“Hurry!” he yelled, hoarsely. “The express is almost here!”
Both boys made a wild leap to the edge of the railroad, dragging Dick between them. Tom got his foot caught in the rails and almost pitched headlong. They fairly fell into the bushes, and Dick went down with them.
Then the express thundered up, the whistle shrieking loudly and the sparks flying from the wheels where the brakes gripped them. The locomotive struck the Dartaway, and the next instant the biplane was smashed to pieces, the broken parts flying in all directions!
“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.
“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.