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首页 » 英文科幻小说 » The Mystery of Seal Islands » CHAPTER VI KIDNAPED
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As Roberta attended strictly to her business she became thoroughly convinced that her “hunch” regarding her employer was well worth heeding; that the woman’s mission was not only mysterious and confusing, but that it was an enterprise with which she did not care to be associated a minute longer than that she could possibly help. Following the course set, going higher when the country beneath them demanded it, or lower as permitted, she thought things out carefully. Nike did not carry gas enough to take her back to Long Island, but she had money enough with her to drop down onto a landing field and purchase more; also she knew that even if she hadn’t the cash she97 could give them a draft on her bank in New York if they were not willing to accept a check.

Carefully studying the chart, which she knew almost by heart anyway, she realized that the route they were following was, for the most part, well out of the usual air lines, but there were several places where she would fly parallel or across those laid out. Roberta thought of the towns and cities over which they would pass, calculated their location and which ones she would be near early in the evening, when the woman beside her would probably order a landing. They had been flying nearly three hours when Mrs. Pollzoff glanced up at the speedometer.

“I wish that you would go a little faster,” she directed, so the Girl Sky-Pilot nodded and opened up a bit wider, but she did not put on full speed. They had been averaging eighty miles an hour, so she increased it to ninety-five, which meant that when conditions permitted she was doing more, and less when the air and country were not so favorable. Another hour passed and Roberta began to wonder when they were to come down, but98 Mrs. Pollzoff still seemed absorbed in her book, although Roberta was positive that she was not so intent as she was trying to pretend.

Glancing at the sky, Roberta saw, far ahead, a dark cloud rising in the west which looked as if it might cause them trouble in the course of a few hours, but she paid little attention to it for she figured they would have landed before the storm reached them, or they reached it. To get a better view of the world, she gradually increased her height a thousand feet. Roaring swiftly along she saw, far ahead of them, a large plane which looked like one which carried passengers, and another time, when her eyes rested a moment on the mirror, she saw a small plane behind them. This looked like an ordinary machine with one passenger—or perhaps no one but its pilot, and while she watched the tiny speck, it dropped lower and out of her range of vision.

Studying the chart again, without seeming to do more than observe the various controls the girl Sky-Pilot looked for the nearest flying field. In another hour they would be over Wisconsin, for the end of Lake Michigan99 was tossing beneath them, and on its rough surface raced a huge speed boat across the great body in exactly the same direction that Nike was flying a mile above. The water was thickly dotted with numerous boats, large and small, but this little one, which looked no bigger than a dark dot with a long foamy tail, attracted the girl’s attention because of its speed. Nike soon left it behind, however. Glancing about the horizon, she saw that they were well away from the storm, but she anticipated bad weather for the following day. A bit later, listening to the radio reports, this calculation of hers was confirmed by the Bureau from Washington.

From time to time Mrs. Pollzoff glanced up, studied the dials, chart and the whole array, for even if she hadn’t qualified for a license, and could not pilot a plane, it was not because she did not thoroughly understand every bit of flying. She just happened to be one of the persons whose knowledge on the subject was not sufficient to make her act wisely at all times in any emergency. Even though she never asked to carry a passenger,100 wanted nothing more than to fly herself, a plane in the air piloted by a man or woman who might behave erratically, was a menace to the world below. She might suddenly crash into a building, come down with a blazing machine in a dry forest and start a fire which would do countless dollars worth of damage, or she might drop on a gas tank and blow the whole vicinity to tooth-picks.

Suddenly, as Roberta visualized the chart she realized that it would not be very long, according to the course they were following and the speed they were going, before Nike crossed the border into Canada. She would be on foreign soil without the usual curtsy to the Dominion, also they were getting further and further away from Long Island and her own home. If she was not going to continue the trip, why not stop now? As a matter of fact, why had she come so far at all; why hadn’t she dropped down a couple of hours ago and informed Mrs. Pollzoff that she was not going on, land that lady wherever she wanted to be landed, then go on east? Silently scolding herself for her stupidity, the girl decided that if Mrs. Pollzoff did not101 order a descent within the next few minutes, Nike would make a landing without it. As if she rather suspected something of what was going on in her companion’s mind, Mrs. Pollzoff closed her book, looked about at the sun, which had almost set, then taking a package from under the seat, proceeded to open it. To Roberta’s surprise it contained food; it seemed enough for several generous meals, including thermos bottles with hot and cold drinks.

“We will have something to eat in the air,” the woman announced quite casually, but there was something deadly in her tone. However, Roberta had herself well in hand and she answered firmly.

“I am sorry, Mrs. Pollzoff, but I am going down,” she answered.

“Why?” the woman asked quietly.

“We need gas for one thing—”

“Not yet,” Mrs. Pollzoff interrupted.

“I have been at the controls steadily and I do not believe that it would be safe for me to continue much longer without a rest and a proper meal.”

“You will find everything that you can102 possibly get in a proper meal anywhere,” Mrs. Pollzoff told her coolly, and added, “And as for a rest, I’ll relieve you.”

“I cannot permit that,” Roberta answered. “Without a license you could not fly and my plane is different from the usual ones; I would rather not have anyone who is not accustomed to it try to operate it.”

“Well, have something to eat,” Mrs. Pollzoff said wearily. “It is still quite light. When I was learning to fly I once saw three sunsets. I’d very much like to get at least one more view of the sun tonight. Zoom Nike up high so that we will have a magnificent view to remember when we go to sleep tonight.”

“All right,” Roberta agreed with great relief. She was glad there was no argument and she resolved that she would not tell her employer she could not go on until they were safely landed. So that there was no danger of getting over into Canada, she spiraled as she climbed and decreased the plane’s speed.

“Should you like milk, tea or coffee to drink?” Mrs. Pollzoff asked as she arranged the food, which certainly looked appetizing,103 especially since Roberta had eaten almost no lunch.

“Tea, if it has plenty of milk and not too strong.”

“Sugar, how many lumps?”

“A small one, thank you.” The drinks were poured into deep paper cups which were half-filled carefully to prevent spilling. Nike was leveled, her dials and controls set so that her pilot could relax a bit and enjoy the meal. It was not long before they saw the sun again in all its splendor, and watched a second setting, which was certainly well worth waiting for because the air was clear and the countless brilliant rays, were flung fan-like from the rim of the horizon.

“Cake or pie, or will you have another sandwich?” Mrs. Pollzoff asked a bit later.

“Cake, it sounds simpler to consume,” Roberta laughed. One simply couldn’t help feeling secure, riding like a part of the gorgeous spectacle, and the girl wondered if she hadn’t been premature in her decision to abandon her employer.

“I’ll fill your cup again.”

“Only half,” Roberta said hastily.

104 “Cannot measure it,” Mrs. Pollzoff smiled and her pilot thought if she were only as pleasant all of the time they might go on forever.

“Thank you. I do feel better. Guess I did not realize how hungry I was,” Roberta told her.

“Didn’t you have anything to eat before you left the hotel?”

“Just a salad, but I wasn’t hungry then. This has tasted very good, every bit of it.”

“Sure you have had enough?”

“Yes, thank you.”

“You still have a tank of gas, haven’t you?” Mrs. Pollzoff consulted the indicator to see how much was in the plane.

“Yes, but I believe we had better get down soon because we are getting away from towns and even farms. We do not want to be stranded in the open all night,” Roberta consulted the chart.

“Very true. Have you done any night flying?”

“Oh yes, but not any oftener than I could help. Of course there are a great many guides and riding under the stars is mighty105 attractive but one never can tell what might happen; storms come up suddenly, and mountains have a disconcerting habit of bobbing in front of a plane when it is least desirable.” They talked through the telephone and finally Roberta decided upon the best place for their landing, turned sharply off the course toward the southeast.

“Why do you go back?” Mrs. Pollzoff asked her.

“We will get better landing accommodations; at least, I know the field and I am sure of it,” the girl answered.

“All right, one should never interfere with the pilot, but if we go forward we will have less distance to travel tomorrow.”

“We have put half the continent behind us since we started,” Roberta reminded her and the woman made no further objections.

They flew on for a quarter of an hour, then suddenly Roberta had a sharp pain between her eyes and she blinked in bewilderment, but it went away again quickly so she decided that it wasn’t anything to worry about. However, she increased her speed, for if she was going to be sick, she wanted to get on the106 ground as quickly as possible. But now there was no sign of the sun, all of its brilliant colors had faded to dull grey, which was rapidly growing darker, and although the girl searched the heavens, she did not see a single star blinking back at her. Far in the distance she caught the faint flicker of a light which she was sure was the landing field she sought and a glance at the chart verified her calculation. Setting her course, she headed Nike in as straight a line as possible and decreased the speed, banked in preparation for the glide when she was near enough. Then again came that stabbing pain, but this time it was in her head.

Brushing her hand over her forehead and opening the strap of her helmet she felt better again and she hoped hard that her companion would not notice that anything was wrong. Mrs. Pollzoff might go into a panic if she discovered her pilot was ill and perhaps do something in her excitement which would bring them all down in a smash. On they flew, the lights getting nearer and nearer; and bigger and bigger, then, suddenly, they began to dance into a long line107 which Roberta knew was an optical illusion. Glancing forward she decided that she could begin the descent, but when she reached toward the control-board, it seemed to get further and further away from her. Finally she managed to close the switch and forcing herself with every ounce of strength and courage she possessed, she struggled to make the field without a smash-up.

But, to the girl’s amazement, she felt rather than saw, that Nike instead of starting toward the earth, began to climb steadily, moving in a wide circle; she could tell that by the wind in her face, then the plane rose more swiftly, thundering upward at top speed. Frantically the pilot endeavored to find the proper switches, but it was so dark that even in the lighted cock-pit she could not see the board nor its indicators, except in a blurred sort of way.

“Are you all right, Miss Langwell?” It was Mrs. Pollzoff’s voice speaking through the tube.

“I am trying to go down, to make a landing—I’m—”

“You are trying to, but you are climbing108 and you are going to keep on climbing—”

“W-what—what do you m-mean—” Roberta tried desperately to gather her wandering faculties.

“Simply that you are obeying orders!”

“We can’t f-fly at night,” Roberta protested, then a feeling of horror swept over her, for suddenly she understood. Something she had eaten was paralyzing her faculties, making her helpless there in Nike, flying swiftly a mile above the ground and far from the landing field where she knew she had friends.

“Whether we can or not, we are going to.” The woman forced her back in her seat and took over the management of the controls. “You will learn before you are much older not to have your aviator friends watching us when we take-off—”

“I didn’t h-h—” But her voice trailed off, her head wobbled forward on her chest, and if Nike had started a nose dive that moment, her pilot could have done nothing to prevent her tearing straight to the ground and digging a ten-foot hole for herself in the109 ground. The girl, for a couple of moments was partly conscious, but that too left her quickly and she was completely out of the picture, at the mercy of the mysterious Mrs. Pollzoff, if she had any mercy, which was very doubtful.

Mrs. Pollzoff glanced with eyes that blazed hatefully at her unconscious companion, then, as she had to attend to several things immediately she first reset the course of the plane and when it was back in the route it had been pursuing when Roberta announced her determination to land for the night, then, as managing the machine from any other seat than the pilot’s was an awkward one she loosened the girl’s safety-strap and her own. Keeping an alert eye on the indicators she quickly made the transfer, and over her features came a look of keen satisfaction.

“You will taunt me that I could not get a license, and that only you can operate your precious Nike! Well, I’m going to operate it now and if it flies us both to death, you have it coming to you; you little fool.” She laughed harshly, and into the dark eyes,110 which had worn nothing but boredom and indifference for so long, flashed insane fury. “For next to nothing, I’d dump you out of the cock-pit, you silly girl!”

For a moment she looked at Roberta as if determined to do just that, but finally she curbed herself, drew her companion’s safety-belt tighter, and ran her fingers around it mechanically, for she had been thoroughly drilled in every phase of the work she longed with her whole soul to follow the rest of her life. Finding that as it should be, she saw to the chute and its rip-ring; assuring herself that in changing their places she had put nothing out of adjustment. Again she gave her attention to the plane, which was behaving perfectly, and as her fingers touched the controls her whole body tingled, as if the digits were lingering over some current which instantly filled her with life and animation.

Assured that all was as it should be she took a short strap from the food container and wrapping that twice about her victim’s feet, buckled it on the side where she could see that it was not worked open; nor that it111 could be without the aid of fingers. Roberta had taken off her long gauntlet gloves while she ate and drank, so Mrs. Pollzoff slipped them back onto her hands. Then with a second strap she secured the girl’s arms to her sides, but again the air-mindedness in her forced her to place the left one, which was nearest to her, close to the life saving rip-ring.

“Now, now,” she laughed shrilly, and if Nike had been making less noise the sound might have startled the people beneath them, for it was so harsh and bitter that it was uncanny.

By that time the gas indicator showed that the plane required replenishing, so she poured in the reserve tank, calculated how long it would last her, did some mental figuring, then increased the speed until it was going at a dangerous rate. She had not done enough flying so that she was any too familiar with the surface of the country, so she zoomed high to avoid mountains. Her next act was to shut off the engine to listen for other planes whose pilots might be following her. As Nike glided to earth the woman112 heard two of them. One seemed to be far behind her; it might have come up when Roberta failed to land on the flying field. The other was directly south, apparently coming straight across her course.


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