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Tom Swift and His Wireless Message/Chapter 10



"Hurrah!" cried Mr. Fenwick in delight "My machine is really flying at last!"

"Yes," answered Tom, as he adjusted various levers and gears, "she is going. It's not as high as I'd like, but it is doing very well, considering the weight of the craft, and the fact that we have not used the gas bag. I'm going to let that fill now, and we'll go up. Don't you want to steer, Mr. Fenwick?"

"No, you manage it, Tom, until it's in good running shape. I don't want to 'hoodoo' it. I worked as hard as I could, and never got more than two feet off the ground. Now I'm really sailing. It's great!"

He was very enthusiastic, and Tom himself was not a little pleased at his own success, for certainly the airship had looked to be a very dubious proposition at first.

"Bless my gaiters! But we are doing pretty well," remarked Mr. Damon, looking down on the field where Mr. Fenwick's friends and the machinists were gathered, cheering and waving their hands.

"We'll do better," declared Tom.

He had already set the gas machine in operation, and was now looking over the electric apparatus, to see that it was working well. It needed some adjustments, which he made.

All this while the Whizzer was moving about in a big circle, for the rudder had been automatically set to so swing the craft. It was about two hundred feet high, but soon after the gas began to enter the bag it rose until it was nearly five thousand feet high. This satisfied Tom that the airship could do better than he expected, and he decided to return nearer earth.

In going down, he put the craft through a number of evolutions designed to test her ability to answer the rudders promptly. The lad saw opportunity for making a number of changes, and suggested them to Mr. Fenwick.

"Are you going any farther?" asked the owner of the Whizzer, as he saw that his craft was slowly settling.

"No, I think we've done enough for the first day," said Tom. "But I'd like you to handle her now, Mr. Fenwick. You can make the landing, while I watch the motor and other machines."

"Yes, I guess I can make a landing all right," assented the inventor. "I'm better at coming down than going up."

He did make a good descent, and received the congratulation of his friends as he stepped from the airship. Tom was also given much praise for his success in making the craft go at all, for Mr. Fenwick and his acquaintances had about given up hope that she ever would rise.

"Well, what do you think of her?" Mr. Fenwick wanted to know of the young inventor, who replied that, as soon as some further changes had been made, they would attempt a long flight.

This promise was kept two days later. They were busy days for Tom, Mr. Fenwick and the latter's assistants. Tom sent a short note to his father telling of the proposed long flight, and intimated that he might make a call in Shopton if all went well. He also sent a wire to Miss Nestor, hinting that she might have some apple turnovers ready for him.

But Tom never called for that particular pastry, though it was gotten ready for him when the girl received his message.

All was in readiness for the long flight, and a preliminary test had demonstrated that the Whizzer had been wonderfully improved by the changes Tom made. The young inventor looked over the supply of food Mr. Fenwick had placed aboard, glanced at the other stores, and asked:

"How long do you expect to be gone, Mr. Fenwick?"

"Why, don't you think we can stay out a week?"

"That's quite a while," responded Tom. "We may be glad to return in two days, or less. But I think we're all ready to start. Are any of your friends going?"

"I've tried to pursuade some of them to accompany me, but they are a bit timid," said the inventor. "I guess we three will make up the party this time, though if our trip is a successful one I'll be overwhelmed with requests for rides, I suppose."

As before, a little crowd gathered to see the start. The day was warm, but there was a slight haziness which Tom did not like. He hoped, though, that it would pass over before they had gone far.

"Do you wish to head for any particular spot, Mr. Fenwick?" asked Tom, as they were entering the cabin.

"Yes, I would like to go down and circle Cape May, New Jersey, if we could. I have a friend who has a summer cottage there, and he was always laughing at my airship. I'd just like to drop down in front of his place now, and pay him a call."

"We'll try it," assented Tom, with a smile.

An auspicious start was made, the Whizzer taking the air after a short flight across the ground, and then, with the lifting gas aiding in pulling the craft upward, the airship started to sail high over the city of Philadelphia.

So swiftly did it rise that the cheers of the little crowd of Mr. Fenwick's friends were scarcely heard. Up and up it went, and then a little later, to the astonishment of the crowds in the streets, Tom put the airship twice in a circle around the statue of William Penn, on the top of the City Hall.

"Now you steer," the lad invited Mr. Fenwick. "Take her straight across the Delaware River, and over Camden, New Jersey, and then head south, for Cape May. We ought to make it in an hour, for we are getting up good speed."

Leaving the owner in charge of his craft, to that gentleman's no small delight, Tom and Mr. Damon began an inspection of the electrical and other machinery. There was much that needed attention, but Tom soon had the automatic apparatus in working order, and then less attention need be given to it.

Several times the young inventor looked out of the windows with which the cabin was fitted. Mr. Damon noticed this.

"Bless my shoe laces, Tom," he said. "What's the matter?"

"I don't like the looks of the weather," was the answer. "I think we're in for a storm."

"Then let's put back."

"No, it would be too bad to disappoint Mr. Fenwick, now that we have made such a good start. He wants to make a long flight, and I can't blame him," spoke Tom, in a low voice.

"But if there's danger——"

"Oh, well, we can soon be at Cape May, and start back. The wind is freshening rather suddenly, though," and Tom looked at the anemometer, which showed a speed of twenty miles an hour. However, it was in their favor, aiding them to make faster time.

The speed of the Whizzer was now about forty miles an hour, not fast for an air craft, but sufficiently speedy in trying out a new machine. Tom looked at the barograph, and noted that they had attained an altitude of seven thousand five hundred feet.

"That's better than millionaire Daxtel's distance of seven thousand one hundred and five feet," remarked the lad, with a smile, "and it breaks Jackson's climb of seven thousand three hundred and three feet, which is pretty good for your machine, Mr. Fenwick."

"Do you really think so?" asked the pleased inventor.

"Yes. And we'll do better than that in time, but it's best to go slow at first, until we see how she is standing the strain. This is high and fast enough for the present."

They kept on, and as Tom saw that the machinery was working well, he let it out a little. The Whizzer at once leaped forward, and, a little later they came within sight of Cape May, the Jersey coast resort.

"Now to drop down and visit my friend," said Mr. Fenwick, with a smile. "Won't he be surprised!"

"I don't think we'd better do it," said Tom.

"Why not?"

"Well, the wind is getting stronger every minute and it will be against us on the way back. If we descend, and try to make another ascension we may fail. We're up in the air now, and it may be easy to turn around and go back. Then, again, it may not, but it certainly will be easier to shift around up here than down on the ground. So I'd rather not descend—that is, not entirely to the ground."

"Well, just as you say, though I wanted my friend to know I could build a successful airship."

"Oh, we can get around that. I'll take her down as low as is safe, and fly over his house, if you'll point it out, and you can drop him a message in one of the pasteboard tubes we carry for that purpose."

'That's a good idea," assented Mr. Fenwick. "I'll do it."

Tom sent the Whizzer down until the hotels and cottages could be made out quite plainly. After looking with a pair of opera glasses, Mr. Fenwick picked out the residence of his friend, and Tom prepared to circle about the roof.

By this time the presence of the airship had become known to hundreds, and crowds were eagerly watching it.

"There he is! There's my friend who didn't believe I would ever succeed!" exclaimed Mr. Fenwick, pointing to a man who stood in the street in front of a large, white house. "I'll drop him a message!"

One was in readiness in a weighted pasteboard cylinder, and soon it was falling downward. The airship was moving slowly, as it was beating against the wind.

Leaning out of the cabin window, Mr. Fenwick shouted to his friend:

"Hey, Will! I thought you said my airship would never go! I'll come and give you a ride, some day!"

Whether the gentleman understood what Mr. Fenwick shouted at him is doubtful, but he saw the inventor waving his hand, and he saw the falling cylinder, and a look of astonishment spread over his face, as he ran to pick up the message.

"We're going up now, and will try to head for home," said Tom, a moment later, as he shifted the rudder.

"Bless my storage battery!" cried Mr. Damon. "But we have had a fine trip."

"A much better one than we'll have going back," observed Tom, in a low voice.

"Why; what's the matter?" asked the eccentric man.

"The wind has increased to a gale, and will be dead against us," answered Tom.

Mr. Fenwick was busy writing another message to drop, and he paid little attention to the young inventor. Tom sent the craft well up into the air, and then tried to turn it about, and head back for Philadelphia. No sooner had he done so than the airship was met by the full force of the wind, which was now almost a hurricane. It had steadily increased, but, as long as they were moving with it, they did not notice it so much. Once they attempted to stem its fury they found themselves almost helpless.

Tom quickly realized this, and, giving up his intention of beating up against the wind, he turned the craft around, and let it fly before the gale, the propellers aiding to get up a speed of seventy miles an hour.

Mr. Fenwick, who had dropped the last of his messages, came from his small private cabin, to where Mr. Damon and Tom were in a low-voiced conversation near the engines. The owner of the Whizzer, happened to look down through a plate-glass window in the floor of car. What he saw caused him to give a gasp of astonishment.

"Why—why!" he exclaimed. "We—we're over the ocean."

"Yes," answered Tom, quietly, as he gazed down on the tumbling billows below them. They had quickly passed over Cape May, across the sandy beach, and were now well out over the Atlantic.

"Why—why are we out here?" asked Mr. Fenwick. "Isn't it dangerous—in an airship that hasn't been thoroughly tried yet?"

"Dangerous? Yes, somewhat," replied Tom, slowly. "But we can't help ourselves, Mr. Fenwick. We can't turn around and go back in this gale, and we can't descend."

"Then what's to be done?"

"Nothing, except to keep on until the gale blows itself out."

"And how long will that be?"

"I don't know—a week, maybe."

"Bless my coffee pot, I'm glad we've got plenty on board to eat!" exclaimed Mr. Damon.