MoboReader> Literature > The Air Ship Boys : Or, the Quest of the Aztec Treasure

   Chapter 17 AN INTERRUPTED FLIGHT

The Air Ship Boys : Or, the Quest of the Aztec Treasure By H. L. Sayler Characters: 7932

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


And so it was arranged. The young aeronauts thus had all afternoon to store provisions, water, gasoline and the instruments. The altitude barometer, the recording thermometer, the statoscope and recording hygrometer, together with the telescopic camera were each given a place on the bridge and lashed to the netting. The twenty-five-foot rope-ladder, strong but light, that was to hang below the car, and the anchor and drag rope, were attached, the name pennant of white with the word "Cibola" resplendent in blue, "turquoise blue," explained Ned-was unfurled on its little staff just abaft the big propeller, and a new silk American flag was laid out it the stern of the car to be run up on its halyards as soon as the bag was attached.

Then came the careful transfer of the liquid hydrogen. One at a time the cast iron eases were carried from the building, hoisted aboard the car and lashed in place. Before supper Ned had time to go to the depot and send a telegram to Major Honeywell, who was yet in Chicago. It read:

"Ready for inflation. All O. K. Sail at 2 P. M. to-morrow, August 11."

He then visited "Saloon Row" and arranged for twenty men to report at four o'clock the next morning. No chances were to be taken that night. Dividing the hours up to four A. M. into two watches, the two boys had supper and Ned was soon fast asleep on the floor of the car "trying it out."

At the first blush of dawn the corral gates were thrown open and in a short time all the men engaged reported. Some of them were put to work dumping the heavy iron filings into the big oak gas generators and Ned and Alan began the delicate work of laying out the bag, bottom side up the thin silken folds of the golden shell were slowly lifted and laid on the ground. When the bottom filling valve had been attached to the wooden gas conduits the mammoth sections of the long gas receptacle were stretched out on top and then carefully smoothed until an even inflation was assured.

This done, the rigging trunk was opened and the seine-like mass of delicate hemp cords laid over the bag. No "greasers" were permitted to assist in this. Ned and Alan, in bare feet, laboriously but carefully drew the silk folds of the bag into the net. When this was completed the suspension cords reached out in all directions like skeleton fingers. In a quarter of an hour these had been attached to the retaining bags with slip knots and then the boys were surprised to find that it was already after six o'clock. At their best they could not now hope to reach the relief camp before nine o'clock and after dark.

Mrs. Buck came with a huge pot of coffee for all, and then followed the last step. One by one, borne on the shoulders of the curious workmen, the dangerous carboys of sulphuric acid were emptied into the generating tanks. The boys guided each step of the men, explaining the danger, and the work was finally completed without hitch or accident.

At the first bubble of gas the boys felt like doing another war dance. But they were "business men" now and had to put on dignity in the face of their employees. In two hours the reaction of the bubbling acid had sent enough hydrogen through the purifier to raise the bag shoulder-high and everything was going splendidly. The boys had removed their working clothes and were now in the light but warm canvas suits and caps they meant to wear in their flight.

Ned stole away a few minutes and at the bank secured bills to pay off the men. On his way back he stopped to invite Mayor Bradley to lunch with them on the Cibola and to be present at the "let go." By noon the men had been paid and the articles of baggage and tools that were to be left behind had been packed, tagged with shipping directions and turned over to Buck's wife.

The cigar-like bag, 98.4 feet long and 17.4 feet in diameter, which was to hold over 65,000 feet of gas, was now so far inflated that it was nearly off the ground. Then Mayor Bra

dley came. With pride the boys bade him climb into the cabin of the Cibola.

"You won't find anything hot in a balloon, Mr. Mayor," laughed Ned, "except the reception. Make yourself at home."

On the bridge of the craft the two boys and their guest had luncheon. Cold potted chicken and baked beans served on wooden plates with hardtack and water, and sweet chocolate for dessert, was the simple meal, but it tasted like a feast.

"Have you christened the craft yet?" finally asked the Mayor who had absorbed some of the enthusiasm of the young aeronauts.

"That's for you to do," politely answered Ned.

The luncheon was hurried to a finish, for the boys could see that the bag needed final attention. It had risen higher and higher and was now swaying and tugging at the suspension ropes. Both boys alighted and at once began straightening the extension ropes. Here and there where the cordage net was out of place they pulled down the bag and adjusted the rigging. Finally a little after three o'clock, the great case had filled out until its smooth glistening sides resembled the skin of a fat sausage.

"All ready!" ordered Ned as he shut of the valve of the cooling and purifying box. "Now, every man bear a hand."

One at a time the extension cords were untied from the retaining bags, and each of the workmen was given four of the light but strong lines. The Mayor himself passed among the men with stern injunctions to hold fast. As the last cord was loosed the great tugging bag was held wholly by the scared men. Then, with slow and measured steps, the double line of assistants advanced to the car and along each side of it.

"All steady," commanded Ned when each man had been placed; "now hang onto her."

Then he and Alan, springing into the car, began the work of making it fast to the bag. There was a place marked for each of the extension ropes, and the air ship builders, beginning at each end of the car, carefully adjusted and tied the end of each rope to the frame of the ship. As the cords were taken from the attendants the men took hold of the lower framework of the car, and to make doubly sure each man was cautioned to throw his entire weight into the work.

At last the final rope was made fast, and three thousand pounds of human flesh and muscle were holding the tugging balloon. Ned, covered with perspiration, and nervous but happy, was hastily connecting the compensating balloon tube with the hand blower on the bridge, and Alan had run astern to tie the new national colors to the halyards swinging from the end of the bag.

"Hold on," cried Ned seeing that Alan was ready to run up the stars and stripes. "Just a moment. Are you all ready, Mr. Mayor?"

"All ready," came the answer from the town official, as he stood on a box, his hat off and a revolver in his hand.

"With a western salute I christen this balloon the 'Cibola,'" he exclaimed, and a shot punctuated his speech. "Good luck and goodbye!"

As the shot sounded Alan's flag ran fluttering upwards. Ned's eyes took one final look fore and aft and then he leaned over the car for the last words for which all were waiting.

They were on his lips and the eyes of twenty straining men were fixed on him to hear the command, "Let go." One nervous attendant, apparently thinking the order had been given, threw up his arms with a shout.

At that instant there was a second sharp pistol shot, and a quick cry from the street outside the corral.

"Hold on there, all of you!" shouted Ned. His dream had rushed back to him with a sickening chill. Had some one shot at the towering bag? "Hold on!" he yelled.

At that moment there was another shout and Bob Russell, his face red with the sun and his shirt wet with perspiration, walked into the corral. In his right hand was gripped a revolver and in his left a repeating rifle. In front of him, and prodded on by Bob's pistol, was the Mexican, Domingo, Jack Jellup's tool and fellow thief.

Free to Download MoboReader
(← Keyboard shortcut) Previous Contents (Keyboard shortcut →)
 Novels To Read Online Free

Scan the QR code to download MoboReader app.

Back to Top

shares