Dick Hamilton’s Airship, or, a Young Millionaire in the Clouds

Author: Howard Roger Garis

Chapter XXVIII 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 pardonable pride.

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 soothingly.

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 slant.

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 this!"

"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 dimly lighted.

"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 relieve you?"

"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 them.

"We’re sure to get that prize!" he exulted.

"Well, I cal’alate if we don’t there’ll be trouble," declared Uncle Ezra, grimly.

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 now, and—"

"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 general."

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 extinguishers?"

A black cloud of smoke rushed out, enveloping Grit, who howled dismally.


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Chicago: Howard Roger Garis, "Chapter XXVIII Ablaze in the Clouds," Dick Hamilton’s Airship, or, a Young Millionaire in the Clouds, ed. Davis, Charles Belmont, 1866-1926 in Dick Hamilton’s Airship, or, a Young Millionaire in the Clouds (New York: George E. Wood, 1912), Original Sources, accessed January 30, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8PX1RMLM15HQB2B.

MLA: Garis, Howard Roger. "Chapter XXVIII Ablaze in the Clouds." Dick Hamilton’s Airship, or, a Young Millionaire in the Clouds, edited by Davis, Charles Belmont, 1866-1926, in Dick Hamilton’s Airship, or, a Young Millionaire in the Clouds, Vol. 22, New York, George E. Wood, 1912, Original Sources. 30 Jan. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8PX1RMLM15HQB2B.

Harvard: Garis, HR, 'Chapter XXVIII Ablaze in the Clouds' in Dick Hamilton’s Airship, or, a Young Millionaire in the Clouds, ed. . cited in 1912, Dick Hamilton’s Airship, or, a Young Millionaire in the Clouds, George E. Wood, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 30 January 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8PX1RMLM15HQB2B.