Dick Hamilton's Fortune/29
THE FLYING MACHINE.
Dick looked closely at Herr Doodlebrod, as if to see if the German had a bomb concealed about him, for the millionaire's son believed the man was another of the unfortunate persons who had some impossible scheme he wanted aid in perfecting.
"You vill like der airship, yes?" went on the smiling, little, old man. "Ah, he is a beautiful airship!—so strong, so graceful, und he sails along so just like a bird!"
Again he smiled, and then he laughed, as though he had just told Dick a very funny story. The German's good nature was catching, and Dick also smiled.
"I'm afraid I don't quite understand you," the boy said.
"Ach! Dot is easy!" replied Hen Doodlebrod. "See, listen, it is dis vay. I am de greatest inventor of an airships vot efer vas," and he said it as if he meant it, with child-like directness. "I haf der ship vot all der scientists haf long been vaiting for. I haf bring him to your town und I show you how he vorks."
"But why did you bring it to me?" asked Dick.
"Vhy? Because, listen," and the little man approached closer and began whispering. "I read about you in der papers. Iss it nod so?" and he smiled broadly. "You are der richest young man vot efer vos. Ach, I know!" and he winked one eye at Dick, as though the millionaire's son had tried to conceal something.
"So, now I proceed. I hear of your great wealth. I learn you vos a young mans. You are bright, quick, smart. Yes, iss it not? Veil, I invent der airships. I am a shoemaker in my city, many miles from here. Vun day der great ideas comes to me. I see a bat fly. Quick, I say, I will make me a airships like der bat. He is heavier as a bird, yet he flies. So I stop making shoes und I make airships. Iss it not so?" and once more the smile illuminated the kindly face.
"Did you succeed?" asked Dick.
"Not at first," replied the German, gravely. "Many, many times I t'ink I fly into der air, but I falls to der ground. Sometimes it hurts. Vunce I breaks my leg. But dot iss noddings. Ven I get veil I make improvements. Now I haf der great machine vot flies; yes?"
"Where is it?" asked Dick, becoming interested in the queer little man.
Then Herr Doodlebrod proceeded to explain. He said he had heard of Dick's wealth, and, needing money to make some improvements in his ship, he had taken it apart, shipped it to Hamilton Corners, and followed the machine. The airship was now at the freight station, he added, and he was about to put it together and give a demonstration.
"What for?" asked Dick.
"To show you how he vorks. Den you vill believe. You vill invest some money in it, I shall make der improvements, get a better motor, und ve win der government prize of ten thousand dollars."
"Government prize?" repeated Dick.
The German explained at greater length. The United States Government, in common with other nations, recognizing the future in flying machines for war purposes, had established a sort of competitive test, with a substantial prize for the machine which successfully fulfilled the conditions. The chief ones were that the apparatus must move through the air at a certain distance above the ground, must carry two passengers, must be under perfect control, and must stay up a certain length of time. The German said his machine answered nearly all these requirements, but that he needed some new materials in it, and, more than anything else, a new motor. He had used up all his savings and had tried in vain to get someone to help him. So, hearing of Dick, he had decided to appeal to the millionaire's son.
"It iss not so much dot I need," he went on "If I had five hundred dollars it would be enough. My dear young frient, I appeal to you. I do not ask you for dot moneys. I say just invest it in my machine und ve vill be successful und get der ten thousand dollars. You shall haf five thousand. Iss not dot a good investment?"
A sudden idea came to Dick. An investment, promising quick returns was just what he needed. He had tried in vain to find one, and the time was daily growing shorter. Here might be the very chance he desired. But there was one important thing. He must be sure that the airship would fly. If it did not the prize would not be won and he would be out five hundred dollars. Herr Doodlebrod saw the doubt pictured on Dick's face.
"I do not ask you to take my word," he said, gravely. "I only ask for a chance to show you. See, I vill bring my machine here. I vill put him togeder und I vill fly in him. Der trouble iss dot I cannot go far enough or stay up long enough vid der motor dot I haf. Wid a new vun I can. I need der money for der new motor. Vill you invest it?"
"I will!" exclaimed Dick, suddenly.
"Ach! Bless you, my young friend!" and Herr Doodlebrod rushed over to the millionaire's son and threw his arms about Dick, an embrace somewhat difiicult to escape from, so hearty was it.
"But I must first talk to my father," went on Dick, when Herr Doodlebrod's enthusiasm had somewhat cooled down. "If the ship is a success so far, and by investing five hundred dollars a better one can be entered for the prize, so that I can win part of it, I'm sure he would have no objections."
"I go for my airship," said the German. "I bring him here und in two days he is ready to fly."
"Better not bring it here," advised Dick. "There isn't much room to try it around the house, and too big a crowd would gather. We'll go off in the country somewhere. My father owns some property about five miles from here. It's a big level field, and I think that will be the best place."
"Der very t'ing," assented the German, and Dick told him how to get to it. Herr Doodlebrod hurried off to the freight station to arrange for having his dismantled flying machine brought to the place where the test was to be made.
"This may be the very thing I've been looking for," reasoned Dick. "Winning five thousand dollars on an investment of five hundred is pretty good. I guess that will fulfill the conditions of mother's will. The question is: will it fly? But if it doesn't at the first test I'm out nothing. And if it flies with his present engine it surely will with a better one. I must tell dad about it."
Mr. Hamilton was not much impressed with Herr Doodlebrod's plan. He admitted that the government had offered a prize for a successful airship, but he thought an old shoemaker was hardly a possible person to win it.
"Scientific men have devoted many years of study to the problem," he said, "and they have not solved it yet. Still, of course, there's a chance. As you say, you're out nothing if it doesn't work the first time. But how about after you have put the five hundred dollars in, and the ship doesn't sail?"
"If it sails with the old engine it surely ought to with the new," declared Dick, repeating his favorite argument.
Mr. Hamilton consented that Dick might make the investment. It was a queer one, he said, but he agreed that if Herr Doodlebrod won the prize, and gave Dick half, the terms of Mrs. Hamilton's will would have been complied with.
"I'll get out of going to Uncle Ezra's yet," said the millionaire's son. "The mine failed, the milk company failed, but the airship will beat them all."
Herr Doodlebrod was a quick worker. In less time than Dick had believed possible he had the parts of the machine at the place decided on for the test. There, under the inventor's directions, men aided him in putting it together.
In shape it looked like a huge bat, and was built on the principle of an aeroplane. At the stern an immense rudder was turned by a small gasolene motor, and there were several smaller rudders for directing the course of the apparatus. There was a little car, of basket-work, amidships, where the operator sat.
It was three days before the German was satisfied that all was in readiness for the preliminary test that was to tell if Dick would spend five hundred dollars on improvements. In spite of the attempt to keep the matter quiet the news leaked out, and a big crowd gathered to see Herr Doodlebrod make an attempt to fly.
"I do not promise so much to-day," he said, as he saw that all was in readiness. "I vill go up, circle about for a vile, und den I haf to come down. My engine iss not powerful enough. But vid der new one! Ach, den ve vill fly far und vin der prize!"
He climbed into the little basket-car. Giving a look over the various handles and levers, and seeing that all was clear ahead, Herr Doodlebrod started the motor. It began to revolve rapidly, crackling like a battery of Gatling guns.
"Now I fly!" exclaimed the German, as he threw on the clutch that operated the propeller. The big airship trembled as the massive blades whizzed through the air, and all eyes were fixed on it to detect the moment when it might leave the earth and sail aloft.