Infomotions, Inc.Boy Scouts in an Airship; or, the Warning from the Sky / Ralphson, G. Harvey (George Harvey), 1879-1940



Author: Ralphson, G. Harvey (George Harvey), 1879-1940
Title: Boy Scouts in an Airship; or, the Warning from the Sky
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): ned; jimmie; collins; nelson; lyman; jack; harry; ned replied; frank; asked ned; boy scouts
Contributor(s): Ralph, Lester [Illustrator]
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 49,165 words (really short) Grade range: 6-9 (grade school) Readability score: 74 (easy)
Identifier: etext6904
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Title: Boy Scouts in an Airship

Author: G. Harvey Ralphson

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Boy Scouts in an Airship;

or, The Warning From the Sky

BY G. HARVEY RALPHSON





CHAPTER I

SPIES IN THE BOY SCOUT CAMP


Gates, the United States Secret Service man, closed the door gently
and remained standing just inside the room, his head bent forward in
a listening attitude.  Ned Nestor and Jimmie McGraw, Boy Scouts of
the Wolf Patrol, New York City, who had been standing by a window,
looking out on a crowded San Francisco street, previous to the
sudden appearance of the Secret Service man, turned toward the
entrance with smiles on their faces.

They evidently thought that Gates was posing, as so many detectives
have a silly habit of doing, and so gave little heed to the hand he
lifted in warning.  The boys knew little about Gates at that time,
and so may be pardoned for the uncomplimentary thoughts with which
they noted his theatrical conduct.

Young Nestor had been engaged by the United States government to
undertake a difficult and dangerous mission to South America, and
Gates had been sent on from Washington to post him as to the details
of the case.  The boys had waited at the San Francisco hotel three
days for the arrival of the Secret Service man, and waited
impatiently, as Sam Leroy, who was to be the third member of the
party, was anxious for the safety of his aeroplane, the Nelson, in
which the trip to "the roof of the world" was to be made.

The Nelson was lying, guarded night, and day, in a field just out of
the city, on the Pacific side, and Leroy was impatiently keeping his
eyes on the guards most of the time.  There was a subconscious
notion in the minds of all the boys that there were enemies about,
and that the aeroplane would never be fully out of danger until she
was well over the ocean on her way south.  Gates had arrived only
that morning, and now the lads were eager to be off.

A couple of hours before his appearance in the room that morning,
the Secret Service agent had left the boys in the lobby below to
arrange for the necessary papers and funds for the mission.  Before
going out, however, he had been informed of the boys' suspicions,
and had made light of the idea that the aeroplane was in danger from
secret enemies, pointing to the fact that no one was supposed to
know anything about the proposed journey save the boys and himself
as conclusive evidence that the suspicion of constant surveillance
was not well founded.

Now, on his return, his cautious movements indicated that he, too,
was alarmed and on his guard.  While Ned was wondering what it was
that had so changed Gates' point of view, there came a quick,
imperative knock on the door of the room, which was occupied by Ned
and Jimmie as a sleeping apartment.

Instantly, almost before the sound of the knock died away, Gates
opened the door and stepped forward.  The man who stood in the
corridor, facing the doorway, was tall, slender, dark of complexion,
like a Spaniard or a Mexican.  His black hair was long, straight,
thin; his black eyes were bright, treacherous, too close together,
with a little vertical wrinkle between the brows.  He was dressed in
a neat brown business suit of expensive material.

When the door was opened he stepped forward and glanced into the
interior of the room, apparently with the purpose of entering.  But
when Gates moved aside to give him passageway he drew back, the set
smile on his face vanishing as he bowed low and swung his slender
hands out in elaborate gesture.

"Pardon!" he said.  "I have made a mistake in the room."

He was about to move away when Gates gritted out a question.

"For whom were you looking?" he asked. "We may be able to direct you
to your friend," he added, more courteously, his alert eyes taking
in every detail of the man's face, figure and dress.

"It is nothing!" was the quick reply.  "I will make inquiries at the
office--which, undoubtedly, I should have done before."

In a moment he was gone, moving gracefully toward the elevator.
Gates watched his elegant, well-dressed figure with a smile of quiet
satisfaction.  When the visitor gained the elevator, he turned and
bowed at the still open doorway, and the Secret Service man
recognized the grin on his face as expressive of triumph rather than
apology.

"What did he want?" asked Jimmie, as Gates, closed the door.

Gates did not answer the question immediately.  Instead he asked
one:

"Ever see that fellow before?"

Jimmie shook his head, but Ned looked grave as he answered:

"I have seen him about the hotel--frequently.  He seems to have a
suite off this corridor, or the one above it."

At this moment the door was opened again and Sam Leroy bounced into
the room, his eyes shining with enthusiasm, his muscles tense with
the joy of youth and health.  He drew back when he saw Gates, whom
he had not met before, and looked questioningly at Ned.

"This is Lieutenant Gates, for whom we have been waiting," Ned said,
"and this, Lieutenant, is Sam Leroy, who is to take us to South
America in his aeroplane."

"I hope the machine is above reproach as to strength and speed,"
laughed Gates, as the two shook hands cordially, "for there is
likely to be doings down there."

"The Nelson is warranted for work and wind," said Ned.  "She crossed
the continent in a rush and spied on us through British Columbia and
on down the Columbia river, not long ago, and I can recommend her as
a very desirable bird of the air."

"She's all sound now," Leroy said, "but there's no knowing how long
she will be if we don't get her out of San Francisco.  There was a
couple of men hanging around her last night, and one of them went
away with a bullet in his leg.  I'm glad you're here, Lieutenant,
for now we can get away--quick!"

"Did you get a good look at either of the two men you speak of?"
asked Ned, his mind going back to what seemed to him to be a secret
conspiracy against the Nelson.

"One of them," Leroy answered, "was tall, slender, dark; with long
straight hair and eyes like a snake.  I noticed, too, that he had a
habit of moistening his lips with the end of his tongue, and that
made me think of a snake thrusting out his tongue.  I got a shot at
the other fellow, but not at this one."

Gates and Ned looked at each other with nods of mutual
understanding.  This was a pretty good description of the man who
had just stood before the door of that room.  Then the lieutenant
turned to Jimmie.

"You asked a moment ago," he said, "what the fellow wanted here.
Now I think I can tell you.  He wanted to confirm his suspicions
that the four of us axe working together.  He has been sleuthing
about the corridors all the morning, watching me; and his mission to
this room was to make sure that my business in San Francisco is with
Ned--that we are working together."

"He's sure doing a lot of Sherlock Holmes stunts," Jimmie declared.
"And I reckon he's next to his job, for he appears to have inspected
all the points of interest, from the field where the Nelson is to
the room where the plans are being made."

"Yes," Leroy said, his manner showing apprehension as well as anger,
"but how the Old Scratch did he get his knowledge, of what, we are
about to do?  I thought no one in the West knew except us four.  And
what's he trying to do, anyway?  What difference does it make to him
if we do go to South America in an aeroplane?"

"I have a notion," Gates replied, "that he objects to your going in
an airship because you will make such swift time.  Let me tell you
something more about this case.  Then you will be able to understand
why efforts may be made to prevent your going to South America, in
an airship or in any other way."

"It's just the airship they've been after so far," Leroy
interrupted.  "They haven't troubled us--and they'd better not!"

"I imagine," said the lieutenant, gravely, "that their activities
will broaden out as they get warmed up to their work.  Understand?
What I mean is this: You boys are risking your lives in undertaking
this mission.  You will be followed and spied upon from the minute
you leave San Francisco, and the chances will be all against you
when you reach your field of operations.  Even the Government cannot
protect you in your undertaking, for the Government is not supposed
to know anything about this case."

"We are to do something by stealth, then, which the diplomats of the
State department are too cautious to undertake?" asked Ned.

"That is it exactly," was the reply.  "If the State department
should take cognizance of the situation down there and make any sort
of a demand, war would be certain to follow in case the demand was
denied, which it would be.  Therefore, the State department does not
wish to make a demand.  Still, the American who is in trouble must
be protected.  You are to go and get him out of his dungeon, or
wherever he may be, and the Department of State will wink at what
you do and look innocent."

"Aw, why don't they send a warship to do the job?" demanded Jimmie.

"Because," replied the lieutenant, "Uncle Sam has taken the
republics of South America under his protection, and he does not
care to spank them in the presence of all the nations of the earth!
He wants to get this man Lyman--Horace M. Lyman, to be exact--out of
the clutches of a crooked gang in Paraguay without wasting money and
lives.  Hence the arrangement with you boys."

"I have read something about the Lyman case," Ned observed, "but I
have forgotten all the material points, I guess."

"Lyman," Gates went on, "took up his residence in Paraguay some
years ago and opened negotiations with the government for a cattle
concession.  The lands known as the 'Chaco' district, lying between
the Paraguay and Pilcomayo rivers, are said to be the best for
grazing purposes in all South America.  Years ago they were
considered worthless swamps, but this is all changed now.

"Well, Lyman entered into negotiations with the president of this
alleged republic and got his concession.  There is no knowing how
much he paid for it, for every new president of Paraguay--and they
have new ones quite frequently down there--seems to do business on
the theory that what he doesn't get while the getting is good he
never will get at all.  There have been four or five new official
heads of this alleged republic within a couple of years.

"The country is on the verge of revolution most of the time and as
the army goes so goes the election.  Jara was made prisoner last
July, and one Rojes put in power.  Now, in order to keep in good
standing with the army, the government is obliged to have generals
who are loyal to whoever is in power.  These generals must be paid
for their services, of course.

"It seems that Lyman fell under the displeasure of one of these
powerful military chaps, probably because he refused to give up all
his profits in the cattle business.  Anyway, Lyman disappeared from
home, quite suddenly, and his manager was notified that settlement
could be made with one Senor Lopez, an army chief, said to be a
relative of a former president.  So Lopez was appealed to.

"Now Lopez is a slippery chap.  He denied knowing anything about
Lyman, but declared that unless the cattleman appeared shortly and
took up his work on the cattle concession the grant would be taken
from him.  That is like South American justice.  Lock a man up and
then deprive him of his rights because he can't appear and claim
them!"

"Must be a fine healthy country!" Jimmie interposed.

"It is all of that," laughed the lieutenant.  "Then this manager, I
think his name is Coye, appealed to the United States consul and the
consul to the president.  Nothing doing!  Lyman, they insisted, had
not been molested by the authorities.  But Lyman's people in this
country are kicking up an awful row, and something must be done.

"There is no doubt that the cattleman, is locked up in some of the
old military prisons of the country, yet the State department can't
get him out.  The president offers any assistance in his power, of
course!  Lopez weeps when the matter is mentioned to him--weeps at
the unfounded suspicions which are being cast upon him!  So there
you are!  The only hope for Lyman lies in some such method as has
been planned.  If you fail, the situation will be desperate,
indeed."

"Why don't Lyman buy the fellow off?" asked Jimmie.

"The purpose of Lopez in pursuing the course referred to is
undoubtedly to find an excuse for robbing Lyman of the concession
and selling it to another at a much greater price.  So others
besides the general and Lyman are concerned in this mix-up."

"You refer to a person, or corporation, waiting to buy the
concession?" asked Ned, the reason for the surveillance in San
Francisco coming to him like a flash.

"That is it."

"And these prospective concessionaires are looking to it that Lyman
gets no aid from this country?"

"I had not looked at the matter in that way, had not thought of
their venturing over here, but presume you are right."

"Look here," Leroy asked, "are you figuring it out that the people
who are trying to steal or cripple the Nelson came here from
Paraguay for the express purpose of watching this Lyman case and
preventing his friends from assisting him?"

"You state the case in a way which gives it a good deal of
importance," Gates replied, "But I believe you state it correctly.
Just how the men who hope to gain the concession if Lyman loses it
came to understand the attitude of our Government is more than I can
imagine, but it is quite clear to me that they do understand the
situation--that they are thoroughly posted as to every move that has
been made by the Government and by the friends of the cattleman."

"It is a good thing to know that we are likely to be chased to South
America," Ned said, "for we know exactly what to expect, and shall
be on our guard."

"Chased to South America!" laughed Leroy.  "They'll have to go some
if the keep up with the little old Nelson!  She can fly some--if you
want to know!"





CHAPTER II

A FOX JOINS THE WOLVES


Nelson hung like a great gull over New Orleans one hot morning in
early August.  The boys who occupied seats on the light aluminum
form under the sixty-foot wings glimpsed the Gulf of Mexico in the
distance, while directly their feet ran the crooked streets of the
French Quarter.

The departure from San Francisco had been for a delayed for a long
time because of the non-arrival of important instructions from
Washington, and because of a slight injury to the aeroplane while
out on what Leroy called an "exercise run."  Lieutenant Gates had
remained with the boys until they started on their long flight to
the mouth of the great Mississippi river, and had then returned to
Washington.

I had first been the intention to proceed due from San Francisco,
then wing toward the east where the coast of Peru showed.  This plan
was opposed by the lieutenant, for the reason that an airship far
out on the Pacific ocean, directly in the steamship route, would be
likely to attract attention sailing over the southwestern states and
Central America.  Daring aviators now venture in all directions and
at all altitudes above the solid earth, but they are still cautious
about proceeding far out over the merciless waters of the oceans
which rim the continent of North America.

So, yielding to the wishes of the lieutenant, the Nelson had been
directed by her navigators across California, Arizona, New Mexico,
Texas and Louisiana until the great city of the South lay spread out
before them.  The distance covered by the airship in this flight was
not far from thirty-five hundred miles, and the Nelson, leaving the
coast city on Monday morning, August 7, had covered the run so as to
reach New Orleans late Wednesday afternoon.

The boys might, it is true, have speeded up and made the distance in
thirty-six hours, or less but they realized the necessity of taking
good care of themselves, and so they had rested in quiet places both
Monday and Tuesday night, landing about midnight and sleeping until
long after daylight.  Having provisions with them, they had not
found it necessary to land except when gasoline was obtained at
Santa Fe.

The machine had attracted little attention on the route, for it was
painted a dull gray, and its aluminum motors gave forth little
sound.  It was two merits of the machine, which had been invented by
young Leroy, that it could navigate in a clear sky a mile up without
being observed from below, and could also run to within a short
distance of the earth without making herself conspicuous by the
popping of her motors.  The United States authorities are now
adapting these two qualities to the government airships to be used
in the military service.

The boys remained in New Orleans until Thursday morning, August 10,
and then, with full provision baskets and gasoline tanks, they set
out across the Gulf of Mexico.  They soon sighted Yucatan, which is
really a province of Mexico, darted over British Honduras, and swung
over the forests of Guatemala, the one country in Central America
which is never bothered with revolutions.

When an ambitious person wants to wrest the reins of government from
the officials in charge, they take him out and stand him up against
a stone wall, with a firing squad in front.  This manner of
preventing revolutions is believed to be conducive to peace and also
to the sanctity of human lives.  Jimmie, who had been reading up on
South and Central America while waiting in San Francisco, explained
many points of interest as the Nelson sped on her way.

They took on more gasoline at Panama, and Ned and Jimmie were very
glad to renew their acquaintance with that now model city.  Those
who have read the former books of this series will remember that the
Boy Scouts at one time had a commission to stand guard over the
great Gatun dam.

They did not remain long in Panama, however, as they were anxious to
get to the scene of their future operations.  They were all
anticipating great fun in exploring "the roof of the world," which
extends from Colombia to Argentina, north and south, through
Equator, Peru, and Bolivia, more than 2,000 miles, or as far as from
New York City to Denver.  In many directions from this "roof" may be
seen villages, cattle, sheep, llamas, and evidences of mining.

The boys made good progress down the coast of tropical South
America.  They had heard much of Peru, and were surprised to see
only a great strip of sand, lying like a desert, between the Pacific
and the mountains.  Now and then a little stream, fed by the melting
snows in the Andes, comes trailing out toward the sea, but it is
usually smaller at its mouth than at its source for the reason that
the precious water is utilized for irrigation purposes.  Wherever
there is water crops grow luxuriantly.

Thus far they had not been molested in any way.  Indeed, considering
the speed with which they had traveled, it would have been difficult
for any one to have meddled with their plans.  They were therefore
in excellent spirits when they landed at Lima, which is the one
large city of the country.

Lima, however, is not built on the coast, Callao being the seaport
of the metropolis.  Lima is a modern city in every way, with,
handsome streets, electric lights, and all that any modern city has
in the way of amusements.

The Nelson was anchored on the morning of August 14, in a
sequestered spot, and the boys, after answering many foolish
questions, laid plans to look over the wonderful city.  It was
necessary to station a strong guard about the machine, for the
natives--many of whom spoke the English language fairly well--were
overly curious concerning the man-made bird.

In answer to all questions as to their plans, the lads replied that
they were seeking the headwaters of the Amazon, and would soon pass
over the Andes and drift down into Brazil.  This was not far from
the actual truth, as it really was the Intention to return home by
that route after their mission had been accomplished.

"But the wind is always from the east," was often urged against this
plan, as explained by Jimmie, who lingered about the Nelson while
the others were at the hotel.

When it was explained to the doubters that the Nelson was capable of
making a hundred miles an hour against a stiff breeze, the natives
seemed to doubt the veracity of the boys.  The Peruvians knew little
of airships, and when Jimmie exhibited to them daily newspapers
showing how Germany was building a fleet of three hundred airships
to use in case of war, they still looked incredulous.

"Look here, fellers," Jimmie explained to them, later in the
afternoon of the arrival, as a group of curious ones stood about the
roped-in enclosure where the Nelson lay, "I guess you don't know
much about the navigation of the air.  It used to be risky; now it
is no more so than riding on a railroad train."

"You say it well!"

The words were spoken in good English, seemingly in a boy's voice,
and Jimmie peered through his audience in order to catch a glimpse
of the speaker.  Presently, above the heads which surrounded him,
the boy saw a hand and arm extended.  The palm was out, the thumb
and little finger flat and crossed, the three remaining fingers held
straight out.  The full salute of the Boy Scouts.

"Say, you!" the lad cried out, greatly pleased at finding a Boy
Scout there.  "Where did you get that?"

"Scouted for it!" was the reply.

"What does it read?"

"Be prepared!"

"Where from?" was the next question.

"Fox Patrol, Chicago."

"You must be pretty foxy," Jimmie laughed, "to get away off here."

The member of the Fox Patrol now made his way through the crowd and
extended a hand to Jimmie.

"You don't look as if it paid to be a Fox," laughed the latter.

The boy certainly did look like a tramp.  He was a lad of about
sixteen, well formed as to figure and attractive as to feature, with
bright blue eyes, long, fair hair, and a complexion which would have
been perfect only for the grime upon it.  He blushed as Jimmie
looked him over, and involuntarily turned his eyes down to his
ragged clothing and broken shoes.

"Forget that!" Jimmie cried, in a moment.  "I didn't mean anything
by it.  Where you stopping?"

The fact was that Jimmie suspected from the appearance of the lad
that he was hungry as well as ragged and dirty.  He certainly looked
hungry.  The boy hesitated before replying, his hands deep in his
trousers pockets, his eyes on the ground.  Then a whimsical smile
came to his face and he looked Jimmie squarely in the face.

"No use of lyin' about it," he said.  "I'm stoppin' down here at the
Blue Sky Hotel.  It's a dandy place to stop at.  They never present
a board bill."

Jimmie sat back on the rope which was drawn about the Nelson to keep
meddlesome ones away from the machine and burst into a roar of
laughter.  The crowd looked on stupidly, glancing from boy to boy,
and then at one another, as if wondering if these Americans always
went crazy when they met in a foreign land.

"I know that Blue Sky Hotel," Jimmie said, presently, "though I've
never heard it called by that name before.  I had a room in one, in
Central Park, New York, until a sparrow cop drove me out of it.  I
liked it because I didn't have to dress for dinner there," he added,
whimsically.

"The feed is rather slim," observed the other.

"It's run on the European plan," grinned Jimmie.  "You get your
sleepins, an' no one cares whether you get your eatin's or not.
What's your name?"

"Dougherty--Mike Dougherty, Clark street, south of Van Buren!"

"I guess you must be French," Jimmie grinned.

"You've guessed it.  Now, what's your name, and what are you boys
doin' here with this old sky-ship?"

"I'll tell you all about it when we get back to the hotel," Jimmie
replied.  "Do you know any of the gazabos about here?  I want some
one to watch the ginks who are watchin' the mutts who are watchin'
the aeroplane."

Dougherty laughed at this suggestion of a treble surveillance and
pointed out a lanky looking individual who was studying the machine
closely from the outer side of the roped-circle.

"That's Pedro," he said.  "He's all right.  About all I've had to
eat since I came here he's given me.  He's a Peruvian Indian, and in
need of money.  Give him a dollar, and he'll guard your guards a
month, and never leave the machine, night or day."

"Does he talk United States?"

"Oh, just a little."

Pedro talked quite a little United States, as Jimmie called it, and
a bargain was soon struck with him.  Then the two boys started away
together.  First they visited a clothing store, where Jimmie looked
at the best suits in stock, and measured Dougherty cautiously with
his eyes.  A full outfit of under and outer clothing provided, they
proceeded to the hotel, where Jimmie ushered his new-found friend
into a commodious bathroom.

"Remove some of your real estate," the boy said, "an' hop into these
new clothes.  They ain't very nobby, but the best I could get here."

Mike Dougherty stood looking at Jimmie for a moment as if he could
not believe what he heard.  It had been a long time since he had
been clean and properly clothed.  Then there came a suspicious
moisture to his keen eyes and he turned away.

"Oh, well," he said, with a tremble in his clear young voice, "mebbe
I'll be able to pay you back some day.  Just now I'm--"

"Cut it out!" Jimmie replied.  "You hain't got anythin' on me.  I've
been there meself, an' the Boy Scout that helped me out told me to
pass it along.  That's what I'm doin' now, and there's nothin' more
to be said.  When you get washed and dressed, come on to No. 4,
that's the second room from this tub, on the left of the corridor,
an' I'll show you the rest of the bunch."

Jimmie went away to No. 4, where Ned and Sam Leroy were waiting for
him.  Somehow, it seemed to Ned that Jimmie kept him waiting about
half the time when they were in a strange city.  The little fellow
had a way of wandering off alone and forgetting all about time in
his delight at the strange things he saw.  When he entered No. 4 he
found Ned standing near the door.

"Were you out there before?" Ned asked, pointing to the corridor, as
Jimmie stepped inside.

"Just got here," was the reply.  "Found a Boy Scout from the Fox
Patrol, Chicago, an' brought him along with me.  He's washin' some
of the Peruvian scenery off his frame, now, an' will soon be along."

Then Jimmie told of his discovery of Mike Dougherty, of his leaving
a treble guard around the Nelson, and of numerous other adventures
in the city, which, not being in any way connected with this
narrative, are not set down here.

"I'm glad you brought this boy Mike here," Ned said, at the
conclusion of the story.  "We need some one who knows something
about Lima to keep us posted."

"About what?" asked Jimmie.

"We're spotted!" Leroy cried out, before Ned could answer the
question.  "The wireless is swifter than the Nelson!"

"How do you know?" demanded the little fellow.  "How do you know
we're spotted?"

"Oh, Ned's been doping it out," was the reply.  "He'll tell you, I
guess."

"You thought you'd take the cream off the sensation!" laughed Ned.
"Well, that is the boy of it!  All I know about it, Jimmie," he
continued, "is that I've been receiving telegrams which simply mean
nothing.  They are from people I have never heard of, and are most
mysteriously worded."

"There's one that tells you to get out of the country," suggested
Leroy.

"Yes, but the others seem to infer that the man who sent them is out
of his mind.  The three received are from Washington, San Francisco,
and New Orleans."

"What have the messages to do with our being spotted?" asked Jimmie.
"I don't see any connection."

"Stupid!" cried Leroy.  "Can't you see the wires were sent to locate
Ned?  The person who delivered them to him sure wired back that they
had been delivered to Ned in person--in other words, that he has
reached Lima on his journey to Paraguay."

"I see!" Jimmie said, slowly.  "It's clever, eh?"

"Too clever," Ned said.  "I don't like the looks of it.  It means,
of course, that the people who are trying to get the cattle
concession away from Mr. Lyman have secret agents here.  And that
means that everything we do at Lima will be watched and reported."

"Reported to whom?" asked Leroy.

"Probably to this military person, Senor Lopez, who is on the job
with both hands out," suggested Jimmie.  "Well?  What about it?"

"I think," Leroy cut in, "that we'd better be getting out of this.
They can't follow us after we get up in the air."

Here a knock came on the door, and Jimmie admitted Mike and
presented him to his chums.  The boy looked trim and handsome in his
new suit, and all took a great liking to him.  While they discussed
their plans another interruption took place, and then Jimmie saw
Pedro at the door, beckoning excitedly to Mike Dougherty.  The boy
talked with the Indian for a short time, and then turned to Ned,
excitement showing in his face.

"He says there's another airship here," Mike said.  "Prowling over
the mountains."

"They can't follow us in the air, eh?" cried Leroy.  "I guess this
is going some!"




CHAPTER III

BLACK BEARS ON THE AMAZON


The handsome club room of the Black Bear Patrol, in the city of New
York, was situated on the top floor of the magnificent residence of
Attorney Bosworth, one of the leading corporation lawyers in the
country.  Jack Bosworth, the lawyer's only son, was a member of the
Black Bear Patrol, and the club room had been fitted up at his
request.

It was in this room that Ned Nestor, Jimmie McGraw, Jack Bosworth,
Harry Stevens, and Frank Shaw had planned their motor-boat trip down
the Columbia river, as described in the first volume of this series.
Jack, Harry and Frank had returned to New York from San Francisco
when Ned had decided to accept the Secret Service mission to
Paraguay, at the conclusion of the motor-boat vacation on the
Columbia, leaving the two boats, the Black Bear and the Wolf, stored
at Portland, Oregon.

One evening--the evening of the 1st of August, to be exact--while
Ned, Sam, and Jimmie were still in San Francisco, awaiting the slow
action of the State department at Washington, Jack, Frank and Harry
met in the club room for the purpose of "sobbing together," as they
expressed it.  They had left their friends in San Francisco
reluctantly because of orders from home, and now they understood
that they might have gone with Ned and Jimmie if they had only
explained to their parents the purpose of the mission.

"I suppose," Frank Shaw said, at the end of a long pause in the
conversation, "I suppose Ned and the others are out over the Andes
by this time."

"No," replied Jack.  "I heard from Jimmie by wire today, and they
are still in Frisco, and likely to remain there nearly a week
longer."

"If the airship was only large enough!" sighed Harry.

"We might still get there in time!" Frank suggested, eagerly.

"The Nelson wouldn't carry us if we were there," Jack exclaimed, in
a disgusted tone.  "I wish the Black Bear had wings!  Say, wouldn't
that be a peach?  We could run over to Paraguay and scare the life
out of the boys!"

"What good would it do if she had wings?" demanded Frank.  "She is
in storage at Portland, Oregon."

"No," replied Harry Stevens, whose father, a noted maker of
automobiles, had presented the motor-boats to his son, "I ordered
the boats sent on here the day after we left the coast.   We can
take a trip up the Hudson, anyway."

Jack walked thoughtfully around the room for a moment and then
turned back to the others, looking moodily out of a window.

"I've got it!" he shouted, slapping Frank on the back.

"I should say you had!" remarked Frank.  "What do you take for it?"

"I say I've got an idea!" Jack explained, jumping up and down and
swinging his hands over his head.  "A peach of an idea!"

"Does it hurt?" asked Harry.

"Oh, cut out that funny stuff!" Jack cried.  "When will the two
motor-boats be here?"

Harry counted on the fingers of his left hand.

"We've been home two days," he said, "and we were four days getting
to Chicago.  There we laid over a day, and came on here in twenty
hours.  We are eight days from the Pacific coast.  That right?"

"It seems to be."

"Well, then, it is seven days since I ordered the Black Bear and the
Wolf sent on here in a special express car.  They ought to be here
now."

"Then," shouted Jack, pulling Harry around the room, "we're all
right--fit as a brass band at a free lunch!  Whoo-pee!"

"It must be hungry," Frank exclaimed, regarding Jack with seeming
terror.  "Does it ever bite when it puts out these signals of
distress?"

"Don't get too funny!" Jack warned.

"Then loosen up on this alleged idea!" Frank replied.

Jack rushed across the room and brought out an atlas of the world,
which he dumped on the floor and opened.

"Look here, fellows!" he said, squatting over the map of South
America, his chin almost on his knees.

"We're looking," grinned Frank.  "What about it?"

"Here we are in New York," Jack went on.  "Here they are in San
Francisco.  Now, they've got to sail to Paraguay, which is just
about twice as far from San Francisco as is New York.  Anyway,
that's the way it looks on the map."

"It is all of that distance," Harry put in.

"Well," Jack continued, "as I said before, here we are in New York,
with the mouth of the Amazon river about as far away as San
Francisco, perhaps a little farther."

"Well?" demanded Harry.

"I begin to see the point!" Frank admitted.  "But will the folks
stand for it?"

"Mine will," Harry answered.  "Dad didn't make the Black Bear to lie
in storage.  He'll stand for it, all right."

"So will mine," Frank said, then.  "I'll tell him I'll send him a
lot of news for his paper."

Frank's father was owner and editor of the Planet, one of the
leading morning newspapers in the big city, and it was always a
fiction of the boy's that he was going out in the interest of the
paper when he wandered off on a trip with the Boy Scouts.

"I'm afraid you can't make that work again," laughed Jack.  "Ned
says that you sent only four postal cards and six letters back from
Panama."

"Well, wasn't that going some?" asked Frank.

"Of course, only Ned says the postal cards carried the
correspondence for the Planet, and the letters carried requests for
more money!"

"Anyway," Frank insisted, "Dad will stand for it.  What is it?"

"Well," Jack went on, "I'm sure my Dad will let me go.  He wants me
to go about all I can.  Says it brightens a fellow to rub up against
the rough places of the world."

"There's rough corners enough in South America," laughed Harry.

"Now, let us get down to figures," Jack continued.  "We ought to be
able to get to the mouth of the Amazon on a fast boat, with the
Black Bear and the Wolf on board, in a week or ten days-say ten
days.  About that time they will be getting into Paraguay.  What do
you think of it?"

"Fine!" cried Harry.

"The best ever!" Frank responded.  "But what then?  We can't run up
to Paraguay in the Black Bear."

"We can get away up in the Andes," answered Jack, with the map of
Brazil before him.  "See these crooked little lines?  Well, those
are rivers.  Just see how far we can go in a motor boat."

"But that won't bring us to the aeroplane," Frank objected.

"Yes, it will," Harry answered.  "They are coming back by way of the
Amazon valley, and we can't miss them.  Oh, what's the use?  Suppose
we begin packing?"

"Well, I don't know exactly what we are to do after we get up the
Amazon," Harry laughed, "but I'm game to go.  There are head-hunters
and cannibals up there, and we may find a little amusement."

"We're going after Ned and Jimmie," Jack explained.  "This is a
relief expedition!  After they get to Paraguay they'll snatch that
Lyman person out of the cold, damp dungeon keep he is supposed to be
in and then sail off over the Amazon valley.  There's where we catch
up with them.  Do you suppose we can find a ship going to the mouth
of the Amazon early in the morning?"

"You certainly are fierce when you get started!" laughed Harry.
"Well," he added, "you can't get ready any too soon to please me."

It was two days before the boys found a vessel going their way, and
even then Jack insisted that his father bribed the owners to run off
their course in order to set the boys and their motorboats down at
the mouth of the Amazon river.  The boat, however, was a fast one,
equal in speed to a modern ocean liner; and in ten days from the
time of starting from New York--on the 12th of August--the boys were
stemming the current of the great river--more like a shoreless sea
there at the mouth than a river!

"Huh!" Frank exclaimed, as they left the island of Joannes to the
south, "this is no river!  It is a blooming sea!"

"Pretty near three hundred miles wide at the delta, including that
big island," Harry said.  "It is some river, eh?"

"Four thousand miles long!" Jack contributed.  "It is navigable for
commercial purposes for 2,200 miles, and our boats can go up clear
to the foot of the Andes."

"Boats went there in the days of Columbus," Frank said.  "A
companion of Columbus first discovered this great delta.  The river
fertilizes two million square miles of territory, and is the
greatest water system in the world."

"Why," Harry observed, desiring to contribute something startling to
the discussion of the river, "the current is so strong that it
carries fresh water and sand five hundred miles out into the
Atlantic Ocean.  It is just a fresh water river in a salt water sea
for five hundred miles!"

That night the boys kept the engines of the Black Bear going, one
remaining on watch all through the dark hours.  They had plenty of
gasoline in the tank, and the tender, the Wolf, was carrying a load
of fuel which Jack declared would last them until the end of the
year!

It may be well to state here that the Black Bear, the Boy Scout
motorboat, was a specially constructed vessel, built by Harry's
father for river work.  The materials were light yet strong, and the
boat could easily be taken apart and put together again when
occasion required.  Between the cross-grained slices of tough wood
of which the craft was built were plates of steel, thus rendering
the boat virtually bullet proof.

The Black Bear was constructed so that it could be almost entirely
thrown open to the sunshine when so desired or closed tightly
against cold or rain.  The roof could be rolled up in a bundle in
the middle like the curtain of a modern desk.  The sides were
composed of oblong panels which could be inserted in grooved steel
uprights when it was desired to close in the interior of the boat.
The motors were very powerful.

In fact, it was just such a boat as was needed on the trip the boys
had in mind.  It had done excellent service on the Columbia, and
nothing less could be expected of it on the Amazon.  The Wolf, which
was merely a tender, was watertight in construction, being shaped
like a banana, and was towed by the motor-boat.  Here the extra
stocks of gasoline, provisions, and ammunition were packed.  The
interior of the Wolf was about six feet by eighteen in size, while
the distance from rounded floor to convex roof was about four feet.

On both sides of the interior were gasoline tanks, which also
extended under the floor, lifting the bottom of the interior space
three feet.  Above the tanks were spaces for provisions and
ammunition.  The space between the tanks and the lockers was about
two feet, and here one might ride in comfort, after getting used to
the rolling of the boat.  There were tight glass panels of thick
plate glass at the ends and the top.

Ventilators and loopholes, controlled by wires from the center, were
cut in the ends and protected by sliding covers.  Lying in the
passageway, one might look out at either end, and shoot out, too, if
occasion required.  When fully loaded, the Wolf was submerged about
half its height.  On the top was a staff from which floated an
American flag.  The boys were very proud of the Wolf, and Jimmie had
often declared, on the Columbia river trip, that he would some day
take an exciting ride in it.

During their passage up the river the boys were often hailed from
passing craft, but they took little heed, as they did not care to
lose time gratifying the curiosity of those they met.  Indeed, if
they had stopped to talk with all who hailed them, they would have
made slow progress.  Up to about sixty years ago the Amazon was
closed to all save Brazilian vessels, but now it is open to the
commerce of the world.

There are now vessels coming from and going to all parts of Europe
and America from Amazon ports.  There are lines of great steamers on
the main stream, lines of smaller steamers on the big tributaries,
and launches and small craft of all sizes on the affluent branches.
Often the passing ships, steamers, launches, etc., almost took the
form of a procession on the lower waters.

Everywhere the smaller ships were gathering the products of the
great Amazon basin-rubber, cocoanuts, hardwoods, dyewoods, pelts,
tropical fruits and other commodities.  Every year over three
million tons of products come down the great river.  The Amazon
drains a country as large as the United States east of the
Mississippi.  Its feeders reach the Andes, draining watersheds
within a hundred miles of the Pacific ocean.  It has tributaries
fifteen hundred miles long.

It did not take the Black Bear very long to pass the green islands
near the delta.  The river there looks like an ocean.  In fact, the
main branch of the Amazon is from fifty miles to two hundred miles
in width.  Some of the tributaries are a hundred miles wide.  It is
from fifty to two hundred feet deep.  The water is always dark
colored because of the wash brought down from the uplands.  For a
long time it did not seem possible to the boys that they were
sailing on a river instead of an ocean.

"Ned and the boys must be over Paraguay now," Jack said, one day,
after they had been on the river nearly a week without accident or
important incident of any kind.

"Yes," Frank replied, "they must be there by this time.  Jimmie said
they were to leave San Francisco on the 7th, or about that time.  It
would take a week or more to get to Lima, for they couldn't remain
in the air long at a time, and the resting spells would set them
back a little.  Suppose they got to Lima on the 14th, which was last
Monday, they could rest up and go prowling over that dirty little
republic--which is not a republic at all, but a despotism tempered
by revolution."

"I'd like to know just what course Ned has decided on," Harry said.
"I don't see how he's going to get to Mr. Lyman."

"He'll find a way," Jack insisted.  "He always has, and he always
will."

It will be seen that the boys were tolerably accurate in their
estimates of the speed of the Nelson.  On the day they were
discussing the possible location of the big airship, which was the
18th of August, the Nelson was in the center of as pretty a muss as
Ned had ever mixed with.

The boys in the Black Bear put on all speed, traveling nights as
well as days, and before long began watching the heavens, for an
aeroplane.  But the lads on the Nelson were not looking for a boat
poking her nose toward the Andes--"a relief expedition," as Jack
called it!




CHAPTER IV

A CHASE IN THE NIGHT


Following the excited announcement by Mike that an airship was
prowling about over the mountains and Leroy's sudden cry of
exultation at the prospect of a struggle for supremacy above the
clouds, there was for a moment absolute silence in the hotel room
where the boys stood.  Finally Pedro entered and closed the door.

Ned walked to a window and looked out.  The day was fading, and
already the feet of the distant mountains were wrapped in purple
twilight.  The window faced the north, giving a fair view of the
city and the Andes as they strung along in that direction, looking
like a chain of bald heads lifting from the obscurity of a fog.  The
airship was not in sight from where he stood.

Pedro saw what he was looking for and stepped to his side, one hand
pointing off to the east.

"Out there!" he said.

"When did you first see it?" asked Leroy, not waiting for Ned to
conduct the cross-examination.

The Indian talked with Mike for a moment.

The latter did not seem to understand all that was said to him, but
presently he turned to Ned.

"He says he saw it only a minute before he came here," he explained.
"He says a lot more that I can't understand.  I've been here only a
month, and I'm not quick at learning new speech."

"Ask him if he knows whether she landed anywhere near the city," Ned
directed.

The Indian did not know.  The airship was over the mountains when he
first saw it, and that was all he could say about it.

"Do you think we've been followed down here?" asked Jimmie.

"Of course!" Leroy broke in.  "What else would an airship be here
for just at this time?  And if she wasn't sneaking about after us,
what would she be hanging up there in the sky for?  Why doesn't she
come down to town, like we did?"

"It may be that the arrival of this airship just at this time is a
coincidence," Ned said, "but it seems to me that there is something
significant about it.  I have felt all along that we were not yet
rid of the rascals who tried to make us trouble at San Francisco."

"Some one must want the cattle concession that Lyman has pretty
badly," Leroy ventured.  "Well, we'll, have to run away from them, I
take it!"

"Then how are we going to find out where this Lyman person is?"
demanded Jimmie.  "No, Sir!" he went on, rubbing his freckled nose
in meditation.  "We've just naturally got to bust 'em up!"

The proposition was indeed a serious one.  If the airship was really
there to take note of the activities of the boys on the Nelson, the
situation could hardly be improved by following either line of
conduct suggested by the boys.

Nothing could be gained by "running away" from the unwelcome
visitor.  Nothing was to be gained by following the advice to "bust
'em up."  A race would only serve to draw the Nelson away from the
point of action, away from the place where Lyman was held in
captivity.  To "bust 'em up" would be to set all the official rings
of Paraguay in operation against the lads, place the Boy Scouts
under the ban of the law!

"If we only knew just where to find this Lyman person," Jimmie went
on, "we might swoop down an' get him an' give the lobsters a run for
their money."

"Perhaps," Ned suggested, "we'd better wait for this new navigator
of the air to show us where he is."

"I see him doing it!" cried Leroy.

"You bet he will!" Jimmie cut in.  "He'll hang around the point of
danger!  He'll show us where the man is by standing guard over him!
What?"

"That's my idea," Ned replied, "still, he may devote his energies to
keeping track of us.  One can never tell what an enemy will do."

"Well," Leroy said, "I'm going back to the Nelson.  There's a chance
of the lobster dropping down and trying to cripple her."

"A very good idea," Ned agreed.

Jimmie and Mike hastened away with Leroy, but Pedro remained at the
request of Ned.  A plan for meeting the emergency was already
forming in the active brain of the Boy Scout, and an important
detail depended on information which the Indian might be able to
give.

Before opening the question, however, Ned, motioning to the Indian
to follow, made his way to the flat roof of the hotel building.
There he found several men, smoking, chatting, and watching the
airship, now almost directly over the city.  In Peru many houses are
built with especial reference to providing a lounging place on the
roof.

It was growing darker, and the lights of the airship shone brightly
against the dimming sky.  The aviator was now circling around the
city, dropping lower at times, then skimming in spirals to a higher
point.  While Ned stood watching the machine, realizing that the
fellow in charge was no novice in aviation, a gentleman whom he had
noticed three times before that day observing him closely advanced
and stood by his side.  He was a well dressed, clean-shaven man of
perhaps thirty, with an intelligent face, a bustling manner, and a
suit of clothes which Jimmie would have described as "loud enough to
lead a circus parade."

"Evidently an American commercial traveler," Ned thought, as the
stranger stood by his side a moment without speaking, his eyes fixed
on the airship.

"She goes some, eh?" the stranger observed, presently.

"The aviator seems to know his business," Ned admitted.

"You came in an aeroplane yourself, didn't you?" asked the other.

Ned answered in the affirmative.

"Thought so," the other went on.  "Hadn't seen you about the city
until this afternoon, and some one said you came in an airship.
Where from?"

"New York," Ned replied, half amused at the impertinence of the
question.

"Good old town!" the other exclaimed.  "Hot old town!  I like it.
There's something always going on there.  I'm from New York myself,
but I'm selling goods for a Chicago firm--steam pumps!  I've got the
best steam pump in seven countries!  Came here to sell to a mining
company.  Nothing doing.  What's your name?  Mine is Thomas Q.
Collins."

"Nestor," Ned replied, shortly.

"And you're out for fun?"

"That's the idea."  Ned did not think it necessary to enter into
details.

"Hope you get all that's coming to you!  Say, will you give me a
ride in that machine of yours?  I went out to see it today.  Looks
to me like it could knock the spots off anything of the kind in the
world.  I don't know anything about airships, but I do know about
steam pumps, and also about machinery.  I know a good piece of work
when I see it.  That boat of yours is a peach!"

"It isn't my machine," Ned replied, "but if we remain here over
tomorrow I'll see about granting your request."

The two talked for a moment longer, and then Collins left the roof.
Later, Ned saw him moving through the street below in the direction
of the place where the Nelson had been left.  The boy hardly knew
what to make of Collins.  He might be a steam pump salesman, just as
he had described himself, and, again, he might be a spy sent out by
Lyman's enemies to discover the plans of the Boy Scouts--even to
wreck the Nelson if possible.  He decided to, if possible, learn
something of the fellow before taking him on board the aeroplane.

After a time the strange airship fluttered away to the north and
then Ned and Pedro descended to the former's room.  Sitting at the
north window, the two could see the lights of the aeroplane dropping
downward, and they concluded that the aviator was seeking a resting
place for the night.

"He's going to bed in Inca Valley," Pedro said, watching the
descending bird.  "It is a good place to hide the machine."

The words were spoken in pretty good Spanish, and Ned turned quickly
and asked:

"You speak Spanish then?"

The question was asked in Spanish, and the Indian's face brightened.

"Yes," he said, "but I never suspected that you knew the language."

"Only a smattering of it," laughed Ned, "but, still, I think you can
understand what I say to you.  As I want you to do most of the
talking, we may get on very well together."

"What do you want to know?" asked Pedro.

"First, I want you, after we have had our talk, to go out into the
city and find out, if you can, all about that aeroplane.  I want to
know if it has ever been seen here before, if the aviator comes to
the city after descending, if he is a stranger here--all about him,
in fact."

The Indian bowed.

"Then," Ned went on, "I want you to find out whether the machine is
well guarded.  I also want to know what kind of a machine it is, and
where it came from.  If you think it advisable I want you to get
into conversation with the aviator and see what kind of a chap he
is."

Another bow from the Indian, whose face expressed pleasure at the
prospective employment.  Ned pondered for a moment, as if not quite
certain of his ground, and then asked:

"How, well are you acquainted with the country lying between Lima
and Asuncion?"

"Oh," was the astonished reply, "but that is a long, long
distance--two, three thousand miles."

"Yes, I know, but have you ever been over the Andes?"

"Oh, yes.  I am a guide."

Ned pondered a moment.

"How far east and south?" he asked, then.

"To Lake Titicaca."

"That is on the boundary between Peru and Bolivia?"

"Yes."

"And you know that country--the country around the lake?"

"Very well, indeed."

"It is a long way from Asuncion?"

"It is barely a third of the way.  You will see on the map."

"Well," Ned said, after a short silence, "I may as well tell you
what I want.  I want to be directed to a place in the mountains
where I can securely hide our aeroplane.  It must be a hiding place
absolutely out of sight, especially from the sky.  Do you
understand?"

The Indian nodded, a knowing smile on his dusky face.

"You mean to hide from the other airship?" he asked.

"Yes."

"There are caverns near Lake Titicaca."

"So I understand.  Caverns which defy exploration.  But, you see, I
must have a hiding place from which the airship can be brought out
with speed and returned in the same way."

"To dodge out and in?  Yes, I comprehend."

The two dwelt over the maps and plans until; Leroy and Jimmie came
romping in to report that all was quiet at the machine, and that
Mike was to remain on guard until midnight, when Jimmie was to
relieve him.  Then Pedro went out in the city to listen to such talk
of the strange airship as was floating about the streets.  He was
back in a couple of hours with the information that the airship had
not landed in the city, and that it had never been seen there
before.

"It seems to me," Ned said after the Indian ceased speaking, "that
now is our time.  We ought to be a long way from Lima before dawn."

"The other fellow'll see us!" Leroy objected.

"We'll have to chance that," Ned replied.  "We needn't have any
lights you know, and the motors make very little noise.  Get your
traps ready, boys!"

It was arranged that Pedro was to remain, under pay, in Lima,
storing up such information as he could secure against the day of
the return of the Nelson.  Mike was to remain with him, of course,
as there would be no room on the Nelson for him.  The young man when
told of the plans, objected strenuously to being left, but was
finally consoled by the promise that the aeroplane would be sent
back after him when opportunity offered.

It was after midnight when all the arrangements were made and the
boys passed out of their rooms into the hotel lobby.  At that hour
they thought the driver of the other aeroplane would be likely to be
sleeping.  At the very door of the hotel they came upon Mr. Thomas
Q. Collins!  He strolled up as Ned stepped into the doorway and
extended his hand.  Ned took it, gave it a perfunctory grasp, and
attempted to paw on.

"If you don't mind," Collins said, with a persuasive mile, "I'll
walk with you if you are going out to your aeroplane.  I've been to
bed and find that I can't sleep."

"All right," Ned replied, thinking that he would rather have the man
with him than on his way to report the departure of the Nelson.  "We
are just going to look the ship over--perhaps take a little spin.
Come along."

"I should like very much to go with you, in case you decide to go
sailing tonight," Collins said. "Perhaps you may be able to arrange
it?"

"I'm afraid not tonight," Ned replied, wondering just what this new
acquaintance was up to.  "However," he added, "you may as well come
along and look over the ship."

Collins seemed glad of even this slight concession on the part of
the boy, and walked along briskly.  Presently, however, he began to
fall back, talking with Jimmie, who was a few paces behind.  Then,
before very long, the little fellow missed Collins.  He had
disappeared in a dark alley.  Ned worried over this when informed of
the fellow's strange and contradictory conduct.  The man might have
gone to make report to the other aviator!  This was not a pleasant
reflection.

Mike was found sitting in front of the Nelson, talking with a native
who was trying to learn all about an aeroplane from, a boy who knew
nothing about it himself!  It took only a short time to make ready
for flight, then the Nelson was up and away, making little noise as
she cut the air, her great planes flashing in the light of the moon.

"This is pretty poor, I guess!" Leroy exclaimed, glancing over the
mighty map of sea and plain and mountain.  "How fast do you want to
go?"

"At full speed," Ned replied.

"I should say it would be full speed!" Jimmie said, half covering
his mouth with his hand, to keep his words from being blown back
down his throat.  "That is," he added, "if you want to make a
sneak!"

Ned turned away to the north and saw the white planes of the strange
aeroplane gleaming in the moonlight.  She seemed to stand still for
an instant, and then sped off to the southeast.  Ned sighed with
apprehension, but Leroy laughed.

"Come along, you!" he cried, looking back.  "If you want a race,
come on, and I'll give you the run of your life!"





CHAPTER V

JIMMIE TAKES A RUN IN THE AIR


The white aeroplane flashed by, going farther to the east, and Ned
laid a hand on Leroy's arm as he was about to increase speed.

"Don't hurry," he said, almost screaming the words into the boy's
ear.

"I don't want him to beat me!" the driver called back.

"Let him go," Ned commanded.  "Play about the scenery a little
while, and then we'll go back to Lima."

"Let me catch him!" pleaded Leroy.  "Just let me chase around him a
couple of times.  I want to see him make a sneak when he sees the
Nelson in action!"

"Can you do it?" asked Ned.

"Sure I can do it. Just give me a chance.  There isn't a machine in
the world that can win a race against the Nelson!"

"I'm sure of that," Ned answered, "and I hope that fellow over there
won't find it out right away.  Let him think he can go by us like we
were tied to a cloud, if he wants to.  There will come a time when
his confidence in his machine will cost him his job!"

Leroy saw that Ned was really in earnest in the expressed wish to
deceive the aviator of the rival aeroplane, and also saw that there
was good reason for doing so, so he shut off the motors and started
to volplane downward.

"No," Ned said, "that's not right.  Make him think we're trying to
catch him.  Give him the impression that we want to overhaul him,
but haven't the speed."

"The Nelson will blush red with shame to be bested by a water wagon
like that!" Leroy grumbled, but he did as requested.

The white aeroplane's driver appeared to take the bait.  He
loitered, as if waiting for the Nelson to come up, then circled away
from her in great wide swaths.  Once he swept around the Nelson, and
Leroy almost shed tears of chagrin.

"Just see him!" the boy wailed.  "He thinks I've got a dirt cart
here!  He is putting it all over me!  I can go two miles to his one,
and yet I'm taking all his guff!  Let me get at him!  I'll run him
down!"

In a short time the stranger, apparently satisfied that he could
outfly the Nelson, should he desire to do so, moved off to the south
and soon disappeared in the distance.

"Now what?" asked Leroy, half angrily.

"He'll watch for us," Ned replied, "but he won't find us chasing
him.  Go through some of your flip-flaps and then go back toward
Lima.  I want to say a few words to that Mr. Thomas Q. Collins."

Half mollified at the thought of getting a little speed out of the
Nelson, Leroy drove straight for the zenith.  Up, up, up he went,
onward toward the stars, shining no brighter for his approach, yet
luring him on.  All the world below was flooded with moonlight and
starlight.  The mountains were dim in spots, where higher peaks
dominated the light, the Pacific shone in the radiance of the night.
The blue dome of heaven rounded away like a precious bowl set with
diamonds.

The roofs of Lima drew closer together, apparently, and the whole
town looked like a little cluttered point of land.  And the
mountains and the sea stretched away endlessly, and earth took on
the look of a great rug woven with invisible stripes.  Up, up, up,
until the air became thin and the lungs staggered for breath.

Then the motors were shut off and the ocean and the mountain chains
seemed to rise up to meet the aeroplane, sailing at the speed of
the, fastest express.  Over the water and down until even Jimmie
clutched Ned's arm and gave forth an exclamation of alarm.  Then a
turn of a lever sent the Nelson skimming over Calleo and back toward
Lima.  Avoiding the vacant space where the Nelson had rested before,
Leroy, under Ned's directions, landed on the dry sand some distance
away.

"Of course that other chap will find us when he comes back," Ned
said, when the boys stood on solid ground again, "but we'll try to
make him think we're hanging around Peru just for the fun of it."

"Perhaps he won't come back," suggested Leroy.  "Then I'll lose my
chance of showing him what the Nelson can do."

"I have an idea that he'll be back by morning," Ned replied.

In this the boy was right, for the white aeroplane showed in a
couple of hours, just about dawn, circled around the city, hovered
for a moment over the Nelson, and then went off to the north again.

"It is a certainty that she is here to butt into our game!" Jimmie
said, as the white planes disappeared.  "She'll start when we start,
an' stop when we stop, an' there won't be any getting away from her.
How does she get into the air so quick after we cut loose?  That's
what I'd like to know."

"Some system of signals, undoubtedly," Ned answered.  "Now," he
continued, "we'll cuddle up in our blankets here and sleep as long
as the natives will let us.  Who'll keep awake?"

Each one wanted to be the one to stand guard, but the point was
decided by the appearance of Mike and Pedro, who had watched the
maneuvers of the Nelson, had noted her landing place, and hastened
forward.  Thus relieved of the care of the machine, the three boys
hastened to the hotel and were soon sound asleep.

It was noon when Ned awoke, brought out of a deep slumber by an
impatient knocking at his door.  He was out of bed in an instant
and, clad only in his pajamas, opened the door and looked out.  Mr.
Thomas Q. Collins stood in the corridor with a look of alarm on his
face.

"Thought I'd never get you out," he said, stepping, uninvited, into
the room and taking a chair.  "Thought that you ought to know what's
been going on."

Ned had little confidence in Collins.  The fellow's strange conduct
of the night before naturally made the boy suspicious.  After
requesting a ride in the Nelson, or, at least, the company of the
Boy Scouts to the place where the machine had been left, he had
disappeared without a word of explanation.

It seemed to Ned that he had good grounds for the belief that
Collins had spied around until he had learned that the aeroplane was
going up, and had then communicated the information to the man on
the white machine.  At least, the strange aviator had shown in the
air directly after the disappearance of Collins.

But it was no part of Ned's purpose to permit Collins to see that he
was suspected.  It was rather his idea to keep on good terms with
the fellow and watch him for any evidences of treachery.  He
therefore greeted him cordially and asked:

"Something interesting going on in the city?  We did not return
until nearly dawn, and I've been asleep ever since."

"You haven't heard about the attack on our aeroplane, then?" asked
Collins, looking Ned over keenly.

The boy tried not to exhibit the least emotion or excitement at the
disturbing question.  Leaning back in the chair he had taken, he
asked:

"The curiosity of the people got the better of their courtesy, eh?
I have been afraid of that.  Well, I hope the Nelson was not
seriously injured."

Thomas Q. Collins had the appearance of one who had expected to
unwrap a great sensation and had failed.  His face was a study.

"Well, no," he replied.  "The fact is, when the rush was made the
aeroplane shot up into the air."

"Then one of the boys must have been there," Ned said, calmly,
although his heart was beating like a drum.

"The little fellow was there, the one you call Jimmie," was the
reply.

"And he went into the air alone?"

"No; at the last minute a Peruvian Indian who has been hanging about
the machine ever since you came here went with him."

"Then there is no danger," Ned replied, really feeling relieved at
the thought that Jimmie was not alone in the aeroplane.  "The lad
will bring the Nelson back in good time.  Anyway, he is entitled to
a little excursion, 'all by his lonely,' as he puts it."

"He can operate the machine?"

"Certainly.  He can handle the Nelson easily."

Thomas Q. Collins regarded Ned steadily for a moment, his brusque,
salesmanship manner all gone, and then asked:

"'Where are you going from here?"

The fellow was showing his hand at last!  Or was this just natural
curiosity?  At that moment Ned was more interested in discovering
something about the attack on the Nelson than in fighting off
personal and impertinent questions, so he said:

"We haven't made up our minds as to our future course.  By the way,
what was the cause of the attack on the aeroplane?"

"Oh," replied Collins, frowning slightly, "there were a lot of
people gathered about the ropes, and one of your guards was a little
coarse in protecting your property, and there was a blow struck,
then the mob rushed the roped-in enclosure.  I think there was no
one seriously injured."

"I wonder if the other aviator is also having trouble with his
machine?" asked Ned, anxious to know what Collins would say about
the white aeroplane.

"I don't know about that," Collins replied.  "In fact, the other
fellow went off to the south soon after the departure of the
Nelson."

"Chased Jimmie up, eh?"

"Well, anxious for a race, it seemed to me."

"Has the Nelson returned?" asked Ned, then.

Collins shook his head.

"If you'll excuse me, then," Ned said, presently.  "I'll dress and
take breakfast and go down to see what's doing."

"Your breakfast will be luncheon, I guess," laughed Collins.  "I was
on my way to the dining room when I thought of you.  If you don't
mind I'll wait for you in the lobby.  These natives are not very
good table companions.  I'm sick for the sight of my own countrymen,
anyway, and I can't tell you how glad I am to see you here."

Collins went out and closed the door and Ned set about his toilet.
He did not know what to make of the alleged steam pump salesman.  At
times he appeared to be perfectly frank and honest, then there would
come to his eyes a look of half-concealed cunning and greed which
put the boy on his guard.

However, Ned thought, the correct way to fathom the fellow's
intentions would be to remain in his company as much as possible.
So the boy bathed and dressed and went down to Collins in the lobby
with a cheerful face.

During the meal Collins talked incessantly of the country and his
prospects in South America.  Ned listened, saying little, even in
the short spaces of silence.  He was waiting for the fellow to
strike some chord which tuned with his actions of the night before.
At last it came.

"I'm thinking of going over to Asuncion," he said, when the meal was
nearly over.  "There are mines over that way, and I may stand a
chance of selling a pump.  Rotten luck in Peru, and I can't afford
to spend all this expense money and not sell a thing.  I hear that
there are a few Americans over in Paraguay," he added, tentatively,
smiling over at Ned.

"I know very little about the country," Ned said, coolly, fearful
that Collins would drop that line of conversation, "and I never
heard that foreigners of any sort were made welcome in Paraguay.  I
don't think we'll go out of our way any to visit that hot little
republic."

Collins looked disappointed.  Ned could see that.  In a moment he
tried again to bring the subject out, but Ned seemed entirely
indifferent.

When the two left the hotel and walked in the direction of the sand
lot where the Nelson had been left, the boy was fully satisfied that
Collins was in league with his enemies.  For all he knew, the fellow
might be the very man who was trying to get Lyman's concession away
from him.  This might be the man who was bribing the crooked
military chief to make it impossible for the cattle man to carry out
his contract.

"What time did the Nelson leave?" Ned asked, as they drew near a
little group of natives standing on the sand lot.

"Not far from nine," was the reply.

"I didn't think Jimmie would be out that early," laughed Ned.  "He
is a little sleepy head, ordinarily."

Pushing their way into the center of the little crowd, Ned and
Collins found Leroy and Mike Dougherty engaged in a heated debate
with a police officer who was threatening arrest.  Ned stepped back
so as not to attract the attention of the boys, and kept his eyes
fixed on Collins.  In a moment he saw that gentleman give an
impatient gesture which seemed to urge the officer on.

Ned thought fast for a moment.  He was considering whether or not he
had been brought there for the purpose of getting into a row in defense
of his chums and being arrested with them.  He was heartily glad that
the Nelson was out of the way, although he would have been better
pleased had he been safe aboard of her.

"These Peruvian officers are too fresh!" Collins said, in a moment.
"What do you mean by molesting these boys?" he added, in Spanish,
turning to the officer.

"They are charged with assault," the latter replied.

"By whom?" asked Ned, also speaking in Spanish.

"They struck half a dozen citizens," was the indefinite reply.  "We
must take them to jail."

"I'll give you a bump in the eye if you come near me!" Leroy put in,
as he searched the sky eagerly for some sign of the Nelson.

"That wouldn't help matters any," Ned said, speaking in English.
"Go along with the officer, and I'll pay your fine."

Collins looked annoyed at this cautious advice.  He came nearer to
Ned and whispered:

"The courts are slow and uncertain here.  It may be weeks before the
boys will be restored to liberty if they are locked up.  If we could
get them away into the mountains until the Nelson returns that would
end the whole affair."

"And so you want to get me mixed up in it, too!" thought Ned, as the
officer glared at him.  "You want to get me on a charge of resisting
arrest!  When we get out of here, Mr. Thomas Q. Collins, I'll see
that you get what's coming to you!"

If Collins could have known what was passing in Ned's mind, could
have understood how suspicious the boy was of him, he would not have
urged the lads, in English, to cut and run.  By doing so he merely
confirmed Ned's unfavorable opinion of him.  From that moment Ned
knew him for what he was, and resolved to get him out of the way in
some manner.

Leroy and Mike paid little attention to what Collins said, as a
shake of the head from Ned gave them to understand what was passing
in his mind.  In a moment Ned stepped to the side of the policeman.

"You are all right, officer," he said.  "You are only doing your
duty.  The boys will go with you, and I'll pay their fines."

But, as Ned discovered, it is easier to get into jail in Peru than
it is to get out.




CHAPTER VI

NED IS GUILTY OF LARCENY


Night came on and no Nelson showed in the sky.  Ned wandered
restlessly about the rather handsome city, anxious for the aeroplane
as well as for the boys who were in the city prison.  Collins was
always with him, at first, expressing sympathy and suggesting plans
for getting the prisoners out on bail.  The complainant in the case,
it was claimed by the officers, was too badly injured to appear in
court.

Ned grew sick of the constant talking of the fellow at last, and
went to his room, saying that he was due for a little sleep.  But
the boy, as may well be imagined, did not sleep.  Instead, he sat by
his window watching the sky.

Where had Jimmie gone with the machine?  This question was always in
his mind.  Had he met with an accident and was he lying, crushed
from a long fall, in some mountain canyon?  Had the pursuing
aeroplane overtaken him and destroyed or captured the Nelson?

It was not like the little fellow to disappear so utterly.  Even
supposing he was afraid to return to Lima, he ought to understand
how anxious his friends would be and signal them from the upper air.
Surely, Ned reasoned, this would be safe, for the hostile machine
could not approach the Nelson in speed, and, after giving a
reassuring signal, the boy could disappear in the mountains again.

It was dark now in the room where Ned was, and he sat looking out at
the sky in the hope of seeing the welcome lights of the aeroplane.
Presently, he saw a flicker of light off to the east.  It increased
in size rapidly, and Ned knew that it was an airship he saw
approaching at wonderful speed, but he had no means of knowing
whether it was Jimmie on the Nelson or the hostile aviator.

If it was Jimmie, he thought, there would be a signal directly.  He
waited eagerly, but no signal showed.  Presently the airship drifted
off to the north, and Ned saw the glint of moonlight on white
planes.  It was the hostile ship, sure enough, but why had she
abandoned pursuit of the Nelson?

Ned resolved to secure a closer view of the airship, but the next
question was how to avoid Collins, who was at that moment pacing to
and fro in front of the hotel.  The alleged salesman would be apt to
accost him as soon as he appeared and insist on going with him.

He had had enough of Collins.  He had no doubt that the fellow was
in the conspiracy against him.  It seemed reasonable that he had
been warned by wire of the approach of the Boy Scouts, and had
hastened to Lima to intercept them.  Ned thought over the situation
deliberately, and then a daring smile came to his face.

"I wonder if I can?"

He chuckled as he asked himself the question.

"I wonder if I can?"

He paced his room for a moment, and then continued.

"If he goes with me, there will be less suspicion, provided I am
right in my estimate of the fellow.  We may be even left alone with
the aeroplane!  Ah, that would be too good to come true!"

The boy watched the sky to the east from the roof as well as from
his window, but there were no signs of the aeroplane which Jimmie
had taken away.

"The little rascal knows what he is doing!" Ned told himself, "but I
wish he would let me know, too!  I reckon I'll take a chance on the
plan.  I'll try anything once, as the Bowery boys say."

Having settled the vexed question in his own mind, Ned went
whistling down the broad stairway and came out in the lobby.  Just
as he had figured, Collins sat where he could keep an eye on the
front entrance.  When Ned appeared the fellow arose and stepped over
to him.

"There is nothing new, I'm afraid," Collins said.  "I've just been
over to the police station, and nothing can be done tonight."

Ned thought that Collins must have made pretty good time to get over
to the police station and back during the short space of time he had
been out of sight, but he did not say so.

"Anything new about the aeroplane?" asked Ned.  "I saw the white one
come back."

"Perhaps she can give us the information we want about your ship,
or, perhaps the aviator can," he added with a laugh.

"Why not go and see?" asked Ned, his heart bounding with hope and
excitement as he noted how eagerly Collins took the bait.  "Can we
get a motor-car here?  The machine must be quite a distance away."

"It does look that way," Collins replied, with a yawn, "and we may
as well take a car, if we can find one.  I hope you don't mind my
going with you."

"Why, I wouldn't go alone!" Ned replied, speaking with perfect
truth, as Collins discovered later on.  "You don't know how glad I
am to find you up and ready for a little adventure!"

Collins, in turn, told how pleased he was to be of service, and the
two found a motor-car and started off, taking a road which ran along
a level strip of land which lay between the sand and the mountains.
They had proceeded a couple of miles when a motor-car appeared in
sight just ahead of them, traveling toward the city.

Collins arose in his seat and waved his hand frantically.

"I believe that's Sherman!" he cried.  "Sherman's here for a rival
steam pump firm, but I'll be good to him, especially as there is
nothing doing in the way of trade.  Hey, there, Sherm!" he shouted
as the two cars drew nearer.  "Pull up and give an account of
yourself!"

Sherman was a dark-faced, black-haired, bewhiskered fellow of
perhaps forty.  He was dressed in a dark business suit and wore
glasses.  The two men talked shop for a moment, and then Collins
asked:

"Where have you been?"

"Just out for a ride," was the reply.

"You saw the airship come down?"

"Of come, but I'm not interested in airships."

"Then you haven't been out there?"

"Hardly.  It doesn't interest me--this aviation craze."

"Then you don't know whether the aviator is out there or not?"
continued Collins.

"Why, yes, I do know about that," Sherman replied.  "I heard this
driver of mine talking Spanish with a shoofer we met, and learned
from the mix-up in tongues that the aviator has gone to the city,
leaving a couple of natives in charge of the machine."

Ned's heart bounded so fiercely that he feared that Collins would
hear its quick beats!  The aviator was not there.  Only two
Peruvians, timid chaps at best!  Mr. Thomas Q. Collins might receive
his reward for his treachery sooner than he imagined, the boy
thought!

"Well, so long!" Collins cried.  "We'll see you in the city
tonight."

The cars parted, each going its separate way, and Ned and Collins
were soon within sight of the white aeroplane, which lay in a valley
a short distance from the road.  The spot where it lay was well
irrigated, and fruits and vegetables were growing all around the
rope which had been strung about the machine.  The aviator had
evidently paid a good price for the privilege of landing there.

A short distance away from the site of the machine was a small
house, a tiny affair, with plenty of porches and a flat roof.  As
the two men left the car and advanced toward the machine a man left
the porch and walked in their direction.

"Probably the farmer," Collins said.  "We may have to pay for the
privilege of looking over the machine."

Much to the amazement of the boy, the man who approached from the
porch spoke to the two in English.

"What do you want?" he asked.

Ned waited for Collins to make a reply.  If Collins really was in
the conspiracy against Lyman, he would probably show his hand within
the next few minutes.  Just as Ned anticipated Collins gave the
other a sly signal before he opened his mouth.  Ned was not supposed
to see this evidence of a common understanding, but his watchful
eyes caught not only that but the answering sign of the other.

"We came up to look over the machine," Collins said.

"Well, you keep away from it," the other replied, fixing his eyes
keenly on the face of the boy.

"This lad," Collins said, then, motioning toward Ned, "knows
something about an aeroplane, and wants to inspect this one."

A sly wink followed the remark.  It was getting rather cheap to Ned.
The collusion between the two was so evident that their attempts to
conceal it appeared very slazy.

"Yes," Ned put in, "I'd like to look the machine over."

"You came in that other aeroplane?" was asked.

Ned nodded, and Collins broke in:

"He's an expert, but he has no machine just at present.  A member of
his party took his machine away this morning," he added, with a
chuckle.

"So Rowan said," the alleged farmer replied.

"Rowan?" repeated Ned.  "Is that the name of the aviator who runs
this machine?"

"Yes; he is a New York man.  Do you know him?"

Ned replied that he had heard of him, knew him to be a splendid
operator, but had never met him.

After some further talk Ned and Collins were given permission to
look at the machine, which was called the Vixen.  Collins expressed
his thanks in elaborate language, but Ned went straight to the
Vixen, which was then guarded by a Peruvian Indian.  He was weary of
the cheap pretense of the other.

"This is a peach of a machine," the alleged farmer explained,
following Ned as he walked about the great planes.  "See here! No
cranking at all!  You just get into the seat, which will carry two
nicely, and push this button.  That releases a spring which whirls
the propellers until the spark is made, then off you go."

Ned admired the arrangement fully, as he was expected to do.  The
Nelson was fitted out in the same way, but he did not say so.
Presently the Indian left the circle created by the rope and, going
into the shelter of the porch, left Collins and Ned with the alleged
farmer, who announced that his name was Yerkes.

Ned thought this action on the part of the Indian was in obedience
to a signal from Collins, but could not be too sure of it.  Then
Collins and Yerkes trailed about after Ned as he wandered around the
airship.  The boy saw the former remove certain bits of wood which
blocked the wheels of the Vixen, also he saw Yerkes, testing the
gasoline gauge and looking the carburetor over carefully.

"It is all right," the boy thought.  "Two hearts with but a single
thought, two souls that beat as one--or the reverse anyway, they are
thinking of giving me a ride in this old ice wagon!  Pretty soon
they'll be asking me to get up on the seat and see how easy it is.
Then one of them will slip this harness about me--the harness
provided for timid riders--and I'll be off in the air--a prisoner!"

Collins and Yerkes tinkered about the aeroplane for some moments,
while Ned seemed to be studying the machine.  The boy was anxious
for the decisive moment to come.

Finally Yerkes, went back to the porch and stood there in
conversation with the Indian for a number of minutes.

When he returned Collins stepped forward toward the seat.

Knowing that the time for action had come, Ned sprang into the
driver's seat.  Collins looked vexed at the movement, but Ned
laughed down at him.

"I won't hurt your old machine," the boy said.  "Get up here, so we
can see how it rides."

Collins obeyed, first giving Yerkes a significant look which was not
lost on the watchful boy.

The harness for the visitor's seat was a peculiar one, as Ned had
noted with considerable satisfaction.  There were leather cuffs for
the wrists and a broad leg band which prevented the guest leaving
his seat.  The cuffs held the hands close together in the lap, the
idea being to prevent a timid person from grasping the arm of the
driver in a moment of terror.

"Move on over!" Collins called, as he stepped up, "and I'll see if I
can take you out of the valley without breaking your neck.  Don't
say a word to Yerkes about his race with the Nelson," he added, in a
whisper.  "He got beaten, and doesn't like to talk about it."

Ned noticed but remained where he was, so Collins reluctantly took
the other seat.  As he did so Yerkes stepped forward, and the Indian
stationed himself at the back of the machine, where he could give it
a push down the incline which lay before it, and against which the
wheels had been blocked.

As soon as Collins was fairly in the seat, Ned gave the harness a
quick snap, and the click of metal told him that the cuffs had
closed about Collins' wrists, that the broad strap which held him
down was in position.  Then he pushed the button and the spark
caught.  The Vixen moved down the incline.

Collins tried to lift his hands, but was unable to do so, so he
lifted his voice instead!  Yerkes, in the whirr of the machine,
doubtless mistook the voice for that of the boy, for he paid no
attention to it.

"Help!  Help!" roared Collins.  "Stop the machine!  He's got me tied
down!  Stop it, you fool!  Stop it!"

Yerkes and the Indian looked stolidly on with grins on their faces,
and Ned stuck an elbow into Collins' ribs.

"Keep still," he said, "or I'll have to put you out of the speech
habit.  I've got you just where you expected to get me, and you
ought not to kick about the accommodations."

"Yerkes!" yelled Collins.  "Why don't you stop the machine?  Catch
hold of the propellers and yank them off!  Put a bullet through this
young fiend!  Anything to stop the crazy thing.  I tell you he's got
me tied in!"

Then Yerkes, recognizing the voice, sprang toward the propellers.
He made a brisk spring, but was too late.  The blades were just
about an inch out of his reach.  Foiled in this attempt, he drew a
revolver and began firing foolish shots at the machine, none of
which came near the mark.

In a moment the Vixen was under full speed, the ground dropped away,
and the last Ned saw of Yerkes and the Indian they were performing a
dance of rage on the growing vegetables below.  Straight to the
south the machine flew, the motors popping like mad.

The boy saw little crowds in the lighted streets below, looking and
pointing up at the aeroplane, and then the city streets faded away
into a dull mat, and there were only the silent peaks, the sea, and
the deep, dim valleys.

Then Ned turned to his prisoner, who had by this time given over the
useless struggle against the harness.  Collins' eyes were fixed on
the moonlit Pacific, away off to the west, and the boy's eyes
followed those of his captive.

A steamer was creeping into the shallow harbor at Calleo, and the
dark spot on the sand showed that a crowd was there to greet her.
The Vixen was too far away for Ned to see the surf boats getting
ready to take off the passengers and freight, but he knew that they
were there.

It was now eleven o'clock, and the moon was well up in the sky.  The
ribs of the Andes lay like silver in its light.  Strain his eyes as
he might, there was no indication of the Nelson.

"Fine view!" Ned said, presently, giving Collins a nudge in the ribs
with his elbow. "How do you like it?"

Thomas Q. Collins was near bursting with rage.  He hitched about in
his seat, but to no purpose.

"What does this mean?" he finally found words to say, screaming at
the top of his voice, for the Vixen was now making good speed.

"I preferred to be the host rather than the guest," the boy said,
with a shrug of the shoulders.

"I don't know what you mean by that," Collins replied.

"You meant to capture me tonight?" asked Ned.

"Nothing of the kind!" roared Collins.

"You got Leroy and Mike in jail, and you thought you'd burst up this
relief expedition by putting me out of the way," Ned went on.  "Now,
we'll see who'll be put out of the way."

"What are you here for?" asked Collins.

"You know very well," replied Ned.  "But it is too much exertion to
talk at this speed.  Wait until we land and I'll tell you all about
your intentions!  Understand?  All about your intentions."

"Much you know about them," shrieked Collins.

Ned made no reply to this, for, away off to the southeast, he caught
sight of the dipping lights of an airship which might or might not
be the Nelson.




CHAPTER VII

THE BLACK BEAR IN TROUBLE


One still night on the Amazon Jack Bosworth got out a map and turned
a flashlight on it.  Frank and Harry stood looking over his
shoulder.

"Right here," Jack said, presently, "is where we leave the main
stream of the Amazon and take to the Madeira."

"How do you know that stream is the Madeira?" asked Frank.  "We have
passed so many large tributaries that I'm all mixed up."

"And why not try some other stream?" Harry questioned.  "I've heard
that the Madeira is full of falls and rapids."

"Anyway," Jack insisted, "it takes us away up into the Andes, almost
to Lake Titicaca, and that's all any stream will do.  As for the
falls and rapids, do you expect any stream to creep down from that
great plateau without jumping off occasionally?"

"All right," Frank cut in.  "Go your own way to destruction!  But
how do you know that rippling sheet of water off there," swinging an
arm to the south, "is the Madeira river?  It looks like a lake to
me."

"I found out while you were asleep this morning," Jack replied.  "A
chap came along in a launch and I asked him all about it.  He said
he had just come from the Andes, and advised me to turn back."

"Kind-hearted little fellow, eh?" laughed Harry.

"He wasn't very little," answered Jack.  "He was six feet two, and
was coming out with a finger off and a cut across a cheek bone which
will last him for a spell, I guess.  He cut his finger off because a
poisoned arrow struck it."

"Cannibals?" asked Harry, with a laugh.

"The same," replied Jack.  "Said they chased him for miles."

"We'll curb their appetites with lead," Harry observed.

"If we see them first," added Jack.

So the Black Bear was turned into the Madeira river, which is
something like seven hundred miles long, and drains the wooded
country where the black sheep of the land of Brazil live.  Away up
in the hills it is fed by the Beni river, which has its source in
the mountains east of Lake Titicaca.

 More than once the boys were obliged to haul their motor boat out
on a rocky "bench," take it to pieces, carry it and most of the
stock around rapids, and then put it together and load up again.
Still, they made good time, and on the evening of the third day
found themselves at the junction with the Beni river.

They were now in a wild and dangerous country.  The forests swarmed
with wild game, the thickets were full of serpents, and the trees
were often crowded with monkeys.   For two days they had seen no
natives.  This was suspicious as it was certain that they had
penetrated to the home of the cannibal tribes so greatly dreaded by
hunters and explorers.

It was on the evening of the 21st of August that Jack sent the Black
Bear into a little creek, shut off the power, and turned to put up
the panels.  It was not very warm, but the atmosphere was sticky and
heavy with the breath of the woods.

"We'll smother in there tonight," Frank said, observing the actions
of the other. "Why not leave some of 'em out?"

"If you want a poisoned arrow nestling in your ribs you can sleep
outside," Jack answered.  "For my part, I want to wake up in this
good old world in the morning."

"I don't think there's any danger yet," Frank said.

But the panels were put up and supper prepared.  By this time the
lads had become accustomed to preparing their own meals, as well as
providing the fish from the river, and the repast was soon over.
Then Jack lay back and gazed through the one glass panel of the top
of the Black Bear.

It was a dark, lowering night.  The wind is usually from the east in
that part of Brazil.  Blowing over the Atlantic it gathers up
moisture to dump on the eastern slope of the Andes.  The summits
drain the clouds and makes Peru a dry country.  It was murky now,
and the clouds hung low.

"What do you see up there, Jack?" asked Frank.  "Trying to study
astronomy, with not a star in sight?"

"There you are wrong," Jack replied.  "There is at least one star in
sight."

"With that mass of clouds drifting over the sky?" laughed Harry.  "I
reckon you must be seeing things not present to the senses!"

"Come and look, then," Jack invited.  "Look straight up, and you'll
see a star."

Frank placed himself under the glass panel and looked up.

"Well?" Jack demanded, in a tone of triumph.

"It's something," Frank exclaimed, "but I don't believe it is a
star."

"It may be a reflector at the top of the Flatiron building," grinned
Jack.  "What is it, if it isn't a star?"

"Look yourself!" cried Frank.

The boys were all looking now.  They saw the light which Jack had
mistaken for a star flashing to and fro under the clouds like a
firefly.  It rushed earthward with amazing speed for an instant,
then spiraled upward again.  Once it came directly over the Black
Bear, and seemed about to drop down.

Jack threw a couple of panels open, and then the whirr of motors
reached their ears. Frank sprang outside and turned a flashlight
upward.

"There's your star!" he shouted to Jack.

"Quick!" Harry cried.  "Wigwag with that light.  It is the Nelson!
They may be able to see us!"

"Yell, every soul of you!" directed Frank.  "Yell! She is going
away!"

The boys waved their lights frantically and shouted at the top of
their voices, but the light in the sky crept away to the west and
soon disappeared, evidently passing above the clouds which lay like
a black blanket over the Brazilian forests.

"Great heavens!" Jack sighed.  "If we could only have made them
hear!  I'll bet they've been to Paraguay and released Lyman.  Now
they're going back home!  Fine show we now stand of having any fun
with them!"

"They went west," Harry corrected.  "That isn't the way home!"

"I'd like to know just what success they have had," Jack went on.
"Say," he continued, "can't we do something to attract their
attention?  Why not set fire to some big dry tree and let her blaze
up?"

"I just can't have it this way!" Harry said.  "I can't stand it to
have them come so close to us and then go away without knowing we
are here.  We've got to bring them down in some way."

"But they've gone!" Frank declared, gravely.

"If we make a big blaze," Jack hastened to say, "the reflection on
the clouds will attract their attention, and they'll come back.
They won't be able to see the fire itself, of course, but they'll
see the reflection, and that will bring them down to investigate.
Then we'll fire our revolvers and wigwag with blazing sticks until
they see who we are."

"It may not be the Nelson," Harry suggested.

"I don't believe there's any other aeroplane sailing about the roof
of the world," Frank replied.  "Of course it is the Nelson!"

"Perhaps the Nelson was followed," Harry went on.  "I've heard of
such things.  The chap in that machine may be looking for Ned.
Anyway," he added, "it won't do any harm to let the aviator, whoever
he is, know that we are here.  Come on, let's go ashore and build a
big fire."

"I certainly would give a year's growth to know whether that is the
Nelson," Harry said, as the boys sought the shore and began
gathering dry wood, which, it may be well to add, was not easy to
find, as there had been quite a shower during the day.  "For all we
know," he continued, "there may be another aeroplane here.  If the
people who are trying for the Lyman concession are as active here as
they seem to have been in Paraguay, they may have half a dozen
airships out after the Nelson."

Finally a quantity of wood which was fairly dry was secured, and
Jack bundled it up against a dead tree which seemed to run straight
up into the sky until it touched the clouds.  But when the boys came
to apply matches they discovered that the wood was not dry enough to
be ignited in that way.

"I'll get a gallon of gasoline and pour over it," Frank explained.
"Then we can run like blazes when we touch her off.  What?"

The gasoline was brought, and the blaze started with a mighty
concussion of the air.  A portion of the highly inflammable fluid
had entered a great crevice in the dead tree, with the result that
there was an explosion which resounded through the forests for
miles.  Then the flames mounted the tree, which was soon blazing
like a great torch.

"I guess that will attract their attention!" Jack said, shielding
his face from the intense heat.

"Yes," Frank replied, "and I'm afraid it will attract the attention
of others, too.  You know we were told to sneak through this country
like little mice!"

"It is too late now!" Jack said, a shadow of anxiety coming over his
face.  "We are in for it, I guess.  What shall we do?"

Above the crackling of the flames, above the drawing and sighing of
the wind, there now came a strange sound which seemed to proceed
from the fire-tinted clouds above.  Now and then branches of the
nearby trees stirred mysteriously, and at times a wild shriek rose
above the monotonous chattering.

"Monkeys!" cried Jack.  "They've come out to help us bring the
airship to earth.  Good little beasts!"

"Don't be in too much of a hurry to give the little devils a
certificate of good character!" Harry answered.  "They may make
trouble for us."

After a time the foolish, wrinkled faces of the monkeys were seen
peering from trees.  Then, above the din they made, above the
crackling of the fire, constantly mounting higher, came a scream
almost like that of a child.

"That's a jaguar!" Harry declared, "a South American tiger, and we'd
better be getting toward the boat."

"The animals won't come near the fire," Frank said.  "We may as well
remain here and see the menagerie."

Directly it seemed to the excited lads that all the wild animals in
South America were assembled about their signal.  Harry declared
that he heard the call of the red wolf, the scream of the tiger cat,
the wail of the puma, the vicious snarling of the wild dog.

While the boys listened to the chorus their efforts to attract the
attention of the aeroplane had produced, there came into the discord
another sound--the hissing of a monster serpent.  Heretofore the
boys had little to do with Brazilian forms of animal life, for they
had kept near the middle of the main stream of the Amazon, and also
about in the center of the Madeira and the much smaller Beni, which
was only a creek when compared with the other rivers.

Occasionally they had seen a monster cayman nosing against the
current, and at times their progress had been retarded by turtles,
but they had never before seen anything like this.  Their fire had
certainly brought out a combination in nature which would have been
decidedly interesting if it hadn't been so threatening.

"Me for the boat!" Jack said, with a shiver, as the serpent launched
his head and a third of his body from the tree and swept about in
widening circles.  "I never could endure snakes!"

"I'm going to take a shot at it," Frank said.  "I'd like to see him
take a tumble into the fire."

"Better let him alone," Harry advised.

Frank was about to fire when Jack caught his arm and held up his
hand in a listening attitude.

"What is it?" Frank asked.

"Human voices!" was the quick reply.

"Inhuman voices, I should say," Harry observed, after a second of
silence.

A chant unlike anything the boys had ever heard before undulated
through the forest.  It rose and fell with the gusts of wind, and
always nearer to the fire.

"This is a new one on me!" Jack cried.  "It is also another reason
for getting to the boat!  Come on, fellows!"

"I'm not going to run until I find out what that is," insisted
Frank.  "I'm going to write a newspaper story about this menagerie!"

"If you want your story published in this world," Jack cried, "you'd
better get under cover, for that's the chant of the head hunters!"

"Wow!" cried Frank, and he beat both his chums to the boat.

 "I guess we've started something!" Jack said, as he busied himself
putting up the few panels which had been removed when they went
ashore.  "Now, some one push that button, and I'll get the Black
Bear out of this creek.  A good old scout like the Black Bear has no
business associating with the wild animals on shore."

"Right you are!" shouted Harry, and the propellers began moving.
Still, the boat made no progress to the rear, the reverse being on.

"What's doing?" demanded Jack.  "You'd better hurry, for the head
hunters are coming right along.  See that big chief over there?
He's got a club that would level the Singer building at a blow!"

"I can't make her back," Harry complained.  "There's something the
matter below her in the stream.  It was all clear when we came in."

In an instant all was intense excitement on board the motor boat.
There was only one way in which the savages could reach them, and
that was to block their passage out and starve them to death!  Had
this system been resorted to?  Had the cunning savages obstructed
the little stream while the lads were busy building their fire and
observing their menagerie, as they called it?

These questions were in the minds of all as efforts to back the
Black Bear were redoubled.  Finally Jack opened a panel at the rear
and looked out, a thing he should have done at first.

What he saw was a large log blocking the channel.  The propellers
were pounding against it, and one of them was broken.

"I guess the little brown men have got us good and plenty," he said,
slowly, as he reached forward and shut off the power.  "While we
were playing about the blaze they plugged the river."

"They can't get in here, anyway!" Frank consoled.

"No; they'll wait for us to get good and hungry and go out!" Jack
replied.

The situation was a serious one.  The head hunters now appeared in
the open space about the blazing tree and shook their spears and
their clubs at the boat.  Now and then an arrow with a poisoned tip
struck the side of the Black Bear.

"They'll never leave until they get us!" Jack said, presently, "and
so we may as well get a few of them.  Get your guns, boys."

"Just you wait, old hard luck prophet," Frank exclaimed.  "Look up
through the glass panel above your head and tell me what you see."

"Well," Jack replied, "it looks like we had established
communication with the Nelson at last.  And also with the Greatest
Show on Earth!" he added, as a mighty roar went up from the shore.

The other boys crowded the panel and looked out.  The clouds above
were red with the reflection of the blazing tree, yet against the
mass a different light blazed out.  This light moved about, from
north to south and back again, as if searching out the reason for
the strange happenings below.

The popping of her motors could be plainly heard, and so it was
probable that those on the airship could hear the wild animal
concert which was going on in the woods.  Harry pushed a panel aside
and fired three quick shots.  The aeroplane wavered above the river
a moment and then drifted away.

"They must know there's somebody down here in trouble!" said Harry.
"Why don't they throw down dynamite?  That would give the savages
all the heads they wanted for a time, I guess."

The boys fired again and again, flashed their lights in wigwag
signals, but the aeroplane did not come nearer.  Instead it whirled
swiftly about in a circle for a moment and then shot out of sight
beyond the clouds.

And every moment the circle of savage faces gathered closer about
the Black Bear, effectively blocked in the narrow stream.




CHAPTER VIII

THE VIXEN TAKES A TUMBLE


While Ned, from the driver's seat on the aeroplane he had so
cleverly taken from the enemy, watched the distant light flashing
over the mountains, the bulk of an airship came into view.  While
the boy was cheering himself with the hope that he would soon be in
touch with Jimmie, however, the light disappeared, and the dark body
of the machine was no longer visible.

"There's been an accident!" Collins muttered maliciously, in Ned's
ear.  "That little chap can't run an aeroplane!"

"What is there over in that direction?" Ned asked, without replying
to the other's suggestion of evil.  "Can one land there?"

"Not in the night," was the sullen reply.  "Unless you want to
commit suicide and murder me in the bargain, you'd better keep in
the air."

"What's over there?" repeated Ned.

"Mountains," was the surly reply.

Ned pointed to a dark stretch below.

"That must be a valley," he said.  "Anyway," he went on, "I'm going
down, and if we come to a point where it is jump or go down with the
machine, I'll cut you loose, so you'll have the same chance for your
worthless life that I do.  That's more than you would do for me
under the circumstances!"

Ned guided the Vixen to, as near as he could make out, the location
of the other airship at the time of her disappearance and dropped
down.  As he swept toward the earth the peaks of the Andes rose
above him.

Down, down, down he dropped, looking out keenly for trees and jagged
rocks.  At last he saw a level stretch of land just below.  The
rains had carried sand and ruble down from the mountains and filled
a valley perhaps three hundred feet in diameter with the wash of the
slopes.  This formed what seemed to be a pretty good landing spot,
and Ned managed to bring the rubber-tired wheels of the airship down
without mishap.

Then, rolling swiftly under the impetus given by the now shut-off
motors, the wheels carried the bulk of the ship along for some
distance and dropped.  Ned felt himself falling.

Thomas Q. Collins cried out in fright, and tried to kick himself
free from the harness, but the leather straps held.  When the drop
ended there was, a jar and a crash, and the planes lay in a confused
heap in the bottom of a depression well stocked as to floor and
sides with jagged rocks.

In descending, the dragging propellers had loosened some of the
rocks, and they, rolling down the declivities after the machine, had
fallen upon and crushed the planes.  Several great boulders thunked
near Ned's head, and Collins set up a great howl as a small stone
landed on the back of his neck.

Although the stars were shining brightly and the moon was abroad, it
was quite dark down in the hole into which the Vixen had fallen.
Ned could see slanting walls on all sides, and glimpse, above, the
slope of the deceiving level which had first caught the wheels, but
that was about all.

Finding himself uninjured, his first move was to get out his
searchlight and make an inspection of Thomas Q. Collins, who was
roaring like a wounded bull.

"Are you hurt?" the boy asked.

"Hurt!" howled the captive.  "My head is broken, and my arms are
smashed!  What do you mean by tying me up and then wrecking the
machine?"

Ned searched the fellow's clothing, removed a revolver and a dagger,
and then snapped off the harness which still held him to the seat.
Collins stretched himself and lunged at the boy.

"Keep away!" warned Ned.

"I'll show you that no Bowery kid can double-cross me!" Collins
screamed, paying no attention to the automatic in Ned's hand.  "I'll
show you!"

The next moment Ned would have fired, with the intention of wounding
the enraged fellow, but a boulder intervened, and Collins went down,
striking his head on a rock.  When the boy bent over he found him to
be unconscious.

Bringing the leather straps of the harness into use again, Ned bound
the man's hands behind his back, so as to prevent a second attack,
and set out to look for water.  He had not long to look, for a tiny
spring bubbled out of the bottom of the pit and found its way toward
the valley below through a crevice in the rock.  In a short time
Collins, under the influence of a right cold bath, sat up and
addressed the boy in language which would not have been considered
suitable in the presence of a lady.

"You've done it now!" the alleged steam pump salesman cried.
"You've dumped us into a pit in the heart of the Andes, and we'll
starve before any one comes to our assistance.  Take this strap off
my wrists, or I'll have your life!"

"You're an excitable party," Ned laughed.  "You want your own way!
I've been wondering, while I've been giving you first aid to the
indignant, what your name really is, and where you live."

"You'd better be trying to ascertain where we are," declared
Collins, "and what chance we have of getting out alive."

"I think I can tell you about where we are," Ned replied.  "We were
in the air not far from five hours.  The Vixen will run about sixty
miles an hour, therefore we are not fax from three hundred miles
from Lima, in a southeast direction.  Do you know if we are near any
town?"

Collins sulked a short time and then nodded toward a great peak
which rose above all the others in the distance.

"That may be Vilcanota," he said.

"Old Vilcanota seems to be a whale," Ned observed, looking up at the
snow cap.

"Over 17,000 feet high," was the sullen rejoinder.

"Well," the boy went on, "if that really is Vilcanota, we are still
in the land of the living.  In fact, we can't be more than
twenty-five miles from a town, and there is a railroad--so my maps
say--over to the east.  It ends at Sicuani, and there the upper
branch of the Uacayli river begins.  This river empties into the
Amazon at the head of steamboat navigation, the maps say."

"You seem to know a lot about this part of South America," gritted
Collins.

"And over to the south," Ned went on, "is Lake Titicaca, and over
the mountains from that body of water is Coroico, where the Beni
river starts on its long run to the Amazon, by way of the Madeira
river."

"Well," snapped Collins, drawing hard at the strap which held his
wrists, "you can't sit here and figure yourself out of this hole.
Why don't you do something?"

"Why, I thought it might be a good plan to wait until dawn," laughed
Ned.  "Then I may be able to repair this machine."

"Repair nothing!" stormed Collins.  "And in the meantime, I presume
you think you are going to keep me tied up like a calf going to
market?"

"About that way," Ned responded, whereat the captive snorted out his
rage and rolled over on his face and pretended to be asleep.

In a short time dawn shone on the tops of the tallest mountains, and
directly it crept slowly down into the pit where the wrecked
aeroplane lay.  By this time Ned had mapped out a course of action.

The aeroplane he had seen in the night had descended not far from
this spot, and he had decided to climb to some convenient height and
look about for it.  If he could come upon the Nelson, in good
sailing condition, there would be no need of repairing the Vixen, or
trying to do so.

Collins had counterfeited sleep until, utterly exhausted, he had
actually dropped off into slumber, so Ned had no captive to watch
for the time being.  Before leaving for a tour of inspection he
examined the broken planes and discovered that it would be
impossible for him to repair them, at least without the necessary
tools and materials.

Climbing to the level bit of sand, then, he faced the east and began
the ascent of a mountain spur which seemed to reach the very
heavens.  It was a beautiful morning, the air being sharp and clear
at that height.  Ned felt that he could have enjoyed the beauties of
nature more fully, however, if he had something in the way of
breakfast!

He climbed steadily for an hour, and then came to a narrow ledge
which seemed to surround one of the lower peaks of the mountain.
Passing around to the south, he heard a shout, then a fall--a
bumping fall which told of a body bouncing from one rocky level to
another.

He ran around the angle ahead of him and came out on a shelf-like
elevation from which a green little valley, half way up the side of
the mountain, might be seen.  In the center of the valley, carefully
blocked against sudden motion, lay the Nelson.

Ned could have danced with delight.  The aeroplane appeared to be in
perfect condition, but there was no one insight.  Jimmie and Pedro
must be about somewhere, the boy thought, as he considered the most
practical way of reaching the valley, but where were they?

He was about to call out in the hope of arousing one of the aviators
to action when he saw a hand waving at him from underneath the gray
planes.  A more careful inspection of the spot revealed the dirty
face of little Jimmie, who was lying on his face, an automatic in
each hand.  Pedro was nowhere to be seen.

Ned watched the signaling hand for an instant and then, in response
to what it said to him, scudded around the angle of rock by which he
had reached the shelf.  As he did so an arrow whizzed past his right
ear and blunted against the rocky wall.

The situation was not difficult to understand.  Jimmie had dropped
the Nelson into the little valley and had there been attacked,
either by savages or those interested in the defeat of the Boy Scout
expedition to Paraguay, though how the latter could have reached
that lonely spot so soon after the landing of the aeroplane was a
mystery which the boy could not fathom.

Following the attack, Jimmie had hidden under the planes, and Pedro
had probably taken to his heels.  The situation explained,
doubtless, why the boy had not returned with the airship.  He had
been held there by the enemies, virtually a prisoner.

After a short pause, during which Ned listened intently for some
sound of pursuit, the boy moved cautiously to the shoulder of rock
and looked around it to the shelf.  There was no one in sight, so
he pressed on, and once more came within view of the aeroplane.

Back of the planes he saw a head lifted from the lip of a gully
which cut the valley like a trench.  It was not the head of a
savage, nor yet the head of a Peruvian mountaineer, for it was
covered down to the eyebrows by a flat-topped leather automobile cap
which was adorned with driving goggles!  Evidently an American!

While Ned, himself unseen, watched the cap and the goggles, the
wearer lifted himself and looked up over the edge of the gully.  He
wore a gray suit, tailor-made, from all appearances.

Back of him three ill-visaged Peruvian Indians also raised
themselves to get a view of what was doing in front.

So the savages were led by an American!  Instead of the automatic of
civilized warfare, the enemy was resorting to the poisoned arrow of
the barbarian!

An American there and in automobile costume!  Where was the machine,
and how in the name of all that was wonderful had it been brought to
that rough country?

And why were the enemies crouching there, when their only opponent
was a boy, hidden if his position may be so termed--under the planes
of an airship--planes which would offer little resistance to an
arrow or a bullet?

But while the boy looked and wondered a shot came from the very
shelf on which he stood, and one of the exposed Indians dropped in
his tracks.  Then the situation became a bit clearer.

Pedro had escaped from the valley to the shelf of rock, and was
standing guard there shooting whenever the attacking party attempted
to reach the aeroplane.

In a moment the automobile cap and goggle and the evil faces of the
Indians disappeared from view.  The attacking party had dropped back
into the gully, which was some distance from the machine.

Waiting a moment, in order to make sure that no one was stirring
behind the shoulder of rock, Ned called softly:

"Pedro!"

"Hello!" came the answer back.

"'Where are you?" asked Ned, recognizing the voice of the Peruvian
he had talked with at Lima.

"In a notch of the rock," came the answer, in Spanish.

Ned moved along the shelf, and soon came to where Pedro stood,
sheltered by a jutting ledge.  The journey was not accomplished
without attracting the attention of the others, for an arrow whizzed
past his head as he crept into the angle with Pedro.

Pedro expressed great joy at the arrival of the boy, and explained
that the situation as then shown had existed since dawn.  On the
afternoon of the previous day Jimmie, being then about to return to
Lima, had found it necessary to land in order to repair a slight
break in a plane.

The driver of the pursuing Vixen, noting the temporary disablement,
had circled around the valley for a short time and then returned to
Lima.  It was Pedro's idea that the Vixen would not return with
assistance, but with enemies who would destroy the machine, leaving
Jimmie and himself to find their way out of the mountains as best
they could.

Jimmie, Pedro said, had been unable to fix the Nelson for flight
until about daylight, and then the attacking party had appeared.
Since then it had been impossible to get the machine into the air,
as every motion at the airship brought a bullet or a poisoned arrow.

Just before Ned's arrival, an Indian had, by making a long journey
around the cliff, gained the shelf of rock where Pedro was
stationed, and been caught unawares and thrown down into the valley.
It was the cry and the fall of this foe that Ned had heard.

"But," Ned said, "the Vixen must have summoned some one active in
the conspiracy before returning to Lima, for the man over there came
in an automobile, and did not come very far either.  He certainly
did not come from Lima, which is more than three hundred miles
away."

"He might have come from Sicuani," replied Pedro.  "That is over to
the east, and not more than twenty miles off.  I have heard that
there is a path by means of which a motor car can reach this place.
Yes, he must have gone to Sicuani, otherwise this man of the motor
car would not be here," Pedro added.

This cleared the situation not a little, and Ned was now encouraged
to make an attempt to reach the Nelson, which Pedro declared to be
in good condition for flight.  If the others had come in an
automobile, there could not be many of them.  Probably not more than
six in all, and two had been wounded, or killed.

Pedro insisted that, with Ned guarding him from the shelf, he could
reach the machine, but the boy thought it wiser to make the
desperate journey himself.  Even if the Indian reached the Nelson,
the two of them might not be able to get the machine into the air,
as Jimmie had had little experience in running a plane.

So, after explaining to Pedro that he would be taken up later, Ned
began the task of making his way down the almost perpendicular face
of the cliff.  Much to his surprise, there were no hostile
demonstrations from the gully in which the attackers had disappeared
a short time before.

Instead of shots and the whiz of arrows, the boy heard, when half
way down the slope, the distant whirr of a motor car!

"There is some trick in the wind," Ned thought.  "They would never
run away in that manner because of the wounding of two Indians and
the arrival of one boy from the outside."

It was deathly still in the valley where the aeroplane lay.  Sounds
from a distance came with remarkable distinctness, so the popping of
the motors of the automobile were plainly heard, and the direction
taken by the machine was thus made known.

Jimmie sprang up, uninjured, as Ned advanced and the two grasped
hands with more than ordinary feeling.  Almost the first thing
Jimmie said was:

"I saw the lights of the Vixen last night, but thought the other
fellows would be in charge of her.  How did you manage to geezle
her?"

"We stole her--and smashed her."  Ned laughed, telling the remainder
of the story in as few words as possible.

Presently Pedro came down from the cliff and went over to the place
where the man he had thrown down the declivity had fallen.  He found
him quite dead.  With a solemn shake of the head he laid the body in
a sheltered nook and joined the others.

It took only a brief examination of the machine to show that she was
in as good condition as ever, and Ned prepared to mount and leave
the valley.  Then the popping of additional motors broke out on the
still air, and Jimmie grinned.

"I guess you didn't smash the Vixen much," he said.  "Anyway that
man in the motor car seems to have repaired her broken wings.
Probably had the tools to do it with him.  They've got some dirty
scheme on!"

"Yes," Ned replied, grimly, "or they wouldn't have left the gully.
Collins will be on deck again in about a minute!"




CHAPTER IX

A TRAGEDY IN THE AIR


"Then we'd better be gettin' up in the air, so we can see what's
going on," Jimmie replied.  "I'd like to see where the motor car
goes."

"We can satisfy our curiosity on that point without going up in the
air," Ned answered.  "The Vixen was left just over that cliff.
There is a valley--a dent in the slope of the mountain--on each side
of that elevation, and the Vixen and the motor car are in one of
them and the Nelson in the other."

Jimmie started away on a run almost before Ned had finished
speaking.  In a few moments he was seen on the shelf, then he darted
around the shoulder of rock and was lost to view.  The popping of
the motors continued.

Ned hesitated a moment, uncertain as to the advisability of leaving
the machine in the sole care of the Indian, and then followed.  When
he gained the shelf on the opposite side he saw the Vixen slowly
lifting in the air.  The automobile stood above her, on the level
yet treacherous spot where Ned had landed.  In it were Thomas  Q.
Collins and the man he had seen in the automobile cap and goggles!

The Vixen did not look to be in good repair, just as Ned had
supposed, for the newcomer had had only a short time to work over
her, but for all that she was slowly leaving the narrow pit into
which she had tumbled.  Her motors were working, but did not appear
to be doing any lifting.

Then Ned saw that a rope attached to the machine was doing the work.
The motor car, moving very slowly forward, was pulling her up the
steep acclivity, her rubber-tired wheels drawing and bounding
against the rocks.

"If they get her up on that level space," Jimmie predicted, "they'll
get her up in the air.  You can see where they've been patching the
planes, and the motors are workin' all right."

"What I'm interested in, just now," Ned said, "is that automobile.
I'd like to find the highway through which she entered that valley.
It must be through some tunnel, for there's no path over the
slopes."

"Then we'll keep out of sight an' watch," Jimmie observed.  "See
there!" he cried, as the wheels of the Vixen struck the level area.
"She'll be in the air directly.  One of the niggers is gettin' in!"

"What's that he's loading on?" asked Ned.

"Stones, as I'm a living boy!" he went on, excitedly.  "Jump for the
Nelson, kid, and get her into the air!  You see what they are going
to do?"

It was quite evident what the intentions of the others were.  The
Indians were loading the Vixen down with sharp-pointed stones and
long wisps of dry grass; out from the nooks of the valley by
Collins, who had now left the automobile.

"We've just got to get the Nelson up in the air!" Jimmie cried.
"They're gettin' ready to drop stones an' blazin' grass down on her
planes.  We've just got to get there before the Vixen sails over
her!"

Stopping no longer to observe the motor car, or watch her course out
of the valley, both boys dashed around the shoulder of rock and
began working their way down into the place where the Nelson lay,
with Pedro, all unconscious of the approaching danger, sitting in
the driver's seat and wondering if he was ever going to eat again!

The whirr of the motors in the air soon told the sweating lads that
the Vixen was rising from the ground.  Just how they had managed to
repair her so quickly was a wonder to Ned, but he had no time to
consider that side of the case then.

"Do you see her yet?" panted Jimmie, as the two paused a moment on
their toilsome way downwards.

"Not yet," was the reply, and Ned almost dropped a dozen feet and
caught on the point of a rock which jutted out from the wall.

"Gee!" cried Jimmie.  "That was a tumble!  Got a good hold, there?
Then catch me!"

Before Ned could remonstrate the reckless little fellow had dropped.
The impact of his body forced Ned from the crevice in which he
clung, and together they rolled down a score of feet, bringing up in
an angle from which a fall would have been fatal.

Ned came out of the tumble unharmed, but Jimmie lay like a rag in
his arms as he straightened out and looked upward.  The Vixen was
rising over the cliff!

Ned drew his automatic and fired three quick shots in the air, but
the aeroplane sailed on, apparently unharmed.  In a moment she was
directly above the Nelson, and Pedro was fleeing for his life.

Standing there helpless, with the unconscious boy in his arms, Ned
saw the driver of the Vixen rain great stones down on the frail
planes of the Nelson.  Then a puff of smoke came from the driver's
seat, and Ned saw that the wisps of straw were being ignited to
finish the work begun by the rocks.

He fired volley after volley at the man who was doing the mischief,
but he was so unnerved and excited that his bullets went wild.  The
crash of stones on the breaking planes sounded louder to him than
did the explosions of his own revolver.

In a moment a blazing wisp of dry grass, or straw, dropped from the
Vixen and sifted through the still air, the individual pieces of the
bundle falling apart.  Some of the little swirls of flame died out
as the material passed downward, but others held, and dropped on the
wounded planes!

Ned shouted to Pedro, ordering him to smother else incipient blaze
with his coat, or anything the he could find, but the Peruvian was
nowhere to be seen.  Terrified at the movements of the aeroplane, he
had hidden in the rocks.

Again and again the man on the Vixen lighted wisps of dry grass and
hurled them down.  Directly the planes were in a blaze.  Ned laid
Jimmie down on a narrow ledge and finished emptying his revolver,
but to no purpose.  He had never done such bad shooting in his life.

But Fate was abroad in the Andes that morning!

Presently the driver of the Vixen dropped his last wisp and shot
upward, apparently not caring to engage in combat with the boy who
had used him for a target so unsuccessfully.

As the aeroplane passed across the top of the valley, Ned saw a
little tongue of flame on the under plane.  The driver evidently did
not understand his peril, for he mounted higher and drove straight
to the north.

Ned watched the finger of flame grow as it bit into the fine fabric
of the plane with something like awe in his heart.  If the driver
did not see his danger instantly and hasten down, nothing could save
him.

While the boy watched, almost breathlessly, Jimmie stirred and
opened his eyes.  He had a bad cut on his forehead, but otherwise
seemed to have suffered little from his terrible fall.

"Gee!" he cried, looking up at Ned with a grin.  "I guess I took a
drop too much!"

Ned did not answer.  He was too busy watching the tragedy which was
taking place in the air.  Jimmie followed the direction of his eyes
and caught his breath with a gasp of horror.

"He'll burn up!" he cried.

Both planes were now on fire, and the driver knew of his peril.  It
seemed to Ned that the fellow's clothes were on fire, too, for he
writhed and twisted about as he turned the aeroplane downward.

"He'll get his'n!" Jimmie declared.

The Vixen came down almost like a shot, leaving a trail of flame and
smoke behind her.  Then the end came.

The charred planes gave way and the frame dropped, carrying the
driver with it.  They whirled over and over in the air as they came
down.  The fall must have been fully five hundred feet, and Ned knew
that it would be useless for him to seek the man who had worked so
much mischief to the Nelson with a view of doing him any service.

Below, the Nelson was sending up sheets of flame.  Pedro now ran out
of his hiding place and attempted to check the fire, but his efforts
availed nothing.

"It is gone, all right!" Jimmie said, with a sigh.  "Now, how are we
goin' to get out of here?  That's what I'd like to know."

"We'll have to get out the same way the others do," Ned replied.
"They have lost their aeroplane too."

"Yes," agreed the little fellow, "but they have a motor car, and
we've only our shanks' horses!"

Ned extinguished the burning woodwork on the Nelson and made a hasty
estimate of the damage done.

"The motors are not injured," he reported.  "If we can get something
that will do for planes, we can get her out."

"Then," said Jimmie, "I reckon it's me for the highway!  I'll chase
that automobile into where it came from.  I'll bet I'll find cloth
of some kind there."

"It might be better to send Pedro," said Ned.

"All right!" the little fellow agreed.  "Then you and I can sleuth
about this rotten country in search of gold!  They say there's gold
in these hills!"

The purr of the motor car's engines now came again, and Pedro
hastened up the ledge and followed down into the valley where she
lay.  In a moment she was out of sight, and the Peruvian was moving
toward a rift in the wall of rock to the east.

But Ned, watching from above, saw that there was only one person in
the car.  Mr. Thomas Q. Collins had been left behind!

"That's strange!" Ned mused.  "Why should he remain here?  What
further mischief has the fellow in mind?"

When Ned returned to the machine he found Jimmie busy polishing the
scorched steel work.

"All she needs is new planes!" the lad cried.

"Jimmie," Ned asked, "when you came here yesterday, did the Vixen
follow you closely, or did she stand off and on, as seamen say, and
take note of your course indifferently?  What I want to know is
this: Did the driver seem anyway excited when you speeded over this
way?

"He followed tight to my heels," replied the little fellow.  "Then,
when he saw me land, he whirled about and went away."

An idea which seemed almost too good to be true was slowly forming
in Ned's brain.  Why had the Vixen always followed the Nelson?  Why
had she spied upon her without in any way interfering?

Again, why had Thomas Q. Collins been left there in the wilderness?
Surely there were no accommodations in sight in those valleys--nothing
to subsist on, no shelter from the weather.

He might, it is true, have remained out of a spirit of revenge,
hoping to punish Ned for his treatment of him, but this explanation
did not appeal to the boy.  With the Nelson hopelessly out of
repair, he could well afford to leave the lads to their fate, as the
chances that they would be able to get out alive--being strangers to
that country and, supposedly, to mountain work--were about one to
ten.

And so, Ned reasoned, there must be some other incentive for the
action taken by Collins.  He had a subconscious impression that he
knew what that incentive was, but hardly dared to whisper it to
himself.

The boy's reverie was interrupted by Jimmie, who had been running
back and forth in the valley in quest of wild berries, or something
which would serve as food.

"I could eat a whale!" the little fellow shouted.

"Catch a hare and cook him," Ned suggested.

"The hares here are not exactly like our rabbits, but they are good
to eat.  If you go over into the little jungle below, at the end of
this bowl, you might find one."

Ned, still wondering if what he hoped might be true, turned to the
cliff which separated the two valleys and began a careful inspection
of the rock formation.  Away around to the east, under the shelf
which ran like a terrace around the elevation, he came upon what he
was looking for.

The shelf extended outward from the face of the rock, and under it,
setting back into the cliff perhaps a dozen feet, was a cavern which
looked out on the valley where the Nelson lay, but from which the
machine itself was not in sight.

The floor of the cavern showed traces of human habitation.  It had
undoubtedly been occupied as a shelter from storms by mountaineers
for centuries.

But the evidences of occupation which Ned saw were not those showing
distant use.  There was a tiny fire burning in a crevice which
served as a chimney, carrying the smoke far up into the sky before
discharging it.

Scattered about the fire were tin cans, some empty, some containing
food of various kinds.  Thrown over a heap of broken boxes in a
corner was a coat--a tailor-made coat of fine material.

On a little ledge at the rear were a safety razor, a small mirror,
and a shaving mug.  Ned picked up the coat and thrust a hand into an
inside pocket.  That, he thought, would be an easy way to ascertain
the identity of the owner.

In a moment he drew forth a folded paper, covered with figures in
pencil.  The figures were in columns, as if the maker had been
setting down items of expense and adding them up.  The total was in
the millions.  The calculations of a cattleman, covering shipments
and receipts!

Ned continued his search of the coat and presently came upon a
packet of letters, all enclosed in envelopes and neatly ticketed on
the back.  They were enclosed in a rubber band, and showed careful
handling.

And the envelopes, every one of them, were addressed to Dr. Horace
M. Lyman, Asuncion, Paraguay!




CHAPTER X

DINNER IS SERVED


Ned stepped to the mouth of the cavern and looked out.  Jimmie was
making his way back to the machine, empty handed and evidently
dejected.  Ned gave a sharp whistle and beckoned to the lad when he
looked up.

He did not care to make any unnecessary noise there, for he believed
that Collins was not far away.

He was now half convinced that Lyman had been secreted in that
vicinity after being abducted from Paraguay; that he had been
closely guarded and comfortably provided for, the idea being to keep
him out of Paraguay until his concession reverted to the government.

It was his notion, too, that Lyman had inhabited this cavern until
the appearance of the Nelson, when he had been removed by his
attendants and placed in custody in some other natural hiding place.

Whether he was still in that locality the boy could not say, but of
one thing he was certain.  That was that Lyman had not been taken
away in the motor car.

And so the quest had been shifted!  There would now be no need of
proceeding to Asuncion.  Probably to prevent getting mixed up in the
crooked game, the plotters in Paraguay had ordered those interested
in the disappearance of Lyman to get him out of the alleged
republic.

This would account for his being in the mountains of Peru.  It might
also account for the presence in Lima of the Vixen and Mr. Thomas Q.
Collins.

The telegrams without meaning which Ned had received on his arrival
at Lima pointed out the fact that the conspirators knew that the
Nelson was heading for that city as a base of operations.  Ned's
receipting for the telegrams was proof positive that he had arrived.

"A very pretty plot!" Ned thought, as he waited for Jimmie to make
his way up the face of the cliff to the mouth of the cavern.

"Gee!" the little fellow cried, as his head showed above the level
of the floor of the hiding place.  "I never was so hungry in me
blameless life!"

Ned backed up so as to conceal the tinned food.

"What will you give for a couple of tins of pork and beans?" he
asked, with a provoking smile.

"I'll sign a check for any amount!" grinned the boy.

Ned stepped aside, disclosing the food, and handed Jimmie a small
hatchet which he had found under the rubbish.

"Go to it!" he said.

Jimmie almost dropped with amazement.  It was like getting water out
of the desert.  Like finding milk in the heart of a rock.  Like
uncovering snowballs from a bed of hot coals!  American tinned goods
in the mountains of Peru!

The boy examined the cans attentively.  They were all correct on the
outside.  Then he cut one open with the hatchet and brought out a
spoonful of beans on the corner of the implement.

"Wow!" he cried, in a moment.  "They're all right!  Come on an' fill
up!"

Both boys fell to, and the supply of tinned food was considerably
diminished before they had finished their breakfast.  Then, fearful
that the owners of the food might seek to remove it before another
meal time came, they carried a considerable portion of the cans away
and hid them in a small cache near the Nelson.

"We won't starve for a few days," Jimmie said, when this work had
been finished.

"Now, tell me what it all means.  I wanted to ask you before, but,
somehow, I couldn't keep my mouth empty long enough to talk.  What
about it?"

"I think," Ned replied, "that we have blundered on the country
residence of Mr. Horace M. Lyman!"

"What does he come up here for?" asked the little fellow.  "Ain't he
got no sense?"

"The decision wasn't up to him, I take it," laughed Ned.  "The
schemers in that crooked little country wanted to get him out of the
way, so they wouldn't be getting into a quarrel with the little old
U. S. A."

"I don't see him anywhere around," the other said.

"He doesn't seem to be on exhibition, and that's a fact," Ned
replied.

"Perhaps," Jimmie grinned, "we'd better look up this Thomas Q.
Collins!  I guess, he could lead us to him."

"No doubt of that," Ned admitted.

Having securely hidden the tinned food, the boys still lingered in
the vicinity of the Nelson.  The machine lay shining in the
sunlight, seeming to look reproachfully up at the boys, accusing
them of getting her into a very bad predicament.

"Good old girl!" Jimmie cried, stroking the motors.  "We'll get you
out of this mix-up, all right!"

"If we do," Ned replied, studying the ground about the machine,
"we'll have to get  cover somewhere and watch her night and day."
He pointed to footprints close up to the motors as he spoke, and
Jimmie began measuring the impressions in the soft earth.

"They've been here since we landed, all right," the boy exclaimed,
in a minute.  "We never left these tracks.  They're big enough for
an elephant to make!"

"They were made by muckers," Ned continued.  "You know the kind of
shoes the men who work in mines wear?  Big ones, looking more like a
mud scow than a shoe.  They have turned some of the copper workers
loose on us, little man."

"Gee!  How long will it take Pedro to get back?"

"Probably three days, if he has no bad luck--if they let him come
back at all," Ned answered.

"You can take it from me that they won't let him come back at all if
they have anything to say about it!" the lad muttered.  "I reckon
I'll have to go an' find him."

"I think it will take both of us to prevent the Nelson being broken
up," was Ned's reply.  "We shall, as I have already said, have to
guard it night and day. And, besides, we've got to keep out of the
way of bullets and poisoned arrows."

"This is a cute little excursion, when you look at it up one side
and down the other," Jimmie grunted.  "We've left Leroy in trouble
at Lima, and we've got the Nelson all banged up.  Perhaps they'll
hang Leroy before we get back!"

"Cheer up!" laughed Ned.  "The worst is yet to come!"

"And here it comes!" cried the little fellow, as a handkerchief
which might once have been white fluttered above a boulder not far
away, held aloft and waved frantically back and forth by a hand
which could only faintly be seen.

"Come on out!" Ned shouted.

A figure lifted from behind the rock and stood straight up, waving a
dilapidated slouch hat, now, instead of a handkerchief.  The fellow
wore a suit of clothes which was much too small for him, so that his
wrists and ankles protruded a good six inches.  The clothes were
dirty and ragged too, and the man's face looked as if it had been a
long time since it had been brought into contact with water.

At a motion from Ned he advanced toward the machine.  Ned thought he
had never seen a sadder face on a human being.

"Looks like Calamity!" Jimmie muttered

"Have you boys got anything to eat?" asked the stranger, rubbing his
palms over the waist band of his ill-fitting trousers.

"You look like you needed something to eat!" Jimmie put in.  "How
long you been sleuthin' at us from that rock?"

"Not long," was the reply, in a slow, sober tone.  "Just a minute.
I fell down a mountain not so very long ago."

"Then," said Jimmie, pointing to the wound on his head, "you haven't
got anything on me.  I'm quite a hand at fallin' down precipices,
myself!"

"You didn't say if you had anything to eat," insisted the stranger.
"I'm so hungry that I could eat a fried griddle."

"Well," replied Ned, "we're just out of fried griddles, but we've
got a tin of beans we might give you."

"Slave for life if you do!" drawled the other.  "I've been wandering
in the mountains for more than a week, and am so empty that it will
require several tins to fill me up, but if one is the limit, why--"

Jimmie uncovered the cache and brought out a can of beans, which he
opened with the hatchet and presented to the other, with a grave
bow.

"Dinner is served, me lud!" he said.

The stranger did not wait for formalities.  He had no knife, fork,
or spoon, but he managed to remove the beans from the can and convey
them to his mouth without the aid of such artificial aids to the
hungry.  He sighed when the can was empty, and wiped his hands on
the grass at his feet.

"How did you get in here?" asked Ned, then, curious to know how any
one could have the nerve to face a mountain journey in the condition
this man was in.

"I came after the mother lode," was the reply.

"Have you got it in your pocket?" asked the little fellow.

"I didn't say I found it," was the grave reply.  "I said I came in
here looking for it.  There was a party left Sicuani, over to the
east, two weeks ago, and I trailed in behind.  You see, I had a fool
idea that these people were on the track of a big gold find, and so
just naturally sneaked along.  They had an automobile.  I walked.
They had plenty of provisions.  I had no one to grub-stake me.  They
feasted while I starved, but the way is rough and slow, especially
when tires break, and I managed to keep up with them until two days
ago.  Then they got away from me."

"Did you find gold?" asked Ned.

The stranger shook his head.

"Nothing doing!" he said.  "I've been grubstaked all over Australia,
and up the Yukon, and over Death Valley, but I have never found a
spot where there's so little gold as there is in these hills."

"So, you are an American tourist?" asked Ned.

"I am," was the grave reply.  "I stowed away on a ship bound for
Asuncion and got a job shoveling coal to pay for the rottenest grub
I ever ate.  When we got up the river to Asuncion I hired out to a
man to herd cattle.  That was worse, only the air was not so
confining."

"So you left and went to Sicuani?" asked Ned.

"Exactly, after many days.  I liked the cattle business all right,
but I had to move on.  Horace M. Lyman is a good chap to--"

"Wait!" Ned said.  "It was Horace M. Lyman you worked for, eh?"

"Sure.  He's an American, and a fine fellow."

"Well," Jimmie cut in, "you're likely to see him if you stick around
here.  They geezled him, so another gazabo could get his
concession."

"And marooned him off here?  Is that it?" asked the stranger.
"Well, there's a pair of us, then, that don't find anything
nourishing in the scenery.  Where is he?"

"We haven't found him yet," Ned answered, "but we're on the trail.
If you had one more can of beans, do you think you could help us
hunt him up?"

"Certainly.  Of course.  I'll do that without the beans, but--"

"I see," Ned answered.  "You haven't the strength, just now, to do
much looking.  All right, we'll fat you up, and then--"

Ned did not complete the sentence, for a long, wavering call came
from the west, and the stranger started off in that direction
without a word of explanation.  Ned wondered for a moment whether
this fellow wasn't another hypocrite of the Collins stripe.

"Wait a minute!" he exclaimed.  "Suppose you tell us something about
that call?"

"I'm agreeable," replied the other.  "Don't you know what that
coo-coo-ee-ee is?  Then you've never lived in the cattle country.
That is a cowboy salute, pard, and my private opinion is that Horace
M. Lyman is the party that uttered it."

"Then he's not far away," Jimmie said.

"Suppose I answer him?" asked the stranger.

"Go on an' do it," the little fellow advised, and Ned nodded.

The cod-coo-ee-ee which the ex-cowboy emitted rang through the
valley and came back in weird echoes from the crags around.

"Now he knows there's some one here looking after him," the stranger
explained.  "He knows that Old Mose Jackson is right on the job.
What might your name be, pard?" he added, turning to Ned.

"Nestor," was the reply.

"Ned Nestor, of course!" Jackson exclaimed.  "I read about you being
in Mexico, and in the Canal Zone.  Strange I should bump into you
away off here!  And I'll bet this is Jimmie?  What?"

"The same!" the little fellow replied.  "Ned can't lose me!"

Hardly had the words left the boy's mouth when a bullet came zipping
through the air.  It struck a metal section of the Nelson and
flattened out.

"Before now," Jackson said, coolly, "when I've found myself on the
open plain with redskins popping away at me I've dug a hole in the
ground and stowed myself away in it.  What do you think of the
notion, pard?"

"It looks good to me!" Jimmie cried.  "But," he went on, "We've got
nothing to dig with, so we'll just have to move back to that gully,
an' take the grub with us."

The change was soon made, the Nelson being run back to the edge of
the trench-like depression, and then the three awaited the next move
on the part of the enemy.

Presently a shout was heard, and then the flashily-dressed figure of
Mr. Thomas Q. Collins appeared on the shelf of rock.

"Don't shoot!" he cried, swinging both hands aloft.  "I want to come
down and talk with you."

"There's some trick in that!" Jimmie said.





CHAPTER XI

A STICK OF DYNAMITE


"If we could only get out of this cul-de-sac," Jack said, as the
savages gathered closer about the Black Bear, "and make the Beni
river, we could leave them behind like they were painted on the
trees."

"There ought to be some way," Frank mused.

Harry, who had been rummaging in a trunk of clothing and tools which
stood under the bridge which half concealed the motors, now came
forward with a package in his hand.

"What is it?" asked Jack.

"Dynamite!" was the cool reply.

"That ought to induce them to go on about their business--if
properly administered," Jack said.  "I didn't know we had any on
board."

"I didn't know what we might come across up here," Harry replied.
"Shall we light a fuse and give one of these persuaders a toss over
into that mess?"

"It would amount to wholesale murder," Frank replied.

Harry's face hardened as he held up a hand for silence.  The howling on the
banks of the little stream was now almost deafening, and every second there
came the thunk of arrows against the boat.

"You see what they would do to us," he said.

"Yes, I know," Jack said, "but we are supposed to be civilized!  It
would be a wicked thing to do, to murder fifty or a hundred of those
savages.  Suppose we toss a stick where it will do little damage and
still attract their attention from the boat?  Then we might get that
log out of the way."

"We'll see what show we have for getting it out of the way-the log,
I mean," Jack replied.

He cautiously opened one of the lower panels at the rear and looked
out.  The log which blocked the narrow channel was afloat, for it
was the trunk of a dry tree, and the water was deep.  What held it
in place was the end which lay on the shore.  It had been rolled in
at a point where the bank was low, and at least two-thirds of it lay
on the ground.

"I'd like to know how they got it in there!" Jack said.  "It looks
too big for a hundred men to handle."

"Anyway, there it is," Frank replied, "and there the propellers
are--one of them broken.  Can we make speed with that busted wing?"

"We've got to," Harry said.  "Just hear the devils!  They will rush
the boat in about a minute!"

The cries coming from the forest were now blood-curdling in their
ferocity.  The cannibals were evidently working themselves into a
pitch of excitement which would give them courage to charge the
Black Bear.

Now and then the frightened howl of some wild beast was heard in the
distance, adding not a little to the excitement of the scene.  The
tree which had been set on fire to attract the attention of the
airship still blazed, sending a twist of flame far up into the sky.

In the glare of the fire the savages looked like fiends ready for
any act of deviltry.  Now and then three figures larger than the
rest stood together as if in conference, and then the shouts grew
louder, and the line about the boat closer drawn.

"I've got a notion that we can make pretty good speed with that
broken wing," Jack mused.  "Anyway, we can drift down stream if we
can't steam up stream, and that will take us out of this mess."

"Then let's blow that log up with dynamite," suggested Frank.

"Yes," said Jack, "and finish the propellers!"

"Blow up the shore end," continued Frank.  "Who can pitch it so that
it will knock that blooming dry wood into the stream?"

"I'm willing to try," Harry said.  "I used to pitch a tricky ball!
I'll get a fuse ready, open a panel, and give it a throw.  While I
have the panel open, though, you fellows open up a loophole in front
and do some shooting out of it to attract attention.  I don't want
any poisoned arrows biting me."

This was agreed to, and Harry arranged a fuse and prepared to throw
it.  When Jack opened a panel in front and sent a volley of bullets
ashore, the boy pushed open a panel in the rear and, waiting until
the attention of the savages was attracted to the front of the boat,
tossed out the dynamite.

It hurled through the air, flashing in the red light of the fire,
and landed at the very end of the fallen tree, rolling into the
angle between the wood and the earth.  A fine throw!

Harry yelled to Jack to close his panel, and all three boys stood on
the tips of their toes, fingers in ears.  In a moment the explosion
came.

The Black Bear rocked violently, so that it was with difficulty the
boys kept their footing.  Wild cries of distress and fright came
from the forest, and, in a few seconds, the crash of falling trees.
The dynamite had done its work well, at least, so far as noise was
concerned.  They could not yet see what effect the explosion had had
on the tree.

Had it loosened the obstructing log so that the boat could pass out
into the Beni river?  Had the concussion damaged the propellers so
that the trip up the valley of the Amazon would have to be
abandoned?

These questions were in the minds of all three boys as Jack
cautiously opened a rear panel and looked out.  The first thing he
saw was the log, splintered and broken into half a dozen pieces,
floating down stream.

The explosion had whirled the great trunk high up in the air and
brought it down, broken, in the channel of the stream.  There seemed
nothing to do now but to set the motors at work and run out of the
dangerous position.

But the motors refused to work.  Something more than showed on the
surface was the matter with them.  Harry looked out at the rear and
saw a great red patch of earth without a single human being in
sight.  The fire was still burning brightly, but there were no
savages dancing about in its fierce light.

At the sound of the explosion the head hunters had taken to their
heels.  At first view, no one seemed to have been injured by the
dynamite, but, on giving the scene a closer inspection, the boy saw
three bodies lying near where the log had been.  They might be dead
or only stunned; the lad had no means of knowing.

While Harry watched for some sign of life, the roar of a wild animal
came from the forest, and he knew that a tiger cat was approaching.
The humans--if the man-eating savages may be so termed--were still
running, it appeared, while the wild beasts of prey were returning
to the scene of the explosion.

"Come," Harry cried, "we must get out of this now if we can get the
propellers to working.  There is no one in sight, only three men
lying near where the log lay, and there are man-eating animals
coming, so I'd rather not see what takes place next."

Jack threw open another panel and stepped out.  The roar in the
forest was growing again, but no savage was in sight.  He moved to
the back of the boat and bent down to look at the propellers.

"I can't see from here!" he shouted, in a moment.  "Look out for me,
you fellows!"

Like a shot he was in the river, diving under the stem of the Black
Bear.  Harry and Frank, knowing the rivers of that district to be
swarming with caymen, grouped at the rear and watched with anxious
eyes for the reappearance of their chum.

In a few seconds Jack's face appeared above the surface of the
water.  He seized a rope passed to him and climbed on board, shaking
the water from his clothing like a great dog.

"It is all right," he said, as soon as he could get his breath.
"There was a piece of the log wedged in back of the paddles and I
got it out.  Get a pole and push.  She's in the mud, I guess."

The pole was used before the motors were turned on again, and the
Black Bear was soon out of the little creek, sailing slowly down the
Beni.  However, the boat did not behave well, and it was decided to
tie up for a day and go over her carefully.  The propellers needed
fixing, and there might be some other injury which had not been
discovered.

Not caring to strain the weakened propellers, they permitted the
boat to drift down stream.

When a mile away the illumination of the fire which had been so
injudiciously set could still be seen distinctly, and when the boys
listened they could hear the cries of the savages and the fierce
howls of the wild beasts.

During the day the boys had passed a level plateau on the east bank
of the river, and it was decided to float down to that, as they
could beach the Black Bear there and work without danger of being
attacked from the shelter of a forest.

They gained the spot about midnight and anchored some distance out,
resolved to take no chances on the shore that night.  The stream was
quite wide, and they opened the top panels so as to get what fresh
air they could.

Jack was the first one to see the airship hovering over them.

"Look!" he cried.  "Look!  Look!  We've just got to attract their
attention in some way!  See!  They are going away again!  Confound
the luck!"

The airship seemed about to dip down, then it floated off to the
west and whirled to the south.

"They're signaling!" Harry cried.

This seemed to be true, for there were lights moving about in the
air in queer combinations.

"Get a glass!" shouted Jack, in great excitement.  "We'll soon see
about this!"

But the airship seemed interested in the spot where the fire was
burning, and did not remain overhead long enough for the boys to get
a good view of her.  At last she disappeared entirely.

Although anchored out in the stream, which was at least two hundred
feet wide at that point, the lads kept a close watch of the shores
that night.  Once, just before dawn, they caught the sound of
paddles, but the canoe which appeared on the west soon sneaked away.

The hubbub on shore kept up all night long.  The beasts took up the
chorus when the savage tribesmen retreated.

"Beautiful country this!" Jack said, as the, sun rose over the great
valley.  "I think I'll like to live here always--not!"

"Yes," grunted Frank, whose eyes were heavy with the long watch,
"even on the Great White Way, the enthusiasm quiets down after three
o'clock."

"It is all in the game!" grinned Harry.  "We came out here for
excitement, and you mustn't complain when you get it."

After breakfast, which was keenly enjoyed, the Black Bear was
beached on the cast banks and the injury to the propellers examined.
Some of the blades were broken while others were strained.

"Well," Harry said, as he scratched his head in deliberation, "we've
got extra blades, and we've got the tools, and I don't know as we're
in a hurry anyway.  We've got all the time there is!"

"Not if we catch the Nelson before it gets out of the country," Jack
objected.  "This is the 22d of August, and the Nelson must have
sighted Lima about the 14th, so you see we've got to do some sailing
if we get to the headwaters of the Beni before the boys get back
home."

If they had only known, the lads might not have been so anxious to
get on, for the boys with the Nelson were having troubles of their
own about that time.  Besides, there were difficulties ahead much
greater than those entailed by the breaking of the blades of the
propellers.

They worked all day at repairing the injuries, and at night were
ready to proceed.  It was dark again, and there seemed to be a great
commotion on shore.

"For one," Frank observed, "I don't like the idea of going on up an
unknown river in the night.  There are rapids, and there may be
obstructions.  And then we may follow off some tributary which will
land us in some swamp after an all night ride."

"I'm not anxious to go on tonight," Harry contributed, "for I'd like
to see what that mess on shore will amount to.  There's something
besides the appearance of the Black Bear exciting those fuzzy little
natives, and we may miss something if we run away.  I wouldn't like
to do that."

So it was decided to remain where they were until morning.  The
panels were put up, leaving only the openings for ventilation, and
the Wolf was brought close alongside.

Frank got the first watch in the drawing of sticks, and stationed
himself at the prow, where he could look out on the river.  Jack and
Harry were soon asleep.

About midnight a great clamor arose on the west bank.  In a moment
it was echoed from the opposite shore.  There was a beating of
drums--the foolish drums which the natives made so crudely--and long
chants, rising in the darkness like the monotonous melodies the boys
had heard in the cotton fields of the South.

Frank shook Jack and Harry out of their bunks, much to the disgust
of the two sleepy-heads. They did not need to ask questions as to
the reason for this, for the chant was coming nearer, and the drums
were beating like mad.

"They're arranging an attack!" Jack said, turning a searchlight out
of the front loophole.  "I can see half a dozen canoes hanging off
and on at a bend above.  I guess we made a mistake in stopping
here."

"Perhaps we'd better drop down the river," Harry suggested.  "I
don't want those heathens swarming over the Black Bear."

Jack went to the stern and looked out on the swirling river from
that point.

"If we do," he said, in a moment, "we'll bunt into a fleet of war
canoes.  We've got to put on all speed and drive ahead."

"Why not drop back?" asked Harry.

"Because," was the reply, "we can go up stream about as fast as we
can go down stream, and the canoes can't.  We'll shut everything
tight but the loopholes and go through them like a shot through
paper.  If they board us we'll have to open up and drop them into
the river with our automatics."

"Put the big light out in front then," Harry said, "and stand there
and tell me which way to steer, and let her go!"

The next moment the Black Bear, closely followed by the Wolf, was
nearing the canoes, now drawn up in line of battle in front.




CHAPTER XII

A BRIBE OF HALF A MILLION


"What do you want to talk about?" asked Ned, as Thomas Q. Collins
advanced a step, both hands still high above his head, as an
indication that he was unarmed.

"I want to reach an understanding with you," was the reply.

"About what?"

"About--well, about your errand here."

"Oh!  Well, what about it?"

Collins hesitated a moment and then asked:

"Why can't I come to you and sit down?  I'm not armed.  This is not
an easy or a dignified position for me to hold."

"You say you are not armed," Ned replied.  "Will you say as much for
the savages who are with you in this dirty game?"

"There are no savages here with me," Collins protested.  "Your
Indian killed one by throwing him from the ledge, one was killed
when the Vixen burned and dropped, and one was shot by one of your
boys.  The other went away with the motor car.  You must have seen
them riding away?"

"There were five people with him when he first came out here in the
car," Jackson said, under his breath.  "Ask him where the other
white man now is."

"Did you see the other white man?" asked Ned of Jackson.

"Not distinctly."

"Would you have recognized him if it had been Lyman?"

"I might.  I can't say.  I wasn't very near to them.  They kept me
scouting over the hills to keep them in sight."

"Well," Collins called out, impatiently, "are you going to let me
come in for a talk?  If not, I'll go back and bring some shooters
out here."

Without answering that special question, veiled, as it was, with a
threat, Ned asked the one proposed by Jackson.

"Where is the white man who was with you when you first came here in
the car?"

"I did not come in a motor car," was the reply.  "I came in the
Vixen."

"That's a lie!" Jackson whispered.  "The Vixen, if that is what they
call their airship, never showed up until a few days ago.  I tried
to signal to the driver; or, rather, I did signal to him, but he
ignored me.  This man Collins came in with the car more than two
weeks ago, and went out in it, too, and the other white man
remained.  The next time he came, he was in the Vixen."

"Who is that fellow who is filling you with prejudice against me?"
demanded Collins, presently.  "It looks like a man wanted for
stealing cattle from the Lyman ranch."

"Why didn't you communicate with him, if you were so hungry?" asked
Ned of Jackson, suspiciously.  "You say he has been here at least twice."


Jackson frowned and looked away.  Then his forehead flushed and he
said:

"I guess there's no use lying about it.  I was accused of running
cattle off the Lyman range.  That is the man who accused me.  I
never did.  He knows that.  Now you know why I didn't approach him
and ask for food."

"Well," insisted the boy, "why didn't you browse around and find the
white man he left here?  That is what he came in here for, isn't it--to
hide some one he wanted out of the way?"

"I thought he came to look for gold," was the reply.  "Now, about
the other question.  I did try to find the man he left here.  I
wanted to eat with him!  I knew there was some one in the hills, but
I never found him.  It beats the Old Scratch where he is!"

"Come, come!" Collins cried, impatiently, "you can do your visiting
after we have our talk.  Shall I come to you, or will you come to
me?"

"Don't you go out there!" Jimmie warned.  "He's got some one hidden.
You'll be shot if you do.  Tell him to come here."

"Keep your hands up and come here," Ned ordered, thinking this good
advice.

He had already experienced the treachery of the fellow, and did not
care to take any chances.  Collins came along sullenly, stood stock
still, while Jimmie searched him, and then sat down on the framework
of the Nelson.

"That aeroplane would look handsomer," Ned said, grimly, "if your
men had not set it on fire."

"That was war!" Collins replied.  "It is war still, unless we can
come to some kind of agreement."

"I haven't much faith in your word," Ned replied.  "You played a
dirty game on me at Lima, you know."

"The chances of war!" Collins replied.  "Now," he went on, "we can
come to terms without any reference to the International Peace
Congress, if we want to.  I'll admit that if things were a little
different I wouldn't be asking for terms, but that is neither here
nor there.  I want your assistance."

"On the level?" demanded Jimmie.

Jackson grinned scornfully, and Collins glared at both.

"The man we brought out here--merely as a matter of business--has
disappeared," Collins went on.  "We left him in the little cavern
where you found his coat and the food.  He's got away."

"You refer to Lyman?"

"Of course."

"You were keeping him a prisoner until his concession should lapse?"

"That's only business."

"When does it lapse, in case he does not appear and make payment?"

"On the 31st of August."

"And this is the 18th?"

"I think so.  I'm pretty well mixed as to time, as well as
everything else."

"Then he has only fourteen days in which to get back to Asuncion and
make a large payment?"

"That is just it."

"And he is lost?"

"Yes."

"When did you see him last?"

"You remember how I came to be here?  You brought me, trussed up
like a hen in that aeroplane harness.  Well, when the Vixen went
into that pit and you went away to look over the scenery, I knew
that the motor car would be along soon, so I didn't try to get away.
I knew what would happen if I did.  You'd shoot!  Just as soon as
the car came and I was released--the car brought in food for Lyman--
I sent a man over to the cave to find Lyman.  He wasn't there.
Understand?  He wasn't there."

"But there were live embers in the cave when I got there," Ned said.

"I know.  That was built by one of my men, who wanted to make
coffee, but didn't.  The food you stole was brought in by the car as
I said before.  You found Lyman's coat, didn't you?"

"Yes, and a packet of letters."

"I knew what you were in Lima for from the first.  I knew of your
mission before you left San Francisco.  So I did not lie to you when
you asked if the man who was brought in, something over two weeks
ago, in a motor car was Lyman.  I knew that you knew.  You see, we
had to get him out of Paraguay when it was learned that the United
States had placed the Lyman affair in the hands of the Secret
Service."

"Go on," Ned said.  "You are getting pretty close to the point now."

"I thought at first," Collins went on, "that you had blundered into
this district just by blind luck.  Now I know better.  I gave myself
away by my fool antics at Lima.  Then the Vixen showing up and
chasing the Nelson around increased your suspicions.  Oh, I know how
it happened.  You fooled us all.  We led you right to the spot where
Lyman was hidden by our attempts to mislead you.  More fools we!"

"You have stated the case correctly," Ned said.  "If you had kept
away from me at Lima, and the Vixen had kept out of sight, I should
have gone straight on to Asuncion, and should have been wasting my
time there this minute."

"Yes, that's the truth!  Well, now I've been perfectly frank with
you, and I want you to be equally honest with me.  Do you know where
Lyman is?"

"I do not."

"You haven't seen him?"

"Never saw him."

"If you find him, what do you propose doing?"

"I shall take him back to Asuncion and see that he gets justice."

"Acting as a Secret Service man of the United States?"

"No, as an individual."

"But you are in the employ of the government?"

"Yes, but I'm not authorized to mix the two countries up in a war."

"Yes, I know, but your government will back you in whatever you do.
That is the point with me.  If you report no cause for interference
down in Paraguay, there will be no danger of our getting into
trouble.  Your government wouldn't make a demand for Lyman's
release, although it was understood he was kept in duress by a high
official of the republic.  Still, it sends you out to act
unofficially.  Now, this being the case, you are the person I want
to talk with."

"Well?"

"I want you to help find Lyman, and then I want you to help me come
to terms with him--we can't fight the United States!"

"In other words, you want me to betray my trust and help you rob
him?"

"No.  There are two sides to everything--where there are not three,
or more.  So there are two sides to this cattle concession business.
I think that Lyman will be glad to settle if we find him--if he does
not know that the United States has Secret Service men on the
ground!"

"So you really do want to buy my silence?"

"I want to make sure that you will not attempt to defeat our plans."

"Nothing doing," Ned replied.

"Wait!" Collins continued.  "You haven't heard me out.  We'll see
that Lyman gets all his money out of the deal, with something
besides, and also that you get a quarter of a million dollars for
saying nothing."

"Nothing doing!" Ned repeated.

Collins actually gasped with amazement.  He had offered bribes
before, but had never started out with so large a sum.  And he had
never been denied!

"Understand the proposition," Collins said, presently, as soon as he
could catch his breath, "it is not you we want.  We don't care a
continental cuss for you.  What we want is for you to keep quiet
after we find Lyman.  It is the Secret Service of the United States
we axe afraid of.  I'll make it half a million."

"It must be a rich concession," Ned said.

"It is, and Lyman got it for a song, for no one ever supposed that
swamp would make good grazing ground."

"I guess Mr. Lyman will earn all he gets out of it," Ned laughed.

"He will never get anything out of it, unless he comes to terms with
me," Collins said, impatiently.  "We'll find some way to keep him
out of Asuncion until after the 31st.  It is a long way from here to
Paraguay!"

"All the more reason why we should get busy looking for him," Ned
said.

"And when we find him?" asked Collins, tentatively.

"I shall take him back to Asuncion."

"Then you'd better not find him," threatened Collins.  "If you're
going to oppose me, I'll leave it to you to look him up.  I'll go
back to Asuncion and bring men out here who will see that you never
leave the mountains."

"Gee!  That's a cheerful proposition!" grinned Jimmie.

Collins, disgusted at his failure to either bribe or frighten the
boys, started away, but Jackson laid a heavy hand on his shoulder
and swung him around.

"Wait a minute!" he said.

"What do you mean?" demanded Collins.

"You're not going to Asuncion after help," Jackson said.  "I have a
little score to settle with you myself!  You're the man who accused
me of running off cattle.  Well, you're going to remain right here
with me until I go out with you and give you a chance to make that
right."

Collins glanced at Ned.

"Is this by your order?" he asked.

Ned shook his head.

"I have no present quarrel with you," he said.

Collins started away again, but Jackson thrust him back, not any too
gently.

"If you make a touse," he said, "I'll tie you up.  Now," he added,
as Collins, almost foaming with rage, threw himself on the ground,
"I want you to tell me where you left that tent."

Both Ned and Jimmie sprang to their feet at the mention of the word.

"A tent!  Here!"

Collins snarled out some impertinent reply, and Ned asked:

"Did they bring in a tent?"

"You bet they did!" Jackson answered.  "This fine-haired duck with
the circus parade clothes wasn't going to sleep in no cavern.  He
was going to have a nice, soft, cool bed under a tent while he was
waiting for the Lyman concession to lapse.  He was reared a pet--he
was!"

The ex-cowboy was so enraged at Collins for the insinuations he had
cast upon him that he pushed up to where he lay and would have
assaulted him if Ned had not interposed.

"Let him alone," the boy said.  "We'll leave the law to make payment
in his case.  Are you going to tell us where the tent is, Collins?"
he added, turning to the angry captive.

"I guess you can get along without the tent," Collins said.  "You
won't have to remain here long.  I've got men coming in.  They may
be here at any moment.  Officers of the Republic of Paraguay!"

"I shall be glad to meet them!" Ned laughed.  "If you'll tell me
where the tent is I'll be able to entertain them properly."

"Aw, I can find the tent if it is around here anywhere!" Jimmie
broke in.

"What do you want of it?" demanded Collins

"A little tent cloth," Ned smiled, "would make a serviceable machine
of the Nelson.  We could make new planes in no time.  What do you
think of the idea?"

"I'm not going to have the tent cut up," shouted Collins.

"I guess yes," Jimmie said, provokingly.  "You burned our planes,
and you've got to supply material for new ones."

The little fellow darted away as he spoke, working his way over the
ledges which separated the two dents on the mountain sides.  In a
short time Ned heard him calling and saw him looking down from the
shelf above the cavern.

"Come on up," the lad cried.  "I can see the tent over in the other
valley, and there's another automobile coming.  What do you think of
that?  This must be a regular station on the underground railroad
between Asuncion and Lymanville!"

Ned lost no time in gaining the ledge.  The white body of the tent
was in plain sight, just where the men had dropped it out of the
machine.  The two boys hastened into the depression, seized the
canvas in their arms, and started back toward the Nelson.  On the
shelf again, Ned asked:

"Where did you see a motor car?"

"Over east," was the reply.  "There's a tunnel under the range off
that way.  I take it that a river ran there once, draining this
valley."

Presently the machine appeared in the valley from which the Vixen
had slipped off into the pit.  There were four men in the two seats.
One was the Indian in goggles who had driven the car away, the
others were white men.  The car could not have gone far, so these
men must have been picked up just outside.

The boys carried the canvas down to the Nelson and began the work of
making new planes, keeping close watch, but leaving the newcomers to
do the calling if there was any to be done.  There was plenty of
canvas and the tools necessary for the work were found in the
Nelson's tool chest.  Collins watched the doings angrily.

"These men," he finally said, "are officers.  Two from Paraguay and
one from Peru.  They have warrants for your arrest."

He started to his feet as if to join the others as he spoke, but
Jackson saw that he did not get very far.

"Tell your friends," Jackson said, "that we're too busy to be
bothered now.  We'll soon have this aeroplane fixed, and then we'll
give an imitation of men sailing out of this mess.  Lyman knows a
friend is here, for he heard my cowboy call.  He will soon come out
of his hole, and we'll take him back to Asuncion--just to prevent
international complications!" he added with a grin.

The work of preparing the new planes progressed swiftly, but before
it was completed the men who had arrived in the automobile appeared
on the ledge and called down to those below.




CHAPTER XIII

THE NELSON IN THE SKY


"Well," Ned called back, as the new arrivals shouted down from the
ledge, "what do you want?"

"We want to talk with you."

"Cripes," Jimmie grinned, "we're in good demand today.  The stock of
Boy Scouts must be gettin' shy!"

"Go on and talk, then," Ned answered, well satisfied as to what the
fellows wanted.

"Shall we come down there?"

"You stay away!" Jimmie replied.  "We're a little particular about
our company!"

"Is that little runt speaking for you?" demanded the man on the
ledge.  "If he is, we'll do something besides talk."

"For the present he is," Ned replied.  "What can I do for you?"

"You can surrender yourself.  We have warrants for your arrest."

"Couldn't think of it!" was the cool reply.  "We prefer to remain at
liberty."

"I told you!" Collins grunted, rising from his reclining position
and moving toward the ledge.  "I told you that you'd get into
trouble.  You'll sweat for this!"

Jackson caught him by the shoulder and whirled him back.

"You stay here!" the ex-cowboy gritted.  "The less trouble you make
the better treatment you will receive."

"What are you doing to Collins?" asked the newcomer.  "Tell him to
come up here."

"I'm being held a prisoner!" Collins shouted.  "Train your guns on
these kids and drive them off.  And find Lyman.  He left the cavern,
but he's somewhere about, for he answered a cowboy call not long
ago."

"We already have Lyman!" was the answer.  "He thought we were the
friends who had called him and joined us.  We'll take care of him,
all right."

"That's fine business--not!" grunted Jimmie.

Ned was not a little disappointed by the announcement.  With Lyman
in the hands of his enemies, it might be impossible to get him back
to Asuncion in time to save his concession.

And here was another difficulty, one which might bring on a war
between the United States and Paraguay.  Ned, as an official of the
United States Secret Service, now knew that those high in authority
in the government of Paraguay were involved in the attempt to
defraud Lyman of his rights.  This had been only suspected before.

So long as only private interests were interfering with the treaty
rights, so long as the government of the unruly republic was not
mixed up in the attempt to cheat an American citizen out of his
property, the government at Washington might well restrain its hand.
But when the government of Paraguay itself, as Ned now believed, was
involved in the crooked game, that was an entirely different matter.

Ned believed that a full disclosure of the facts in the case would
send warships to Asuncion.  He believed that an international
complication might breed open war unless he succeeded in getting
Lyman away without open conflict with the authorities of the little
republic.  But how?

Well,  the State Department at Washington had trusted him, and he
would do his best.  The thing to do at that time, it appeared to
him, was to await the action of the newcomers.  They might be
officers of Paraguay, with authority to make arrests in Peru, and
they might be only four-flushers.  He must temporize until he found
out what they proposed to do in the matter.

And, then, he reasoned, if they had Lyman, he had Collins!  That was
not so bad!  Perhaps an exchange of prisoners might be made!  This
did not seem very likely, but still there was hope.  Collins, for
all he knew, might be the man who expected to profit by the robbery
of the American cattleman.

"So Mr. Lyman is there with you?" Ned called back.  "Send him over
here.  I want to talk with him."

A harsh laugh was the only answer to this.

"You may as well come to terms with me," Collins exclaimed.  "You
have no chance of winning now.  I like your nerve, but you're
butting into too strong a game for a lad of your years."

"I shall have to take chances," Ned replied.  "What will those men
do with Lyman?"

"I don't know!"

"I know!" Jimmie cried.  "They'll kill him!"

"I don't think they'll do that," Collins remarked, with a wicked
sneer, "but it would clear the atmosphere if he should fall down a
mountain!"

"If he does," Ned declared, flushing with anger at the brutality of
the remark, "you will also take a tumble.  If he is injured in any
way, you'll answer to me for it."

"You wait!" warned Collins.  "I've handled cases like this before.
I can give you cards and spades and beat you out.  You'll be getting
hungry before long."

"And the Nelson will be ready for flight before long," Ned replied.

During all this conversation Jackson and Jimmie had kept steadily at
work sewing the new, strong canvas taken from the tent on the frame
of the planes.  They could not make a very neat job of it, but they
did their work well.  Ned had hope of getting out of the valley that
very night.  Presently the men on the ledge withdrew for a time, and
Ned began a closer examination of the Nelson.  To his disgust he
discovered that the gasoline was very low in the great tanks.  Built
for long flights, the Nelson's tanks were very large, fitted to
carry a supply which would last a couple of days.  Ned did not quite
understand why the supply should be short after a run of only three
or four hundred miles.

"I've got an idea!" Jimmie said, catching the worried look on Ned's
face.

"I'm afraid it will take something more than an idea to get the
Nelson back to Lima," Ned replied in a low tone, for he did not care
to have Collins informed of this new difficulty.

Collins, however, had been watching the movements of the boys
closely, and at once surmised what the trouble was.  He laughed
insultingly as he pointed to the great tanks.

"Empty?" he snarled.  "I knew it. Now will you be good!"

"Shut up!" raged Jackson, who was only too anxious to get a pretext
for attacking Collins.  "We've heard enough from you!"

"'Tie him up!" ordered Ned.  "He's likely to make a run for it, and
then we should have to shoot him.  Tie him up good and tight."

"You'll be sorry if you do!" threatened the captive.

Notwithstanding this threat, the fellow was bound hand and foot.
During the process of the work, which was performed none too gently
by Jackson, Collins called out to his friends in the other valley,
but there was no response.  They were probably too busy with their
plotting against the boys to hear the shouts.

This business completed, Jimmie beckoned Ned aside.

"Here's my idea," he said.  "The Vixen's tanks didn't blow up when
she burned and dropped.  When it comes night I can go and get the
gasoline.  The tanks were full, were they not?"

"Yes, chock full.  The driver seemed to have fitted her out for a
long run.  But we may be able to get the stuff before dark.  The
Vixen did not land in the valley where they are, but in a canyon
over to the west.  Suppose you go over there and see what the
chances are?"

"All right!" replied the boy.  "And if the tanks of the Vixen are
not full, we'll steal the fuel out of that automobile when it gets
dark!"

"That's a good idea, too!" laughed Ned.

Jimmie hastened away, keeping in the gully as long as possible and
dodging around friendly cliffs when it came to climbing over the
ridge which shut in the valley on the west.  The gully cut across
the valley, east and west, and was very deep at the east end.

After the disappearance of the boy, Ned removed Collins to the deep
end of the cut and placed Jackson there as a guard.  He did not want
the captive to know what was going on, as a shout to his friends, if
they again visited the ledge, might put them in possession of the
facts regarding the empty tanks of the Nelson.  Then it would be an
easy matter for them to prevent the getting of the gasoline from the
wrecked Vixen.

Then Ned, hearing no more from the alleged officers, went to work on
the planes, and succeeded in getting a long strip sewed in before
Jimmie returned with his report.

"The tanks are almost full," the lad said, "and all we've got to do
is to unscrew a couple of burrs and lug them right over here.  We
can't do that until, after dark, for they would shoot at us.
Where's Collins?"

Ned pointed to the gully.

"Well," the boy continued, "when I got up on that ridge, I could see
the men over in the other valley.  They are getting reinforcements
from somewhere.  Anyway, I saw half a dozen Indians standing around.
They've got a fire and are cooking dinner.  Then I saw one of the
white men pointing, and I'll tell you right now what they're going
to do!  They're going to station men around this little old crater
and keep us in here until we starve, unless we give in."

"They forget that there's an air route," laughed Ned.

"Suppose we get up there on the Nelson!" exclaimed the boy.  "And
suppose they shoot us off!  That wouldn't be funny, would it?"

"We've got to go in the night, then," Ned said.  "But before we go I
want to have a talk with those fellows."

"Then you'll get a word with Lyman, if you can?"

"That wasn't a bluff, then?  They have captured him again?"

"Oh, yes, they've got him with them, all right.  Anyway, there's
four white men, and only three came in the car.  Guess it's Lyman,
sure enough!"

"What is he doing?"

"Just walking about.  They haven't got him tied up, at least the man
I took for Lyman isn't.  He looks mad enough to bite nails, though!"

"That is a wonder," Ned said.  "It may be that they are trying to
make terms with him."

"Of course!" replied the boy.

Along in the afternoon one of the alleged officers appeared on the
ledge again.  He appeared to be somewhat excited, and Ned suspected
that something had gone wrong with the other party.  However, he
remained quiet, waiting for the other to make his errand known.
After a short silence the fellow asked:

"What has become of Collins?"

"He is still here," Ned answered.

"Held against his will?"

"Well, he is still doing some kicking."

"You'll be sorry if you don't let him go."

"How will you trade prisoners?" asked Ned.  "Send Lyman down here
and we'll send Collins up to you."

"Oh, Lyman doesn't want to leave us," was the reply.  "We've
arranged a settlement with him."

Ned did not believe this.  He knew that the Lyman concession was a
valuable one, and that the cattleman would put up a long fight
before sacrificing it.

"Send him down here then," Ned answered.  "If he is voluntarily
staying with you, he can return if he wants to.  Send him down!"

"He is afraid you'll try some trick on him," was the reply.

The whole afternoon passed in just such conversation as this--talk
which brought no results worth mentioning.  Ned did not believe that
Lyman was remaining with the newcomers voluntarily.  He did not
believe that Lyman was suspicious of him.

The men in the other valley frequently visited the ledge and talked
with Ned, but the boy saw that they were quietly making arrangements
to surround him.  Now and then the figure of an Indian appeared on
the elevations about the valley, which was the crater of an extinct
volcano.

A little study showed Ned that in some long forgotten time the two
valleys had formed a great crater, and that this had been cut in two
by the elevation of a mass in the center.  High up above this dead
crater, on the north, stretched the bulk of the mountain, the
eruption having taken place on its south slope.

But while Ned talked with the visitors, argued with them,
threatened, he kept at work on the planes, and at nightfall had them
completed.  The canvas had been put on double and sewed on very
strongly, so the boy believed that it was as good a machine as ever
that he contemplated getting out that night.

"But," argued Jimmie, when the plans were laid, "we can't all go in
the Nelson.  How are you going to carry Lyman, Jackson and me?"

Jimmie thought for a moment and then added: "But we haven't got
Lyman yet.  We'll have to come back after him, I take it, after we
land Jackson outside."

"But I'm going to get him," Ned replied, "if this machine works all
right.  I'm going to leave you and Jackson here.  What about that?"

"If you can grab Lyman," Jimmie grinned in disbelief, "I'll be
willing to stay here as long as the grub lasts!"

"I'm going to get him," Ned replied.  "I don't know how, but I've
just got to get him back to Asuncion before the 31st."

"And what about Collins?"

"We'll have to let him go.  When I get out, let him go, and then you
two will have to hide away until I can come back after you."

"All right," replied Jimmie, with a sigh.  "Only hurry back!  I
don't want to starve to death here."

After dark Ned, Jackson and Jimmie lugged the tanks of the wrecked
Vixen over to the valley and dumped the gasoline into the Nelson's
tanks.  Even this accession did not quite fill the latter.

"Wish we could get to the motor car," Jimmie suggested.

"Now," Ned said, "I want you two to kick up an awful rumpus here,
directly.  Shoot and do all the yelling possible.  Let Collins loose
and chase him!  He deserves it!  Then, when the fellows over there
run up on the ledge to see what is doing, I'll swoop down in the
aeroplane and pick up Lyman--that is, if he is willing to come with
me.  If he isn't, I can't get him, that's all."

"Then, when we get up in the air, we take to our heels?"

"Exactly.  If you don't these fellows will make trouble for you.
Hide, but keep making to the east.  When I come back after you I'll
come in from that way."

"How long will it be?" asked the lad, who did not quite like the
notion of being left there with Jackson.

"I can't say," was the reply.  "I may leave Lyman in the nearest
town, or he may want to go to Asuncion.  I may be back by daylight,
and I may be gone two days.  I hope to be back by daylight."

"All right," Jimmie grunted.  "We'll keep off to the east, and when
you return you can pick us up before they know what's going on.
Here's hoping you get Lyman!"

"I'll get him!" Ned replied, shutting his teeth hard together.

So, all arrangements made, Jimmie crept up on the ledge, about nine
o'clock, and looked over into the twin valley.

There was a campfire burning, and Lyman, or the man the boy took for
the cattleman, sat close beside it.  The others were walking about.
Now and then an Indian stepped inside the circle of light cast by
the fire, consulted with the others for a moment, and disappeared
again.

It was certain that the alleged officers were preparing to advance
on the boys, bent on putting the Nelson out of commission for good.
The planes had not been repaired any too quickly.  When Jimmie
reported Ned stepped into the machine.

"When I get within sight of those in that valley," he said, "make
all the noise you can.  If you can cause them to think you're
killing Collins, all the better.  Make him yell!  I'll go straight
up and drop down by that fire before they get over their
excitement."

A few strong shoves, a dozen revolutions of the rubber-tired wheels,
and the Nelson left the ground, as strong and capable as ever.  The
motors made little noise, and no signs of discovery came from the
other side until the machine was high up.  Then a few ineffectual
shots were fired at her.

Jimmie and Jackson began their part of the performance promptly by
shooting and yelling.  They loosened Collins, much to that
gentleman's delight, and started him off in the dim light on a run.
As Jackson took great delight in landing his bullets close to
Collins' feet, the alleged salesman ran for dear life toward the
ledge, screaming and calling for help at every jump.

This was exactly what the others wanted, and in a short time they
saw a huddle of dark figures on the ledge.  In the excitement the
firing on the Nelson had ceased.

Jackson and Jimmie were not long in getting out of the valley after
that.  They whirled around the elevation between the two valleys,
sometimes feeling their way in the darkness, climbed over a ledge,
and made for the black entrance to the tunnel through which Jackson
had entered.

When they were at the mouth of the tunnel they turned and looked
back.  The Nelson was lifting from the valley where the fire had
been seen, whirling up, up into the night sky.  They could not
determine from where they stood whether there were two or one on the
big aeroplane.  They had no means of knowing whether Ned had
succeeded or failed.

The two watched the dim bulk of the aeroplane as it winged over
their heads.  Now and then, after it was too late to do her any
harm, a few vengeful shots were fired at her.  The fact that Ned
kept going convinced them that he had picked up Lyman and was on the
way out with him.

After the aeroplane had disappeared from sight Jackson and Jimmie
hurried on through the dark tunnel, which, as has been said, was
merely the dry channel of a stream which had cut its way out of the
valley years before.  Jimmie proposed that they remain there all
night, but Jackson objected to this.

Their pursuers knew that he knew of the tunnel, he explained, in
support of his objection, as they were aware that he had entered the
valley by that route, so they would naturally look there for them.

This was convincing, of course, and the two hastened on their way,
lighted by the little searchlight. For a long time there were no
indications of pursuit, then a popping roar came beating down the
passage.

"That's the automobile!" Jimmie cried.  "Sounds like an express
train, eh?"

"It certainly does," Jackson replied, "and it is up to us to get out
of the way, somewhere.  They won't take extra pains to catch us
alive."




CHAPTER XIV

ARRESTED FOR SMUGGLING


The Nelson swept out of the air like a bird and landed so close to
the fire that Ned felt the warmth of it on his face.  The wheels cut
the earth at first, under the force of the quick descent, then
stopped.

The firelight shone on the white planes, bringing them out strongly
against the darkness, and Ned knew that he could not remain there a
minute without being discovered by the alleged officers of the
little republic he was just then warring against.  When he landed
the men were out of sight around the ledge, but they of course saw
the aeroplane and came running back.

Lyman, or a man Ned believed to be the cattleman whose financial
operations had stirred up an international row, stood moodily by the
fire when the Nelson dropped down, almost on top of his head.  He
sprang away, rubbed his eyes as if trying to awake himself from a
bad dream, and then stood stock still, watching.

"Lyman?" Ned called.

There was no reply, and Ned spoke the name again.

"Yes, Lyman," the man by the fire answered, then.  "What new wrinkle
is this?" he added, stepping a little closer to the machine.

"If you're Lyman," Ned replied, hastily, "you can't get in here any
too quickly.  Those fellows will be here directly, with Thomas Q.
Collins in the lead, if my boys do their duty.  There will be little
chance for either of us then.  Jump in!"

"But I've never been on one of those things, and I'm afraid," Lyman
said, with a shrug of the shoulders.  "I'm afraid I'd fall out."

A shot came from the ledge, and Ned reached for the button which
would start the motors going.

"You've only a minute to decide," he said.  "I've come a long way to
find you.  If you reject this chance you won't get another."

"Well," Lyman cried, stepping up to the seat, very shaky as to
nerves and pale as death, "I may as well die from a fall as from a
bullet or a knife.  If Collins is coming back with the officers,
I'll have to do something."

The instant he was in his seat, Ned threw the leather straps about
his legs and wrists and buckled them tight.  Lyman shivered with
fright.

"I thought so!" he cried, mistaking Ned's motives.  "This is only
another trick!"

The wheels bumped for an instant over the inequalities of the
surface, the machine rocked lightly, then the planes lifted into the
air, the propellers running like mad.  A few ineffectual shots came
from the men who were running down from the ledge.  Ned saw Jimmie
and Jackson chasing Collins out of the valley, heard their shots,
and then, in a few moments, saw them at the mouth of the tunnel.

In five minutes more the Nelson was out of all danger, purring
through the darkness like a contented cat.  Lyman sat moodily in his
harness, saying not a word, but fully convinced that this was only
another trick of his enemies.  Directly the boy slowed the motors
down so as to make conversation possible.

"Well," he said, turning on one of the electric bulbs so as to see
the face of his passenger, "what do you think of the Nelson?  Peach,
isn't she?"

"Where are you taking me?" was the only reply to the question.

"That is for you to say.  We are not very far from Sicuani, Peru,
and from there you can secure transportation back to Asuncion--if
you think it safe to go there, under the circumstances.  About a
hundred miles to the north is Cuzco.  You can go there and prepare
for your visit to Asuncion if you care to.  Then, over here in
Bolivia, is Sucre.  It might be well for you to go there.  Anyway,
it is up to you."

"Who is doing this?" asked Lyman, suspiciously.

"I can't see as that makes any difference to you," Ned replied.

"I was in the hope," Lyman went on, "when you came down upon me so
unexpectedly, that my friends had found me.  You speak English like
a New York man," he went on.  "Perhaps you live over there?"

"Yes," was the reply.  "I live in New York, when I am home."

"Nice little old rotten government we've got!" almost shouted Lyman.
"The people at Washington let any crooked little republic do
anything it has a mind to do to a citizen of the United States.
They're too busy getting themselves into office and keeping in to
pay any attention to their duties.  England wouldn't stand for a
minute the tricks that have been played on me, not by business
rivals, but by the government of Paraguay!  England protects her
citizens, wherever they are!"

"Well," Ned replied, with a laugh, "you may be right about England,
but you are wrong about Uncle Sam.  He looks after his own, too; if
he didn't I wouldn't be here now.  You wouldn't be on earth!"

"Do you mean to say--"

Lyman hesitated, and Ned went on and told him as much of the history
of the expedition as he thought it necessary for the cattleman to
know.

"And now," he concluded, "Where do you want to go?"

"I want you to go with me, wherever I go," was the reply.  "And I
think we'd better go straight to Asuncion."

"Do you think that a safe plan?"

"Oh, yes; they won't dare abduct me again."

"Then," Ned added, "we may as well get on the way.  Asuncion is
somewhere about twelve hundred miles from here, and we've got to
make it by daylight."

"What's that?" asked Lyman, hardly believing he had heard aright.
"You would better say in two days."

"The Nelson can make it in eight hours," Ned replied, "if we don't
drop into any holes in the air or adverse currents."

"Holes in the air!" repeated Lyman.

"Sure," answered Ned.  "The atmosphere surrounding the earth is just
like the water in the large reservoirs--there are deep places and
shallow places, holes you can drop in, and currents like the Gulf
Stream current, the Japanese current, which warms the northern
states and British Columbia, and the Arctic Humboldt current, which
sends a cold stream down the Pacific coast of South America.  If we
have no difficulties with these rivers of the air, and the wind does
not come up too strong, we can make Asuncion by six o'clock in the
morning.  It is about ten now."

"What sort of an airship have you here?" demanded Lyman, amazed at
the thought of running at the rate of two hundred miles an hour or a
hundred and fifty, at least.

"She was built for speed and endurance," was the reply.  "Now cover
your face with this mask, unless you want to have your breath blown
out of the back of your head, and we'll get under way."

That was a night ride which neither of the participants ever forgot.
The first part of the night was dark.  Then a moon shone down from a
cloudless sky, showing all the beauties of that magnificent country.

The mountains, the forests, the headwaters of the rivers which help
to make the Amazon, were under their feet.  Now and then they swept
over a point of light which denoted the presence of a small town.
Occasionally the cry of frightened wild beasts--the vicious mountain
lion, the savage tiger cat, the prowling puma--came up to their
ears.

After a short run to the southeast, Ned wheeled about and struck
straight off to the east.  The wind was growing stronger, and the
Nelson was not making as good time as the boy desired.

There was a fierce current about the top of Mt. Sorata, which is
something over 21,000 feet in height, and again Ned swung off to the
north.  Dropping down, then, he swept into the valley of the Beni
river, which joins the Madeira river, some distance beyond the
Bolivian border.

He knew that at the eastern rim of Bolivia there was a series of
high mountain ranges which would protect him from the drifts blowing
over from the Atlantic--Serre Geral, Serre Paxecis, Serre
Aguapehy--and he reasoned that he could make better speed under the
lee of these elevations.  So he swept down the valley of the Beni
until it joined with the Madeira, crossed a line of hills, and made
for the Serre Geral range, something under a hundred miles away.

As the Nelson cleared the valley, however, Lyman gave Ned a punch in
the ribs with an elbow and nodded toward the ground.  His wrists
were fast in the harness so he could not use his hands.  Ned looked
down and instantly dropped the Nelson a few hundred feet.

Some distance down the Madeira, in the center of the stream, were
the lights of a boat which seemed to be anchored there.  Ned swept
closer and tried his best to make out the outlines of the craft, but
he could not do it without descending close to the river, and this
he did not care to do.

"It looks like the Black Bear," he thought, as he shot up into the
air again, "but of coarse it can't be.  Those Boy Scouts are not
fools enough to bring her up into this country."

So he came to the protection of the mountains and proceeded south
toward Asuncion at a speed which caused Lyman to gasp for breath.
Of course he was ignorant of the fact that Frank, Jack, and Harry
had started out, during his absence, to explore the headwaters of
the Amazon, hoping to come upon the Nelson before returning.

As for the lads on the Black Bear, they did not even know that the
Nelson was so close to them that night.  It was three nights later
that they first saw the aeroplane drifting above them.  Asuncion
does not at all compare in beauty or in thrift with the other
capital cities of South America.  The government of the republic is
so unstable that business men are loath to make heavy investments
there.

For one thing the town is poorly lighted, and when Ned came, in view
of the place at five O'clock the few street lamps were already out.
People were abroad at that early hour, however, and small crowds
soon gathered on the street corners to watch the great airship
approach.

What Ned could not see was the intense excitement around the
government offices.  In ten minutes from the time the airship showed
above the city, messengers were out in the streets and officials of
the lower rank were headed for their offices.  In a few minutes this
alarm was communicated to police headquarters and to the military
station where the governor's guard was stationed.

If the boy had been able to understand the situation below, if he
had known that Asuncion had been communicated with from Lima and
also from Sicuani, he would have given the city a wide berth.  He
saw the gathering of crowds below, of course, but naturally
attributed this to curiosity.  He had no doubt that the Nelson was
the first airship ever seen at Asuncion.

"Where are you going to take me?" asked Lyman, as the machine slowed
down and he found himself able to speak.

"To the American consul," was the reply.

Lyman sighed and shook his head.

"I'm afraid he will take little interest in me," he said.

"Doubtless," Ned replied, "he has received instructions from
Washington.  Anyway, I fail to see how they can molest you now, even
if they have the inclination to do so.  You just go about your
business as usual, and leave this abduction matter to the future.
You can gain nothing now by stirring that up.  Report to the consul
and go on about your business as if nothing had happened."

"That is the only thing there is to do," Lyman responded, with a
sigh.  "Still, I'm suspicious of those chaps.  They'll have some
trick ready."

Before long Ned found a level spot not far from the capitol building
where he could, drop the Nelson.  When he headed for that locality
he was followed through the streets below by a shouting, howling
mob.

"I can't understand this," he thought, and Lyman was still more
suspicious.

At last the Nelson was brought to the surface of the earth and Ned
and Lyman stepped out, very willing to stretch their legs after such
a long ride.  They had been in the air about twice the time set for
endurance by noted aviators.

They did not get much of a chance to stretch their legs, however,
for they bumped into a squad of soldiers on stepping out of their
seats.

"You are under arrest!" a gaily-dressed officer said, flashing his
sword out of its scabbard.

"What for?" demanded Ned, speaking in Spanish.

"Smuggling!" was the reply.

Ned laughed heartily.  Arrested for smuggling!

"Search us, and search the machine, then," he replied, "and let us
go on about our business.  We have no time to lose."

"In time!  In time!" was the drawling reply.  "Such things are not
done so quickly here!  In three-four days--in a week--in three, four
weeks, perhaps.  In the meantime you go to the jail."

Ned thought of the swiftly-slipping days, of the peril Jimmie and
Jackson were in, of Leroy in prison at Lima, and was about ready to
fight.  The officer refused to take him to the president, or to the
American consul.  In a quarter of an hour he was in a cell, alone,
wondering what had been done with Lyman, and also wondering what
would become of the Nelson.

He knew that the charge of smuggling, of bringing goods into the
republic by means of an airship, would be held against him as long
as it pleased his accusers to keep him in prison.  That would be
until the concession expired and, possibly, until the Nelson lay a
total wreck in the streets.

He saw no one who could give him any information as to what was
going on in the outside until the morning of the 21st, after he had
been incarcerated forty-eight hours.  Then a turnkey unlocked his
door and motioned him out.

"For trial?" Ned asked, hopefully.

"It is the wish of the president," was the reply.

"But what, why, when--"

"You have yet to see," was the impertinent reply.  "You have yet to
see if you can do these things to our countree!"

And so, mystified and, if the truth must be told, not a little
discouraged, Ned was led through the prison corridors, his mind
filled wit thoughts of Leroy, Jimmie, the Nelson, an, strangely
enough, the Black Bear!





CHAPTER XV

THE WARNING FROM THE SKY


There was a shock when the prow of the Black Bear struck a canoe
which lay full in its path.  The momentum was retarded for only a
second.  Then the motor boat was beyond the line of war canoes with
their screaming, gesticulating occupants.

Looking out of the rear ventilator, Frank saw a smashed canoe
running down with the current, with a dozen or more natives clinging
to it.  But there was still a large number of canoes up the river,
and the Black Bear was struck more than once by forceless bullets
and poisoned arrows as she sped past them.

Armed with modern rifles, the Indians would have made short work of
the occupants of the Black Bear, but the muskets they used were old
and mostly out of condition.  The arrows were far more deadly,
although they stood less chance of penetrating the tough panels.

"Now," Harry said, as they passed a racing fleet of Indian boats,
"we can open up a little and get a breath of fresh air!  I'm just
about suffocated!"

"Not just yet," Jack, who was at the front, said, "for there's a
mess of the black scamps just ahead.  They are on the bank, both
banks, and seem to be waiting for something to happen.  I wonder
what it can be?"

"Some trap, I suppose," Harry gritted.  "Well, all we can do is to
ran on through them, if they come out in boats, and get out of their
reach.  We ought to be able to be out of this blasted country in a
couple of hours."

"That's all right," Jack replied, "but you just listen a moment."

But the racing motors shut out all individual sounds, and Harry shut
them down for a minute.  Seeing this, Jack dropped an anchor at the
prow, and the boat lay pulling at the cable in the current.

"What did you do that for?" asked Frank, addressing both boys from
the stem.

"Listen!" commanded Jack.

"Look!" ordered Harry.

What Frank heard was the heavy, continuous roar of a waterfall.
What he saw, as he crowded up under the plate glass panel in the
top, were the lights of an airship!

"I tell you," Harry cried, excitedly, "that that's the Nelson.  You
can't fool me about that."

"Why doesn't she come down, then?" demanded Jack.

"Because she doesn't know that this is the Black Bear.  That is an
easy one!  If she did she'd be here in a second."

The boys studied the lights a moment and then turned their attention
to the Indians, who were now making a great clamor.  In a short time
it was easy to see what they were up to.

Above roared the falls and the rapids.  At this point in the Beni
river there is a swift drop from the mountain plateau above.  It
will be remembered that the Beni reaches away up into the Illimani
mountains, with its springs not far distant from the summit of the
Andes.

Where the boys were the Paredon and the Paderneira, falls and the
Araras and the Misericordia rapids made the navigation of the river,
even in the protected Black Bear, impossible for many miles.  The
Indians seemed to understand this, for they had gathered at the foot
of the falls, possibly expecting to see the craft attempt the
ascent.

Jack watched them from the prow for a time and then asked:

"What's that they are throwing into the river?"

"Logs!" replied Harry, looking out over Jack's shoulder, "and
brush!"

"Well, of all the--"

The sentence was not finished.  Frank, at the stern, gave a yell and
fired out of the loophole.  "Come here!" he shouted, then, "if you
want to see what the devils are doing.  This takes the cake!"

A glance showed the others what the plot against them was.  Harry
went to his locker for his revolver and Jack drew his from a pocket.

"I guess it is a fight now!" Frank said.  "You see what they are
doing?"

"Of course.  Anybody can see that."

Jack reached out of the opening and fired a perfect volley down
stream.  Frank crowded against him to look out.

"Never touched them!" he cried.

"No," Jack went on, "they're forming a bridge with their canoes and
running logs and brush down against it.  They've got an obstruction
already that the Black Bear never can get through."

"What's the matter with dynamite?" asked Harry.

"Oh, we can use dynamite as long as we have it," was the reply, "but
there will be Indians on guard there long after we are out of the
stuff."

"I guess that's right!" with a sober drawing of the lips.

"I'll tell you what we've got to do," Harry said, presently.  "We've
got to put on full power and try to run up the rapids."

"Why, there is noise enough for a ten-foot fall," Frank replied.

"We've got to risk it," Jack went on.

"Now, you just wait," Frank cut in.  "I don't think you've got this
thing sized up right at all. Harry," he continued, "who does this
boat belong to?"

"To the Black Bear Patrol," was the reply.  "You know that well
enough."

"Then we can do what we please with it, so long as we make it right
with the other members of the Patrol?"

"Why, of course."

Jack looked at his chums with a grin.

"What are you figuring on?" he asked.  "One would think you were
planning to blow the Black Bear into smithereens."

"That's about it," Frank replied.

"And go to kingdom come with her?" laughed Jack.  "Not any of that
for me.  I'm headed, eventually, for little old N.Y."

"I'm tired of fooling with these cannibals," Frank explained.  "We
haven't molested them, and yet they are after our scalps.  They'll
get them, too, if something isn't done--and done right away, at
that."

"I'm with you!" Jack exclaimed.  "I'm willing to try anything once.
Only let me in on the secret!" he added, chuckling.

 "You had it right," Frank said. "What I propose is to blow the
Black Bear into smithereens, and about a thousand of those
bloodthirsty natives with it.  The world will be all the better for
their being out of it.  They are worse than the savage beasts in the
forests."

"But what is to become of us?" asked Harry.

Frank pointed to the Wolf, tugging at the cable which held her nose
to the stem of the Black Bear.

"We'll be safe in there when the explosion takes place," he said.

Jack clapped the speaker on the shoulder.

"You're all right!" he cried.

Harry looked mystified for a moment, and then said, speaking loudly
in order that his voice might be heard above the shouts of the
savages and the beating of arrows against the panels of the boat:

"It looks as if we'd have to do it.  I hate to leave the Black Bear
in such a mess away off here in South America, but I don't see how
we are to get her out.  The Wolf will carry us all right, I
suppose?" he said, tentatively.

"Sure thing!" Frank replied.  "I've been thinking it all out.  We'll
do it this way: When we get ready we'll put on full speed ahead on
the motors, with the prow turned against that obstruction below.
Then we'll hop into the Wolf and shut everything down tight.  The
Black Bear will weaken the jam below, and the sharp nose of the Wolf
will poke through the rest of the logs and canoes.  And there you
are!"

"Free of the natives, and bobbing down the, river in safety!" cried
Jack.  "That looks good to me!"

"But about the dynamite?" asked Harry.

"Well," Frank replied, "we've got to use the Black Bear for a
battering ram anyway, and she'll be all smashed up, so we may as
well go the whole hog with her.  We'll put a lot of dynamite down
under the motors and fix a cap so it will blow up when the
concussion comes.  By that time the natives will be swarming around
her, and they'll get what's coming to them."

"And where will we be when the explosion is rocking this half of the
world?" demanded Harry.  "Up in the air?"

"We'll be a cuddled up in the Wolf, between the lockers, with plenty
of grub and ammunition, sailing down the river in a bullet-proof
vessel.  This move will burst up our meeting with the Nelson, of
course, but there is no other way.  They'll get us if we remain
here."

While this talk had been going on, the cannibals had drawn nearer to
the Black Bear, pressing forward from both banks in canoes and
pounding at the panels with their arrows.  It seemed only a question
of time when they would board the craft and force the panels.  Their
shouts of victory were shrill and exasperating.

"You see how it is," Frank said, "the Black Bear can never be pushed
up over the falls, and we can never get her past the obstructions
below, even by the use of dynamite.  If we could blow the those logs
out of the way, the Indians would board us instantly.  We could give
them only a charge or two of dynamite and a few shots before they
would be inside.  Now' we can drift down the river in the Wolf
without fear of entertaining man-eaters on board. They may get on
top of the boat, but they can never get inside."

"And so we'll have to give up our trip!" wailed Harry.  "We'll have
to drift down stream in that hot hole and take a steamer at the
nearest river town!"

"It strikes me," Frank observed, "that it is a mighty good thing
we've got that hot hole to drift down stream in.  If the Black Bear
had only been constructed on the principle of the Wolf, we'd be in a
position to give these heathens the laugh.  Well, let us pull the
Wolf up and throw out stuff enough to give us room.  Then we'll get
out the dynamite."

The boys drew the Wolf up by the cable as Frank tried to elude the
watchful eyes of the savages long enough to open the hatch on top
and climb inside, but a dozen arrows whizzed by his head when he
looked out.

"Can't do it!" he said.

"Never in the world!" Jack assented.

"Another good scheme gone wrong!" Harry ejaculated.  "What next?"

"Dynamite," almost shouted Jack.  "We'll give them dynamite as long
as it lasts, and then ram the logs below."

"We may kill, a couple of hundred," Frank said, "but it seems to me
that there will be about ten thousand left."

The boys were indeed in a tight box.  With their automatics and
their dynamite they might keep the natives at bay for a time, but in
the end they would be obliged to surrender or starve to death.

"Well," Jack said, grimly, "let's get out the dynamite.  I want to
see some of these devils blown up!"

Just then an arrow struck the plate glass panel at the top of the
Black Bear's deck covering and Jack looked up.  He gazed a moment in
wonder and then let out a shout that rose above the yelling of the
savages and the pounding of arrows against the panels of the Black
Bear.

"Glory be!" he shouted.

Frank and Harry crowded to his side and looked up.

"It is the Nelson!" Harry exclaimed.

"You bet it is!" Frank admitted.

"Good old Ned!" Jack roared.

The aeroplane was only a few yards above the Black Bear.  Already
the natives were slinking away in their canoes.  Those on the banks
were slowly withdrawing into the shelter of the forests.

"They're running away!" Jack cried.  "Now we'll have some fun with
good old Ned Nestor!"

For a moment it looked as if the statement was correct; as if the
natives, alarmed at the sight of the aeroplane would disappear from
sight without a fight.  But this supposition was soon disproved.

As the Nelson came nearer, a dozen bullets from the forests struck
her planes.  The boys, in the boat raised the panel and shouted to
the aviator to look out for poisoned arrows.

Then the aeroplane shot up again.  They could see that there was
only one person on the machine, and that he was busy arranging
something which looked like a stick of dynamite which he held in his
hands.

In a moment something grim and sinister whirled and hissed through
the air, and then there came a terrific explosion in the forest to
the right.  Trees were leveled, and a great hole showed in the bank.
In an instant, following close on the roar of the dynamite, there
came a chorus of cries from savage throats-cries of fear, of terror,
of rage--and then silence.

For a moment it seemed as if the forests held no forms of animal
life, then the sharp call of the tiger-cat, the wail of the puma,
the chattering of the monkeys, came to the ears of the listening
boys.

"I guess this coming act will consist of a feed for the wild
beasts!" Jack said.

For a long time there was no sound of savage life in the forests,
save that from the throats of beasts of prey, scenting blood and
slowly drawing closer to the river's banks.  The boys on the Black
Bear looked into each other's faces and wondered.

"They didn't act that way when we exploded dynamite!" Jack said.

"No.  They came right back at us!" Frank replied.

"I take it that they think there's something supernatural in this
dropping of dynamite from the sky," Harry observed.  "Anyway, they
seem to have taken themselves off, and we'll open up and signal to
the Nelson!  Say, won't it be fine to see good old Ned Nestor again?
I wonder how he knew we were here?"

"And I wonder where Jimmie and Leroy are?" Harry reflected.  "There
is only one person on the machine, and that must be Ned."

Jack was about to throw open the top panels when he caught sight of
the aeroplane again, nearer to the water than before.

"What's Ned doing?" he asked, pointing upward.

"Talking!" exclaimed Frank.

"Wigwagging!" Harry broke out.  "Now, let us see what he says."

Slowly to the right and left, up and down, an electric bulb flashed
in the sky.  Harry counted.

"That's C;" he said, "and that's 'a,' and that's 'u,' and that's
't,' and now 'i,' and 'o,' and 'n.'  'Caution!'  That means that
we've got to stand pat for a time yet."

"It also means," Jack said, "that we've made no mistake about that
being the Nelson, with a Boy Scout on board.  Those wigwag signals
show the supposition to be true."

"Well," Harry puzzled, "he wouldn't be sending us a warning from the
sky if there wasn't some danger we were not aware of.  There is
something going on that we are not wise to."

There was a short silence on board and then Frank remarked:

"We must be nearer the falls than we thought, for the water seems to
be a ripple about us.  Rear it!  I'm going to look out and see it
looks like."

In a moment he was jamming the panel shut and springing the slides
over the loopholes and the ventilators.

Jack sprang to the prow, not knowing what danger threatened, but
obeying the sudden gestures of his chum to close every opening.
Before he sprung the steel panel over the ventilator he glanced
out on the river.

"Great heavens!" he cried.  "Get your guns, boys!"

The whole surface of the stream, as far as the boy's eyes reached,
seemed covered with savage heads, floating, drifting, down upon the
Black Bear.




CHAPTER XVI

RED FIRE FROM THE SKY


Under the light of the moon the rushing river seemed full of
leering, cruel eyes.  The bodies of the swimming savages were not
visible--only the upturned faces and the threatening eyes, with now
and then a hand or the point of a glistening shoulder.  There
appeared to be thousands of the cannibals; their mass reaching from
shore to shore.

Then, while the boys looked, expecting every instant to hear the
sound of feet outside the panels, a rocket shot out from the Nelson
and a score of parti-colored balls curved and hissed toward the
earth.

"Gee!" Jack cried. "He's giving them a fourth-of-July celebration!"

"Hope it scares them off," said Harry.

Looking through the heavy glass panel at the top, they saw a rain of
red fire drop down on the swirling river.  For a moment the whole
upper air, then river and forest, was painted a bloody red by the
burning powder.

Cries came from the river, and the mass of floating heads parted and
swung swiftly toward the shores; then silence.  The aeroplane
circled about cautiously and then dropped down lower.  Jack opened
the panel.

"Hello the boat!" cried a voice from the aviator's seat.

"Hello, Ned!" all three boys called back.

"How do you know it's Ned?" was asked.

"We saw that beautiful face of yours in the red fire," replied Jack.
"How are we going to get out of here?  They've blockaded the river
below, and the falls are above."

"I presume I have dynamite enough to blow up that improvised dam,"
replied Ned.  "Why didn't you do it?"

Before Jack could explain the situation, the Nelson drifted past,
and he knew that his voice would not carry to her.

"I'm going to open up now," Harry said, as the Nelson drifted out of
range of the glass pane.  "I'm pretty near choked in here."

"Nice time we would have had in the Wolf," laughed Jack.

"Anyway," urged Harry, "we should have been in her in a minute if
the Nelson hadn't shown up.  Say, won't they give us the laugh in
New York?  Came away off out here alone, and then had to be rescued
by Ned!"

 Very cautiously the panels giving on the stern were opened.  There
were no savages in view.  The banks of the stream seemed as quiet
and harmless as a thicket in Central Park.

"I guess the rocket and the red fire got them!" grinned Frank.

"Yes, but they won't stay scared forever!" Harry put in.  "We'd
better be getting out of this before they come back to their
senses."

"They never had any senses!" claimed Jack.

Looking out from the interior, now guarded only by the panels at the
front and sides, the boys saw Ned drop half a dozen sticks of
dynamite on the logs and brush which had been floated down on top of
a number of canoes.  In some places the logs had pushed up until
they were high above the surface of the water.

The pressure of the current was continually making the obstruction
more compact.  The canoes seemed to have been bound firmly together
and stretched from shore to shore.  At least the moorings were
strong, for the logs were heavy and the current pulled heavily at
them.

The explosions made great havoc with the barricade, and presently
the line was broken and the whole mass swung shoreward or drifted
down stream.

Then Ned called out:

"Now drop down stream and I will join you."

"Better look out where you land!" Harry called back.

"I hope I won't get into any such scrape as you did," Ned replied.

"Oh, you're not out of it yet!" laughed Frank.  "These woods are
full of man-eaters.  Look out where you go, and we'll find a place
for you to come down."

The anchor of the Black Bear was lifted and the power turned on.  In
a minute she was going down stream at a thirty-mile gait.

Directly they passed the wrecked barricade, rolling and tumbling in
the waters, the canoes either broken or half full of water.  The
Nelson still led the way down the stream.

"I guess he's never going to stop."

"Wonder if he's going back to New York?"

"Perhaps he's lost control!"

The boys looked and wondered as the aeroplane drifted on to the
north and cast.  They were miles from the scene of the battle now,
but the airship went on.

Presently they saw the purpose of the aviator in making this long
run.  A little nest of houses flashed out on the river bank, with
here and there a light showing, and here the onward course of the
Nelson became a circling descent.

In the east there was a faint line of dawn in the sky when the Black
Bear was pushed up to a primitive wharf.  The aeroplane was still
circling in the air.

"He wants us to pick out a spot for him to land on," Jack said.
"There's one over by that hill," he added.

When Ned saw the three boys gather at the spot indicated and motion
to him to come down he lost no time in doing so.  When he stepped
out of his seat all three lads were upon him.  One would have
thought they were determined to tear him in pieces the way they
seized his hands, his legs, and pulled at his neck.

"You old fraud!"

"How did you know?"

"You're a nice old chaperon!"

For a moment Ned could not say a word, then he pushed the boys away
and sat down on the ground.

"You're a nice bunch!" he said.

"Sure!" said Jack.

"The people back there thought so much of us that they wanted us to
remain to dinner!" grinned Harry.

"There ain't no better people!" Frank insisted.

"How did you happen to get out here?" demanded Ned.  "Why, you
fellows ought to have a chaperon.  Those cannibals would have had a
good dinner today if the Nelson hadn't come that way."

"Now, don't crow over us!" pleaded Frank.  "We know all about it.
You've gotten us out of many a scrape, but this is the large event.
We take off our hats to you.  Now, where's Jimmie and Leroy?"

"I don't know," answered Ned, gravely.

"I guess you are the one who needs a--"

"I guess you are right," Ned replied. "I've been up against the
pricks good and plenty since I left you.  If I get to New York
alive, I'm going to stay there for good."

"Where did you leave Leroy?" asked Frank.

"In jail!"

"Wow!" cried all three boys.

"And Jimmie?  I don't see how you happened to lose him."

"Jimmie is lost in the Peruvian mountains," Ned said.

"Well, why don't we go and get him?" asked Harry.

"Yes," laughed Frank.  "We might ride in the Black Bear over the
storm-tossed summits of the Andes!"

"At least," Ned said, "you boys can help me a lot.  I have my hands
full.  We can all ride the Nelson, I take it.  She was built to
carry three average-weight men, you know, and I think she ought to
manage three boys and one man!"

"Oh, you man!" laughed Jack, poking Ned in the side. "You man who
has to come to the three boys for help!"

"Tell us about it," Frank said.

"The quicker we start in on the search for Jimmie the quicker he
will be found," Harry insisted.

It was not much of a town where the Nelson had landed.  There were a
few native houses and a great warehouse, at one end of which was a
small office.  Such river products as came from up stream were
packed there to await transportation down to the Amazon.

By the time the sun was up a score or more natives and a couple of
British traders were gathered about the aeroplane and the Black
Bear.  One of the traders, Mr. Hamlin, invited the boys to his home
for breakfast, and left some of his employees on guard at the Nelson
and the Black Bear.

During the breakfast Ned recounted his adventures, to which the host
listened with the closest attention. Frank then told of the cruise
of the Black Bear, adding that they had hoped to reach the very last
yard of water flowing down the Andes slope to the east.

"It is wonderful what American Boy Scouts will accomplish!" Mr.
Hamlin said, when the tales had been told.  "A few years ago no boy
of your age would have undertaken such a duty as sent you to
Paraguay," he added, addressing Ned, "and no boys would have dared
to navigate the Beni river," he continued, smiling at the three
bright faces on the other side of the table.

"The Boy Scout training makes for courage and resourcefulness," Ned
said.  "We have not been caught in many traps.  In fact, I think we
are now up against the very worst situation we have ever
encountered."

"But you haven't yet told us how you got out of jail at Asuncion,
only that you got in on a smuggling charge and were released.  Who
brought about the release?"

"The president of the Republic," was the reply.  "He learned of the
matter and ordered me brought before him.  Well, I had been
searched, and the Nelson had been searched, and nothing found, so I
was let go.  The president also ordered the Nelson returned to me.
It had been appropriated by an official who had declared it
forfeited.  Not a bad chap that president, still, I think he saw
Uncle Sam in the background!"

"And about this man Lyman?"

"I was told that he had gone back to his concession.  I went out
there in the airship, but failed to find him.  After we find Jimmie
and get Leroy out of the jail at Lima I'm going to find Lyman once
more."

"This," Jack said, "is the 23d of August.  Now, we saw you last
night, the 22d, and the night before, the 21st.  Why didn't you come
down then?"

"Because I was not certain that it was the Black Bear, and because I
wanted to investigate the place where I last saw Jimmie and the man
Jackson.  I was over the boat longer ago than the night of the 21st,
but you did not know it, I guess."

"Well, you came at the right time, when you did come," Jack said.
"I only wish you hadn't found us in such a pickle!"

"It doesn't seem to me," Mr. Hamlin suggested, "that the Nelson
ought to carry four.  You may have to go pretty fast.  Now, one of
you can remain with me, in welcome, and look after the Black Bear.
I have plenty of gasoline, and we can amuse ourselves with trips on
the river.  Later, you can come back after the boat."

"I think I'd better stay," Harry Stevens said.   "I'm not stuck on
long rides in the air.  Besides, you can do just as well without me.
How far is it to the place where you left Jimmie and this man
Jackson?"

Ned took out his pocket map and bent over it.

"Here we are," he said, presently, "in the valley of the Madeira,
with a range of mountains on each side.  Below are the rapids and
the falls.  You must have had a sweet time traveling up from Fort
San Antonio.  You passed about three hundred miles of swift rapids
and falls.  How many times did you have to take the Black Bear to
pieces?"

"Not once there," was the reply.  "We managed to steam up.  But,
say, we had a lovely time getting up over one waterfall!"

"Well," Ned went on, "here we are at the big bend of the upper
Madeira.  We are not far from a thousand miles from the place where
I found Lyman.  We can get there by nightfall."

"Not for me," Jack said, with a shrug of the shoulders.  "We should
have to ride continuously to make it in that time, and I don't like
to remain in the air that long.  We ought to have five rests of an
hour each, and get there in the morning."

"Yes," Ned replied, "I'm getting tired of long rides myself.  We'll
go slower."

After breakfast the boys went to the Black Bear and looked her over.
The propeller which had been broken could easily be repaired, they
found, so they left that matter to Harry, replenished the tanks of
the Nelson with gasoline, and prepared for the long journey back to
the mountains of Peru.

"When are you coming back?" asked Harry, as the three mounted the
machine.

"In three days," replied Ned.  "And we'll bring Jimmie with us."

"If they haven't fed him to the mountain lions before now!" Harry
said, with a strange premonition of evil in his heart.

And the Nelson was up and away, and Harry set to work cleaning up
the motor boat, hoping to forget in toil how lonely and apprehensive
he was.




CHAPTER XVII

USING BOY SCOUTS FOR BAIT!


Alarmed by the swift approach of the motor car in the tunnel, Jimmie
and Jackson took to their heels and made swift progress toward the
east entrance, throwing the searchlight about and keeping their eyes
out for some hiding place as they ran.

Before long it became evident that they could not long maintain the
pace they had taken.  The motor car was gaining on them rapidly, as
they knew by the steady approach of the clamor which the engines
were making.

"Gee!" cried Jimmie, at last.  "No use!  I've got to drop in
somewhere!"

Jackson was as ready to stop running as was Jimmie, so they drew up
against the wall and Jimmie shut off the light from his electric
candle.

"Do you think they saw that light?" asked Jimmie, pushing close to
the rock wall.  "I hope not."

"Probably not, as there was always an angle between us," was the
whispered reply, "but their light is coming around that angle now.
Stand close!"

It was of little use to stand close.

Under the great lamps every crack and crevice of the tunnel walls
was in plain sight to the occupants of the car.  The two fugitives
might as well have attempted concealment under the limelight in the
center of the stage of a Broadway theatre!

Jimmie's hand was on his automatic as the car halted in front of
him.  Jackson saw what was in the boy's mind and laid a hand on his
arm.

"None of that!" he said.

"Well, I'm not goin' to be--"

Jackson forced the revolver out of the boy's hand as he brought it
out of his pocket.

"They've got us," he whispered, "and will be only too glad of an
excuse to shoot us down in cold blood."

"Well!"

This from Thomas Q. Collins, who sat in the front seat, looking at
the two as if he could bite them in pieces!

Jimmie looked sullenly toward his automatic, in Jackson's hand, and
said not a word.  Jackson stepped forward.

"You've got us!" he said.

"You bet we have!" gloated Collins.  "Where did that Nestor boy go
with the man he picked up by the fire?"

"Did he get him?" asked Jimmie.

"Yes, he got him, worse luck!" was the reply.  "Where did he go with
him?"

"Don't know," replied Jimmie.

"I'll find a way to make you know!" gritted Collins.  "Do you
fellows know what it is to be hungry?"

"Honest," Jackson cut in, "we don't know where Nestor went with
Lyman.  When he left us, he was not certain that he could get him.
Thought Lyman might not want to go away with a stranger on such
short notice."

"Oh, what's the use?" demanded one of the others.  "The fellow has
gone back to Asuncion.  That's easy to figure out.  Who set you boys
at work on this case?" he added, in a moment, at a whisper from his
seat-mate.

"Ned set me at work," Jimmie answered.

"Yes, but who set him at work?"

"I'll tell you," Jackson said, with a smile of satisfaction on his
face, "the United States government set Ned at work.  You'd better
watch out how you butt up against the Secret Service men."

"That's just what I told you!" sneered Collins.  "You wouldn't
believe me.  Now what do you think?"

The speaker left his seat in the machine and walked over to where
Jackson was standing, the revolver still in his hand.

"Give me that gun!" he demanded.

Jackson passed it over without a word of protest.

"Now your own gun," Collins demanded, extending his hand.

"I have no gun," was the reply.  "You know that very well."

"I thought you might have stolen one since leaving the cow country,"
snarled the other.  "There is no knowing what kind of property you
light-fingered gentlemen will acquire."

"You're a liar, Collins," Jackson said, coolly.  "You know I never
ran off the cattle which were missed.  I believe you stole them!"

Collins advanced angrily toward the speaker, but one of his company
drew him back.

"Cut it out!" he said.  "There will be plenty of time later on."

"What are you going to do with us?" asked Jimmie.

"You'll see!" Collins replied.  "I wonder how you would like a game
of chase-the-bullet?  Similar to the one you gave me not long ago?"

"Like it fine," Jimmie grinned, "if it didn't do me no more harm
than it did you.  Never touched you!"

"It may be different in your case," Collins threatened.

After consulting together in whispers for some moments, the men
loaded Jimmie and Jackson into the crowded motor car and put on the
reverse movement.  In half an hour, the progress being slow, they
came to the valley where the campfire was still burning.  Here they
all alighted.

Half a dozen Peruvian Indians of vicious appearance now came
forward, and Collins gave them instructions in an undertone, after
which the two captives were led away to the cavern in which Lyman
had been sheltered up to the time of the arrival of the Nelson.  One
of the Indians remained outside while the others hastened away.

"Well," Jimmie said, as he looked gloomily at the discouraged
Jackson, "what do you think of this?  I'd like to push the face of
that Collins person in so it would mix with the back curtain."

"We're in for it!" moaned Jackson.

"Aw, what can they do to us?" demanded the little fellow.

"They can keep us here until we die of starvation," replied Jackson.
"I've had a turn with starvation, and know what it's like."

Jimmie reached under his coat and brought out a can of beans.

"Here," he said, "get busy on this."

"They took mine away when they searched me for a gun," said Jackson.

"Buck up!" advised Jimmie.  "We've got to figure out some way to
give them the slip.  What?"

"Yes, I suppose so!"

Jackson had counted on getting back to civilization without further
difficulties, on the arrival of the Nelson, and now he was
completely discouraged.  Jimmie sat on the floor of the cavern and
eyed him quizzically.

"Ned will come back after us," the little one said, presently.  "You
put your bloomin' trust in Ned, an' you'll come a four-time winner
out of the box.  I know.  I've been out with him before."

"But how will he ever find us here?" asked Jackson.

"How did he ever find Lyman?" demanded the boy.  "You hush your
kickin' an' leave it all to Ned.  Guess he knows enough to get us
out of this sink of iniquity!  That boy eats 'em alive!"

"I can't see why they should keep us here," Jackson remarked,
presently, prying off the top of the can of beans with his pocket
knife.  "Why don't they go back to Asuncion and look after that
cattle concession?"

"Because they've got some one there to look out for it for them,"
replied the boy.  "They're waitin' here for Ned to come back an' get
us, if anybody should ask you," he went on, his cheerful smile not
at all matching the serious import of his words.  "This Collins
person has cards up his sleeve, an' he wants to get hold of Ned.
He's set his trap with us for bait."

"You're a cheerful little cuss!" grinned Jackson, beginning to see
the dangerous side of the situation.  "And what are we going to do
when Ned comes back?  Let them soak him?"

"Not so you could notice it," was the reply.  "When Ned comes back
we'll be out at the other end of that tunnel, an' he'll swoop do in
in the Nelson an' pick us up, an' we'll be back in little old N. Y.
before you can say scat."

"But how can we--"

The entrance to the cavern was darkened for a moment and then the
flashily-dressed form of Collins made its appearance.

"What's that about getting back to little old N. Y.?" he asked.
"When do you start for Manhattan Island?"

"You heard, then?" asked Jackson.

"Of course."

"Well?"

"Well, we'll see that you don't get away until this Ned comes back
after you.  We need him in our business."

"He'll land Lyman at Asuncion before you see him again," Jimmie
said.

"Not a doubt of it," was the sullen reply, "but don't you ever think
we haven't got people there who will look out for our interests.
Lyman won't be at liberty long, and your Ned will come back here to
get what's coming to him."

"Is that so?" exclaimed the boy, putting on a bold front, but
inwardly fearful that the situation was a tragic one.

Leaving the captives with this cheering (?) information, Collins
went back to his companions, leaving the Indian still on guard.  For
a time the Indian stood stolidly in front of the cave, then, looking
carefully about to see that he was not observed by his employers, he
faced the opening and uttered one English word:

"Prepared."

Jackson opened his eyes in amazement, but Jimmie saw an extended
hand and sprang forward.  The Indian's right hand was extended
toward the boy, palm up, the thumb and little finger meeting across
the palm and crossed, the remaining fingers straight out.

"You mean, 'Be prepared'?" Jimmie asked.

"'Be prepared,"' repeated the other, like one rehearsing a lesson.

"Gee!" laughed the boy.  "Here's a Boy Scout lingerin' in little old
Peru!  Now wouldn't that stop a clock?"

"You just wait a minute," Jackson said, hopefully.  "I think I can
talk with this chap a little in Spanish."

Then followed a great picking of words to match gestures, and
gestures to explain words, during which the full salute of the Boy
Scouts of America was often repeated by the Indian.  Then Jackson
said:

"He says that there were Boy Scouts down here six months ago, and
that he guided them through the mountain passes to the headwaters of
the Beni river.  From there they went through to the valley of the
Amazon in a boat--a steam launch."

Jimmie reached under his waistcoat collar and produced his Wolf
badge, pointing to it with his finger inquiringly. The  Indian shook
his head.

"Not Wolves," the boy said, in a moment.  "Let's see if they were
Black Bears."

When a Black Bear badge which belonged to Jack Bosworth was shown
the Indian still shook his head.  Then he pointed to the sky and
whirled his hand around significantly, finishing with a waving,
flying motion.

"I see!" cried Jimmie.  "They were Eagles!"

"This ought to help some," Jackson observed, his face growing more
cheerful.

"Of course it will," replied the boy.  "Ask him if he wants to get
out of this blasted country and go to New York.  We'll take him if
he'll get us out on the east slope before Ned gets back."

Jackson talked with the Indian again, but did not seem to be able to
come to terms with him.

"He doesn't want to commit himself," the ex-cattleman said.  "We'll
have to wait until he thinks it over."

The Indian seemed moody and sullen for the next few hours.  When
dawn came and the little fire which had blazed in the cavern all
night went out, he was called away and another native placed on
guard.

"That settles it," Jimmie said.  "We lose!"

"I'm the losenest feller you ever seen," said Jackson.  "I never won
a bet in my life.  You're unlucky to get dumped in a mess with me."

About the time Ned and Lyman landed in Asuncion the boys in the
cavern began looking for his return.  They were not permitted to
leave the cavern, but they watched the eastern sky intently every
minute.

They watched the sky, too, during the long days when Ned was in
prison at Asuncion.  Late on the afternoon of the 21st, as the
reader knows, Ned searched the eastern slope for them but they did
not see him.  On the morning of the 23d they were taken from the
cave and placed in full sight on the eastern slope, where they would
be sure to be seen from the sky.  They did not know what to make of
this at first, but directly, when they saw Indians, heavily armed,
stationed in hiding places all about them, they understood.

Jimmie had expressed the situation exactly.  The cowards were
baiting their trap for Ned with his friends.

Unless some means of warning him could be found, Ned would drop down
to his death if he landed to rescue the ones he had left behind.




CHAPTER XVIII

THE END OF A LONG CHASE


On the 23d of August the Nelson, with Ned, Jack, and Frank on board,
was sweeping over the mountains and valleys of Bolivia and Peru
toward the twin valleys in which Jimmie and Jackson had been left.
Plenty of provisions and gasoline had been taken on at the Hamlin
storehouse, and the lads were well equipped for a week's cruise in
the air.

They did not urge the aeroplane to its fullest speed, nor did they
remain in the air longer than a couple of hours at a time.  It had
been decided to strike the eastern slope of the range just before
dawn, so the Nelson was allowed to loiter on the way.  Jack
afterwards declared that Ned slept half the time!

Had the first decision, to run to the twin valleys as swiftly as
possible, been held to, the two prisoners, guarded on that eastern
slope, would have seen the Nelson coming toward their relief.

At the same time, on landing, Ned and his companions would have been
confronted with armed Indians demanding immediate surrender.  This
would not have been according to the notions of the boys on the
aeroplane, as they had figured that Jimmie and Jackson would be able
to keep out of the hands of the Collins gang.

The 23d dawned slowly, with the Nelson loitering over the great
brown and green map of South America and the boys tiring their eyes
looking for the glistening planes of the aeroplane.  The captives
were provided with food, but it was decidedly cold on the
mountainside when night came.

All that day and all that night the guards lay in wait in
sequestered places, waiting for the Nelson.  Although his only hope
of immediate rescue lay in the arrival of the Nelson, Jimmie wished
every minute of the time that Ned would in some manner be warned
away from that dangerous locality.

Just before dawn of the 24th Jimmie, who had fallen into a light
slumber, felt Jackson pulling at his arm.

"Wake up!" the man whispered.  "There is a light in the sky!"

Jimmie was on his feet in an instant.  Away off over a parallel
ridge to the east, a ridge not so high as the one on which they
stood, and which formed only a slight elevation in the general
slope, a single light twinkled and swung up and down in the half
light between night and morning.  "That's the Nelson, all right!"
Jimmie declared.  "Ned is coming!  Good old Ned!  Now, what can we
do to keep him from being murdered?" the boy added, tearfully.

"I give it up!" replied Jackson.  "All we can do is to give them
some signals and tell them to keep away."

Jimmie sprang out to one of the guards, who already stood erect,
watching the light with his gun in his hand.  The guard looked
curiously at Jimmie as he advanced, his hands clasping his
shoulders, his body shivering as from extreme cold.  The Indian was
cold, too, so it did not take him long to make out the boy's
meaning.

Jimmie next pointed to sticks lying about, and to bunches of dry
grass which stood in some of the crevices of the rocks.  The guard
nodded consent for a fire and Jimmie raced about like mad collecting
principally dry grass.

Jackson ran to help him, piling his gatherings all on one heap.

"Make three piles!" Jimmie cried.  "I want three fires!  Three
bright fires!  Make three heaps!"

The three heaps grew fast.  They were not arranged in a row on a
level, but mounted one above another on the slope.  Jimmies idea was
to so place the fires one above the other, some thing like notches
cut in a tree trunk.

The reason for this is apparent.  Three fires in a line facing the
point signaled to signal "Good News."  Three notches cut in a tree
trunk, one above another, mean "Important Warning!"  Now the
question was, would Ned understand that the fires represented
warning notches, one above the other, and keep away until some safe
plan for landing could be arranged?

If he accepted the signal as "Good News" signs, he would drop down
to death.  If he read them as Jimmie intended he should, he would
sail away and wait for a more favorable opportunity.

When the three fires were going the Indian guards gathered about in
order to warm themselves.  Jimmie and Jackson hovered near them,
too, but they never shifted their eyes from the light in the sky.

The Nelson hovered over the elevation to the east for a second, and
then, much to the amazement of the lad, whirled about and shot
downward, out of sight.  The guards watched the light as long as it
showed and then turned to the fires again.

Daylight came swiftly, and a finger of sunlight lay on the crest of
the mountains when the' machine was in the air again.  It was,
perhaps, three miles away, across deep and dangerous canyons which
it would require hours of the hardest kind of traveling to cross on
foot.

Sailing low, almost touching minor elevations at times, the great
airship came on, straight to the spot where the boys stood--where
the Indians awaited them with guns in their hands!

In a moment Jimmie saw why this course was being taken.  Unless the
rascals in the twin valleys had seen the light when it first
appeared they would not see it at all, for the bulk of the mountain
shut off their view of the rough country over which Ned was
traveling.

Ned did not seem to mind the fire signals.  Perhaps, Jimmie thought,
he had recognized the warning as a "Good News" signal.  In that case
the boy thought, the end of everything, for them, would come right
there!

Moving slowly and softly, with little noise of motor or propeller,
the Nelson approached the spot, circled about, and dropped in a
little depression just below the place where Jimmie was standing.
Then the strangest thing happened!

The boy had expected to hear rifle shots, to see his friends
attacked, perhaps murdered before his eyes.  But the first one to
spring from the machine was the Indian who had given the Boy Scout
salute some days before!

The Indians on guard saluted him gravely and stood eyeing the
aeroplane critically.  No hostile move was made.  It was the
strangest thing!  Where had Ned taken the Indian up, and why had the
latter volunteered to render this assistance?

It was no use to wonder, so Jimmie and Jackson sprang toward the
machine, grasped Ned by the hand, and swung into seats.  The Indian
who had piloted the Nelson to the place and prevented an attack by
the guards, stood with his arms folded across his broad breast.  For
a moment Ned grasped his hand.  The others followed, with what
emotion may well be understood, and the Nelson was away, purring
through the sweet air of the morning as if there were no perils at
all in life!

Later revelations showed that the Indian, wishing to protect the Boy
Scouts, had made his way to the elevation where the Nelson had first
dropped down, signaled to Ned, and informed him of the plans of the
Collins people.  Frank and Jack had been left farther down the
slope, as it was feared that the Nelson would not be able to get
away with so much weight to carry.  It is almost needless to say
that the Indian was rewarded for his loyalty to the Boy Scouts, and
that he carried back with him enough money to make each of the
guards a substantial present.

When the Nelson first rose above the rim of the twin valleys shrill
cries came from the direction of the cavern, and half a dozen shots
were fired.  But all to no purpose.  The last the boys saw of
Collins and his adherents they were shouting angrily at the Indians,
who were rapidly disappearing from sight over the west wall.

After a time the aeroplane dropped down again, and Jimmie's eyes
nearly popped out of his head when he saw Jack and Frank sitting
complacently on a rock watching him with grins on their faces.  The
greeting of the three boys may well be imagined.

"You're a nice bunch!" Jimmie cried, after many handshakes and much
pulling about.  "We left you on the way to little old N.Y.  Where
you been?"

"We just took a run in the Black Bear!" was the reply.

"The Black Bear!" repeated the little fellow actually rubbing his
eyes to see if he was awake.  "Where is the Black Bear?"

"Down in the Madeira river," laughed Ned, "and there's no knowing
where she would have been by this time only for the--"

"Cut it out, Ned!" broke in Jack.  "Let us break it to him gently.
He'll have fun enough with us without getting it all in a bunch!"

Jackson was introduced to the two boys, and then a council of war
was held.  It was finally decided that Jackson should be taken to
Sicuani in the Nelson and left there, with money enough to make his
way out.  Pedro was found at Sicuani and richly rewarded.  He did
not return to Lima.

Then Ned was to return for the boys and proceed straight to
Asuncion, where the search for the missing cattleman was to be
renewed.  This programme was carried out.  Later the boys met
Jackson in New York and royally entertained him at the Black Bear
club room and saw that he secured a fine position.

When the Nelson reached Asuncion Ned proceeded directly to the
office of the president, taking the boys with him.  There the story
of the trip was told, and Frank and Jack saw to it that Ned's
official position was made known to the head of the republic.

"And so this Mr. Thomas Q. Collins is the man at the bottom of the
trouble?" asked the official.  "Well, he will be taken care of if he
returns here.  And this military chief?  He shall be sent out of the
country!"

It transpired later on that the president had been deceived in the
two men, and that Collins had secured the assistance of the general
by false statements and by offers of large sums of money in case the
cattle concession was taken from Lyman.  A good many officials were
found to be mixed up in the conspiracy, and there were numerous
vacancies in the government service.

"And now," the president said, after the whole truth was known, "the
next thing to do is to find Lyman and restore him to his rights."

"It seems to me," Ned suggested, "that this general ought to be able
to produce him in Asuncion in a few hours' time."

"It may be so," admitted the official.  "At least, we'll see what
can be done in that direction."

Lyman was safe in his home in one day.  When the general learned
that it was the wish of the president that the cattleman should be
brought forth, the thing was as good as accomplished.

"It seems to me," Ned said to the boys, that night, "that this thing
has been settled without much help from me.  All the president
needed was to be set right."

"What he needed," laughed Jack, "was the proof that Collins had
abducted Lyman, and that he was prepared to prevent his return to
Asuncion until his concession had expired.  Perhaps you can tell me
how all this proof could have been obtained if you had not
undertaken the job offered you by the Secret Service men at San
Francisco?"

"Of course he can't," Jimmie put in.  "Lyman man would have died
there in the mountains and Collins would have taken over his
property.  The president might have been in with the deal at first,
but he certainly wasn't willing to stand for such coarse work."

"And when Lyman didn't show up, his heirs would have demanded the
property, and then there would have been an international quarrel--
perhaps work for gunboats," Frank added.  "I think the case was
settled just right, and in the right way."

"And what does this Lyman person say?" asked Jimmie.

"Not a thing!" cried Jack.  "He just offers Ned all the money there
is in the world in the shape of a reward.  I should have taken it!"

"I know better," Ned commented.  "We don't need his money, any more
than we need the half million or so Collins offered us."

"Wonder what Collins will do now?" asked Frank.

"He'll duck!" replied Jimmie.

The little fellow was right.  Thomas Q. Collins was heard of no
more, either in Paraguay or Peru.  When Ned, leaving the others at
Asuncion, speeded over to Lima he found Leroy and Mike lounging
about the hotel, waiting anxiously for news from their chums.  They
had been released on the day following Collins' departure, there
being no one to press the charge of assault and battery against
them.

Now there was work cut out for the Nelson.  She carried Ned, Mike
and Leroy over to Asuncion and then made two long trips to the
little town on the Madeira where the Black Bear lay.

The meeting between the boys and Harry was an enthusiastic one, and
the latter pointed with a good deal of pride to the motor boat, good
as new and as bright and clean as a new gold piece.

After a few days spent exploring the country up the Beni, the boys
started home, their errand satisfactorily accomplished.  Jimmie
decided to go with Jack, Frank, Harry and Mike in the motor boat,
leaving the Nelson to Ned and Leroy.

"One thing I'd like to do," Jimmie said, as the Black Bear lay
waiting for the boys, "and that is to go up into that cannibal
country and have some fun with the fellows who captured the Black
Bear and made the occupants of it look like thirty cents in postage
stamps!"

"They never did capture the Black Bear!" yelled Frank.  "They tried
to, and got dynamited for their pains.  That's what they got."

"And of course," tormented the little fellow, "you wished the Nelson
had stayed away, and left you all the glory--not!"

"Well," Jack interposed, "we didn't get tied up in a mountain cave
by a lot of cheap skates.  We never got where we had to let an
Indian get us out of a mess."

"Rats!" shouted Jimmie.  "Ned would have recognized our fire signals
and remained away!  We could have gotten off without the Indian."

"You say it well!" laughed Frank.  "I think that fire signal was
punk!"

And so the lads roasted each other all the way down the Amazon, with
the Nelson sailing above them, dropping down at night and, perhaps,
changing passengers each day.

"I wish I had the frame of the Vixen," Leroy said, one day.  "I
could make a fine aeroplane out of it.  Shame to have an airship
smashed like that!"

Ned pointed to the planes of the Nelson.

"You've got quite a job making this little lady look like new," he
said.  "Those tent canvas planes look rather cheap."

"I'll have the new planes in place in a week after we get back to
New York," said the other.

"And send the repair bill to the government," advised Ned.  "It will
be paid without a cross word."

At the mouth of the Amazon the Black Bear was taken apart and packed
aboard a fast steamer bound for New York.  The five boys accompanied
her, of course, while Ned and Leroy completed the trip home in the
Nelson.  When the four reached the Black Bear club room they found
Ned there with a mass of letters and telegrams before him.

"Look here, lads," he said, "we've got more trouble on hand.  You
know about the revolution in China, and all that?  Well, there's a
lot of gold which belongs to the republic been dumped in the sea,
and I've got to go and help get it out!"

"Let 'em get their own gold," Jimmie said.

"But in this case, it is claimed that there was fraud in the
shipment of gold, also, that the vessel carrying it was rammed for
the purpose of concealing the fraud.  Anyway, Uncle Sam wants me to
look it up."

"What's he got to do with it?" asked Frank.

"Something connected with the sub-treasury," laughed Ned.  "That is
all I can say to you about it."

"And how you goin' to get it?" demanded Jimmie.

"By working with a submarine," was the reply.

"Down in the bottom of the sea!" sang Frank.

"Well," Ned said, presently, "figure the thing out for yourselves.
Find out if you can get permission to go, and all that.  The
government will provide the submarine and all the supplies, of
course, and land us near the spot we are to search."

But the story of the search for the gold is quite another tale.  It
will be found in the third volume of this series, entitled:

"Boy Scouts in a Submarine; or, Searching an Ocean Floor."


THE END








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