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Had it not been for what was at stake, the race between the two big airships would have been an inspiring one to those aboard Tom's craft. As it was they were too anxious to overcome the unfair advantage taken by Andy to look for any of the finer points in the contest of the air.
"There's no denying that he's got a pretty good craft there," conceded Tom, as he watched the progress of his rival. "I never thought Andy Foger could have done it."
"He didn't do very much of it," declared Ned. "He hired the best part of that made. Andy hasn't any inventive ideas. He probably said he wanted an airship, and his dad put up the money and hired men to build it for him. Andy, Sam and Pete only tinkered around on it."
Later Tom and his chum learned that this was so--that Mr. Foger had engaged the services of an expert to make the airship. This man had been taken to Sitka with the Fogers, and had materially aided them in re-assembling the craft.
"Do you think he can beat us?" asked Ned, anxiously.
"No!" exclaimed Tom, confidently. "There's only one craft that can beat my Red Cloud and that's my monoplane the Butterfly. But I have in mind plans for a speedier machine than even the monoplane. However I haven't any fear that Andy can keep up to us in this craft. I haven't begun to fly yet, and I'm pretty sure, from the way his is going, that he has used his limit of speed."
"Then why don't you get ahead of him?" asked Mr. Damon. "Bless my tape-measure! the way to win a race is to beat."
"Not this kind of a race," and the young inventor spoke seriously. "If I got ahead of Andy now, he'd simply trail along and follow us. That's his game. He wants me to be the path-finder, for, since I cast a doubt on the correctness of the map, a copy of which he stole, he isn't sure where he's going. He'd ask nothing better than to follow us."
"Then what are you going to do if you don't get ahead of him?" asked Ned.
"I'm going to press him close until night," answered Tom, "and when it's dark, I'm going to shoot ahead, and, by morning we'll be so far away that he can't catch up to us."
"Good idea! That's th' stuff!" cried Abe with enthusiasm.
"He's a sneak!" burst out Mr. Damon. "I'd like to see him left behind."
Tom carried out his plan. The remainder of the day he hung just on Andy's flank, sometimes shooting high up, almost out of sight, and again coming down, just to show what the Red Cloud could do when pressed.
As for those aboard the Anthony, they seemed to be trying to increase their speed, but, if that was their object they did not have much success, for the big, clumsy triplane only labored along.
"I wonder who he's got with him?" said Ned, as darkness was closing down. "I can't make out any one by this glass. They stick pretty closely to the cabin."
"Oh, probably Andy's father is there," said "and, perhaps, some of Mr. Foger's acquaintances. I guess Mr. Foger is as anxious to get this gold as Andy is."
"He certainly needs money," admitted Ned. "Jove! but I hope we beat him!"
But alas for Tom's hopes! His plan of waiting until night and then putting on such speed as would leave Andy behind could not be carried out. It was tried, but something went wrong with the main motor, and only half power could be developed. Tom and Ned labored over it nearly ail night, to no effect, and through the hours of darkness they could see the lights from the cabin of the Anthony gleaming just ahead of them. Evidently the bully's airship could not make enough speed to run away from the Red Cloud, or else it was the plan of the Foger crowd to keep in Tom's vicinity.
The direction held by Andy's craft was a general northwestern one, and Tom knew, in time, and that very soon, it would bring the Anthony over the valley of gold. Evidently Andy was placing some faith in his copy of the stolen map.
"Once I get this motor in shape I'll soon pull away from him," announced Tom, about four o'clock that morning, while he and Ned, aided by Mr. Damon, were still laboring over the refractory machine.
"What are you going to do?" asked Ned.
"It's too late to carry out my original plan," went on Tom. "We're getting so near the place now that I want to be there ahead of every one else. So as soon as we can, I'm going to push the Red Cloud for all she's worth, and get to the valley of gold first. If possession is nine points of the law, I want those nine points."
"That's the way to talk!" cried Abe. "Once we git on th' ground we kin hold our own!"
It was breakfast time before Tom had the motor repaired, and he decided to have a good meal before starting to speed up his craft. He felt better after some hot coffee, for he and the others were weary from their night of labor.
"Now for the test!" he cried, as he went back to the engine-room. "Here's where we give Andy the go-by, and I don't think he can catch us!"
There was an increasing hum to the powerful motor, the great propellers whirled around at twice their former number of revolutions, and the airship suddenly shot ahead.
Those on the Anthony must have been watching for some such move as that, for, no sooner had Tom's craft begun to creep up on his rival than the forward craft also shot ahead.
But the airship was not built that could compete with Tom's. Like a racer overhauling a cart-horse, the Red Cloud whizzed through the air. In a spirit of fun the young inventor sent his machine within a few feet of Andy's. He had a double purpose in this, for he wanted to show the bully that he did not fear him, and he wanted to see if he could discover who was aboard.
Tom did catch a glimpse of Andy and his father in the cabin of the Anthony, and he also saw a couple of men working frantically over the machinery.
"They're going to try to catch us!" called Tom to Ned.
This was evident a moment later, for, after the Red Cloud had forged ahead, her rival made a clumsy attempt to follow. The Anthony did show a burst of speed, and, for a moment Tom was apprehensive lest he had underrated his rival's prowess.
Suddenly Ned, who was looking from a projecting side window of the pilothouse, back toward Andy's ship, cried out in alarm.
"What's the matter?" shouted Tom.
"The airship--Andy's--two of the main wings have collapsed!"
Tom looked. It was but too true. The strain under which the Anthony had been put when the machinists increased the speed, had been too much for the frame. Two wings broke, and now hung uselessly down, one on either side. The Anthony shot toward the snow-covered earth!
"They're falling!" cried Mr. Parker.
"Yes," added Tom, grimly, "the race is over as far as they are concerned."
"Bless my soul! Won't they be killed?" cried Mr. Damon.
"There's not much danger," replied the young inventor. "They can vol-plane back to earth. That's what they're doing," he added a moment later, as he witnessed the maneuver of the crippled craft. "They're in no danger, but I don't believe they'll get to the valley of gold this trip!"
Tom was soon to learn how easily he could be mistaken.
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