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The Air Ship Boys : Or, the Quest of the Aztec Treasure By H. L. Sayler Characters: 7994

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

It may be well to recount how such a young lad as Ned had become so famous.

Ned's father had been a consulting engineer with a fondness for aeronautics. When Mr. Napier died, a year before Ned's meeting with the Major, it was discovered that he was making in his little shop a small dirigible balloon to be used at an amusement park. Mr. Napier's death was sudden. Manufacturer's bills for the balloon bag and engine came due and Ned, young as he was, knew that he must pay them. Putting on all the dignity that his sixteen years would permit he called on the manager of the amusement park.

"I hear your father is dead," said the manager. "I suppose we have lost the twenty-five per cent we advanced on the air ship."

"Why do you suppose that?"

"Because he had complete charge of the work and we have no one to take his place."

"I mean to do that myself," said Ned.

The manager smiled and shook his head. "No doubt you would try-you look it-but we don't care to experiment."

"But you want the air ship, don't you? You've advertised it."

"Yes, it was ordered-through your father. Since he is dead and cannot contribute his services, our agreement is void."

"Very well," replied Ned. "Good day."

"Look here," interrupted the manager, "what do you mean to do?"

"I'm going out to sell an air ship."

"You mean our air ship?"

"You said the contract is void."

The manager laughed again, but not as jovially.

"You ought to get on," he exclaimed.

"I've got to get on, and I'm going to do it by being on the square."

"I guess you're right. What's your proposition?"

"Since you've thrown up the contract I'm going to sell the balloon at a profit. The price is now $3,000. And I want a contract as operator for six weeks at $100 per week."

The manager stared at Ned and then exclaimed. "I'll do it. You are the very youngster we want."

That was how Ned Napier came to finish the air ship his father had planned, and how it happened all that summer that the papers printed news stories and Sunday specials with pictures of his daring flights, and how Major Baldwin Honeywell and other happened to speak of him as the Ned Napier.

To return to the scene of Ned's meeting with the Major-

"My name is Ned Napier," the boy began as soon as his host's cordiality gave him a chance, "and I am the young man the newspapers wrote about."

"I certainly made no mistake in sending for you," exclaimed the soldier. "But, before I say more I want you to realize that this is, to me, a most important matter."

"You mean it is-"

"A solemn secret. I want secure your services in a desperate and daring adventure that will mean a great deal to me-and a great deal to you."

"Certainly," was the boy's response. "I give you my pledge on that."

A look of relief came into the old soldier's face.

"If I furnished you the money," went on Major Honeywell suddenly, "could you produce in a short time a practical and manageable balloon?"

Before the boy could answer the old soldier continued: "I don't mean one of those affairs in which ascensions of an hour or so are made. I mean one in which you could travel for several days-perhaps a week?"

"No," said Ned, "it can't be done. No one has yet remained in the air in a balloon over fifty-two hours."

Major Honeywell said nothing, but Ned could see that what he had told the Major had dashed some budding hope.

"That is," Ned hastened to explain, "you couldn't do it unless you periodically renewed your supply of hydrogen. I really believe," continued Ned, "that I ought to know more about what you are planning to accomplish."

Again the white-mustached man was silent a few moments, and then he told without reserve the great secret. He began with an account of himself. Until three years before he had been an officer in the United States cavalry, stationed in the southwest. Then the President had assigned him to ethnological work. His special work was in the ruins of the Sedenta

ry Pueblos. While scaling a cliff in this work he fell and permanently injured his left knee.

Resigning from the army, he traveled for a year and then went to visit an old friend, Senor Pedro Oje, whose immense sheep herds in Southwestern Colorado had made their owner a millionaire.

While here, hearing of an ancient nearby pueblo, just south of the Mesa Verde, Major Honeywell and his friend drove to the settlement. To Major Honeywell's surprise he found an old friend in Totontenac, the chief. As the two white men were about to leave, old Totontenac presented to his soldier friend an ancient funeral urn.

Major Honeywell was almost paralyzed with astonishment when he saw that the vessel was sealed and that it bore on its side, instead of the conventional Aztec design, this inscription in black: "Miguel Vasquez, 1545."

"What was in it?" asked Ned quickly when the Major came to this part of his narrative.

"That man was undoubtedly a soldier who marched out of Mexico in 1539 with Friar Marcos, the great explorer," went on Major Honeywell, ignoring the question, "and when others gave up the search for the famed seven cities of Cibola and the wealth of the Aztecs that every Spaniard believed rivaled the treasure of the Incas, this man kept on. Either by accident or design Miguel Vasquez was left by the expedition and six years later he wrote on cowhide and concealed in that vase one of the most valuable historic records extant in America to-day-confirmation that there was a real basis for the tales that lured the Spaniards to this region in quest of treasure."

Stepping to a trunk Major Honeywell took from a compartment a tin tube. From this he extracted a stiff sheet of parchment-like material.

"It's writing, isn't it?" exclaimed Ned.

"Yes, and Spanish. It is Miguel Vasquez's last will and testament, written over three hundred and fifty years ago. And here is a translation of it. You may read it yourself. That is my secret-and yours now!"

And these are the words that turned the current of Ned Napier's life:

"A relation of Miguel Vasquez soldier of Spain made in the year 1546 concerning the hidden city of Tune Cha. Coming out of Saint Michael in the Province of Culican I journeyed with Captain Marco de Nica in 1539. At Vacupa I departed from him and remained now six years among those of this land. Three years I dwelt in the town of Acuco and heard often of the city of Tune Cha wherein is to be found the Temple of Turquoise than which none more beautiful is to be found, not even in Castile itself. Such I have seen with my own eyes. It standeth within a palace of five hundred rooms or more wherein are to be found priestly vessels of gold and silver. And this same palace or City of Priests is compassed about by a massive wall. And in the center of the palace standeth the Temple, facing the sun which is the sacred place of al Quivera, Arche and Guyas. And the walls of this Temple are naught but precious Turquoise even to the height of forty feet or more, and the pillars thereof are of gold and silver alternate. Knowledge of this hidden and beautiful city hath not been reported unto Spain nor even unto Nueva Espana. From Acuco it lieth thirty day's travel west of north and as I estimate in 36 degrees latitude in the mountains of Tune Cha. From the Rio de Chuco it lieth west six days' travel. Nor may it be discovered but by those who have knowledge of it. Miguel Vasquez"

"What I had hoped to do," said Major Honeywell at last, "was to make the most perfect balloon ever built and discover through you this hidden temple of turquoise treasure. You say you cannot do it."

Something he had never felt before shot through Ned's body. His face flushed and then grew pale under the spell that was on him.

"Major Honeywell," he said suddenly, "I don't know of a balloon that can be made to fly for a week. But if it is necessary to have one to do what you wish I'll make it and I'll find Vasquez's Turquoise Temple."

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