Chapter V. Two Visitors
 

"That's the last of the Dartaway!"

"Are you hurt, Dick?"

"My, wasn't that a narrow escape!"

"A minute later and it would have been all up with us!"

"I-- I guess I'm all right," stammered Dick, putting one hand to his forehead, where a lump was rapidly rising. "I got some fall though!" he added, grimly.

"Look what hit me!" cried Sam, picking up a section of a bamboo stick-- one which had supported one of the planes of the flying machine.

"I'm glad we weren't closer to that smash-up!"

Having plowed through the biplane, the express train had come to a halt with the last car standing not a great distance beyond the scene of the collision. Already the trainmen were hurrying out, some with lanterns, to learn if anybody had been killed or hurt.

"Why, it's an airship!" cried the conductor. "How in the name of Adam did that get here?"

"Here are three fellows!" cried the engineer, as the rays of a lantern revealed the Rover boys. "Were you in that flying machine?" he called.

"We were," answered Tom, grimly.

"Anybody hurt?"

"My brother got a bad tumble and is partly stunned."

"We didn't hit anybody, did we?" questioned the engineer, anxiously.

"Nothing but the biplane," answered Sam. "You made mince-meat of that."

"How did you happen to land on the track?" asked the fireman.

"The wind put the machine out of control and we came down quicker than we wanted to," explained Sam. "Then you came along-- before we had a chance to drag the biplane off the tracks."

"Well, I'm glad I didn't hit anybody," said the engineer, in tones of relief.

"We had a close shave," returned Tom, and then he and Sam told of how they had struck, and of how Dick had been dragged out of the way. By this time the oldest Rover boy was feeling more like himself and he managed to stand up, even though somewhat dizzy.

"Well, we're losing time," said the conductor, consulting his watch by the light of his lantern. "We'll have to get into Ashton and report this."

"And somebody has got to pay for the biplane," said Tom.

"I don't see as it is our fault," answered the trainman, and then he gave the order to go ahead-- after it had been ascertained that the track was clear.

"We'll ride to Ashton with you," said Dick. "No use of staying with this wreckage," he added, to his brothers. "We can drive down to-morrow and look it over. I don't think it is worth much."

"Never mind-- I am glad nobody was seriously hurt," returned Sam.

"I guess we all feel that way," added Tom.

It was a run of only a few minutes to Ashton. On the way the conductor of the train took the Rover boys' names and address.

"I don't see how you can blame us for smashing the flying machine," he said. "You had no business to come down on the track."

"We might have gotten our biplane off the track, if you had halted the train," returned Dick. "We could have dragged it into the bushes."

"I don't know about that."

As soon as the train rolled into Ashton the bays alighted. The only other passenger to get off was one of the local storekeepers.

"You were lucky boys," said the man, pleasantly. He knew them by sight, for they had traded at his shop.

"That's true, Mr. Striker," said Dick. "But we don't seem to be lucky just now."

"How's that?"

"There isn't a conveyance of any kind here to take us to Brill, and I must say I don't feel like walking."

"You go around to Carson's livery stable. He'll take you over to the college," answered Mr. Striker.

The livery stable was but a short distance away and they found the proprietor on hand, reading a newspaper and smoking his pipe.

"It's a wonder you wouldn't have a rig over at the depot, to meet the main trains," grumbled Tom.

"'Twouldn't pay," answered Neal Carson. "I tried it once, and earned two dollars and a half in two weeks. Folks that want me can come here for me."

"Well, we want to get to Brill College," said Dick.

"All right, but it will cost you fifty cents each."

"Very well."

The livery stable keeper hustled around and soon had a team ready. The boys were glad enough to take it easy in the carriage, and on the way to college but little was said.

"Rather late, young gentlemen," remarked Professor Blackie, sharply, as they entered.

"We had an accident, Professor," returned Dick.

"An accident?" and the instructor was all attention.

"Our biplane got smashed up," put in Tom.

"Indeed! I am sorry to hear that. Are you hurt?"

"Got a shaking up and a few scratches," answered Sam.

Then their story had to be told in detail. Soon it became noised all over the place that the Dartaway had been wrecked, and before they could get a mouthful to eat the three Rovers had to tell the story over and over again.

"I'm sorry the biplane was wrecked, but glad you escaped," said Songbird, earnestly. He cherished his old friends as if they were brothers.

"Just what I say already," cried Max Spangler, a German-American student. "You can buy a new flying machine, yes, but you can't buy a new head or a body, not much!" And he shook his head earnestly.

Even while the lads were eating they had to give further details of the disastrous flight. Doctor Wallington congratulated them on their escape.

"You had better leave flying alone after this," he remarked.

"I think we shall-- for a while, at least," answered Tom, dryly.

As soon as it was possible to do so, the boys sent a message to the girls and to their folks, telling about the accident and of their escape.

"It's bound to get in the newspapers," said Dick. "And if we don't send word the others will be scared to death."

The oldest Rover boy was right about the affair getting in the newspapers. The local sheets gave the accident a column or more and some city sheets took it up and made a "spread" of it, with pictures that were truly thrilling even though they were inaccurate.

"Humph! look at this picture!" cried Sam, showing up the supplement to a New York Sunday newspaper. "Looks as if we hit the smokestack of the locomotive and sailed along on that for a mile or two! Phew! what an imagination that artist must have!"

"And here is a picture showing the train climbing over the biplane!" returned Tom. "Say, it's a wonder we didn't wreck the Express instead of the Express wrecking us!"

On the day following the accident the boys were told, after class hours, that some gentlemen wished to see them. They went to the reception room, to find two men there-- a lawyer and a doctor.

"You are the-- er-- the young gentlemen who were in the-- er-- the flying machine smash-up?" queried one of the visitors, sharply.

"Yes," answered Dick.

"Mr. Rover?"

"Yes, Richard Rover."

"Just so. Glad to know you. My name is Fogg-- Belright Fogg. This is Doctor Slamper. We represent the railroad company, Mr. Rover. The doctor came along to see if you had been hurt."

"I got this," answered Dick, with a quiet smile, and pointed to the lump on his forehead.

"Ah, yes, I see," put in Doctor Slamper. "Not very serious, I take it."

"Oh, it didn't kill me."

"Ha! ha! Good joke, Mr. Rover! Feel pretty good otherwise, eh?"

"Oh, I'm able to sit up."

"And these other young gentlemen are all right, of course," went on the doctor, smoothly.

His manner was such that the boys were disgusted. Evidently he had come to smooth matters over, so that they would not put in a claim for personal injuries. And the lawyer had come to ward off a claim for the loss of the Dartaway.

"No, I'm not all right, Doctor-- far from it," cried Tom, before the others could say another word. And then the fun-loving Rover went on: "My knee is sprained, and my back twisted, and I have a pain in one of my right teeth, and my brothers both got their arms wrenched, and one got his left big toe out of joint, and none of us can see extra good, and I think my big brother's right ear is out of order, and my digestion is not what it should be, and I fear----"

"Stop! stop!" interrupted the doctor, in amazement. "Do you mean to say----"

"And the back of my neck feels out of kilter somehow," continued Tom, "and Sam's left hip isn't just as straight as it should be, and when I hit my elbow I have the funniest sensation crawl down my shoulder blade ever was, and we all think we ought to go to a sanitarium for at least six months or a year; don't you think so, too, Doctor?"

"Well, I never!" gasped Doctor Slamper, falling back against a center table. "Why, my dear young men, I think----"

"And the Dartaway is gone-- our dear old flying machine!" groaned Tom. "The machine we hoped to fly in to Washington, to the next inauguration. Why, don't you know that the planes of that machine were covered with the autographs of most of the big men of this country? Whenever we sailed around to visit our friends or the big men we had them write their autographs on the canvas wings of the machine. Those autographs alone were worth about a million, more or less!"

"What's this?" put in Belright Fogg, quickly. "A flying machine valuable because of the autographs on it? Preposterous! If you think the railroad will stand to pay anything on such a thing as that, you are mistaken."

"But how are we to get those autographs back?" whined Tom. "Some of the men who gave them may be dead now!"

"See here, let us get down to business," cried Belright Fogg. "You don't look to be knocked out-- at least, not a great deal anyway. Am I right, Doctor?"

"I-- I think so. Of course they may be-- be shocked a little," returned the physician. "Probably they are-- from the way this young man talks-- little nervous disorder." And he pointed at Tom, while Dick and Sam had to turn away, to keep from bursting into laughter.

"Um! Nervous, eh? Well, a few days of quietness will remedy that," answered the lawyer. "Now, see here." He looked wisely at the three Rovers. "Our railroad disclaims all responsibility for this accident. But at the same time we-- er-- we want to do the right thing, you know-- rather do that than have any unpleasant feelings, understand? Now if you are willing to accept our offer, we'll fix this matter right up and say no more about it."

"What is you offer?" questioned Dick.

"Three hundred dollars-- one hundred dollars each."

"You mean for our personal injuries?" questioned Sam.

"I mean for everything."

"Nothing doing," returned Dick, promptly, and with a bit of pardonable slang.

"You will not accept?"

"We might accept three hundred dollars for the shaking up we got-- although we don't know if our nerves are all right or not. Sometimes these things turn out worse than at first anticipated. But the railroad has got to pay for the biplane it smashed."

"Never!"

"I think it will."

"You got in the way of the train-- it was your own fault."

"Your track isn't fenced in-- I have a right to cross it where I please. If I had a wagon and it broke down, you would have no right to run into it. The law might not hold you criminally liable, but it would hold you liable for the worth of the wagon and contents.

"Say, are you a lawyer?" queried Belright Fogg, curiously.

"No, but I know my rights," returned Dick, promptly.