped him, a
few minutes later, he was still four blocks from the point of his
destination. Covering this distance with rapid strides, he came to the
rear of the hotel. There, dodging past a line of waiting taxis, he came
at length to a dark corner where a stone bench made an angle with the
wall of a building directly behind the hotel.

Crouching in this corner, he glanced rapidly from right to left to learn
whether or not his arrival had been detected. Satisfied that for the
moment he was safe, he cast a glance upward to where the aerials of the
radiophone glistened in the moonlight. From that point he allowed his
gaze to drop steadily downward until it reached the windows of the
sixteenth floor. There it remained fixed for a full moment.

There came from between his teeth a sudden intake of breath.

Had he seen some movement at the window to the right of the wires that
led to the aerials? He must see, no matter how great the risk.

Drawing a small pair of binoculars from his pocket, he fixed them on the
spot. He then turned a screw at the side of the binocular and suddenly
there appeared upon the wall of the building a round spot of brilliant
light. The size of a plate, this mysterious spot moved rapidly backward
and forward until it at last rested upon the wires by the window.

"Ah!" came in an involuntary whisper from the boy's lips.

A hand, the slender, graceful hand of a girl had been clearly outlined
against the wall. Quickly as it had been withdrawn, Curlie had seen that
between the thumb and finger of that hand was the end of a wire.

"Been tapping the aerial. A girl!" he muttered incredulously. "And it
was she who whispered to me out of the night."

He had been crouching low. Now he rose, stretched himself, pocketed his
instrument and was about to make his way out of the yard when, with the
suddenness of a tiger, a body launched itself upon his back.

So unexpected was the assault that the boy's body closed up like a jack
knife. He fell, face down, completely doubled up, with his face between
his knees.

"Now I got yuh!" was snarled into his ear. The weight on his back was
crushing. He could scarcely breathe.

"You--you have," he managed to groan.

"You'll come along," said the voice.

Curlie did not speak nor stir. The weight was partly lifted from his
back. The man had dropped one foot to the ground.

Now Curlie, had he been properly exercised for it when he was a child,
might have turned out a fair contortionist. He was exceedingly slim and
limber and had learned many of the tricks of the contortionist. He had
done this merely to amuse his friends. Now the tricks stood him in good
stead.

He did not attempt to rise by straightening up, as most persons would
have done. When the pressure grew less, he lay still doubled up, face
down upon the ground.

This gave him two advantages. It led his assailant to believe him
injured in some way and at the same time left him in position for the
next move.

When the pressure had been sufficiently removed for his purpose, he took
a quick, strong breath, then with a rush which set every muscle in
action, he thrust his head between his knees, gripped his own ankles and
did a double turn over which resembled nothing so much as a boulder
rolling down hill.

The next instant, finding himself free, he sprang to his feet, dodged
behind a taxi, shot past three moving cars, leaped to the pavement,
skirted a wall, then dodged into an alley.

Down this alley there was a doorway. Into the shadow of this doorway he
threw himself. There was a hole in the wooden door. A hook could be
reached through the hole. The hook quickly lifted, he found himself
inside a narrow court at the back of a large apartment building. There
was a driveway from this court into the street beyond.

Assuming a natural pace, he made his way down this driveway and out into
the street where, with a low whistled tune, he made his way back toward
the heart of the city. Five blocks farther down he paused to adjust his
clothing.

"Wow! but that was a close one," he muttered. "Don't know who my heavy
friend was but he sure wanted to detain me for some reason or other. But
say!" he mused; "how about that girl? Hope I didn't get her in bad by
flashing that light on her hand.

"But then," he thought more soberly, "perhaps she is the principal bad
one. Perhaps she is whispering on 200 just to mislead me. Who knows?
You've got to be wise as a serpent when you play this game, that's what
you've got to be. There's just two kinds of radio detectives, the quick
and the dead." He chuckled dryly.

"Well, I guess Coles Masters will think I'm one of the dead ones if I
don't rush on."

Hurrying to the next street, he boarded a car to make his way back to
the secret lower room.

During his absence things had been happening in the mysterious radio
world that hangs like a filmy ghost-land above the sleeping world.




CHAPTER IV

A GAME FOR TWO


As Curlie slipped noiselessly through the door into the secret tower
room, he was seized by the arm and dragged into his chair.

"Man! where have you been?" It was Coles Masters. He spoke in an excited
whisper. "Listen to that! It's the second message. He'll repeat it
again. They always do."

As Curlie listened, his face grew grave with concern. The message came
from the head station of the radiophone secret service bureau. That
station was located in New York. The message was a reprimand. Kindly,
friendly but firmly, it told Curlie that for two nights now someone in
his area had been breaking in on 600. Coast-to-ship messages had been
disturbed. Once an S. O. S. from a disabled fishing schooner had barely
escaped being lost. Something must be done about it at once! By Curlie!
In Chicago!

With parted lips and bated breath Curlie listened to the message as it
came to him in code. Then, with trembling fingers, he adjusted a lever,
touched a button, turned a screw and dictated to a station in another
part of the city his answering O.K. to the message.

"Of course," he said to Coles, as he lifted the receiver from his head,
"that means that this fellow that races all over the map has been at it
again to-night."

"About an hour ago," said Coles, wrinkling his brow.

"What did you do about it?"

"What was there to do? I tried to locate him. He danced about, first
here, then there. I marked his locations. They were never the same.
See," he pointed to the map. "I numbered them. He spoke from five
different points."

"What did he say?"

"It's all written down there," Coles motioned to a pad. "Can't make
head nor tail to it. Something about a map, an airplane, a boat and a
lot of gold."

"What kind of voice?"

"Sounded young. Some boy in late teens, I'd say. Though it might have
been a girl. She might have changed her voice to disguise it. You can't
tell. Had two cases like that in the last three weeks. You never can
tell about voices."

"No," said Curlie, thoughtfully, "you never can tell. That's about the
only thing you can be sure of in this strange old world. You can always
be sure that you never can tell. Thing that looks like one thing always
turns out to be something else.

"Point is," he continued after a moment's deep thought, "somebody's
getting past our guard. Slamming us right in the nose and we're not
doing a thing about it. Don't look like we could. I've got a theory but
you can't go searching the estate of the richest man in your city just
on theory; you've got to have facts to back you up, and mighty definite
facts, too."

"Yes, that's right," agreed Coles. "But what do you make out of all that
babble about airplane, map, ship and much gold? Do you suppose it's some
smuggling scheme, some plan to get a lot of Russian or Austrian jewels
into the country without paying duty or something like that?"

"I don't make anything out of that," said Curlie rather sharply, "and
for the time, I don't jolly much care. The thing I'm interested in is
the fact that we're being beaten; that the air about us is being torn to
shreds every night by some careless or criminal person; that we're
getting a black eye and a reprimand from the department; that sea
traffic is being interrupted; that lives are being imperiled and we
can't seem to do anything about it. That's what's turning my liver dark
black!" He pounded the desk before him until instruments rattled and
wires sang.

"But how you are going to catch a fellow when he goes tearing all over
the map," said Curlie, more calmly, "is exactly what I don't know. You
go down and get a bite of chow. No, go on home and go to bed. I'll take
the rest of the shift. I want to think. I think best when I'm alone;
when the wires sing me a song; when the air whispers to me out of the
night; when the ghosts of dead radio-men, ghosts of operators who joked
with death when the sea was reaching up mighty arms to drag them down,
come back to talk to me. That's when I think best. These whispering
ghosts tell me things. When I sit here all, asleep but my ears, things
seem to come to me."

"Bah!" said Coles Masters, shivering, "you give me the creeps."

Drawing on his coat, he slipped out of the door, leaving Curlie slumped
down in his chair already all asleep but his wonderful ears.

For a full hour he sat lumped up there. Seeming scarcely to breathe,
stirring now and then as in sleep, he continued to listen and to dream.

Then suddenly he sat up with a start to exclaim out loud:

"Yes! That's it. Catch a thief with a thief. Catch a radiophone with a
radiophone. A radiophone on wheels? That's a game two can play at. I'll
do it! To-morrow night."

Snapping up a telephone receiver he murmured:

"Central 662."

A moment later he tuned an instrument and threw on a switch; "Weightman
there?" he inquired. "Asleep? Wake him up. This is Curlie Carson. Yes,
it's important. No, I'll tell you. Don't bother to wake him now--have
him over at the Coffee Shop at five bells. The Coffee Shop. He'll know.
Don't fail! It's important!"

He snapped down the receiver. Weightman was the radio mechanic assigned
to his station. He would have unusual and important work to do that day.

He slumped down again in his chair but did not remain in that position
many minutes.

From one of the loud speakers came a persistent whisper:

"Hello. Hello, Curlie, you there?" the girlish voice purred, the one
that had whispered to him before. "I saw you to-night. That was
dangerous. Why did you do it? Nearly got me in bad. Not quite. He almost
got you."

The whisper ceased. Adjusting the campus coil Curlie sat at strained
attention.

"I wish I knew you were listening," came again. "It's hard to be
whispering into the night and not knowing you're being heard."

Curlie's fingers moved nervously over a tuner knob. He was sorely
tempted to tune in and flash an answering "O.K.," if nothing more.

But, no, he drew his hands resolutely back. It was not wise. There was
danger in it. This might be a trap. They might locate his secret tower
room by that single O.K. Then disaster would follow.

The whisper came again: "You're clever, Curlie, awfully clever. The way
you doubled over and turned yourself wrong side out was great! But
please do be careful. It's big, Curlie, big!" again the whisper rose
almost to speaking tone. "And he is a terribly determined man; wouldn't
stop at anything."

The whisper ceased.

For a moment Curlie sat there lost in reflection, then he muttered
savagely: "Oh! get off the air, you little whispering mystery, you're
spoiling my technique. Your very terrible friend didn't send any message
to-night and the one he sent before hasn't got us into any trouble. I've
got to forget you and go after this moving fellow who sends 600."

As if in answer to his challenge the loud speaker to his right, the one
tuned to 1200, began to rattle. Then, in the full, determined tones of a
man accustomed to speak with authority there came:

"Calm night."

Three times, over five thousand miles of air, this great voice bellowed
its message.

The silence which followed was ghostly. Cold perspiration stood out on
Curlie's brow.

It was not necessary for him to calculate the location from which this
message was sent. He knew that it had come from the hotel. And it had.

"Next thing," he told himself with a groan, "the International Service
will be on my back for letting that lion roar. I ought to turn that over
to the police; but I won't, not just yet."




CHAPTER V

IN THE DARK


As the clock in a distant college tower struck the hour of eleven the
following night, a flat looking car with a powerful engine stole out
into the road that ran by the Forest Preserve. It was the Humming Bird.
Joe Marion was at the wheel. Curlie sat beside him.

On the back of the car was a miscellaneous pile of instruments all
securely clamped down. Above there hung suspended between two vertical
bars a square frame from which there gleamed the copper wires of a coil.

To catch a radiophone on wheels, Curlie had reasoned, one must mount his
radio compass on wheels and pursue the offender. How well it would work,
he could not even guess, but anything was better than sitting there
helpless in the secret tower room listening to this person tearing up
the air in a manner both unwise and unlawful.

So here they were, prepared to make the test.

"Of course," Curlie grumbled, "now we've got the trap set, the ghost may
decide not to walk on this particular night. That'll be part of our
rotten luck."

"Most ghosts, I'm told," chuckled Joe, "prefer to walk when there's
someone about, for what's the good of a ghost-walk when there's no one
to see. So our radio ghost may show up after all."

Curlie lapsed into silence. He was reviewing the events which led up to
this thrilling moment. When the message on 600 came banging to his ears
with great power on that first night, he had carefully platted the
various locations of the person who had sent the messages. There had
been some criss-crosses shown but, in the main, a line drawn through
these points had formed an oblong which on the actual surface of the
ground must have been some ten miles in length by six in width. One
interesting point was that the first and last messages of that night had
been sent at points not a quarter of a mile apart.

"Which goes to show," he reasoned, "that this fellow started from a
certain point and made his way back to that point, just as a rabbit will
do when chased by a hound. And those two points, the start and the
finish, are close to the driveway into the million dollar estate. But of
course that doesn't prove that the car came from there. Any person could
drive to that point, begin operations, race over the square and return
to the point."

Coles Masters had platted the points for the second night. A line drawn
through these points made a figure quite irregular in form, which was,
however, composed of rectangles.

"Which proves," he told himself, "that our friend, the lawless radio
fan, drives an auto and not an airplane. An auto follows roads, which
for the most part in this section form squares. He passed along two or
three sides of these squares and this makes up the figure.

"There's only one thing in common in the two night journeys," he
continued. "The start and finish are at almost exactly the same spot,
near the entrance of that great estate."

He tried not to allow these facts to cause him to hold undue suspicion
against the inhabitants of that mansion, but in this he experienced some
difficulty.

"The thing for us to do," he had said to Joe, "is to run out there and
back our car into an unfrequented, wooded road running into the forest
preserve. We don't dare go too near the original starting place. If
we're seen with this load of junk it will give us dead away. Thing is to
be ready to move quickly when he lets loose with his message. Ought not
to be more than a mile away, I'd say. He's got a powerful car. You can
tell that by the fact that he sent a message at this corner, then raced
over here, four miles distant, and got another message off in eleven
minutes, which is quick action."

They backed into the grass-grown road of the Forest Preserve, then
settled down in their places to wait.

The night was dark. There was no moon. Clouds were scurrying overhead.
Only the rustle of leaves and the startled tweet-tweet of some bird
surprised in his sleep disturbed the utter silence of the woods.

"Ghostly," whispered Joe, then he lapsed into silence.

With his slim legs stretched out before him, Curlie was soon asleep, all
but his ears. Joe insisted that those ears never slept.

A half hour, an hour, an hour and a half dragged by. Joe had gone quite
to sleep when Curlie suddenly dug him in the ribs and uttered the
shrilly whispered warning:

"Hist! There she blows!"

A flashlight was snapped on. Curlie's fingers flew from instrument to
instrument. The voice of the mysterious operator could be heard. Now
rising, now falling, it filled the woods with echoes, yet the speaker
was more than a mile away, as near as the boys could guess.

The words spoken by him were now of no importance. Location was
everything.

"Same place," exclaimed Curlie, "exactly the same! You know where! Drive
like mad!"

Instantly the car lurched forward. Coming out of the bush on two wheels,
she sent a shower of gravel flying as she rushed madly down the road.

Quick as they were, the quarry had been quicker. As they rounded a
corner, they caught the red gleam of a tail-light disappearing at the
next turn.

"Heck!" said Curlie, then, "Let her out! Show him some speed."

The motor of the Humming Bird sang joyously. Fairly eating up the road,
she took the corner with a wide swing. But when they looked down the
long stretch of highway there was no red tail-light to be seen.

"Heck!" said Curlie again, "he's reached the next crossroad and turned
the corner. Can't tell which way he went. It's a hard, dry gravel
roadbed--won't tell a thing. Best we can do is to rattle along up there,
then sit it out for another listen-in."

Disappointed but not disheartened, Curlie adjusted his instruments, then
sat in breathless expectation.

He did not have long to wait, for again the voice in the loud speaker
boomed out into the night.

"Huh," he grumbled a few seconds later, "he's got three miles lead on
us. To the right. Quick, give her the gas."

Again they were off. For two miles and a half straight ahead they raced.
The Humming Bird quivered like a leaf, instruments jingling in spite of
their lashings.

"Make it all the way," said Curlie, as Joe slowed up. "He's not there.
Given us the slip again."

Six times this program was gone through with. Not once in all that time
did they catch sight of that tail-light.

"Some car he's got!" said Curlie when the farce was ended. "Bet he
never even guessed he was being chased. But you wait; we'll get him
yet."

When they were once more in the secret tower room Curlie plotted the
route of the mysterious operator.

"Only significant thing about that," he commented, when he had finished,
"is that he starts and finishes within a quarter of a mile of the same
place as on the other two nights."

"And that place--" suggested Joe.

"Is near old J. Anson's driveway."

"Looks mighty suspicious to me," said Joe.

"Does to me, too; but, as I have said before, you can't raid a man's
private castle on any such flimsy proof as that. You've got to have the
goods.

"Tell you what," he said after a moment's silence, "sometimes our
natural ears and eyes are better than all these instruments and wires.
I'm going out there to-morrow night alone and on foot."

"Might work," said Joe thoughtfully, "but whatever you do, you must be
careful."

"Careful?" said Curlie scornfully. "There are times when a fellow can't
afford to be careful. This thing's getting serious." He glanced over a
second message from the head office of his bureau. It was couched in no
gentle terms. He was told that this intruder must be caught and that at
once if he, Curlie Carson, wished to hold his position as chief of the
secret tower room station.




CHAPTER VI

A REAL DISCOVERY


Darkness found Curlie again on the edge of the Forest Preserve. This
time he was on foot and alone. Apparently he carried nothing. His right
hip pocket bulged, the handle of a flashlight protruded from his coat
pocket, that was all.

He did not pause at the spot where they had hid their car the night
before, but continued down the main road for a half mile farther. There
he plunged into the forest, to continue his journey under cover. Eleven
o'clock found him concealed in a clump of bushes in the woods that lay
opposite the millionaire's driveway.

"If they come to-night," he whispered to himself, "I'll know whether
they belong on that estate or not, and if they do I'll know who it is.
Anyway, I'll know it's one of J. Anson's folks. And we'll see if it is
a boy or the girl?"

The question interested him. He had no relish for getting a girl into
trouble, especially that frank-faced, smiling girl he had seen on
horseback.

"But the thing must stop," he told himself sternly, taking a tight grip
on something in his hip pocket.

The night was clear. He could see objects quite plainly. The trees, the
shrubbery, the stone pillars at the entrance to the driveway, stood out
in bold relief. For a time he sat staring at them in silence. At last he
closed his eyes and slept, as was his custom, all but his ears.

He was startled from this stupor by a sudden flash of light which made
its presence felt even through his eyelids.

As his eyes flew open, he found himself staring at two glowing
headlights. The next instant he had flattened himself in the grass.

"Wow! Hope they didn't see me!" he whispered.

A low-built, powerful car had come purring so quietly down the driveway
of the estate that it had rounded a sudden curve before he had been
aware of its presence.

Now, with undiminished speed, it turned to the right, entered the public
highway and sped straight on.

As Curlie rose from the grass to stare after it, a low exclamation
escaped his lips. Supported by high parallel bars, which were doubtless
in turn supported by strong guy wires, were the aerials of a radiophone.
The whole of this rose from, and rested upon, the body of the powerful
roadster.

"And I missed them!" he exploded, then:

"No, I didn't. They're stopping."

It was true. Some eighty rods down the road the car had slowed up. He
had no means of telling what they were doing but felt quite warranted in
supposing they were sending a message.

Like a flash he was away through the brush. Speed and the utmost caution
were necessary. If a limb cracked, if he fell over a hidden ditch, the
quarry would be frightened away. He must see what was going on, see it
with his own eyes.

Fairly holding his breath, he struggled forward. Now he had covered a
third of the distance, now half, now three-quarters and now--

His lips parted in an unuttered groan. He leaped out of the bush.
Something flashed in his hand. For a second that thing was pointed down
the road where the speedy car had suddenly resumed its journey. Then his
hand dropped to his side.

"No," he said slowly, "it won't do. Too risky. Guess they haven't seen
me. If not, they will be back. And next time," he shook his fist at the
vanishing car, "next time my fair lad or lady, you won't escape me."

Turning back, he again disappeared into the brush.

In the meantime things were happening in the air. Coles Masters, who was
in charge of the secret tower room, had his hands full. He switched on
this loud-speaker and lowered that one to a whisper. He tuned in this
one and cut that one out.

"Whew!" he exclaimed, mopping his brow, "what a night! Wish Curlie were
here."

To start the night's entertainment a boy had broken in on the radio
concert. Then a crank had come shouting right into the middle of a
speech by a politician. A few moments later a message on 1200 had fairly
burst his ear-drums. The message had been short, composed of just three
words:

"Dark, cloudy night."

"Regular thunderbolt behind that!" he muttered as he measured the
location and found it to come from the city's great hotel. "Enough there
to send it round the world. Shouldn't be surprised to get the echo of it
in a few seconds myself. The nerve of the man!"

In strange contrast to this was the whisper which followed within five
minutes. It was sent on 200.

"Hello, Curlie. Did you get that? Terrible, wasn't it?" came the
whisper. "But, Curlie, I don't think you need to bother about him. He's
leaving in a day or two. He's going, far, far away. He's going north;
out of your territory entirely. I know you'd love to catch him, Curlie,
but it would be dangerous, awfully dangerous! So don't you try, for he
is going far, far away."

Coles Masters' fingers had worked rapidly during this whispered message.
Not only had he measured the distance and taken the location, but he had
written down the message word for word.

"Well, I'll be jiggered!" he muttered. "That was a girl, a young girl
and a pretty one too, or I miss my guess. Anyway she has an interesting
whisper. She's at that same hotel and seems to know Curlie. She must
have broken in on my 1200 friend. So he's going north? Can't go any too
soon for me. Mighty queer case. Have to turn it over to Curlie. It's all
Greek to me."

"Hello, there! What--"

He wheeled about to snap a button. A message was being shouted out on
600.

"That's the chap Curlie's after. So he hasn't got him yet? Well, here's
hoping he hurries." His pencil began rapidly writing the message.

Meanwhile Curlie in his woods retreat had moved silently over to the
other side of the driveway.

"Probably will come back the other way," he concluded.

He did not remain behind the fence this time but threw himself into the
shallow depths of a dry ravine. He remained keenly alert. His eyes were
constantly on the road, which lay like a brown ribbon a full mile
straight before him.

He was thinking of his various cases. Equal in interest to the one which
he was now hunting down was that big hotel case. He was thinking of the
girl. Why had she whispered those messages to him? Was she merely a tool
of the man behind the powerful radio machine? Was she simply leading him
on? He could not feel that she was. Somehow her whisper had an accent of
genuine interest in it.

"Wonder what she's like," he asked himself. Then, with a smile playing
about his lips, he tried to guess.

"Small, very active, has dark brown hair and snappy black eyes." After a
moment's thought he chuckled: "Probably really a heavy blonde; something
like two hundred pounds. You can't tell anything by a voice. You--"

Suddenly he braced himself up on his elbows. His keen ears had caught a
distant purring sound. Two yellow balls of fire were rapidly
approaching--the headlights of a fast-moving automobile.

"He comes! Now for it!" He prepared to spring.

In an amazingly short time the car was all but upon him. Leaping to his
feet, he let out a wild whoop and, brandishing his automatic
threateningly, stood squarely in the middle of the road.

His heart beat wildly. There could be no mistake. He saw the wires and
rods swaying above the car.

For a second the car slowed up, then, with a snort it leaped right at
him. Nimble as he was, he barely escaped being run down.

As the car flashed past him, he wheeled about and almost instantly his
automatic barked three times. Simultaneous with the last shot there came
a louder explosion.

"Tire! Got you," he muttered.

Instantly the car swerved to the side of the road. A tire had gone flat.
The car had skidded.

The rods which carried the aerials caught in a tree top. The car, jerked
back like a mad horse caught by a lariat, reared up on its hind wheels,
threatened to turn turtle, then crashed over on its side with its engine
still racing wildly.

Sudden as had been the catastrophe, it had not been too quick for the
driver. Just as the car crashed over, Curlie caught sight of a figure in
long linen duster and with closely wrapped head, dashing up the bank,
over the fence and into the brush.

"Go it," he exclaimed, making no attempt to catch the fugitive, "you
know the country better than I do. I'd never catch you in that labyrinth
of trees. Besides, I don't need to. Your equipment is pretty well
smashed up and you've left me enough evidence to make out a beautiful
case."

Walking over to the machine, he reached over and shut off the engine.
After that, in a very leisurely manner he collected various odds and
ends from the radiophone equipment. Having stuffed these into his
pockets, he wrenched the back number plate from the machine and tucked
it under his arm.

"Guess that's enough," he murmured. "Now I can take my own time in
springing the thing. He probably thinks I was a hold-up man, but even if
he guessed the truth he couldn't escape me and couldn't get his
equipment back in shape short of a week, so that's that."

Turning, he started toward the nearest interurban line a good five miles
away.

When he had walked a mile, he stopped suddenly in his track.

"Say!" he exclaimed. "Was that the son or the daughter? All muffled up
that way I couldn't tell."

"Ho, well," he resumed his march, "that'll come out in time. Only I hope
it wasn't the girl. I sort of liked her looks."




CHAPTER VII

CURLIE RECEIVES A SHOCK


Having boarded an interurban car, Curlie slept his way into the city.
Once there he hurried over to the secret tower room, where the news of
his night's adventure was received with great joy.

"So you got him!" exclaimed Coles Masters. "Smashed him up right? Bully
for you. That's great!" He slapped Curlie on the back.

Dropping into his chair, Curlie dictated a message by secret wire to
headquarters in New York. The message stated in modest, concise terms
that the nuisance on 600 in the secret tower region was at an end; that
the station had been effectively broken up and that the offender would
no doubt soon be in the hands of the law.

A half hour later he received a highly commendatory message,
congratulating him on his achievement and bidding him keep up the good
work.

After glancing over Coles' reports for the evening and making mental
notes from them, Curlie prepared to seek his bed and indulge in a good,
long sleep, the first in several days.

"There isn't a bit of hurry in going after that rich young fellow or
girl, if it is a girl," he said to Coles. "That'll keep. We've got
plenty of proof." He jerked a thumb toward the corner where was a box
into which he had tossed the various small parts of a sending set and
the number plate of the car. "All we need to do now is to saunter out
there some fine morning and have a heart-to-heart talk with J. Anson
himself."

Had Curlie but known it, there was to be a great deal more than that to
it. There was to be an adventure in it for him such as he had never
before experienced, an adventure which was destined to take him
thousands of miles from the secret tower room and which was to throw
him into such dangers as would cause the bravest to shrink back in
terror.

Since he was blissfully ignorant of all this he was also blissfully
happy in the consciousness of having achieved success in the thing he
had undertaken.

"This," he laughed as he said it, "is going to bring me face to face
with one of America's greatest millionaires. It's like going before a
king in some ways. In others I fancy it's more like meeting a lion in
the street. Anyway, I've always wanted to meet a king, a lion and a
millionaire and here's where I meet one of them. Ever meet one?" He
turned to Coles.

"Meet which?" Coles smiled. "King, lion or millionaire?"

"Millionaire."

"No, can't say that I have, though I doubt if we'd either of us
recognize one if we should meet him on the street. Someone has said that
humanity is everywhere much the same and I fancy that's true even of
very rich folks. They may try to bluff you with their power but if they
find they can't do that, I guess they'll turn out to have the same
dreams, the same hopes and fears, the same joys and sorrows as the rest
of us."

"Do you think so?" said Curlie thoughtfully. "I hope that's true. It
would be a good thing for the world if it were true and if all the
people in the world knew it.

"Well, good night." He drew on his cap. "See you in about sixteen hours.
Guess it'll take me that long to catch up my sleep. After that I'm going
after that fellow who's breaking in on 1200, that fellow over at the
hotel with the whispering friend, or enemy, whichever she may turn out
to be."

Had he but known it, it was to be many days before he was to go after
that offender on the 1200 meter wave lengths and then it was to be in
ways of which he had not yet dreamed. And so he slept.

When he awoke after fourteen hours of refreshing sleep, it was to hear
the newsies crying their evening papers. For some time he lay there
listening to their shrill shouts and attempting to catch what they were
saying.

"Ex-tree! All about--" He could get that far, probably because he had
heard it so often before, but no further could he go. The remainder was
a jumble of meaningless sounds.

Suddenly, as he listened, a shrill urchin shouted the words out directly
beneath his very window:

"Wul--ex-tree! All about the mur-der-ed millionaire's son!"

"Here! Here!" exclaimed Curlie, thrusting his head out of the window.
"What millionaire's son? Give me one of those papers." He tossed the boy
a nickel and received a tightly wrapped paper. Sent through the window
as if shot from a catapult, it landed with a bump on the floor.

His hand trembled so he could scarcely unroll the paper. His head
whirled.

"Murdered?" he said to himself. "Millionaire's son murdered? Can it be
Vincent Ardmore? Did a bullet from my automatic, glancing from the
wheel, inflict a mortal wound?"

He saw himself behind prison bars in murderer's row.

Cold perspiration stood out on his brow as he read in staring headlines:

    "J. ANSON ARDMORE'S SON BELIEVED MURDERED."

"Believed?" He caught at that single word as a camel in a desert snaps
at a straw. So they were not sure.

Hastily he read the column through, then dropped limply into a chair.

"Oh! What a shock!" he breathed.

He was vastly relieved. The article stated that the car belonging to the
millionaire's son had been found by a laborer employed on the estate as
he came to his work very early in the morning. The car, which was badly
smashed up, bore the mark of a bullet in a rear tire and one in the
lower part of the body. It was believed that the young man, being
pursued by bandits and having attempted to escape, had had his car
riddled by bullets and had been thrown into the ditch.

"There are grave reasons for supposing," the article went on to state,
"since no trace of the young man has yet been found, that he has been
either kidnapped for ransom or, having been killed by a stray bullet,
has been buried somewhere in the forest preserve.

"Bands of armed men are searching the woods and every available police
officer and detective has been put on the case. A reward of $5,000 has
been offered by the father for any information which may lead to the
discovery of the whereabouts of his son."

"Whew!" exclaimed Curlie, mopping his brow. "What a rumpus!"

Suddenly he sat up straight. "Doesn't say one word about that wireless
apparatus in the car. How about that?"

He sat with wrinkled brow for a moment.

"Ah!" he slapped his knee, "I have it! The laborer of course came
directly to his master. The shrewd old millionaire, guessing that his
son had been breaking radio laws, had all of that equipment removed
before the public was let in on the deal. He bribed the laborer to
secrecy on that point and there you are."

Again his brow wrinkled. "Five thousand dollars!" he whispered. "That's
a lot of money. I could supply some valuable information which might
entitle me to the five thousand. Question is, do I want to risk it? The
thing that's happened is about this, far as I can figure it out: Our
young amateur radio friend, when his auto turned turtle, hiked off into
the woods. For a time he stayed there. Then, when nothing happened for
some time, he came sneaking back. When he found I'd taken his number
plate and some parts of his radio equipment, he guessed right away that
I was connected with the radio secret service. He's hiding right now,
unless I miss my guess, with some of his rich young friends.

"I might tell all that and I might get the reward, but supposing
something really had happened? Oh, boy, what a mess!

"And yet," he mused, after a moment, "I've done nothing to be ashamed
of. I'm an officer of the law. I did what I did because a fellow was
resisting arrest. Ho, well, I'll just let things stand and simmer.
Something may come to the top yet."




CHAPTER VIII

CURLIE MEETS A MILLIONAIRE


It was a tense situation for Curlie. He spent an uneasy night and that
in spite of the fact that the air was particularly free from trouble.

"Hang it all," he exclaimed once as, dashing the receiver from his head,
he sprang from his chair to pace the floor of the secret tower room,
"I'd welcome something in the line of trouble. This eternal
thinking--thinking--thinking, drives me wild. What to do, that's the
question. Suppose I'd ought to go out and tell Ardmore what I know. If a
millionaire father's like any other father, I guess he's pretty well
wrought up by now. But if I go, and if I tell him the whole truth, I'm
as sure as I am of anything that it will get me into a mess and that's
the sort of thing I don't like."

Glancing down, his eye was caught by Coles' report of the night before.
Dropping once more into his chair, he began going through the messages
written there. When he came to the one sent out by the boy whose car he
had wrecked, he pondered over it for a long time.

"'Island, airplane, map, much gold; airplane, map, island, gold,'" he
repeated. "What does one make out of that? It might be that this boy has
been planning a secret voyage with some other chap. Certainly sounds
like it. Other messages were the same kind. By Jove! Perhaps he's
skipped out and gone on that trip and is not hiding out at all! Let's
see."

Taking down a file he drew forth a bunch of message records clipped
together. They were those sent by the moving operator on 600, the
millionaire's son.

A long time he studied over these.

"Seems to sort of prove my theory," he muttered once. "Can't be sure
though."

Then, suddenly he sat up straight. "That's the idea." He slapped his
knee. "The very thing! Why didn't I think of that before? If he
doesn't shew up by morning I'll do it. I'll just take these records over
to Ardmore and suggest to him that they may shed some light on the
subject. Don't need to tell him I was in on the wrecking of the car at
all. That wouldn't help any. These records might. And if I can help to
find him and bring him back, then, oh, boy! Oh you baby fortune! Five
thousand big, red, round dollars!"

He sat back trying to measure the meaning of the possession of five
thousand dollars which did not have to be spent for bed, board and
clothing. At last he gave it up in despair.

The morning papers assured the interested city that the son of their
money king was still missing. To make sure that this report was correct,
Curlie called up the mansion and inquired about it. When he learned that
it was indeed true, he requested the servant who answered the telephone
to inform the millionaire that a representative of the Secret Service of
the Air would arrive at his residence with copies of certain radiophone
messages sent out by his son previous to his mysterious disappearance,
which might shed some light on the subject.

Shortly after that he leaped into the driver's seat on the Humming Bird
and motored away to the west.

Arrived at the Forest Preserve, he backed the car into the deserted
roadway in the forest at the very spot where he and Joe had concealed
themselves the night of the race.

"Have to leave you here, old thing," he whispered. "If a fellow were to
pull up that driveway in such a rakish craft as you are, they might
think him crazy and throw him out.

"Well here goes," he whispered to himself, as, having rounded the last
clump of decorative shrubbery, he came in sight of the red stone
mansion.

"Whew! What a stunner!" whispered Curlie to himself.

The sun was tipping the parapets of that mansion with gold; the dew
sparkled on the perfectly kept green. It was indeed a beautiful
picture.

Tiptoeing up the steps, he was about to lift the heavy bronze knocker
when a porter opened the door and motioned him to enter.

"Are you the man?" he asked in a low tone.

"I'm the boy who wired about the messages."

"Step right this way. He's waiting."

Curlie's heart beat fast. Was he to be ushered at once into the august
presence of the magnate? He had pictured to himself hours of waiting,
interviews by private secretaries and all that.

And yet here he was. In a large room furnished in rich mahogany,
seemingly the rich man's home office, he was being greeted by a stout,
broad-shouldered, brisk and healthy-looking man who was assuring him
that he was speaking to J. Anson Ardmore himself and inviting him to sit
down.

With his head in a whirl, he managed to get himself into a chair. And
all this while he was telling himself things; things like this:
"Curlie, old boy, this is going to be strenuous. This man is powerful,
magnetic, almost hypnotizing. He will find out as much as he can from
you. He will tell as little as is necessary to attain his end. To him
all life is a game, a game in which he conceals much and discovers all
that lies in his opponent's hand. He probably knows you have the goods
on his son. Perhaps he is merely playing a game about this vanishing
son. He may know where he is all the time. If so, he'll want to know
what you know, and what you are going to do. You must be wise--wise as a
serpent."

"Well?" the magnate spoke in a brisk way. "My butler tells me you have
some messages."

"Yes, sir."

"Sent by my missing son?"

"Yes, sir."

"And may I ask," the magnate's face was a mask, not a muscle moved, "how
you happened to be in possession of these messages?"

Curlie could hear his own heart beat, but he held his ground. "Since I
am attached to the government radiophone staff, it is my duty to catch
and record all unfair and illegally sent messages, to record them as
evidence and for future reference."

Curlie fancied he saw the man start. The words that followed were spoken
still in a cold, collected tone.

"These messages you say were unfair?"

"Unfair and illegally sent."

"How illegal?"

"They were sent with exceedingly high power and on 600 meter wave
lengths. Such high power is unlawful for all amateurs and the use of 600
is granted to ships and ship stations alone.

"Ah!"

For a second the man appeared to reflect. Then suddenly:

"We are wasting time. My son has mysteriously disappeared. I have reason
to fear foul play. Let me assure you that I know nothing about his
whereabouts and, previous to this moment, that I have known nothing
regarding these illegally sent messages."

"But--" began Curlie.

"You doubt my word," his voice grew stern and hard as he read the
incredulity in Curlie's eyes. "Young man," he fairly thundered, "fix
this in your mind: No man ever has risen or ever will rise to my present
position through treachery or deceit. When I say a thing is so, by
thunder it _is_ so!"

He struck his desk a terrific blow.

"But a--"

Curlie caught himself just in time. He had been about to reveal the fact
that he was aware of the presence of the wireless set in the auto the
night the millionaire's son disappeared.

"I can't see just how your messages could aid us in finding my son." The
magnate spoke more calmly. "However, all things are possible. May I see
the copies?"

"Of course," said Curlie, hesitatingly, "this is a private matter. Few
persons know of our service. It is the desire of the government that
they should not know. These are not for publication. Do you understand
that?"

"You have my word."

Curlie passed the sheath of papers over the desk.

Slowly, one by one, the great man read them. His movement was not
hurried. He digested every word. Like many another great man he had
formed the habit of gathering, as far as possible, the full meaning of
any set of facts by his own careful research, before allowing his
opinion to be influenced by others.

He had gone half through the pack when a door over at the right opened
and a girl, dressed in some filmy stuff which brought out the smoothness
of her neck and arms and the beauty of her complexion, entered the room.

Curlie caught his breath. It was the girl he had seen on the horse that
morning, the magnate's daughter.

She had advanced halfway to her father's desk before she became aware of
Curlie's presence. Then she started back with a stammered: "I--I beg
your pardon."

"It's all right." The first smile Curlie had seen on the great man's
face now curved about his mouth. "You may remain. This is no secret
chamber."

"Fa--father," she faltered, gripping at her throat, "does he know--know
anything--about--about Vincent?"

"I can't tell yet. I am going over the messages. Please be seated."

The girl sank into a deep leather-cushioned chair. Without looking at
her Curlie was aware of the fact that she was studying him, perhaps
trying to make up her mind where she had seen him before. This made him
exceedingly uncomfortable. He was greatly relieved when at last the
magnate spoke.

"Gladys," he addressed the girl, "did you say you found some sort of map
in Vincent's room?"

"Oh, yes," she sprang to her feet. "A photograph of a very strange
looking map and also one of some queer foreign writing."

"Will you run and get those photographs?"

"Yes, father."

"It's strange," the older man mused after she had gone. "I don't
understand it at all. These messages, they are--"

"If you please--" Curlie broke in.

"Wait!" commanded the other, holding up his hand for silence. "Let us
have no opinions before all of the evidence is in. That map may aid us
in forming correct conclusions."




CHAPTER IX

A MYSTERIOUS MAP


It was indeed a curious map which had been reproduced on the large
photographic print which Gladys Ardmore placed on the desk before her
father.

Motioning Curlie to come forward and examine it with them, the magnate
rose from his chair to bend over the map. As Curlie stood there looking
down at it, the girl in her eagerness bent down so close to him that he
felt her warm breath on his cheek.

Nothing, however, could have drawn his gaze from that map. Wrinkled,
torn in places, patched, browned with age, smirched by many finger
marks, all of which were faithfully reproduced by the freshly printed
photograph, it still gave promise of revealing many a mystery if one
could but read it correctly.

It showed both land and water. Here on the land was a picture of a
castle and there on the water a ship. The shore of the land was not
drawn as are maps with which we are in these days familiar, but was cut
up in curious geometric forms which surely could not faithfully
represent the true lines of the shore. Towns were shown, but only on the
shoreline, their names printed in by hand in such small letters as would
require a magnifying glass to read them. Crossing and recrossing the
water in every conceivable direction were innumerable straight lines.
About the edge of the map were eight faces of children. Their cheeks
puffed out as if blowing, they appeared to represent the wind that blew
from certain quarters.

All the writing was in some foreign language. In the lower left-hand
corner was what appeared to be the name of the maker but this was so
blotted out as to be unreadable.

"Huh!" The magnate straightened up. "That's a strange map and appears to
be very ancient, but I can hardly see how it is going to help us with
our present problem."

"There is still the writing," suggested Gladys, turning over the other
photograph.

"That," said Mr. Ardmore, after a moment's study of it, "is written in
some strange tongue and is, I take it, unintelligible to us all."

"It's a photograph of the back of the map," suggested Curlie, pointing
out certain spots where the wrinkles and tears were the same.

"My French teacher will be here at ten o'clock. He knows several
languages. Perhaps he could help us," suggested Gladys.

"We will leave that to him," said her father. "Now about these
messages," he went on, turning to Curlie. "What is your theory?"

Stammeringly Curlie proceeded to explain the idea which had come to him,
the notion that Vincent Ardmore and some pal of his had been planning a
secret trip of some sort.

"That is entirely possible," said Ardmore. "Vincent is daring, even rash
at times. If some wild fancy leaped into his head, he would attempt
anything. Now that you speak of it, I do think there might be something
in your theory. Perhaps after all we may get some light from that map
and the writing on the back of it. I shall await the coming of the
professor with much anxiety."

"Father," exclaimed Gladys, "I have seen some such maps as this one at
some other place."

"Where?"

"It was over at that big library, the one you are a director of."

"The Newtonian?"

"Yes. I was over there once and they showed me a great number of ancient
maps. Oh, a very great number, and such strange affairs as they were!
There were some similar to this one. I know there were!"

"Young man," said the magnate, turning to Curlie, "may I command your
services on this matter for the day?"

Curlie bowed.

"Good! You will not be unrewarded. I am of the opinion that something
may be learned by a study of the maps my daughter speaks of.
Unfortunately I am engaged; I cannot go to the library. Would it be
asking too much were I to request that you accompany her?"

Curlie assured him it would not. In his heart of hearts he assured
himself that it would be a great privilege.

"Very well then, Gladys," the magnate bowed to his daughter, "I suggest
that you plan on being back here at eleven. By that time your French
teacher may have something to tell us."

Bowing to them both, he dismissed them with a wave of his hand.

As the neat little town car, which was apparently Gladys Ardmore's
exclusive property, hurried them away toward the north side library,
Curlie had time to think and to steal a look now and then at his fair
hostess.

Matters had been going rather rapidly of late. He found it difficult to
keep up with the march of events. What should be his next move? He was
torn between two conflicting interests: his loyalty to the radio secret
service bureau and his desire to be of service to this girl and her
father. The girl, as he stole a glance at her, appeared disturbed and
troubled. There was a tenseness about the lines of her mouth, a droop to
her eyelids. "For all the world as if she were in some way to blame for
what has happened," he told himself.

Instantly the question popped into his mind: "Does she know more than
she cares to tell?" He thought of the wireless equipment which had been
removed from the wrecked car before the reporters had arrived. The
laborer would hardly do that without orders from someone. Who had that
someone been? The millionaire had denied all knowledge of the radiophone
messages. Curlie believed that he had told the truth. Here was an added
mystery. He was revolving this in his mind when the girl spoke:

"It must be very interesting listening in."

"Listening in?" Curlie feigned ignorance of her meaning.

"Yes, isn't that what you do? Listen in on radio all the time?"

Curlie started. How did she know?

"Why, yes, since you've asked, that is my work."

"Where--where--" she hesitated, "is your station?"

"That," smiled Curlie, "is a state secret; very few know where it is."

"Oh!" she breathed. "A mystery?"

Curlie nodded.

"Something like that."

"I love mysteries," she whispered. "I love to unravel them. Some day I
shall surprise you. I shall come walking into that secret room of
yours." There was a look on her face that he had not seen there before.
It was disturbing. It spoke of a quality which, he concluded, she had
inherited from her father, the quality of firmness and determination,
which had made him great.

"I--I'd rather you wouldn't try," he almost stammered.

"Oh! here we are," she exclaimed, "at the library."

Leaping out of the car she led the way up the broad steps of an
imposing gray stone structure.

"Down this way," she whispered, as if awed by the vast fund of knowledge
stowed away between those walls. Without further words they made their
way within.

Ten minutes later they were together bending over a great pile of
ancient maps. Done on sheepskin and vellum, gray and brown with age, yet
with colors as bright as on the day they were drawn, these maps spoke of
an age that was gone and of a map-making art that is lost forever.

"Look at this one!" exclaimed the girl. "The date's on it--1450. Made
before the days of Columbus. And look! It is like the one Vincent had
the photograph of; the most like of any."

"Yes, but not the same," said Curlie. "See, those strangely shaped
islands in the lower, right-hand corner are not on it; neither are the
cherubs blowing to imitate the wind."

"That's true," said the girl in a disappointed tone, "I had hoped it
might be the same map. It might have told us something."

Suddenly Curlie was struck with an idea. Leaving the girl's side, he
approached the librarian.

"Have any of these maps been photographed recently?" he asked in a low
tone.

"Not for several years," she answered. "But there are reproductions of
these and others. They're in a bound volume in the next room. There the
maps are reproduced on a large scale and a description of each is given.
The lady in charge will show you."

Curlie tiptoed into that room. He was soon turning the pages of a large
book which resembled an atlas.

After studying each successive page for some time, he came to a halt
with a suppressed exclamation.

There, staring up at him, was a reproduction of the very map which had
been photographed for Vincent Ardmore and, if further proof were
lacking, there on the opposite page was a reproduction of the writing
on the back of it, with a translation in fine print below.

Hurriedly he read this translation through. Twice he paused in utter
astonishment. Three times he wrote down a brief note on a scrap of
paper. When he had finished, he looked at the lower left-hand corner of
the map, then copied some figures reproduced there.

Closing the book quickly, as if afraid the girl would find him looking
at it, he paused for a second to banish all sign of excitement from his
face, then walked leisurely from the room.

"Find anything?" he asked in as quiet a tone as he could command.

"No," there was a tired and worried look in her eyes. "I'm afraid the
map is not here."

"By the way," he said in a casual way, "does your brother happen to have
a pal living at Landensport on the coast?"

"Why, yes," she said quickly, "that's Alfred Brightwood. They were chums
in Brimward Academy."

"I thought that might be so."

"And you think--think--" she faltered.

"What we think," he smiled a disarming smile, "doesn't count for much.
It's facts which really matter. Excuse me; I'll be back in a moment," he
said hurriedly. "Want to telephone."

In the booth of the library he conversed long and earnestly with his
chief.

"Why, yes," came over the phone at last, "I don't see but that you had
better finish the thing up. We can't let rich young offenders off
easily. It would destroy the service entirely. Go ahead. Coles Masters
can handle the station while you are away."

The interview ended, he got Joe Marion on the wire.

"Joe," he said hurriedly, "throw some of my things into a bag and some
of your own with them. Be down at the Lake Shore station at one-fifteen
prepared for a short trip. Where to? Oh, New York and then some. It's
important and interesting. Be there! Good. Good-bye till then." He
snapped down the receiver and hurriedly left the booth.

"Shall we go back?" he asked the girl.

"I suppose we might as well," she said dejectedly. Then brightening
suddenly, "Yes, let's hurry back. Perhaps the professor has found out
something from that queer old writing."




CHAPTER X

THE FIRST LAP OF A LONG JOURNEY


On the way back to the Ardmore home both the girl and her escort were
silent for some time. Then, turning to her, Curlie asked:

"Has this friend of your brother's--Brightwood, did you say his name
was?--has he a seaplane?"

"Is that an airplane which flies up from the ocean and lights upon it
when one wishes it to?"

"Yes."

"He has one of those. Yes, I'm sure of it. He wanted to take me for a
ride out over the sea last summer."

"And is he what you would call a daring chap, ready to attempt
anything?"

"Why, yes, he is; but--but how do you know so many things?"

"It is my duty to know."

Again he lapsed into silence. On arriving at the estate they found
Gladys' father in a strange state of agitation.

"Just received a telegram from an old and trusted friend who is on the
coast of Maine. He says Vincent has been seen there within the last
twenty-four hours. What that can mean I haven't the faintest notion. I
should go there at once but business makes it entirely impossible."

"Under one condition," said Curlie soberly, "I will go East and attempt
to bring your son home. Indeed, I shall go anyway; have already arranged
transportation, in fact, and leave in two hours; but it would please me
if I might go with your approval."

"You have arranged to go?" The older man's face expressed his
astonishment. "For what purpose?"

"On a commission for the government."

"And you wish my permission for what?"

"To bring your son back with a warrant, under arrest."

The older man looked at Curlie for a moment as if to discover whether or
not he was joking.

"Young man," he said slowly, "do you know who I am?"

"You are J. Anson Ardmore, one of the richest men of the Middle West."

"And do you know that I could crush you with my influence?"

"No, sir, I do not." Curlie drew himself up to his full height. "Those
days are gone forever. I am part of the United States government, the
government which has made it possible for you to gain your wealth. Her
laws must be obeyed. You could not crush me and, what is still more
important, you have no notion of doing so."

"What?" The magnate's face became a study, then it broke into a smile.
"I like your spirit," he said seizing Curlie's hand in a viselike grip.
"You have the power of the law behind you; you need no consent of mine.
But so be it; if my son has broken the law, he shall suffer the
penalty."

"There is one other matter," said Curlie soberly. "At the present moment
it is merely a theory. I am unable to offer any worth-while proof for
it, but it is my belief that your son and his chum, Alfred Brightwood,
are considering a very perilous seaplane journey. Indeed, they may even
at this moment be on their way. If that is true they should be followed
at once in some swift traveling vessel, for they are almost certain to
meet with disaster."

"That Brightwood boy will be the death of us all yet," exploded the
father. "For sheer foolhardy daring I have never known his equal. Time
and again I have attempted to persuade Vincent to give up associating
with him, but it has been of no avail. Alfred appears to hold some
strange hypnotic power over him."

For a moment he stood there in silence. When he spoke he was again the
sober, thoughtful business man.

"If what you say is true, and you find that they have already departed
on this supposed journey, my private yacht is at your disposal. It lies
in the mouth of the river at Landensport. The captain and engineer are
on board. You will need no further crew. She is the fastest private
engine-driven yacht afloat. If necessity demands, do not hesitate
risking her destruction, but you will not, of course, endanger your own
life."

"All right; then I guess everything is settled. You will wire
instructions to the captain of the yacht. I must hurry to my train."
Curlie hastened from the room.

Joe was awaiting Curlie at the depot. Filled with an eager desire to
know what was to be the nature of this new adventure, he could wait
scarcely long enough to buy tickets, reserve sleeper berths, and to
board the train before demanding full details.

The train was a trifle slow in pulling out. As he outlined the situation
to Joe, Curlie kept an eye out of the window. Once he caught sight of a
slight girlish figure which seemed familiar. He could not be sure, so
heavily veiled was her face.

He had quite forgotten the incident when, a few hours later, he entered
the diner for his evening lunch. What then was his surprise, on
entering, to see Gladys Ardmore calmly seated at a table and nibbling at
a bun.

She motioned him to a seat opposite her.

"You didn't expect to have me for a fellow-passenger, did you?" she
smiled.

Curlie shook his head.

"Well, I didn't expect to go until the last moment. Then the professor
came with the translation of the writing on the map all written out.
Father thought you should have it, so he sent me with it. I arrived just
in time and decided all at once that I ought to--Oh, that I wanted--that
I _must_ go with you." There was a pathetic catch in her voice that went
straight to Curlie's heart.

"After all," he told himself, "he's her brother and that means a lot."

When he looked at her the next moment he discovered there the strangely
determined look which was so like her father's, and which he had seen
once before on her face.

"Here is the translation," she said simply as she passed over a roll of
paper. "Order your dinner; we will have plenty of time to look over the
papers later."

"She's a most determined and composed little piece of humanity," was
Curlie's mental comment. "I don't like her following me, but since she's
here I suppose I better make the best of it!"

Had he known how far she would follow him and what adventures she was
destined to share with him, he might have been tempted to wire her
father to call her back. Since he did not know, he ordered meat-pie,
French fried potatoes, English tea biscuits, cocoa and apple pie, then
settled himself down to talk of trivial matters until the meal was over.

When at last he saw the waiter remove the girl's finger bowl, Curlie put
out his hand for the paper. The hand trembled a trifle. Truth was, he
was more eager than he was willing to admit to read the French
teacher's translation of the writing on the back of the map.

Now as he held it in his hand one question came to the forefront in his
mind: Was this photograph a reproduction of the map that had looked so
much like it, the one in the great volume at the library? The
translation would dear up that point.

But then it might not be, he reasoned. The book said that the original
of this map had belonged to an English lord something like a hundred
years ago; that it had disappeared and nothing had been heard of it
since.

"The professor said," smiled the girl, a trifle anxiously, "that the
writing was in very, very old Spanish and for that reason he might not
have understood every word of it correctly but that taking it all in all
he thought he had made the meaning clear."

"We'll have a look," said Curlie, unfolding the paper.

"He said it was the photograph of a very unusual manuscript, rare and
valuable." There was something about the way the girl said this which
led Curlie to guess that she might know who was in possession of the
original. He was, however, too much excited over the first lines of the
translation to ask her any questions.

"The Island of Lagos." He read the title to himself. Beneath this in
brackets were the words:

"Being the account of how the good ship Torence was cast ashore on an
unknown island in the midst of the great sea; an island whereon there
are many barbarians having much gold."

Curlie caught his breath. Save for one word the translation was the same
as that he had read in the book. That word was of no consequence.

"It's the same map!" he told himself. "The very same!"

The girl, leaning over the table, watched him eagerly. She was both
excited and elated over the find.

"Isn't it wonderful?" she exclaimed, clasping her hands. "I think it's
great! And to think that my brother and his chum were the ones who
found it!"

"Haven't read it all," Curlie mumbled.

"Then read on. Read it all. Please do."




CHAPTER XI

"MANY BARBARIANS AND MUCH GOLD"


Curlie, obeying her instructions, read on and with every line his
conviction grew stronger that the conclusions he had come to were well
formed.

This is what he read:

"Having spent Good Friday with his family, our captain, deeming further
delay but loss of time, determined to cast anchor and sail for the coast
of Ireland. Here he hoped to do a brisk business at barter with the
peasants and fisher-folk who inhabit the shores.

"But Providence had determined otherwise. Hardly had we been from shore
a half day's journey, when, without warning, from out the night there
rose a great tumult. This tumult, coming as it did from the shore,
grasped us in its mighty arms and hurled us league by league in
directions that we would not go. And being exceedingly tossed with the
tempest we lightened the ship. On the fourth day we, with our own hand,
cast out the tackle of the ship. And when not sun nor moon nor stars had
appeared for many days, we counted ourselves for lost; for, having been
carried straight away these many days, we expected nothing but that we
would come soon to that dark and dreadful place which is the end of all
land and all seas."

"Isn't it wonderful?" whispered the girl.

Curlie was too much absorbed to answer her.

"When we had given up all hope," he read on, "Markus Laplone, a very old
seaman, said we were nearing some land.

"We took soundings and found it forty fathoms. Then again it was thirty.
Then with hopeful hearts we looked for that land. But when at last it
broke through the fog it was no land that any of the men had seen, no,
not the oldest seaman.

"But fearing to be cast upon rocks, we kept a good watch that we might
find some harbor. At last we were rewarded, for to the right of us there
was a river flowing into the sea.

"The storm having somewhat abated, we took oars, such as had not been
broken by the storm, and some with two men to the oar and some with but
one, we made shift to enter this river; having accomplished which, we
dropped anchor and gave thanks to God for the preservation of our lives.

"Now, on coming on shore we found this to be indeed a strange land. Not
alone were the trees and all vegetation of a sort unknown to us, but the
barbarians who came about us were of a complexion such as not one man of
us had ever before beheld.

"And, what was more astounding, as we made a fire to cook us food, there
passed by us bearing on their backs strangely woven baskets, a caravan
of these half-naked barbarians. And, when we motioned to show them we
would see within his basket, one of these lowered his basket.

"What we saw astounded us much, for it was all filled with finely-beaten
gold. The fellow had as much of it as a stout sailor would be able to
carry. And there were many such baskets.

"When I made as though I would take the gold, he became very angry, and
would have struck me down with an ugly spear which he bore.

"But when I laughed, making as though it were a joke, he gave me a small
piece, the which is at this time in my possession, as proof that what I
have written here is truth and no lie.

"Now this island I have shown on the map, the nether side upon which I
am writing, as a star with six points to it; though the shore marking
nor the extent of the island is as yet unknown to any but those
barbarians who live upon it."

There ended the main portion of the story, but in a bracket at the
bottom was written:

"In some other place will be found the account of our miraculous return
from this strange and mysterious island of many barbarians and much
gold."

As Curlie finished, he glanced up with a sigh.

The girl was staring at him so intently that he could not but think she
was attempting to read his thoughts.

"Isn't it wonderful?" she breathed at last.

"Yes," said Curlie quickly, "you expressed it even better before. It's
great!"

He looked away. His head was in a whirl It was the long-lost map; he was
sure of that now. He remembered the figures he had copied from that
other reproduction. They were blurred and unreadable on this one. Should
he tell her?

His lips opened but no sound came out. No, he would not tell her, not at
this time. There might be some other way.

"Your brother and his chum," he said evenly, "have gone in search of
that island of gold."

She stared at him in silence.

"If they haven't gone already, they may be gone before we reach the
coast," he continued. "They will probably go in Alfred Brightwood's
seaplane."

"Yes, yes," she broke her spell of silence. "That is the way they would
go. It's--it's a wonderful plane! You--you don't think anything could
happen to them, do you?"

"Supposing they do not find the island?"

"But they will."

"It is to be hoped that they will find an island--some island."

"It's a wonderful plane. It would cross the Atlantic!" She clasped and
unclasped her hands.

"But supposing," he rose from his chair in his excitement, "supposing
they don't find the island exactly where they expect to find it?
Supposing, in their eagerness to find that gold, they circle and circle
and circle in search of the island until there is no longer any gas in
the tank to bring them home."

"Oh, you don't think that!" She sprang to her feet and, gripping his
arm to steady herself, looked up into his eyes. There was a
heartbreaking appeal in those blue eyes of hers.

"I think," said Curlie steadily, "that my pal, Joe Marion, and I, if we
find them gone when we get there, will take your father's speedy yacht
and go for a little pleasure trip in the general direction they have
taken. Then if they chance to get into trouble, we can give them a lift.
Besides," there came a twinkle in his eye, which was wholly lost on the
girl, "they might need the yacht to carry home the gold."

"Oh, will you?" she exclaimed, gripping his arm until it hurt. "That
will be grand of you. For you know," she faltered, "I--I feel a little
bit responsible for what they have done and if anything should happen I
could never forgive myself. I--I'll tell you about it some time."

For a moment they stood there in silence, she steadying herself from the
rock of the train by clinging to his arm.

"I think," she said soberly, "if you go in father's yacht, that I shall
go along with you."

"And I think," said Curlie in a decided tone, "that you won't."

She said not another word but had he taken a look at her face just then
he would have found there the expression that he had seen there before,
the expression which she had inherited from her father, the self-made
millionaire.

That night in his berth, as the train rushed along on its eastward
journey, Curlie narrated to Joe Marion all the events which had led up
to the present moment, and as much of his conclusions as he had told to
Gladys Ardmore.

"So you see, Joe, old boy," he concluded, "if those young millionaires
are away before we arrive we're destined to take a little trip which may
have an adventure or two in it; that is, at least I will."

"Count me in," said Joe soberly. "I go anywhere you do."

"Good!" exclaimed Curlie, gripping his hand. "And in the end," he
concluded, "I think we shall have told the world in a rather effective
way that the air must be free for the important messages; that Uncle Sam
has the right of way in the air as well as on land or sea and that he
has ways of defending those rights."

At that they turned over, to lie there listening to the click-click of
wheels over rails until sleep claimed them.




CHAPTER XII

OUT TO SEA IN A COCKLESHELL


Darkness was falling when at last Curlie and Joe reached the station at
Landensport. In spite of the fact that they had had no supper and were
weary from travel, Curlie insisted on going at once to the hangar where
the _Stormy Petrel_, Alfred Brightwood's seaplane, was kept.

"Yes," said the keeper of the hangar, "they hopped off six hours ago.
Seemed to be preparing for somethin' of a journey; they filled the tanks
with gas and loaded her cabin full of things to eat. Some sort of a
picnic, I reckon. Strange part of it was," he said reflectively, "I
watched 'em as they went and sure's I'm standin' here they shot out to
sea, straight as an arrow, and far as you could see 'em they was going
right on. Couldn't be tryin' to cross the Atlantic, but you can never
tell what'll get into that Brightwood boy's head. He's darin', he is.
Jest some picnic, though, I reckon."

"Some picnic all right!" said Curlie emphatically. "Some picnic for all
of us!"

"Eh? What?" the keeper turned on him quickly.

Curlie did not answer.

"Vincent Ardmore went with him, I suppose," Curlie said after a moment's
silence.

"Of course. Just them two."

"Was the plane equipped with wireless?"

"Yes. They spent two days tending to that; seemed to be mighty
particular about it."

"Yes, of course they would."

"Eh? What?" the man turned sharply about.

Curlie was silent again.

"It's funny about them wireless rigs for a plane," said the keeper at
last. "You git your ground by hanging a wire seventy-five er a hundred
feet down from the plane, then you get ground just the same as if the
wire was dragging through the sea, don't matter whether you're up a
hundred miles or five thousand. Strange stuff, this radio."

"Yes," said Curlie, "it is. By the way," he exclaimed suddenly, "do you
know about this new Packard-Prentiss equipment?"

"Yes, sir; was tryin' one out only yesterday. Fine thing."

"Reliable?"

"Absolutely."

"Know where I can get one?"

"Over at Dorrotey's sea-goods store on the dock. He's got one er two for
sale."

"Thanks." He and Joe started away.

"Next place is Dock No. 3. The _Kittlewake_, the Ardmore yacht, is tied
up over there. Unless I miss my guess we'll be off to sea in less than
two hours," said Curlie to Joe. "Speed's the word now. Those two young
dreamers have gotten away by plane. We've got to stand by in the
_Kittlewake_ or they'll never be seen again. I don't propose to allow
the sea to rob me of my first important offender against the laws of the
air."

"By the way," said Joe, "where is Gladys Ardmore? I haven't seen her
since we left New York."

"I don't know and I'm glad I don't," said Curlie. "She let fall a remark
in the dining car that I didn't like. She said she thought she'd go
along with us on this trip. A five hundred mile trip straight out to sea
in a fifty-foot pleasure yacht with a fifteen-foot beam, is no sort of
trip for a girl. I was afraid she'd try to insist. That would have
caused a scene, for unless I miss my guess she's the determined sort
like her father."

"It's queer she gave us up so quickly."

"Yes, but I'm glad she did."

Suddenly Curlie started. As they rounded a corner he caught sight of a
trim, slender figure. This girl had been standing in the light of a shop
window. Now she dodged inside.

"Huh!" he grunted. "Thought that looked like her, but of course it
couldn't be. Some ship captain's daughter probably."

They arrived on board the _Kittlewake_ just as the captain, a red-faced
old British salt, and the engineer, a silent man who was fully as slim
and wiry of build as Curlie himself, were finishing lunch.

"Pardon me," said Curlie, "but did you get Mr. Ardmore's wire?"

"You're this wireless man, Curlie Carson?" asked the captain.

"Yes."

"'Is message is 'ere; came this morning."

"Then you're ready to put off at once."

"At once!" The captain stared his amazement. "'Ere it is night. At once,
'e says!"

"It's very necessary that we go at once," said Curlie firmly, "and I
believe you have your orders."

"To be hat your service in hevery particular."

"All right then, we must be on our way in an hour."

"Wot course?" The skipper rose to his feet.

"This is the point we must reach with all speed," said Curlie, drawing
the photograph of the mysterious old map from his pocket and pointing
to the star near the center. "Compare that with your own chart, locate
it as well as you can and then mark out your own course."

The skipper stared at him as though he thought Curlie crazy.

"That! Why that--"

Turning quickly, he disappeared up the hatch, to return presently with a
chart. This he placed upon the table, beside the photograph.

After five minutes of close study he turned an astonished face upon the
boy.

"That, as I 'ave thought, is five 'undred miles hout to sea. Five
'undred miles in a cockleshell. Man, you're daft."

"All right," said Curlie; "the trip's got to be made. I thought you
might be afraid to undertake it; that's why I wanted to know at once.
I'll go out and hunt another skipper. There's surely plenty of them idle
these dull times."

"Hafraid, did 'e say! Me! Hafraid!" The skipper was purple with rage.
"Hafraid 'e says. 'E says it, a bloomin' Yankee kid, an' me as 'as 'ad
ships sunk under me twice by the bloody German submarines! Me, Captain
Jarvis, hafraid."

He turned suddenly upon Curlie. "Go git yer togs an' shake a leg er the
bloomin' _Kittlewake_'ll be off without you on board."

"That's the talk!" smiled Curlie. "Never fear! We'll be here."

He turned to Joe. "You go ashore and buy us each a suit of roughing-it
things, a so'-wester and the like. We'll need 'em. I'll be back in less
than an hour."

When Curlie returned from his mission ashore he carried but one bundle.
That resembled a fencepost in size and shape. It was carefully wrapped
and sealed in sticky black tar cloth.

"Going to throw a message overboard in case we're lost, I suppose,"
laughed Joe.

"Something like that," Curlie laughed back. Nevertheless, he carried the
thing with great care to his stateroom and deposited it beneath his
berth in the cabin forward on the main deck.

An hour later the two boys were standing on deck watching the shore
lights fade. Each was busy with his own thoughts and wondering, no
doubt, in his own way how much of adventure this trip held for him.




CHAPTER XIII

A GHOST WALKS


"Ever take much interest in gasoline engines?" Curlie suddenly inquired
of Joe.

"Yes, quite a bit; had a shift on one of those marine kinds last summer
on the Great Lakes."

"Good! You'll have to take a shift here on the _Kittlewake_. This trip
can't be made without sleep. I'll spell the captain at the wheel and you
can relieve that lanky engineer."

Again they lapsed into silence. Half unconsciously each boy was taking
stock of the craft they had requisitioned, trying to judge whether or
not she was equal to the task she had been put to. Speed she had in
plenty. "Do forty knots a 'our," the skipper put it, "an' never 'eat a
bearin'."

She was a trim craft. Narrow of beam, a two-master with a steel hull
that stood well out of the water forward, she rode the water with the
repose and high glee of the bird she was named after.

"Yes, she's a beauty, and a go-getter," Curlie was thinking to himself,
"but in a storm, now, four or five hundred miles from land, what then?"

Had he known how soon his question was to be answered he might well have
shuddered.

"Better go down and have a look at the engines before you turn in for a
wink of sleep," he told Joe.

When Joe had gone below, Curlie still sat there on the rail aft. The
throb of the engines beneath him, the rapid rush of air that fanned his
cheek, was medicine to his weary brain. He had been caught in a
whirlwind of events and here, for a time, he had been cast down in a
quiet place where his mind might clear itself of the wreckage of thought
that had been torn up and strewn about within it.

It had been a wild race. He had lost thus far; would he lose in the
end? Had he, after all, trusted too much to theory? Had these two sons
of rich men really only gone for some picnic trip to a well-known island
farther south along the coast? Or had they, as he had assumed, guided by
their ancient map, gone in search of the island of "many barbarians and
much gold," an island which he was convinced existed only in name?

The girl, too; what had she meant when she said she was in some ways
responsible for her brother's actions? There was something queer about
the whole affair. Who had taken the wireless equipment from the wrecked
car out there by the Forest Preserve? Did young Ardmore have the ancient
original of that interesting map or only the photograph? If he did not
have it, who was in possession of it? Strange thing that it would be
lost for a hundred years only to have a brand-new photograph of it show
up all at once. Rather ghostly, he thought. He had meant to ask Gladys
Ardmore about that. He'd ask her now if she were here. But he was more
than glad she was not here.

"No trip for a girl," he told himself, "and she said she'd go. Strange
she gave it up so easily. Strange that--"

His thoughts broke off suddenly as he stared forward. The _Kittlewake_
was equipped with three cabins; a forecastle and aftercabin, both below
the main deck, built largely for stormy weather, and a fair-weather
cabin in the center of the main deck. The night was dark, the moon not
having come up. It was difficult to distinguish objects at a distance,
but, unless his eyes deceived him, Curlie saw some object, all white and
ghostly, rising slowly from the hatchway leading to the forecastle. Cold
perspiration sprang out upon his brow, his heart beat madly, his knees
trembled as he involuntarily moved forward. That was the way he had of
treating ghosts; he walked straight at them.

In the meantime, had one been on some craft three hundred miles farther
on in the direct course of the _Kittlewake_, he might have caught the
thunderous drumming of two powerful Liberty motors. He might also have
seen a spot of light playing constantly upon the black waters. While
this light was constant, it moved rapidly forward in a wide circle. The
circle was never the same in size or location, yet the spot of light did
not move more than twenty miles in any direction from a certain given
center. The spot of illumination came from a powerful searchlight
mounted upon a seaplane. It was manipulated by a boy in the rear seat. A
second boy drove the plane. These boys, as you have no doubt long since
guessed, were Vincent Ardmore and his reckless pal, Alfred Brightwood.

This light had been playing upon the water since darkness had fallen,
some three hours before. They had been circling for four hours. Their
hopes of completing their search before dark had been thwarted by a
defective engine which had compelled them to make a landing upon the sea
when the journey was only half completed.

At this particular moment the plane was climbing steadily. It was a
perfect "man-bird" of the air, was this _Stormy Petrel_. With broad
spreading planes and powerful motors, it was the type of plane that now
and again hops off from some point in England during the dewy morning
hours and carries her crew safely to Cuba without a single stop.

Yet these boys were not planning a trip across to Europe. They were, as
Curlie had supposed they might be, hunting for the island of "many
barbarians and much gold."

When they had mounted to a considerable height, Alfred shut off the
engines and allowed her to volplane toward the sea.

"Aw, let's give it up and get back," said Vincent downheartedly. "It's
not here. Probably that old map-maker made a mistake of a trifling
hundred miles or so."

"That's a grand idea!" exclaimed Brightwood, grasping at a straw. "Not a
hundred miles but perhaps thirty or forty miles. Old boy, we'll be
cooking lunch on a stove of pure gold in half an hour. You'll see! Just
get your light fixed right and I'll take a wider circle. That'll get
it."

"But if we use up much more gas we won't get back to land," hesitated
Vincent.

"Land! Who wants to get back to land!" the other exploded. "If worst
comes to worst we've got the wireless, haven't we? We can light on the
water and send out an S. O. S., can't we? I must say you're a mighty bum
sailor."

"Oh, all right," said Vincent, stung into silence, "go ahead and try
it."

Again the motors thundered. Again the spot light traced a circular path
across the dark waters, which to the boy who held the light, appeared to
be reaching up black, fiendish hands to drag them down. This time the
circle they cut was many miles in circumference, miles which drew deeply
from the supply of gasoline in their tanks.




CHAPTER XIV

THE COMING STORM


As Curlie's feet carried him forward on the deck of the _Kittlewake_,
his eyes beheld the ghost which rose from the hatch taking on a familiar
form. A white middy blouse, short white skirt and a white tarn, worn by
a slender girl, moved forward to meet him. As the form came into the
square of light cast by a cabin window, his lips framed her name:

"Gladys Ardmore!"

"Why, yes," she smiled, "didn't you expect me? I told you I thought I'd
go."

"And I said you should not." Her coolness angered him.

"You forget that this is my father's boat. A man's daughter should
always be a welcome guest on his boat."

"But--but that's not it," he hesitated. "This is not a pleasure trip.
We are going five hundred miles straight to sea in a boat intended for
shore travel. It's likely to storm." He sniffed the air and held his
cheek to the breeze that was already breaking the water into little
choppy waves. "It is going to be dangerous."

"But you are going," she said soberly, "to the assistance of my brother.
I have a better right than you to risk my life to save my own brother. I
can be of assistance to you. Truly, I can. I can be the galley cook."

"You a cook?" He looked his surprise.

"Certainly. Do you think a rich man's daughter can do nothing but play
tennis and pour tea? Those times are gone, if indeed they ever existed.
I am as able to do things as is your sister, if you have one."

"But," said Curlie suddenly, "I am going from a sense of duty. Having
set out to have your brother arrested I mean to do it."

For a full moment she stared at him stupefied. Then she said slowly,
through set, white lips: "You wouldn't do that?"

"Why shouldn't I?" His tone was more gentle. "He has broken the laws of
the air. Time and again he sent messages on 600, a radio wave length
reserved to coast and ship service alone. He has hindered sea traffic
and once narrowly escaped being the death of brave men at sea."

"Oh," she breathed, sinking down upon a coil of cable, "I--didn't know
it was as bad as that. And I--I--knew all about it. I--I--"

She did not finish but sat there staring at him. At last she spoke
again. Her tone was strained and husky with emotion.

"You--you'll want to arrest me too when you know the truth."

"You'll not be dragged into it unless you insist."

"But I do insist!" She sprang to her feet. Her nails digging into her
clenched fists, she faced him. Her eyes were bright and terrible.

"Do you think," she fairly screamed, "that I would be part of a thing
that was wrong, whether I knew it or not at the time, and then when
trouble came from it, do you think that I would sneak out of it and
allow someone else to suffer for it? Do you think I'd sneak out of it
because anyone would let me--because I am a girl?"

Completely at a loss to know what to do upon this turn of events, Curlie
stood there staring back at the girl.

She at last sank back upon her seat. Curlie took three turns around the
deck. At last he approached her with a steady step.

"Miss Ardmore," he said, taking off his cap, "I apologize. I--I really
didn't know that a girl could be that kind of a real sport."

Before she could answer he hurried on: "For the time being we can let
the matter we were just speaking of rest. Matters far more important
than the vindicating of the law, important as that always is, are before
us. Your brother and his friend, unless I am mistaken, are in grave
danger. We may be able to save them; we may not. We can but try and this
trial requires all our wisdom and strength.

"More than that," he again held his face to the stiffening gale, "we
ourselves are in considerable danger. Whether this 'cockleshell,' as the
skipper calls her, can weather a severe storm on the open sea, is a
question. That question is to be answered within a few hours. We're in
for a blow. We're too far on our way to retreat if we wished to. We must
weather it. You can be of assistance to us as you suggest, and more than
that, you can help us by being brave, fearless and hopeful. May we count
on you?"

There was a cold, brave smile on the girl's face as she answered:

"You know my father. He has never yet been beaten. I am his child."

Then suddenly, casting all reserve aside, she gripped his arm and
bestowing a warm smile upon him said almost in a whisper:

"Curlie Carson, I like you. You're real, the realest person I ever
knew." Then turning swiftly about, she danced along the deck, to
disappear down the hatch to the forecastle.

"Huh!" said Curlie, after a moment's thought, "I never could make out
what girls are like. But one thing I'm sure of: that one will drown or
starve or freeze when necessity demands it, without a murmur. You can
count on her!"

Throwing a swift glance to where a thick bank of clouds was painting the
night sky the color of blue-black ink, he hurried below to consult with
the skipper about the weather. They were, he concluded, some three
hundred and fifty miles out to sea. If this storm meant grave dangers to
them, what must it mean to two boys in a seaplane skimming through the
air over the sea? He shivered at the thought.

Fifteen minutes later, Curlie was in the small wireless cabin of the
_Kittlewake_. With a receiver clamped over his head, with a motor
purring at his feet and with the hum of wires and coils all about him,
he felt more at ease and at home than he had been for many hours.

His talk with the skipper had confirmed his fears; they were in for a
blow.

"A nor'-easter, sir," he had affirmed, "an' one you'll remember for many
a day. Oh! we'll weather 'er, sir; somehow we'll 'ave to weather 'er.
With the millionaire heiress aboard we'll 'ave to, worse luck for it.
We'll 'ammer down the 'atches an' let 'er ride if we 'ave to but it's a
jolly 'ard shaking habout we'll get, sir. But she's a 'arty,
clean-hulled little boat, she is, an' she'll ride 'er some'ow."

After receiving this information, Curlie had gone directly to the
wireless cabin. He was more anxious than he was willing to admit for the
safety of his two charges, the millionaire's children; for Curlie did
think of them as his charges. He was used to taking burdens on his own
shoulders. It had always been his way.

Just now he was listening in on 600, ready to pick up any message which
might come from the boys on the seaplane. That the _Stormy Petrel_ was a
doomed aircraft he had not the least doubt. The only question which
remained in his mind was whether the _Kittlewake_ or some other craft
would reach her in time to save the two reckless boys.

Now and again as he listened he picked up a message from shore. The
center of the storm, which was fast approaching, was to the east, off
shore. Messages coming from the storm's direction would be greatly
disturbed by static. But to the west the air was still clear.

Now he heard a ship off Long Island Sound speaking for a pilot; now some
shore station at Boston assigned to some ship a harbor space; and now
some powerful broadcasting station sent out to all the world a warning
against the rising storm.

Tiring of all this, for a time he tuned his instrument to 200.

"Be interesting to see how far short wave lengths and high power will
carry," was his mental comment.

Now he caught a faint echo of a song; now a note of laughter; and now
the serious tones of some man speaking with his homefolks.

But what was this? He fancied he caught a familiar whisper. Adjusting
his wires, adding all the amplifying power his instruments possessed, he
listened eagerly; then, to his astonishment heard his own nickname
spoken.

"Hello, Curlie," came to him distinctly. Then, "Are you there? You
remember that big bad man, the one who used heaps of power on 1200?
Well, he's gone north--very far north. You'd want to follow him, Curlie,
if you knew what I know. The radiophone is going to do great things for
the north, Curlie. But men like him will spoil it all. Remember this,
Curlie: If you do go, be careful. Careful. He's a bad man and the stakes
are big!" The whisper ceased. The silence that followed it was ghostly.

"And that," Curlie whispered softly, "came all the way from my dear old
home town. She thought I was still in the secret tower room. Fine chance
of my following that fellow up north. But when I get back I'll
investigate. There may be something big there, just as she says there
is. Yes, I'll look into it when I get back--if I do get back."

He shivered as he caught the howl of the wind in the rigging. Then,
tuning his instrument back to 600, he listened once more for some
message from the seaplane, the _Stormy Petrel_.




CHAPTER XV

S. O. S.


The spot of light which raced across the waters of the sea where no land
was to be seen, where the black surface of the swiftly changing waters
shone always beneath the occupants of the seaplane, took on an ever
widening circle. There appeared to be no end to Alfred Brightwood's
belief that somewhere in the midst of all this waste of waters there was
an island.

Vincent Ardmore had long since given up hope of becoming rich by this
mad adventure. His only hope, the one that gave strength to his arms
benumbed by long clinging to the flashlight and new sight to his eyes,
weary with watching, was that they might discover some bit of land, a
coral island, perhaps, where they might find refuge from the sea until a
craft, called to their aid, might rescue them.

The thought of returning to the mainland he had all but abandoned. The
gas in the tank was too low for that; at least he was quite certain it
must be.

There was a chance, of course, that if they alighted upon the water and
sent out an S. O. S., the international call for aid, they would be
answered by some near-by ship. But this seemed only a remote
possibility. He dared not hope it would happen. They were far from any
regular course of trans-Atlantic vessels and too far from shore to be
picked up by a coast vessel or a fishing smack. The very fact that this
island, marked so plainly on the ancient map, had been in this
particular spot, so remote from the main sea-roads, had strengthened
their belief that during all the centuries of travel it had been lost
from man's memory and hidden from his view. Now this very isolation,
since they were unable to locate this island, if indeed it existed at
all, threatened to be their undoing.

Still they circled and circled with great, untiring sweeps. At last,
releasing the searchlight, Vincent put his lips to a speaking tube.

"Let's light," he grumbled. "I'm dead. What's the use?"

"What else can we do but keep looking?" Alfred answered.

"Take a look at the gas. Maybe it will carry us back."

Even as he spoke, a strange thing happened. The air appeared suddenly to
have dropped from beneath the plane. Straight down for fifty feet she
dropped.

With the utmost difficulty Alfred succeeded in preventing her from
taking a nose dive into the sea.

"She--she bumped," he managed to pant at last. "Something the matter
with the air."

And indeed there was something about the atmospheric conditions which
they had not sensed. Busy as they had been they had not seen the black
bank of clouds to the northeast of them. With the wild rush of air from
sheer speed, they had not felt the increasing strength of the gale. Once
Vincent had fancied that the sea, far beneath them, seemed disturbed,
but so far beneath them was it that he could not tell.

Now in surprise and consternation, as if to steady his reeling brain, he
gripped the fuselage beside him while he shrilled into the tube:

"Look! Look over there! Lightning!"

"Watch out, I'm going down," warned the other boy. "Going to light."

To do this was no easy task. Three times they swooped low, to skim along
just over the crest of the waves, only to tilt upward again.

"Looks bad," grumbled the young pilot.

The fourth time, he dared it. With the spray spattering his goggles, he
sent the plane right into the midst of it. For a second it seemed that
nothing could save them, that the wave they had nose-dived into would
throw their plane end for end and land her on her back, with her two
occupants hopeless prisoners strapped head down to drown beneath her.

But at last the powerful motors conquered and, tossed by the ever
increasing swells, the plane rode the sea like the stormy petrel after
which she had been named.

"Quick!" exclaimed Alfred as the motors ceased to throb. "Strip off your
harness and get back to the tank."

A moment later Vincent was making a perilous journey to the gas tank.
Twice the wind all but swept him into the sea; once a wave drenched him
with its chilling waters. When at last he reached his destination it was
only to utter a groan; more gas had been used than he had dared think.

"Can't--can't make it," he mumbled as he struggled back to his place.

"Have to send out an S. O. S. then. What wave length do you use?

"You ought to know," exclaimed Vincent almost savagely. "You were the
one who insisted on using it when we were making up our plans."

"Six hundred? Oh, yes," Alfred said indifferently. "Well, what of it?"

"Just this much of it," said Vincent thoughtfully. "I've been going
over and over it in my mind the last little while. What if we send out
our S. O. S. now and some selfish landlubber such as we were is talking
about matters of little importance and muddles our message? We might be
left to drown."

"Aw, can that sob stuff," grumbled Alfred angrily. "Are you going to
send that S. O. S. or am I?"

"I will," said Vincent, preparing to climb to a position on the plane
above him where the radiophone was located. "But"--he suddenly began to
sway dizzily--"but where are we?"

He sank back into his seat. For a full moment, with the waves tossing
the plane about and the black clouds mounting higher and higher, the two
boys stared at one another in silence. Yes, where were they? Who could
tell? They were not trained mariners. They could not have taken a
reckoning even had they been in possession of the needed instruments.

"Why," said Alfred hesitatingly, "we must be somewhere near that spot
where the island was supposed to be located. That's as near as we can
come to it. Send out that latitude and longitude; then we'll climb back
into the air. We'll be safer there than on the water and we can keep the
searchlight shooting out flashes in all directions. A ship coming to our
aid will see the light."

"If they come," Vincent whispered.

"Hurry!" exclaimed Alfred, as a giant wave, rising above its mates,
threatened to tear their plane into shreds.

With benumbed and trembling fingers the boy unwrapped his instruments,
adjusted a coil, twisted a knob and threw in his switch. Then his heart
stood still. The motor did not start. Had it been dampened and
short-circuited? Would it refuse to go? Were they already lost?

Just as he was giving up in despair, there came a humming sound and a
moment later the well-known signal of distress had been flashed out
across the waves. Three times he repeated it. Three times in a few sharp
words he told their general location and their plight. Then with wildly
beating heart, he pressed the receivers to his ears and awaited a reply.

A moment passed, two, three, four; but there came no answering call.
Only the buzz and snap of the ever-increasing static greeted his
straining ears.

Once more he sent out the message; again he listened. Still no response.

"C'm'on," came from the boy below. "It's getting dangerous. You can get
a message off in the air. Gotta get out o' here. Gotta climb. May not be
able to make it even now."

As the other boy glanced down at the white-capped waves all about them
he realized that his companion spoke the truth.

Hurriedly rewrapping his instruments, all but the receivers, which by
the aid of an extension he brought down with him, he made his way to his
seat and strapped on his harness.

"All right," he breathed.

Once more the motors thundered. For a long distance they raced through
blinding spray. Little by little this diminished until with a swoop,
like a sea gull, the magnificent plane shot upward. The next instant
they felt a dash of cold rain upon their cheeks. Was the storm upon
them? Or was this merely a warning dash which had reached them far in
advance of the deluge? For the moment they could not tell.




CHAPTER XVI

A CONFESSION


For an hour Curlie Carson had been seated in the radiophone cabin of the
_Kittlewake_. During that time his delicately adjusted amplifier and his
wonderful ears had enabled him to pick up many weird and unusual
messages. Listening in at sea before a great storm is like wandering on
the beach after that same storm; you never can tell what you may pick
up. But though fragments of many messages had come to him, not one of
any importance to the _Kittlewake_ had reached his ears. If during that
time any message from the _Stormy Petrel_ had been sent out, it had been
lost in the crash and snap of static which now kept up a constant din in
his ears.

Again doubt assailed him. He had no positive knowledge that the boys in
the plane had gone in search of that mysterious island of the old
chart. They might, for all he knew, be at this moment enjoying a rich
feast on some island off the coast of America.

"Cuba, for instance," he told himself. "Not at all impossible. Short
trip for such a seaplane."

"And here," he grumbled angrily to himself, "here I am risking my own
life and the life of my companions and crew, inviting death to all
these, and this on a mere conjecture. Guess I'm a fool."

The gale was rising every moment. Even as he spoke the prow of the boat
reared in air, to come down with such an impact as made one believe she
had stepped on something solid.

Just when Curlie's patience with himself and all the rest of the world
was exhausted, Joe Marion opened the door. The wind, boosting him across
the threshold, slammed the door after him.

"Whew!" he sputtered. "Going to be rotten. Tell you what, I don't like
it. Dangerous, I'd say!"

"Nothing's dangerous," smiled Curlie, greatly pleased to see that
someone at least was more disturbed than himself. "Nothing's really
dangerous since the invention of the radiophone. Ocean, desert, Arctic
wilderness; it's all the same. Sick, lost, shipwrecked? All you've got
to do is keep your head clear and your radiophone dry and tuned up.
It'll find you a way out."

"Yes, but," hesitated Joe, "how the deuce you going to pack a radiophone
outfit, all those coils, batteries and boxes, when you're shipwrecked?
How you going to keep 'em dry with the rain pelting you from above and
the salt water beating at you from below? Lot of sense to that! Huh!" he
grunted contemptuously. "That for your radiophone!" He snapped his
finger. "And that for your old sloppy ocean! Give me a square yard of
good old terra firma and I'll get along without all your modern
inventions."

"It can be done, though," said Curlie thoughtfully.

"What can?"

"Radiophone kept dry after a wreck at sea."

"How?"

Curlie did not answer the question. Instead, he snapped the receiver
from his head and handed it to Joe.

"Take this and listen in." He rose stiffly. "This business is getting on
my nerves. I've got to get out for a breath of splendid fresh sea
breeze."

"Nerves?" said Joe incredulously. "You got nerves?"

"Sometimes. Just now I have."

On the deck Curlie experienced difficulty in walking. As he worked his
way forward he found that one moment his legs were far too long and his
foot came down with a suddenness that set his teeth chattering; the next
moment his legs had grown suddenly short. It was like stepping down
stairs in the dark and taking two steps at a time when you expected to
take but one.

"Never saw such a rumpus on the sea," he grumbled. "Going to be worse,"
he told himself as a chain of lightning, leaping across the sky,
illumined the bank of black clouds that lay before them. "Going to be
lots worse."

Poking his head into the wheel-house, he bellowed above the storm:
"How's she go?"

"Seen worse'n 'er," the skipper shouted back.

"Ought to be at the spot we started for in half an hour--that island on
the old chart."

"Never was no island," the skipper roared.

"Maybe not."

"Supposin' we get there, what then?"

"Don't know yet."

The skipper stared at Curlie for a full moment as if attempting to
determine whether he were insane, then turned in silence to his wheel.

The wind blew the door shut and Curlie resumed his long-legged,
short-legged march.

He had done three turns around the deck when his eyes caught a small
figure crumpled up on the pile of ropes forward.

"Hello," he cried, "you out here?"

Gladys did not answer at once. She was straining her eyes as if to see
some object which might be hovering above the jagged, sea-swept skyline.

"No," said Curlie, as if in answer to a question, "you couldn't see the
plane. You couldn't see it fifty fathoms away and then it would flash by
you like a carrier pigeon. No use if you did see it. Couldn't do
anything. But there's one chance in a million of their coming into our
line of vision, so it's no use watching. Only chance is a radiophone
message giving their location."

"But I--I want to. I--I ought to do something." For the first time he
noticed how white and drawn her face was.

"All right," he said in a quiet voice, "you just sit where you are and
I'll sit here beside you and you tell me one or two things. That will
help."

"Tell--tell what?"

"Tell me this: Did your brother have the original of that old map?"

"Yes," her tone was already quieting down, "yes, he did, or Alfred
Brightwood did. His father is very rich and he has a hobby of collecting
very old editions of books. He pays terrible prices for them. He bought
an old, old copy of 'Marco Polo's Travels'; paid fifteen thousand
dollars for it. And inside its cover Alfred found that old map with the
curious writing on the back of it.

"He thought right away that it might hide some great secret, so he had
it photographed and sent the photo to Vincent. Vincent got a great
scholar to read the writing for him. He never told me what the writing
was; said that no one but he and Alfred should know; that it was a great
secret and that girls couldn't keep secrets, so I was not to know.

"But they can keep secrets!" she exploded, breaking off from her
narrative. "They do keep secrets--more secrets than boys do. Wonderful
and terrible secrets sometimes!"

"All right," smiled Curlie, "I agree with you, absolutely, but what did
they do then?"

"Well," the girl pressed her temples as if to drive the thoughts of the
present from her. "They--why then Alfred called Vincent by radiophone on
600. Vincent was terribly afraid to answer on 600, but he did. And then,
because he thought the discovery of the map was so awfully important, he
rigged up a radiophone on his auto and I--I"--she buried her face in her
hands--"I helped him. I was with him in the car; drove while he sent the
messages, all but that last night, when the car was wrecked.

"I--I know I shouldn't have done it. I knew all the time it was wrong,
but Alfred was stubborn and wouldn't talk on anything but 600--said he
had as much right on 600 as anyone else--so we did it."

"And then the car was wrecked?" suggested Curlie. He felt a trifle mean
about making the girl tell, but he knew she would be more comfortable
once she got it out of her system. People are that way.

"Yes," she said, "someone shot his tire and wrecked his machine. I found
the car, first thing in the morning, and when I saw Vincent wasn't
there I got two big packing baskets that we once used in the Rockies and
put them on my horse. Then I went back and got all that radio stuff and
took it home and hid it. Do you think I did wrong?" The eyes she turned
to his were appealing ones.

"Maybe you did," said Curlie huskily, "but that doesn't matter now;
you're paying for it all right--going to pay for it in full before this
voyage is over. The thing you must try to think of now is the present,
the little round present that is right here now. And you must try to be
brave."

"And--and"--she said in a faltering voice--"do you think Vincent is
paying for what he did?"

"I shouldn't be surprised."

"Then you won't have to arrest him if he's already punished?" The
appealing eyes were again upon him.

At that moment Curlie did a strange thing, so strange that the words
sounded preposterous to his own ears:

"No," he said slowly, "I won't, unless--unless he asks me to."

"Oh!" she breathed, "thank you." She placed her icy-cold hand on his for
a second.

"You're freezing!" he exclaimed suddenly. "You'll be making yourself
sick. You must get inside!"

"I'll go to the lounging cabin in mid-deck. The forecastle is so--so
lonesome," she stammered. "If you need me, you'll find me there."

Feeling her way along the rail, she disappeared into the darkness.

At almost the same moment there came the bellowing sound of a voice that
could be heard above the roar of the storm:

"Curlie! Curlie! Come here! Something coming in. Can't make it out!"

It was Joe Marion. Stumbling aft, now banging his feet down hard and now
treading on empty air, Curlie made his way to the radiophone cabin.




CHAPTER XVII

A BLINDING FLASH OF LIGHT


"It's an S. O. S.," screamed Joe at the top of his voice, as Curlie came
hurrying up. "They sent that much in code and I got it all right. Then
they tried to tell me their troubles and all I got was a mumble and
grumble mixed with static, which meant nothing at all to me. Repeated it
three times. Very little space in between. Should have called you, I
guess, but there really wasn't time; besides I kept thinking I'd start
getting what he sent."

"Where'd it come from?" Curlie asked as he snapped the receiver over his
head.

"Straight out of the storm. Fifty or sixty miles northeast."

Curlie groaned. "That's what I get for being impatient. Ought to have
stayed right here. It's those boys all right and we've missed them; may
never pick them up again."

For a time there was silence in the wireless cabin, such a silence as
one experiences in the midst of a rising storm. The flap of ropes, the
creak of yard-arms, the rush of waves which were already washing the
deck, the chug-chug-chug of the prow of the brave little craft as she
leaped from wave-crest to wave-crest; all this made such music as an
orchestra might, had every man musician of them gone mad. And this was
the "silence" Curlie did not for a long time break.

"Well!" he shouted at last, "that settles one thing. I was right. They
did go in search of that mythical island."

"You can't be sure," said Joe. "Might have been a fishing boat led off
her course by a chase after a whale. You never can tell."

"No, that's right," Curlie agreed.

"What makes you so sure the island on that map is mythical?" asked Joe.

"Doesn't sound reasonable."

"Lots of things don't. Take the radiophone; it wouldn't have sounded
reasonable a few years ago. Lot of new things wouldn't. A new island is
discovered somewhere about every year. Why not around here?"

"Anyway, I don't believe it," shouted Curlie.

Yet, after all, as he thought of it now he found himself hoping against
hope that there was some such island. It wasn't the gold he was thinking
of, but a haven of refuge. This storm was going to be a bad one. He
fancied it was going to be one of the worst experienced on the Atlantic
for years. If only there were somewhere a sheltered nook into which this
cockleshell of a craft they were riding on might be driven, it would
bring him great relief. He thought a little of Joe, of the skipper and
the engineer, but he thought a great deal about the girl.

"No place for a girl," he mumbled. "Perhaps," he tried to tell himself,
"there is an island, a very small island overlooked for centuries by
navigators; perhaps those boys have found it. Perhaps they were merely
sending out an S. O. S. to get someone to bring them gas to carry them
home. But rat!" he exploded, "I don't believe it. Don't--"

He cut himself short to press the receivers tight against his ears. He
was getting something. Quickly he manipulated the coil of his radio
compass. Yes, it was an S. O. S.! And, yes, it was coming directly out
of the storm. But what was this they were saying? "Two boys--" He got
that much, but what was that? Strain his ears as he might, he could not
catch another word.

But now--now he believed he was about to get it. Moving the coil
backward and forward he strained every muscle in his face in a mad
effort to understand. Yes, yes, that was it! Then, just as he was
getting it a terrible thing happened. There came a blinding flash of
light, accompanied by a rending, tearing, deafening crash. He felt
himself seized by some invisible power which wrenched every muscle,
twisted every joint in his body, then flung him limp and motionless to
the floor.

When he came to himself, Joe and the girl were bending over him. Joe
was tearing at the buttons of his shirt. The girl was rocking backward
and forward. All but overcome with excitement, she was still attempting
to chafe his right hand. When she saw him open his eyes she uttered a
little cry, then toppled over in a dead faint.

"Wha--what happened?" Curlie's lips framed the words.

"Lightning," shouted Joe. "Protectors must have got damp.
Short-circuited. Raised hob. Burned out about everything, I guess."

"Can't be as bad as that. Tend to the girl," Curlie nodded toward the
corner.

Joe ducked out of the cabin, to appear a moment later with a cold, damp
cloth. This he spread over the girl's forehead. A moment later she sat
up and looked about her.

Curlie was sitting up also. He was rubbing his head. When he saw the
girl looking at him he laughed and sang:

    "Oh, a sailor's life is a merry life,
    And it's a sailor's life for me.

"But say!" he exclaimed suddenly, "what was I doing when things went to
pieces?"

Joe nodded toward the radiophone desk where coils and instruments lay
piled in tangled confusion.

"You were getting a message from out the storm."

"Oh yes, and they gave me their location. It was--no, I haven't it.
Lightning drove it right out of my head. Let me think. Let me
concentrate."

For a full moment there was silence, the silence of the raging sea. Then
Curlie shook his head sadly.

"No, I can't remember," his lips framed the words. It was unnecessary
that he shout them aloud.

"Oh!" exclaimed the girl, and for a moment it seemed that she would
faint again. But she controlled herself bravely.

"We'll find them yet," she forced a brave smile. "It's a comfort just to
know they're still alive, that they're near us, at least not too far
away for us to save them if we can only find them."

Again there was silence. Then Curlie rose unsteadily to his feet.

"Give us a hand here, Joe, old scout," he said. "We'll get this thing
back in shape. There are extra vacuum tubes, tuning-coils and the like,
and plenty of all kinds of wire. We'll manage it somehow--got to."

The girl rose, to sink upon a seat in the corner.

"That's right," shouted Curlie. "You stay right here. We'll be company
for each other. Fellow needs company on a night like this. Besides, I've
got something to say, a lot to say, to you and Joe as soon as the
radiophone is tuned up again. Got to say it before I get killed again,"
he chuckled.




CHAPTER XVIII

THE STORMY PETREL GETS AN ANSWER


The dash of rain which beat like a volley of lead upon the fuselage of
the seaplane as she rose above the spray lasted but a moment.

"Just a warning of what's to come," Vincent called through the tube.
"Think we could run away from the storm?"

"We'd just get lost on the ocean and not know what location to
radiophone," grumbled his companion. "Better keep circling. We can get
above the storm if we must."

Once more the weary circle was commenced. With little hope of sighting
land, Vincent still fixed his gaze upon the black waters below, while he
sent the flash of light, now far to the right, now to the left, and now
straight beneath them.

"Someone must have caught our S. O. S." he told himself. "We ought to
get sight of their lights pretty soon. But then," his hopes grew faint,
"not many ships in these seas. Might not have heard us. Might not be
able to reach us. Might--"

He broke off abruptly. A blinding flash of lightning had illumined the
waters for miles in every direction. In that flash his eyes had seen
something; at least, he thought they had; some craft away to the left of
them; a craft which reminded him of one he had sailed upon many a time;
his father's yacht, the _Kittlewake_.

"But of course it couldn't be," he told himself. "Nobody'd be crazy
enough to--"

A second flash illumined the water, but this time, strain his eyes as he
might, he caught no glimpse of craft of any sort.

"Must have dreamed it," he muttered. He closed his eyes for a second and
in that second saw his sister Gladys clearly mirrored on his mind's
vision. She was staggering down a pitching deck.

"Huh!" he muttered, shaking himself violently, "this business is
getting my goat. I'll be delirious if I don't watch out."

Again he fixed his gaze upon the spot of light as it traveled over the
water.

He had kept steadily at the task for fifteen minutes, was wondering how
much longer the gas would hold out, wondering, too, whether the storm
was ever going to break, when he caught the pilot's signal in the tube.

"How about trying another message?" his companion called.

"Up here?" he asked in dismay.

"I know--awful dangerous. But we've got to risk something. Lost if we
don't."

"All right, I'll try." He began cautiously to unbuckle his harness.

Scarcely had he loosened two of the three straps which held him in place
when the plane gave a sudden lurch. Having struck a pocket, it dropped
like an elevator cage released from its cable, straight down.

"Oh--ah!" he exclaimed as he caught at a rod just in time to escape
being hurled away.

"Got to be careful," he told himself, "awful careful! Have to hold on
with one hand while I work with the other. Feet'll help too."

When the plane had settled again, he loosened the last strap, then began
with the utmost caution to drag himself to the surface of the plane
above him.

Once a vivid flash of lightning showed him the dizzy depths beneath him.
He was at that moment clinging to a rod with both hands. His legs were
twined about a second. Thus he hung suspended out over two thousand feet
of air and as many fathoms of water.

For a moment a dizzy sickness overcame him, but this passed away. Again
he struggled to gain the platform above. This time he was successful.

Even here he did not abandon caution. The straps were still about his
waist. One of these he fastened to a rod. Then with one hand he clung to
the framework before him, while with the other he worked at the task of
adjusting instruments.

"Slow business," he murmured. "Maybe it won't work when I get through.
Maybe too damp. Maybe it--"

Suddenly he found himself floating in air, like the tail of a kite. Only
the strap and his viselike grip saved him. The plane had struck another
pocket.

He was at last thrown back upon the platform with such force as dashed
the air from his lungs and a large part of his senses from his brain.

After a moment of mental struggle he resumed his task. He worked
feverishly now. The fear that he might be seriously injured before he
had completed it had seized him.

"Now," he breathed at last, "now we'll see!"

His hand touched a switch. The motor buzzed.

"Ah! She works! She works!" he exulted.

Then with trembling fingers he sent out the signal of distress. He
followed this with their location, also in code. Three times he repeated
the message. Then snapping on his receiver, he strained his ear to
listen.

"Ah!--" his lips parted. He was getting something. Was it an answer? He
could scarcely believe his ears. Yet it came distinctly:

"Yacht _Kittlewake_, Curlie--"

Just at that moment the plane gave a sickening swerve. Caught off his
balance, the boy was thrown clear off the platform. The receiver
connection snapped. He hung suspended by the single strap. Madly his
hands flew out to grasp at the pitching rods. Just in time he seized
them; the strap had broken.

With the agility of a squirrel he let himself down to his old place
behind his companion. To buckle on the remaining straps was the work of
a moment. Then, in utter exhaustion and despair, he allowed his head to
sink upon his chest.

"And I was getting--getting an answer," he gasped.

His companion had seen nothing of his fall. Glancing behind him for a
second, he saw Vincent in his seat in the fuselage.

"What'd you come down for?"

"Got shaken down."

"Get anything?"

"Was getting. Queer thing that! Got the name of my father's yacht and
the word 'Curly.' Then the plane lurched and spilled me off. Jerked the
receiver off too. Queer about that message! Thought I saw the
_Kittlewake_ on the sea a while ago, but then I thought it couldn't
be--thought I was getting delirious or something."

"Going back up?"

"I--I'll--In a moment or two I'll try."

A few moments later he did try, but it was no use. His nerve was gone.
His knees trembled so he could scarcely stand. His hands shook as with
the palsy. It is a terrible thing for a climber to lose his nerve while
in the air.

"No use," he told himself. "I'd only get shaken off again and next time
I'd be out of luck. Shame too, just when I was getting things."

Again he caught his companion's call.

"Storm's almost here! Guess we'll have to climb."

Even as he spoke, there came a flash of lightning which revealed a solid
black bank of clouds which seemed a wall of ebony. It was moving rapidly
toward them; was all but upon them.

"Better climb; climb quick," he breathed through the tube.




CHAPTER XIX

THE MAP'S SECRET


While all these things were happening to the boys on the seaplane,
Curlie Carson and Joe Marion were working hard to repair the damage done
to their radiophone set by the lightning. With the boat pitching about
as it was, and with the wind and waves keeping up a constant din, it was
a difficult task.

Just what coils and instruments had been burned out it was difficult to
tell. All these must be tested out by the aid of a storage battery. When
the defective parts had been discarded, it was necessary to piece
together, out of the remaining parts and the extra equipment, an
entirely new set.

"Have to use a two-stage amplifier," shouted Curlie, making himself
heard above the storm.

"Lower voltage on the grid, too," Joe shouted back.

"Guess it'll be fairly good, though," said Curlie, working feverishly.
"Only hope it didn't burn out the insulation on our aerials. Want to get
her going again quick. Want to bad. Lot may depend on that."

The insulation on the aerials was not burned out. After many minutes of
nerve-racking labor they had the equipment together again and were ready
to listen in.

Curlie flashed a short message in code, giving the name of their boat
and its present location, then, with the receiver tightly clamped over
his ears, he settled back in his chair.

For some time they sat there in silence, the two boys and Gladys
Ardmore.

The beat of the waves was increasing. The wind was still rising, but as
yet no rain was falling.

"Queer storm," shouted Joe. "Haven't gotten into it yet. Will though and
it's going to be bad. Skipper says the only thing we can do is to fasten
down all the hatches and hold her nose to the storm."

"Better see about the hatches," shouted Curlie.

Throwing open the door, letting in a dash of salt spray and a cold rush
of wind as he did so, Joe disappeared into the dark.

Curlie and the girl were alone. The seat the girl occupied was clamped
solidly to the wall. It had broad, strong arms and to these she clung.
She was staring at the floor and seemed half asleep.

When Joe disappeared, Curlie once more became conscious of her presence
and at once he was disturbed. Who would not have been disturbed at the
thought of a delicate girl, accustomed to every luxury, being thrown
into such desperate circumstances as they were in at the present moment.

"Not my fault," he grumbled to himself. "I didn't want her to go.
Wouldn't have allowed her, either, had I known about it."

"Not your fault?" his inner self chided him. "Suppose you didn't plan
this trip?"

"Well, anyway," he grumbled, "she needn't have come along, and,
besides, circumstances have justified my theories. They are out here
somewhere, those two boys, and since they are it's up to someone to try
to save them."

Then suddenly he remembered that he had something to say to the girl. He
opened his mouth to shout to her, but closed it again.

"Better wait till Joe comes," he told himself. "The more people there
are to hear it, the more chances there are of its getting back to
shore."

Joe blew back into the cabin a few moments later.

"Everything all right?" Curlie shouted.

At the sound of his voice, the girl started, looked up, then smiled; Joe
nodded his head.

"Say, Joe, I'm hungry," shouted Curlie. "There's bread in the forward
cabin and some milk in a thermos bottle. Couldn't manage coffee, but
toast and milk'd be fine."

The girl sprang to her feet as if to go for the required articles, but
Joe pushed her back into her chair.

"Not for you," he shouted. "It's gettin' dangerous."

"Joe," said Curlie, "there's a small electric toaster there in the
cabin. Disconnect it and bring it in here. We'll connect it up and make
the toast right here."

When the toaster had been connected, the girl, happy in the knowledge
that she was able to be of service, toasted the bread to a brown quite
as delicate as that to be found on a landlubber's table.

"Now," said Curlie as they sat enjoying this meager repast, "I've got
something to tell you, something that I want someone else beside me to
know. It's going to be an ugly storm and the _Kittlewake_ is no
trans-Atlantic liner. We may all get back to shore. We may not. If one
of you do and I don't, I want you to tell this. It--it will sort of
justify my apparent rashness in dragging you off on this wild trip."

He moved his chair close to the stationary seat of the girl and,
gripping one of the arms of the seat, motioned Joe to move up beside
them. It was only thus that he might be heard unless he were to shout at
the top of his voice.

"You know," he said, a strange smile playing over his thin lips, "you
folks probably have thought it strange that I should go rushing off on a
trip like this without any positive knowledge that those two boys had
started for that mysterious island shown on the map and spoken of in the
writing on the back of the map, but you see I had more information than
you thought. This I know for an almost positive fact," he leaned forward
impressively: "The mysterious island of the chart does not exist."

"Oh!" the girl started back.

"It's a fact," said Curlie, "and I'll give you my proof."

He paused for a second. The girl leaned forward eagerly. Joe was all
attention.

"When I went into that big library," he continued, "I was determined to
find all the truth regarding that map that was to be had there. While
you were looking at those ancient maps," he turned to Gladys, "I went
into a back room and there the lady in charge gave me some bound
reproductions of ancient maps to look at and some things to read, among
them a volume of the 'Scottish Geographic Magazine.' I read them through
carefully and--"

Suddenly he started violently, then clasped the receivers close to his
ears.

"Just a moment. Getting something," he muttered.

A second later he seized a pencil and marked down upon a pad a series of
dots and dashes.

Then, wheeling about, he put his fingers on a key to flash back an
answer.

"It's the boys," he shouted. "Got their location. Joe, decode what I
wrote there, then go ask the skipper how much we're off it."

He turned once more to click off his message, a repetition of the first
one; then he shouted a second message into his transmitter.

Joe Marion studied the pad for a moment, then rushed out of the cabin.

All alert, Curlie sat listening for any further message which might
reach him. Presently Joe returned. There was a puzzled look upon his
face.

"Skipper says," he shouted, "that the point you gave me is the exact
location of the island shown on that ancient map and that we must be
about ten knots to the north of it. When I told him that the boys were
in a seaplane at that point, he suddenly became convinced that there
must be an island out there somewhere and refused to change his course.

"'For,' he says, 'if they've been sending messages from a plane in a
gale like this they must be on the ground to do it and if on the ground,
where but on an island? And if there's an island, how are we going to
get up to her in the storm that's about to hit us. We'll be piled on the
rocks and smashed in pieces.' That's what he said; said we'd be much
safer in the open sea."

Curlie stared at the floor. His mind was in a whirl. Here he had been
about to furnish proof that the mysterious island did not exist and just
at that instant there came floating in from the air proof of the
island's actual existence, proof so strong that even a seasoned old salt
believed it and refused to change his course. What was he to say to
that!

Fortunately, or unfortunately, he was to be given time enough to think
about it, for at that moment, with an unbelievable violence the storm
broke.

As they felt the impact of it, it was as if the staunch little craft had
run head on into one of those steel nets used during the war for
trapping submarines. She struck it and from the very force of the blow,
recoiled. The thing she had struck, however, was not a steel net but a
mountain of waters flanked by such a volume of wind as is seldom seen on
the Atlantic.

"It's the end of the _Kittlewake_," thought Curlie. "You take care of
her," he shouted in Joe's ear, at the same time jerking his thumb at
Gladys. The next second he disappeared into the storm.




CHAPTER XX

A SEA ABOVE A SEA


When Alfred Brightwood had tilted the nose of the _Stormy Petrel_ upward
and away from the threatening bank of clouds she rose rapidly. A
thousand, two thousand, three, four, five thousand feet she mounted to
dizzy heights above the sea.

As they mounted, the stars, swinging about in the sky, like incandescent
bulbs strung on a wire, made their appearance here and there. They came
out rapidly, by twos and threes, by scores and hundreds. In clusters and
fantastic figures they swam about in the purple night.

Almost instantly the sea disappeared from beneath them and in its place
came a new sea; a sea of dark rushing clouds. Rising two thousand feet
above the level of the ocean, this mass of moisture hanging there in the
sky took on the appearance of a second sea. As Vincent looked down upon
it he found it easy to believe that were they to drop slowly down upon
it, they would be seized upon and torn this way, then that by the
violence of the storm that was even now raging beneath them, and that
their plane would be cast at last, a shapeless mass, upon the real sea
which was roaring and raging beneath it.

"How wonderful nature is!" he breathed. "It would be magnificent were it
not so terrible."

He was thinking of the gasoline in their tank and he shuddered. Would it
last until the storm had passed, or would they be obliged to volplane
down into that seething tempest?

He put his lips to the tube. "You better use just enough gas to keep us
afloat," he suggested.

Alfred muttered something like, "Think I'm a fool?" Then for a long
time, with the black sea of clouds rising and falling, billowing up like
the walls of a mammoth tent, then sagging down to rise again, they
circled and circled. They were not circling now in search of adventure,
to find some island which might bring them great wealth, but to preserve
life. How long that circling could last, neither could tell.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Curlie Carson left the wireless cabin of the _Kittlewake_, he
grasped a rail which ran along the cabin, just in time to prevent
himself from being washed overboard by a giant wave. As it was, the
water lifted his feet from the deck and, having lifted him as the wind
lifts a flag, it waved him up and down three times, at last to send him
crashing, knees down, on the deck. The wind was half knocked out of him,
but he was still game. He did not attempt to regain the wireless cabin
but fought his way along the side of that cabin toward his own stateroom
door.

Now a vivid flash of light revealed the water-washed deck. A coil of
rope, all uncoiled by the waves, was wriggling like a serpent in the
black sea.

"No use to try to save it," he mumbled. "No good here, anyhow."

A yellow light, hanging above his stateroom door, dancing dizzily,
appeared at one moment to take a plunge into the sea and at the next to
dash away into the ink-black sky.

Curlie was drenched to the skin. He was benumbed with the cold and
shocked into half insensibility at the tremendous proportions of the
storm. He wondered vaguely about the engineer below. Was the water
getting at the engines? He still felt the throb of them beneath his
feet. Well, that much was good anyway. And the skipper? Was he still at
the wheel? Must be, for the yacht continued to take the waves head-on.

Short and light as she was, the craft appeared to leap from wave-crest
to wave-crest. Now she missed the leap by a foot and the water drenched
her deck anew. And now she overstepped and came down with a solid impact
that set her shuddering from stern to keel.

"Good old _Kittlewake_," he murmured, "you sure were built for rough
service!"

But now he had reached his stateroom door. With a lurch he threw open
the door, with a second he fell through, a third slammed it shut.

One second his eyes roved about the place; the next his lips parted as
something bumped against his foot.

Stooping, he lifted up a long affair the size and shape of a round cedar
fencepost. It was this he had brought aboard just before sailing. It had
been shaken down and had been rolling about the floor.

Having examined its wrapping carefully, he shook it once or twice.

"Guess you're all right," he muttered. "And you had better be! A whole
lot depends on you in a pinch."

His eyes roved about the room. At length, snatching a blanket from his
berth, he tore it into strips. Then, throwing back his mattress, he
placed the postlike affair beneath it and lashed it firmly to the
springs.

"There!" he exclaimed with much satisfaction, "you'll be safe until
needed, if you _are_ needed, and--and you never can tell."

       *       *       *       *       *

The end of the seaplane's last flirt with death and destruction came
suddenly and without warning. Overcome as he was by constant watching,
dead for sleep and famished for food, Vincent Ardmore had all but fallen
asleep in his seat on the fuselage when a hoarse snort from one of the
motors, followed quickly by a rattling grate from the other, startled
him into complete wakefulness.

The silence which followed these strange noises was appalling. It was
like the lull before a hurricane.

"Gas is gone," said Alfred. There was fear and defiance in his tone,
defiance of Nature which he believed had treated him badly "Have to go
down now."

"Go down!" Vincent shivered at the thought. Go down to what?

He glanced below, then a ray of hope lighted his face. The storm was
passing--had all but passed. The clouds beneath them were no longer
densely black. A mere mist, they hung like a veil over the sea.

"But the water?" His heart sank. "It will still be raging."

The storm had not so far passed as he at first thought. The plane cut a
circling path as she descended. Her wings were broad; her drop was
gradual. As they entered the first layer of clouds, she gave a lurch
forward, but with wonderful control the young pilot righted her. Seconds
passed, then again she tipped, this time more perilously. But again she
was righted. Now she was caught in a little flurry of wind that set her
spinning. A nose-dive seemed inevitable, but once more she came to
position. Now, as they neared the surface of the sea, a wild, racing
wind, the tail of the storm, seized them and hurled them headlong before
it. In its grasp, there was no longer thought of control. The only
question now was how they would strike the water and when. The very rush
of the wind tore the breath from Vincent's lungs. Crushed back against
the fuselage, he awaited the end. Once, twice, three times they turned
over in a mad whirl. Then, with a sudden rending crash and a wild burst
of spray, they struck.

The plane had gone down on one wing. For a second she hung suspended
there. Vincent caught his breath. If she went one way there was a
chance; if the other, there was none. He thought of loosening his
straps, but did not. So he hung there. Came a sudden crash. The right
motor had torn from its lashings and plunged into the sea.

The next second the plane settled to the left. Saved for a moment, the
boy drew a deep breath. A second crash and the remaining motor was gone.
During this crash the boy was completely submerged, but the buoyant
plane brought him up again. Then, for a moment, he was free to think, to
look about him. Instinctively his eyes sought the place where his
companion had been seated. It was empty. Alfred was gone.

Covering his eyes with his hands, he tried to tell himself it was not
true. Then, suddenly uncovering them, he searched the surface of the
troubled sea. Once he fancied he caught a glimpse of a white hand above
a wave. He could not be sure; it might have been a speck of foam. Only
one thing he could be sure of; his throbbing brain told it to him over
and over: Alfred Brightwood, his friend, was gone--gone forever. The sea
had swallowed him up.




CHAPTER XXI

THE BOATS ARE GONE


When Curlie Carson had fastened the mysterious post-shaped affair to the
springs of his berth, he fought his way against wind, waves and darkness
back to the radiophone cabin.

"Anything come in?" he asked as he shook the dampness from his clothing.

"Nothing I could make out," shouted Joe. "Got something all jumbled up
with static once but couldn't make it out." Rising, he took the receiver
from his head and handed it to Curlie. Then, as the craft took a sudden
plunge, he leaped for a seat. Missing it, he went sprawling upon the
floor.

In spite of the seriousness of their dilemma, the girl let forth a
joyous peal of laughter. Joe's antics as he attempted to rise were too
ridiculous for words.

There was tonic for all of them in that laugh. They felt better because
of it.

Some moments after that, save for the wild beat of the storm, there was
silence. Then, clapping the receivers to his ears, Curlie uttered an
exclamation. He was getting something, or at least thought he was. Yes,
now he did get it, a whisper. Faint, indistinct, mingled with static,
yet audible enough, there came the four words:

"Hello there, Curlie! Hello!"

At that moment the currents of electricity playing from cloud to cloud
set up such a rattle and jangle of static that he heard no more.

"It's that girl in my old home town, in that big hotel," he told
himself. "To think that her whisper would carry over all those miles in
such a gale! She's sending on 600. Wonder why?"

"Ah, well," he breathed, when nothing further had come in, "I'll unravel
that mystery in good time, providing we get out of this mess and get
back to that home burg of ours. But now--"

Suddenly he started and stared. There had come a loud bump against the
cabin; then another and another.

"It's the boats!" he shouted. "They've torn loose. Should have known
they would. Should have thought of that. Here!" He handed the receiver
to Joe and once more dashed out into the storm.

The _Kittlewake_ carried two lifeboats. As he struggled toward where
they should have been, some object swinging past him barely missed his
head.

Instantly he dropped to the deck, at the same time gripping at the rail
to save himself from being washed overboard.

"That," he told himself, "was a block swinging from a rope. The boat on
this side is gone. Worse luck for that! We--we might need 'em before
we're through with this."

Slowly he worked his way along the rail toward the stern. Now and again
the waves that washed the deck lifted him up to slam him down again.

"Quit that!" he muttered hoarsely. "Can't you let a fellow alone."

Arrived at last on the other side, he rose to his knees and tried to
peer above him to the place where the second lifeboat should be
swinging. A flash of lightning aided his vision. A groan escaped his
lips.

"Gone!" he muttered. "Should have thought of that! But," he told
himself, "there's still the raft!"

The raft, built of boards and gas-filled tubes, was lashed to the deck
forward. Thither he made his difficult way.

To his great relief, he found the raft still safe. Since it was
thrashing about, he uncoiled a rope closely lashed to the side of a
cabin and with tremendous effort succeeded in making the raft snug.

"There, now, you'll remain with us for a spell," he muttered.

Clinging there for a moment, he appeared to debate some important
question.

"Guess I ought to do it," he told himself at last. "And I'd better do
it now. You never can tell what will happen next and if worst comes to
worst it's our only chance."

Fighting his way back to his cabin, he returned presently with the
post-shaped affair which he had lashed to the springs of his berth.

This he now lashed to the stout slats of wood and crossbars of metal on
the raft. When he had finished it appeared to be part of the raft.

"There, my sweet baby," he murmured, "sleep here, rocked on the cradle
of the deep, until your papa wants you. You're a beautiful and wonderful
child!"

Then, weary, water-soaked, chilled to the bone, stupefied by the wild
beat of the storm, aching in every muscle but not downhearted, he fought
his way back to the radio cabin.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nature has been kind to man. She has so made him that he is incapable of
feeling all the tragedy and sorrow of a terrible situation at the time
when it bursts upon him. Vincent Ardmore, as he clung to the wrecked
plane, with his companion gone from him forever, did not sense the full
horror of his position. He realized little more than the fact that he
was chilled to the bone, and that the wind and waves were beating upon
him unmercifully.

Then, gradually there stole into his benumbed mind the thought that he
might improve his position. The platform above him still stood clear of
the waves. Could he but loosen the straps which bound him to the
fuselage, could he but climb to that platform, he would at least be free
for a time from the rude beating of the black waters which rolled over
him incessantly.

With the numbed, trembling fingers of one hand he struggled with the
stubborn, water-soaked straps while with the other he clung to the rods
of the rigging. To loosen his grip for an instant, once the straps were
unfastened, meant almost certain death.

After what seemed an eternity of time the last strap gave way and, with
a wild pounding of his heart, he gripped the rods and began to climb.

As he tumbled upon the platform, new hope set the blood racing through
his veins.

"There might yet be a chance," he murmured, almost joyfully; "the storm
is breaking." His eyes wandered to the fleeting clouds. "Dawn's coming,
too. I--I--why, I might send a message. The motor's gone dead, of
course, but there are still storage batteries. If only the insulations
are good. If water has not soaked in anywhere!"

With trembling fingers he tested the batteries. A bright flash of fire
told him they were still alive. Then with infinite care he adjusted the
instruments. At last he tapped a wire and a grating rattle went forth.

"She's still good," he exulted.

Then slowly, distinctly, he talked into the transmitter, talked as he
might had he been surrounded by the cozy comforts of home. He gave his
name, the name of his aircraft; told of his perilous position; gave his
approximate location and asked for aid. Only once his voice broke and
fell to a whisper. That was when he tried to tell of the sad fate of
his companion.

Having come to the end, he adjusted the receiver to his ears and sat
there listening.

Suddenly his face grew tense with expectation. He was getting something,
an answer to his message.

For a full moment he sat there tense, motionless. Then, suddenly,
without warning, a new catastrophe assailed him. A giant wave, leaping
high, came crashing down upon the wreckage of the plane. There followed
a snapping and crashing of braces. When the wave had passed, the
platform to which he clung floated upon the sea. His radiophone
equipment was water-soaked, submerged. His storage batteries had toppled
over to plunge into the sea.

So there he clung, a single individual on a mass of wreckage, helpless
and well-nigh hopeless in the midst of a vast ocean whose waves were
even now subsiding after a terrific storm.




CHAPTER XXII

THE WRECK OF THE _KITTLEWAKE_


"I'm getting a message!" exclaimed Curlie excitedly. "Getting it
distinct and plain, and it's--it's from them."

"Oh, is it?" the girl sprang from the seat.

"From your brother. They've been wrecked. They're not on an island but
on the sea. Safe, though, only--" he paused to listen closely again--"I
can't just make out what he says about his companion."

"Oh! Please, please let me listen!" Gladys Ardmore gripped his arm.

Quickly Curlie snatched the receiver from his head and pressed it down
over her tangled mass of brown hair.

She caught but a few words, then the voice broke suddenly off, but such
words as they were; such words of comfort. The voice of her only
brother had come stealing across the storm to her, assuring her that he
was still alive; that there was still a chance that he might be saved.
She pressed the receivers to her ears in the hopes of hearing more.

In the meantime Curlie was answering the message. In quiet, reassuring
tones he gave their location and told of their purpose in those waters
and ended with the assurance that if it were humanly possible the rescue
should be accomplished.

"And we will save them," he exclaimed. "At least we'll save your
brother."

"You don't think--" Gladys did not finish.

"I hardly know what to think about your brother's chum," Curlie said
thoughtfully. "But this we do know: Your brother is clinging to the
wreckage of a seaplane out there somewhere. And we will save him. See!
the storm is about at an end and morning is near!" He pointed to the
window, where the first faint glow of dawn was showing.

For a moment all were silent. Then suddenly, without warning, there
came a grinding crash that sent a shudder through the _Kittlewake_ from
stem to stern.

"What was that?" exclaimed Joe Marion, springing to his feet from the
floor where he had been thrown.

"We struck something!" Curlie was out upon the deck like a shot.

He all but collided with the skipper, who had deserted his wheel.

"We 'it somethin'," shouted the skipper, "an' she's sinkin' by the
larboard bow. Gotta' git off 'er quick. Boats are gone! Everythin's
gone."

"No," said Curlie calmly, "the raft forward is safely lashed on."

The engineer appeared from below. The engine had already ceased its
throbbing.

"She's fillin' fast," he commented in a slow drawl.

"You two get the raft loose," said Curlie. "I'll get the girl."

Dashing to his stateroom he seized two blankets and a large section of
oiled cloth. With these he dashed to the radio room.

"Got to get out quick!" he exclaimed.

Before she could realize what he was doing, he had seized the girl and
had wrapped her round and round with the blankets, then with the oiled
cloth. Joe had rushed out to help with the raft. Curlie carried the girl
outside and, when the raft with the others aboard was afloat, handed her
down to the skipper.

"Try and keep her dry," he said calmly. "We'll all get soaked, but we
can stand it for a long time; a girl can't."

"Now push off!" he commanded. "Get good and clear so that the wreck will
not draw you down."

"You'll come with us," said the skipper sternly. Curlie had not intended
going with them. He had meant to remain behind and send a call for aid,
then to swim for the raft. But now, as he saw the water gaining on the
stricken craft, he realized how dangerous and futile it would be. He was
needed on the raft to help get her away. Having seen all this at a
flash he said:

"All right; I'll go." Having dropped to the raft, and seized a short
paddle, he joined Joe and the engineer in forcing the unwieldy raft away
from the side of the doomed _Kittlewake_.

They were none too soon, for scarcely two minutes could have elapsed
when with a rush that nearly engulfed them the boat keeled up on end and
sank from sight.

"And now," said Joe addressing Curlie as he settled back to a seat on
one of the gas-filled tubes, "you can test out what you said once about
keeping your radiophone dry and tuned up under any and every
circumstance. Suppose you tune her up now and get off an S.O.S."

There was a smile on the lips of the undaunted young operator as he said
with a drawl:

"Give me time, Joe, old scout, give me time."

The girl, staring out from her wrappings, appeared to fear that the two
boys had gone delirious over this new catastrophe.

But only brave and hardy spirits can joke in the midst of disaster, and
as for Curlie, he really did have one more trick up his sleeve.

As the old skipper sat staring away at the point where his craft had
disappeared beneath the dark waters, he murmured:

"'Twasn't much we 'it; fragment from an iceberg 'er somethin', but 'twas
enough. An' a good little craft she was too."

The storm had passed, but the waves were still rolling high. The raft
tilted to such an angle that now they were all in danger of being
pitched headforemost into the sea, and now in danger of falling backward
into the trough of the waves.

Soaked to the skin, shivering, miserable, the boys and men clung to the
raft, while the girl bewailed the fact that she was not permitted to
suffer with them. Wrapped as she was, and carefully guarded from the
on-rush of the waves, she escaped all the miserable damp and chill of
it.

"Shows you're a real sport," Curlie's lips, blue with cold, attempted a
smile, "but you've got to let us play the gentleman, even out here."

When the waves had receded somewhat, Curlie began digging at one of the
tubes beneath his feet. Having at length unfastened it, he stood it on
end to unscrew some fastenings and lift off the top.

"Canisters of water and some emergency rations!" exclaimed Joe, as he
peered inside. "Great stuff!"

They had taken a swallow of water apiece and were preparing to munch
some hardtack and chocolate when Gladys exclaimed:

"Look over there. What's that?"

"There's nothing," said the engineer after studying the waves for a
moment.

"Oh, yes there was!" the girl insisted emphatically. "Something showed
up on the crest of a wave. It's in the trough of the wave now. It'll
come up again."

"Bit of wreckage from our yacht," suggested Joe.

"Not much wreckage on 'er," said the skipper. "All washed off 'er long
before she sank."

"What could it be then?" The girl was fairly holding her breath. "It
couldn't be--"

"Don't get your hopes up too high," cautioned Curlie. "Of course
miracles do happen, but not so very often."




CHAPTER XXIII

THE MIRACLE


They were all straining their eyes when at last the thing appeared once
more on the crest of the wave.

"Wreckage! A mass of it!" came from the skipper.

"And--and there's a hand!" exclaimed Curlie.

"The paddles, boys! The paddles! Every 'and of you, hup an' at it,"
shouted the skipper.

The wildest excitement prevailed, yet out of it all there came quick and
concerted action. Three paddles flashed as, straining every muscle, they
strove to bring the clumsy raft nearer the wreck. With tears in her
eyes, the girl begged and implored them to unwrap her and allow her to
have a hand in the struggle.

A minute passed. No longer chilled but steaming from violent exertion,
they strained eager eyes to catch another glimpse of the wreck.

"There--there it is!" exclaimed the girl, overcome with joy. "You're
gaining! You're gaining!"

Five minutes passed. They gained half the distance. Eight minutes more;
the hand on the wreckage rose again. They were getting nearer.

Suddenly the girl uttered a piercing cry of joy:

"It is Vincent! It is! It is!"

And she was right. A moment later, as they dragged the all but senseless
form from the seaplane, they recognized him at once as the millionaire's
son.

He had drifted in the benumbing water so long that had they been delayed
for another hour they would have found nothing more than a corpse
awaiting them.

As Curlie tore Vincent's sodden outer garments from him he saw the girl
carefully unrolling the blankets and oiled covering from about her. He
did not protest. To him the thought of seeing this girl half drowned and
chilled through by the spray which even now at times dashed over the
raft, was heartbreaking, but he knew it was necessary if the life of her
brother was to be saved.

"Brave girl!" he murmured as he wrapped Vincent in the coverings and
passed him on to the skipper.

"And now," he said, "the time has come to think of other things. I
believe the waves have sufficiently subsided to enable us to dare it."

He fumbled once more at the raft, at last to bring up a long,
post-shaped affair.

"More rations," murmured Joe, swallowing his last bite of hardtack; "a
regular commissary. But why get them out at this time?"

"You wait," smiled Curlie.

He was standing up. After telling Joe to steady him, he began tearing
away at the upper end of the mysterious package. In a moment, he took
out some limp, rubber affairs.

"Toy balloons," jeered Joe.

"Something like that," Curlie smiled.

He next brought out a small brass retort and a tiny spirit lamp.

"Lucky our matches are dry," he murmured, after unwrapping some oiled
cloth and lighting the spirit lamp with one of the matches inclosed.

After firmly tying the end of a toy balloon over the mouth of the retort
he held the spirit lamp beneath the bowl of the retort. At once the
balloon began to expand.

"Chemicals already in the retort," he explained.

When the balloon was sufficiently inflated, he quickly tied it at the
mouth, then began inflating another.

"The gas is very buoyant," he explained. "Hold that," he said as he
passed the string to the engineer.

"There's enough," he said quietly when the third had been filled.

He next drew forth some shiny fine copper wire coiled about some round,
insulated bars.

When he had fastened the balloons to one end of the bars, he attached a
strong cord to the balloons, then allowed them to rise, at the same time
paying out the strands of copper wire.

"Not very heavy wire for an aerial," he remarked, "but heavy enough.
We'll have a perpendicular aerial, which is better than horizontal, and
it'll hang pretty high. All that's in our favor."

When the balloons had risen to a height which allowed the aerial, to
which was attached a heavier insulated wire, to float free, he gave the
cord to the engineer and began busying himself at putting together what
appeared to be a small windmill with curved, brass fans.

"A windmill," he explained, "is the surest method of obtaining a little
power. Always a little breeze floating round. Enough to turn a wheel.
This one is connected direct with a small generator. Gives power enough
for a radiophone. Might use batteries but they might go dead on you.
Windmill and generator is as good after ten years as ten days.

"There you are," he heaved a sigh of relief, as he struck the
transmitter which he had taken from his apparently inexhaustible "bag of
tricks."

"Unless I miss my guess, we have a perfectly good radiophone outfit of
fair power. All the rest of it is stowed down there in the bottom. We
should be heard distinctly at from a hundred to five hundred miles. In
the future," he smiled, "every lifeboat and raft will be equipped with
one of these handy little radiophone outfits, which are really not very
expensive."

Then, with all eyes fixed upon him, he began to converse with the unseen
and unknown, who, sailing somewhere on that vast sweep of water, were,
they hoped, to become their rescuers.

In perfectly natural tones he spoke of their catastrophe and their
present predicament. He gave their approximate location and the names of
their party. This after an interval of two minutes, he repeated.

Then, suddenly his lips parted in a smile. The others watched him with
strained attention. After a minute had elapsed, he said with apparent
satisfaction:

"We'll await your arrival with unmixed pleasure.

"The Steamship Torrence," he explained, "in crossing the Atlantic was
driven two hundred miles off her course. She is now only about
seventy-five miles from us. Being a fast boat, she should reach us in
three or four hours.

"And now," he said with a smile, "since we have no checker-board on deck
and are entirely deprived of musical instruments of any kind, perhaps
you would like to hear me tell why I was sure the mysterious island
which has caused us so much grief, did not exist."

"By the way," he said turning to Vincent, "do you chance to have the
original of that old map with you?"

The boy pointed to his aviator's sodden leather coat. Although he had
gained much strength from the warm blankets, he had found himself
unable to speak of the tragedy which had befallen his companion on the
_Stormy Petrel_. Now as he saw Curlie draw the water-soaked map from the
pocket of his coat, a look of horror overspread his face and he muttered
hoarsely:

"Throw it into the sea. It brings nothing but bad luck."

"No, no," said Curlie, "we won't do that."

"Then you must keep it," the other boy exclaimed. "I don't want ever to
see it again. Alfred made me a present of it just before we hopped off."

"All right," said Curlie, "but you are parting with a thing of some
value."

"Value!" exclaimed Vincent. Then he sat staring at Curlie in silence as
much as to say: "You too must have been bitten by the gold-bug." But
that Curlie had not been bitten by that dangerous and poisonous insect
will be proved, I think, by the pages which follow.




CHAPTER XXIV

THE STORY OF THE MAP


"You see," said Curlie, tapping the soggy bit of vellum which he held in
his hand, "the trouble with this map is, not that it is not genuine, but
that it's too old. This map," he paused for emphasis, "this map was made
in fourteen hundred and forty-six."

Gladys Ardmore gasped. Her brother stared in astonishment.

"It's a fact!" declared Curlie emphatically.

"You see," he went on, "the day I was in the library with Miss Gladys I
saw an exact reproduction of this map in a large volume. At the same
time I read a description of it and a brief account of its history. It
seems it was lost sight of about a century ago. There were copies, but
the original was gone.

"I concluded at once that the map had somehow come into the hands of
Alfred Brightwood. Since I was convinced that this was the truth, and
since I had read the writing about the gold discovered on the mysterious
island charted there, I decided that it would be wise to find out
whether or not it were possible that this strange story might be true. I
found my answer in a bound volume of Scottish Geographic Magazines in a
series of articles entitled 'The So-Called Mythical Islands of the
Atlantic.'

"It seems that there is fairly good proof that a number of vessels
landed on the North American continent before Columbus did. Driven out
of their course or lured on by hopes of gold and adventure, these ships
from time to time discovered and rediscovered lands to the west of
Ireland. They thought of the land as islands and gave them names. The
island of Brazil was one of them. If you were to consult this map I have
here you would find the island of Brazil indicated by a circle which is
nearly as large as Ireland, yet if you were to cruise all over the
waters in the vicinity of this supposed island you would find only the
restless old ocean.

"What's the answer then?" he smiled. "Just this: These ancient sea
rovers didn't have any accurate way of telling where they were at a
given time on the sea, so they had to guess at it. Carried on by winds
and currents, they often traveled much farther than they thought. They
landed on the continent of North America and thought it an island. When
they came back to Europe they tried to locate the land they had
discovered on a map, and missed it by only a thousand miles or so.

"Our ancient friend who wrote of his experiences on the back of this map
had doubtless been carried to some point in Central or South America,
for there was, even in those days, plenty of gold to be found in those
regions."

"So you see," he turned to Vincent with a smile, "you went five hundred
miles out to sea for the purpose of rediscovering America. Not much
chance of success. Anyway that's what I thought, and that is why I
dashed off on a wild race in the _Kittlewake_. And that's why we're
here."

Silence followed the ending of Curlie's narrative. There seemed to be
nothing more to say.

So they sat there staring at the sea for a long time.

The silence was at last broken by the skipper's announcement:

"Smoke on the larboard bow."

It was true. Their relief was at hand.

Almost immediately afterward Curlie received a second reassuring message
from the captain of the liner. A short time after that he had the
pleasure of escorting the dripping daughter of a millionaire up the
gangway.

The next day as they were moving in toward the dock, Vincent Ardmore
approached Curlie.

"My sister," there was a strange smile on his lips, "says you set out on
this trip for the purpose of having me arrested?"

"I did."

"Well--" the other boy choked up and could not continue.

"The law, punishment, prisons and all that, as I understand it," said
Curlie thoughtfully, "have but one purpose: to teach people what other
folks' rights are and to encourage them in respecting them. It's my
business to see that there is fair play in the air."

He paused and looked away at the sea. When he resumed there was a
suspicious huskiness in his voice. "Seems to me that as far as you are
concerned, nature has punished you about enough. You ought to know by
this time what interfering with the radio wave lengths belonging to sea
traffic might mean to shipwrecked men; and--well--Oh, what's the use!"
he broke off abruptly. "I'm a chicken-hearted fool. You're out on parole
and must report to your sister every week. She's--she's what I'd call a
brick!"

Turning hastily he walked away.

Almost before he knew it, he all but ran over Gladys Ardmore, coming to
meet him.

"Oh, Mister--Mister--" she hesitated.

"Just plain Curlie," he smiled.

"You--you're coming to see me when you get home? Won't you?"

Curlie thought a moment, then of a sudden the spacious walls of the
Ardmore mansion flashed into his mind. To go there as an officer of the
law was one thing; to go as a guest was quite another.

"Why--why--" he drew back in confusion--"you'll have to excuse me
but--but--"

"Oh! I know!" she exclaimed. "It's the house and everything. Tell you
what," she seized him by the arm; "there's a little old-fashioned
farmhouse down in one corner of our estate. It was there when we bought
it and has been kept just the same ever since. Even the furniture, red
plush chairs, kitchen stove and everything, are there. We'll go down
there and have a regular frolic sometime, popcorn, molasses candy,
checkers and everything. We've a wonderful cook who once lived on a
farm. We'll take her along as a chaperon. Now will you come? Will you?"
she urged eagerly.

"Why--why--"

"If you don't," she held up a warning finger, "I'll come up and visit
you in that secret wireless room of yours just as I once said I would."

"In that case," said Curlie, "I suppose I'll have to surrender. And," he
added happily, "here we are, back to dear old North America, without any
gold but with a lot to be thankful for."

The boat was bumping against the dock. Giving his arm a squeeze the girl
dashed away.




CHAPTER XXV

OFF ON ANOTHER WILD CHASE


A few nights later Curlie was back in the secret tower room. He was busy
as ever running down trouble.

Joe Marion, entering the room noiselessly, dropped a letter into his
hand. The letter bore the insignia of the Ardmore family in one corner.

"From Gladys Ardmore!" he told himself.

But he was mistaken. It was a typewritten letter signed in a bold
business hand. It ran:

    "It is with great pleasure that I inclose a check for the sum
    of the reward offered for the safe return of my son.

                                      "(Signed) J. Anson Ardmore."

Curlie looked at the check, then uttered a low whistle.

"Pay to the order of C. Carson, $10,000.00," he whispered. Then out
loud:

"Joe, what would a fellow do with ten thousand dollars?"

"Search me," Joe grinned back. "You got the fever or something?" he
asked a second later.

Curlie showed him the check.

"Why," said Joe, "you might buy a car."

"Not much. The Humming Bird's quite good enough."

"Tell you what," he said after a moment's thought, "just get that cashed
for me, will you? Then find out where our old skipper and the engineer
live and send them a thousand apiece. After that pocket a thousand for
yourself. Then--then--Oh, well, hire me a safety deposit box and buy me
a lot of Liberty bonds. Might want 'em some day.

"And, say, that reminds me," he pointed to a square of vellum which hung
on a stretcher in the corner. "Take that over to the big library on the
North Side and tell 'em it's a present from us. It's that map Vincent
Ardmore gave me. It's worth a thousand dollars, but such maps are not
safe outside a library. Tell 'em to put it on ice," he laughed.

Scarcely had Joe departed than a keen-eyed, gray-haired man entered the
tower room. He was Colonel Edward Marshall, Curlie's superior.

"Curlie," he wrinkled his brow, as he took a seat, "there's somebody
raising hob with the radio service in Alaska."

Curlie nodded his head. "I thought there might be. Sends on 1200,
doesn't he?" He was thinking of the hotel mystery and of the strange
girl who had whispered to him so often out of the night.

"Yes, how did you know so much?"

"Part of my job."

"But you've been away."

"Radiophone whispers travel far."

"Well," said the colonel, settling down to business, "Alaska's in a bad
way. This fellow doesn't confine himself to 1200 up there. He uses all
sorts of wave lengths; seems to take pleasure in mussing up important
government communications and even more in breaking in on Munson."

"Munson, the Arctic explorer."

"Yes. He's making a try for the Pole. Much depends upon his keeping in
touch with the outside world and this crank or crook seems determined
that he shall not."

"Why don't they catch him?"

"Well, you see," he wrinkled his brow again, "the boys up there are
rather new at it. Don't understand the radio compass very well. The
fellow moves about and all that, so it's difficult.

"I thought," he said slowly after a moment, "that you might like to
tackle the case."

"Would I?" exclaimed Curlie, jumping to his feet. "Try me! Can I take
Joe along?"

"As you like. Better get off pretty promptly; say day after to-morrow."

"Never fear. We'll be off on time."

The colonel bowed and left the room.

"Alaska! Alaska!" Curlie murmured after a time, "Alaska and the Yukon
trail, for of course it will be that. It's too late for the boats. And
that reminds me, I made a promise to Gladys Ardmore. Only one night
left."

A short time after that he put in an out-of-town telephone call. It was
a girlish voice that answered.

Late the next night Curlie made his way home along the well-remembered
Forest Preserve road. He was riding in the Humming Bird. He had been to
Gladys Ardmore's party for two and a chaperon down in the little
farmhouse. The party had been a grand success and he was carrying away
pleasant memories which would serve him well on the long, long Yukon
trail and the weary and eventful miles which lay beyond its further
terminal.

If you wish to learn of Curlie's adventures up there and of the secret
of the whisperer, you must read the next volume, entitled "On the Yukon
Trail."



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