THE TERROR OF THE COAST

“Great heavens! What is the meaning of this?”

Frank gave utterance to this startled exclamation just as the light of
the rising sun streamed into the room where he had been peacefully
sleeping.

A violent shake had aroused him.

Glancing up he observed half a dozen strange men in the cabin, and a
keen scrutiny showed him that they were a gang of ruffians of the vilest
stamp.

They were of different nationalities, were clad in rough garments, their
faces were darkened by the sun, and every one of them carried weapons in
their belts.

Frank sat bolt upright.

As he did so, the biggest man in the party pulled a huge navy revolver
from his belt, pointed it squarely at the inventor’s head, and cried in
the Mexican language:

“Stop, or I’ll fire!”

Frank was a good linguist and understood him.

The action confirmed his suspicions of these individuals who had entered
while all were sleeping.

In nowise frightened by the Mexican’s action or remark, the young
inventor coolly replied in Spanish:

“What do you want?”

“First, I want to know what this contrivance is?”

“A flying machine,” answered Frank.

An incredulous roar of laughter greeted this explanation, all the
strangers joining in.

Finally the big man subdued his mirth, and chuckled:

“A flying machine, eh?”

“Exactly,” was Frank’s emphatic reply.

“Do you mean to say it can fly?”

“Yes; of course; how else could we get it here?”

“I’ll make you prove your assertion presently.”

“Oh, I can easily do that,” said Frank. “What next?”

“Have you any valuables aboard here?”

“That depends upon what you consider valuable.”

“Money or jewelry.”

“We have a few hundred dollars,” admitted Frank, quickly, as he observed
his companions now awake.

“Oh, you have, eh? Where are they?”

“Why do you wish to know?”

“What an innocent you are, to be sure. Why, I want them.”

“You are thieves, then?”

“Never mind our characters. Shell out!”

“May I ask your names first?”

“I don’t mind telling you. Very likely you have heard of me before, as
I’m well known. I am Captain Diavolo!”

If he expected to create a sensation with this announcement he was not
mistaken.

Frank did not expect to meet the person he was in quest of so soon, or
under these circumstances.

He did not betray any agitation, however.

“So,” he remarked, “you are the Terror of the Coast, eh?”

“Yes; and now you know enough not to trifle with me.”

“Are you not the man who abducted little Leon Zamora?”

“Of course I am; and I’ve got the young whelp yet.”

“I presume the child is safe and well?”

“And I’m sorry to say he is!” growled the pirate, with a dark scowl. “I
owe his accursed father a debt of vengeance, and I’ll take satisfaction
out of the brat!”

Frank glanced at Zamora.

He had drawn Captain Diavolo out in order to let the anxious father hear
that his son was safe.

The information must have filled Zamora with intense relief, and Frank
quietly asked the pirate:

“Where is the little boy?”

“That’s none of your confounded business,” roared the pirate. “I did not
come here to hold a confidential talk with you; we merely want your
valuables.”

“Will you then depart?”

“Perhaps—with this machine.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I’ll see if it works. If it should prove useful I’ll take it to use for
my own purposes.”

“Ah, I see. Where did you come from?”

“The coast, of course.”

“Is it near here?”

“Less than a league.”

“Now tell me——”

“Shut up, I tell you! Give me your money!”

“I’ll have to get up to do that.”

“Very well; rise. But if you offer to play any tricks on me I’ll let
daylight through your head!”

Frank nodded and smiled.

Leisurely rising, he put on his clothes.

The men with Captain Diavolo could not help admiring his coolness and
courage in the face of the present danger.

As soon as Frank was ready he said:

“Come this way.”

“You fellows remain here,” exclaimed the captain in English to his men.
“If any of those men in the berths attempt to get up, fire at them. Do
you hear?”

“Ay, ay!” replied the sailors.

Frank had gone ahead into the pilot-house, and rapidly unfastening an
electric wire from a binding-post, he hooked it upon the brass handle of
a drawer in the wainscoting.

This drawer was locked.




Just as he finished the captain stalked in.

He still clutched his pistol in his hand, and glaring at Frank, he
growled in curious tones:

“Why have you brought me in here?”

“To give you our valuables.”

“Well, where are they?”

“In that drawer.”

“Take them out.”

“Get them yourself if you want them.”

“Remember my threat! If you move, I’ll fire.”

“Oh, I can’t get away. I’m cornered.”

A sardonic grin overspread the dark, bearded face of the rascal, and
laying his pistol on the floor within easy reach as he knelt before the
drawer, he seized the handle.

Then he gave a pull.

But the drawer refused to open.

“It’s locked!” he exclaimed.

“Oh, no,” replied Frank. “It sticks. Use both hands.”

The thief complied and gave a long, strong pull.

At the same moment Frank turned a switch, which sent a powerful electric
current into the metal handle of the drawer, through the wire he had
hooked on there.

The muscles of Captain Diavolo tightened spasmodically upon the handles
so that he could not release them.

“Santa Maria!” he screamed, in hoarse tones of surprise, as he glared at
his hands and wondered why he could not relax his grip. “I’m full of
needles!”

“You don’t say!” laughed Frank, picking up his revolver and cocking it.
“How strange!”

“By the fiend! I can’t let go!”

“So much the worse for you. That fact places you at my mercy!” said
Frank, grimly.

“Oh, don’t shoot me. I haven’t done you any harm.”

“I will fire if you don’t stop struggling.”

As Frank said this, he started the big propellers.

With a loud, whirring sound they whirled around, and drove the airship
ahead over the ground on her wheels.

The men in the back room became alarmed, and one of them rushed out the
back door to see why the Jove was speeding along over the ground.

The machine gathered headway rapidly, and soon was speeding at the rate
of forty miles an hour.

The wind got under her planes and up in the air she rose like a mighty
bird, and shot ahead.

All the men now became terrified.

Rushing aft they reached the deck, and as the Jove was ascending, they
sprang to the ground one after another, and rolled over and over.

Captain Diavolo was left to his fate, yelling like a demon to be
relieved of the awful electric current, for he did not know what it was.

Higher and higher mounted the airship upon the wind, and all Frank’s
companions hastily got up, dressed and saw what had happened to the
invaders.

Then they rushed into the pilot-room.

Just as they entered Captain Diavolo gave a strong pull at the handle of
the drawer, and tore it off.

As the electric wire became detached the current ceased, and the burly
rascal dropped the handle.

Turning round, he came face to face with Zamora!

For an instant they stood glaring fiercely at each other, the outlaw too
surprised to utter a single word.

“What have you done with my child?” cried the Mexican.

“You—here?” gasped the captain, chokingly.

“Answer my question, you beast, or I’ll strangle you!”

“You’ll never know!” hissed the pirate, vindictively.

“I’ll tear the secret from you!” shouted Zamora, excitedly, and he
sprang at his enemy.

They grappled.

Zamora had the pirate by the throat.

For a few moments a fierce struggle went on.

Then they fell heavily to the floor, where the fight was resumed with
the most bitter animosity.

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