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THE BOY INVENTORS AND THE
VANISHING GUN***


E-text prepared by Roger Frank






Transcriber’s note:

In this book, words and phrases originally in italics are
enclosed in underscores _like this_.





[Illustration: AS HE MOVED ALONG AND NEARED ITS CENTER, THE BOARD
CRACKED AND BENT OMINOUSLY.]


THE BOY INVENTORS AND THE VANISHING GUN

by

RICHARD BONNER

Author of “The Boy Inventors’ Wireless Triumph,”
“The Boy Inventors’ Diving Torpedo Boat,” etc., etc.

With Illustrations by Charles L. Wrenn






New York
Hurst & Company
Publishers

Copyright, 1912
By Hurst & Company

Printed in U. S. A.




CONTENTS

I. An Eccentric Inventor
II. The Vanishing Gun
III. A Flying Machine in Trouble
IV. Zack Gets Mad
V. The Yellow Auto
VI. Getting the Doctor
VII. A Rescue in Mid-Air
VIII. Mr. Peregrine Explains
IX. A Mysterious Man
X. An Unwelcome Encounter
XI. The Wrong Road
XII. The Red-Bearded Man
XIII. Jake Rook & Co.
XIV. The Driverless Car
XV. Tom Makes a Discovery
XVI. Jack in Dire Peril
XVII. “Drive Where We Tell You”
XVIII. In the Old Mansion
XIX. Mr. Stephen Melville
XX. Found and Lost
XXI. “Things Are Coming Our Way”
XXII. “There’s Many a Slip”
XXIII. The Start of a Long Chase
XXIV. Jack’s Triumph




THE BOY INVENTORS AND THE VANISHING GUN




CHAPTER I—AN ECCENTRIC INVENTOR


Jack Chadwick stepped from the door of the shed where he and Tom Jesson,
his cousin—and, like Jack, about seventeen years old—had been busy all
the morning getting the Flying Road Racer back into shape, after that
wonderful craft’s adventurous cruise along the Gulf Coast of Mexico.

“Almost eleven o’clock,” said Jack, and, thrusting his hand into the
breast pocket of his khaki working shirt, he drew out a rather crumpled
bit of yellow paper.

“What time did Mr. Pythias Peregrine say he’d be here?” inquired Tom,
who, like Jack, was attired in a business-like costume of khaki, topped
off with an automobile cap.

Jack, who had been busy perusing the telegraphic message inscribed on
the bit of yellow paper, read it aloud.

“‘Jack Chadwick, High Towers, Nestorville, Mass.:

“‘Can I see you about noon on Thursday next? Wish to talk
over a new invention with you and your father. Wire if you
can see me at that time and I will call on you.

“‘Pythias Peregrine.
“‘Pokeville, Mass.’”

“Wonder what he can want?” mused Professor Chadwick’s son, in a
speculative tone. “Pythias Peregrine is one of the best-known inventors
in the country. I guess we all ought to feel honored by his wanting to
consult with us, Tom.”

“You bet we ought. Wonder what sort of a man he is. I suppose he’ll be
inclined to look down upon us as a couple of kids when he does see us.
But—hello, Jack!” he broke off suddenly—“what’s that off there in the
sky—over there to the northwest?”

“That speck yonder? It looks like—yes, by ginger, it is—it’s an
aëroplane of some sort!”

“That’s what.”

A sudden idea struck Tom.

“Say, Jack, don’t you recall reading about Mr. Peregrine and his
aëroplane Red Hawk?”

“Yes, I do, very well indeed. He captured the Jordan Meritt speed and
long-distance cup with it.”

“That’s right, and I’m willing to bet the hole out of a doughnut that
that is the Red Hawk approaching right now. Pokeville is sixty miles off
in that direction, and what more natural than that Mr. Peregrine should
take an up-to-date way of paying his call?”

“I do believe you’re right, Tom,” said Jack. “Let’s go in and spruce up
a bit, and then we’ll come out and meet him.”

In the rear of the work shed, which housed the Flying Road Racer, was a
washroom, and to this the boys hastened to remove some of the grime of
their morning’s work. While they are thus engaged, and the aëroplane is
winging its way rapidly toward High Towers, it is a good time to tell
something about the two lads and their adventures.

As readers of the first volume of this series—“The Boy Inventors’
Wireless Triumph”—are aware, Jack Chadwick was the wide-awake,
good-looking son of a man well known for his achievements in science.
The name of Chester Chadwick was one of the best known in the world
along the lines of his chosen field of endeavor. Tom Jesson, almost as
bright a lad as his chum and cousin, was, like Jack, motherless. His
father, Jasper Jesson—Mr. Chadwick’s brother-in-law—lived at High
Towers, the remainder of which establishment was composed of Mrs.
Jarley, a motherly old housekeeper, two under servants, and Jupe, a
colored man-of-all-work about the place.

High Towers, Professor Chadwick’s estate, was, as we already know from
the address on Mr. Peregrine’s telegram, located near the village of
Nestorville, not far from Boston. It was a fine old place, and consisted
of a big, rambling house set in the midst of oaks and elms with broad
lawns and fields stretching on every side. But the most interesting
features of the place were a big lake and a group of sheds, workshops
and laboratories in which Professor Chadwick and his son and nephew
worked over their inventions.

For Jack and Tom were more like chums to Professor Chadwick than son and
nephew. Together the three had devised the Flying Road Racer, the
Chadwick gas gun, and many other remarkable devices. From his patents
Professor Chadwick had amassed a considerable fortune, thus disproving
the popular idea that inventors are, of necessity, shiftless or needy.

The present story opens on a day not long after the three, together with
Mr. Jesson, had returned from an adventurous trip in the neighborhood of
the semi-savage country of Yucatan. As readers of “The Boy Inventors’
Wireless Triumph” know, Jack and Tom, accompanied by Jupe, had been
despatched mysteriously to Lone Island, a desolate spot of land off the
mouth of the Rio Grande. Here they had awaited a wireless message from
Professor Chadwick, who was cruising on a chartered steam yacht, the Sea
King. At last the eagerly expected message came, and the boys set out on
a gasolene motor boat to find the Sea King, which, the message had
informed them, was disabled.

They found her, and also discovered that she was in peculiar trouble.
The rascally governor of the province of Yucatan, off which she lay,
had, so they learned, imprisoned Professor Chadwick, Mr. Jesson and some
sailors. The boys found that the Sea King carried on board the Flying
Road Racer—of which more anon—and they determined to utilize this craft
of the land and air in the work of rescue.

How Tom was re-united to his father, the explorer who had been given up
as lost in the wilderness of Yucatan for many years, cannot be told in
detail here; nor can we go into the surprising incident of the three
colored gems contained in a silver casket which caused a lot of trouble
for the boys and the others. But all came out well, and wireless played
a considerable part in getting the party out of many dilemmas.

It will also be recalled by readers of the volume whose contents we have
lightly sketched, that the Flying Road Racer—the aerial auto—had been
badly damaged, so far as her raising apparatus was concerned, when she
was blown to sea in a hurricane, during which those on board narrowly
escaped with their lives. Since their return to High Towers, the boys
had been engaged in refitting the craft on new principles, and Professor
Chadwick had been busy in Washington in connection with some patents.
Mr. Jesson had interested himself in scientific farming, and, at the
very moment that the boys had hastened into the shed to make swift
preparations to receive what they believed to be Mr. Peregrine’s Red
Hawk, he was busy in a corn patch with Jupe, the colored man.

Jack had just given a hasty dab with the brush and comb to his hair, and
Tom’s face was still buried in a towel when from the rear of the shed
where the corn patch was came the sound of angry and alarmed voices.

“Hyar, you, wha’ fo’ yo’ don’ look out? Wha’ fo’ yo’ mean come floppin’
lak an ole buzzard inter dis yar cohn patch—huh?”

Then, in milder tones:

“My dear sir, I beg of you, be careful. This corn is a particular kind.
If you alight here you’ll ruin several hills of it.”

“That’s Jupe and Uncle Jasper,” exclaimed Jack, throwing down the brush
and comb and rushing out; “wonder what’s up?”

Tom hastily followed his cousin.

“Sounds as if somebody’s trying to spoil dad’s corn patch,” he murmured,
as he ran.

As they rounded the corner of the Flying Road Racer’s shed, the boys
came on an astonishing sight—if anything can be called astonishing in
this century of marvels.

Above Mr. Jesson’s corn, of which he was justly proud, hovered a
beautifully finished monoplane with bright red planes. Its propeller was
buzzing like an angry bee—or rather like a dragon-fly, which it
resembled with its long tail and bright gossamer wings.

In the air ship was seated a small, rather stout figure, whose
countenance was almost hidden by goggles and a black leather skull cap
pierced with holes. As this brilliant apparition of the skies swooped
over the corn, so low that it almost mowed the feathery heads of the
topmost stalks, Jupe made angry passes at it with his hoe.

Mr. Jesson, less strenuous but equally alarmed for his corn, had his
arms raised imploringly.

“Yo’ jes git out of hyar, or I gib yo’ one wid dis yar hoe!” Jupe was
exclaiming angrily, as the boys came on the scene.

“Why, I—bless my soul—I won’t hurt you,” came reassuringly in sharp,
nervous tones from the occupant of the red aëroplane, which, the boys
had already guessed, was the Red Hawk, and their visitor, Mr. Peregrine.
“I merely dropped to inquire if this is High Towers?”

“Ya’as, dis am High Towers, an’ we got ’nough sky schooners ’roun’ hyar
now widout you drappin’ in on our cohn patch,” angrily cried Jupe.

“Jupe! Jupe!” shouted Jack, “be more respectful. That’s Mr. Peregrine!”

“Don’t cahr ef he is Jerry Green,” grunted Jupe, “he don’ wan’ ter
fustigate dis yar cohn patch wid dat red bug oh hisn.”

“Don’t be alarmed—won’t hurt it—very sorry—watch!”

With these jerky sentences, the occupant of the monoplane pulled a lever
and turned a wheel on the side of the body of his machine. Instantly it
rose, as gracefully as a butterfly, skimmed above the corn patch,
circled around the boys’ astonished heads, and then dropped lightly in
front of the shed which housed its ponderous rival of the skies.

As it came to a standstill the boys ran up to greet its operator, who,
although he appeared rather fat and podgy, had already leaped nimbly to
the ground.

“This is Mr. Pythias Peregrine?” inquired Jack politely.

“My name—glad to see you—dropped in, as it were—how do you do?—quite
well?—glad to hear it.”

“Mah goodness,” exploded Jupe, leaning on his hoe and scratching his
woolly head, “dat dar Jerry Green talks lak he had a package of
firecrackers in him tummy.”




CHAPTER II—THE VANISHING GUN


Mr. Peregrine, having alighted from his Red Hawk, removed his helmet and
goggles and mopped his forehead vigorously—for the day was warm, it
being about the middle of August. The removal of his headpiece revealed
him as a round-faced, good-natured looking man, with a rosy complexion
and deep-set, twinkling blue eyes. Having taken off his goggles, he
replaced them by a pair of big horn-rimmed spectacles, which, somehow,
gave him an odd resemblance to an amiable bull-frog. Indeed, his
explosive way of talking was very much at variance with his rotund
figure and appearance of “easy-goingness.”

“Naturally want to know what I came to see you about? Of course. Father
at home?—No. Recollect you said in your telegram he was in Washington.
Very warm, isn’t it?—It is.”

“I got on the long-distance telephone as soon as I received your
message,” rejoined Jack, finding it rather hard to keep a straight face
as Mr. Peregrine rapidly “popped” out the above sentences. “He said he
recalled you very well as an old scientific friend, and that anything
that we could do to aid you we were to do. Both my Cousin Tom and myself
will be very glad to help in any way you may require. By the way,” as
Mr. Jesson came up, “this is my uncle, and Tom’s father, Mr. Jasper
Jesson.”

“Jasper Jesson, eh? Noted explorer?—Yes. Lost in Yucatan?—You were. Did
I read about it in the papers?—I did. Columns of it. Was it
interesting?—Very. Glad to meet you, sir. Glad to meet you.”

He and Mr. Jesson shook hands cordially. Mr. Jesson expressed his
surprise at the manner in which Mr. Peregrine had been able to handle
his Red Hawk when the corn patch was threatened.

The inventor from Pokeville waved his hand airily.

“Was there ever any need for you to be alarmed?—None at all, my dear
sir, none at all. Very simple—Red Hawk, fine little air craft.—
Fast?—Very.—Your corn in danger?—Never for a moment.—Sorry I alarmed
you, though.”

The somewhat eccentric man went on to tell how he had set out from
Pokeville an hour before, and had winged his way to High Towers in fast
time. He had used the lake, which lay at the foot of the hill on which
they stood talking, as his guide. From above it was visible at a
distance of several miles.

“You spoke in your telegram of wishing to see us in regard ito some
invention?” hinted Jack, at this juncture.

“Did I?—Of course I did,” sputtered out Mr. Peregrine, using his
customary way of expressing himself. “A most interesting thing, too.
Well, the fact is, that I’m at a standstill.—Invention won’t work—heard
a lot of you boys—thought I’d get you to help me out.—Pay well—very
grateful.”

“So far as the last feature is concerned, don’t mention it,” said Jack,
“if we can help you out at all, Mr. Peregrine, it will give us great
pleasure. But what is this invention of yours?”

Mr. Peregrine cocked his head on one side and paused a short time before
answering. At length he spoke.

“It’s a vanishing gun,” he said, forgetting for once to add another
explosive sentence.

“A vanishing gun!” gasped the boys, while Mr. Jesson looked astonished
and Jupe muttered: “Wha’ de matter wid dis yar Jerry Green and his
perishing gun?”

“Yes, a vanishing motor gun,” repeated the inventor—“working on it for
the government. Big thing—designed for defense against aëroplanes—having
lot of trouble, though—need help—will you come?”

“Why—why,” said Jack, in some perplexity, “I think we might; but, Mr.
Peregrine, can’t you explain a little more in detail?”

“Impossible now—hard to tell about gun intelligently till you can see
and examine it. Why not come over to-morrow?—Not long trip—soon show you
gun—like to have your opinion on it, anyway.—Lot depends on
it—government offers big prize for successful one.”

“I think you can quite well go. Jack,” said Mr. Jesson, “Jupe, here, and
I can look after the place till you get back. I know your father would
like you to help Mr. Peregrine.”

“Then it’s settled,” declared Jack, who was equally anxious to see Mr.
Peregrine’s invention, “we’ll be over as early as possible.”

“Many thanks,” said the inventor warmly, looking really relieved, “with
you to help, I’m sure we can get it to work all right. One thing
more—your Flying Road Racer—may I look at it?”

“Surely,” rejoined Jack, “it’s in this shed. Come in, Mr. Peregrine.
Mind that step. There, that’s the Flying Road Racer!”

Jack’s face flushed proudly as he indicated what looked like an ordinary
automobile, with a silvery aluminum body shaped like a cigar and a
propeller at one end. A framework rose above the body, which was fitted
with comfortably padded seats. On this framework was a neatly folded
mass of material of a lightish yellow shade.

“But how can it fly?—Don’t see any wings—planes—anything,” asked Mr.
Peregrine, much puzzled. He had expected to see, from the newspaper
accounts he had read of the wonderful craft, a sort of monstrous flying
machine. Instead, he beheld only an odd-shaped automobile of great size,
with some fabric folded on the top of the framework like a giant bolt of
cloth.

“You see that folded mass on the top,” explained Jack, smiling at the
inventor’s perplexity; “well, that’s the gas envelope by which we fly.
When we wish to make an ascent we put water in the gas tank and the
moisture causes the radolite crystals to expand into vapor. When this is
done we turn the gas into the bag by twisting this valve.”

He indicated a brass tap on the dashboard, which bore, also, a number of
instruments and lubricating devices, besides this and other valves.

“Well, the bag is so folded that it expands without trouble as the gas
rushes in. When ready to fly, we connect the engines with that propeller
instead of with the ordinary auto transmission. And then we——”

“But—but—but——” exclaimed the inventor eagerly, “how do you keep your
machine on the ground while the bag is filling?”

“Easily,” smiled Jack. “I invented a form of anchor like a mushroom
type. One of these is cast out on each side. The harder the Flying Road
Racer tugs the deeper the edge of these anchors is embedded in the
earth. When we wish to rise we pull ‘trip-lines’ attached to each anchor
and—up we go!”

“Wonderful!” exclaimed Mr. Peregrine. “Wouldn’t I like a ride in your
machine some day?—I would.”

“You shall certainly have one,” rejoined Jack, “both on the road and in
the air.”

Mr. Peregrine was pressed to remain to the noon-day meal, but he
refused, saying that he must return to his home in time to put the
vanishing gun in shape for the boys’ visit the next day.

“Can I promise you a surprise?” were his last words, as he started the
Red Hawk skyward, “I think I can.—Good-bye.”

Whirr-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r! The Red Hawk leaped skyward, bearing its lone
navigator swiftly aloft. In ten minutes it was a dot, and finally was
obliterated altogether.

“Well, what do you think of him?” asked Tom, as they turned away and
began to walk toward the house.

“That he is an eccentric man, but very clever,” rejoined Jack. “I’m
quite anxious to see this wonderful gun of his.”

“So am I,” said Tom, with equal eagerness, “if he has invented one that
will shoot straight upward on an absolutely vertical line, he has a
marvelous invention. Several inventors have been at work on the problem
of getting out a gun that will really be effective against aëroplanes,
but none has yet been found.”

“Well, I hope we can give Mr. Peregrine some good suggestions,” said
Jack, as they reached the house and Mrs. Jarley announced that lunch was
ready.




CHAPTER III—A FLYING MACHINE IN TROUBLE


On returning to the Flying Road Racer’s shed that afternoon, the lads’
ears were saluted by a buzzing, roaring sound that they instantly
recognized.

“Somebody’s started up the motor!” exclaimed Jack, in a voice in which
anger mingled with astonishment.

“That’s right,” echoed Tom indignantly, “wonder who on earth it can be?”

“Come on, let’s hurry up and find out,” and Jack started on a run for
the shed.

As he reached the door, clouds of blue smoke met him. The vapor almost
choked him. Whoever was tampering with the motor had neglected to pay
much attention to the lubricating devices, with the result that the
fumes of burning oil filled the air.

“Oh, hello, Jack Chadwick. I—you see—I thought you wouldn’t mind me
looking at your machine,” exclaimed a lad of about Jack’s own age, as
the indignant young inventor burst into the shed with Tom close on his
heels.

The lad who spoke was a rather thick-set youth, with a pronounced squint
in his eyes which did not improve his mean and crafty face. Beside him
was another boy, a little younger, dressed in a loud gray suit with a
bright colored necktie. He was smoking a cigarette.

“Say, you Sam Taylor, put that thing out,” cried Jack, as he entered the
shed and took in the scene before him.

“Oh, I suppose you are one of those sissies who get sick when they
smoke,” sneered Sam Taylor, in an aggravating tone.

“I’ve never tried it, so I don’t know,” snapped Jack, “but if you want
to ruin your health you’d better do it elsewhere than in this shed. And
you, Zack Baker,” he went on, turning to the other lad, “what are you
doing in here? You might have waited till you were invited.”

In the meantime Tom had stopped the motor and was draining the flooded
engine.

“No need to get so mad,” retorted Zack, “as I told you, we thought we’d
just drop in and see how the thing worked.”

“Yes, and you might have ruined it,” snapped out Tom indignantly. “I
like your nerve in marching in here without speaking to us.”

“Oh, well, don’t get so cross about it. No harm done,” struck in Sam
Taylor, who had prudently thrown away his cigarette; “what’s the use of
getting all worked up over it?”

“I’m not worked up,” replied Jack, with a flushed and angry face, “but I
don’t want you fellows prying about here.”

“Don’t be alarmed. We won’t steal your precious invention,” said Sam, in
his sneering tones. “Come on, Zack, we’ve seen all we wanted to see,
anyhow.”

“Yes, come on,” said Zack, with a rather uncomfortable look on his face,
“we know better than to stay where we are not wanted. Anyhow, I’ve got
something that will surprise you fellows. I’ll bet it’ll beat you at
flying, even if you do get Mr. Peregrine to help you out.”

With this remark, which he considered quite crushing, Zack swung out of
the shed, followed by his pasty-faced companion. Once outside they made
their way to the front gate of High Towers and mounted their bicycles,
on which they had ridden out from the village for the purpose, as we
have seen, of examining the invention of Jack Chadwick and his cousin.

“Wonder how they knew anything about Mr. Peregrine?” said Jack, when he
had thoroughly examined the Flying Road Racer and found that it was
undamaged.

“Oh, Zack’s folks used to live near Pokeville,” rejoined Tom, “and as
for their knowing that he had called on us, I reckon he and Sam saw the
Red Hawk flying over and guessed at its destination.”

“That must be it,” said Jack, picking up a wrench and tightening a bolt
on the Flying Road Racer’s frame, “but they’re the very last chaps I
want snooping round here trying to find out how the Flying Road Racer
works.”

“Which reminds me,” said Tom, “that Zack spoke of some invention of his
that would surprise us. Wonder what it can be?”

“I’ve no idea,” began Jack, and then broke off suddenly, “yes, by
ginger, I have, though; I do recall hearing, last time I was in
Nestorville, that he and Sam were working on some sort of mechanical
flyer.”

“Gee whiz! I’d like to see it,” laughed Tom. “I’ll bet it can’t fly any
more than an old bullfrog.”

“I’m not bothering about it one way or the other,” rejoined Jack, “and
now, as the machine is all fixed up, what do you say if we try it out on
a trial spin?”

“The very thing,” said Tom, “it’ll feel good to be riding in it again.
Wait till I run up to the house and get the dust coats, and I’ll be with
you.”

While Tom was gone Jack started up the engine and ran the odd-looking
air-and-land machine out of the shed. With its heavy uprights and the


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