Dick Hamiliton's Airship
Howard R. Garis
Part 4 out of 5
"Now they're coming on," cried Dick, as he saw one of the lower
machines dart ahead of the other. "He's trying to get me to sprint,
"Why don't you try it now?" suggested Mr. Vardon. "We'll soon be
at the limits of the aviation field, and I doubt if these machines
will be allowed to go beyond it. So, if you want to beat them in
a race now is your time to speed up."
"Here she goes!" cried Dick, as he opened wider the gasolene
In an instant the big craft shot ahead, fairly roaring through the
air. The closed cabin, however, kept the pressure of wind from the
occupants, or they might not have been able to stand it, for the
gage outside registered a resistance of many pounds to the square
It was an odd race. There were no cheering spectators to urge on
the contestants by shouts and cheers, though doubtless those who
were witnessing the evolutions of the aircraft, before Dick's advent
on the scene, were using their voices to good advantage. But the
birdmen were too high up to hear them.
Nor could the excited calls, if there were any such, from the two
rivals of our hero be heard. There were two men in each of the
competing biplanes, and they were doing their best to win.
It must have been an inspiring sight from below, for Dick's craft
was so large that it showed up well, and the white canvas planes of
the others, as well as those of the Abaris, stood out in bold
contrast to the blue of the sky.
"We're doing ninety an hour!" called Dick, after a glance at the
speed gage, while his companions were looking down at the craft
"Pretty nearly the limit," remarked Mr. Vardon. "If you can reach
a hundred, Dick, do it. I don't believe those fellows can come near
"They're falling behind now," observed Paul. "Go to it, Dick, old
The young millionaire pulled open the gasolene throttle to the full
limit and set the sparker to contact at the best advantage. The
result was at once apparent. The aircraft shot ahead in a wonderful
fashion. The others evidently put on full speed, for they, also,
made a little spurt.
Then it was "all over but the shouting," as Larry said. Dick's
machine swept on and soon distanced the others.
"I've got to get back a story of this!" cried Larry. "It will be
good reading for those who buy the Leader."
"But how are you going to do it?" asked Paul. "You can't send back
a story now, and we'd have to make a descent to use the wireless,"
Dick's craft being so fitted up.
"I'll just write a little note, telling the editor to get the story
from the Associated Press correspondent who is covering this meet,"
Larry answered. "All they need in the Leader office is a 'tip.'
They'll do the rest. But I'll just give them a few pointers as to
how things went on here."
He hastily dashed off a story and enclosed it in one of several
leather cylinders he had provided for this purpose. Each one had
a sort of miniature parachute connected to it, and a flag to attract
attention as it shot down.
Enclosing his story in one of these Larry dropped it, as he had done
before, trusting that it would be picked up and forwarded. The plan
always worked well.
The leather messenger fell on the aviation field, and our friends
had the satisfaction of seeing several men running to pick it up,
so Larry knew his plan would be successful.
The Abaris was now speeding along at the top notch, and for a few
minutes Dick allowed her to soar through the air in this fashion.
And then, having some regard for his engines, he cut down the
gasolene, and slowed up.
"No use tearing her heart out," he remarked.
"There's time enough to rush on the last lap. I wonder if we'll
have a race at the end?"
"I shouldn't be surprised," Mr. Vardon answered. "A number of
celebrated aviators are planning to compete for this prize, and some
may already be on the way across the continent ahead of us."
"Then there's your Uncle Ezra," put in Paul.
"Poor Uncle Ezra," spoke Dick, musingly. "He certainly has treated
me mean, at times, but I can't help feeling sorry for him. Every
time he has to buy five gallons of gasolene, or some oil, he'll
imagine he's getting ready to go to the poorhouse. He certainly was
not cut out for an aviator, and I certainly was surprised when he
built that airship."
"He's being used by that fellow Larson, I'm sure of that," declared
Mr. Vardon. "Your Uncle Ezra has fallen into the hands of a
"Well, I'm sorry for that, of course," said the young millionaire,
"but, do you know, I think it will do Uncle Ezra good to lose some
of his money. He's got more than he needs, and he can afford to
spend some on aviation. Someone, at least the workmen, and those
who sell materials and supplies, will get the benefit of it."
The aircraft was now going along at about her usual speed of fifty
miles an hour. The aviation park had been left behind, and they
were now flying along at a comparatively low altitude.
"Better go up a little," suggested Mr. Vardon. "It will be dark
shortly, and we don't want to run into a mountain in the night."
Dick tilted the elevating rudder and the craft lifted herself into
the air, soaring upward.
"Here, Innis, you take the wheel now, it's your turn," called our
hero, a little later. "Straighten her out and keep her on a level
keel. It's my turn to get supper."
"And give us plenty, if you don't mind," begged the stout cadet,
who took his chum's place in the pilot house. "This upper
atmosphere seems to give me an appetite."
"I never saw you without it, Innis," laughed Paul.
"Come on out on the deck, for a breath of air before we start to
cook," suggested Larry. "We can get a fine view of the sunset
The open deck, in the rear of the cabin, did indeed offer a gorgeous
view of the setting sun, which was sinking to rest in a bank of
golden, green and purple clouds.
"I'll go out, too," said Lieutenant McBride. "I am supposed to make
some meteorological observations while I am on this trip, and it is
high time I began."
And so, with the exception of Innis, who would have his turn later,
and Mr. Vardon, who wanted to look over the machinery, for possible
heated bearings, all went out on the railed deck. Grit, the
bulldog, followed closely on the heels of Dick.
"Be careful, old man," said the young millionaire to his pet.
"There's no rail close to the deck, you know, and you may slip
They stood for a few moments viewing the scene while thus flying
along through the air. The colors of the sunset were constantly
changing, becoming every moment more gorgeous.
Suddenly there was a swerve to the airship, and it tilted sharply
to one side.
"Look out!" cried Dick, as he grasped the protecting railing, an
example followed by all. "What's up?"
"We're falling!" shouted Paul.
"No, it's just an air pocket," was the opinion of Lieutenant
McBride. "We'll be all right in another moment."
They were, but before that Grit, taken unawares, had slid
unwillingly to the edge of the open deck.
"Look out for him!" shouted Dick, making a grab for his pet.
But he was too late. The deck was smooth, and the bulldog could
get no grip on it. In another instant he had toppled over the edge
of the platform, rolling under the lowest of the guard rails.
"There he goes!" cried Paul.
Dick gave a gasp of despair. Grit let out a howl of fear.
And then, as Larry Dexter leaned over the side, he gave a cry of
"Look!" he shouted. "Grit's caught by a rope and he's hanging there
by his teeth!"
And, as Dick looked, he saw a strange sight. Trailing over the side
of the airship deck was a piece of rope, that had become loosed.
And, in his fall, Grit had caught hold of this in his strong jaws.
To this he clung like grim death, his grip alone keeping him from
falling into space.
A FORCED LANDING
"Hold on there, old boy! Don't let go!" begged Dick of his pet,
who swung to and fro, dangling like some grotesque pendulum over
the side of the airship. "Hold on, Grit!"
And Grit held on, you may be sure of that. His jaws were made for
just that purpose. The dog made queer gurgling noises in his
throat, for he dare not open his mouth to bark. Probably he knew
just what sort of death would await him if he dropped into the vast
space below him.
"How we going to get him up?" asked Larry.
"I'll show you!" cried Dick, as he stretched out at full length on
the deck, and made his way to the edge where his head and shoulders
projected over the dizzying space. The airship was still rushing
"Grab his legs--somebody!" exclaimed Paul. "I'll sit on you, Dick!"
"That's right! Anchor me down, old man!" Dick cried. "I'm going
to get Grit!"
"Are you going to make a landing to save him?" asked Larry.
"No, though I would if I had to," Dick replied. "I'm just going to
haul him up by the rope. Keep a good hold, old boy!" he encouraged
his pet, and Grit gurgled his answer.
And then Dick, leaning over the edge of the deck, while Paul sat on
his backward-stretched legs to hold him in place, hauled up the
bulldog hand over hand, by means of the rope the intelligent animal
had so fortunately grasped.
Inch by inch Grit was raised until Larry, who had come to the edge
to help Dick, reached out, and helped to haul the dog in.
"There he is!" cried Dick, as he slid back.
"Well, old boy, you had a close call!"
Grit let go the rope and barked. And then a strange fit of
trembling seized him. It was the first time he had ever showed
fear. He never ventured near the edge of the deck again, always
taking a position as near the centre as possible, and lying down at
full length, to prevent any danger of sliding off. And he never
went out on the deck unless Dick went also, feeling, I suppose, that
he wanted his master near in case of accidents.
"Say, that was some little excitement," remarked the young
millionaire, as he wiped the beads of perspiration from his
forehead. "I thought poor old Grit was sure a goner."
"It did look so," admitted Paul. "He's an intelligent beast, all
"Takes after me," laughed Dick. "Well, let's see how Innis made out
while we were at the rescue."
"I was all ready to send her down quick, if you'd given the word,"
said the cadet in the pilot house, when the party went inside the
"But she's still on her course," he added, after a glance at the
"I'm glad we didn't have to go down," Dick remarked. "As we only
have two landings we can make I want to save my reserve until we
are actually forced to use it. I wonder about where we are, anyhow?
Let's make a calculation."
By figuring out the rate of speed, and comparing the elapsed time,
and then by figuring on a scale map, it was estimated, as dusk
settled down, that they were about on the border line between
Pennsylvania and Ohio.
"We'll cross the state of Ohio tonight," spoke Dick, "and by morning
we ought to be in Indiana. Not so bad, considering that we haven't
really pushed the machine to the limit yet, except in that little
brush with the other airships."
"Yes, we are doing very well," said Mr. Vardon. "I wonder how some
of our competitors are making out? I'd like to get some news of
"So would I," went on Dick. "Particularly my Uncle Ezra."
Had he but known it, Mr. Larabee, in his airship with Larson and
the army man, was following close after him. For really the big
biplane, with the mercury stabilizers, which Larson had constructed,
was a fine craft, and capable. That Larson had cheated Mr. Larabee
out of considerable money in the building had nothing to do with the
working of the apparatus. But of Uncle Ezra and his aircraft more
"We'll get some news the first landing we make," suggested
"Well, I would like to get news all right," admitted Dick. "But I
don't want to go down until I have to. Now for supper. Anything
you fellows would like, especially?"
"Green turtle soup for mine!" sung out Larry.
"I'll have pickled eels' feet," laughed Innis, who had relinquished
the wheel to Mr. Vardon. "Wait a bit, Dick, and I'll drop a line
overboard and catch a few."
"And I'll see if I can't shoot a mock turtle," came from Paul.
"Nothing but roast turkey for mine," insisted Lieutenant McBride.
"But I guess we'll have to compromise on capsule soup and condensed
"Oh, I can give you canned chicken," promised the young millionaire,
"and perhaps I can make it hot for you."
"Not too much tabasco sauce though, the way you dosed up the stuff
for the last Freshman dinner!" objected Paul. "I ate some of that
by mistake, and I drank nothing but iced water for a week after."
"That's right--it was a hot old time!" cried Dick, with a laugh at
As space was rather limited on board the airship, no ice could be
carried, and, in consequence no fresh meats were available except
for the first few hours of travel. Of course, when a landing was
to be made, another limited supply could be laid in, but, with only
two descents to earth allowed, this would not help much.
However, as the trip was going to be a comparatively short one, no
one minded the deprivation from the usual bountiful meals that,
somehow, one seemed to associate with the young millionaire.
A good supply of "capsule" food was carried. In making up his
larder Dick had consulted Lieutenant McBride, who had given him a
list of the highly nutritious and condensed food used in the army.
While such food was not the most appetizing in the world, it could
be carried in a small space, was easily prepared, and would sustain
life, and provide working energy, fully as long as the more
elaborate dishes, which contain a large amount of waste materials.
Soon the electric stove was aglow, and on it Dick got up a tasty
supper. Innis insisted on helping his chum, though it was Dick's
turn to play cook.
"You just can't keep out of the kitchen; can you?" asked Dick, of
the stout cadet. "You always want to be around where eating is
"Well, the only way to be sure of a thing, is to do it yourself,"
said Innis. "I would hate to have this fine appetite of mine go to
It was quite dark when they sat at supper, for some slight defect
manifested itself in one of the small motors just as they were about
to eat, and it had to be repaired at once.
But, gathered about the folding table, with the electric lights
aglow overhead, there was little indication among the party of
aviators that they were in one of the most modern of skycraft,
sailing a mile above the earth, and shooting along at fifty miles
an hour. So easy was the motion of the Abaris, and so evenly and
smoothly did she glide along, due to the automatic action of the
gyroscope stabilizer, that it really seemed as if they were standing
still--floating between heaven and earth.
Of course there was the subdued hum of the great propellers outside,
and the throb of the powerful gasolene motor, but that was all that
gave an idea of the immense force contained in the airship.
From time to time Lieutenant McBride made notes for future use. He
had to report officially to the war department just how this type
of airship behaved under any and all circumstances. Then, too, he
was interested personally, for he had taken up aviation with great
enthusiasm, and as there were not many army men in it, so far, he
stood a good chance for advancement.
"The possibilities of aeroplanes in time of war are only beginning
to be understood," he said. "Of course there has been a lot of
foolish talk about them, and probably they will not be capable of
doing all that has been claimed for them, as yet. But they will be
of immense value for scouting purposes, if for nothing else. In
rugged and mountainous countries, an aviator will be under no
difficulties at all, and can, by hovering over the enemy's camp, get
an idea of the defenses, and report back.
"Thus it will be possible to map out a plan of attack with every
chance of success. There will be no time lost, and lives may be
saved from useless exposure."
"Do you think airships will ever carry light artillery, or drop
bombs on an enemy?" asked Dick.
"Well, you could carry small artillery aboard here if you didn't
have so much company," answered the army man. "It is all a question
of weight and size. However, I believe, for the present, the most
valuable aid airships will render will be in the way of scouting.
But I don't want to see a war just for the sake of using our
airships. Though it is well to be prepared to take advantage of
their peculiar usefulness."
After supper they prepared to spend their first night aboard the
airship on her prize-winning attempt. They decided to cut down the
speed a little.
"Not that there's much danger of hitting anything," Dick explained,
"though possibly Uncle Ezra and Larson might come up behind and
crash into us. But at slower speed the machinery is not so
strained, and there is less likelihood of an accident."
"That's right," agreed Mr. Vardon. "And an accident at night,
especially when most of us are asleep, is not so easily handled as
when it occurs in daylight. So slow her down, Dick."
The motor was set to take them along at thirty miles an hour, and
they descended until they were fifteen hundred feet above the earth,
so in case of the Abaris becoming crippled, she would not have to
spend much time in making a landing.
Everything was well looked to, and then, with Dick and Mr. Vardon
taking the first watch, the others turned in. And they were so
tired from the rather nervous excitement of the day of the start,
that they were soon asleep. Dick and the aviator took turns at the
wheel, and attended to the necessary adjustments of the various
It might seem strange for anyone to sleep aboard a moving airship,
but, the truth of the matter was, that our friends were realty worn
out with nervous exhaustion. They had tired themselves out, not
only physically, but mentally, and sleep was really forced on them.
Otherwise they might not have slumbered at all.
It was shortly past midnight when Dick, who, in spite of his
attempts to keep awake, had partly dozed off, was suddenly aroused
by a howl from Grit.
"What--what's the matter, old boy?" he asked. "In trouble again?"
There came another and louder howl. "Where is he?" asked Mr.
Vardon, looking in from the pilot-house.
"I can't see him," Dick answered. "Can he be out on deck?"
A moment later there was a flash as of lightning, within the cabin,
and Grit mingled his howls and barks as though in great pain.
"Something's wrong!" cried the aviator. "Look about, Dick, I can't
leave the wheel. We seem to be going down!"
The young millionaire sprang up and leaped toward the place where
he had heard Grit howling. The next moment Dick laughed in a
"Where are those rubber gloves?" he asked.
"Rubber gloves?" repeated Mr. Vardon.
"Yes. Grit has gotten tangled up in the little dynamo that runs the
headlight, and he's short-circuited. He can stand more of a shock
than I can. I want to get him off the contacts. Where are the
The aviator directed Dick to where the insulating gauntlets were
kept, and in another moment Grit was pulled away from the contact.
He had been unable to move himself, just as when one grasps the
handles of a galvanic battery the muscles become so bound as to be
incapable of motion.
Fortunately the current, while it made Grit practically helpless,
for the time, was not strong enough to burn, or otherwise injure
him. He gave a howl of protest at the accident, as Dick released
him, and shuffled off to his kennel, after fawning on his master.
"One of the wires has some of the insulation off--that's what caused
the trouble," Dick explained. "I'll wind some tape on it until we
have time to put in a new conductor."
"Grit seems to be getting the worst end of it this trip," said Paul,
who had been awakened by the commotion.
"Yes, he isn't much used to airships," agreed Dick. "But you'd
better turn in, Paul. You've got an hour yet before it's your turn
at the wheel."
"Oh, better let me have it now. I'm awake, and I can't get to sleep
again. Turn in yourself."
Which Dick was glad enough to do, as he was quite tired. The
remainder of the night passed without incident, and when morning
came the airship was put at her former speed, fifty miles an hour.
That may not sound very fast, but it must be remembered that this
rate had to be kept up for sixty hours straight, perhaps.
After breakfast the wire that had shocked Grit was renewed, and then
some observations were taken to determine their position. It was
calculated they were about halfway across Indiana by noon.
The afternoon was slowly waning, and they were preparing for their
second night of the prize trip, congratulating themselves that they
had not yet been forced to descend.
Suddenly Larry, who was at the wheel, uttered a cry of alarm.
"Something's wrong!" he shouted. "I can't steer her on the course
any longer. She's heading North instead of West."
Dick and Mr. Vardon rushed to the pilot-house. A glance at the
compass confirmed Larry's statement. The aviator himself took the
wheel, but it was impossible to head the craft West. She pointed
"The horizontal rudder is out of gear!" cried Dick.
"Yes, and we'll have to go down to fix it," said Mr. Vardon, after
a quick inspection. "Boys, we've got to make our first landing!
It's too bad, but it might be worse."
ON LAKE MICHIGAN
Unsuccessfully they tried to make repairs to the horizontal rudder
without going down, but it was not to be. The airship was being
sent farther and farther along on a Northern course, taking her far
out of her way. And more time and distance might thus be lost than
by descending, making repairs, and going on again.
"Well, I did hope we'd cover at least half the trip before we had
to go down," Dick said, and his tone was regretful. "Try once more
and see if we can't get her back on the course."
But the horizontal guide--by which I mean the apparatus that sent
the craft to left or right--was hopelessly jammed. To try to force
it might mean a permanent break.
"Take her down," Dick finally gave the order, as captain. "What
sort of a landing-place is below us?"
"We're too far up to see," said Mr. Vardon.
"And I hope we have the luck to be above open country. We can't go
to left or right except in the smallest degree, so we'll have to
land wherever Fate disposes. We are all right on going up or down,
but not otherwise."
The vertical rudder was now depressed, and on a long slant Dick's
airship was sent down. Lower and lower she glided, and soon an
indistinct mass appeared. It was almost dusk, and no details could
be made out. Then, as she went lower what appeared to be a gray
"There's a bank of fog below us," declared Paul.
"Or else it's the smoke of Pittsburg," said Innis.
"We left Pittsburg behind long ago," Larry returned. "Why!" he
cried, as the gray foglike mass became more distinct. "That's
water--that's what it is!"
"Water!" exclaimed Dick. "Can we have gone in the wrong direction,
and be back over the Atlantic?"
"Or the Pacific?" suggested Larry with a laugh.
"No such good luck as that! We haven't had time to cross the
continent yet," declared Dick. "But what water can it be?"
"Oh, some small lake," spoke Paul.
"It isn't a small lake--it's a big one--an inland sea," was Dick's
opinion, as they settled lower and lower.
"It's Lake Michigan, that's what it is!" shouted Larry, after a
quick glance at the map. "Fellows, we're over Lake Michigan!"
"And we're going to be IN it--or on it--in a little while, I'm
thinking," Lieutenant McBride said, grimly. "Are you ready for a
"There won't be any trouble about that," answered Dick. "The
hydroplanes will take care of us. I only hope it isn't too rough
to make a safe landing."
Paul took a telescope from the rack, and, going out on the deck,
looked down. The next moment he reported:
"It's fairly calm. Just a little swell on."
"Then we'd better get ready to lower the hydroplanes," went on Dick,
with a look at the aviator.
"That's the best thing to do," decided Mr. Vardon. "We'll see how
they'll work in big water."
The hydroplanes, which were attached to the airship near the points
where the starting wheels were made fast, could be lowered into
place by means of levers in the cabin. The hydroplanes were really
water-tight hollow boxes, large and buoyant enough to sustain the
airship on the surface of the water. They could be lowered to a
point where they were beneath the bicycle wheels, and were fitted
with toggle-jointed springs to take up the shock.
Lieutenant McBride took out his watch, and with pad and pencil
prepared to note the exact moment when the airship should reach the
surface of the lake.
"I shall have to take official notice of this," he said. "It
constitutes your first landing, though perhaps it would be more
correct to call it a watering. As soon as you are afloat, your
elapsed time will begin, and it will count until you are in the air
again. You will probably be some time making repairs."
"No longer than we can help," said Dick. "I don't want Uncle Ezra,
or anybody else, to get ahead of me."
Down and down sank the Abaris, on her first descent from the
cloud-land since her auspicious start. But, as Dick admitted, it
might be worse. The accident itself was a comparatively slight one.
"Get ready, everybody!" called Mr. Vardon, as he saw that, in a few
seconds more, they would be on the surface of the water.
"Do you fear something will go wrong?" asked Larry, quickly.
"Well, we've never tried the hydroplanes in rough water, and there
is always the chance for an accident. Stand out where you can jump,
if you have to," he directed.
Lieutenant McBride was standing with his watch out, ready to note
the exact second of landing. He knew he must be officially correct,
though he would give Dick every possible chance and favor.
"Here we go!" came the cry from the aviator. "Only a few seconds
They could plainly see the heaving waters of the big lake.
Fortunately it was comparatively calm, though once she had landed
the airship could stand some rough weather afloat.
Splash! went the hydroplanes into the water. The springs took up
the shock and strain, and the next moment Dick's craft was floating
easily on the great lake. The landing had been made without an
accident to mar it.
"Good!" cried Lieutenant McBride, as he jotted down the time. "Do
you know how long you have been, so far, Dick, on the trip?"
"Just thirty-five hours, four minutes and eight seconds!" was the
"Over half the estimated time gone, and we re only a third of the
way there!" exclaimed the young millionaire. "I'm afraid we aren't
going to do it, Mr. Vardon."
"Well, I'm not going to give up yet," the aviator answered, grimly.
"This is only a start. We haven't used half our speed, and when we
get closer to the finish we can go a hundred and twenty-five miles
an hour if we have to--for a spurt, at any rate. No, I'm not giving
"Neither am I," declared Dick, for he was not of the quitting sort.
Floating on the surface of Lake Michigan was like being on the
ocean, for they were out of sight of land, and there were no water
craft in view. The Abaris seemed to have the lake to herself,
though doubtless beyond the wall of the slight haze that hemmed her
in there were other vessels.
"Well, now to see what the trouble is," suggested Dick. "It must
be somewhere in the connecting joints of the levers, for the rudder
itself seems to be all right."
"But we'd better begin out there and make sure," suggested Mr.
Vardon. He pointed to the rudder, which projected some distance back
of the stern of the aircraft.
"How you going to get at it to inspect it?" asked Paul. "It isn't
as if we were on solid ground."
"And no one has long enough a reach to stretch to it from the deck,"
"You forget our collapsible lifeboat," Dick answered. One of those
useful craft was aboard the airship. It could be inflated with air,
and would sustain a considerable weight.
"I'll go out in that and see what's the trouble," Dick went on.
"It will tell us where we've got to begin."
"Perhaps we had better wait until morning," suggested Lieutenant
McBride. "It is fast getting dark, and you can do much better work
in daylight. Besides, you are not pressed for time, as your stay
here will not count against you. I think you had better wait until
"And stay here all night?" asked Dick.
"I think so. You have proved that your hydroplanes are all right.
Why not rest on the surface of the lake until morning? You can't
anchor, it is true, but you can use a drag, and there seems to be
no wind, so you will not be blown ashore. Besides, you can, to a
certain extent, control yourself with the propellers."
"I think we will wait then," decided the young millionaire captain.
"As you say we can make a drag anchor to keep us from drifting too
By means of a long rope a drag anchor was tossed out at the stern
of the aircraft. This would serve to hold her back. Then, as
nothing further could be done, preparations were made for supper.
"Well, this aeroplaning has its ups and downs," said Paul, with a
laugh, as he sat at table. "Last night we were eating up in the
air, and now we're on the water."
"And it's lucky we're not IN the water!" exclaimed Innis. "Regular
Hamilton luck, I call it."
"No, it's Vardon luck," Dick insisted. "He planned the hydroplanes
that made it possible."
Lights were set aglow to show the position of the craft on the
"We don't want to be run down in the night," Dick said, as he noted
the red and green side lights as well as the white ones at bow and
stern. For, in the water, the Abaris was subject to the same rules
as were other lake craft. It was only when in the air that she was
largely a law unto herself.
The night passed quietly enough, though it came on to blow a little
toward morning. But the drag anchor worked well.
"And now for the repairs," cried Dick, after breakfast, as he and
his chums got out the collapsible boat. It was blown up, and in it
Dick and Mr. Vardon paddled out to the stern rudders.
They were examining the universal joint, by which the apparatus was
deflected when Dick suddenly became aware of a wet feeling about his
feet, and a sinking feeling beneath him. He looked down, and found
that the boat, in which he and Mr. Vardon were standing, was going
down. Already it was half filled with water.
"More trouble!" cried Dick. "I guess we'll have to swim for it!"
A HOWLING GALE
There was no doubt about it. The little craft was going down.
Later it was learned that a leaky valve had allowed the air to
escape, and a break in the boat's rubber sides had let in the water.
"Come on!" cried Dick. "Overboard, Mr. Vardon!"
There was really little danger, as both of them could swim, though
if they did not jump out they might be carried down with the boat.
So, overboard went Dick and his aviator. The collapsible boat sank
with the downward impulse given it when they leaped out, but as it
was moored to the airship by a cable it could be recovered.
"Say, what is this--a swimming race?" asked Paul, as he tossed Dick
a rope, a like service being performed for Mr. Vardon by Innis.
"Looks like it--doesn't it?" agreed the young millionaire. "I
should have tested that boat before we went out in it," he added,
as he clambered up, Grit frisking and barking about him in delight.
"Yes, that's where we made the mistake," agreed Mr. Vardon. "That
rubber must have been cut as it was packed away. Well, we can
easily mend it, so no great harm is done."
By means of the cable, the sunken boat was pulled to the airship,
and when the water was allowed to run out it was hauled aboard.
Then it was examined, the leak found, and the craft was placed out
in the sun to dry, after which it could be mended.
"Well, we can't do anything but wait," said Dick, after he had
changed into dry garments. "The break is out on that part of the
rudder that's over the water. We can't reach it without the boat."
"Then, while we're waiting let's have a swim," proposed Paul. "It
will do us all good."
"And then we can do some fishing," added Innis. "I'd like some nice
broiled fish. Did you bring any tackle along, Dick?"
"No, I'm sorry to say I didn't."
"Then I'll have to rig up some. I'll use some cold canned chicken
"What about a hook?" asked Lieutenant McBride, with a smile.
"Well, anybody who can build an airship ought to be able to make a
fish hook. I'm going to call on Dick for that," went on Innis.
"I guess I can file you out one from a bit of steel wire," answered
the young millionaire.
This was done, after some little labor, and with several of the
improvised barbs, and bait from some of the canned goods, a fishing
party was organized. There was plenty of string, and for leaders,
so that the fish would not bite off the hooks, Innis used some spare
banjo strings. He had brought his instrument along with him.
The swim was much enjoyed, for the day was warm. The young aviators
sported around in the cool waters of the lake, and several little
spurting races were "pulled off," to use a sporting term.
I cannot say that the fishing was very successful. A few were
caught, but I imagine the bait used was not just proper. It is
difficult to get canned chicken to stick on a hook, unless you use
a piece of gristle. But some good specimens were caught, and were
served for dinner, being fried on the electric stove.
All this while the airship floated tranquilly on the surface of the
lake. Several vessels came near, attracted by the strange sight of
Dick's craft, but, by means of a megaphone they were kindly asked
not to approach too near, as the least contact with one of the
heavier craft would damage the Abaris. Through the captain of one
craft Dick sent a message to his father, and Larry a story to his
"Well, I think that boat must be dry enough to mend now," said Dick,
some time after dinner. "We don't want to spend another night here
if we can help it."
"No, for the weather might not always be as calm as it is now. The
barometer is falling, and that means a storm, sooner or later,"
spoke Mr. Vardon. "And these lake storms can be pretty had when
It was found that the collapsible boat was dry enough to patch up,
and by means of a rubber cement the hole in the side was closed.
The leaky intake valve was also repaired, and then, when the
peculiar craft was blown up and tested, it was found to be all
"Now we'll have another try at fixing that rudder," said Dick, as
he and the aviator started once more to paddle to the stern of the
This time all went well. No water came in the rubber boat, and by
standing up in it the two were able to learn the cause of the
trouble with the rudder.
It was simple enough--a broken bolt making it impossible to turn it
in a certain direction. As Dick had plenty of spare parts aboard,
a new bolt was soon substituted for the fractured one, and then they
were ready to proceed again.
"I've a suggestion to make," said Lieutenant McBride, when Dick was
about to give the word to mount into the air again.
"What is it?" asked the young millionaire.
"Why not try your boat over the water? While it is not exactly a
hydroplane, yet it has those attachments, and you can probably skim
over the surface of the water as well as float on it. And that
might come in useful in winning the prize.
"Of course the conditions call for an air flight from New York to
San Francisco, but I believe, in case of emergency, a short water
trip would not count against you? And you might have to make it
"I'll see what we can do, at any rate," decided Dick. "We will
probably never get a better chance than this. Come on, boys! We'll
see how our hydroplanes act!" he called.
The only thing that was necessary to do was to start the motor that
operated the propellers. The aircraft was at this time resting
easily on the surface of Lake Michigan.
She would be driven forward by the propellers beating on the air,
exactly as a sailboat it aided by the wind. Only, in her case, the
Abaris would furnish her own motive power.
In anticipation of some time having to navigate on the water, a
small auxiliary rudder had been attached to Dick's craft. This
rudder went down into the water, and would be used in steering in
conjunction with those used when she was in the air.
This wooden rudder was now dropped into the water, tested, and found
to answer properly to the lever which, in the pilot-house,
controlled it by means of wire ropes.
"Well, let her go!" cried Dick, "and we'll see what sort of luck
"Which way?" asked Mr. Vardon, who was at the wheel.
"Why not head for Chicago?" suggested Lieutenant McBride. "We can't
be a great way from there, according to the map, and that would be
a good place to make the new start from."
"I think it would be," agreed Dick, "if that would be covering the
conditions of the contest."
"Well, you can easily travel back enough to make up any shortage in
miles," the army man went on. "You still have plenty of time."
So this was agreed to, and, after a look over the craft to make sure
there were no defects, Mr. Vardon pulled over the lever of the
With a hum and a buzz, the propellers started, and this time the
Abaris shot forward on the surface of the water, instead of up into
"She's going!" cried Paul.
"She sure is doing it!" yelled Innis.
"Yes, I think she's as successful on the waves as he was in the
clouds," agreed Dick, as he looked at a speed-measuring gage.
"We're hitting up forty miles an hour right now."
"And that's good speed for a craft of this size in the water, or,
rather, on top of the water," declared Lieutenant McBride.
For a hydroplane craft, as you probably know, does not go through
the water as a motor-boat does. A regular hydroplane is fitted with
a series of graduated steps, and the front of the boat rises as it
skims over the water. But all hydroplane craft are designed to slip
over the surface of the water, and not to cleave through it. And
it was the former that Dick's craft was doing.
Faster and faster speed was attained, until there could be no
question about the second success of the young millionaire's
airship. If ever occasion should require that he take to the water,
in an emergency, it could be done.
"And now for Chicago!" Dick cried, when several hours had been spent
in maneuvering about, each member of the party taking turns at
steering. "And I think we'll go up in the air for that trip," he
"There's an aero club in the outskirts of Chicago," explained
Lieutenant McBride. "I am a member of it, and I think we could make
a call there. It would not be necessary to cross the city, and of
course we will not land."
It was agreed that this would be a good plan, and Dick, taking the
wheel, sent his craft ahead on the lake at fast speed.
"Here we go up!" he suddenly cried. Then, yanking over the lever
of the elevating rudder, he sent the Abaris aloft. The rudder for
sideway steering worked perfectly, now that repairs had been made.
Up, up into the air soared the big biplane, and from the lake she
had left came a blast of saluting whistles from the water-craft that
thus paid tribute to a sister vessel.
During the wait on the water Dick had purchased from a passing
steamer a supply of gasolene and oil.
"Now we'll have enough so we won't have to land to take on any
more," he said. "Our provisions are holding out well, and if
nothing happens we can make the trip from here to San Francisco
"But we still have one landing to our credit if we need it," said
"Oh, yes, but I hope we don't have to use it," went on Dick. "It
will be so much more to our credit if we don't."
The supposition that they were not far from Chicago proved correct,
for when they had arisen above the mist that suddenly spread over
Lake Michigan, they saw, in the distance, the Windy City.
A course was laid to circle about it, and not cross it, as that
might complicate matters, and a little later they were within view
of the aviation grounds, of which club Lieutenant McBride was a
He had said there might be a meet in progress, and this proved to
be so. A number of biplanes and monoplanes were circling about,
and the big crowd in attendance leaped to its feet in astonishment
at the sight of the young millionaire's new and powerful craft.
It was not the intention of Dick and his chums to stop and make a
landing, but they wanted to get some news of other competing craft
which might be trying for the big prize. Accordingly a plan was
evolved by which this could be done.
The lieutenant wrote out a brief account of their trip, telling of
the stop, and to this Larry added a request that, after it had been
read, it might be telegraphed to his paper. Then information was
asked for in regard to aerial matters.
"But how are we going to get information from them?" asked Paul.
"We can't get our wireless to working, we can't hear them, even with
megaphones, wig-wagging won't do, and we're not going to land."
"I've asked them to send up a bunch of toy balloons, carrying any
message they can send us," the lieutenant said. "I think we can
manipulate our craft so as to grab some of the balloons as they
float upward. I've seen it done."
Little time was lost over this. The message was dropped down in
one of Larry's leather cylinders. It was seen to be picked up and
while Dick and his friends circled about above the aviation grounds
their note was read. An answer was hastily prepared to be sent up
as Lieutenant McBride had suggested.
Meanwhile a number of the other aeroplanes whizzed past, close to
"I hope they don't come so close that they'll collide with us,"
murmured the young millionaire. But the pilots were skillful. They
tried to shout what were probably congratulations, or questions, at
the trans-continental party, but the motors of the small biplanes
made such a racket it was impossible to hear.
"Here come the balloons!" cried Dick, as he saw a group tied
together floating upward. "Now to get them! You'd better handle
her, Mr. Vardon."
"No, you do it, Dick. I'll stand out on deck and try to grab them."
"We can all reach from windows," suggested Paul, for there were
windows in the cabin.
Dick was so successful in maneuvering his craft that Mr. Vardon had
no trouble at all in catching the message-carrying toy balloons.
The note was brief. It conveyed the greeting of the aero-club, and
stated that a number of competing craft were on their way west.
"The Larabee leads, according to last reports," read Innis.
"That must be Uncle Ezra's machine," murmured Dick. "He's right
after us. Well, we'd better get on our course again."
"I think so," agreed Mr. Vardon. The Abaris was sent in a Westerly
direction once more, and those aboard settled down to what they
hoped would be the last "lap" of the big race.
But matters were not destined to he as easy and comfortable as they
hoped for. Soon after supper that night the wind sprang up. It
increased in violence until, at ten o'clock, there was a howling
gale, through which the airship had to fight her way with almost all
her available power.
"Some wind!" cried Dick, when he went on duty, and, glancing at the
gage noted it to be blowing at seventy miles an hour.
"Luckily it isn't altogether dead against us," said Mr. Vardon.
"As it is, though, it's cutting down our speed to about twenty miles
an hour, and I don't want to force the engine too much."
"No," agreed Dick. "It isn't worth while, especially as the gale
is serving the other craft just as it is us."
ABLAZE IN THE CLOUDS
There was small consolation, however, for those aboard Dick's craft,
in the thought that other competing airships were in the same plight
as themselves. For, as the night wore on, the wind seemed to
increase in power. Only the mechanical strength of the Abaris
enabled her to weather the storm.
"We could not possible do it were it not for the gyroscope
stabilizer," declared Lieutenant McBride. "We would be on our beams
ends all the while. It's a great invention."
"Well, this certainly is a good test of it," agreed Mr. Vardon, with
Indeed, no more severe strain could have been put upon the
apparatus. There would come a great gust of the tornado, and the
ship would begin to heel over. But the marvelous power of the
gyroscope would force her back again.
On through the night and through the gale went the airship. So
severe was the storm that it was not deemed wise for any one to
remain in his bunk. So everyone spent the hours of darkness in
wakeful watching and waiting.
"We want to be ready to act in any emergency," explained Mr. Vardon.
"There's no telling when something may give way under the strain."
"Well, then we ought to go over all the machinery every ten minutes
or so, and see if anything is wrong," suggested Dick. "We might see
the trouble starting in time to prevent it."
"Good idea!" cried the lieutenant. "We'll make periodical
inspections. Everyone on the job, as the boys say."
The task of looking after the machinery was divided up among the
young aviators, and, as the craft was swayed this way and that by
the gale, eager and anxious eyes watched every revolution of the
gear wheels, pistons were minutely inspected in the light of
electric torches, and valves adjusted when they showed the least
sign of going wrong.
Poor Grit seemed to be afraid, which was something new for him. He
would not leave Dick for an instant, but kept at his heels, even
when his master went near the sparking motors and dynamos, which the
bulldog had good reason to fear. But now he seemed more afraid of
something else than the machines that had shocked him.
"I wonder what's the matter?" spoke the young millionaire. "I never
saw him act this way before. What is it, old boy?" he asked
Grit whined uneasily.
"Sometimes animals have premonitions," said Mr. Vardon. "I remember
once, in my early days of flying, I took a dog up with me.
"Everything seemed to be going along fine, but the dog showed signs
of uneasiness, though it wasn't on account of the height, for he'd
been up before. But it wasn't five minutes later before one of my
propeller blades broke off, and I nearly turned turtle before I
could make a landing."
"I hope nothing like that occurs now," said Larry. "It might make
a good story, but it would be a mighty uncomfortable feeling."
"I don't anticipate anything," said the aviator. "We seem to be
doing very well. But we are making scarcely any progress, and we
are being blown considerably off our course."
"We'll make it up when the wind stops," Dick said. "I'm determined
to win that prize!"
"This is a peculiar storm," Lieutenant McBride observed. "It seems
to be nothing but wind. I'm inclined to think there had been an
area of low pressure about this region, caused possibly by some
other storm, and the air from another region is now rushing in,
filling up the partial vacuum."
"In that case we might try to rise above it," suggested Mr. Vardon.
"I've often done that. We could go up. It would not be advisable
to go down any lower, as we don't want to run the risk of colliding
with any mountains, and we are getting pretty well to the Northwest
now. Suppose we try to go up?"
This was agreed on as a wise plan, and Dick, who was taking his turn
at the wheel, shifted the rudder to send his craft up on a long
But now a new difficulty arose. It seemed that the change in angle
made a heavier wind pressure on the big planes, and the speed of the
airship was reduced to a bare ten miles an hour. In fact she seemed
almost stationary in the air, at times.
"This won't do!" cried Dick. "We've got to turn on more power, even
if we do strain the machinery. We've got to have more speed than
"That's right!" cried Mr. Vardon. "I'll turn 'em up, Dick."
And with the increased speed of the big motor that was whirling the
propellers came increased danger of a break. Vigilance was
redoubled, and they had their reward for their care.
"Here's something wrong!" cried Innis, as he passed a small dynamo
that supplied current for the electric lights. "A hot bearing!"
and he pointed to where one was smoking.
"Shut down! Quick!" cried Mr. Vardon. "Throw over the storage
battery switch. That will run the lights until that shaft cools.
It must have run out of oil."
The dynamo was stopped and as the storage battery was not powerful
enough to operate all the lights for very long, only part of the
incandescents were used, so that the interior of the ship was only
"Use your portable electric torches to examine the machinery in the
dark places," directed the aviator. "We'll use the dynamo again as
soon it cools."
This machine, going out of commission, had no effect on the progress
of the airship. She was still fighting her way upward, with Dick
at the wheel, and Grit crouching uneasily near him. The dog gave
voice, occasionally, to pitiful whines.
"What is it, old boy?" asked Dick. "Is something wrong?"
And Grit's manner showed very plainly that there was. But what it
was no one could guess.
"How is she coming, Dick?" asked Innis, a little later. "Can I
"No, I'm not tired. It's only a nervous sort of feeling. I feel
as if I were trying to push the airship along."
"I know how it is," murmured the cadet.
"But just take it easy. How is she doing?"
"Better, I think. We seem to be gaining a little. If we could only
get above the gale we'd be all right. But it's hard forcing her up.
I'd just like to know how Uncle Ezra is making out."
As a matter of fact, as Dick learned later, his relative had no easy
time of it. He had gotten off in fair weather, and under good
circumstances, but engine trouble developed after the first few
hours, and, while he and Larson, with the army man, did not have to
come down, they could only fly at slow speed.
"I don't know what's the matter with the thing," said Larson. "I'm
afraid we'll have to use even a different carburetor."
"What! And spend more money!" cried Uncle Ezra. "I guess not!
No, sir! Up to date this machine has cost me nigh on to eleven
thousand dollars! I've got it all down."
"But you'll double your money, and have a fine machine to sell to
the government," said Larson. "It will be all right. Give me money
for a larger carburetor."
"Well, if I have to I have to, I suppose," sighed the miserly old
man. "But try and make this one do."
It would not answer, however, and after trying in vain to get more
speed out of the craft, Larson was obliged to use one of the two
allowed descents, and go down to readjust the motor.
Then when a couple of days had elapsed, though of course this time
was not counted any more than in the case of Dick, another start
was made. The Larabee, as Uncle Ezra had called his craft, seemed
to do better, and at times she showed a spurt of speed that amazed
even Larson himself. They passed several who had started ahead of
"We're sure to get that prize!" he exulted.
"Well, I cal'alate if we don't there'll be trouble," declared Uncle
Then they had run into the storm, as had Dick's craft, and several
other competing ones, and Larson, the army man and Uncle Ezra were
in great difficulties. But they forced their machine on.
Of course Dick and his friends knew nothing of this at the time, as
several hundred miles then separated the two airships.
Onward and upward went the Abaris. Now and then she seemed to gain
on the wind, but it was a hard struggle.
"I think we're going to do it, though," declared Dick, as he went
about with the aviator, looking at and testing the various pieces
of machinery. "Our speed has gone up a little, and the wind
pressure seems less."
"It is; a little," agreed Mr. Vardon. "But what is worrying me is
that we'll have a lot of lost time and distance to make up when we
get out of this storm. Still, I suppose it can't be helped."
"Indeed not. We're lucky as it is," admitted the young millionaire.
"But I'm going to get Innis and make some coffee. I think it will
do us all good."
The electric stove was soon aglow, and a little later the aromatic
odor of coffee pervaded the cabin of the airship. Some sandwiches
were also made.
And thus, while the craft was fighting her way through the gale,
those aboard ate a midnight lunch, with as good appetites as though
they were on solid ground. For, in spite of the fact that they were
in the midst of danger, they were fairly comfortable. True the
aircraft was tilted upward, for she was still climbing on a steep
slant, but they had gotten used to this. The gyroscope stabilizer
prevented any rolling from side to side.
"Maybe Grit is hungry, and that's what's bothering him," said Dick,
as he tossed the dog a bit of canned chicken. But though the animal
was usually very fond of this delicacy, he now refused it.
"That's queer," mused Dick. "I can't understand that. Something
surely must be wrong. I hope he isn't going to be sick."
"Had we better go any higher?" asked Innis, at the wheel, as he
noted the hand on the gage. "We're up nearly nine thousand feet
"Hold her there!" cried Mr. Vardon. "If we've gone up that far,
and we haven't gotten beyond the gale, there isn't much use trying
any more. We'll ride it out at that level."
Indeed the Abaris was very high, and some of the party had a little
difficulty in breathing. Grit, too, was affected this way, and it
added to his uneasiness.
"If we had some means of making the cabin air-tight we could make
the air pressure in here just what we wanted it, regardless of the
rarefied atmosphere outside," said Dick. "In my next airship I'll
have that done."
"Not a bad idea," agreed Mr. Vardon. "It could be arranged."
The night was wearing on, and as the first pale streaks of dawn
showed through the celluloid windows of the cabin it was noticed by
the wind gage that the force of the gale was slacking.
"We've ridden it out!" exulted Dick. "She's a good old airship
after all. Now we can get back on our course. We ought to be
crossing the Rockies soon, and then for the last stage of the trip
to San Francisco."
"Oh, we've got considerable distance yet to cover," said the
aviator. "I fancy we were blown nearly five hundred miles out of
our way, and that's going to take us several hours to make good on."
"Still you are doing well," said the army man. "No airship has ever
made a trans-continental flight, and there is no speed record to go
by. So you may win after all, especially as the storm was so
It was rapidly getting light now, and as they looked they saw that
they were above the clouds. They were skimming along in a sea of
fleecy, white mist.
"First call for breakfast!" cried Dick. His tones had scarcely died
away when there came a howl from Grit, who was standing near the
compartment of the main motor.
"What is the matter with that dog?" asked Dick, in a puzzled voice.
Grit's howl changed to a bark, and at the same moment, Larry Dexter,
who was passing, cried out:
"Fire! There's a fire in the motor-room! Where are the
A black cloud of smoke rushed out, enveloping Grit, who howled
THE RIVAL AIRSHIP
"What did it?"
"Had we better descend?"
"Everybody get busy!"
"Fire extinguishers here!"
These and other confused cries sounded throughout the airship,
following Larry's alarm.
"No, don't go down!" shouted Mr. Vardon. "We'll stay up as long as
we can. We'll fight the fire in the air--above the clouds!"
"Hold her steady, Innis!" called Dick to his chum, who was at the
"Steady she is!" was the grim answer.
And while the Abaris was rushing onward those aboard her prepared
to fight that most deadly of enemies--fire--and at a terrible
disadvantage--nearly ten thousand feet in the air!
Fortunately preparations had been made for this emergency, and a
number of portable extinguishers were placed in various places on
the walls of the cabin.
These the young aviators now pulled down and rushed with them to the
motor compartment, from which the black smoke was pouring in greater
"Look out for a gasolene explosion!" warned the lieutenant. "Is
there any of it there?"
"Only a little," answered Mr. Vardon. "The main supply is in the
deck tank. But there is a small can in there for priming the
cylinders, in case we have to."
"It smells like oil afire," said Larry Dexter.
"That's what it is--probably some oily waste started by spontaneous
combustion," said Mr. Vardon.
As he spoke he threw the contents of his extinguisher inside the
motor compartment--it was hardly large enough to be called a room.
The smoke was so black that no blaze could be seen.
"Open some of the windows!" shouted Paul. "It's choking in here."
"That's right!" agreed Larry, with a cough and a sneeze.
"Stoop down--get near the floor of the cabin," ordered the army
lieutenant. "The air is always more pure there."
He, too, emptied the contents of his extinguisher in the
compartment, and his example was followed by the others. The smoke
seemed to be less now, and much of it went out through the opened
windows, which Paul slid back in their groves.
"There's the blaze!" cried Dick, as he saw, through the lessening
haze of smoke, some bright, red tongues of fire.
"Douse it!" cried Paul, handing his chum a fresh extinguisher, for
Dick had used his.
The young millionaire threw on the chemical powder, for this
happened to be that sort of an extinguisher, and almost instantly
there followed a sharp explosion.
"Look out!" yelled Dick, ducking instinctively. "I guess this is
the end of everything!"
But, to the surprise of all, the motor still kept up its hum, and
they could tell, by the "feel" of the craft that she was still
progressing. The gale had now almost completely died out, and the
Abaris was making good time, and on her proper course, when the fire
"The fire is scattered!" Dick yelled, as he rose up and took another
look in the motor-room. "I guess it was only that little tank of
gasolene that went up." Afterward this was found to be so.
The blazing liquid, however, had scattered all about the motor
compartment. Fortunately the walls were of steel, so that the fiery
stuff could burn itself out without doing much damage.
"More extinguishers!" yelled Dick, as he saw the spots of fire about
the motor. "First thing we know, some of the insulation will be
burned off, and we'll have a short circuit!"
The motor-room was almost free of smoke now, and there were only a
few scattered spots of fire. Standing in the entrance, Dick threw
the contents of several extinguishers inside, as they were passed
to him, and he had the satisfaction of seeing the flames gradually
choked by the chemical fumes thus released.
"Now I guess we're all right," said Mr. Vardon, when no more fire
could he seen. "And the marvel of it is that our motor never
"That's the one thing that saved us from making another descent--
our last," murmured Dick. "That's sure some motor, all right."
But they were congratulating themselves too soon, it seemed. For,
hardly had Dick spoken than the monotonous whine of the powerful
machine seemed to weaken in tone. It died out--the high note sunk
to a low one, and gradually went out.
"What's up now?" asked Paul, peering over Dick's shoulder. The
motor compartment was still too hot to enter with safety, and it
was also filled with acrid vapor, from the extinguishers.
"I--I'm afraid it's going to stop," gasped Dick, for he was out of
breath from his exertions, and from the excitement of the occasion.
"Stop!" cried Paul. "If she does we'll have to go down!"
And stop the motor did. There was a sort of final groan or gasp,
as if of apology, and then the wheels stopped revolving and the big
propellers outside the cabin, which had been forcing the craft
onward, gradually ceased their motion.
"Quick?" shouted Mr. Vardon. "Throw on the self-starter, Dick! We
may catch her before she loses all her momentum!"
"All right!" answered Dick. He made one jump to the switch that
put into commission the electrical starter. But he was too late to
"catch" the motor. It had died down, and, though the young
millionaire made contact after contact with the copper knife-switch,
there was no response.
"We're falling!" cried Innis, from the pilot-house, as he noted the
height gage, and saw that the hand was constantly receding. "We're
"I know it--no help for it," answered our hero, hopelessly.
The Abaris was certainly going down. When the propellers had ceased
to urge her forward she began to dip toward the earth, even as a
stone falls when the initial impulse from the sling, or the hand of
the thrower, is lost.
Foot by foot she dropped, and those aboard her looked helplessly at
one another. They had made a brave fight against the fire, but it
seemed to have gone for naught. They could not keep up with the
motor stalled as it was.
"I guess we'll have to make another landing," said Innis, as he
remained at the wheel.
Of course they were entitled to one more, but it would be the last,
and a long and hard part of their trans-continental flight was still
ahead of them. If they went down this time, and, after making
repairs, came up into the air once more, they would not, under the
rules, be allowed to land again before reaching San Francisco.
"It's tough luck, but I guess we'll have to do it," said Larry
"Maybe not!" Dick cried. "I have an idea."
"What is it? Tell us quick!" begged Innis, for he, as well as all
of Dick's friends, wanted to see him win the prize.
"I think the insulation has been burning off some of the wires of
the motor," was his answer. "That would make a short circuit and
put it out of business. Now if we can only keep afloat long enough
to change those wires, we may be able to start the motor again, and
keep on our way before we touch ground."
"You've struck it!" cried Mr. Vardon. "Dick, you take charge of
the wheel--you and any of your friends you want. I'll look over
the motor, and make repairs if I can."
"And they'll have to be made pretty soon, called out Innis from the
pilot-house. "We're falling fast."
"Throw her nose up," cried Dick. "That's what we've got to do to
save ourselves. We'll volplane down, and maybe we can keep up long
enough to have Mr. Vardon put in new wires in place of the
burned-out ones. If he can do that, and if we can start the
"It sounds too good to be true," said Innis. "But get in here,
Dick, and see what you can do. You've got to volplane as you never
"And I'm going to do it!" cried the young millionaire.
The motor-room was now free from smoke, and the fire was out. A
pile of charred waste in one corner showed where it had started.
"That's the trouble--insulation burned off!" cried Mr. Vardon, as
he made a quick inspection. "I think I can fix it, Dick, if you
can keep her up long enough. Take long glides. We're up a good
height, and that will help solve."
Then began a curious battle against fate, and, not only a struggle
against adverse circumstances, but against gravitation. For, now
that there was no forward impulse in the airship, she could not
overcome the law that Sir Isaac Newton discovered, which law is as
immutable as death. Nothing can remain aloft unless it is either
lighter than the air itself, or unless it keeps in motion with
enough force to overcome the pull of the magnet earth, which draws
all things to itself.
I have told you how it is possible for a body heavier than air to
remain above the earth, as long as it is in motion. It is this which
keeps cannon balls and airships up--motion. Though, of course,
airships, with their big spread of surface, need less force to keep
them from falling than do projectiles.
And when the motor of an airship stops it is only by volplaning
down, or descending in a series of slanting shifts, that accidents
This, then, is what Dick did. He would let the airship shoot
downward on a long slant, so as to gain as much as possible. Then,
by throwing up the head-rudder, he would cause his craft to take an
upward turn, thus delaying the inevitable descent.
All the while this was going on Mr. Vardon, aided by Lieutenant
McBride, was laboring hard to replace the burned-out wires. He
worked frantically, for he knew he had but a few minutes at the
best. From the height at which they were when the motor stopped it
would take them about ten minutes to reach the earth, holding back
as Dick might. And there was work which, in the ordinary course of
events, would take twice as long as this.
"I'm only going to make a shift at it," explained the aviator. "If
I can only get in temporary wires I can replace them later."
"That's right," agreed the army man.
"How you making it, Dick?" asked Larry, as he came to the door of
"Well, I've got five hundred feet left. If he can't get the motor
going before we go down that far--"
Dick did not finish, but they all knew what he meant.
"Another second and I'll have the last wire in!" cried Mr. Vardon.
"Do your best, Dick."
"I'm doing it. But she's dipping down fast."
"Oh, for a dirigible balloon now!" cried the lieutenant. "We could
float while making repairs."
But it was useless to wish for that. They must do the best they
could under the circumstances.
"There she is! The last wire in!" shouted the aviator. "How much
space left, Dick?"
"About two hundred feet!"
"That may do it. Now to see if the self-starter will work!"
Eagerly he made a jump for the switch. He pulled it over. There
was a brilliant blue spark, as the gap was closed.
The electrical starter hummed and whined, as if in protest at being
obliged to take up its burden again.
Then, with a hum and a roar, the motor that had stalled began to
revolve. Slowly at first, but soon gathering speed.
"Throw in the propeller clutch!" yelled Dick. "We're going right
toward a hill, and I can't raise her any more."
"In she goes!" yelled Lieutenant McBride, as he pulled on the lever.
There was a grinding of gears as the toothed wheels meshed, and the
big wooden propellers began to revolve.
"There she goes!" cried Mr. Vardon.
The Abaris, which had almost touched the earth, began to soar upward
under the propelling influence. Dick tilted back the elevating
plane as far as he dared.
Had the motive power come in time, or would they land on the hill?
But success was with them. Up went the big airship. Up and up,
flying onward. Her fall had been checked.
And only just in time, for they went over the brow of the hill but
with a scant twenty feet to spare. So close had they come to making
"I congratulate you!" cried Lieutenant McBride. "I thought surely
you would go down." He had out his pencil and paper to make a note
of the time of landing. It would have been the last one allowed,
and it would seriously have handicapped Dick. But he had escaped,
and still had some reserve to his credit.
"And now I guess we can eat," said the young millionaire, with a
sigh of relief.
"A quick bite, only," stipulated Mr. Vardon. "Some of those wires
I put in last are a disgrace to an electrician. I want to change
them right away. They won't stand the vibration."
"Well, coffee and sandwiches, anyhow," said Dick, and the simple
meal was soon in progress.
Steadily the airship again climbed up toward the clouds, from which
she had so nearly fallen. And with a sandwich and a cup of coffee
beside him, Mr. Vardon worked at the wires, putting in permanent
ones in place of the temporary conductors. This could be done
without stopping the motor.
"I wonder if it was the fire Grit was anticipating all the while he
acted so queer?" asked Innis.
"I don't know--but it was something," Dick said. "I shouldn't
wonder but what he did have some premonition of it. Anyhow, you
gave the alarm in time, old boy!" and he patted his pet on the back.
Grit waved his tail, and barked. He seemed himself again.
It took some time to make good the damage done by the fire, and it
was accomplished as the airship was put back on her course again,
and sent forward toward the Pacific coast. They were all
congratulating themselves on their narrow escape from possible
It was that same afternoon, when Mr. Vardon had finished his task,
that something else happened to cause them much wonderment.
The motor was again in almost perfect condition, and was running
well. Most of the party were out on the deck behind the cabin,
enjoying the air, for the day had been hot, and they were tired from
fighting the tire.
Suddenly Grit, who was in the pilot-house with Dick, ran out into
the main cabin, and, looking from one of the windows, which he could
do by jumping up in a chair, he began to bark violently.
"Well, what's the matter now?" demanded Dick. "Is it another fire?"
Grit barked so persistently that Dick called to Paul:
"See what ails him; will you? He must have caught sight of
something out of the window."
"I should say he had!" yelled Paul, a moment later. "Here's a rival
airship after us, Dick!"
Paul's announcement created considerable excitement. Though they
had covered a large part of their trip, the young aviators had not
yet seen any of their competitors. As a matter of fact, Dick's
craft was among the first to get away in the trans-continental race.
But he had feared, several times, that he might be overtaken by
lighter and speedier machines.
Now, it seemed, his fears were about to be realized. For the big
biplane that Grit had first spied, could be none other than one of
those engaged in a try for the twenty-thousand-dollar prize. They
were now nearing the Rockies, and it was not likely that any lone
aviator would be flying in that locality unless he were after the
"Another airship; eh?" cried Dick. "Let me get a look at her!
Someone take the wheel, please."
"I'll relieve you," offered Lieutenant McBride, whose official
duties allowed him to do this. "Go see if you can make out who she
The approaching craft had come up from the rear, and to one side,
so she could not be observed from the pilot-house in front.
Catching up a pair of powerful field-glasses, Dick went to where
Paul stood with Grit, looking out of the celluloid window. By this
time some of the others had also gathered there.
"It's a big machine all right," murmured Innis.
"And there are three aviators in her," added Paul.
"Can you make out who they are, Dick?" asked Larry Dexter.
"No, they have on protecting helmets and goggles," replied the young
millionaire, as he adjusted the binoculars to his vision. "But I'm
sure I know that machine!"
"Whose is it?" Innis wanted to know.
"Well, I don't want to be too positive, but I'm pretty certain
that's my Uncle Ezra's craft," replied Dick, slowly.
"Great Scott!" cried Paul. "Is it possible? Oh, it's possible all
right," Dick made answer, "but I did not think he would really take
part in this race. However, he seems to have done so. I can't make
him out, but that's just the shape of his airship, I can tell by the
mercury stabilizer Larson has put on."
"Well, it looks as if we'd have a race," observed Mr. Vardon.
"He sure is speeding on," mused Dick.
"But he may be away behind his schedule," put in Larry.
"That won't make any difference," the young millionaire said. "He
started after we did, and if he gets to San Francisco ahead of us,
and with only two landings, he'll win the prize. That stands to
reason. He's making better time than we are."
Mr. Vardon took the glasses from Dick, and made a long observation.
When he lowered them he remarked:
"I think that is the craft Larson built, all right. And it
certainly is a speedy one. He must have met more favorable
conditions, of late, than we did, or he never could have caught up
"I guess so," agreed Dick. "Now the point is; What can we do?"
"Speed up--that's the only thing I see to do," came from the
aviator. "We still have one landing left us, but we don't need to
use it unless we have to. We have fuel and oil enough for the trip
to San Francisco. Speed up, I say, and let's see if we can't get
away from him."
"We've got a heavier machine, and more weight aboard," spoke Dick.
"Say, can't you drop us off?" cried Paul. "That would lighten you
a whole lot. Let Innis and me go!"
"I'll drop off, too, if it will help any," Larry Dexter offered.
"And be killed?" asked Mr. Vardon.
"Not necessarily. You could run the airship over some lake, or
river, lower it as close as possible, and we could drop into the
water. We can all swim and dive. You could drop us near shore, we
could get out and make our way to the nearest town. That would
leave you with less load to carry."
"I wouldn't think of it!" cried Dick.
"Why not?" asked Innis.
"In the first place I want my airship to do what I built it for--
carry this party across the continent. If it can't do that, and in
time to at least give me a chance for the government prize, I'm
going to have one that can. In the second place, even if your going
off would help me to win, I wouldn't let you take the risk.
"No, we'll stick together. I think I can get away from Uncle Ezra,
if that's who is in that biplane. We can run up our speed
considerable. We haven't touched the extreme limit yet."
"Well, if you won't you won't--that settles it," said Paul. "But
if you're going to speed you'd better begin. He is sure coming on."
Indeed the other aircraft was rushing toward them at a rapid rate.
It had been some distance in the rear when first sighted, but now
the three figures aboard were plainly discernable with the naked
"Speed her up!" called Dick. "We've got to leave him if we can."
Gradually the Abaris forged on more rapidly. But it seemed as if
those in the other craft were waiting for something like this. For
they, too, put on more power, and were soon overhauling the larger
"They've got an awful lot of force in a light craft," observed
Lieutenant McBride. "She's over engined, and isn't safe. Even if
your uncle gets in ahead of you, Dick, I will still maintain that
you have the better outfit, and the most practical. I don't see
how they can live aboard that frail craft."
It certainly did not look very comfortable, and afterward Uncle Ezra
confessed that he endured many torments during the trip.
The race was on in earnest. They were over the Rockies now, and at
the present rate of speed it would be only a comparatively short
time before they would be at the Pacific coast.
"If I only knew how many landings he had made I wouldn't be so
worried," said Dick. "If he's had more than two he's out of it,
anyhow, and I wouldn't strain my engine."
"We'd better keep on," advised Mr. Vardon, and they all agreed to
Toward the close of the afternoon the Larabee, which they were all
sure was the name of the craft in the rear, came on with a rush.
Her speed seemed increased by half, and she would, it was now seen,
quickly pass the Abaris.
"Well, they're going ahead of us," sighed Dick. "Uncle Ezra did
better than I thought he would."
Neither he nor any of the others were prepared for what happened.
For suddenly the other airship swooped toward Dick's craft, in what
was clearly a savage attack. Straight at the Abaris, using all her
speed, came Uncle Ezra's airship.
"What do they mean?"
"What's their game, anyhow?"
"They'll ram us if they don't look out!"
"Maybe they've lost control of her!"
"Dick, if that's your uncle, tell him to watch where he's going!"
Thus cried those aboard the aircraft of the young millionaire as
they watched the oncoming of the rival craft. She was certainly
coming straight at them. It was intentional, too, for Mr. Vardon,
who was at the wheel of the Abaris, quickly changed her course when
he saw what was about to happen, and the other pilot could have had
plenty of room to pass in the air.
Instead he altered his direction so as to coincide with that of
"They must be crazy!"
"If they'll hit us we'll go to smash, even if she is a lighter
machine than ours!"
Thus cried Paul and Innis as they stood beside Dick.
"It's my Uncle Ezra, all right," murmured the wealthy youth. "I
can recognize him now, in spite of his helmet and goggles. But what
in the world is he up to, anyhow? He can't really mean to ram us,
but it does look so."
The two airships were now but a short distance apart, and in spite
of what Mr. Vardon could do, a collision seemed inevitable. The
fact of the matter was that the Larabee, being smaller and lighter,
answered more readily to her rudders than did the Abaris.
"We've got to have more speed, Dick!" called the aviator. "I'm
going to turn about and go down. It's the only way to get out of
their way. They're either crazy, or bent on their own destruction,
as well as ours. Give me more speed, Dick! All you can!"
"All right!" answered the young millionaire. "We'll do our best to
get out of your way, Uncle Ezra!"
As Dick hastened to the motor-room, Grit trotted after him, growling
in his deep voice at the mention of the name of the man he so
Dick realized the emergency, and turned the gasolene throttle wide
open. With a throb and a roar, the motor took up the increase, and
whirled the big propellers with mighty force.
Then, in a last endeavor to prevent the collision, Mr. Vardon sent
the craft down at a sharp slant, intending to dive under the other.
But this move was anticipated by Larson, who was steering the
He, too, sent his craft down, but just when a collision seemed about
to take place, it was prevented by Mr. Vardon, who was a more
The propellers of the Abaris worked independently, on a sort of
differential gear, like the rear wheels of an automobile. This
enabled her to turn very short and quickly, by revolving one
propeller in one direction, and one in the opposite, as is done with
the twin screws of a steamer.
And this move alone prevented what might have been a tragedy. But
it was also the cause of a disaster to Dick's aircraft.
With a rush and a roar the Larabee passed over the Abaris as she
was so suddenly turned, and then something snapped in the machinery
of the big airship. She lost speed, and began to go down slightly.
"Did they hit us?" cried Dick, in alarm.
"No, but we've broken the sprocket chain on the port propeller,"
answered Mr. Vardon.
"We'll have to be content with half speed until we can make repairs.
Come now, everybody to work. Those crazy folks may come back at us
--that is begging your pardon for calling your uncle crazy, Dick."
"You can't offend me that way. He MUST be crazy to act the way he
did. I can't understand it. Of course Larson was steering, but my
uncle must have given him orders to do as he did, and try to wreck
"I shall report whoever the army man was that did not make an
attempt to stop their attack on us," declared Lieutenant McBride,
bitterly. "I don't know who was assigned to the Larabee, but he
certainly ought to be court-martialed."
"Perhaps no army representative was aboard at all," suggested Paul.
"There were three persons on the airship," said Larry. "I saw
"And the race would not be counted unless an army representative
was aboard," declared Lieutenant McBride. "So they would not
proceed without one. No, he must have been there, and have entered
into their plot to try and wreck us. I can't understand it!"
"They've evidently given it up, whatever their game was," called
Innis. "See, there they go!"
He pointed to the other airship, which was now some distance away,
going on at good speed, straight for San Francisco. Both craft were
now high in the air, in spite of the drop made by the Abaris, and
they were about over some of the mountains of Colorado now; just
where they had not determined. They were about eight hundred miles
from San Francisco, as nearly as they could calculate.
"They're trying to get in first," said Dick. "Maybe, after all,
they just wanted to frighten us, and delay us."
"Well, if that was their game they've succeeded in delaying us,"
said Mr. Vardon, grimly. "We're reduced to half speed until we get
that propeller in commission again. There's work for all of us.
Reduce sped, Dick, or we may tear the one good blade off the axle."
With only half the resistance against it, the motor was now racing
hard. Dick slowed it down, and then the work of repairing the
broken sprocket chain and gear was undertaken.
It was not necessary to stop the airship to do this. In fact to
stop meant to descend, and they wanted to put that off as long as
possible. They still had the one permitted landing to their credit.
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