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The Air Ship Boys : Or, the Quest of the Aztec Treasure By H. L. Sayler Characters: 11600

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

It was a time for quick and fast thinking, and Ned and Alan did it. Alan's instant suggestion that they denounce the disguised tramp was almost as quickly voted down.

"So long as we didn't know who he was he had the advantage of us. Now that we know-" and neither of them now doubted the fact for an instant. "We have the advantage of him," argued Ned. "Let's turn that knowledge to profit. We can easily guess what he is trying to do. Major Honeywell's message says our real object is not known. This reporter has learned something, and I suspect he could have found quite a lot from the train crew. On that he has written a good enough story to attract attention. That shows he is no fool. And he wouldn't come out here unless he had been sent. Who would send him? Why, his paper, of course, to discover our real mission."

"What can we do to head him off?" mused Alan.

"There are two ways," suggested Ned, "and we've got to make one of them effective. I don't know how he has guessed but he must not have another guess. And he's seen a good deal."

"We might have him arrested," suggested Alan.

Ned thought awhile.

"I'll tell you, Alan," he said finally. "The young men of the press to-day may write fanciful stories, and they may even 'fake' where it injures no one, but personally they won't lie. Let's call our tramp in here, confront him with his imposture and give him his choice of writing nothing or of being drummed out of town."

"Who'll make him leave town?"

"Marshal Jack Jellup wouldn't need two suggestions on that score. And more, he'd see that the order was obeyed. I don't like to do it, but I think we're justified. He's taking that chance."

Again the thing was gone over, with arguments for and against, and then Elmer was hastily dispatched to find Jellup and bring him to the car.

"And Buck will lose his helper," laughed Alan.

"Better that than a second expedition on our heels," answered Ned

"Gus!" he called, throwing open a window. "Come in here!"

The tramp soon stood before them.

"Geel Dis is a swell joint," were the tramp's first words as with apparent awkwardness he entered the car.

Ned acted as spokesman.

"You say you've promised Buck to go with him without knowing where you are going?"

"Dat's about de cheese."

"Well, we are willing. But I may as well tell you that this is a secret expedition. If you go you must promise that you will not tell anyone what you see or hear."

The tramp's face suddenly took on a peculiar look, but it was gone as quickly.

"I gives me woid. I won't open me trap to no one."

"Meaning you won't say anything about it?" smiled Ned inquiringly.

"Dat's it. Mum's de woid. I won't open me trap."

"Nor write anything?"

The furtive look came back, this time more pronounced.

"Me to write! Wit wot? Me new typewriter?"

"That isn't an answer. Do you promise, if we send you with Buck, that you'll neither tell nor write nor make known in any way what you learn about what we are doing?"

"Say, look here, boss. Quit yer kiddin'. Me name is Lippe and mebbe I shoot it off a bit too frequent now and then, but you don't need to be afeered o' me peachin' to de udder'Bos.'"

"I'm not afraid of that," continued Ned. "We don't care what you tell all the tramps this side of Kansas City. But we don't want you to print anything more about us in the Comet."

Hardly a flush came on the tramp's face. There was a quick movement of the lips as if he were about to make protest and then he laughed outright.

"Bob Russell," said Ned, also laughing, "would you like the use of our bath tub for a few moments?"

"Would I!" laughed the young reporter rubbing his tinted and smoke begrimed hands together as if to wash them. "Well, I guess I would. My hands are up. What's next?"

"Wash up and we'll see," exclaimed Ned.

The young reporter was still laughing. "And if it isn't too much trouble," he asked, "would you mind if Buck took his check over to the depot and got the suit case that it calls for? Then we'll talk business."

In less than twenty minutes the sun burnt, dirty Gus Lippe had been transformed into the dapper Bob Russell. When he reappeared in fresh linen, outing clothes and a natty straw hat, he was still laughing. Approaching the group in the drawing room, where Marshal Jack Jellup had now arrived, the young reporter took out his pocket book and a five dollar bill.

"I'll pay that back first," he began; and then noticing one of his cards he politely handed it to the marshal. It read:


"Ye'r a purty fresh kid," sneered Jellup.

"At your service, Mr. Officer."

Jellup had already received an explanation of the whole affair and was aching to exercise his authority.

"Ye'r an impostor," he began, "and ef ye hadn't been caught, ye'd have taken money on false pretenses. I was onto ye."

"Oh, now," interrupted Bob, "at two dollars Mex per day I'd have given good value."

"Mebbe," retorted the marshal, "but these gentlemen hev come here on particular business and they came like gentlemen. The officials o' this city hev give their word that there shouldn't be no interferin' with their plans. And thet's what you're a-doin'. Now git!"

Ned broke in:

"One moment, Mr. Marshall"

"Oh, that's all right, Mr. Napier," exclaimed the reporter, "he doesn't mean just that. He knows I don't have to leave here so long as I obey the law."

"Ye don't, don't ye?" retorted the marshal. "Well, there ain't no back east law down here. Our law books mebbe got all burnt up. And mebbe I happen to be purty much o' the law myself. Ye'll git and git quick."

Again Ned interfered.

"I suppose if we ask you to permit Mr. Russell to stay here he can," he asked.

"Well, I reckon that wo

uld be so. Ef ye ask it I reckon I'll have to," he replied surlily.

Ned and Alan held a brief consultation.

"We have decided to ask the authorities to permit you to remain here on one condition."

The intelligent face of Bob took on a quizzical air as he waited to hear the condition.

"That is," went on Ned, "that you give us your word that you will not make known anything you have seen here, or of our plans so far as you may know them."

Bob's answer was immediate.

"I can't do that," he said, "I was sent here to do just that thing, and as quickly and as fully as I can. You ought to understand, and do, I think, that I have a duty to perform. I've taken the trouble to come all the way out here to get a story. I've got it and of course I'm going to use it. I should be false to my duty, to my employers and to myself if I promised not to do this."

"But you don't know our story."

"And I'm sorry. But I should have known it all if I had had a little better luck."

"Then you won't promise?"

"Decidedly not."

The boys showed that they were as stubborn as he.

"Then we'll see that you learn no more," Alan exclaimed angrily.

Bob smiled. "You can't take away what I already know, and it will take a pretty long story to tell all I am going to guess from what I have seen."

As he spoke his eyes were on Major Honeywell's chart of the Tunit Chas Mountains, which had carelessly been left lying on the table where it had been in use during breakfast in the last explanations to Elmer.

Ned's face reddened in new anger. He did not resent what the young reporter was doing; he even realized that he might do the same thing himself; but he was chagrined to find himself caught in such a simple manner. That was a big piece of additional information for Russell to have, and Ned knew it. Hard as the thing was to do he would at least put the young man out of the way of further discoveries.

"All right," he exclaimed, "we've tried to do the fair and decent thing, and if you want to be stubborn Marshal Jellup can do as he likes."


It was the marshal who spoke and he did so as if it were a pleasure.

"I'll take the Limited west to Gallup at noon," said Russell, "if I can stop it and catch the eastbound train there to-night."

"Then ye'll flag it along the road," shouted Jellup, "fur ye'll get out o' here on foot and in a hurry."

"On foot?" exclaimed Russell in surprise.

"That's what I said an' ye heerd me."

Russell looked in appeal at the two boys.

Ned was mad, and mad all over.

"You are so quick to have your own way," he said, "you can't blame us."

"All right," was the cheery response, "it'll lend a bit of local color to the story. Goodbye, boys. And good luck to you. I'll see you when you come back."

"Remember," said Alan relenting a trifle, "we'll let you stay until we leave if you'll promise to write nothing."

Bob laughed again.

"What good would that do me? No experience means anything to me that I can't turn into copy. And as for walking-I'd walk from here to Kansas City or crawl before I'd lie down on my shop like that."

"Come on, kid, get busy," exclaimed Jellup again. "An' when ye start, don't bother about lingerin', because I'll be hangin' around and I'm good with this at some distance."

As he spoke he drew a Colt 44 and tapped it.

"Never fear, Mr. Jellup," laughed Bob. "I suppose I can express my suit case to the next town?"

"Ye can't do no business in this city, d'ye hear? Now, come on."

"Say, partner," interrupted Bob with his usual good humor, "if you will let me take a snap of you I'll make you celebrated. 'Famous gun man' of New Mexico. It'll be great."

In another moment the nettled marshal had Bob by the shoulder and was whirling him out of the car. On the steps he threw the suit case onto the sandy plain and then pushed the reporter roughly down the steps. Ned and Alan stood, with flushed faces, watching the reporter pick up his hat and suit case. Then young Russell made a remark they could not hear and the marshal's revolver flashed in the air. They could see the boy's face grow pale at last, but as he straightened up the two men disappeared around the freight house.

Like a flash Ned was on the ground and after the marshal and his victim. Alan and Buck came running in the rear, for the alert Buck saw that something was in the air. It was early day and only a straggler or two was in sight at the depot. The sun, already mounting high, foretold a day of depressing heat. The steel lines of the railway stretched interminably eastward toward the first stop forty miles away.

Bob Russell, pale but defiant, stood in the middle of the track, his heavy suit case in his hand.

Suddenly there was the crack of a revolver and the dust flew about the young reporter's feet.

"Jist as a sample!" roared the angered Jellup. "The next one'll be higher up." And his trembling finger pointed down the hot sandy track.

There was nothing more to be done. The pale-faced but nervy reporter turned toward the east and started slowly down the track.

Ned ran forward.

"Russell!" he shouted, "Russell!"

As the reporter paused and turned, hearing his name, there was a second report of the marshal's revolver and Russell's suit case flew from his hand, ripped and torn ragged by a forty-four bullet.

The smoke of the explosion puffed upward and, where it had been, the marshal saw Ned Napier's automatic magazine revolver under his nose.

The boy was white with indignation. The possible serious results that might come to him and his plans meant nothing in his anger at such a dastardly act.

"It isn't a Colt," he said with dry lips, "but, if you make another move like that it's got ten shots and they come out all together."

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