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

Contents:
Author: Howard Roger Garis

Chapter XXXI the Wreck

"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 Dick’s craft.

"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 disliked.

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 Larabee.

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 skillful pilot.

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 us."

"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 them."

"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.

The propellers, as I have said, could be reached from the open deck, and thither Mr. Vardon, Dick, and Lieutenant McBride took themselves, while Paul, Innis and Larry would look after the progress of the craft from the pilot-house and motor-room.

Slowly Dick’s airship went along, just enough speed being maintained to prevent her settling. She barely held her own, while, far ahead of her, and fast disappearing in the distance, could be seen the other craft—that carrying Uncle Ezra.

"I guess it’s all up with us," murmured Paul, as he went to the wheel.

"No, it isn’t!" cried Dick. "I’m not going to give up yet! We can still make time when we get the repairs made, and I’ll run the motor until her bearings melt before I give up!"

"That’s the way to talk!" cried the army man. "And we’re all with you. There’s a good chance yet, for those fellows must be desperate, or they’d never have tried what they did. My opinion is that they hope to reach San Francisco in a last dash, and they were afraid we’d come in ahead of them. But I can’t understand how that army man aboard would permit such a thing. It is past belief!"

It was no easy task to make the repairs with the airship in motion. Spare parts, including a sprocket chain, were carried aboard, but the work had to be done close to the other revolving propeller, and, as slowly as it was whirling about, it went fast enough to cause instant death to whoever was hit by it. So extreme caution had to be used.

To add to the troubles it began to rain violently, and a thunderstorm developed, which made matters worse. Out in the pelting storm, with electrically-charged clouds all about them, and vivid streaks of lightning hissing near them, the aviators worked.

They were drenched to the skin. Their hands were bruised and cut by slipping wrenches and hammers. Their faces were covered with black grease, dirt and oil. But still they labored on. The storm grew worse, and it was all the Abaris could do to stagger ahead, handicapped as she was by half power.

But there were valiant hearts aboard her, and everyone was imbued with indomitable courage.

"We’re going to do it!" Dick cried, fiercely, and the others echoed his words.

Finally, after many hours of work, the last rivet was driven home, and Mr. Vardon cried:

"There we are! Now then, full speed ahead!"

The repaired propeller was thrown into gear. It meshed perfectly, and once more the Abaris shot ahead under her full power.

"Speed her up!" cried Dick, and the motor was put to the limit. But much precious time had been lost. Could they win under such adverse circumstances? It was a question each one asked himself.

Darkness came on, and the tired and weary aviators ate and slept. The night passed, a clear, calm night, for the storm had blown itself out. High over the mountains soared the airship through the hours of darkness. She was fighting to recover what she had lost.

And when morning came they calculated they were but a few hundred miles from San Francisco.

Paul, who had gone to the pilot-house to relieve Innis, gave a startled cry.

"Look! Look!" he shouted. "There’s the other airship!"

And as the others looked they saw, ahead of them, emerging from the midst of a cloud, Uncle Ezra’s speedy craft. And, as they looked, they saw something else—something that filled them with horror.

For, as they gazed at the craft which had so nearly, either by accident or design, wrecked them, they saw one of the big side planes crumple up, as does a bird’s broken wing. Either the supports had given way, or a sudden gust of air strained it too much.

"They’re falling!" cried Dick, hoarsely.

The other airship was. The broken plane gave no support on that side, and as the motor still raced on, whirling the big propellers, the Larabee, unevenly balanced, in spite of the mercury stabilizers, tilted to one side.

Then, a hopeless wreck, she turned over and plunged downward toward the earth. Her race was over.

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Chicago: Howard Roger Garis, "Chapter XXXI the Wreck," 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 May 28, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=USFV6SGMHCSP46F.

MLA: Garis, Howard Roger. "Chapter XXXI the Wreck." 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. 28 May. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=USFV6SGMHCSP46F.

Harvard: Garis, HR, 'Chapter XXXI the Wreck' 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 28 May 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=USFV6SGMHCSP46F.