AT ROCKY LAKE

“I hear it!” exclaimed Al. He ran out onto the turf that had been used
as a runway, probably, when the airplane took off.

“So do I,” agreed Curt, following him. “But I don’t locate it.”

Bob, craning his neck, staring up toward the great banks of clouds which
the early sun was painting with rosy fire, looked puzzled.

“Come to think of it,” he said, “we ought not to hear it at all.”

“Why not?” demanded Curt.

“He ought to be too far away.”

“How do you make that out?” Al was incredulous.

“Easy! Lang came home a little before daybreak. He had been at the
airplane plant all night, with the ‘mechs’ because Mr. Tredway wanted to
get that Silver Flash ready for delivery in a rush. I didn’t go to sleep
again. I got up, and dressed and went out to tighten the handlebar on my
bicycle. I glanced up, just as day broke, at the little windsock I have
on our roof.”

“The wind was directly _West_.”

“I don’t see—” began Al; but Curt, wetting the back of his hand, tested
the air in various directions.

“You use your head, Bob,” he said admiringly. “The breeze is pretty
strong, and it has shifted around _to South_, straight from the
Equator.”

“Are you two trying to be mysterious?” Al was a little bit annoyed.

“I thought you wanted to be a Master Sleuth, last year,” remarked Curt.
“Use your eyes and your brains.”

“Um-m-m—the airplane must be gone a long time because the wind was West
and now it’s South—um-m-m. Oh!”

“‘Ah-ha!’ cried Shawkhaw,” Bob mocked, twisting the famous Hawkshaw
title as he made fun of his brother.

“This turf runs East and West.” Al ignored Bob’s mockery. “That biplane
was a speed model and it would have to get up higher speed than the
average to take off. The runway is too short to give it a good run, so
it couldn’t very well have hopped off in time to get over the trees
unless it took full advantage of the wind! Isn’t that it, Bob?”

“That’s it. The wind changed about the time we left our meeting point
with Curt. So that airplane ought to be well on its way, wherever its
way leads.”

“But this engine is getting louder,” stated Curt.

“There it is!” cried Al, pointing toward the South. “It’s only a speck.
But you see it, don’t you, Curt?”

“Yes.”

“So do I,” added Bob.

“It looks as if it is spiraling down—yes, it is!”

“And it isn’t the biplane we saw here, at all,” Bob said. “Curt, do you
know what?——”

“Yes. It’s the very ’plane we were in yesterday, with Lang. He gave it a
final check-up and said if they worked on it all night it would be ready
to take off today. That’s it, all righty! The biplane was brown, and——”

“This is the Silver Flash! I can see it glisten against that dark
cloud,” added Al. “I think it’s coming down.”

“It’s diving.”

“No!” cried Bob. “It’s out of control! It’s falling!”

“Right over Rocky Lake!” shouted Curt.

“Come on!” urged Al, scrambling over the short stubble in the field, in
haste to reach his bicycle and pedal toward the picnic grounds, less
than a quarter of a mile away, in which Rocky Lake was situated.

“Wait!” counseled Bob.

“No! Come on!” Curt agreed with Al. The airplane was out of control. It
was diving, straight toward the amusement ground around the lake. “It’s
a crack-up!”

“There it goes!”

Behind the trees, out of sight, like a silver streak, a comet, the
airplane fell. Three hearts went cold as the ship was lost to view
behind the foliage. While they could not see the craft strike, any spot
in Rocky Lake Park was bad for a landing: dense trees, whole groves,
alternated with stands, pavilions, and the deep, boulder-studded water
of Rocky Lake and the rivulet which fed it.

Three minds worked as one, three pairs of legs tumbled their owners over
the stile, onto the roadside turf, up to the bicycles.

Pedaling like madmen they made short time of the trip to the edge of the
amusement spot.

“I think it was directly over Rocky Lake!” Curt, in the lead, called
over his shoulder.

Dropping their wheels by the roadside they ran, winded but determined,
towards the picnic grounds.

“There—there—in the lake!” gasped Bob.

“It crashed, all right!” panted Curt.

“It’s half buried in the water.” Al puffed along a little to the rear.
“I hope the pilot——”

“It wasn’t Lang, was it?”

“No!” Bob responded to Curt’s question. “It must have been some other
pilot—I can’t think who, though.”

“Hurry!” urged Al. “Hello—hello!” he called, passing the pavilions. “Is
anybody around! Wake up—somebody! Help! Help! A ’plane has cracked up in
Rocky Lake!”

“See anything of the pilot?” Bob turned to Curt. Gasping for breath they
had reached the shore of the lake, by a small wharf where rowboats were
hired during the day.

Curt scanned the surface of the lake.

Quite near the shore, and on the rocks, with one crumpled wing, and with
her nose and cabin buried in soft, oozey mud, the smashed monoplane lay
with its pitifully useless tail assembly sticking up into the air. The
“flippers” had carried way with the impact and hung by the control
cables.

Bob turned a serious face toward his companion.

“I hope—I wonder”— He could not finish. The thought flitted through his
mind that unless the pilot had been extremely quick and very clever, he
could not have gotten out of the cabin—in time. The falling craft had
been close enough so that had any figure leaped, especially with a
parachute, they should have seen it clearly.

No such figure had leaped—in time.

“Maybe he—crawled out when it struck,” said Curt, hopefully.

“Anyhow, let’s get a boat, and try to get to it.”

“Al,” called Curt, “stop calling for help! There isn’t anybody here. Run
to the farmhouse across the road—no, that’s empty. Ride back down the
road, till you see an automobile and send it to town for help. If you
don’t meet one, stop at the first house and telephone.”

Al, for all his natural eagerness to be at the scene, to share in their
experiences, saluted without a word of remonstrance and hurried away.
Meanwhile Bob, realizing that the oars for the boats were locked in the
small pavilion on the wharf, determined to break in, feeling that the
emergency removed any taint of robbery or pillage from the act.

Fortunately he found the old, rusted lock not caught. He slipped the
rusty padlock, slipped the hasp free, and ran back to the dock where
Curt had a boat untied and ready. In this, pushing off, they rowed out
to the airplane. The weight of its engine was very slowly driving its
nose deeper into the soft ooze of the marshy ground at that end of the
lake.

“Hurry!” begged Curt, as Bob bent to his task.

Suddenly Bob rested on his oars.

“What’s the matter?” cried Curt, and as he saw the expression of Bob’s
face he, too, became intent.

“There it is again!” panted Bob. “A call—a call for help?” he
questioned.

“I don’t know. But row!”

Bob rowed.