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   Chapter 16 READY TO LET GO ALL

The Air Ship Boys : Or, the Quest of the Aztec Treasure By H. L. Sayler Characters: 8796

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


In the confusion that followed the sudden extinction of the candle, while Ned was freeing Alan and Jack Jellup was uttering heartrending groans, the marshal's confederate lost his nerve and made his escape. When a lantern had been procured, immediate attention was given to the stricken man.

Ned hastened to secure a bucket of water. Wrapping the corner of a blanket about the handle of a tin dipper he ladled out a spoonful of the liquid hydrogen and, although the numbing chill ran through his fingers and up his arm, he managed to pour the hydrogen into the contents of the bucket.

The pail of lukewarm water became almost instantly a cake of solid ice. As Ned dropped the tin dipper to the hard adobe floor it flew into a hundred pieces. The inconceivable cold had crystallized the metal until the slightest shock was sufficient to break it into pieces.

At the sound of the crashing tin Ned instantly thought of the belt of gold yet in the hydrogen jar. But a human being was in pain, and he gave his first attention to the suffering marshal. He had made the ice to use in drawing the frost out of Jellup's frozen arm. In a few moments he had mashed a portion of the ice into small bits, and using a blanket to make a pack, he soon had Jellup's rigid arm encased in the fine ice. This he applied for the same reason that snow and ice water are applied to frozen ears and noses. But his treatment was of no avail.

The rain was now falling steadily and it was dark, but Ned found that it was nearly day-a little after four o'clock. Jellup's suffering was so extreme that the boys had given him a hypodermic insertion of morphine, using their "snake-bite" outfit, and in a few minutes the man's ravings ceased and he quieted into a deep sleep.

While awaiting this, attention was given the gold. Feeling free to approach the now open jars with a light it was seen that a portion of, the belt protruded above the liquid. A cord with a sailor slip knot was lowered over the extended bit of leather, drawn taut with a jerk and the belt was slowly lifted out. A folded blanket had been placed on the floor to receive it. As Ned expected, the leather crumbled and broke like glass as the belt fell on the soft blanket.

"If you want change for a twenty-dollar gold piece just tap one of those with a stick." said Ned, laughing and pointing to the gold pieces scattered among the broken fragments of the belt.

"Not I," exclaimed Alan, "not after what happened to the tin dipper."

Leaving Alan to watch over the unconscious Jellup and the frozen gold, Ned dressed himself, and in spite of the rain hastened out in the just perceptible dawn to carry out a plan he and Alan had agreed upon. An hour later, with the assistance of Mayor Bradley, the marshal, now somewhat easier, was placed in a bed in his own home. Unless the silent Mexican told it no soul in all Clarkeville other than Mayor Bradley and the air ship boys knew why Jellup was absent from his haunts and his post of duty that day. Nor did many of them ever know, when Jellup reappeared on the streets after weeks of suffering, how he had been injured. They only knew that his right arm was gone and that he was no longer marshal.

The rain ceased with the coming of the day.

"If we don't get away pretty soon," suggested Alan, as Ned was getting into dry clothing preparatory to tackling another of Mrs. Buck's meals, "this thing will be getting on my nerves."

"Well," answered Ned philosophically, "there is mighty little worth having in this world that isn't hard to get."

If all went well that day the boys hoped to be ready to make their departure that night or the next morning. Therefore they went to work with a vim. Both felt more comfortable when, after finding that the gold coins had returned to their normal condition, they had again concealed them. The propeller, rudder and aeroplane guides were now put in place and tested.

As the engine, with a speed of 1,400 revolutions but geared down to 800, began to turn the shaft and the twelve-foot propeller began to revolve, Ned swung his hat in the air. Without a break the speed increased to 500, 600, and then 700 revolutions a minute.

"Shut her off," exclaimed Alan joyously, as the white arms flew round and round and the air shot backwards on both sides of the long car. At 750 revolutions the car was rocking and lurching as if it woul

d soar birdlike into the air. At 800 the powerful pulling propeller began to overcome the rigidity of the framework on which the car rested and as Alan caught and held the car, fearful that it was about to fly away under the propeller power alone, Ned shut off the engine.

The next instant the two boys, with clasped hands, were doing an Indian war dance in their glee.

It was not long until the rudder wires and the aeroplane shafts had been attached to their proper guide wheels in the lookout or pilot portion of the engine cabin. Then came the preparation of the balloon bag itself. Here again Ned showed what he had accomplished in the six weeks he had spent in the East.

Clearing a space near the generating tanks, they placed the one hundred sand bags, weighing forty pounds each, in parallel rows. These sacks, with convenient loops on each for attaching the rigging of the bag as it was being filled, had already been prepared by the "greaser" laborers, but the placing of the two tons of dead weight was not a joke, and the boys regretted that they had not kept a few men around. But by noon this was done, and then the great waterproof fiber trunk containing the silk bag was rolled out between the retaining bags. The boys could not carry it, as the balloon itself weighed seven hundred and twenty pounds, but they improvised rollers and with many a laughing "yo he ho" finally accomplished the task.

The bag had been made by one of the leading aeronautical engineers of America, whose factory, strangely enough, was in one of the small inland towns of New York State. In a spirit of humor the manufactory had been termed the "Balloon Farm," and so famous was it that Ned had even planned to spend a part of his summer vacation visiting it. When Major Honeywell gave him the opportunity, Ned was at once determined to utilize every advanced idea of the skilled owner, whatever the cost.

The result was a machine-varnished and, as nearly as such a thing was possible, hydrogen gas-proof bag. In the construction of this the experienced manufacturer and engineer, who was no other than Professor Carl E. Meyers, the hero of hundreds of ascents, had used a new machine which applied simultaneously to both sides of the bag fabric several thin films of elastic varnish. The bag itself consisted of two layers of Japan silk between which was a layer of rubber, all being sewed together and then vulcanized.

But the balloon trunk was not opened at once. The pipe to convey the gas from the cooler and purifying tank had been brought in four-foot lengths of light wood, cemented and shellacked. Eight lengths of these were laid to the center of the cleared place and then the joints were wound with binding cement tape. When these things had been satisfactorily adjusted it was mid-afternoon. Everything now seemed ready for the filling up of the generating tanks, the inflation, the flight, and "good-bye."

Therefore, a final consultation was held. Wind tests conducted each day had shown the prevailing breezes favorable, or at least not against the aeronauts. The inflation would require approximately ten hours. If begun at once this would make the departure possible about midnight. This was not undesirable as the absence of the hot southwestern sun would make the gas easier to control. But another thing had to be taken into consideration. Only four days had elapsed since Elmer and Bob and Buck had started. Were they yet at the rendezvous?

"I don't see what difference that makes," said Alan. "We expect to sail directly north and east of the foothills. If they have not reached their camp they must be nearly there and on the way. We've got to locate them with our glasses anyway. Let's start and pick them up where we find them."

"True enough," answered Ned. "The way the engine is working, in this light favoring wind, we ought to make eighteen miles an hour anyway. If we leave at midnight, by five o'clock in the morning we can be ninety miles north. The only trouble is in the handling of the bag. It's going to take at least twenty men to move the inflated bag from the retaining weights to the car and we can't make the rigging fast in the dark. We'd better begin work at four o'clock to-morrow morning, as soon as it begins to be light, and get away about two in the afternoon. I think we'll see our friends about seven or just at dark, if we do."

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