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   Chapter 4 THE CONTRACT, AND LIQUID HYDROGEN

The Air Ship Boys : Or, the Quest of the Aztec Treasure By H. L. Sayler Characters: 7605

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"I knew you'd do it," exclaimed Major Honeywell, beaming. "Now we'll have my friend Senor Oje up and get right at the details."

"One moment, Major Honeywell. It is easy to say what I just told you. But it means I've got to do something no one has ever done. I've got to take with me-in the balloon, of course-the material to replace the gas I lose."

"Well, that's easy, isn't it? For you-" qualified the old soldier.

"I guess you don't know much about ballooning," laughed Ned.

"Will money enable you to do it?"

"I hope so! Other experimenters have tried to carry materials to make gas. I'm going to take the gas itself in a glass jar."

"In a glass jar!"

"Precisely. Liquefied hydrogen gas."

At that moment Senor Pedro Oje, who had been summoned by Major Honeywell, entered the room. An almost Indian complexion and cast of countenance indicated his Mexican origin. What had taken place was related to Senor Oje, and he left no doubt that he was thoroughly in sympathy with the project. He soon put matters on a business basis.

"We are to share alike in what is found, I understand," he said. "Major Honeywell will have a third interest because the secret is his. This young man is to have a third because the risk is his. And I am to have a similar portion for furnishing the capital. And that brings us to the real starting point," the Mexican capitalist continued. "What is it to cost?"

"Ten thousand dollars at least," answered Ned instantly.

"Phew!" exclaimed Major Honeywell.

Senor Oje, not unused to speculative investments, gave no sign of surprise.

"How shall it be arranged?" was his only comment.

"Put that amount to my personal credit in the First National Bank-if you care to trust me."

"We are trusting you with more than that," replied Major Honeywell with earnestness.

"It will take me six weeks to make my arrangements. In that time, as I need the money, I will draw on the account," said Ned.

"Very good," said Senor Oje; "I will draw up the agreement."

"Now," continued Ned, addressing Major Honeywell, "what is your interpretation of the message of the Spaniard?"

"Of course Vasquez's words must be modernized. What he termed the Tune Cha Mountains begin in New Mexico and extend northwesterly into Arizona and Utah. In many places their plateaus rise eight thousand feet above the sea. Their thousands of peaks and canyons are fit rivals of the wonders of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. Nowadays they are known by many names-the Sierra Chusca, the Lokaeboka, the Carrisco. 'Thirty days' travel west of north' is not very definite, but it certainly locates the palace in the far northwestern part of these mountains.

"The Rio de Chuco can only mean the Chusco river. The only place in its winding course that is six days' journey from the mountains is where it joins the Amarilla. This is south and east of Wilson's Peak, which is our landmark."

"Very good," exclaimed Ned, briskly. "Now, what is the nearest point in civilization?"

"Clarkeville, Arizona."

"Then that is my starting point. This is June twentieth. I shall be ready by the last day of July. Of course I shall need a special car."

"Very well," responded the capitalist. "I see you know what you want."

"Incidentally," exclaimed Ned, "I shall, of course, be permitted to carry my own assistants."

"Assistants? Yes, of course," replied Major Honeywell, "but they must be persons of discretion."

"My chum, Alan Hope, who will make the ascension with me, will be one, and a colored boy, Elmer Grissom, who has helped me prepare for all my flights, will be the other."

There was no dissent.

"When shall I make my report?" Ned added.

Major Honeywell and his friend conferred a moment.

"Will five weeks be enough time for your ex

ploration?"

"I think so; perhaps less."

"Then we will meet you at the Coates House in Kansas City on the first day of August."

Senor Oje arose and lit a fresh black cigar.

"It will be well for you and Major Honeywell to talk over these things while I see my Chicago banker," said he. And with a good-natured "Adios, Senores," he left the apartment.

"Now, about this liquid hydrogen?" began Major Honeywell at once.

"Well," said Ned, "instead of ballast, I'm going to carry reserve hydrogen with me."

"And is that so difficult?" asked the Major.

"Impossible, if you try to carry material to make the gas," answered the boy.

"And so you are going to carry it in liquid form?"

"I'm going to try, although the making of liquid hydrogen is, so far, pretty much a theory. It has been made only under tremendous pressure and at minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit."

The Major whistled.

"That is so cold that ice is red hot comparatively," explained Ned. "This work must be done, in Washington."

They discussed the balloon itself, and the car and the engine for propelling it; where these were to be made in the East, and how they were to be forwarded to Chicago as they were completed. Ned himself was to go East at once and remain there until the last thing was accomplished.

Ned's chum, Alan Hope, had just taken employment for the school vacation in a large sporting goods store not far from the hotel. A few minutes later Ned walked leisurely into this store and sought out the fire-arms department, where Alan was on duty.

"Hello, Ned," exclaimed Alan, "what do you think of this?" And with a smile he handed him an automatic pistol he was inspecting.

Restraining himself, Ned looked it over carefully.

"It holds ten cartridges and it's a beauty," declared Alan.

Ned weighed it carefully in his hand. "What's it worth?" he asked with dignity.

"Eighteen dollars."

"I think we'll need three of them!"

Alan laughed.

"And there are a good many other things I think we shall need," went on Ned, soberly.

"This hot weather is pretty bad on some people," laughed Alan. "But, by the way, who are 'we?"'

"You and Elmer Grissom and I," answered Ned carelessly.

"And where are we going?" continued Alan, who was not unused to Ned's joking.

"On a little run in a private car down into New Mexico."

Alan looked at him a moment and then determined to have the joke out.

"Then what are we going to do?" he asked, still laughing.

"Make a trip through an unexplored mountain region in the best dirigible balloon ever built."

Alan wondered just where the joke came in. "And then?" he continued.

"Discover enough hidden treasure of jewels and silver and gold to make us rich."

"Shall I get you a cabbage leaf and some ice water?" asked Alan.

"Get your father's consent that you can go; that'll be all," announced Ned and then, breaking into a laugh, he relieved the perplexed Alan by explaining what had just taken place. In ten minutes Alan had secured permission to be off for the remainder of the day and the two boys hurried away for luncheon, to revel in dreams of their great opportunity.

By night Mrs. Napier had consented, though with tears, to Ned's going, and later Alan's father reluctantly did the same. As Ned was to leave the next afternoon and had to see Major Honeywell and Senor Oje in the morning it was a busy evening that the two boys spent in Ned's workshop.

At one o'clock in the morning Alan's work in Chicago was outlined and Ned's needs in the East were all listed.

"And now," exclaimed the tired but exuberant Alan, "it is all arranged but the name. What are we to call the air ship?"

"The 'Cibola,'" answered Ned without hesitation, "the dream of the Spanish invaders and our hope of success."

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