Infomotions, Inc.Dick Hamilton's Airship, or, a Young Millionaire in the Clouds / Garis, Howard R. (Howard Roger), 1873-1962



Author: Garis, Howard R. (Howard Roger), 1873-1962
Title: Dick Hamilton's Airship, or, a Young Millionaire in the Clouds
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): dick; vardon; airship; uncle ezra; innis; ezra; lieutenant mcbride; young millionaire; craft; motor; lieutenant; uncle; larry dexter; paul; ezra larabee; uncle ezra's; aunt samantha; asked innis; dick hamilton; gyroscope stabilizer; asked dick; dick hamil
Contributor(s): Bright, Mynors, 1818-1883 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 64,168 words (short) Grade range: 6-8 (grade school) Readability score: 74 (easy)
Identifier: etext2065
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Dick Hamiliton's Airship

by Howard R. Garis

February, 2000  [Etext #2065]


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DICK HAMILTON'S AIRSHIP; OR, A YOUNG MILLIONAIRE IN THE CLOUDS
BY Howard R. Garis




CONTENTS

I  THE FALLING BIPLANE
II  THE COLONEL'S OFFER
III  DICK'S RESOLVE
IV  THE ARMY AVIATORS
V  SUSPICIONS
VI  DICK'S FIRST FLIGHT
VII  A QUEER LANDING
VIII  AT HAMILTON CORNERS
IX  UNCLE EZRA'S VISIT
X  BUILDING THE AIRSHIP
XI  A SURPRISE
XII  LARSON SEES UNCLE EZRA
XIII  UNCLE EZRA ACTS QUEERLY
XIV  THE TRIAL FLIGHT
XV  IN DANGER
XVI  DICK IS WARNED
XVII  OFF FOR THE START
XVIII  UNCLE EZRA FLIES
XIX  UNCLE EZRA'S ACCIDENT
XX  IN NEW YORK
XXI  OFF FOR THE PACIFIC
XXII  UNCLE EZRA STARTS OFF
XXIII  AN IMPROMPTU RACE
XXIV  GRIT'S GRIP
XXV  A FORCED LANDING
XXVI  ON LACK MICHIGAN
XXVII  A HOWLING GALE
XXVIII  ABLAZE IN THE CLOUDS
XXIX  THE RIVAL AIRSHIP
XXX  AN ATTACK
XXXI  THE WRECK
XXXII  SAVING UNCLE EZRA
XXXIII  WITH UNCLE EZRA'S HELP




CHAPTER I
THE FALLING BIPLANE


"She sure is a fine boat, Dick."

"And she can go some, too!"

"Glad you like her, fellows," replied Dick Hamilton, to the remarks
of his chums, Paul Drew and Innis Beeby, as he turned the wheel of
a new motor-boat and sent the craft about in a graceful sweep toward
a small dock which connected with a little excursion resort on the
Kentfield river.

"Like her!  Who could help it?" asked Paul, looking about admiringly
at the fittings of the craft.  "Why, you could go on a regular
cruise in her!"

"You might if you kept near your base of supplies," remarked Dick.

"Base of supplies!" laughed Innis.  "Can't you forget, for a while,
that you're at a military school, old man, and not give us the sort
of stuff we get in class all the while?"

"Well, what I meant," explained the young millionaire owner of the
motor-boat, "was that you couldn't carry enough food aboard, and
have room to move about, if you went on a very long trip."

"That's right, you couldn't," agreed Paul.  "And of late I seem to
have acquired the eating habit in its worst form."

"I never knew the time when you didn't have it," responded Dick.
"I'm going to give you a chance to indulge in it right now, and I'm
going to profit by your example."

"What's doing?" asked Innis, as he straightened the collar of his
military blouse, for the three were in the fatigue uniforms of the
Kentfield Military Academy, where Dick and his chums attended.
Lessons and practice were over for the day, and the young
millionaire had invited his friends out for a little trip in his
new motor-boat.

"I thought we'd just stop at Bruce's place, and get a sandwich and
a cup of coffee," suggested Dick.  "Then we can go on down the river
and we won't have to be back until time for guard-mount.  We'll be
better able to stand it, if we get a bite to eat."

"Right you are, old chap!" exclaimed Paul, and then he, too, began
to smooth the wrinkles out of his blouse and to ease his rather
tight trousers at the knees.

"Say, what's the matter with you dudes, anyhow?" asked Dick, who,
after glancing ahead to see that he was on the right course to the
dock, looked back to give some attention to the motor.

"Matter!  I don't see anything the matter," remarked Innis in casual
tones, while he flicked some dust from his shoes with a spare pocket
handkerchief.

"Why, you two are fussing as though you were a couple of girls at
your first dance," declared Dick, as he adjusted the valves of the
oil cups to supply a little more lubricant to the new motor, which
had not yet warmed up to its work.  "Innis acts as though he were
sorry he hadn't come out in his dress uniform, and as for you, Paul,
I'm beginning to think you are afraid you hadn't shaved.  What's it
all about, anyhow?  Old man Bruce won't care whether you have on one
tan shoe and one black one; or whether your hair is parted, or not."

Then Dick, having gotten the motor running to his satisfaction,
looked toward the dock which he was rapidly nearing in his boat.
The next moment he gave a whistle of surprise.

"Ah, ha!  No wonder!" he cried.  "The girls?  So that's why you
fellows were fixing up, and getting yourselves to look pretty.  And
you let me monkey with the motor, and get all grease and dirt while
you--  Say, I guess we'll call off this eating stunt," and he swung
over the steering wheel.

"Oh, I say?" protested Innis.

"Don't be mean?" added Paul. "We haven't seen the girls in some
time, and there's three of 'em--"

Dick laughed. On the dock, under the shade of an awning, he had
caught sight of three pretty girls from town--girls he and his chums
knew quite well.  They were Mabel Hanford, in whom Dick was more
than ordinarily interested, Grace Knox, and Irene Martin.

"I thought I'd get a rise out of you fellows," the young millionaire
went on.  "Trying to get me in bad, were you!"

The boat swerved away from the dock.  The girls, who had arisen,
evidently to come down to the float, and welcome the approaching
cadets, seemed disappointed.  One of them had waved her handkerchief
in response to a salute from Paul.

"Here, take some of this and clean your face," suggested Paul,
handing Dick some cotton waste from a seat locker.

"And here's a bit for your shoes," added Innis, performing a like
service.  "You'll look as good as we do."

"What about my hands?" asked Dick.  "Think I want to go up and sit
alongside of a girl with paws like these?" and he held out one that
was black and oily.

"Haven't you any soap aboard?" asked Innis, for he, like Paul,
seemed anxious that Dick should land them at the dock where the
girls were.

"Oh, well, if you fellows are as anxious as all that I s'pose I'll
have to humor you," agreed Dick, with a grin.  "I dare say Bruce
can let me wash up in his place," and he turned the craft back on
the course he had previously been holding.  A little later the
motor-boat was made fast to the float, and the three cadets were
greeting the three girls.

"Look out for my hands!" warned Dick, as Miss Hanford's light summer
dress brushed near him.  "I'm all oil and grease. I'll go scrub up,
if you'll excuse me."

"Certainly," said Mabel Hanford, with a rippling laugh.

When Dick returned, he ordered a little lunch served out on the end
of the dock, where they could sit and enjoy the cool breezes, and
look at the river on which were many pleasure craft.

"Where were you boys going?" asked Grace Knox, as she toyed with
her ice-cream spoon.

"Coming to see you," answered Paul promptly.

"As if we'd believe that!" mocked Irene.  "Why, you were going right
past here, and only turned in when you saw us!"

"Dick didn't want to come at all," said Innis.

"He didn't!  Why not?" demanded Mabel.

"Bashful, I guess," murmured Paul.

"No, it was because I didn't want to inflict the company of these
two bores on you ladies!" exclaimed Dick, thus "getting back."

There was much gay talk and laughter, and, as the afternoon was
still young, Dick proposed taking the girls out for a little jaunt
in his new craft He had only recently purchased it, and, after using
it at Kentfield, he intended taking it with him to a large lake,
where he and his father expected to spend the Summer.

"Oh, that was just fine!" cried Mabel, when the ride was over, and
the party was back at the pier.  "Thank you, so much, Dick!"

"Humph!  You have US to thank--not him!" declared Paul.  "He
wouldn't have turned in here if we hadn't made him.  And just
because his hands had a little oil on!"

"Say, don't believe him!" protested the young millionaire.  "I had
proposed coming here before I knew you girls were on the dock."

"Well, we thank all THREE of you!" cried Irene, with a bow that
included the trio of cadets.

"Salute!" exclaimed Paul, and the young soldiers drew themselves up
stiffly, and, in the most approved manner taught at Kentfield,
brought their hands to their heads.

"'Bout face!  Forward--march! " cried Grace, imitating an officer's
orders, and the boys, with laughs stood "at ease."

"See you at the Junior prom!"

"Yes, don't forget."

"And save me a couple of hesitation waltzes!"

"Can you come for a ride tomorrow?"

"Surely!

This last was the answer of the girls to Dick's invitation, and the
exclamations before that were the good-byes between the girls and
boys, reference being made to a coming dance of the Junior class.

Then Dick and his chums entered the motor-boat and started back for
the military academy.

"You've got to go some to get back in time to let us tog up for
guard-mount," remarked Paul, looking at his watch.

"That's right," added Innis.  "I don't want to get a call-down.
I'm about up to my limit now.

"We'll do it all right," announced Dick.  "I haven't speeded the
motor yet.  I've been warming it up.  I'll show you what she can
do!"

He opened wider the gasoline throttle of the engine, and advanced
the timer.  Instantly the boat shot ahead, as the motor ran at twice
the number of revolutions.

"That's something like!" cried Paul admiringly.

"She sure has got speed," murmured Innis.

On they sped, talking of the girls, of their plans for the summer,
and the coming examinations.

"Hark! What's that?" suddenly asked Paul, holding up his hand for
silence.

They were made aware of a curious, humming, throbbing sound.

"Some speed boat," ventured Dick.

"None in sight," objected Paul, with a glance up and down the river,
which at this point ran in a straight stretch for two miles or more.
"You could see a boat if you could hear it as plainly as that."

"It's getting louder," announced Innis.

Indeed the sound was now more plainly to be heard.

Paul gave a quick glance upward.

"Look, fellows!" he exclaimed. "An airship!"

The sound was right over their heads now, and as all three looked
up they saw, soaring over them, a large biplane, containing three
figures.  It was low enough for the forms to be distinguished
clearly.

"Some airship!" cried Dick, admiringly.

"And making time, too," remarked Innis.

Aircraft were no novelties to the cadets.  In fact part of the
instruction at Kentfield included wireless, and the theoretical use
of aeroplanes in war.  The cadets had gone in a body to several
aviation meets, and once had been taken by Major Franklin Webster,
the instructor in military tactics, to an army meet where several
new forms of biplanes and monoplanes had been tried out, to see
which should be given official recognition.

"I never saw one like that before," remarked Paul, as they watched
the evolutions of the craft above them.

"Neither did I," admitted Dick.

"I've seen one something like that," spoke Innis.

"Where?" his chums wanted to know, as Dick slowed down his boat,
the better to watch the biplane, which was now circling over the
river.

"Why, a cousin of mine, Whitfield Vardon by name, has the airship
craze pretty bad," resumed Innis.  "He has an idea he can make one
that will maintain its equilibrium no matter how the wind blows or
what happens.  But, poor fellow, he's spent all his money on
experiments and he hasn't succeeded.  The last I heard, he was about
down and out, poor chap.  He showed me a model of his machine once,
and it looked a lot like this.  But this one seems to work, and his
didn't--at least when I saw it."

"It's mighty interesting to watch, all right," spoke Paul, "but
we'll be in for a wigging if we miss guard-mount.  Better speed her
along, Dick."

"Yes, I guess so.  But we've got time--"

Dick never finished that sentence.  Innis interrupted him with a
cry of:

"Look, something's wrong on that aircraft!"

"I should say so!" yelled Paul.  "They've lost control of her!"

The big biplane was in serious difficulties, for it gave a lurch,
turned turtle, and then, suddenly righting, shot downward for the
river.

"They're going to get a ducking, all right!" cried Innis.

"Yes, and they may be killed, or drowned," added Paul.

"I'll do what I can to save 'em!" murmured Dick, as he turned on
more power, and headed his boat for the place where the aircraft
was likely to plunge into the water.

Hardly had he done so when, with a great splash, and a sound as of
an explosion, while a cloud of steam arose as the water sprayed on
the hot motor, the aircraft shot beneath the waves raised by the
rapidly-whirling propellers.

"Stand ready now!"

"Get out a preserver!"

"Toss 'em that life ring!"

"Ready with the boat hook!  Slow down your engine, Dick."

The motor-boat was at the scene of the accident, and when one of
the occupants of the wrecked airship came up to the surface Dick
made a grab for him, catching the boat hook in the neck of his coat.

The next instant Dick gave a cry of surprise.

"Larry Dexter--the reporter!" he fairly shouted. "How in the world--
"

"Let me get aboard--I'll talk when--when I get rid of--of--some of
this water!" panted Larry Dexter.  "Can you save the others?"

"I've got one!" shouted Paul.  "Give me a hand, Innis!"

Together the two cadets lifted into the motorboat a limp and
bedraggled figure.  And, no sooner had he gotten a glimpse of the
man's face, than Innis Beeby cried:

"By Jove!  If it isn't my cousin, Whitfield Vardon!"



CHAPTER II
THE COLONEL'S OFFER


Two more surprised youths than Dick Hamilton and Innis Beeby would
have been hard to find.  That the young millionaire should meet
Larry Dexter, a newspaper reporter with whom he had been acquainted
some time, in this startling fashion was one thing to wonder at, but
that Innis should help in the rescue of his cousin, of whom he had
just been speaking, was rather too much to crowd into a few
strenuous moments.

"Whitfield!" gasped Innis, when his cousin had been safely gotten
aboard.  "How in the world did you get here?  And was that your
craft?"

"Yes.  But don't stop to talk now!" gasped the rescued aviator.
"My machinist, Jack Butt, went down with us!  Can you see anything
of him?"

Eagerly the eyes of the cadets searched the waters that had now
subsided from the commotion caused by the plunging down of the
wrecked aircraft.  Then Dick cried:

"I see something moving!  Right over there!"

He pointed to where the water was swirling, and the next moment he
threw in the clutch of his motor.  The propeller churned the water
to foam, and the craft shot ahead.

The next instant a body came to the surface.  A man began to strike
out feebly, but it was evident he was nearly drowned.

"That's Jack!  That's my helper!" cried Mr. Vardon.  "Can you save
him?"

"Take the wheel!" shouted Dick to Paul.  And then, as the motor-boat
shot ahead, the rich youth leaned over the gunwale, and, holding on
to a forward deck cleat with one hand, he reached over, and with the
other, caught the coat collar of the swimmer, who had thrown up his
arms, and was about to sink again.

"I'll give you a hand!" cried Innis, and between them the cadets
lifted into the boat the now inert form of Jack Butt.

"Stop the motor!"

"First aid!"

"We've got to try artificial respiration!"

In turn Innis, Paul and Dick shot out these words.  And, seeing that
the other two rescued ones were in no need of attention, the cadets
proceeded to put to practical use the lessons in first aid to the
drowning they had learned at Kentfield.

And, while this is going on I am going to take just a few moments,
in which to tell my new readers something about the previous books
in this series.

The only son of Mortimer Hamilton, of Hamilton Corners, in New York
state, Dick was a millionaire in his own right.  His mother had left
him a large estate, and in the first volume of this series,
entitled, "Dick Hamilton's Fortune; Or, The Stirring Doings of a
Millionaire's Son," I related what Dick had to do in order to become
fully possessed of a large sum of money.  He had to prove that he
was really capable of handling it, and he nearly came to grief in
doing this, as many a better youth might have done.

Dick's uncle, Ezra Larabee, of Dankville, was a rich man, but a
miser.  He was not in sympathy with Dick, nor with the plans his
sister, Dick's mother, had made for her son.  Consequently, Uncle
Ezra did all he could to make it unpleasant for Dick while the
latter was paying him a visit of importance.

But Dick triumphed over his uncle, and also over certain sharpers
who tried to get the best of him.

My second volume, entitled, "Dick Hamilton's Cadet Days, Or, The
Handicap of a Millionaire's Son," deals with our hero's activities
at the Kentfield Military Academy.  This was a well-known school,
at the head of which was Colonel Masterly.  Major Henry Rockford
was the commandant, and the institution turned out many first-class
young men, with a groundwork of military training. The school was
under the supervision of officers from the regular army, the
resident one being Major Webster.

Dick had rather a hard time at Kentfield--at first--for he had to
get over the handicap of being a millionaire.  But how he did it
you may read, and, I trust, enjoy.

In "Dick Hamilton's Steam Yacht; Or, A Young Millionaire and the
Kidnappers," Dick got into a "peck of trouble," to quote his chum,
Innis Beeby.  But the rich youth finally triumphed over the designs
of Uncle Ezra, and was able to foil some plotters.

"Dick Hamilton's Football Team; Or, A Young Millionaire On the
Gridiron," tells of the efforts of Dick to make a first-class eleven
from the rather poor material he found at Kentfield.  How he did it,
though not without hard work, and how the team finally triumphed
over the Blue Hill players, you will find set down at length in the
book.

"Dick Hamilton's Touring Car; Or, A Young Millionaire's Race for a
Fortune," took our hero on a long trip, and in one of the largest,
finest and most completely equipped automobiles that a certain firm
had ever turned out.

I have mentioned Larry Dexter, and I might say that in a line
entitled, "The Young Reporter Series," I have give an account of
the doings of this youth who rose from the position of office boy
on a New York newspaper to be a "star" man, that is, one entrusted
with writing only the biggest kind of stories.  Dick had met Larry
while in New York, and Larry had profited by the acquaintanceship
by getting a "beat," or exclusive story, about the young
millionaire.

On the return of Dick and his cadet chums from a trip to California,
the rich youth had again taken up his studies at Kentfield.

And now we behold him, out in his motor-boat, having just succeeded
in helping rescue the master and "crew" of the aircraft that had
plunged into the river.

"There; he breathed."

"I think he's coming around now."

"Better get him to shore though.  He'll need a doctor!"

Thus remarked Dick, Paul and Innis as they labored over the
unfortunate mechanician of the biplane.  They had used artificial
respiration on him until he breathed naturally.

"I'll start the boat," announced Dick, for the craft had been
allowed to drift while the lifesaving work was going on.  "We want
to make time back."

"This certainly is a surprise," remarked Larry Dexter, as he tried
to wring some of the water out of his clothes.

"More to me than it is to you, I guess," suggested Dick.  "I suppose
you birdmen are used to accidents like this?"

"More or less," answered the cousin of Innis Beeby.  "But I never
expected to come to grief, and be rescued by Innis."

"Nor did I expect to see you," said the cadet.

"We were just speaking of you, or, rather I was, as we saw your
craft in the air.  I was wondering if you had perfected your
patent."

"It doesn't look so--does it?" asked the airship inventor, with a
rueful smile in the direction of the sunken aircraft.  "I guess I'm
at the end of my rope," he added, sadly.  "But I'm glad none of us
was killed."

"So am I!" exclaimed Dick.  "But how in the world did you come to
take up aviation, Larry?" he asked, of the young newspaper man.
"Have you given up reporting?"

"No indeed," replied Larry Dexter.  "But this air game is getting
to be so important, especially the army and navy end of it, that my
paper decided we ought to have an expert of our own to keep up with
the times.  So they assigned me to the job, and I'm learning how to
manage an aircraft.  I guess the paper figures on sending me out to
scout in the clouds for news.  Though if I don't make out better
than this, they'll get someone else in my place."

"Something went wrong--I can't understand it," said the aircraft
inventor, shaking his head.  "The machine ought not to have plunged
down like that.  I can't understand it."

"I'd like to send the story back to my paper," went on Larry.

"Always on the lookout for news!" remarked Dick.  "We'll see that
you send off your yarn all right.  There's a telegraph office in
the Academy now.  I'll fix it for you."

The run to the school dock was soon made, and the arrival of Dick's
motor-boat, with the rescued ones from the airship, which had been
seen flying over the parade grounds a little while before, made some
commotion.

"We've missed guard-mount!" remarked Innis, as he saw the other
cadets at the drill.

"Can't be helped.  We had a good excuse," said Dick.  "Now we've
got to attend to him," and he nodded at Jack Butt, who seemed to
have collapsed again.

With military promptness, the mechanic was carried to the hospital,
and the school doctor was soon working over him.  Meanwhile, dry
garments had been supplied to Larry and Mr. Vardon.  A messenger
came from Colonel Masterly to learn what was going on, and, when he
heard of the rescue, Dick and his chums were excused from taking
part in the day's closing drill.

"He's coming around all right," the physician remarked to the young
millionaire, on the way from the hospital, where he had been
attending Jack Butt.  "It seems that he was entangled in some part
of the aircraft, and couldn't get to the surface until he was nearly
drowned.  But he's all right now, though he needs rest and care."

"I wonder if he can stay here?" asked Dick.  "Oh, yes, I'll attend
to that for you," the doctor promised.  "I'll arrange with Colonel
Masterly about that.  And your other friends--I think they should
remain, too.  They probably are in rather an unpleasant plight."

"I'll look after them," said Dick.  "I can put them up.  One is a
newspaper man, and the other a cousin of Beeby's.  He's an airship
inventor."

"Is that so?  Colonel Masterly might be interested to know that."

"Why?" asked Dick.

"Because I understand that he is about to add a course in aviation
to the studies here.  It has been discussed in faculty meetings, so
it is no secret."

"An aviation course at Kentfield!" cried Dick, with shining eyes.

"Yes.  Are you interested?" the doctor asked.

"Well, I hadn't thought about it, but I believe I should like to
have an airship," the young millionaire went on.  "Down, Grit,
down!" he commanded, as a beautiful bulldog came racing from the
stables to fawn upon his master.  I used the word "beautiful" with
certain restrictions, for Grit was about the homeliest bulldog in
existence.

But his very hideousness made him "beautiful" to a lover of dogs.
He jumped about in delight at seeing Dick again, for he had been
shut up, so he would not insist on going out in the motor-boat.

Quarters were provided for Larry Dexter, who sent off a brief
account of the accident to the airship, and Mr. Vardon was looked
after by Innis.  Butt, of course, remained in the hospital.

Dr. Morrison was right when he said that Colonel Masterly would be
interested in meeting the luckless aviator.  Innis took his cousin
to the head of the school, and Mr. Vardon told of his invention,
briefly, and also of the mishap to his biplane.

"Perhaps this is providential," said the colonel musingly.  "For
some time I have been considering the starting of an aviation course
here, and it may be you would like to assist me in it.  I want the
cadets to learn something about the fundamentals of heavier-than-air
machines. Will you accept a position as instructor?"

"I will, gladly," said Mr. Vardon.  "I might as well admit that I
have no further funds to pursue my experiments, though I am
satisfied that I am on the right track.  But my machine is wrecked."

"Perhaps it can be raised," said the colonel, cheerfully.  "We will
talk about that later.  And we may find a way to have you conduct
your experiments here."

"I can not thank you enough, sir," returned the aviator.  "And I am
also deeply indebted to my cousin's chum--Dick Hamilton.  But for
him, and the other cadets in the boat, we might all have been
drowned."

"I'm glad we were on hand," said Dick, with a smile.



CHAPTER III
DICK'S RESOLVE


"What do you know about that?"

"A regular course in aviation!"

"And birdmen from the United States Army to came here and show us
how to do stunts!"

"Well, you fellows can go in for it if you like, but automobiling
is dangerous enough sport for me."

"Ah, what's the matter with you?  Flying is pretty nearly as safe
now as walking!  Not half as many birdmen have been killed as there
have railroad travelers."

"No, because there are more railroad travelers to be killed.  No
cloud flights for mine!"

A group of cadets, Dick, Innis and Paul among them, were discussing
the latest news at Kentfield.

It was the day following the accident to the biplane.  After a brief
consultation with Mr. Vardon, and a calling together of his faculty
members, Colonel Masterly had made formal announcement that a course
in aviation would be open at Kentfield for those who cared to take
it.

"I think it will be great!" cried Dick.

"Are you going in for it?" asked Paul.

"I sure am--if dad will let me."

"Oh, I guess he will all right," spoke Innis, "He lets you do almost
anything you want to--in reason.  But I know a certain person who
WILL object."

"Who?" asked Dick, fondling his dog.

"Your Uncle Ezra!"

"I guess that's so!" laughed Dick.  "He'll say it's expensive, and
all that sort of thing, and that I'll be sure to break my neck, or
at least fracture an arm.  But we saw one accident that came out
pretty well.  I think I'll take a chance."

"So will I!" cried Paul.

"I guess you can count me in," agreed Innis, slowly.

"How about it, Larry?" asked Dick, as the young reporter came across
the campus.  "How does it feel to sail above the clouds?"

"Well, I haven't yet gone up that far. This is only about my fifth
flight, and we only did 'grass cutting' for the first few--that is
going up only a little way above the ground.  I had to get used to
it gradually.

"But it's great!  I like it, and you're only afraid the first few
minutes.  After that you don't mind it a bit--that is not until you
get into trouble, as we did."

"And I can't understand that trouble, either," said Mr. Vardon, who
had joined the group of cadets.  "Something went wrong!"

"You mean something was MADE to go wrong," put in Jack Butt, who
had now recovered sufficiently to be about.

"Something made to go wrong?" repeated Dick Hamilton, wonderingly.

"That's what I said.  That machine was tampered with before we
started on our flight. I'm sure of it, and if we could get it up
from the bottom of the river I could prove it."

"Be careful," warned the aviator.  "Do you know what you are saying,
Jack?  Who would tamper with my machine?"

"Well, there are many who might have done it," the machinist went
on.  "Some of the mechanics you have discharged for not doing their
work properly might have done it.  But the fellow I suspect is that
young army officer who got huffy because you wouldn't explain all
about your equalizing gyroscope, or stabilizer."

"Oh--you mean him?" gasped the aviator.

"That's the man," declared Jack.  "He went off mad when you turned
him down, and I heard him muttering to himself about 'getting even.'
I'm sure he's the chap to blame for our accident."

"I should dislike to think that of anyone," said Mr. Vardon, slowly.
"But I am sure something was wrong with my aircraft.  It had worked
perfectly in other trials, and then it suddenly went back on me.
I should like a chance to examine it."

"We'll try and give you that chance," said Colonel Masterly, who
came up at that moment.  "We are to have a drill in building a
pontoon bridge across the river tomorrow, and I will order it thrown
across the stream at the point where your airship went down.  Then
we may be able to raise the craft."

"That will be fine!" exclaimed the airship man.  "I may even be able
to save part of my craft, to use in demonstration purposes.  I may
even be able, to use part of it in building another.  It was a fine
machine, but something went wrong."

"Something was made to go wrong!" growled Jack Butt.  "If ever we
raise her I'll prove it, too."

"Well, young gentlemen, I suppose you have heard the news?"
questioned the colonel, as the aviator-inventor and his helper
walked off to one side of the campus, talking earnestly together.

"You mean about the airship instruction we are to get here, sir?"
asked Dick.

"That's it.  And I am also glad to announce that I have heard from
the war department, and they are going to send some army aviators
here to give us the benefit of their work, and also to show some of
you cadets how to fly."

There was a cheer at this, though some of the lads looked a bit
dubious.

"Are you really going in for it, Dick?" asked Innis, after there had
been an informal discussion among the colonel and some of the boys
about the aviation instruction.

"Well, I am, unless I change my mind," replied Dick, with a smile.
"Of course, after I make my first flight, if I ever do, it may be
my last one."

"Huh!  You're not taking a very cheerful view of it," retorted
Innis, "to think that you're going to come a smash the first shot
out of the locker."

"Oh, I didn't mean just that," replied Dick, quickly.  "I meant that
I might lose my nerve after the first flight, and not go up again."

"Guess there isn't much danger of you losing your nerve," said Paul
Drew, admiringly.  "I've generally noticed that you have it with you
on most occasions."

"Thanks!" exclaimed Dick, with a mock salute.

Strolling over the campus, Dick and his chums talked airships and
aviation matters until it was time for guard-mount.

During the next day or two it might have been noticed that Dick
Hamilton was rather more quiet than usual.  In fact his chums did
notice, and comment on it.  A number of times they had seen the
young millionaire in a brown study, walking off by himself, and
again he could be observed strolling about, gazing earnestly up at
the clouds and sky.

"Say, I wonder what's come over Dick?" asked Paul of Innis one
afternoon.

"Blessed if I know," was the answer, "unless he's fallen in love."

"Get out!  He's too sensible.  But he sure has something on his
mind."

"I agree with you.  Well, if he wants to know he'll tell us."

So they let the matter drop for the time being.  But Dick's
abstraction grew deeper.  He wrote a number of letters, and sent
some telegrams, and his friends began to wonder if matters at Dick's
home were not altogether right.

But the secret, if such it could be called, was solved by the
unexpected arrival of Mr. Hamilton at Kentfield.  He appeared on
the campus after drill one day, and Dick greeted his parent
enthusiastically.

"So you got here, after all, Dad?" he cried, as he shook hands, Paul
and Innis also coming over to meet the millionaire.

"Well, I felt I just had to come, Dick, after all you wrote and
telegraphed me," replied Mr. Hamilton.  "I thought we could do
better by having a talk than by correspondence.  But, I tell you,
frankly, I don't approve of what you are going to do."

Dick's chums looked curiously at him.

"I may as well confess," laughed the young millionaire, "I'm
thinking of buying an airship, fellows."

"Whew!" whistled Paul.

"That's going some, as the boys say," commented Innis.  "Tell us
all about it."

"I will," said Dick, frankly.  "It's been on my mind the last few
days, and--"

"So that's been your worry!" interrupted Paul.  "I knew it was
something, but I never guessed it was that.  Fire ahead."

"Ever since your cousin came here, Innis, in his craft, and since
the colonel has arranged for aviation instruction, I've been
thinking of having an airship of my own," Dick resumed.  "I wrote
to dad about it, but he didn't seem to take to the idea very much."

"No, I can't say that I did," said Mr. Hamilton, decidedly.  "I
consider it dangerous."

"It's getting more safe every day, Dad.  Look how dangerous
automobiling was at the start, and yet that's nearly perfect now,
though of course there'll always be accidents.  But I won't go in
for this thing, Dad, if you really don't want me to."

"Well, I won't say no, and I'll not say yes--at least not just yet,"
said Mr. Hamilton slowly.  "I want to think it over, have a talk
with some of these 'birdmen' as you call them, and then you and I'll
consider it together, Dick.  That's why I came on.  I want to know
more about it before I make up my mind."

Mr. Hamilton became the guest of the colonel, as he had done on
several occasions before, and, in the following days, he made as
careful a study of aviation as was possible under the circumstances.
He also had several interviews with Mr. Vardon.

"Have you decided to let your son have an airship of his own?" the
colonel asked, when the millionaire announced that he would start
for New York the following morning.

"Well, I've been thinking pretty hard about the matter," was the
answer.  "I hardly know what to do.  I'm afraid it's only another
one of Dick's hare-brained ideas, and if he goes in for it, he'll
come a cropper.

"And, maybe, on the whole, it wouldn't be a bad idea to let him go
in for it, and make a fizzle of it.  It would be a good lesson to
him, though I would certainly regret, exceedingly, if he were even
slightly injured.

"On the other hand Dick is pretty lucky.  He may come out all right.
I suppose he'll go in and try to win some prizes at these aviation
meets they hold every once in a while."

"Yes, there are to be several," spoke the colonel.  "I heard
something about the government offering a big prize for a successful
trans-continental flight--from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but I
know nothing of the details."

"Well, I suppose Dick would be rash enough to try for that, if he
hears about it," murmured Mr. Hamilton.  "I guess, taking it on all
sides, that I'll let him have an airship, if only to prove that he
can't work it.  He needs a little toning down, most young chaps do,
I fancy.  I know I did when I was a lad.  Yes, if he makes a fizzle
of it, the lesson may be worth something to him--throwing his money
away on an airship.  But I'll give my consent."

And when Dick was told by his parent, not very enthusiastically,
that he might secure an aircraft, the young cadet's delight was
great.

"That's fine!" he cried, shaking hands heartily with his father.

"Well, I hope you succeed in flying your machine, when you get it,
but, as the Scotchman said, 'I have my doubts,'" said Mr. Hamilton,
grimly.

"Humph!" mused Dick later.  "Dad doesn't think much of me in the
aviator class, I guess.  But I'll go in for this thing now, if only
to show him that I can do it!  I've done harder stunts, and if the
Hamilton luck doesn't fail, I'll do this.  I'll make a long flight,
and put one over on dad again.  He thinks I can't do it--but I'll
show him I can!" exclaimed Dick, with sparkling eyes.

Dick communicated his father's decision to Paul and Innis.

"I'm going to have an airship!" he cried.  "It wasn't easy to get
dad's consent, but he gave it.  Now, how about you fellows coming
on a cruise in the clouds with me?"

"Say, how big a machine are you going to have?" Paul wanted to know.

"Well, my ideas are rather hazy yet," admitted the young
millionaire, "but if I can get it built, it's going to be one of
the biggest airships yet made.  We'll travel in style, if we travel
at all," he said, with a laugh.  "I'm thinking of having an aircraft
with some sort of enclosed cabin on it."

"Say, that will be quite an elaborate affair," commented Innis.

"The question is, will you fellows take a chance with me in it?"
asked Dick.

"Well, I guess so," responded Paul, slowly.

Innis nodded in rather a faint-hearted fashion.

"Now," said Dick, "I want to see--"

He was interrupted by shouts in the direction of the river.

"There she is!"

"She's floating down!"

"Let's get her!"

A number of cadets were thus crying out.

"Come on!" yelled Dick.  "Something's happened!  Maybe my motor-boat
is adrift!"



CHAPTER IV
THE ARMY AVIATORS


Dick, Paul and Innis set off at a quick pace toward the stream which
flowed at the foot of the broad expanse of green campus and parade
ground.  As they hurried on they were joined by other cadets in like
haste.

"What is it?" asked the young millionaire.

"Don't know," was the answer.  "Something happened on the river,
that's all I heard."

Dick and his chums were soon in a position to see for themselves,
and what they beheld was a curious sort of raft, with torn sails,
or so at least it seemed, floating down with the current.  Then, as
the waters swirled about the odd craft, a piece, like the tail of
some great fish, arose for a moment.

"What in the name of Gatling guns is it?" asked Paul, wonderingly.

"It's the airship!" cried Innis.  "My cousin's wrecked airship!  It
must have been stuck in the mud, or held by some snag, and now it's
come to the surface.  We ought to get it.  He'll want to save it.
Maybe he can use part of the engine again, and he's out of funds to
buy a new one, I know."

"Besides, he wants to see if it had been tampered with by someone
so as to bring about an accident," suggested Paul.

"We'll get it!" cried Dick.  "Come on!  In my motor-boat!"

The speedy watercraft was in readiness for a run, and the three
cadets, racing down to her, soon had the motor started and the bow
of the boat pointed to the floating airship.  The latter was moving
slowly from the force of the current, which was not rapid here.  The
affair of wings, struts, planes and machinery floated, half
submerged, and probably would not have sunk when the accident
occurred except that the great speed at which it was travelling
forced it below the surface, even as one can force under a piece of
wood.

But the wood rises, and the buoyant airship would have done the
same, perhaps, save for the fact that it had become caught.  Now it
was freed.

"Make this rope fast to it," directed Dick, as he guided his
motor-boat close to the airship.  "We'll tow it to the dock."

Paul and Innis undertook this part of the work, and in a few moments
the Mabel, Dick's boat, was headed toward shore, towing the wrecked
airship.  A crowd of the cadets awaited with interest the arrival.

When the Mabel had been made fast to the dock, other ropes were
attached to the aircraft that floated at her stern, and the wrecked
biplane was slowly hauled up the sloping bank of the stream.

"Some smash, that!"

"Look at the planes, all bent and twisted!"

"But the motor is all there!"

"Say, she's bigger than I thought she was!"

Thus the young cadets commented on the appearance of the craft as
it was hauled out.  Word had been sent to Mr. Vardon and his helper
to come and look at the salvaged wreck, and they were goon on the
scene, together with Larry Dexter, who, as usual, was always on hand
when there was a chance to get an item of news.

"I'll get another scoop out of this for my paper!" he exclaimed to
Dick.  "Then I guess I'd better be getting back to New York.  They
may want to send me on some other assignment, for it doesn't look
as though I'd do any more flying through the air in that machine."

"Say, don't be in too much of a hurry to go away," remarked Dick,
as he ceased from pulling on the rope attached to the wrecked
airship.

"Why not?" asked Larry.  "What do you mean?"

"Well, you're not on any regular news stunt just now; are you?"
inquired Dick, of the young reporter.  "That is, you don't have to
report back to the office at any special time."

"No," replied Larry.  "I'm a sort of free lance.  I'm supposed to
be learning how to run an airship so I can qualify, and get a
license, and be able to help out the paper on such a stunt if they
need me.  They assigned me to this Mr. Vardon because it looked as
though he had a good thing.  Now that it's busted I suppose I'll be
sent out with some other aviator, and I'd better be getting back to
New York and find out what the paper wants me to do."

"Well, as I said, don't be in too much of a hurry," went on Dick
with a smile.

"You talk and act as though there was something in the wind,"
remarked Larry.

"There is, and there's going to be something more in the wind soon,
or, rather, in the air," said Dick. "I might as well tell you, I'm
going to have an airship, and--"

"You are!" interrupted Larry.  "Good for you! I'll give you a good
write-up when you make your first flight."

"I wasn't thinking so much of that," proceeded the young
millionaire.  "But when I do get my airship I'd like to have you
make some flights with me.  That might serve your end as well as
going with some other aviator, and you could be getting in the
practice that your paper wants for you."

"Fine and dandy!" cried Larry.  "I'm with you, Dick.  I'll send off
a wire at once, and let the managing editor know I'm going to get
right on the flying job again.  This will be great!"

"I don't know that there'll be such an awful lot of news in it at
first," went on Dick, "for I've got to learn this art of flying,
and I don't expect to do any hair-raising stunts right off the reel.

"But, Larry, there may be other news for you around this Academy
soon."

"Real news?"

"Yes.  You probably heard what Mr. Vardon said about his machine
being tampered with."

"I sure did.  And I think the same thing myself.  It worked to
perfection the day before, and then, all at once, she turned turtle.
The gyroscope equilibrizer must have broken."

"Well, you can see what happened, for we've got her out of the water
now," said Dick.  "And there may be more news when the army aviators
arrive."

"Are they coming here?  I hadn't heard.  I've been so busy getting
straightened out after my plunge into the river."

"Yes, they're coming here to give us instructions, and there may be
all sorts of stunts pulled off.  So you'd better stick."

"I will, thanks.  But I'm mostly interested in your airship.  It
sure will be great to take a flight with you.  But there's Mr.
Vardon.  I want to hear what he says."

The aviator, and his helper, who had almost fully recovered from
their narrow escape from death, were carefully examining the airship
which was now hauled out on a level spot in the campus, just above
the river bank.  Eagerly the cadets crowded around the machine.

"Come here, Grit!" called Dick to his prize bulldog.  "First you
know someone will step on you, and you'll just naturally take a
piece out of his leg.  You don't belong in a crowd."

Grit came at the word of command, and Dick, slipping on the leash,
gave the animal in charge of one of the orderlies to be taken to
the stable.  Grit whined and barked in protest at being separated
from his master, but Dick wanted no accidents.

"Do you find anything wrong?" asked Innis of his cousin, as the
latter went carefully over each part of the wrecked airship.

"Well, it's hard to say, on account of there being so many broken
places," was the answer.  "The engine is not as badly smashed as I
expected, but it will take some time to examine and test the
gyroscope attachment.  I shall remove it and set it up separately."

"Well, it's my opinion that it was monkeyed with, and done on
purpose, too!" declared Jack Butt.  "And I could almost name the
fellow who did it.  He was--"

"Hush!  No names, if you please," interrupted the aviator.  "We will
investigate first."

"All right, sir!  Just as you say," grudgingly agreed the other.
"But if ever I get my hands on him--!"

Jack Butt looked rather vindictive, and probably with good reason.
For had he not been near to death; and, as he thought, through the
evil work of some enemy.

The wrecked aircraft was hauled to one of the barrack sheds, which
Mr. Vardon announced would be his temporary workshop for possible
repairs.

The rest of that day, and all of the next, was spent by Mr. Vardon
in taking his wrecked machine apart, saving that which could be used
again, and looking particularly for defects in the gyroscope
stabilizer, or equilibrizer.  Larry and Jack Butt helped at this
work, and Dick, and the other cadets, spent as much time as they
could from their lessons and drills watching the operations.

For the students were much interested in aviation, and, now that it
was known that the army aviators were to come to Kentfield, and that
Dick Hamilton, one of the best liked of the cadets, was to have a
big airship of his own, many who had said they would never make a
flight, were changing their minds.

It was one afternoon, about a week following the wrecking of Mr.
Vardon's machine, that, as the cadets in their natty uniforms were
going through the last drill of the day, a peculiar sound was heard
in the air over the parade ground.

There was a humming and popping, a throbbing moan, as it were, and
despite the fact that the orders were "eyes front!" most of the
cadets looked up.

And they saw, soaring downward toward the campus which made an ideal
landing spot, two big aircraft.

"The army aviators!" someone cried, nor was there any rebuke from
the officers.  "The army aviators!"

"At ease!" came the order, for the commandant realized that the
students could hardly be expected to stand at attention when there
was the chance to see an airship land.

Then a few seconds later, the two craft came gently down to the
ground, undulating until they could drop as lightly as a boy's kite.
And, as they came to a stop with the application of the drag brake,
after rolling a short distance on the bicycle wheels, the craft were
surrounded by the eager cadets.



CHAPTER V
SUSPICIONS


Casting aside the straps that bound them to their machines, the army
aviators leaped lightly from their seats.  The big propellers, from
which the power had been cut off, as the birdmen started to volplane
to the ground, ceased revolving, and the hum and roar of the
powerful motors was no more heard.

In their big, leather helmets, and leather jackets, and with their
enormous goggles on, the birdmen looked like anything but
spick-and-span soldiers of Uncle Sam.  But dress in the army has
undergone a radical change.  The "fuss and feathers" are gradually
disappearing, and utility is the word.  It was so in regard to the
aviators.  They were not hampered by uniforms.

"Kentfield Military Academy?" inquired one of the officers,
evidently in command.  He looked about for someone in authority.

"Kentfield Academy, sir," replied Colonel Masterly who had come up.
"I am in charge here," and he introduced himself.  The army man, who
wore a captain's shoulder straps, saluted and remarked:

"I am Captain Grantly, in charge.  That is Captain Wakefield, in
the other machine.  With him is Lieutenant McBride, and my companion
is Lieutenant Larson.  I presume you expected us?"

"Oh, yes," said Colonel Masterly, as he shook hands with the
visitors.  "I'm sure we are all glad to see you."

Dick and his chums looked on with interest.  The army aviators
seemed efficient and pleasant men--that is all but one.  The first
sight he had of the face of Lieutenant Larson, after the latter had
removed his protecting helmet and goggles, made Dick say to himself:

"That fellow will bear watching!  I don't like the look in his
eyes."

But Dick said nothing of this to Paul or Innis.  He made up his mind
he would learn their impressions later.

"We thought we might as well come on in the machines, as to have
them taken down, shipped here, and then have to assemble them again,
would take too much time," went on Captain Grantly.  "Though we
expect, later, to give your students a practical demonstration in
how the biplanes are put together, so they may understand something
of how to make repairs.

"We came on from the nearest army aviation grounds, and had a most
successful flight.  I must send back word to Major Dalton."

"Our telephone, or telegraph service, is at your disposal," said
Colonel Masterly.  "If you will come with me--"

"Excuse me, but we carry with us our own means of communication,"
said Captain Grantly with a smile.  "We are going on the assumption,
constantly, that we are in an enemy's country.

"Consequently we go prepared as though there were a state of war.
We shall communicate with our base by means of wireless."

"I am afraid we can't accommodate you there," went on the head of
the military school.  "We are installing a wireless outfit, but it
is not yet completed," the colonel said.

"Oh, we carry our own!" was the unexpected retort.  "Lieutenant
Larson, if you and Lieutenant McBride will get the balloon ready,
Captain Wakefield and myself will work out the cipher dispatch, and
send it.

"We use a code in our wireless," he went on to explain, "and it
takes a few minutes to make up the message."

"But I heard you speak of a balloon," said Colonel Masterly.  "I
don't see how you carry one on your machine."

"Here it is," was the answer, and a deflated rubberized silk bag
was produced from a locker back of the pilot's seat.  "This is the
latest idea in airship wireless," went on Captain Grantly, as he
directed the lieutenants to get out the rest of the apparatus.  "We
carry with us a deflated balloon, which will contain about two
hundred cubic yards of lifting gas.  The gas itself, greatly
compressed, is in this cylinder.  There's enough for several
chargings.

"We fill the balloon, and attach to it our aerial wires.  The
balloon takes them up about four hundred feet--the wires weigh about
twenty pounds, I might say.  Then we carry a light sending
instrument.  It has a considerable range, though we can receive
messages from a much greater distance than we can send, as our force
for a sending current is limited."

As he was talking the others were working, and the cadets looked on
interestedly.  The drill had been abandoned, and officers and
students crowded up near the army aviators to see what was going
on.

With a sharp hiss the compressed gas rushed from the containing
cylinder into the deflated balloon.  The silken sides puffed out,
losing their wrinkles.  The balloon gradually assumed larger
proportions.

"Ready with the wires?" asked Captain Grantly.

"All ready, sir," replied Lieutenant Larson.  Dick now heard him
speak for the first time, and did not like his voice.  There are
some persons who make a bad impression on you at the first meeting.
Often this may he unjustified, but Dick's first impressions were
seldom wrong.

The wires, forming the wireless aerial, were carried up on two light
spreaders, hanging down from a network that went over the balloon
bag.  From the aerials depended the wires that were attached to the
receiving and sending apparatus.  These wires were on a reel, and
would he uncoiled as the balloon arose.  The earth-end would be
attached to the telephone receivers and to the apparatus, consisting
of a spark-gap wheel and other instruments designed to send into
space the electrical impulses that could he broken up into dots,
dashes and spaces, spelling out words according to the Morse or
Continental code--whichever was used.

Captain Grantly looked over everything.  His assistants signified
that every connection was made.

"Send her up," ordered the commander, and as the catch, holding the
balloon, was released the spherical bag of gas shot into the air,
carrying with it the aerials, and unreeling the connecting wires.

Quickly it rose to nearly five hundred feet, and, when it had been
anchored, all was soon in readiness.

Meanwhile a code dispatch had been written out, and as it was handed
to Captain Wakefield, who was to operate the wireless, he began
depressing the key that made and broke the electrical current.  The
current itself came from a small, but powerful, storage battery, and
it had been switched on. The current also set in motion a toothed
wheel of brass.  This wheel revolved on its axis with the points,
or teeth, passing rapidly in front of a platinum contact point.

As each tooth thus came in opposition to the point, a blue spark of
electricity would shoot out with a vicious snap; that is if the
connection key were pressed down.  If the key were not depressed no
current flowed.

I presume most of you understand how the wireless works, so I will
not give you a complete description save to say that it is just like
a telegraph system, in fundamentals.  The only difference is that
no connecting metallic wires are needed between stations.

A group of wires in parallels, called "aerials," are hung in the
air at one point, or station, and a similar set is suspended at the
other station.  The electrical current jumps through the air from
one group of wires to the other, without being directly connected,
hence the name "wireless," though really some wires are used.

The electrical impulse can be sent for thousands of miles through
the air, without any directly connecting wires.  And the method of
communication is by means of dots, dashes and spaces.

You have doubtless heard the railroad or other telegraph instruments
clicking.  You can hold your table knife blade between two tines of
your fork, and imitate the sound of the telegraph very easily.

If you move your knife blade up and down once, quickly, that will
represent a dot.  If you move it more slowly, holding it down for
a moment, that would be a dash.  A space would be the interval
between a dot and a dash, or between two dots or two dashes.

Thus, by combinations of dots, dashes and spaces, the letters of
the alphabet may be made and words spelled out. For instance a dot
and a dash is "A."

In telegraphing, of course, the operator listens to the clicking of
the brass sounder in front of him on the desk.  But in wireless the
electrical waves, or current received, is so weak that it would not
operate the sounder.  So a delicate telephone receiver is used.
This is connected to the receiving wires, and as the sender at his
station, perhaps a thousand miles away, presses down his key, and
allows it to come up, thus making dots, dashes and spaces,
corresponding clicks are made in the telephone receiver, at the ear
of the other operator.

It takes skill to thus listen to the faint clicks that may be
spelled out into words, but the operators are very skillful.  In
sending messages a very high tension current is needed, as most of
it is wasted, leaping through the air as it does.  So that though
the clicks may sound very loud at the sending apparatus, and the
blue sparks be very bright, still only faint clicks can be heard in
the head-telephone receiver at the other end.

"You may send," directed Captain Grantly to Captain Wakefield, and
the blue sparks shot out in a dazzling succession, as the spiked
wheel spun around.  This was kept up for some little time, after the
receiving operator at the army headquarters had signified that he
was at attention.  Then came a period of silence.  Captain Wakefield
was receiving a message through space, but he alone could hear this
through the telephone receiver.

He wrote it out in the cipher code, and soon it was translated.

"I informed them that we had arrived safely," said Captain Grantly
to Colonel Masterly, "and they have informed me that we are to
remain here until further notice, instructing your cadets in the
use of the aircraft."

"And we are very glad to have you here," replied the commandant of
Kentfield.  "If you will come with me I will assign you to
quarters."

"We had better put away our biplanes, and haul down our wireless
outfit," suggested Captain Grantly.

"Allow me to assign some of the cadets to help you," suggested the
colonel, and this offer being accepted, Dick, to his delight, was
one of those detailed, as were Innis and Paul.

Giving his instructions to the two lieutenants, Captain Grantly,
with the junior captain, accompanied Colonel Masterly to the main
buildings of the Academy.

"Well, let's dig in, and get through with this job," suggested
Lieutenant Larson, in surly tones to his companion.  "Then I'm going
to ask for leave and go to town.  I'm tired."

"So am I, but we've got to tighten up some of those guy wires.  They
are loose and need attention.  They might order a flight any time,"
his fellow lieutenant said.

"Well, you can stay and tighten 'em if you like.  I'm not," was the
growling retort.  "I'm sick of this business anyhow!  Let some of
the kids do the work."

"They don't know how," was the good-natured answer of Lieutenant
McBride.

"There is a professional aviator here now," said Dick, as he
recalled Mr. Vardon.  "We might get him to help you."

"I don't care," said Lieutenant Larson, as he began hauling down
the suspended balloon.  "I only know I'm sick of so much work.  I
think I'll go back into the artillery."

Dick and his chums naturally did not care much for the surly
soldier, but they liked Lieutenant McBride at once.  He smilingly
told them what to do, and the boys helped to push the machines to
a shed that had been set aside for them.  The wireless apparatus
was taken apart and stored away, the gas being let out of the
balloon.

The work was almost finished, when Larry Dexter, with Mr. Vardon
and the latter's helper, Jack, came across to the sheds.  They had
come to see the army airships.

By this time Lieutenant Larson had finished what he considered was
his share of the work, and was on his way to get a brief leave of
absence from his captain.  At the entrance to the shed he came face
to face with Mr. Vardon and Jack.

"Oh, so you're the professional aviator they spoke of," said Larson,
with a sneer in his tone.

"Yes, I'm here," replied Mr. Vardon, quietly.  "I did not expect to
see you here, though."

"The surprise is mutual," mocked the other.  "I read about your
failure.  I suppose now, you will quit fooling with that gyroscope
of yours, and give my method a trial."

"I never will.  I am convinced that I am right, and that you are
wrong."

"You're foolish," was the retort.

Jack Butt stepped forward and whispered in the ear of his employer,
so that at least Dick heard what he said.

"I believe HE did it!" were the tense words of the machinist.



CHAPTER VI
DICK'S FIRST FLIGHT


Mr. Vardon gave his helper a quick and warning glance.

"Hush!" he exclaimed, as he looked to see if Lieutenant Larson had
heard what Jack had said.  But the army man evidently had not.  He
gave the machinist a glance, however, that was not the most pleasant
in the world.  It was evident that there was some feeling between
the two.  Dick wondered what it was, and what Jack's ominous words
meant.

Having put away the two biplanes, and requested the cadets to look
at them as much as they liked, but not to meddle with the apparatus,
the two lieutenants left the sheds, to report to their respective
captains.  Mr. Vardon and his helper remained with Dick and his
chums.

"Very fine machines," said the aviator.  "Compared to my poor pile
of junk, very fine machines indeed!"

"But part of yours is good; isn't it?" asked Dick.  "You can use
part of it, I should think."

"Very little," was the hopeless reply.  "The damage was worse than
I thought.  My gyroscope attachment is a total wreck, and it will
cost money to build a new one."

"Yes, and that gyroscope was tampered with before we started on this
last flight!" declared Jack, with conviction.  "And I'm sure HE did
it!" he added, pointing an accusing finger at the retreating form
of Lieutenant Larson.

"You must not say such things!" cried the aviator.  "You have no
proof!"

"I have all the proof I want as far as he is concerned," declared
Jack.  "Maybe he didn't intend to kill us, or hurt us, but he sure
did want to wreck the machine when he tampered with the gyroscope."

"What is the gyroscope?" asked Dick.

"It is an invention of mine, and one over which Lieutenant Larson
and I had some argument," said Mr. Vardon.

"You probably know," the aviator went on, while Dick, Paul, and
Innis, with several other cadets, listened interestedly, "you
probably know that one of the great problems of aviation is how to
keep a machine from turning turtle, or turning over, when it strikes
an unexpected current, or 'air pocket' in the upper regions.  Of
course a birdman may, by warping his wings, or changing the
elevation of his rudder, come out safely, but there is always a
chance of danger or death.

"If there was some automatic arrangement by which the airship would
right itself, and take care of the unexpected tilting, there would
be practically no danger.

"I realized that as soon as I began making airships, and so I
devised what I call a gyroscope equilibrizer or stabilizer.  A
gyroscope, you know, is a heavy wheel, spinning at enormous speed,
on an anti-friction axle.  Its great speed tends to keep it in
stable equilibrium, and, if displaced by outside forces, it will
return to its original position.

"You have probably seen toy ones; a heavy lead wheel inside a ring.
When the wheel is spinning that, and the ring in which it is
contained, may be placed in almost any position, on a very slender
support and they will remain stable, or at rest.

"So I put a gyroscope on my airship, and I found that it kept the
machine in a state of equilibrium no matter what position we were
forced to take by reason of adverse currents.  Of course it was not
an entire success, but I was coming to that.

"In the biplane which was wrecked in the river I had my latest
gyroscope.  It seemed to be perfect, and, with Jack and Harry, I
had made a number of beautiful flights.  I even flew alone upside
down, and had no trouble.

"Before that I had made the acquaintance of Lieutenant Larson, who
is also an expert aviator.  He worked for me before he went in the
army.  He had his own ideas about equilibrium, and his plan, which
he wanted me to adopt, consists of tubes of mercury that can
automatically be tilted at different angles.  I do not believe they
will ever work, and I told him so.  I refused to use them, and he
and I parted, not the best of friends.  He wanted his invention
exploited, but I refused to try it, as I thought it dangerous.

"When my gyroscope worked fairly well, I presume Lieutenant Larson
was professionally jealous.  At any rate he, left me, and I am glad
of it."

"But he was around our workshop just before we made this last
flight!" insisted Jack.  "He came in pretending he had left some of
his important drawings behind when he went away, but I noticed that
he hung around the airship a good bit.  I saw him looking at, and
running the gyroscope, and I'm sure he did something to it that
caused it to fail to work, and so wrecked us."

"You should not say such things," chided Mr. Vardon.

"Well, I believe it's true," insisted Jack.  "And you found
something wrong with the gyroscope, when you took it from the
airship; didn't you?"

"Yes, but that may have occurred in the wreck."

"No, that gyroscope began to act wrong before we started to fall,"
went on the helper.  "I noticed it, and I believe that mean
lieutenant monkeyed with it.  He wanted you to think your plans were
failures."

"I should dislike to believe that of anyone," spoke Mr. Vardon,
seriously.

"Well, I'm going to keep my eye on him," said Jack.  "He won't get
another chance at any of our machines."

It was a day or so after this conversation that Dick came upon his
chum Innis, talking to Mr. Vardon.  They seemed very much in
earnest, and at Dick's approach the aviator strolled away.  Innis
stood regarding him a moment, and remarked, in a low tone:

"Poor chap!"

"What's the trouble?" asked Dick, quickly.  "Has anything happened
to him?"

"Yes, Dick, a whole lot of things!" replied Innis earnestly.  "I
feel mighty sorry for him.  You know how his airship was wrecked,
but that's only one of his troubles.  He's practically lost every
cent he has in the world, and he's deeply in debt, for he borrowed
money to build his aircraft, and perfect his stabilizer.  He's just
about down and out, poor chap, and he feels mighty blue, I can tell
you.

"When you came up I was just trying to figure out a way to help him.
But I don't see how I can.  My dad hasn't any too much money
himself, since some of his investments failed, or he'd pull my
cousin out of this hole.  But, as it is, I don't see what's to be
done. And his gyroscope stabilizer will work, too, only he won't get
a chance to prove it, now."

Dick was silent a moment, and then he asked:

"Say, Innis, would it help your cousin any if he had a contract to
build airships, and could install his stabilizer on one of them?"

"Why, of course it would, Dick!  That would be just the very thing
he'd want.  But who'd give him such a contract, especially after
this accident?  And he hasn't any money to back up his claims.  In
fact he's a bankrupt.  Nobody would give him such a chance."

"Yes, I think someone would," said Dick, quietly.

"Who?" asked Innis, quickly.

"I would.  It's this way," the young millionaire went on.  "I've
fully made up my mind to have an airship, since dad consented,
though I believe he's secretly laughing at me.  Now the kind of
craft I want doesn't come ready made--it will have to be built to
order.

"So why can't I contract with your cousin to make my airship for
me?  I'd be willing to pay all expenses and whatever his services
were worth, so he could make some money that way.  I'd a good deal
rather give him a chance on the work, than some stranger.  Besides,
I like his idea of a gyroscope, and, even if he doesn't want to
build my craft, I'd like to arrange to buy one of his stabilizers.
Do yon think he would like to take the contract from me?"

"Do I?" cried Innis earnestly.  "Say, he'll jump at the chance!
You try him, and see!  Say, this is fine of you, old man!"

"Oh, nonsense!  It isn't anything of the sort," protested Dick.
"I've got to have somebody build my airship, and I'd rather it would
be your cousin than anyone else."

"It's fine and dandy!" Innis exclaimed.  "Come on; let's find him
and tell him.  He needs something to cheer him up, for he's got the
blues horribly.  Come along, Dick."

To say that Mr. Vardon was delighted to accept Dick's offer is
putting it mildly.  Yet he was not too demonstrative.

"This is the best news I've heard in a long while," he said.  "I
guess my cousin has told you I'm pretty badly embarrassed
financially," he added.

"Yes," assented Dick.  "Well, I happen to have plenty of money,
through no fault of my own, and we'll do this airship business up
properly.

"I'd like you to get started at it as soon as you can, and as there
will be preliminary expenses, I'm going to advance you some cash.
You'll have to order certain parts made up, won't you?" he asked.

"Yes, I presume so," agreed the aviator.

"And, of course, I'll want your stabilizer on my craft."

"That's very good of you to say. It will give me a fine chance to
demonstrate it," said Mr. Vardon.

Later in the day, Dick, his chums, the aviator and Larry Dexter were
talking about some of the flights made in the army machines that
afternoon.

"Can you arrange to have a wireless outfit on my airship?" asked
the young millionaire, as an exchange of wireless talk had been a
feature of the exhibition that day.

"Oh, yes, that can easily be done," assented the birdman.

"Say, you're going to have a fine outfit!" complimented Paul.

"Might as well have a good one while I'm at it," answered Dick, with
a laugh.  "I've got to make good on dad's account anyhow.  I can't
stand him laughing at me.  I wish I had my airship now."

"I'll start building it, soon," promised Mr. Vardon.

"I'll want it in time for the summer vacation," went on Dick.  "I'm
going to spend a lot of time in the air."

"Why don't you make a try for the prize?" suggested Mr. Vardon.

"What prize?" Dick wanted to know.

"Why the United States Government, to increase interest in airship
navigation, and construction, especially for army purposes, has
offered a prize of twenty thousand dollars for the first flight from
the Atlantic to the Pacific, or from New York to San Francisco, by
an airship carrying at least three persons.  Only two landings are
allowed during the flight, to take on gasolene, or make repairs.
Why don't you try for that?"

"What, me try for that prize in the first airship I ever owned!"
exclaimed Dick.  "I wouldn't have the nerve!  I guess the government
doesn't want amateurs in the trans-continental flight."

"It doesn't make a bit of difference," declared Mr. Vardon.  "It is
going to be an open competition.  And, let me tell you, amateurs
have done as much, if not more, than the professionals, to advance
and improve aviation.  Why, as a matter of fact, we're all amateurs.
We are learning something new every day.  The art, or business, of
flying is too new to have in it anything but amateurs.  Don't let
that stop you, Dick."

"Well, I'll think about it," said the young millionaire.

Dick obtained some detailed information, and entry blanks for the
government prize contest, and a little later announced to his chums:

"Well, fellows, in view of what Mr. Vardon said about amateurs,
maybe I will have a try for that prize.  It will give us an object,
instead of merely flying aimlessly about.  And if I should win,
wouldn't I have the laugh on dad!  Yes, I'll make a try for it!" he
added.

"And we'll help you!" cried Paul.

"And I'll make a good story of it," promised Larry Dexter.

"I guess we'd better get the airship first," suggested Innis, dryly.

"Oh, I'll look after that," promised his aviator cousin.

The days that followed were busy ones at Kentfield Academy.  A
course of instruction was arranged concerning the making and flying
of airships.  In the former Mr. Vardon was the chief lecturer, as
he had had more practical experience in building the aircraft than
had either of the army captains.

But the army men had made a study of air currents, and the
management of biplanes and monoplanes, and were equal to Mr. Vardon
in this respect.  And so the cadets looked on and listened, watching
the army aviators test their machines, run them over the starting
ground, and finally, by a tilting of the rudders, send the machines
up like big birds.

"Young gentlemen," announced Colonel Masterly after chapel exercises
one morning, "I have an important announcement to make.  You have
been studying aviation for some time now, and it is necessary, if
you keep on with it, to have practical work.  Therefore we have
decided that, taking turns, those cadets in this course will make
a flight, beginning with today.  You will go up, one in each
aeroplane, with the two army officers, who will look after and
instruct you.

"I will now call for volunteers to make the first flight.  Don't
all speak at once," added the colonel, with a grim smile.

There was a moment of breathless pause, and then, from where he sat,
Dick arose.  With a salute he said:

"I'll volunteer, sir."

"Good!" came in whispered comment that the colonel did not try to
check.

"And I'll also volunteer!" spoke Innis, quickly.

"So will I!" added Paul, and then several more announced their
intention.

That afternoon came around very quickly, it seemed.  Out on the
starting ground were the two big machines, being looked over by the
army men.  The cadets were drawn up in files.

"All ready, sir," announced Captain Grantly to Major Rockford.  "The
first cadet will take his place."

"Dick Hamilton!" called the commandant, and our hero stepped forward
for his first airship flight.



CHAPTER VII
A QUEER LANDING


"Now don't get nervous," said Captain Grantly to Dick, with a grim
smile, as the young millionaire took his seat in the place provided
for the third occupant of the biplane.

"Well, I'll try my best," answered Dick, smiling ruefully.  "Am I
to do anything?"

"Not a thing," Captain Grantly assured him.  "Just sit still; that's
all."

Dick rather wished he could have gone in the other machine, for he
had no liking for the surly lieutenant with the captain.  But Dick
had been assigned to this craft, and military rules prevailed at
Kentfield.  You did as you were told without question.

Dick took his place, and watched with interest the operations of
Captain Grantly and his lieutenant.  Whatever one thought of the
latter, personally, it must be admitted that he knew his business
when it came to airships.  In some matters even his superior
officer, Captain Grantley, deferred to the judgment of Larson.

"You won't have to do a thing," went on the lieutenant to Dick.
"Just sit still, and, above all, no matter what happens, don't touch
any of the wheels or levers."

"No, that might wreck us," added the captain.

"We'll manipulate the machine, at the same time telling you, and
showing you, how to do it.  In time you will run it yourself, with
us looking on, and I believe it is the intention of Colonel Masterly
to have you cadets finally operate a machine on your own
responsibility."

"I hope I may learn to do so," spoke Dick, for I'm going to have a
craft of my own."

"Are you indeed?" asked the captain, interestedly.  "It's rather an
expensive pleasure--not like automobiling."

"Well, luckily or not, I happen to have plenty of money," said Dick.
"I'm going to have quite a large machine built."

Was it fancy, or did Lieutenant Larson look at Dick with peculiar
meaning in his rather shifty eyes.  Dick, however, was too much
occupied in the coming flight to pay much attention to this.

"If you're going to have a machine, perhaps you're going to have a
try for the twenty thousand dollar prize," suggested Captain
Grantly, as he tested the gasolene and spark levers, and looked at
several turn-buckles which tightened the guy wires.

"Well, I have about decided to," answered Dick, looking over at the
other aircraft, in which Paul Drew was to make an ascent.

"Jove! I wish I had that chance!" exclaimed Larson. "I'm sure, with
my mercury balancer I could--"

"There you go again!" cried Captain Grantly.  "I tell you your idea
is all wrong about that balancer!  Wing warping is the only proper
way."

"But that isn't automatic, and what is needed is an automatic
balancer or equilibrizer," insisted the lieutenant.

"Well, we won't discuss it now," went on the captain.  "Are you all
ready, Mr. Hamilton?"

"All ready, yes, sir."

The captain and Lieutenant Larson took their places, one on either
side of Dick.  Some of the orderlies at the Academy had been
detailed to assist in the start, holding back on the biplane until
the engine had attained the necessary speed.

There was an arrangement whereby the machine could be held in leash,
as it were, by a rope, and when the necessary pressure developed
from the propeller blades, the rope could be loosed from the
aviator's seat.  But that attachment was not in use at Kentfield
then.

The powerful motor hummed and throbbed, for a muffler was
temporarily dispensed with on account of its weight.  Every
unnecessary ounce counts on an airship, as it is needful to carry
as much oil and gasolene as possible, and the weight given over to
a muffler could be more advantageously applied to gasolene, on the
smaller craft.

Faster and faster whirled the big blades, cutting through the air.
The captain kept his eyes on a balance scale, by which was
registered the pull of the propellers.

"That's enough!" he cried.  "Let her go!"

Dick felt the machine move slowly forward on the rubber tired
bicycle wheels over the grassy starting ground, gradually acquiring
speed before it would mount upward into the air.

Perhaps a word of explanation about airships may not be out of
place.  Those of you who know the principle on which they work, or
who have seen them, may skip this part if you wish.

The main difference between a balloon and an aeroplane, is that the
balloon is lighter than air, being filled with a very light gas,
which causes it to rise.

An aeroplane is heavier than air, and, in order to keep suspended,
must be constantly in motion.  The moment it stops moving forward
it begins to fall downward.

There are several kinds of airships, but the principle ones are
monoplanes and biplanes.  Mono means one, and monoplane has but one
set of "wings," being built much after the fashion of a bird.

A biplane, as the name indicates, consists of two sets of planes,
one above the other.  There are some triplanes, but they have not
been very successful, and there are some freak aeroplanes built with
as many as eight sets.

If you will scale a sheet of tin, or a thin, flat stone, or even a
slate from a roof, into the air, you will have the simplest form of
an aeroplane.  The stone, or tin, is heavier than the amount of air
it displaces, but it stays up for a comparatively long time because
it is in motion.  The moment the impulse you have given it by
throwing fails, then it begins to fall.

The engine, or motor, aboard an aeroplane keeps it constantly in
motion, and it glides along through the air, resting on the
atmosphere, by means of the planes or wings.

If you will take a clam shell, and, holding it with the concave side
toward the ground, scale it into the air, you will see it gradually
mount upward.  If you hold the convex side toward the ground and
throw it, you will see the clam shell curve downward.

That is the principle on which airships mount upward and descend
while in motion.  In a biplane there is either a forward or rear
deflecting rudder, as well as one for steering from side to side.
The latter works an the same principle as does the rudder of a boat
in the water.  If this rudder is bent to the right, the craft goes
to the right, because of the pressure of air or water on the rudder
twisted in that direction.  And if the rudder is deflected to the
left, the head of the craft takes that direction.

Just as the curve of a clam shell helps it to mount upward, so the
curve of the elevating or depressing rudder on an airship helps it
to go up or down.  If the rudder is inclined upward the aeroplane
shoots toward the clouds.  When the rudder is parallel to the plane
of the earth's surface, the airship flies in a straight line.  When
the rudder is tilted downward, down goes the craft.

I hope I have not wearied you with this description, but it was,
perhaps, needful, to enable those who have never seen an aeroplane
to understand the working principle.  One point more.  A gasolene
motor, very powerful, is used to whirl the wooden propeller blades
that shove the airship through the air, as the propeller of a motor-
boat shoves that craft through the water.

Faster and faster across the grassy ground went the biplane
containing Dick Hamilton and the army officers.  It was necessary
to get this "running start" to acquire enough momentum so that the
craft would rise, just as a heavy bird has sometimes to run along
the ground a few steps before its wings will take it up.

"Here we go!" suddenly exclaimed the captain, and as he raised the
elevating rudder the big craft slowly mounted on a slant.

Dick caught his breath sharply as he felt himself leaving the earth.
He had once gone up in a captive balloon at a fair, but then the
earth seemed sinking away beneath him. This time it seemed that he
was leaving the earth behind.

Higher and higher they went, and Dick could feel the strong wind in
his face.  His eyes were protected by goggles, made of celluloid to
avoid accidents from broken glass in case of a fall, and on his head
he wore a heavy leather helmet, not unlike those used by football
players.  He was strapped to his seat, as were the others, in case
the machine should turn turtle.  The straps would then prevent them
from falling out, and give them a chance to right the craft.

For this can be done, and now some aviators practice plying upside
down to get used to doing it in case they have to by some accidental
shift of the wind.  Some of them can turn complete somersaults,
though this is mostly done in monoplanes, and seldom in a biplane,
which is much more stable in the air.

"Feel all right?" asked Captain Grantly of Dick.  He asked this,
but Dick could not hear a word, on account of the great noise of
the motor.  But he could read the officer's lip motions.

"Yes, I'm all right," the young millionaire nodded back.

He was surprised to find, that, after that first sinking sensation
at the pit of his stomach, he was not afraid.  He now felt a
glorious sense of elation and delight.

He was actually flying, or the next thing to it.

"We'll go a little higher," said the captain, as he elevated the
rudder a little more.  The aeroplane kept on ascending.  Dick looked
down.  He did not feel dizzy as he had half expected.  Far below him
were the buildings of Kentfield, and the green parade ground.  But
what were those things like little ants, crawling over the campus?

Why the cadets, of course!  They looked like flies, or specks.  Dick
was ready to laugh.

On a level keel they now darted ahead at greater speed as Lieutenant
Larson turned on more gasolene.  Then, when Dick had become a little
used to the novel sensation, they showed him how to work the
different levers.  The motor was controlled by spark and gasolene
exactly as is an automobile.  But there was no water radiator, the
engine being an up-to-date rotating one, and cooling in the air.
The use of the wing-warping devices, by which the alerons, or
wing-tips are "warped" to allow for "banking" in going around a
curve, were also explained to Dick by means of the levers
controlling them.

You know that a horse, a bicyclist, or a runner leans in toward the
centre of the circle in making a curve.  This is called "banking"
and is done to prevent the centrifugal force of motion from taking
one off in a straight line.  The same thing must be done in an
airship.  That is, it must be inclined at an angle in making a
curve.

And this is accomplished by means of bending down the tips of the
planes, pulling them to the desired position by means of long wires.
It can also he accomplished by small auxiliary planes, called
alerons, placed between the two larger, or main, planes.  There is
an aleron at the end of each main wing.

Straight ahead flew the army men and Dick, and then, when the cadet
was more used to it, they went around on a sharp curve.  It made the
young millionaire catch his breath, at first, for the airship seemed
to tilt at a dangerous angle.  But it was soon righted and
straightened out again.

Suddenly a shadow seemed to pass over Dick's head.  He looked up,
thinking it was a dark cloud, low down, but, to his surprise, it
was the other army craft flying above them.

"A race!" thought Dick, and he wondered how his chum Paul was
faring.

There was an impromptu race between the two aircraft, and then they
separated, neither one gaining much advantage.  Back and forth they
went, over the school grounds, and then in circles.  Dick was
rapidly acquiring knowledge of how to operate the big biplane.

"We'll go down now!" spoke the captain, though Dick could not hear
the words.  The young millionaire made up his mind that he would
have a muffler on his airship, and also more room to move about.
He intended to make rather a long flight.

The deflecting rudder was tilted downward, and the descent began.
They were some distance out from the Kentfield grounds now, but were
headed for them on a long slant.  Dick wondered if they would reach
them.

At a nod from the captain, Lieutenant Larson reached up and shut off
the motor.  The sudden silence was startling.

Dick understood what was to be done.  They were to glide, or as it
is called "volplane" (pronounced vol-pla-nay, with the accent on
the last syllable) to the ground.

"I hope we make it safely," mused Dick.  But it did not look as
though they had been near enough the landing place when the motor
was cut off.  Dick saw the two army men glance rather apprehensively
at one another.  Was something wrong?

Dick was sure of it a moment later when, as Captain Grantly pulled
the lever of the deflecting rudder toward him, there was a snapping,
breaking sound.

"Lost control!" cried the captain.  "Wire snapped!  Look out,
everybody!"

Dick wanted to jump, but he knew that would be rash, as they were
still some distance above the ground.

"Can't you guide her?" asked Larson.

"No!  We've got to land the best we can!" was the answer.

They were right over a little farm now, and seemed to be headed
directly for a small, low building.

"Something is going to smash!" thought Dick grimly.

The next moment the airship had come down on the roof of the low
farm building, crashing right through it, and a second later Dick
and his companions found themselves in the midst of a squealing lot
of pigs, that fairly rushed over them.



CHAPTER VIII
AT HAMILTON CORNERS


Instinctively, as he felt the airship falling, without being under
control, Dick had loosed the strap that held him to his seat.  This
advice had been given as one of the first instructions, to enable
the aviator to leap clear of the craft as it struck.

But, in this case the landing had been such a queer one that there
was no time for any of the three to do the latter.  Down on the roof
of the pig sty they had come, crashing through it, for the place was
old and rotten.

It was this very fact, however, that saved them from more serious
injuries than severe joltings.  The roof had collapsed, had broken
in the middle, and the squealing porkers were now running wild.
Most of them seemed to prefer the vicinity of the spot near where
the three aviators were now tumbled in a heap, having been thus
thrown by the concussion.

"Get out of here, you razor-back!" cried Dick, as a pig fairly
walked over him.  He managed to struggle to his feet, but another
pig took that, seemingly, as an invitation to dart between the legs
of the young millionaire, and upset him.

Dick fell directly back on the form of Captain Grantly, who grunted
at the impact.  Then, as Lieutenant Larson tried to get up, he, too,
was bowled over by a rush of some more pigs.

But the two army officers, and Dick, were football players, and they
knew how to take a fall, so were not harmed.  Fortunately they had
been tossed out on a grassy part of the pen, and away from the muddy
slough where the porkers were in the habit of wallowing.

"Get out, you brutes!" cried Dick, striking at the pigs with a part
of one of the pen roof boards.  Then, with the army men to help him,
he succeeded in driving the swine out of their way.  This done, the
aviators looked at one another and "took an account of stock."

"Are you hurt?" asked the captain of Dick, grimly.

"No, only bruised a bit.  As the old lady said of the train that
came to a sudden halt because of a collision, 'do you always land
this way?'"

"No, indeed!" exclaimed the captain, as he looked at the ruin of
the shed, amid which the airship was.  "This is my first accident
of this kind.  The lever of the vertical rudder snapped, and I
couldn't control her.  Luckily the roof was rotten, or we might have
smashed everything."

"As it is, nothing seems to be much damaged," said the lieutenant.
"I wonder if we can fly back?"

"It is doubtful," the captain answered.  "We'll try and get her out,
first."

As they were climbing over the pile of broken boards to get a view
of the aeroplane, an excited farmer came rushing out of a barn, a
short distance away.

"Hey, what do you fellers mean--smashing down out of the clouds,
bustin' up my pig pen, and scatterin' 'em to the four winds?" he
yelled.  "I'll have th' law on you for this!  I'll make you pay
damages!  You killed a lot of my pigs, I reckon!"

"I don't see any dead ones," spoke the captain, calmly.  "It was an
accident."

"That's what them autermobile fellers says when they run over my
chickens," snarled the unpleasant farmer.  "But they has t' pay for
'em all the same."

"And we are willing to pay you anything in reason," said the
Captain.  "I don't believe we killed any of your pigs, however.
But the shed was so rotten it was ready to fall down of itself,
which was a good thing for us.  How much do you want?"

"Well, I want a hundred dollars--that's what I want."

"The shed, when new, wasn't worth a quarter of that."

"I don't care!" snapped the farmer.  "That's my price.  Some of my
pigs may be lost for all I know, and pork's goin' t' be high this
year.  I want a hundred dollars, or you don't take your old shebang
offen my premises.  I'll hold it till you pay me."

The army officers looked serious at this.  Clearly the farmer had
a right to damages, but a hundred dollars was excessive.

"I'll give you fifty, cash," said Dick, as he pulled out a roll of
bills.  "Will that satisfy you?"

The farmer's eyes gleamed at the sight of the money.  And, as Dick
looked at his companions, he caught a greedy glint in the eyes of
Lieutenant Larson.

"It's wuth a hundred; smashin' my shed, an' all the trouble you've
caused me," grumbled the farmer.  "But I'll take sixty."

"No you won't.  You'll take fifty or you can bring a lawsuit,"
replied Dick, sharply.  "I guess you know who I am.  I'm Hamilton,
from the Kentfield Academy.  Colonel Masterly buys some garden stuff
of you, and if I tell him--"

"Oh, shucks, give me the fifty!" cried the farmer, eagerly, as he
held out his hand for the money.  "And don't you try any more tricks
like that ag'in!"

"We haven't any desire to," said Captain Grantly.  "Now we'll see
if we can navigate."

"And I've got t' see if I kin get them pigs together," grumbled the
farmer, as he pocketed Dick's money.

"You can put in a requisition for this, I suppose," suggested the
lieutenant.  "I don't know whether Uncle Sam ought to reimburse you,
or we, personally."

"Don't mention it!" exclaimed Dick.  "I'm always willing to pay for
damages, though I suppose if my Uncle Ezra Larabee was here he'd
haggle with that farmer and make him throw in a pig or two for
luck."

"Who is Uncle Ezra Larabee?" asked the lieutenant, curiously.

"A relative of mine," answered Dick.  "Rather 'close' as regards
money."

"Is he rich?"

"Yes, quite wealthy, but you'd never know it.  He lives in
Dankville, and he and my dog Grit never can get along together.  He
hates Grit and I guess Grit doesn't love him.  But shall we try to
get this machine out of the shed?"

"I guess it's the best thing to do, now that the pigs are out of
the way," agreed the captain.

And, while the farmer and his hired man were chasing after the
escaped pigs, the army officers and Dick began extricating the
airship.  The splintered boards of the pig-shed were pulled to one
side, and then it was seen that, aside from a broken landing wheel,
little damage had been done.  The engine was not harmed in the least
and the snapped wire that had prevented the rudder being set to make
a proper landing, was easy to splice.

"And, as we've got a spare wheel we can put that on and soon start
back," said the lieutenant.

"Say, this is getting off better than even in an automobile
accident," spoke Dick, with a laugh.  "I didn't know you carried
spare parts."

"We do the wheels, as they are very light," the captain said.  "Now
let's roll her out and see what we can do."

The smashed wheel was removed from the axle, and the spare one
substituted. The broken wire was repaired and the aeroplane was now
about the same as before.  It was rolled to a level place, and the
motor tested.  It ran perfectly.

The farmer, having collected all his pigs, and perhaps feeling
joyful because of the fifty dollars in his pocket, agreed to "hold
back" on the craft, to steady it until the necessary speed of the
motor had been attained.  His hired man helped him.

Just as the captain was about to give the word to "let go" the other
airship was seen coming to look for the missing one.  But there was
now no need of assistance, and, a moment later, Dick and his
companions again arose in the air.

A quick return was made to the Academy, those in the other airship
being informed, by a signal, that all was now right.  When the story
of the queer landing was told, Dick was regarded as a hero by his
companions.

"Just think!" complained Paul, whimsically, "your first trip, and
you have an accident and you don't get so much as a scratch."

"Yes, but I got run over and knocked down by a pig," laughed Dick.
"I'll take the scratches, please.  No more pigs!"

"And after that, are you still going to build an airship?" asked
Innis.

"I sure am!  It's the greatest sensation in the world--aviation!
I wouldn't miss it for a fortune.  And I'm going to pull down that
twenty thousand dollar prize; don't forget that, fellows."

"Good luck!" wished Paul.

In the days that followed there were many more airship flights, but
no accidents of moment.  Dick went up again several times, and at
last was allowed to run the aeroplane himself, with the captain and
lieutenant to coach him.  Then only one officer went along, another
cadet being taken up with Dick.

And finally the day came when Dick was qualified to take the craft
up alone, with two other cadets.  He had graduated as a pilot of
the air, and properly proud he was of the honor.

"All you want now is experience," said Captain Grantly, as Dick came
back after a successful flight with Paul and Innis.  "And that takes
time."

Dick's two intimate chums also qualified as amateur pilots, and a
number of other cadets were equally successful.  The aviation course
at Kentfield was very popular.

Then came the end of the term, and the summer vacation was at hand.
The last drills and guard-mounts were held.  The graduation
exercises were finished in a "blaze of glory."  The Juniors gave a
gay dance, at which Dick and his chums met the pretty girls whom
they had seen at the dock that day.

"And now for Hamilton Corners!" cried the young millionaire, when
the Academy was formally closed for the term.  "I want you fellows
to come out with me, and watch my airship being built."

Mr. Vardon had found he could not build for Dick at Kentfield the
craft he wanted.  It would take too long, and there were not the
facilities.  So he and his helper went to Hamilton Corners, to do
the preliminary work.  Dick and his chums were to follow as soon as
school was over.  Larry Dexter went back to New York, but promised
to join Dick in time for the flight for the big government prize.

"Well, Dad, how are you?" cried Dick, as he greeted his father at
the family mansion in Hamilton Corners.

"Fine, my boy!  There's no use asking how YOU are, I can see you
are fine!"

"Did Vardon and Jack get here?  Have they started work?" Dick wanted
to know.

"Yes, I did just as you asked me to in your letter.  I let them have
the run of the place, and they've been busy ever since they came.
I hope you are successful, Dick, but, I have my doubts."

"I'll show you!" cried the cadet enthusiastically.



CHAPTER IX
UNCLE EZRA'S VISIT


Dick and his father had much to talk about concerning the airship.
Dick explained his plans, and described the new stabilizer.

"Well, now that you have explained it to me, I don't see but what
it may be possible," said Mr. Hamilton, after carefully considering
the matter.  "It isn't so much the expense, since you have your own
fortune, but, of course, there is the element of danger to be
considered."

"Well, there's danger in anything," agreed Dick.  "But I think I
have a lucky streak in me,--after the way we came out of that
pig-pen accident," and he laughed.

"Yes, you were fortunate," conceded Mr. Hamilton.  "But, don't take
too many risks, my son.  Go in and win, if you can, but don't be
rash.  I am still from Missouri, and you've got to show me.  Now
I've got a lot of business to attend to, and so I'll have to leave
you to your own devices.  You say Paul and Innis are coming on?"

"Yes, they'll be here in a few days and stay until the airship is
completed.  Then they'll fly with me."

"Anybody else going?"

"Yes, Larry Dexter--you remember him?"

"Oh, sure!  The young reporter."

"And I think I'll take Mr. Vardon along.  We may need his help in
an emergency."

"A good idea.  Well, I wish you luck!"

A large barn on the Hamilton property had been set aside for the
use of the aviator and his men, for he had engaged several more
besides Jack Butt to hurry along the work on Dick's new aircraft.
The order had been placed for the motor, and that, it was promised,
would be ready in time.

Dick, having had lunch, went out to see how his airship was
progressing.  Grit raced here and there, glad to be back home again,
though he would probably miss the many horses and grooms at
Kentfield.  For Grit loved to be around the stables, and the
hostlers made much of him.

"How are you coming on?" asked the young millionaire, as he surveyed
the framework of the big craft that, he hoped, would carry him
across the continent and win for him the twenty thousand dollar
prize.

"Fine, Dick!" exclaimed Mr. Vardon.  "Everything is working out
well.  Come in and look.  You can get an idea of the machine now."

Dick Hamilton's airship was radically different from any craft
previously built, yet fundamentally, it was on the same principle
as a biplane.  But it was more than three times as large as the
average biplane, and was built in two sections.

That is there were four sets of double planes, or eight in all, and
between them was an enclosed cabin containing the motor, the various
controls, places to sleep and eat, the cabin also forming the
storage room for the oil, gasolene and other supplies.

This cabin was not yet built, but, as I have said, it would be
"amidship" if one may use that term concerning an airship.  Thus
the occupants would be protected from the elements, and could move
about in comfort, not being obliged to sit rigidly in a seat for
hours at a time.

"She's going to be pretty big," remarked Dick, as he walked about
the skeleton of his new craft.

"She has to be able to carry all you want to take in her," said the
aviator.  "But she'll be speedy for all of that, for the engine will
be very powerful."

"Will she be safe?" asked Dick.

"As safe as any airship.  I am going to incorporate in her my
gyroscope equilibrizer, or stabilizer, as you suggested."

"Oh, yes, I want that!" said Dick, in a decided tone.

"It is very good of you to allow me to demonstrate my patent on your
craft," the inventor said.  "It will be a fine thing for me if you
win the prize, and it is known that my stabilizer was aboard to aid
you," he said, with shining, eager eyes.

"Well, I'm only too glad I can help you in that small way," spoke
Dick.  "I'm sure your patent is a valuable one."

"And I am now positive that it will work properly," went on Mr.
Vardon.

"And I'll take precious good care that no sneak, like Larson, gets
a chance to tamper with it!" exclaimed Jack Butt.

"You must not make such positive statements," warned his chief.
"It may not have been Larson."

"Well, your machine was tampered with; wasn't it, just before we
sank into the river?"

"Yes, and that was what made us fall."

"Well, I'm sure Larson monkeyed with it, and no one can make me
believe anything else," said Jack, positively.  "If he comes around
here--"

"He isn't likely to," interrupted Dick.  "The army aviators were
sent to Texas, I believe, to give some demonstrations at a post
there."

"You never can tell where Larson will turn up," murmured Jack.

Dick was shown the progress of the work, and was consulted about
several small changes from the original, tentative plans.  He agreed
to them, and then, as it was only a question of waiting until his
craft was done, he decided to call on some of his friends at
Hamilton Corners.

Innis and Paul arrived in due season, and were delighted at the
sight of Dick's big, new aircraft, which, by the time they saw it,
had assumed more definite shape.  Mr. Vardon and his men had worked
rapidly.

"And that cabin is where we'll stay; is that it?" asked Paul, as he
looked at the framework.

"That's to be our quarters," answered the young millionaire.

Paul was looking carefully on all sides of it.

"Something missing?" asked Dick, noting his chum's anxiety.

"I was looking for the fire escape."

"Fire escape!" cried Dick.  "What in the world would you do with a
fire escape on an airship?"

"Well, you're going to carry a lot of gasolene, you say.  If that
gets afire we'll want to escape; won't we?  I suggest a sort of rope
ladder, that can be uncoiled and let down to the ground.  That might
answer."

"Oh, slosh!" cried Dick.  "There's going to be no fire aboard the--
say, fellows, I haven't named her yet!  I wonder what I'd better
call her?

"Call her the Abaris," suggested Innis, "though he wasn't a lady."

"Who was he?" asked Dick.  "That name sounds well."

"Abaris, if you will look in the back of your dictionary, you will
note was a Scythian priest of Apollo," said Innis, with a
patronizing air at his display of knowledge.  "He is said to have
ridden through the air on an arrow.  Isn't that a good name for your
craft, Dick?"

"It sure is.  I'll christen her Abaris as soon as she's ready to
launch.  Good idea, Innis."

"Oh, I'm full of 'em," boasted the cadet, strutting about.

"You're full of conceit--that's what you are," laughed Paul.

Suddenly there came a menacing growl from Grit, who was outside the
airship shed, and Dick called a warning.

"Who's there?" he asked, thinking it might be a stranger.

A rasping voice answered:

"It's me!  Are you there, Nephew Richard?  I went all through the
house, but nobody seemed to be home."

"It's Uncle Ezra!" whispered Dick, making a pretense to faint.

"I've come to pay you a little visit," went on the crabbed old
miser.  "Where's your pa?"

"Why, he's gone to New York."

"Ha!  Another sinful and useless waste of money!  I never did see
the beat!"

"He had to go, on business," answered Dick.

"Humph!  Couldn't he write?  A two cent stamp is a heap sight
cheaper than an excursion ticket to New York.  But Mortimer never
did know the value of money," sighed Uncle Ezra.

Grit growled again.

"Nephew Richard, if your dog bites me I'll make you pay the doctor
bills," warned Mr. Ezra Larabee.

"Here, Grit!  Quiet!" cried Dick, and the animal came inside,
looking very much disgusted.

Uncle Ezra looked in at the door of the shed, and saw the outlines
of the airship.

"What foolishness is this?" he asked, seeming to take it for granted
that all Dick did was foolish.

"It's my new airship," answered the young millionaire.

"An airship!  Nephew Richard Hamilton!  Do you mean to tell me that
you are sinfully wasting money on such a thing as that--on something
that will never go, and will only be a heap of junk?" and Uncle
Ezra, of Dankville, looked as though his nephew were a fit subject
for a lunatic asylum.



CHAPTER X
BUILDING THE AIRSHIP


Grit growled in a deep, threatening voice, and Uncle Ezra looked
around with startled suddenness.

"I guess I'd better chain him up before I answer you," said Dick,
grimly.  "Here, old boy!"

The bulldog came, unwillingly enough, and was made secure.

"An--an airship!" gasped Uncle Ezra, as though he could not believe
it.  "An airship, Nephew Richard.  It will never go.  You might a
good deal better take the money that you are so foolishly wasting,
and put it in a savings bank.  Or, I would sell you some stock in
my woolen mill.  That would pay you four per cent, at least."

"But my airship is going to go," declared the young millionaire.
"It's on the same model as one I've ridden in, and it's going to
go.  We're sure of it; aren't we, Mr. Vardon?"

"Oh, it will GO all right," declared the aviator.  "I'm sure of
that.  But I don't guarantee that you'll win the prize money."

"What's that?  What's that?" asked Uncle Ezra in surprise.  He was
all attention when it came to a matter of money.  "What prize did
you speak of?"

"Didn't you hear, Uncle Ezra?" inquired Dick.  "Why, the United
States government, to increase the interest in aviation, and to
encourage inventors, has offered a prize of twenty thousand dollars
to the first person who takes his airship from the Atlantic to the
Pacific, or rather, from New York to San Francisco with but two
landings.  I'm going to have a try for that prize!"

"Yes, and he's going to win it, too!" cried Paul.

"And we're at least going to share in the glory of it," added Innis.

"Twenty thousand dollars!" murmured Uncle Ezra.  "Is it possible?"

"Oh, it's true enough, sir," put in Mr. Vardon.  "The offer has been
formally made.  I know several of my aviator friends who are going
to have a try for it.  I intended to myself, but for the accident
in which my craft was smashed.  Only for the kindness of your nephew
in engaging me on this work I don't know what I should be doing
now."

"That's all right!" interrupted Dick, who disliked praise.  "I'm
doing MYSELF as much a favor in having you build this airship as I
am YOU.  I intend to have a good time in this craft, even if I don't
win the prize."

"Twenty thousand dollars," murmured Uncle Ezra again, slowly.  "It's
an awful lot of money--an awful lot," he added in an awed tone of
voice.

The truth of the matter was that Uncle Ezra had nearly a million.
But he was very "close," and never missed a chance to make more.

"And do you intend to get the government prize in that--that
contraption?" he asked, motioning to the half-completed aeroplane.

"Oh, it isn't finished yet," explained Dick.

"When it is, it will be one of the finest aircraft in this, or any
other, country," declared Mr, Vardon.  "I don't say that just
because I am building it, but because Mr. Hamilton is putting into
it the very best materials that can be bought."

"And we mustn't forget your stabilizer," laughed Dick.

"What's that?" Uncle Ezra wanted to know.  Since hearing about the
twenty thousand dollar prize his interest in airships seemed to have
increased.

"The stabilizer, or equalibrizer, whatever you wish to call it, is
to keep the airship from turning over," explained Mr. Vardon, and
he went into the details with which I have already acquainted my
readers.

But it is doubtful if Uncle Ezra heard, or at least he paid little
attention, for he was murmuring over and over again to himself:

"Twenty thousand dollars!  Twenty thousand dollars!  That's an awful
lot of money.  I--I'd like to get it myself."

From time to time Grit growled, and finally Uncle Ezra, perhaps
fearing that the dog might get loose and bite him, said:

"I think I'll go in the house for a while, Nephew Richard.  Your
father is not likely to be home today, but as I have missed the last
train back to Dankville, listening to your talk about airships-
-foolish talk it seems to me--I will have to stay all night."

"Oh, certainly!" exclaimed Dick, remembering that he must play the
host.  "Go right in, Uncle Ezra and tell the butler to get you a
lunch.  I'll be in immediately."

"Well, I could eat a little snack," admitted the crabbed old man.
"I did think of stopping in the restaurant at the railroad depot on
my way here, and getting a sandwich.  But the girl said sandwiches
were ten cents, and they didn't look worth it to me.

"I asked her if she didn't have some made with stale bread, that
she could let me have for five cents, but she said they didn't sell
stale sandwiches.  She seemed real put-out about it, too.  She
needn't have.  Stale bread's better for you than fresh, anyhow.

"But I didn't buy one.  I wasn't going to throw away ten cents.
That's the interest money on a dollar for two whole years."

Then he started back to the house.

"Isn't he the limit!" cried Dick, in despair.  "He's got almost as
much money as we have, and he's so afraid of spending a cent that
he actually goes hungry, I believe.  And his house--why he's got a
fine one, but the only rooms he and Aunt Samantha ever open are the
kitchen and one bedroom.  I had to spend some time there once, as
I guess you fellows know, and say--good-night!" cried Dick, with a
tragic gesture.

"He seemed interested in airships," ventured Paul.

"It was the twenty thousand dollars he was interested in," laughed
Dick.  "I wonder if he--"

"What?" asked Innis, as the young millionaire paused.

"Oh, nothing," was the answer.  "I just thought of something, but
it's too preposterous to mention.  Say, Mr. Vardon, when do you
expect our engine?"

"Oh, in about a week now.  I won't be ready for it before then.  We
can give it a try-out on the blocks before we mount it, to see if
it develops enough speed and power.  But have you made your official
entry for the prize yet?"

"No, and I think I'd better," Dick said.  "I'll do it at once."

Dick and his chums had their lunch, and then went for a ride in
Dick's motor-boat, which had been brought on from Kentfield.  They
had a jolly time, and later in the afternoon returned to watch the
construction of the airship.

The building of the Abaris, as Dick had decided to call his craft,
went on apace during the days that followed.  Uncle Ezra was more
interested than Dick had believed possible, and prolonged his stay
nearly a week.  He paid many visits to the airship shed.

Mr. Vardon, and Jack, his right-hand man, and the other workmen
labored hard.  The airship began to look like what she was intended
for.  She was of a new model and shape, and seemed to be just what
Dick wanted.  Of course she was in a sense an experiment.

The main cabin, though, containing the living and sleeping quarters,
as well as the machinery, was what most pleased Dick and his chums.

"It's like traveling in a first-class motor-boat, only up in the
clouds, instead of in the water," declared Innis.



CHAPTER XI
A SURPRISE


"Toss over that monkey wrench; will you?"

"Say, who had the saw last?"

"I know I laid a hammer down here, but it's gone now!"

"Look out there!  Low bridge!  Gangway!  One side!"

These, and many other cries and calls, came from the big barn-like
shed, where Dick Hamilton's airship was being constructed.  Dick
himself, and his two chums, Innis Beeby and Paul Drew, had joined
forces with Mr. Vardon in helping on the completion of the Abaris.

"We've got to get a move on!" Dick had said, after he had sent in
his application to compete for the twenty thousand dollar government
prize.  "We don't want to be held back at the last minute.  Boys,
we've got to work on this airship ourselves."

"We're with you!" cried Innis and Paul, eagerly.

And so, after some preliminary instructions from Mr. Vardon, the
cadets had taken the tools and started to work.

It did not come so unhandily to them as might have been imagined.
At the Kentfield Military Academy they had been called upon to do
much manual labor, in preparation for a military life.

There had been pontoon bridges to build across streams, by means of
floats and boats.  There had been other bridges to throw across
defiles and chasms.  There were artillery and baggage wagons to
transport along poor roads.  And all this, done for practice, now
stood Dick and his chums in good stead.

They knew how to employ their hands, which is the best training in
the world for a young man, and they could also use tools to
advantage.

So now we find Dick, Paul and Innis laboring over the new airship,
in which the young millionaire hoped to make a flight across the
United States, from ocean to ocean.

"That's what I like to see!" exclaimed Uncle Ezra, as he came out
to the shed just before he started back for Dankville.  "It does
young men good to work.  Pity more of 'em don't do it.  Hard work
and plain food is what the rising generation wants. I don't approve
of airships--that is as a rule," the crabbed old miser hastily
added, "but, of course, twenty thousand dollars is a nice prize to
win.  I only hope you get it.  Nephew Richard.  I like to see you
work.  I'm going back now.  I'll tell your Aunt Samantha that you've
at last learned how to do something, even if it is only building an
airship."

"Don't you call my studies at Kentfield something, Uncle Ezra?"
asked Dick.

"No sir!  No, sir-ee!" cried the elderly man.  "That's time and
money thrown away.  But I see that you can do manual labor, Nephew
Richard, and if you really want to do useful work, and earn money,
I'd be glad to have you in my woolen mill.  I could start you on
three dollars and a half a week, and you could soon earn more.  Will
you come?"

"No, thank you," said Dick.  "Thank you just the same."

He had a vivid idea of what it might mean to work for his Uncle
Ezra.  Besides, Dick's fortune was such that he did not have to
work.  But he fully intended to, and he was getting a training that
would enable him to work to the best advantage.  Just because he was
a millionaire he did not despise work.  In fact he liked it, and he
had made up his mind that he would not be an idler.

Just now aviation attracted him, and he put in as many hours working
over his airship--hard work, too,--as many a mechanic might have
done.

"Well, I'll say good-bye, Nephew Richard," spoke Uncle Ezra, after
walking about the big airship, and looking at it more closely than
would seem natural, after he had characterized it as a "foolish
piece of business."

"I'm sorry you won't stay until my father gets back," spoke Dick.
"I expect him tomorrow, or next day."

"Well, if I stayed I know my hired man would waste a lot of feed on
the horses," said Uncle Ezra.  "And every time I go away he sits up
and burns his kerosene lamp until almost ten o'clock at night.  And
oil has gone up something terrible of late."

"Well, I hope you'll come and see us again," invited Dick, as his
uncle started to go.  "But won't you let me send you to the station
in the auto?  It isn't being used."

"No, Nephew Richard.  Not for me!" exclaimed Uncle Ezra.  "You might
bust a tire, and then you'd expect me to pay for it."

"Oh, no, I wouldn't!"

"Well, then, there might be some accident, and I might get my
clothes torn.  That would mean I'd have to have a new suit.  I've
worn this one five years, and it's good for three more, if I'm
careful of it!" he boasted, as he looked down at his shiny, black
garments.

"Then you're going to walk?" asked Dick.

"Yes, Nephew Richard.  There's grass almost all the way to the
station, and I can keep on that.  It will save my shoes."

"But people don't like you to walk on their grass," objected Dick.

"Huh!  Think I'm going to tramp on the hard sidewalks and wear out
my shoe leather?" cried Uncle Ezra.  "I guess not!"

He started off, trudging along with his cane, but paused long enough
to call back:

"Oh, Nephew Richard, I got the cook to put me up some sandwiches.
I can eat them on the train, and save buying.  The idea of charging
ten cents in the railroad restaurant!  It's robbery!  I had her use
stale bread, so that won't be wasted."

Dick hopelessly shook his head.  He really could say nothing.

His chums knew Uncle Ezra's character, and sympathized with their
friend.

The cadets resumed work on the big airship.  The framework of the
wings had been completed, and all that was necessary was to stretch
on the specially made canvas.  The cabin was nearing completion,
and the place for the engine had been built.  The big propellers had
been constructed of several layers of mahogany, and tested at a
speed to which they would never be subjected in a flight.  The
bicycle wheels on which the big airship would run along the ground,
until it had acquired momentum for a rise, were put in place.

"I didn't just like those hydroplanes, though," said Dick, who had
added them as an after thought.  "I think they should be made
larger."

"And I agree with you," said Mr. Vardon.  "The only use you will
have for the hydroplanes, or wheel-pontoons, will be in case you
are compelled to make a landing on the water.  But they should be
larger, or you will not float sufficiently high.  Make them larger.
But it will cost more money."

"I don't mind that," returned Dick.  "Of course I am not anxious to
throw money away, but I want to make a success of this, and win the
prize, not so much because of the cash, as to show how your
equilibrizer works, and to prove that it is possible to make an
airship flight across the continent.

"So, if bigger hydroplanes are going to make it more certain for us
to survive an accident, put them on."

"I will," promised the aviator.

Pontoons, or hydroplanes, in this case, I might state, were hollow,
water-tight, wooden boxes, so fitted near the wheels of the airship,
that they could be lowered by levers in case the craft had to
descend on water.  They were designed to support her on the waves.

Several days of hard work passed.  The aircraft was nearing
completion.  The cabin was finished, and had been fitted up with
most of the apparatus and the conveniences for the trip.  There were
instruments to tell how fast the Abaris was traveling, how far she
was above the earth, the speed and direction of the wind and
machinery, and others, to predict, as nearly as possible, future
weather conditions.

In the front of the cabin was a small pilothouse, in which the
operator would have his place. From there he could guide the craft,
and control it in every possible way.

There was a sleeping cabin, fitted with bunks, a combined kitchen
and dining-room, a small living-room, and the motor-room.  Of course
the latter took up the most space, being the most important.

In addition there was an outside platform, built in the rear of the
enclosed cabin, where one could stand and look above the clouds, or
at the earth below.

Gasolene and storage batteries furnished the power, and there was
plenty in reserve.  Dick wanted to take no chances in his prize
flight.

The second day after Uncle Ezra's departure the motor for the
airship arrived.

"Now for a test!" cried Dick, when the machine had been uncrated
and set up on the temporary base.  The attachments were made, an
extra pair of trial propellers connected, and the power turned on.

With a roar and a throb, the motor started, and as Mr. Vardon
glanced at the test gages with anxious eyes he cried:

"She does better than we expected, Dick!  We can cross the continent
with that engine, and not have to make more than two stops."

"Are you sure?" asked the young millionaire.

"Positive," was the answer.

Further tests confirmed this opinion, and preparations were made to
install the motor in the airship.

It was while this was being done that a servant brought Dick a
message.

"Someone has called to see you," said the man.

"Who is it?"

"He says his name is Lieutenant Larson, formerly of the United
States Army, and he has important information for you."

"Larson!" exclaimed Dick in surprise.  "I wonder what he wants of
me?"

"Will you see him?" asked Paul.

"I suppose I had better," said Dick, slowly.  "I wonder what he
wants?"



CHAPTER XII
LARSON SEES UNCLE EZRA

Dick Hamilton had not been very friendly with Lieutenant Larson
during the aviation instruction at Kentfield.  In fact the young
millionaire did not like the army officer.  Added to this the
suspicion that Larson might have had some hand in tampering with
the stabilizer of Mr. Vardon's craft, did not make Dick any too
anxious to see the birdman.

And yet he felt that in courtesy he must.

"I'll go in the library and meet him," said Dick, to the servant
who had brought the message.  "I don't care to have him out here,
where he might see my airship," Dick added, to his chums.

"I guess you're right there," agreed Paul.

"He might take some of your ideas, and make a machine for himself
that would win the prize," added Innis.

"Oh, well, I'm not so afraid of that," replied Dick, "as I intend,
after I complete my craft, and if she wins the prize, to turn my
plans and ideas over to the government, anyhow, for their use. But
I don't just like the idea of Larson coming out to the work-shed."

Mr. Vardon and his men were in another part of the big barn, and
had not heard of the arrival of the army man.

"How do you do?" greeted Dick, as he met Larson in the library.
"I'm glad to see you."

This was polite fiction, that, perhaps, might be pardoned.

"I don't want to trouble you, Mr. Hamilton," went on the lieutenant,
with a shifty glance around the room, "but I have left the army, and
have engaged in the building of airships.

"I recall that you said at Kentfield, that you were going to
construct one, and I called to see if I could not get the contract,"
Larson went on.

"Well, I am sorry, for your sake, to say that my craft is almost
completed," replied Dick.  "So I can't give you the contract."

"Completed!" cried Larson, in tones that showed his great surprise.
"You don't mean to tell me you have undertaken the important work
of constructing an aeroplane so soon after coming from the military
academy?"

"Well, I didn't want to waste any time," replied Dick, wondering at
the lieutenant's interest.  "I'm going to try for the government
prize, and I wanted to be early on the job."

Larson hesitated a moment, and resumed:

"Well, then it is too late; I suppose?  I hoped to get you to adopt
my plans for an aeroplane.  But I have been delayed making
arrangements, and by resigning from the army.

"Perhaps I am not too late, though, to have you adopt my type of
equilibrizer.  My mercury tubes--"

"I am sorry, but you are too late there," interrupted Dick.

"What type are you using?" the lieutenant cried, dramatically.

"The Vardon.  I might say that Mr. Vardon is also building my
airship.  It will contain his gyroscope."

"A gyroscope!" cried the former officer.  "You are very foolish!
You will come to grief with that.  The only safe form is the mercury
tube, of which I am the inventor."

At that moment Vardon himself, who wished to consult Dick on some
point, came into the room, not knowing a caller was there.

"I am sorry," went on the young millionaire, "but I am going to use
Mr. Vardon's gyroscope."

"Then you may as well give up all hope of winning the prize!"
sneered Larson.  "You are a very foolish young man.  Vardon is a
dreamer, a visionary inventor who will never amount to anything.
His gyroscope is a joke, and--"

"I am sorry you think so," interrupted the aviator.  "But you
evidently considered my gyroscope such a good joke that you tried
to spoil it."

"I!  What do you mean?  You shall answer for that!" cried the former
lieutenant, in an unnecessarily dramatic manner.

"I think you know what I mean," replied Vardon, coolly.  "I need
not go into details.  Only I warn you that if you are seen tampering
about the Hamilton airship, on which I am working, that you will not
get off so easily as you did in my case!"

"Be careful!" warned Larson.  "You are treading on dangerous
ground!"

"And so are you," warned the aviator, not allowing himself to get
excited as did Larson.  "I know of what I am speaking."

"Then I want to tell you that you are laboring under a
misapprehension," sneered the former officer.  "I can see that I am
not welcome here.  I'll go."

Dick did not ask him to stay.  The young millionaire was anything
but a hypocrite.

"What did he want?" asked Mr. Vardon, when Larson had left.

"To build my airship.  He evidently did not know that I had already
engaged you.  He got a surprise, I think."

"He is a dangerous man, and an unscrupulous one," said the aviator.
"I do not say that through any malice, but because I firmly believe
it.  I would never trust him."

"Nor shall I," added Dick.  "I presume though, that he will have
some feeling against me for this."

"Very likely," agreed Mr. Vardon.  "You will have to be on your
guard."

The young millionaire and the aviator then went into details about
some complicated point in the construction of the Abaris, with which
it is not necessary to weary my readers.

Larson must have recalled what Dick had told him about Uncle Ezra
being a wealthy man, for, as subsequent events disclosed, the
disappointed army officer went almost at once to Dankville.  And
there he laid before the miserly man a plan which Uncle Ezra
eventually took up, strange as it may seen.

It was the bait of the twenty thousand dollar prize that "took," in
his case.

Larson had some trouble in reaching Mr. Larabee, who was a bit shy
of strangers.  When one, (in this case Larson) was announced by Aunt
Samantha, Mr. Larabee asked:

"Does he look like an agent?"

"No, Ez, I can't say he does."

"Does he look like a collector?"

"No, Ez, not the usual kind."

"Or a missionary, looking for funds to buy pocket handkerchiefs for
the heathen?"

"Hardly.  He's smoking, and I wish you'd hurry and git him out of
the parlor, for he's sure to drop some ashes on the carpet that
we've had ever since we got married."

"Smoking in my parlor!" exclaimed Uncle Ezra.  "I'll get him out of
there. The idea!  Why, if any sun is let in there it will spoil the
colors.  How'd you come to open that?" he asked of his wife,
wrathfully.

"I didn't.  But I was so surprised at havin' someone come to the
front door, which they never do, that I didn't know what to say.
He asked if you was to home, and I said you was.  Then he said:
'Well, I'll wait for him in here,' and he pushed open the parlor
door and went in.  I had it open the least mite, for I thought I saw
a speck of sun comin' through a crack in the blinds and I was goin'
in to close it when the bell rang."

"The idea!  Sitting in my parlor!" muttered Uncle Ezra.  "I'll get
him out of that.  You're sure he ain't a book peddler?"

"He don't seem to have a thing to sell except nerve," said Aunt
Samantha, "and he sure has got plenty of that."

"I'll fix him!" cried Uncle Ezra.

But he proved to he no match for the smooth sharper in the shape of
Larson.

"Did you want to see me?" demanded the crabbed old man.

"I did," answered Larson coolly, as he continued to puff away at
his cigar.  "I came to offer you a chance to make twenty thousand
dollars."

"Twenty thousand dollars!"  Uncle Ezra nearly lost his breath, he
was so surprised.

"That's what I said!  I'm in a position to give you a good chance
to make that much money, and perhaps more.  If you will give me half
an hour of your time--"

"Look here!" interrupted Mr. Larabee, "this ain't no lottery scheme;
is it?  If it is I want to warn you that I'm a deacon in the church.
I wouldn't go into any lottery unless I was sure I could win.  I
don't believe in gambling.  As a deacon of the church I couldn't
countenance nothing like that.  No gambling!"

"This is not a gamble," Larson assured him.  "It's a sure thing.
I'll show you how to make twenty thousand dollars!"

"I--I guess I'd better open a window in here, so we can see," said
Uncle Ezra, faintly.  "That's quite a pile of money to talk about
in the dark," and to the horror of Aunt Samantha she saw, a little
later, the sun shamelessly streaming in on her carpet that had only
been treated to such indignities on the occasions of a funeral, or
something like that.  The parlor of the Dankville house was like a
tomb in this respect.



CHAPTER XIII
UNCLE EZRA ACTS QUEERLY

Exactly what passed between Uncle Ezra Larabee and his caller, Aunt
Samantha never learned.  She was so overcome at seeing the parlor
opened, that perhaps she did not listen sufficiently careful.  She
overheard the murmur of voices, and, now and then, such expressions
as "above the clouds," "in the air," "twenty thousand dollars, and
maybe more."

"Gracious goodness!" she murmured as she hurried out to the kitchen,
where she smelled something burning on the stove.  "I wonder what
it's all about?  Can Ezra have lost money on some of his
investments?  If he has, if it's gone up above the clouds, and in
the air, the way he's talking about it things will be terrible;
terrible!  It will come nigh onto killin' him, I expect!"

She went back to listen again outside the parlor door, but could
make out nothing.

She did catch, however, her husband's expression of:

"Twenty thousand dollars!  It's a pile of money!  A heap!"

"Oh my!" she murmured faintly.  "If he's lost that we'll go to the
poorhouse, sure!"

But nothing like that happened.  As a matter of fact Uncle Ezra
could have lost that sum several times over, and not have felt it
except in the anguish of his mind.

When the caller had gone, Uncle Ezra seemed rather cheerful, much
to the amazement of Aunt Samantha.  She could not understand it.
At the same time her husband appeared to he worried about something.

"But he doesn't act as though he had lost a lot of money," his wife
reasoned.  "He certainly acts queer, but not just that way.  I
wonder what it can be?"

And during the next week Uncle Ezra acted more queerly than ever.
He received several other visits from the strange man who had given
his name to Aunt Samantha, when first calling, as "Lieutenant
Larson."  Also, Mr. Larabee went off on several short trips.

"I wonder whatever's got into him?" mused Aunt Samantha.  "I never
knew him to act this way before.  I do hope he isn't doing anything
rash!"

If she had only known!

Uncle Ezra became more and more engrossed with his caller who came
several days in succession.  They were shut up together in the
parlor, and one window shutter was opened each time, to the horror
of Mrs. Larabee.

"That carpet will be faded all out, and clean ruined," she
complained to her husband.

"Well, if it is, maybe I'll get money enough to buy a new one," said
Uncle Ezra.  "Mind, I'm not saying for sure," he added, cautiously,
"but maybe."

"Why, how you talk!" cried Aunt Samantha.  "That carpet ought to
last us until we die!  A new carpet!  I never heard tell of such a
thing!  Never in all my born days!  The idea!"

Uncle Ezra chuckled grimly.  It was clear that he was acting in a
new role, and he was a surprise, even to himself.

At last Aunt Samantha could stand the suspense no longer.  One
night, after a rather restless period, she awakened Uncle Ezra who
had, most unusually, been talking in his sleep.

"Ezra!  Ezra!  Wake up!" she demanded in a loud whisper, at the same
time vigorously shaking him.

"Eh!  What is it?  Burglars?" he asked, sitting up in bed.

"No, Ezra.  Nothin' like that!"

"Oh, cats, eh?  Well, if it's only cats go to sleep.  I don't mind
'em."

"No, Ezra, I didn't say cats.  But you're talkin' in your sleep.
That is, you were."

"I was?"

"Yes."

"What'd I say?" and he seemed anxious.

"Why you were talkin' a lot about flyin' in the air, and goin' up
to the clouds, and bein' in a race, and winnin' twenty thousand
dollars!  Oh, Ezra, if you care for me at all, tell me what mystery
this is!" she pleaded.

"Did I say all that?" he asked, scratching his head.

"Yes, and a lot more!  You said something about an airship."

"Humph!  Well, that's it!"

"What is?"

"An airship!  I might as well tell you, I reckon.  I'm having one
of them contraptions made."

"What contraptions?  Oh, Ezra!"

"An airship," he answered.  "I'm going to have one, and win a twenty
thousand dollar prize from the government.  Then I'll go into the
airship business and sell 'em.  I'll get rich, Samantha!"

"Oh Ezra!  Do you mean to say you're goin' in for any such
foolishness as that?"

'Tain't 'foolish!"

"'Tis so!  And--and are you--are you goin' to go up in one of them
things--them airships?"

"Well, I reckon I might.  It's my machine, and I'm not going to let
them aviary fellers monkey too much with it unless I'm on board.
They might bust something, and want me to pay for it.  Yes, I reckon
I'll do some flying myself."

"Ezra Larabee!" cried his horror-stricken wife.  "Be you plumb
crazy?"

"I hope not, Samantha."

"But goin' up in an airship!  Why it's flyin' in the face of
Providence!"

"Well, it'll be flying in the air, at the same time," he chuckled.
Clearly this was a different Uncle Ezra than his wife had ever
known.  She sighed.

"The idea!" Aunt Samantha murmured.  "Goin' up in an airship.
You'll fall and be killed, as sure as fate."

"That's what I was afraid of first," said Uncle Ezra, "and I didn't
want to go into the scheme.  But this young feller, Lieutenant
Larson, he proved to me different.  They can't fall.  If your engine
stops all you got to do is to come down like a feather.  He used
some funny word, but I can't think of it now.  But it's safe--it's
safer than farming, he claims.  Most any time on a farm a bull may
gore you, or a threshing engine blow up.  But there's nothing like
that in an airship.

"Besides, think of the twenty thousand dollars I'm going to get,"
he added as a final argument.

"You're not sure of it," objected his wife.

"Oh, yes I be!" he boasted.  "Then I'm going into the airship
business.  Well, now I've told you, I'm going to sleep again."

"As if anyone could sleep after hearin' such news," she sighed.  "I
jest know suthin' will happen!  And think what everybody will say
about you!  They'll say you're crazy!"

"Let 'em!" he replied, tranquilly.  "They won't say so when I get
that twenty thousand dollars!"

"But can't you get the money any easier way?" she wanted to know.

"How, I'd like to know?  All I got to do to get this, is to get an
airship to fly from New York to San Francisco."

"Why Ezra Larabee!" she exclaimed.  "Now I'm sure you're not right
in your head.  You'll have the doctor in the mornin'."

"Oh, no, I won't!" he declared.  "Don't catch me wasting any money
on doctors.  I'm all right."

How Aunt Samantha managed to get to sleep again she never knew.
But she did, though her rest was marred by visions of airships and
balloons turning upside down and spilling Mr. Larabee all over the
landscape.

Mrs. Larabee renewed her objections in the morning, but her husband
was firm.  He had decided to have an airship built to compete for
the big prize, and Larson was going to do the work.

Just what arguments the aviator had used to win over Uncle Ezra none
but he himself knew.  I rather think it was the harping constantly
on the twenty thousand dollar prize.

That Mr. Larabee was hard to convince may easily be imagined.  In
fact it was learned, afterward, that the lieutenant almost gave up
the attempt at one time.  But he was persistent, to gain his own
ends at least, and talked earnestly.  Finally Uncle Ezra gave a
rather grudging consent to the scheme, but he stipulated that only
a certain sum be spent, and that a comparatively small one.

To this the lieutenant agreed, but I fancy with a mental reservation
which meant that he would get more if he could.

At any rate preparations for building the craft, in an unused part
of Uncle Ezra's woolen mill at Dankville, went on apace.

I say apace, and yet I must change that.  Uncle Ezra, with his usual
"closeness" regarding money, rather hampered Larson's plans.

"What do you reckon an airship ought to cost?" Mr. Larabee had asked
when he first decided he would undertake it.

"Oh, I can make a good one for three thousand dollars," had been
the answer of the former lieutenant.

"Three thousand dollars!" whistled Uncle Ezra.  "That's a pot of
money!"

"But you'll get twenty thousand dollars in return."

"That's so.  Well, go ahead.  I guess I can stand it."  But it was
not without many a sigh that the crabbed old man drew out the money
from the bank, in small installments.

The work was started, but almost at once Larson demanded more than
the original three thousand.  Uncle Ezra "went up in the air," so
to speak.

"More money!" he cried.  "I shan't spend another cent!"

"But you'll have to.  We want this airship to win the prize, and
get ahead of the one your nephew is building.  I have decided on
some changes, and they will cost money."

Uncle Ezra sighed--and gave in.  The truth was that Larson was
little better than a sharper, and, though he did know something
about aeroplanes, he knew more about how to fleece his victims.

And though Uncle Ezra furnished more money he tried to save it in
other ways.  He skimped on his table, until even Aunt Samantha, used
as she was to "closeness," objected.  Then Mr. Larabee announced a
cut in wages at his factory, and nearly caused a strike.

But he was firm, and by reducing the pittance earned by the luckless
operatives he managed to save a few hundred dollars which promptly
went into the airship--that is, what Larson did not keep for
himself.

But Uncle Ezra's airship was being built, which fact, when it became
known, caused much comment.  No one save Uncle Ezra and the
lieutenant and his workmen, were allowed in the factory where the
machine was being constructed.  It was to be kept a secret as to the
form of construction.

Meanwhile, having committed himself to becoming an aviator, Mr.
Larabee began to study the methods of birdmen.  He obtained several
volumes (second hand, of course) on the history of navigating the
air, and on the advance in the construction of aeroplanes.  These
he read diligently.

He could also have been observed going about, gazing up into the
clouds, as though he was calculating from how great a height a man
could fall with safety.  In reality he imagined he was studying air
currents.

Uncle Ezra Larabee was certainly acting most queerly, and his
friends, or, rather, his acquaintances, for he had no real friends,
did not know what to make of him.  He did not give up his idea,
however, not even when Larson raised his original estimate to five
thousand dollars.

"Petrified polecats!" cried Uncle Ezra.  "You'll bankrupt me, man!"

"Oh, no," answered Larson, with a winning smile.  "This is getting
off cheap.  I want to increase the size of my mercury stabilizer to
render the airship more safe for you when you go after that twenty
thousand dollars."

"Well, I s'pose I've got to," sighed Uncle Ezra, and he made a
careful note of how much had already been spent.  "There's three
thousand, nine hundred twenty-eight dollars and fourteen cents
you've had so far," he reminded the lieutenant.  "Don't be
wasteful!"

"I won't," was the promise, easily given at least.



CHAPTER XIV
THe TRIAL FLIGHT


"All ready now; take her out!"

"Yes, and look out for the side wings!  That doorway isn't any too
wide."

"No.  We'll have to cut some off, I guess!"

"Say, it's big; isn't it?"

These were the comments of Dick Hamilton and his chums as the fine,
new airship, the Abaris, was wheeled out of the shed where it had
been constructed.  And certainly the young millionaire might be
proud of his newest possession.  Mr. Vardon and his men had labored
well on the aeroplane.

It was rather a tight squeeze to get the big craft out of the barn
doors, wide as they were, but it was successfully accomplished, and
the craft now stood on a level stretch of grass, ready for her first
trial flight.

Save for a few small details, and the stocking and provisioning of
the craft in preparation for the trip across the continent,
everything had been finished.  The big motor had been successfully
tested, and had developed even more power than had been expected.
The propellers delivered a greater thrust on the air than was
actually required to send the Abaris along.

"We'll have that for emergencies," said Dick.  "Such as getting
about in a hurricane, and the like."

"I hope we don't get into anything like that," remarked Mr. Vardon,
"but if we do, I think we can weather it."

"How does the gyroscope stabilizer work?" asked Paul, who with
Innis, had made Dick's house his home while the airship was being
built.

"It does better than I expected," replied the inventor.  "I was a
bit doubtful, on account of having to make it so much larger than
my first model, whether or not it would operate.  But it does,
perfectly,--at least it has in the preliminary tests.  It remains
to be seen whether or not it will do so when we're in the air, but
I trust it will."

"At any rate, Larson hasn't had a chance to tamper with it," said
Jack Butt, grimly.

"No, he hasn't been around," agreed Dick.  "I wonder what has become
of him?"

As yet the young millionaire knew nothing of the plans of his Uncle
Ezra, for he had been too busy to visit his relatives in Dankville.

"Well, let's wheel her over to the starting ground," proposed Dick,
as they stood around the airship.  A level stretch had been prepared
back of the barn, leading over a broad meadow, and above this the
test flight would be made, as it offered many good landing places.

The airship was so large and heavy, as compared with the ordinary
biplane, that a team of horses was used to pull it to the starting
place.  But heavy as it necessarily had to be, to allow the enclosed
cabin to be carried, the young millionaire and his aviator hoped
that the power of the motor would carry them aloft and keep them
there.

"Go ahead!" cried Dick, as the team was hitched to the long rope
made fast to the craft.  "Take it easy now, we don't want an
accident before we get started.  Grit, come back here!  This is
nothing to get excited over," for the bulldog was wildly racing here
and there, barking loudly.  He did not understand the use of the
big, queer-looking machine.

"Well, I'm just in time, I see!" exclaimed a voice from the
direction of the house.  Dick turned and cried:

"Hello, Larry, old man.  I'm glad you got here.  I was afraid you
wouldn't," and he vigorously shook hands with the young reporter,
who also greeted the other cadets.  Grit leaped joyfully upon him,
for he and Larry were great friends.

"Going to take her up, Dick? " asked Larry Dexter.

"Going to try," was the cautious answer.

"Want to take a chance?"

"I sure do!  It won't be the first chance I've taken.  And I may
get a good story out of this.  Got orders from the editor not to
let anything get away from me."

"Well, I hope you have a success to report, and not a failure,"
remarked Paul.

"Same here," echoed Beeby.

When the airship had been hauled to the edge of the starting ground,
a smooth, hard-packed, level space, inclining slightly down grade,
so as to give every advantage, a careful inspection was made of
every part of the craft.

As I have explained, all the vital parts of the Abaris were in the
enclosed cabin, a unique feature of the airship.  In that, located
"amid-ships," was the big motor, the various controls, the living,
sleeping and dining-rooms and storage compartments for oil, gasolene
and supplies.  Naturally there was no excess room, and quarters were
almost as cramped as on a submarine, where every inch counts.

But there was room enough to move about, and have some comfort.  On
an enclosed platform back of the cabin there was more space.  That
was like an open deck, and those on it would be protected from the
fierce rushing of the air, by means of the cabin.  This cabin, I
might add, was built wedge-shaped, with the small part pointing
ahead, to cut down the air resistance as much as possible.

The big propellers were of course outside the cabin, and in the
rear, where was located the horizontal rudder, for guiding the craft
to right or left.  At the rear was also an auxiliary vertical
rudder, for elevating or lowering the craft.  The main elevation
rudder was in front, and this was of a new shape, never before used,
as far as Mr. Vardon knew.

There was another feature of the Abaris that was new and one which
added much to the comfort and safety of those aboard her.  This had
to do with the starting of the motor and the operation of the big
wooden propellers.

In most aeroplanes, whether of the single or double type, the
propeller, or propellers, are directly connected to the motor.  In
some monoplanes the motor, especially the Gnome, itself rotates,
carrying the blades with it.  In biplanes, such as the Burgess,
Wright or Curtiss, it is the custom to operate the propellers
directly from the motor, either by means of a shaft, or by sprocket
chains.

But, in any case, the starting of the engine means the whirling of
the propellers, for they are directly connected.  This is why, when
once the engine stops in mid-air, it can not be started again.  Or
at least if it is started it is mostly a matter of chance in getting
it to go under compression or by the spark.  There is no chance for
the aviator to get out and whirl the propellers which are, in a
measure, what a flywheel is to an automobile.

Also that is why the aviator has to be in his seat at the controls,
and have some other person start his machine for him, by turning
over the propeller, or propellers until the motor fires.

Lately however, especially since the talk of the flight across the
Atlantic, a means has been found to allow the aviator, or some
helper with him, to start the engine once it has stalled in midair.
This is accomplished by means of a sprocket chain gear and a crank
connected to the engine shaft.  The turning handle is within reach
of the aviator.

But Mr. Vardon, and Dick, working together, had evolved something
better than this.  Of course in their craft, with space to move
about in the cabin, they had an advantage over the ordinary aviator,
who, in case of engine trouble, has no place to step to to make an
examination.

But Dick's engine was not directly connected to the propellers.
There was a clutch arrangement, so that the motor could be started,
with the propellers out of gear, and they could be "thrown in," just
as an automobile is started.  This gave greater flexibility, and
also allowed for the reversing of the propellers to make a quick
stop.

And it was not necessary for Dick to "crank" his motor.  An electric
self-starter did this for him, though in case of emergency the
engine could be started by hand.

In fact everything aboard the Abaris was most up-to-date, and it was
on this that Dick counted in winning the big prize.

"Well, I guess everything is as ready as it ever will be," remarked
the young millionaire, as he and the aviator made a final inspection
of the craft.  "Get aboard, fellows!"

"He's as cheerful about it as though he were inviting us to a
hanging," laughed Paul.

"Oh, I'm not worrying about any accident," said Dick quickly.  "I'm
only afraid we've made her too big and won't get any speed out of
her.  And speed is what's going to count in this trans-continental
flight."

"She'll be speedy enough," predicted Mr. Vardon, with a confident
air.

Paul, Innis, Larry and Mr. Vardon entered the cabin.  Then Dick went
in, followed by Jack Butt, who remained to tighten a guy wire that
was not just to his satisfaction.

"Well, are we all here?" asked Dick, looking around.

"Yes," answered Paul, and there was a note of quiet apprehension in
his voice.  Indeed it was rather a risk they were all taking, but
they had confidence in Mr. Vardon.

"Let her go," said Dick to the aviator.

"No, you have the honor of starting her, Mr. Hamilton," insisted
Mr. Vardon, motioning to the electrical apparatus.

"All right!  Here goes," announced the wealthy youth, as he pressed
the starting handle.  Everyone was on the alert, but nothing
happened.  The motor remained "dead."

"What's the trouble?" asked Dick.

"You've always got to turn that switch first, before you turn the
starting handle," explained Jack.

"Oh, sure!  How stupid of me!" cried Dick.  "And I've started it in
practice a score of times.  Well, now, once more."

This time, when the switch had been thrown, the motor started at
once with a throbbing roar.  Faster and faster it rotated until the
whole craft trembled.  There was considerable noise, for the muffler
was not fully closed.  Dick wanted to warm-up the machinery first.

"That'll do!" shouted Mr. Vardon, who was watching the gage that
told the number of revolutions per minute.  "Throw in your clutch!"

"Now to see if she'll rise or not," murmured Dick.  He pulled the
lever that closed the muffler, thus cutting down, in a great
measure, the throb of the motor.  Then, with a look at his chums,
he threw in the clutch.  The great propellers began to revolve, and
soon were flying around on their axles with the swiftness of light.

Slowly the Abaris moved forward along the ground.

"We're off!" cried Paul, excitedly.

"Not quite yet," answered Dick.  "I want more power than we've got
now."

He had it, almost in a moment, for the airship increased her speed
across the slightly downward slope.  Faster and faster she rolled
along on the rubber-tired wheels.

"Now!", cried Dick, with his hand on the lever of the elevating
rudder.  "Look out for yourselves, fellows!"

He gave a backward pull.  A thrill seemed to go through the whole
craft.  Her nose rose in the air.  The forward wheels left the
ground.  Then the back ones tilted up.

Up shot the Abaris at an easy angle.  Up and up!  Higher and higher!

"We're doing it!" cried Dick, as he looked from the pilot house
window to the earth fast falling below him.  "Fellows, she's a
success!  We're going up toward the clouds!"



CHAPTER XV
IN DANGER


That Dick was proud and happy, and that Mr. Vardon and the chums of
the young millionaire were pleased with the success of the airship,
scarcely need be said.  There was, for the first few moments,
however such a thrill that scarcely any one of them could correctly
analyze his feelings.

Of course each one of them had been in an aeroplane before.  Mr.
Vardon and his helper had made many flights, not all of them
successful, and Dick and his fellow cadets had gone up quite often,
though they were, as yet, only amateurs.  Larry Dexter was perhaps
less familiar with aeroplanes than any of them, but he seemed to
take it as a matter of course.

"Say, this is great!  Just great!" cried Dick, as he slipped the
lever of the elevating rudder into a notch to hold it in place.  He
intended going up considerably higher.

"It sure is great, old man!" cried Paul. "I congratulate you."

"Oh, the praise belongs to Mr. Vardon," said Dick, modestly.  "I
couldn't have done anything without him."

"And if it hadn't been for your money, I couldn't have done
anything," declared the aviator.  "It all worked together."

"Say, how high are you going to take us?" asked Innis.

"Not getting scared, are you?" asked Dick, with a glance at the
barograph, to ascertain the height above the earth.  "We're only up
about two thousand feet.  I want to make it three."  He looked at
Mr. Vardon for confirmation.

"Three thousand won't be any too much," agreed the aviator.  "She'll
handle better at that distance, or higher.  But until we give her
a work out, it's best not to get too high."

The big propellers were whirling more and more rapidly as the motor
warmed-up to its work.  The craft was vibrating with the strain of
the great power, but the vibration had been reduced to a minimum by
means of special spring devices.

"Now we'll try a spiral ascent," said Dick, as he moved the lever
of the horizontal rudder.  The Abaris responded instantly, and began
a spiral climb, which is usually the method employed by birdmen.
They also generally descend in spirals, especially when volplaning.

Up and up went the big aircraft.  There was a section of the cabin
floor made of thick transparent celluloid, and through this a view
could be had of the earth below.

"We're leaving your place behind, Dick," said Paul, as he noted the
decreasing size of the home of the young millionaire.

"Well, we'll come back to it--I hope," Dick answered.  "Don't you
fellows want to try your hand at steering?"

"Wait until you've been at it a while, and see how it goes,"
suggested Innis.  "We don't want to wreck the outfit."

But the Abaris seemed a stanch craft indeed, especially for an
airship.

"Say, this is a heap-sight better than sitting strapped in a small
seat, with the wind cutting in your face!" exclaimed Larry, as he
moved about the enclosed cabin.

"It sure is mighty comfortable--the last word in aeroplaning, just
as Dick's touring car was in autoing," declared Paul, who had taken
a seat at a side window and was looking out at some low-lying
clouds.

"All we want now is a meal, and we'll be all to the merry!" Dick
exclaimed.

"A meal!" cried Larry.  "Are you going to serve meals aboard here?"

"Yes, and cook 'em, too," answered the young millionaire.  "Paul,
show Larry where the galley is," for the reporter had not called at
Hamilton Corners in some time, and on the last occasion the airship
had been far from complete.

"Say, this is great!" Larry cried, as he saw the electrical
appliances for cooking.  "This is the limit!  I'm glad I came
along."

"We won't stop to cook now," said Mr. Vardon.  "I want to see the
various controls tested, to know if we have to make any changes.
Now we'll try a few evolutions."

In order that all aboard might become familiar with the workings of
the machinery, it was decided that there should be turn and turn
about in the matter of steering and operating the craft.  Reaching
a height of three thousand feet, as Dick ascertained by the
barograph, the young millionaire straightened his craft out on a
level keel, and kept her there, sending her ahead, and in curves,
at an increasing speed.

"There you go now, Paul," he called.  "Suppose you take her for a
while."

"Well, if you want an accident, just let me monkey with some of the
works," laughed the jolly cadet.  "I can do it to the queen's
taste."

"You'll have to go out of your way, then," said Mr. Vardon.  "I've
arranged the controls so they are as nearly careless proof as
possible.  Just think a little bit about what you are going to do,
and you won't have any trouble.  It's a good thing for all of you
to learn to manage the craft alone.  So start in."

Paul found it easier than he expected, and he said, in spite of her
bulk, that the Abaris really steered easier than one of the smaller
biplanes they had gotten used to at Kentfield.

Back and forth over the fields, meadows and woods in the vicinity
of Hamilton Corners the airship was taken, in charge of first one
and then another of the party aboard.  Larry Dexter was perhaps the
one least familiar with the workings of the machine, yet even he did
well, with Dick and Mr. Vardon at his side to coach him.

"Now we'll give the gyroscope stabilizer a test!" said Mr. Vardon,
when each, including himself, had had a turn.  "I want to make sure
that it will stand any strain we can put on it."

"What are you going to do?" asked Dick.

"I'm going to tilt the craft suddenly at an angle that would turn
her over if it were not for the stabilizer," was the answer.

Dick looked at the barograph, or height-recording gage.  It
registered thirty-eight hundred feet.  They had gone up a
considerable distance in making their experiments.

"Maybe you'd better wait," suggested the young millionaire, pointing
to the hand of the dial, "until we go down a bit."

"No," decided the aviator.  "If she's going to work at all she'll
do it up at this distance as well, if not better, than she would
five hundred, or one hundred feet, from the ground."

"But it might be safer--" began Paul.

"There won't be any danger--it will work, I'm sure of it," said Mr.
Vardon, confidently.

The gyroscope which was depended on to keep the airship on a level
keel at all times, or at least to bring her back to it if she were
thrown to a dangerous angle, had been set in motion as soon as the
start was made.  The big lead wheel, with the bearings of
antifriction metal, was spinning around swiftly and noiselessly.
Once it had been started, a small impulse from a miniature
electrical motor kept it going.

"Now," said Mr. Vardon, issuing his orders, "when I give the word
I want you all suddenly to come from that side of the cabin to this
side.  At the same time, Dick, you will be at the steering wheel,
and I want you to throw her head around as if you were making a
quick turn for a spiral descent.  That ought to throw her nearly on
her beams' end, and we'll see how the gyroscope works.  That will
be a good test.  I'll stand by to correct any fault in the
gyroscope."

They were all a little apprehensive as they ranged themselves in
line near one wall of the cabin.  The airship tilted slightly as
all the weight came on one side, just as a big excursion steamer
lists to starboard or port when the crowd suddenly rushes all to one
rail.  But, on a steamer, deck hand are kept in readiness, with
barrels of water, and these they roll to the opposite rail of the
boat, thus preserving the balance.

Mr. Vardon depended on the gyroscope to perform a like service for
the airship, and to do it automatically.

The aviator waited a few moments before giving the order to make the
sudden rush.  Already the apparatus to which was contrasted
Lieutenant Larson's mercury tubes, had acted, and the Abaris, which
had dipped, when all the passengers collected on one side, had now
resumed her level keel again, showing that the gyroscope had worked
so far at any rate.

"Now we'll give her a trial," called Mr. Vardon.  "All ready, come
over on the run, and throw her around, Dick!"

On the run they came, and Dick whirled the steering wheel around to
the left, to cause the Abaris to swerve suddenly.

And swerve she did.  With a sickening motion she turned as a vessel
rolls in a heavy sea, and, at the same moment there was a dip toward
the earth.  The motor which had been humming at high speed went dead
on the instant, and Dick Hamilton's airship plunged downward.



CHAPTER XVI
DICK IS WARNED

"What's the matter?"

"What happened?"

"We're falling!"

"Somebody do something!"

Everyone seemed talking at once, calling out in fear, and looking
wildly about for some escape from what seemed about to be a fatal
accident.  For the Abaris was over half a mile high and was shooting
toward the earth at a terrific rate.

"Wait!  Quiet, everybody!" called Dick, who had not deserted his
post at the steering wheel.  "I'll bring her up.  We'll volplane
down!  It'll be all right!"

His calmness made his chums feel more secure, and a glance at Mr.
Vardon and his machinist aided in this.  For the veteran aviator,
after a quick inspection of the machinery, no longer looked worried.

"What has happened?" asked Innis.

"Our engine stalled, for some unknown reason," answered Mr. Vardon,
quickly.  "Fortunately nothing is broken.  I'll see if I can't start
it with the electrical generator.  Are you holding her all right,
Dick?"

"I think so; yes.  I can take four or five minutes more to let her
down easy."

"Well, take all the time you can.  Head her up every once in a
while.  It will be good practice for you.  The stabilizer worked
all right, anyhow."

The airship was not on a level keel, but was inclined with her "bow"
pointed to the earth, going downward on a slant.  But Dick knew how
to manage in this emergency, for many times he had practiced
volplaning to earth in ordinary biplanes.

By working the lever of the vertical rudder, he now brought the
head, or bow, of the airship up sharply, and for a moment the
downward plunge was arrested.  The Abaris shot along parallel to
the plane of the earth's surface.

This operation, repeated until the ground is reached, is, as I have
already explained, called volplaning.

"Something is wrong," announced Mr. Vardon, as he yanked on the
lever of the starting motor, and turned the switch.  Only the hum
of the electrical machine resulted.  The gasolene motor did not
"pick up," though both the gasolene and spark levers were thrown
over.

"Never mind," counseled Dick.  "I can bring her down all right.
There's really nothing more the matter than if we had purposely
stopped the motor."

"No, that's so," agreed Mr. Vardon.  "But still I want to see what
the trouble is, and why it stopped.  I'll try the hand starter."

But this was of no use either.  The gasolene motor would not start,
and without that the propellers could not be set in motion to
sustain the big craft in the air.  Mr. Vardon, and his helper, with
the aid of Innis, Paul and Larry, worked hard at the motor, but it
was as obstinate as the engine of some stalled motor-boat.

"I can't understand it," said the aviator.

"There's plenty of gasolene in the tank, and the spark is a good,
fat one.  But the motor simply won't start.  How you making out,
Dick?"

"All right.  We're going to land a considerable distance from home,
but maybe we can get her started when we reach the ground."

"We'll try, anyhow," agreed the aviator.  "Is she responding all
right?"

"Fine.  Couldn't be better.  Let some of the other boys take a hand
at it."

"Well, maybe it would be a good plan," agreed the aviator.  "You
never can tell when you've got to make a glide.  Take turns, boys."

"I don't think I'd better, until I learn how to run an airship that
isn't in trouble," said Larry Dexter.

"Well, perhaps not," said Mr. Vardon.  "But the others may."

Meanwhile the Abaris had been slowly nearing earth, and it was this
slowness, caused by the gradual "sifting" down that would make it
possible to land her with scarcely a jar.

If you have ever seen a kite come down when the wind has died out,
you will understand exactly what this "sifting "is.  It means
gliding downward in a series of acute angles.

The first alarm over, all was now serene aboard Dick's airship.
The attempt to start the motor had been given up, and under the
supervision of Mr. Vardon the two cadets, Innis and Paul, took turns
in bringing the craft down with the engine "dead."  The aviator and
his helper had had experience enough at this.

"Say, this is something new, guiding as big a ship as this without
power," remarked Innis, as he relinquished the wheel to Paul.

"It sure is," said tile latter.  Then, a little later, he called
out:

"I say, somebody relieve me, quick.  I believe I'm going to bring
her down in that creek!"

They all looked ahead and downward.  The Abaris, surely enough, was
headed for a stream of water.

"Perhaps you'd better handle her," said Dick to the builder of the
craft.  "We don't want her wrecked before we at least have a START
after that prize."

Mr. Vardon nodded, and took the wheel from Paul.  A few seconds
later he had brought the craft to the ground within a few feet of
the edge of the stream.  Had it been a wider and deeper one they
could have landed on it by using the hydroplanes, but the water
seemed too shallow and full of rocks for that evolution.

And so skillfully had Mr. Vardon manipulated the planes and levers
that the landing was hardly felt.  A number of specially-made
springs took up the jar.

"Well, we're here!" exclaimed Dick, as they all breathed in relief.
"Now to see what the trouble was."

"And we've got a long walk back home, in case we can't find the
trouble," sighed Innis, for he was rather stout, and did not much
enjoy walking.  They had come down several miles from Hamilton
Corners.

"Oh, we'll get her fixed up somehow," declared Dick, with
confidence.

Quite a throng had gathered from the little country hamlet, on the
edge of which the aircraft had descended, and they crowded up about
the Abaris, looking in wonder at her size and strange shape.

Mr. Vardon lost no time in beginning his hunt for the engine
trouble, and soon decided that it was in the gasolene supply, since,
though the tank was nearly full, none of the fluid seemed to go into
the carburetor.

"There's a stoppage somewhere," the aviator said. The fluid was
drawn off into a reserve tank and then the cause of the mischief was
easily located.

A small piece of cotton waste had gotten into the supply pipe, and
completely stopped the flow of gasolene.

"There it is!" cried the aviator, as he took it out, holding it up
for all to see.

"I wonder if anyone could have done that on purpose?" asked Dick,
looking at his chums, reflectively.

"You mean--Larson?" inquired Jack Butt.  "He's capable of anything
like that."

"But he wasn't near the machine," said Paul.

"Not unless he sneaked in the barn some night," went on the
machinist, who seemed to have little regard for the former
lieutenant.

"Well, there's no way of telling for certain, so we had better say
nothing about it," decided Dick.  "Then, too, any of us might have
accidentally dropped the waste in the tank while we were working
around the ship.  I guess we'll call it an accident."

"But it must have been in the tank for some time," argued Larry
Dexter, "and yet it only stopped up the pipe a little while ago."

"It was probably floating around in the tank, doing no damage in
particular," explained Mr. Vardon.  "Then, when we made the ship
tilt that way, to test the stabilizer, the gasolene shifted, and
the waste was flushed into the pipe.  But we're all right now."

This was proved a little later when the motor was started with no
trouble whatever.  There was not a very good place to make a start,
along the edge of the stream, but Dick and his chums realized that
they could not always have perfect conditions, so they must learn
to do under adverse ones.

"Look out of the way!" warned the young millionaire to the assembled
crowd.  They scattered from in front of the craft.  The motor
throbbed and thundered up to high speed, and then the propellers
were thrown into gear.  The big blades beat on the air, the ship
moved slowly forward.  It acquired speed, and then, amid the
wondering comments and excited shouts of the crowd, it soared aloft,
and glided through the air to a great height.

"Off again!" cried Dick, who was at the wheel.

The trip back to Hamilton Corners was made safely, and without
incident worthy of mention.  The four young men took turns in
working the various controls, so as to become familiar with them,
and Dick paid particular attention to Larry Dexter, who needed some
coaching.

"I'll get a good story out of this for my paper," said the young
reporter, who was always on the lookout for "copy."

"Well, we've proved that she will fly, and take care of us even when
an accident happens," remarked Dick, when the craft had been put
back in the barn.  "Now we'll groom her a bit, put on the finishing
touches, and we'll be ready to try for that prize.  The time is
getting short now."

"I hope you win it," said Mr. Vardon.  "I shall feel responsible,
in a way, if you don't."

"Nothing of the sort!" cried Dick.  "Whatever happens, I've got a
fine airship, and we'll have a good time, even if we don't get the
twenty thousand dollars."

The next week was a busy one, for there were several little matters
about the airship that needed attention.  But gradually it was made
as nearly perfect as possible.

Then, one morning, Mr. Hamilton, who had some business to transact
with Uncle Ezra, said to Dick:

"Could you take a run over there and leave him these securities?
He asked me to get them for him out of the safe deposit box.  I
don't know what he wants of them, but they are his, and I have no
time to take them to him myself.  You can go in your airship, if
you like, and give him a surprise."

"No, I think I'll go in the auto.  Mr. Vardon is making a change in
the motor, and it isn't in shape to run today.  I'll take the boys
over to Dankville in the small car."

A little later Dick and his chums were on their way to Uncle Ezra's.
They reached Dankville in good time, but, on calling at the house,
Aunt Samantha told them her husband was at the woolen mill.

"We'll go down there and see him," decided Dick, after talking to
his aunt a little while.  She had been looking in the parlor to see
that, by no chance, had a glint of light gotten in.  Of late her
husband and his airship-partner, Larson, had not used the "best
room," and so Aunt Samantha's fears about the carpet being spoiled
by cigar ashes had subsided.

At the factory Dick was directed, by a foreman, to an unused wing
of the building.

"You'll find your uncle in there," the man said to Dick.  "He's
building an airship!"

"A what!" cried the young millionaire in great astonishment, for he
had been too busy, of late, to hear any news from Dankville.

"An airship--a biplane, I believe they're called," the foreman went
on.

"Well, I'll be gum-swizzled!" cried Dick, faintly.  "Come on,
fellows.  The world must be coming to an end, surely."

As he started to enter the part of the factory whither he had been
directed, his uncle, plainly much excited, came out.

"Stop where you be, Nephew Richard!" he warned.  "Don't come in
here!  Stay back!"

"Why, what in the world is the matter?" asked Dick.  "Is something
going to blow up?"



CHAPTER XVII
OFF FOR THE START


Uncle Ezra Larabee stood fairly glaring at his nephew.  The crabbed
old man seemed strangely excited.

"No, there ain't nothing going to blow up," he said, after a pause.
"But don't you come in here.  I warn you away!  You can go in any
other part of my factory you want to, but not in here."

"Well, I certainly don't want to come where I'm not wanted, Uncle
Ezra," said Dick, with dignity.  "But I hear you are building an
airship, and I thought I'd like to get a look at it."

"And that's just what I don't want you to get--none of you," went
on Mr. Larabee, looking at Dick's chums.  "I don't want to be mean
to my dead sister's boy," he added, "but my airship ain't in shape
yet to be inspected."

"Well, if it isn't finished, perhaps we can give you some advice,"
said Dick, with a smile.

"Huh! I don't want no advice, thank you," said Uncle Ezra, stiffly.
"I calkerlate Lieutenant Larson knows as much about building
airships as you boys do."

"Larson!" cried Dick.  "Is he here?"

"He certainly is, and he's working hard on my craft.  I'm going to
be an aviator, and win that twenty-thousand-dollar government
prize!" Mr. Larabee said, as though it were a certainty.

"Whew!" whistled Dick.  "Then we'll be rivals, Uncle Ezra."

"Humph!  Maybe you might think so, but I'll leave you so far behind
that you won't know where you are!" boasted the crabbed old man.

"Building an airship; eh?" mused Dick.  "Well, that's the last thing
I'd ever think of Uncle Ezra doing."  Then to his relative he added:
"But if you're going to compete for the prize your airship will have
to be seen.  Why are you so careful about it now?"

"Because we've got secrets about it," replied Mr. Larabee.  "There's
secret inventions on my airship that haven't been patented yet, and
I don't want you going in there, Nephew Richard, and taking some of
my builder's ideas and using 'em on your airship.  I won't have it!
That's why I won't let you in.  I'm not going to have you taking our
ideas, not by a jugful!"

"There's no danger," answered Dick quietly, though he wanted to
laugh.  "My airship is all finished.  We've used her, and she's all
right.  I wouldn't change her no matter what I saw on yours."

"Wa'al, you might think so now, but I can't trust nobody--not even
you, so you can't come in," said Uncle Ezra.

"Oh, we won't insist," answered Dick, as he passed over the bonds.
"Father said you wanted these, Uncle Ezra."

"Yes, I do," and an expression, as of pain, passed over the man's
face.  "I've got to raise a little money to pay for this airship.
It's costing a terrible pile; a terrible pile!" and he sighed in
despair.  "But then, of course, I'll get the twenty thousand
dollars, and that will help some.  After that I'm going to sell
plans and models of my successful airship, and I'll make a lot more
that way.  So of course I'll get it all back.

"But it's costing me a terrible pile!  Why, would you believe it,"
he said, looking around to see that the door to the factory was
securely closed, "would you believe I've already spent five
thousand, six hundred twenty-seven dollars and forty-nine cents on
this airship?  And it ain't quite done yet.  It's a pile of money!"

"Yes, they are expensive, but they're worth it," said Dick.  "It's
great sport--flying."

"It may be.  I've never tried it, but I'm going to learn," declared
Uncle Ezra.  "Only I didn't think it would cost so much or I never
would have gone into it.  But now I'm in I can't get out without
losing all the money I've put up, and I can't do that.  I never
could do that," said Uncle Ezra with a doleful shake of his head.

He gave a sudden start, at some noise, and cried out:

"What's that?  You didn't dare bring your bulldog in here, did you,
Nephew Richard?  If you did I'll--"

"No, I left Grit at home, Uncle Ezra."

Then the noise was repeated.  It came from the part of the factory
where the airship was being constructed, and was probably made by
some of the workmen.

"I guess I'll have to go now," said Mr. Larabee, and this was a hint
for the boys to leave.

"Lieutenant Larson said he wanted to consult with me about
something.  I only hope he doesn't want more money," he added with
a sigh.  "But he spends a terrible pile of cash--a terrible pile."

"Yes, and he'll spend a lot more of your cash before he gets through
with you, if I'm any judge," thought Dick, as he and his chums went
back to the automobile.  "To think of Uncle Ezra building an
airship!  That's about the limit."

"Do you really think he is going to have a try for the government
prize?" asked Larry Dexter.

"Well, stranger things have happened," admitted the young
millionaire.

"You're not worrying, though, are you?" asked Paul.

"Not a bit.  I imagine I'll have to compete with more formidable
opponents than Uncle Ezra.  But I do give Larson credit for knowing
a lot about aircraft.  I don't believe, though, that his mercury
stabilizers are reliable.  Still he may have made improvements on
them.  I'd like to get a look at Uncle Ezra's machine."

"And he doesn't want you to," laughed Innis.  "He's a queer man,
keeping track of every cent."

"Oh, it wouldn't be Uncle Ezra if he didn't do that," returned Dick,
with a grin.

There were busy days ahead for the young millionaire and his chums.
Though the Abaris seemed to have been in almost perfect trim on her
trial trip, it developed that several changes had to be made in her.
Not important ones, but small ones, on which the success, or
failure, of the prize journey might depend.

Dick and his friends worked early and late to make the aircraft as
nearly perfect as possible.

Dick's entry had been formally accepted by the government, and he
had been told that an army officer would be assigned to make the
trans-continental flight with him, to report officially on the time
and performance of the craft.  For the government desired to
establish the nearest perfect form of aeroplane, and it reserved
the right to purchase the patent of the successful model.

"And it is on that point that more money may be made than by merely
winning the prize," said Mr. Vardon.  "We must not forget that, so
we want everything as nearly right as possible."

And to this end they worked.

"You're going to take Grit along; aren't you?" asked Paul of Dick
one day, as they were laboring over the aircraft, putting on the
finishing touches.

"Oh, sure!" exclaimed the young millionaire.  "I wouldn't leave him
behind for anything."

"I wonder what army officer they'll assign to us," remarked Innis.
"I hope we get some young chap, and not a grizzled old man who'll
be a killjoy."

"It's bound to be a young chap, because none of the older men have
taken up aviation," said Larry.  "I guess we'll be all right.  I'll
see if I can't find out from our Washington reporter who it will
be."

But he was unable to do this, as the government authorities
themselves were uncertain.

The time was drawing near when Dick was to make his start in the
cross-country flight, with but two landings allowed between New York
and San Francisco.  Nearly everything was in readiness.

"Mr. Vardon," said Dick one day, "this business of crossing a
continent in an airship is a new one on me.  I've done it in my
touring car, but I confess I don't see how we're going to keep on
the proper course, up near the clouds, with no landmarks or anything
to guide us.

"But I'm going to leave all that to you.  We're in your hands as
far as that goes.  You'll have to guide the craft, or else tell us
how to steer when it comes our turn at the wheel."

"I have been studying this matter," the aviator replied.  "I have
made several long flights, but never across the continent.  But I
have carefully charted a course for us to follow.  As for landmarks,
the government has arranged that.

"Along the course, in as nearly as possible a bee-line from New York
to San Francisco, there will be captive balloons, painted white for
day observation, and arranged with certain colored lanterns, for
night-sighting.  Then, too, there will be pylons, or tall towers of
wood, erected where there are no balloons.  So I think we can pick
our course, Dick."

"Oh, I didn't know about the balloon marks," said the young
millionaire.  "Well, I'll leave the piloting to you.  I think you
know how to do it."

Several more trial flights were made.  Each time the Abaris seemed
to do better.  She was more steady, and in severe tests she stood
up well.  The gyroscope stabilizer worked to perfection under the
most disadvantageous conditions.

Several little changes were made to insure more comfort for the
passengers on the trip.  Dick's undertaking had attracted
considerable attention, as had the plans of several other, and
better-known aviators, to win the big prize.  The papers of the
country were filled with stories of the coming event, but Larry
Dexter had perhaps the best accounts, as he was personally
interested in Dick's success.

Dick paid another visit to Uncle Ezra, and this time his crabbed
relative was more genial.  He allowed his nephew to have a view of
the craft Larson was building.  The former lieutenant greeted Dick
coldly, but our hero thought little of that.  He was more interested
in the machine.

Dick found that his uncle really did have a large, and apparently
very serviceable biplane.  Of course it was not like Dick's, as it
designed to carry but three passengers.

"We're going to make the trip in about forty-eight hours, so we
won't need much space," said Uncle Ezra.  "We can eat a snack as we
go along.  And we can sleep in our seats.  I've got to cut down the
expense somehow.  It's costing me a terrible pile of money!"

Uncle Ezra's airship worked fairly well in the preliminary trials,
and though it did not develop much speed, Dick thought perhaps the
crafty lieutenant was holding back on this so as to deceive his
competitors.

"But, barring accidents, we ought to win," said the young
millionaire to his chums.  "And accidents no one can count against."

Everything was in readiness.  The Abaris had been given her last
trial flight.  All the supplies and stores were aboard.  Jack Butt
had taken his departure, for he was not to make the trip.  His place
would be taken by the army lieutenant.  A special kennel had been
constructed for Grit, who seemed to take kindly to the big airship.

"Well, the officer will be here in the morning," announced Dick,
one evening, on receipt of a telegram from Washington.  "Then we'll
make the start."

And, what was the surprise of the young millionaire and his chums,
to be greeted, early the next day, by Lieutenant McBride, the
officer who had, with Captain Wakefield, assisted in giving
instructions at Kentfield.

"I am surely glad to see you!" cried Dick, as he shook hands with
him.  "There's nobody I'd like better to come along!"

"And there's nobody I'd like better to go with," said the officer,
with a laugh.  "I was only assigned to you at the last minute.
First I was booked to go with a man named Larabee."

"He's my uncle.  I'm glad you didn't!" chuckled Dick.  Then he told
about Larson and Lieutenant McBride, himself, was glad also.

In order to be of better service in case of an emergency, Lieutenant
McBride asked that he be taken on a little preliminary flight before
the official start was made, so that he might get an idea of the
working of the machinery.

This was done, and he announced himself as perfectly satisfied with
everything.

"You have a fine craft!" he told Dick.  "The best I have ever seen,
and I've ridden in a number.  You ought to take the prize."

"Thanks!" laughed the young millionaire.

"Of course I'm not saying that officially," warned the officer, with
a smile.  "I'll have to check you up as though we didn't know one
other.  And I warn you that you've got to make good!"

"I wouldn't try under any other conditions," replied Dick.

The last tuning-up of the motor was over.  The last of the supplies
and stores were put aboard.  Grit was in his place, and the
cross-country fliers in theirs.  Good-byes were said, and Mr.
Hamilton waved the Stars and Stripes as the cabin door was closed.

"All ready?" asked Dick, who was the captain of the aircraft.

"All ready," answered Lieutenant McBride.

"All ready," agreed Mr. Vardon.

"Then here we go!" cried Dick, as he pulled the lever.  The airship
was on her way to the starting point.



CHAPTER XVIII
UNCLE EZRA FLIES


"Well, Mr. Larabee, we are almost ready for a flight."

"Humph!  It's about time.  I've sunk almost enough money in that
shebang to dig a gold mine, and I haven't got any out yet--not a
cent, and I'm losing interest all the while."

"Well, but think of the twenty thousand dollars!"

"Yes, I s'pose I've got to.  That's the only consolation I have
left."

The above conversation took place one afternoon between Ezra Larabee
and Lieutenant Larson.  The airship with the mercury stabilizers was
nearly completed.  But a few touches remained to be put on her, to
make her, according to Larson, ready for the flight across the
continent.

"I presume you will go with me when me make the first ascent; will
you not?" the lieutenant inquired.

"Who, me?  No, I don't reckon I'll go up first," said Uncle Ezra
slowly.  "I'll wait until I see if you don't break your neck.  If
you don't I'll take a chance."

"That's consoling," was the answer, with a grim laugh.  "But I am
not afraid.  I know the craft will fly.  You will not regret having
commissioned me to build her."

"Wa'al, I should hope not," said Uncle Ezra, dryly.  "So far I've
put eight thousand, four hundred thirty-two dollars and sixteen
cents into this shebang, and I ain't got a penny out yet.  It just
seems to chaw up money."

"They all do," said the lieutenant.  "It is a costly sport.  But
think of the twenty-thousand-dollar prize!"

"I do," said Uncle Ezra, softly.  "That's all that keeps me from
thinking what a plumb idiot I've been--thinking of that twenty
thousand dollars."

"Oh, you'll get it!" the lieutenant asserted.

"Maybe--yes.  If my nephew doesn't get ahead of me," was the grim
reply.

"Oh, he never will.  We'll win that prize," the lieutenant assured
him.  "Now there's one other little matter I must speak of.  I need
some more money."

"More money!  Good land, man!  I gave you three dollars and a half
last week to buy something!" cried Uncle Ezra.

"Yes, I know, but that went for guy wires and bolts.  I need about
ten dollars for an auxiliary steering wheel."

"A steering wheel?" questioned Uncle Ezra.  "You mean a wheel to
twist?"

"That's it.  There must be two.  We have only one."

"Well, if it's only a wheel, I can fix you up about that all right,
and without spending a cent, either!" exclaimed the stingy old man
with a chuckle.  "There's an old sewing machine of my wife's down
cellar.  It's busted, all but the big wheel.  We had an accident
with it, but I made the company give me a new machine, and I kept
the old one.

"Now that's got a big, round, iron wheel on it, and we can take that
off, just as well as not, and use it on the airship.  That's what
you've got to do in this world--save money.  I've spent a terrible
pile, but we'll save some by using the sewing machine wheel."

"It won't do," said the lieutenant.  "It's far too heavy.  I must
have one made to order of wood.  It will cost ten dollars."

"Oh, dear!" groaned Uncle Ezra.  "More money," and he looked
distressed.  Then his face brightened.

"I say!" he cried.  "There's a busted mowing machine out in the
barn.  That's got a wooden wheel on it.  Can't you use that?"

Lieutenant Larson shook his bead.

"It's no use trying to use make-shift wheels if we are to have a
perfect machine, and win the prize," he said.  "I must have the
proper one.  I need ten dollars."

"Oh, dear!" moaned Uncle Ezra, as he took out his wallet, and
carefully counted out ten one-dollar bills.

"Couldn't you look around and get a second-hand one?" he asked
hopefully.

"No; we haven't time.  We must soon start on the prize trip.  We
don't want to be late."

"No, I s'pose not.  Wa'al, take the money," and he parted with it,
after a long look.  Then he made a memoranda of it in his pocket
cash-book, and sighed again.

Several times after this Lieutenant Larson had to have more money
--or, at least, he said he needed it, and Uncle Ezra brought it
forth with many sighs and groans.  But he "gave up."

To give Larson credit, he had really produced a good aircraft.  Of
course it was nothing like Dick's, and, after all, the former army
man was more interested in his stabilizers than he was in the
airship itself.  But he had to build it right and properly to give
his patent a good test, and he used his best ideas on the subject.

In general Uncle Ezra's machine was a biplane, a little larger than
usual, and with a sort of auxiliary cabin and platform where one
could rest when not in the seats.  Three passengers could be
carried, together with some food and supplies of gasolene and oil.
It was an airship built for quick, continuous flight, and it really
had a chance for the prize; perhaps not as good a chance as had
Dick's, but a good chance compared with others in its class.  The
one weak point, and this Lieutenant Larson kept to himself, was the
fact that it was only with the best of luck that the flight could
be made with but two landings.

Finally the former army man announced that the craft was ready for
a flight.  He had spent all the money Uncle Ezra would give him
--nearly ten thousand dollars--and I suspect that Larson himself had
lined his own pockets well.

"She's ready," he announced to Uncle Ezra, one day.

"Well, take her up."

"Will you come?"

"Not till I see how you fare.  Go ahead."

"Ezra, be you goin' up in that contraption?" asked Aunt Samantha,
as she came out in the meadow where a starting ground had been laid
out.

"I'm aiming to, if he comes back alive with it," Uncle Ezra made
answer, grimly.

"Well, as I said before, it's flyin' in the face of Providence,"
declared Mrs. Larabee.  "I might as well order my mourning now, and
be done with it."

"Oh, I ain't aiming to be killed," chuckled Uncle Ezra.  "I guess
it's safe enough.  I've got to get my money back out of this thing."

Lieutenant Larson, with one of the helpers, made the first flight.
He did not go very high, so that Uncle Ezra would have confidence.
When he came back to the starting point he asked:

"Well, will you take a chance?"

"I--I guess so," replied Mr. Larabee, and his voice was not very
steady.

"I'm goin' in the house," announced Mrs. Larabee.  "I don't want to
see it!"

Uncle Ezra took his place.

"I've got accident insurance in case anything happens," he said,
slowly.

"I don't believe your policy covers airship flights," the lieutenant
returned.

"Then let me out!" cried Uncle Ezra.  "I'll have the policy changed!
I'm not going to take any such chances!"

"It's too late! " cried Larson.  "Here we go!"  The engine was
thundering away, and a moment later the craft shot over the ground
and into the air.  Uncle Ezra was flying at last.



CHAPTER XIX
UNCLE EZRA'S ACCIDENT


For some seconds after he had been taken up in the atmosphere in
his airship, Uncle Ezra said nothing.  He just sat there in the
padded seat, clutching with his hands the rails in so tight a grip
that his knuckles showed white.

Up and up they went, Larson skillfully guiding the craft, until they
were a considerable distance above the earth.

"That's--that's far enough!" Uncle Ezra managed to yell, above the
throb of the now throttled-down motor.  "Don't go--any higher!"

"All right," agreed the aviator.  "But she'll work easier up a
little more."

"No--it--it's too far--to fall!" said Mr. Larabee, and he could not
keep his voice from trembling.

Really, though, he stood it bravely, though probably the thought of
all the money he had invested in the craft, as well as the prize he
was after, buoyed up his spirits.

"How do you like it?" asked Larson, when they had circled around
over Mr. Larabee's extensive farm for some time.

"It's different from what I expected," remarked Uncle Ezra.  "But
it seems good.  I don't know as I'll stand it all the way to San
Francisco, though."

"Oh, yes, you will," asserted Larson.  "You'll get used to it in
time."

"Is she working all right, Lieutenant Larson?"

"Yes, pretty well.  I see a chance to make one or two changes
though, that will make her better."

"Does that mean--er--more money?" was Uncle Ezra's anxious question.

"Well, some, yes."

"Not another cent!" burst out the crabbed old man.  "I won't spend
another cent on her.  I've sunk enough money in the old shebang."

Larson did not answer.  He simply tilted the elevating rudder and
the biplane poked her nose higher up into the air.

"Here!  What you doing?" demanded Uncle Ezra.

"I'm going up higher."

"But I tell you I don't want to!  I want to go down!  This is high
enough!" and Uncle Ezra fairly screamed.

"We've got to go higher," said Larson.  "The carburetor isn't
working just right at this low elevation.  That's what I wanted the
extra money for, to get a new one.  But of course if you feel that
you can't spare it, why, we'll simply have to fly higher, that's
all.  The carburetor we have will work all right at a high elevation
on account of the rarefied air, but with a different one, of course
we could stay lower--if we wanted to.

"Still, if you feel you can't afford it," he went on, with a sly
look at the crabbed old man who sat there clutching the sides of
the seat, "we'll have to do the best we can, and make this
carburetor do.  I guess we'll have to keep on a little higher," he
added, as he glanced at the barograph.

"Say!  Hold on!" yelled Uncle Ezra in his ear.  "You--you can have
that money for the carburetor!  Go on down where we were before."

"Oh, all right," assented Larson, and he winked the eye concealed
from his employer.

The aircraft went down, and flew about at a comparatively low
elevation.  Really, there did not seem to be much the matter with
the carburetor, but then, of course, Larson ought to know what he
was talking about.

"She's working pretty good--all except the carburetor," said the
former army man, after they had been flying about fifteen minutes.
"The motor does better than I expected, and with another passenger
we'll be steadier.  She needs a little more weight.  Do you want to
try to steer her?"

"No, sir!  Not yet!" cried Uncle Ezra.  "I can drive a
mowing-machine, and a thresher, but I'm not going to try an airship
yet.  I hired you to run her.  All I want is that
twenty-thousand-dollar prize, and the chance to sell airships like
this after we've proved them the best for actual use."

"And we can easily do that," declared Larson.  "My mercury
stabilizer is working to perfection."

"When can we start on the race?" Mr. Larabee wanted to know.

"Oh, soon now.  You see it isn't exactly a race.  That is the
competing airships do not have to start at the same time."

"No?" questioned Uncle Ezra.

"No.  You see each competing craft is allowed to start when the
pilot pleases, provided an army officer is aboard during the entire
flight to check the results, and the time consumed.  Two landings
will be allowed, and only the actual flying time will be counted.

"That is if the trip is finished within a certain prescribed time.
I think it is a month.  In other words we could start now, fly as
far as we could, and if we had to come down because of some
accident, or to get supplies, we could stay down several days.  Then
we could start again, and come down the second time.  But after that
we would be allowed no more landings, and the total time consumed
in flying would be computed by the army officer."

"Oh, that's the way of it?" asked Uncle Ezra.

"Yes, and the craft that has used the smallest number of hours will
win the prize," went on Larson.  "I'm sure we can do it, for this
is a fast machine.  I haven't pushed her to the limit yet."

"And don't you do it--not until I get more used to it," stipulated
the owner of the airship.

The former army officer sent the aircraft through several simple
evolutions to test her.  She answered well, though Uncle Ezra gasped
once or twice, and his grip on the seat rail tightened.

"When do you plan to start?" Mr. Larabee wanted to know, again.

"Oh, in about a week.  I have sent in an application to have a
representative of the government assigned to us, and when he comes
we'll start.  That will give me a chance to buy the new carburetor,
and make some other little changes."

"Well, let's go down now," suggested Uncle Ezra.  "Hello, what's
this?" he cried, looking at his coat.  "Why, I'm all covered with
oil!"

"Yes, it does drip a little," admitted the aviator.  "I haven't
tightened the washers on the tank.  You mustn't mind a little thing
like that.  I often get soaked with oil and gasolene.  I should have
told you to put on an old suit."

"But look here!" cried Uncle Ezra, in accents of dismay.  "I didn't
put on an old suit!  This is my second best.  I paid thirteen
dollars for it, and I've bad it four years.  It would have been good
for two more if your old oil hadn't leaked on it.  Now it's
spoiled!"

"You can have it cleaned, perhaps," suggested the lieutenant as he
sent the biplane about in a graceful curve, before getting ready
for a descent.

"Yes, and maybe have to pay a tailor sixty-five cents!  Not much!"
cried Uncle Ezra.  "I'll clean it myself, with some of the gasolene.
I ain't going to waste money that way.  I ought to charge you for
it."

"Well, I'll give you the gasolene to clean it," said the aviator,
with another unseen wink.

"Humph!" ejaculated Uncle Ezra with a grunt, as he tried to hold on
with one hand, and scrub off some of the oil spots with his
handkerchief.

"Well, I guess we'll go down now," announced Larson, after making
several sharp ascents and descents to test the efficiency of the
vertical rudder.

"Why, we're quite a way from the farm!" exclaimed Mr. Larabee,
looking down.  "I didn't think we'd come so far."

"Well, I'll show you how quickly we can get back there!" boasted
Larson.  "I'll have you at your place in a hurry!"

He turned more power into the motor, and with a rush and a roar,
the biplane shot forward.

But something happened.  Either they struck an air pocket, or the
rudder was given too sudden a twist.  Anyway, the airship shot
toward the ground at a sharp angle.  She would have crashed down
hard, only Larson threw her head up quickly, checking, in a measure,
the momentum.

But he could not altogether control the craft, and it swept past a
tree in an orchard where they were forced to land, the side wing
tearing off the limbs and branches.

Then, bouncing down to the ground, the airship, tilted on one end,
and shot Uncle Ezra out with considerable force.  He landed in a
heap of dirt, turned a somersault, and sat up with a queer look on
his face.



CHAPTER XX
IN NEW YORK.


"Well, this is going some!"

"I should say yes!"

"All to the merry!"

"And no more trouble than as if you got in a taxicab and told the
chauffeur to take you around the block."

Thus did Dick Hamilton's chums offer him their congratulations as
they started off on the trip they hoped would bring to the young
millionaire the twenty-thousand-dollar prize, and, not only do that
but establish a new record in airship flights, and also give to the
world the benefit of the experience in building such a unique craft.

They were in the Abaris flying along over the town of Hamilton
Corners, a most successful start having been made.  As they
progressed through the air many curious eyes were turned up to watch
their flight.

"I say!  Which way are you steering?" asked Paul, as he came back
from a trip to the dining-room buffet, where he had helped himself
to a sandwich, a little lunch having been set out by Innis, who
constituted himself as cook.  "You're heading East instead of West,
Dick," for the young millionaire was at the steering-wheel.

"I know it," replied the helmsman, as he noted the figures on the
barograph.  "But you see, to stand a chance for the prize you've
got to start from New York, and that's where we're headed for now.
We've got to go to the big town first, and then we'll hit the
Western trail as nearly in a straight line as we can."

"That's the idea," said Lieutenant McBride.  "The conditions call
for a start from New York, and I have arranged for the beginning of
your flight from the grounds at Fort Wadsworth.  That will give the
army officers there a chance to inspect your machine, Mr. Hamilton."

"And I'll be very glad to have them see it," Dick said, "and to
offer their congratulations to Mr. Vardon on his success."

"And yours, too," added the aviator.  "I couldn't have done anything
had it not been for you."

"Then we really aren't on the prize winning flight, yet?" asked
Larry, who wanted to get all the information he could for his paper.

"Not exactly," replied the lieutenant.  "And yet the performance of
the airship will count on this flight, in a measure.  I have been
instructed to watch how she behaves, and incorporate it in my
report.  It may be, Mr. Hamilton, though I hope not, that the prize
will not come to you.  But you may stand a chance of having your
airship adopted by Uncle Sam, for all that."

"That would be a fine feather in my cap!" cried Dick.  "I don't care
so much for the money, I guess you all know that."

"I should say not!" cried Innis, with a laugh.

"Any fellow who's worth a million doesn't have to bother about a
little small change like twenty thousand dollars."

"Not that I haven't a due regard for the prize," went on Dick.  "But
if I lost it, and still could have the honor of producing an airship
that would be thought worthy of government approval, that would be
worth while."

"Indeed it would!" agreed the lieutenant.

"Are we going to have any time at all in New York?" asked Paul.  "I
have some friends there, and--"

"I believe her name is Knox; isn't it?" interrupted Innis, with a
grin at his chum.  "First name Grace, lives somewhere up in Central
Park, West; eh, old chap?"

"Oh, dry up!" invited Paul.  "Don't you s'pose I've got any friends
but girls?"

"Well, Grace does live in New York," insisted Innis.

"Yes, and so do Irene Martin and Mabel Hanford!" burst out Paul.
"It's as much on you fellows as it is on me," and he fairly glared
at his tormentor.

"Easy!" laughed Dick.  "I guess we may as well make a family party
of it while we're about it.  Of course we'll see the girls.  In fact
I half-promised Miss Hanford I'd call on her if I could get my
airship to work."

"Oh, you sly dog!" mocked Innis.  "And you never said a word!"

"I didn't know I could get it to work," laughed Dick, as he stood
at the wheel.

The Abaris was cleaving through the clear air at a fast rate of
speed, though she was not being sent along at her limit.  The
aviator wanted to test his machinery at moderate speed for some time
before he turned on full power, and this trip to New York for the
start gave him the very chance wanted.

It was a journey of about five hundred miles from Hamilton Corners
to New York City, and, as Dick and his friends had planned it, they
would be in the air all night.

They had set for themselves a rate of progress of about fifty miles
an hour, and if this was kept up it would take ten hours to the
metropolis.

Of course the journey could have been made in much less time than
that, for Dick's motor was calculated to give a maximum speed of
one hundred miles an hour.  But this was straining it to its
capacity.  It would be much more feasible, at, least on this trial
trip, to use half that speed.  Later, if need be, they could go to
the limit.

They had started late in the afternoon, and by journeying at fifty
miles an hour they would reach the upper part of New York city in
the morning; that is if nothing occurred to delay them.  But the
weather predictions were favorable, and no storms were in prospect.

"I think I'll take her up a bit," remarked Dick, when they had
passed out over the open country, lying outside of Hamilton Corners.
"We might as well get used to good heights, for when we cross the
Rocky Mountains we'll have to ascend some."

"That's right," agreed the lieutenant.  "Take her up, Dick."

The young millionaire pulled over the lever of the vertical rudder,
and as the nose of the Abaris was inclined upward, she shot aloft,
her big propellers in the rear pushing her ahead.

"I'm going out on the outer deck and see how it seems," said Larry.
"I want to get some new impressions for the paper.  I told the
editor we'd pull off a lot of new stunts.  So I guess I'll go
outside."

"No, you won't, said Lieutenant McBride, laying a detaining hand on
the arm  of the reporter.  "Do you see that notice?"

He pointed to one over the door. It read:


"No one will be allowed on the outer deck while the airship is
ascending or descending."


"What's that for? " Larry wanted to know.

"So you won't roll off into space," replied Lieutenant McBride.
"You see the deck is much tilted, when we are going up or down, and
that makes it dangerous.  Of course the cabin floor is tilted also,
but there are walls here to save you from taking a tumble in case
you slip.  Outside there is only a railing."

"I see," spoke Larry.  "Well, I'll stay inside until we get up as
high as Dick wants to take us."

"Not very high this time," the young millionaire answered.  "About
six thousand feet will be enough.  We haven't gone quite a mile yet,
and it will be a good test for us."

Steadily the aircraft climbed upward until, when he had noted from
the barograph that they were at a height of nearly six thousand
feet, Dick "straightened her out," and let her glide along on a
level keel.

"You may now go outside, Larry," said the lieutenant, and the young
reporter and the others, except Dick, who remained at the wheel,
took their places in the open.

It was a strange sensation standing out thus, on a comparatively
frail craft, shooting along at fifty miles an hour over a mile above
the earth.  The cabin broke the force of the wind, and there was
really little discomfort.  The Abaris sailed so steadily that there
was scarcely a perceptible motion.  Larry made some notes for a
story on which he was engaged.  He wrote it in his best style, and
then enclosed the "copy" in a leather case.

"I'm going to drop this when we are passing over some city," he
explained.  "Someone is sure to pick it up, and I've put a note in
saying that if they will file the copy at some telegraph office, so
it can be sent to my paper, they'll get five dollars on presentation
of my note."

"Good idea!" cried Dick.

"Oh, I've got to get the news to the office, somehow," said Larry
with a smile.

A little later they passed over a large town, and, though they did
not know the name of it, Larry dropped his story and eventually, as
he learned later, it reached the office safely, and made a hit.

In order that all might become familiar with the workings of the
airship, Dick, after a while, relinquished the wheel to one of his
chums.  Thus they took turns guiding the craft through the air, and
gained valuable experience.

They flew along easily, and without incident, until dusk began to
overcast the sky, and then the electric lamps were set aglow, and
in the cosy cabin they gathered about the table on which Innis had
spread a tempting lunch.

"Say, this sure is going some!" cried Larry, as he took another
helping of chicken, prepared on the electric stove.  "Think of
dining a mile in the air!"

"As long as we don't fall down while we're dining, I shan't mind,"
mumbled Paul, as he picked a wishbone.

The night passed without incident of moment.  For a time no one
wanted to go to the comfortable bunks, but Dick insisted that they
must get used to sleeping aboard his craft, so the watch was told
off, two of the occupants of the Abaris to be on duty for two hours
at a time, to be relieved by others.

On and on rushed the airship.  Now and then she was speeded up for
a time, as Dick and the aviator wanted to see what she could do when
called on suddenly.  She responded each time.

"I think she'll do," said Lieutenant McBride, when it came his turn
to take a little rest.  "You have a fine craft, Mr. Hamilton."

"Glad of it," responded Dick.  "We'll see what she does when we
straighten her out on the long run to San Francisco."

The night wore on.  Above the earth, like some gigantic meteor, flew
the airship, her propellers forcing her onward and onward.  Now and
then some of the machinery needed attention, but very little.  The
gyroscope stabilizer worked well, and as it was automatic, there was
no need of warping the wing tips, or of using the alerons, which
were provided in case of emergency.  The Abaris automatically kept
herself on a level keel, even as a bird does when flying.

The gray dawn crept in through the celluloid windows of the
aircraft.  This material had been used instead of glass, to avoid
accidents in case of a crash.  The celluloid would merely bend, and
injure no one.

"It's morning!" cried Dick, as he sprang from his bunk, for he had
had the previous watch.

"Morning?" repeated Innis.  "Well, where are we?"

"Have to go down and take an observation," suggested the lieutenant.
"I think we must be very near New York."

Paul, who was in charge of the wheel looked for confirmation to
Dick.  The latter nodded, and the cadet pulled the lever that would
send the airship on a downward slant.

It was not long before a group of big buildings came into view.  It
needed but a glance to tell what they were sky-scrapers.

"New York!" cried Dick.  "We're over New York all right!"

"Then I've got to get a message to my paper!" exclaimed Larry. "Is
the wireless working?"

"We'll have to make a landing to send it up," replied Mr. Vardon.

"Well, if we're going down anyhow, a telephone will do as well,"
went on the reporter.  "Only it's going to be a job to land down
among all those sky-scrapers."

"We can't do it," Mr. Vardon declared.

"We'll have to head for an open space."

"Central Park, or the Bronx," put in the lieutenant.  "Either place
will give us room enough."

"We'll try the Bronx," suggested Dick.  "That will give us a chance
to see New York from aloft.  We'll land in the Bronx."

They had sailed over to the metropolis from a point about opposite
Jersey City, and now they took a direct Northward course flying
lengthwise over Manhattan.

As they came on down and down, they were observed by thousands of
early workers, who craned their necks upward, and looked with eager
eyes at the big airship over their heads.

A few minutes of flying over the city brought the aviators within
sight of the big beautiful Zoological Park which is the pride of
New York.  Below Dick and his chums stretched out the green
expanses, the gardens, the little lakes, and the animal enclosures.

"There's a good place!" exclaimed Dick, pointing to a green expanse
near the wild-fowl pond.

"Then you take the wheel and make it," suggested Innis, who had been
steering.

Dick did so, but his hand accidentally touched the gasolene lever,
cutting off the supply to the motor.  In an instant the machine went
dead.

"Never mind!" cried the young millionaire.  "I'll go down anyhow.
No use starting the motor again.  I'll volplane and land where I
can."

And, as it happened, he came down in New York, in the midst of the
Bronx Park buffalo range.

It was a perfect landing, the Abaris reaching the ground with
scarcely a jar.  But the big, shaggy buffaloes snorted in terror,
and ran in all directions.  That is, all but one big bull, and he,
with a bellow of rage, charged straight for the airship!



CHAPTER XXI
OFF FOR THE PACIFIC


"Look out for him!"

"Go up in the air again!"

"Has anybody got a gun?"

"Start the motor!"

These, and other excited cries, came from those in Dick Hamilton's
airship as they saw the charging buffalo.  The animal was the
largest in the captive herd, probably the leader.  It seemed a
strange thing for a modern airship to be threatened with an attack
by a buffalo in these days, but such was the case.

"He may damage us!" cried Dick.  "We've got to do something!"

But there seemed nothing to do.  Before they could get out of the
cabin of the airship, which now rested on the ground within the
buffalo range, the frightened and infuriated animal might rush at
the craft.

And, though he would probably come off second best in the odd
battle, he might damage some of the frail planes or rudders.

"Come on!" cried Paul.  "Let's all rush out at him at once, and yell
as hard as we can.  That may scare him off."

But there was no need of this.  Before the buffalo had time to reach
the airship a mounted police officer rode rapidly up to the fence
of the enclosure, and, taking in the situation, novel as it was, at
a glance, he fired several shots from his revolver at the rushing
animal.

None of the bullets was intended to hit the buffalo, and none did.
But some came so close, and the noise of the shots was so loud, that
the beast stopped suddenly, and then, after a pause, in which he
snorted, and pawed the ground, he retreated, to stand in front of
the herd of cows and other bulls, probably thinking he constituted
himself their protector against the strange and terrible foe.

"Well, that's over!" exclaimed Dick, with a sigh of relief.  "Say,
isn't this the limit?  If we bad an airship out on the plains fifty
years ago it wouldn't have been any surprise to be charged by a
buffalo.  But here in New York--well, it is just about the extreme
edge, to my way of thinking!"

"All's well that ends well," quoted Innis.  "Now let's get
breakfast."

But it seemed that something else was to come first.

"Get your craft out of there," ordered the police officer, who had
fired the shots.

"I guess we'd better," said Dick to his chums.  "That buffalo might
change his mind, and come at us again."

"How are we going to get out?" asked Mr. Vardon, as he noticed the
heavy fence around the buffalo enclosure.  And there was hardly room
inside it to get the necessary start to raise the big airship.

"I'll unlock this gate for you, and you can wheel her out," said
the officer, who seemed to know something about aircraft.  He rode
over to a double gate, which he soon swung open, and Dick and his
chums, by considerable exertion, managed to wheel the airship out
on the walk.  The slope of the buffalo enclosure was downward or
they might not have been successful.

"Now then," went on the mounted policeman, when he had locked the
gate to prevent any of the animals from straying out, "who's in
charge of this outfit?"

"I am," admitted Dick, as his chums looked at him.

"Well then, I'm sorry, but I have to place you under arrest," spoke
the officer.  "You'll have to come with me."

"Arrest!  What for?" gasped Dick.

"Two charges.  Entering the buffalo enclosure without a permit, and
flying an airship over a city.  I saw you come from down New York
way."

For a moment those of Dick's aviation party hardly knew whether to
treat the matter as a joke or not, but a look at the face of the
officer soon convinced them that he, at least, was in earnest.

"Under arrest!" murmured Dick.  "Well, I guess the two charges are
true, as far as that goes.  We did fly over the city, but there was
no harm in that, and--"

"Hold on--yes, there was!" exclaimed Mr. Vardon.  "It was stupid of
me to forget it, too.  It is against the law now for an aeroplane
to fly over a city, and contrary to the agreement of the association
of aviators."

"You are right!" exclaimed Lieutenant McBride.  "I should have
thought of that, too, but I was so interested watching the working
of the machinery I forgot all about it.  The rule and the law was
made because of the danger to persons over whose heads the
aeroplanes might fly--that is, not so much danger in the flying as
in the corning down.  And then, too, as a general thing it might
not be safe for the aviators if they were forced to make a landing.
But we've gone and done it, I guess," and he smiled frankly at the
officer.

"As for coming down in the buffalo enclosure, I was sorry we did it
when I saw that old bull coming for us," remarked Dick.  "But it
seemed the best place around here for us to land, after our motor
stopped.  I suppose it won't do any good to say we're sorry; will
it?" he asked the policeman, with a smile.

"Well, I shall have to do my duty, and arrest you," said the
officer, "but I will explain to the magistrate that you did not mean
to land contrary to the law."

"Who is the magistrate before whom we shall have to appear?" asked
Larry Dexter.

"Judge Scatterwaite," was the answer.

"Good!" cried the young reporter.  "I know him.  My paper supported
him in the last campaign, and I believe he will be glad to do a
favor for me.  Is there a telephone around here?" he asked the
officer.  "Oh, we won't run away," he hastened to assure the
guardian of the peace.  "I just want to talk to the judge.  I'm
Larry Dexter, of the Leader."

"Oh, is that so?  I guess I've heard of you.  Aren't you the
reporter who worked up that stolen boy case?"

"I am," admitted Larry, modestly.  "There's a telephone right over
there, in the Rocking Stone restaurant," went on the officer, who
seemed to regard Larry and his friends in a different light now.
"You can call up the judge.  He'll probably be at his house now.
I'll go with you.  It may be that he will want to speak to me, and
will dismiss the complaint."

"We'll wait here for you, Larry," said Dick.  "There's nothing like
having a reporter with you when you break the law," he added, with
a laugh.

The officer rode his horse slowly along with Larry, going to the
place whence a telephone message could be sent. Larry was soon
talking with the judge, who, on learning the identity of the young
reporter, and having heard the circumstances, spoke to the officer.

"It's all right! " exclaimed the policeman, as he hung up the
receiver.  "I'm to let you go.  He says he'll find you all guilty,
and will suspend sentence."

"Good!" cried Larry.  "That's the time my 'pull' was of some use."

"And I'm glad I didn't have to take you to the station," the mounted
man proceeded.  "I'm interested in airships myself.  I've got a boy
who's crazy about them, and wireless.  He's got a wireless outfit--
made it all himself," he added, proudly.

There was nothing further to worry the aviators, on the return of
Larry with the officer, so they prepared to have breakfast, and then
Lieutenant McBride said he would arrange to have the official start
in the prize race made from Fort Wadsworth.

"But we'll have to fly over New York again," suggested Dick, "and
if we're arrested a second time--"

"I think I can arrange that for you," said the army man.  "I will
have the war department make a request of the civil authorities who
will, no doubt, grant permission to soar over the city."

"Good!" cried Dick.  "And now for breakfast.  Didn't that officer
say something about a restaurant around here?"

"Yes, I telephoned from one," spoke Larry.  "Then let's go there
and have breakfast," suggested the young millionaire.  "We'll have
a little more room than in the airship, and Innis won't have to do
the cooking."

"Oh, I don't mind," the stout cadet put in.

"What about leaving the airship all alone?" asked Paul, for already
a crowd had gathered about it.

"I'll look out for it while you're gone," promised the officer.

"Isn't there some shed around here where we could leave it, so it
would be safe?" asked Innis.

"What's the idea of that?" Dick wanted to know.  "We'll be sailing
down to the fort in an hour or so."

"Why can't we stay over a day or so in New York?" went on Innis.
"I don't get here very often, and I'd like to see the sights."

"You mean you'd like to see the girls!" declared Paul, laughingly.

"Have your own way," murmured Innis.  "But, if the airship would be
safe up here in the park, in a shed, we could take our time, and not
have to hurry so."

"I guess that would be a good plan," agreed Dick.  "I'd like to see
the girls myself.  We'll do it if we can find a shed."

The obliging officer arranged this for them, and the airship was
soon safely housed, a watchman being engaged to keep away the
curious.  Then our friends went to breakfast, and, later, down town.

Mr. Vardon wanted to call on some fellow aviators, now that it had
been decided to postpone the start a day, and Larry Dexter had some
business to transact at the newspaper office.

"And we'll go see the girls!" cried Dick.

Mabel Hanford, Grace Knox and Irene Martin, the three young ladies
in whom the boys were more than ordinarily interested, had come on
to New York, after their school closed, and our friends had made a
half-promise to meet them in the metropolis.  Now the promise could
be kept.  They found the girls at a hotel, where they resided part
of the year, and, sending up their cards, were ushered to their
sitting-room.

"And did you really come all the way from Hamilton Corners to New
York in your airship?" asked Mabel of Dick.

"We surely did," he answered.  "And we're going to start for San
Francisco tomorrow.  We just stopped overnight to see you."

"We appreciate the honor," laughed Irene, with a bow.

"Have you any engagement for tonight?" asked Innis.

"We were going to the theatre," said Grace.

"Isn't there any place we could go to a dance?" inquired Paul.

"Say, he's crazy on these new dances!" exclaimed Dick.  "I caught
him doing the 'lame duck' the other night, with the broom for a
partner."

"Oh, do you do that?" cried Mabel.

"A little," admitted Paul.

"Will you show us how the steps go?" asked Irene.

"And I know the 'lace glide,' and the 'pivot whirl,'" put in Dick.
"You needn't think you can walk off with all the honors," he said
to his chum, laughingly.

"Oh, let's stay at the hotel and dance tonight," suggested Mabel.
"Mamma will chaperone us.  It will be more fun than the theatre."

"We'll have to hire dress suits," said Innis.  "We didn't bring them
in the airship."

"No, we'll make it very informal," Grace remarked.  "There is a
little private ballroom we can engage."

So it was arranged, and the young people spent an enjoyable evening,
doing some of the newest steps.

"We'll come down to the fort in the morning, and see you start for
San Francisco," promised Mabel, as she said good-night to Dick.

"Will you!" he exclaimed.  "That will be fine of you!"

An early morning start was made for the fort, after the airship,
which had been left in Bronx Park all night, had been carefully gone
over.  An additional supply of gasolene was taken aboard, some
adjustments made to the machinery, and more food put in the lockers.

"There are the girls!" exclaimed Dick, after they had made a
successful landing at the fort, which they would soon leave on their
long flight.

"Oh, so they are!  I hardly thought they'd come down," observed
Paul, as he waved to the three pretty girls with whom they had
danced the night before.

"I wish we were going with you!" cried Mabel, as she greeted Dick.

"Oh, Mabel!  You do not!" rebuked Irene.

"Well, I just do!" was the retort.  "It's so stupid just staying at
a summer resort during the hot weather."

"We'll come back, after we win the prize, and do the 'aeroplane
glide' with you," promised Innis.

"Will you?" demanded Irene.  "Remember now, that's a promise."

Final arrangements were made, and everything was in readiness for
the start for the Pacific.  The army officers had inspected the
craft, and congratulated the young owner and the builder on her
completeness.

"Well, good-bye, girls," said Dick, as he and his chums shook hands
with their friends who had come to see them off.  The aviators took
their places in the cabin.  A hasty inspection showed that
everything was in readiness.

"Well, here we go!" murmured Dick.

He turned the switch of the electric starter, and, an instant later,
the Abaris shot forward over the ground, rising gracefully on a
long, upward slant.

Then Dick, who was at the steering wheel, headed his craft due West.

From the parade ground below them came cheers from the army men and
other spectators, the shrill cries of the three girls mingling.

"I wonder what will happen before we dance with them again?" spoke
Paul, musingly.

"You can't tell," answered Innis, as he looked down for a last sight
of a certain pretty face.

"Well, we can only hit the ground twice between here and San
Francisco," remarked Dick, as he turned on more power.  "If we have
to come down the third time--we lose the prize."

"We're not going to lose it!" asserted Mr. Vardon, earnestly.

Of course there were many more entrants for the prize than Dick
Hamilton.  Two airships had started that morning before he got off
in his craft, and three others were to leave that afternoon.  One
prominent birdman from the West was due to start the next day, and
on the following two from the South were scheduled to leave.  There
were also several well-known foreigners who were making a try for
the fame, honor and money involved.

But this story only concerns Dick Hamilton's airship, and the
attempt of himself, and his Uncle Ezra, to win the prize, and I have
space for no more than a mere mention of the other contestants.



CHAPTER XXII
UNCLE EZRA STARTS OFF


Let us now, for a moment, return to Uncle Ezra.  We left him sitting
on the ground after his rather unceremonious exit from the airship
which had crashed into the apple tree in the orchard.  Somehow the
strap, holding him to his seat, had come unbuckled, which accounted
for his plight.

"Are you hurt?" asked Lieutenant Larson, after a quick glance that
assured him the airship was not badly damaged.

"I don't know's I'm hurt such a terrible lot," was the slow answer,
"but my clothes are all dirt.  This suit is plumb ruined now.  I
swan I'd never have gone in for airships if I knew how expensive
they'd be.  This suit cost thirteen dollars and--"

"You're lucky you don't have to pay for a funeral," was the
lieutenant's grim answer.  "You must look to your seat strap better
than that."

"Well, I didn't know the blamed thing was going to cut up like
this!" returned the crabbed old man.  "That's no way to land."

"I know it.  But I couldn't help it," was the answer.  "I'm glad
you're not hurt.  But I think we have attracted some attention.
Here comes someone."

A man was running through the orchard.

"It's Hank Crittenden, and he hates me like poison!" murmured Uncle
Ezra, as he arose from the pile of dirt, and tried to get some of
it off his clothes.

"Hi, there!  What's this mean?" demanded Hank, as he rushed up,
clutching a stout club.  "What d'ye mean, comin' down in my orchard,
and bustin' up my best Baldwin tree?  What d'ye mean?"

"It was an accident--purely an accident," said Lieutenant Larson,
suavely.  "It could not be helped."

"Accident?  You done it on puppose, that's what you did!" cried
Hank, glaring at Uncle Ezra.  "You done it on puppose, and I'll sue
ye for damages, that's what I'll do!  That Baldwin apple tree was
one of the best in my orchard."

"Well, we didn't mean to do it," declared Mr. Larabee.  "And if you
sue we can prove in court it was an accident.  So you'll have your
trouble for your pains."

"I will, hey?  Well, I'll show you, Ezra Larabee.  I'll teach you
to come around here bustin' my things up with your old airship!
You ought to be ashamed of yourself, a man of your age, trying to
fly like a hen or rooster."

"I'm trying for the government prize," said Dick's uncle, weakly.

"Huh!  A heap sight chance YOU have of winnin' a prize, flyin' like
that!" sneered Mr. Crittenden.  "Comin' down in my orchard that
way!"

"It was an accident," went on the former army man.  "We were making
a landing, but we did not intend to come clown just in that spot.
We are sorry the tree is broken, but accidents will happen, and--"

"Yes, and them as does 'em must pay for 'em!" exclaimed Hank.

At the mention of money Uncle Ezra looked pained.  He looked more
so when Hank went on:

"I'll have damages for that tree, that's what I'll have and good
damages too.  That was my best Baldwin tree--"

"You told us that before," said Larson, as he began to wheel the
aeroplane out into an open space where he could get it started
again.

"Here, where you takin' that?" demanded Hank, suspiciously.

"We're going to fly back to Dankville," replied Mr. Larson.

"No, you ain't!  You ain't goin' t' move that machine until you pay
fer the damage to my tree!" insisted Hank, as he took a firmer grasp
of the club.  "I want ten dollars for what you done to my tree."

"Ten dollars!" grasped Uncle Ezra.  "Tain't wuth half that if it
was loaded with apples."

"Well, you'll pay me ten dollars, Ezra Larabee, or you don't take
that machine away from here!" insisted the owner of the orchard.
"You beat me once in a lawsuit, but you won't again!"

The two had been enemies for many years, Mr. Crittenden insisting
that a certain lawsuit, which went against him, had been wrongfully
decided in favor of Dick's uncle.

"Well, I won't pay no ten dollars," said Mr. Larabee, firmly,
putting his hand in his pocket, as if to resist any attempt to get
money from it.

"Ten dollars or you don't take that machine out!" cried Hank.
"You're trespassers on my land, too!  I could have you arrested for
that, as well as suin' ye fer bustin' my tree."

"I'll never pay," said Uncle Ezra.  "Come on, Lieutenant, we'll take
the airship out in spite of him."

"Oh, you will, eh?" cried Hank.  "Well, we'll see about that!  I
reckoned you'd try some such mean game as that Ezra Larabee, and
I'm ready for you.  Here, Si and Bill!" he called, and from behind
a big tree stepped two stalwart hired men, armed with pitchforks.

"This Ezra Larabee allows he'll not pay for damagin' my tree,"
explained Hank.  "I say he shall, and I don't want you boys t' let
him take his contraption away until he forks over ten dollars."

"It ain't worth nigh that sum," began Mr. Larabee.  "I'll never--"

"I think, perhaps, you had better pay it to avoid trouble," said
the lieutenant.  "He has some claim on us."

"Oh, dear!" groaned Uncle Ezra.  "More money!  This airship business
will ruin me.  Ten dollars!"

"Not a cent less!" declared Hank.

"Won't you call it eight?" asked the crabbed old miser.

"Ten dollars if you want to take away your machine, and then you
can consider yourselves lucky that I don't sue you for trespass.
Hand over ten dollars!"

"Never!" declared Ezra Larabee.

"I really think you had better," advised the aviator, and then with
a wry face, and much reluctance, Dick's uncle passed over the money.

"Now, you kin go!" cried Hank, "but if I ketch you on my property
ag'in you won't git off so easy.  You can go back, boys; I won't
need you this time," he added grimly.

The hired men departed, and Mr. Crittenden, pocketing the money,
watched the lieutenant and Uncle Ezra wheel the biplane out to an
open place where a start could be made.

The machine was somewhat damaged, but it could still be operated.
The motor, however, was obstinate, and would not start.  Hank added
insult to injury, at least in the opinion of Uncle Ezra, by laughing
at the efforts of the lieutenant.  And finally when the motor did
consent to "mote," it went so slowly that not enough momentum could
be obtained to make the airship rise.  It simply rolled slowly over
the ground.

"Ha!  Ha!  That's a fine flyin' machine you've got there!" cried
Hank, laughing heartily.  "You'd better walk if you're goin' t' git
any gov'ment prize!"

"Oh, dry up!" spluttered Uncle Ezra, who was now "real mad" as he
admitted later.  He and the lieutenant wheeled the machine back to
have another try, and this time they were successful in getting up
in the air.  The aviator circled about and headed for Dankville,
the airship having come down about three miles from Uncle Ezra's
place.

"Well, you're flyin' that's a fact!" cried Mr. Crittenden, as he
looked aloft at them.  "But I wouldn't be surprised t' see 'em come
smashin' down ag'in any minute," he added pessimistically.  "Anyhow,
I got ten dollars out of Ezra Larabee!" he concluded, with a
chuckle.

Mr. Larabee looked glum when he and the lieutenant got back to the
airship shed.

"This is costing me a terrible pile of money!" said the crabbed old
man.  "A terrible pile!  And I reckon you'll have to spend more for
fixing her up; won't you?" he asked, in a tone that seemed to
indicate he hoped for a negative answer.

"Oh, yes, we'll have to fix her up," said the lieutenant, "and buy
a new carburetor, too.  You know you promised that."

"Yes, I suppose so," sighed Uncle Ezra.  "More money!  And that
skunk Hank Crittenden got ten dollars out of me!  I'll never hear
the last of that.  I'd rather have landed anywhere but on his land.
Oh, this is awful!  I wish I'd never gone into it."

"But think of the twenty thousand dollars," said the former army
man quickly.  It would not do to have his employer get too much
discouraged.  And the aviator wanted more money--very much more.

The airship was repaired in the next few days, though there was a
constant finding of fault on the part of Uncle Ezra.  He parted with
cash most reluctantly.

However, he had officially made his entry for the government prize,
and he could not withdraw now.  He must keep on.  Lieutenant Larson
arranged with one of the army aviators to accompany them on the
prospective trip from coast to coast, and finally Larson announced
that he was ready to start for New York, where the flight would
officially begin.

"Well, Ezra," said his wife, as he climbed into the machine on the
day appointed, "I don't like to be a discourager, and throw cold
water on you, but I don't reckon I'll ever see you again, Ezra,"
and she wiped her eyes.

"Oh, pshaw! Of course you'll see me again!" her husband cried.  "I'm
going to come back with that twenty thousand dollars.  And I--I'll
buy a new carriage;--that's what I will!"

"That's awful good of you, Ezra," she said.  "But I'm not countin'
on it.  I'm afraid you'll never come back," she sighed.

"Oh, yes, I will!" he declared.  "Good-bye!"

They were to pick up the army officer in New York, and so Larson
and Uncle Ezra made the first part of the journey alone.  They had
considerable trouble on the way, having to come down a number of
times.

"Say, if she's going to work this way what will happen when we start
for San Francisco?" asked Mr. Larabee.

"Oh, it will be all right when I make a few changes in her," the
lieutenant said.  "And when we have another man aboard she'll ride
easier."

"Well, I hope so," murmured Uncle Ezra.  "But more changes!  Will
they--er--cost money?"

"A little."

Uncle Ezra groaned.

However, New York was eventually reached, and after some repairs
and changes were made, the airship was taken to the same place where
Dick's had started from, and with the army representative aboard,
the journey for the Pacific coast was begun.  The beginning of the
flight was auspicious enough, but if Uncle Ezra could have known all
that was before him I am doubtful if he would have gone on.



CHAPTER XXIII
AN IMPROMPTU RACE


"How's she running?"

"Couldn't be better!"

"You're not crowding her though, are you?  I mean we can go faster;
can't we?"

"Oh, yes, but I think if we average fifty miles an hour for the
whole trip, we'll be doing well."

Dick, Paul and Innis were talking together in the small pilot-house
of the airship.  And it was Dick who made the remark about the
speed.  They had risen high above New York now, and were headed
across the Hudson to the Jersey shore.  They would cover the Western
part of the Garden State.

"It sure is great!" cried Innis, as he looked down from the height.
"If anyone had told me, a year ago, that I'd be doing this, I'd
never have believed him."

"Me either!" declared Dick.  "But it's the best sport I ever heard
about."

"And you sure have got some airship!" declared Larry, admiringly.
The young reporter had just finished writing an account of the
start, heading his article, "Aboard the Abaris," and, enclosed in
a leather holder, had dropped the story from a point near the
clouds.  The leather cylinder had a small flag attached to it, and
as it was dropped down while the airship was shooting across the
city, it attracted considerable attention.  By means of a glass
Larry saw his story picked up, and he felt sure it would reach the
paper safely.  And he learned, later, such was the case.

"We'd better arrange to divide up the work of running things while
we're in the airship," suggested Dick.  "We want to have some sort
of system."

"That's right," agreed Mr. Vardon.  "We shall have to do some
sleeping."

"How long do you figure you will take for the trip?" asked
Lieutenant McBride, who was making official notes of the manner in
which the motor behaved, and of the airship in general.

"Well," answered Dick, "we can make a hundred miles an hour when
we're put to it," and he looked at Mr. Vardon for confirmation.

"Yes, that can be done," the aviator said.  "But of course we could
not keep that up, as the motor would hardly stand it.  But fifty
miles, on the average, for the entire trip, would be a fair estimate
I think."

"And figuring on it being three thousand miles from New York to San
Francisco, we could do it in sixty hours of continuous flight,"
added Dick.  "Only of course we'll not have such luck as that."

"No, we've got to make one descent anyhow, about half-way across,
to take on more oil and gasolene," Mr. Vardon said.  "And we will
be very lucky if we don't have to come down but once more on the
way.  But we may have luck."

"I think we will!" cried Dick.

While the young millionaire was at the wheel, taking the airship
higher and higher, and Westward on her journey. Mr. Vardon and
Lieutenant McBride arranged a schedule of work, so that each one
would have an opportunity of steering.

"And while you're at it," suggested Innis, "I wish you'd arrange a
schedule for the cooking.  Have I got to do it all?"

"Indeed not," said Dick.  "We'll put Paul and Larry to work in the
galley."

"Not me!" exclaimed Paul.  "I can't even cook water without burning
it."

"Get out!  Don't you always do your share of the camp cooking when
we go off on hikes and practice marches?" objected Innis, to his
cadet chum.  "Indeed and you'll do your share of it here all right!
I'll see to that."

"I guess I'm caught!" admitted Paul.

The start had been made about ten o'clock in the morning, and before
noon more than ninety miles had been covered, as registered on the
distance gage.  This took the party across New Jersey.

They had passed over Newark, and the Orange mountains.  The rule
against flying over a city had bothered Dick who argued that it
would take him much out of his air line, and consume more time if
he always had to pick out an unpopulated section.

So the rule was abrogated as far as the aviation association was
concerned.

"And if the policemen of any cities we fly over want to take a
chance and chase us in an aerial motor cycle, let 'em come!" laughed
the young millionaire.

Dinner was served at a height of about eight thousand feet.  Dick
wanted to get himself and his companions accustomed to great
heights, as they would have to fly high over the Rockies.  There
was some little discomfort, at first, in the rarefied atmosphere,
but they soon got used to it, and liked it.  Grit, however, suffered
considerably, and did not seem to care for aeroplaning.  But he was
made so much of, and everyone was so fond of, him that he seemed,
after a while, to forget his troubles.  He wanted to be near Dick
all the time.

Mr. Vardon was a veteran aviator, and heights did not bother him.
Lieutenant McBride, too, had had considerable experience.

Afternoon found the Abaris over Pennsylvania, which state would
require about six hours to cross at the speed of fifty miles every
sixty minutes.  The captive balloons, and other landmarks, enabled
them to keep to their course.

Dick put his craft through several "stunts" to further test its
reliability and flexibility.  To every one she answered perfectly.
The gyroscope stabilizer was particularly effective, and no matter
how severe a strain was put on the craft, she either came to an even
keel at once when deflected from it, or else did not deviate from
it.

"I shall certainly report as to the wisdom of having such an
apparatus on every airship the United States uses," declared
Lieutenant McBride.  "No matter whether Dick Hamilton's craft wins
the prize or not,--and I certainly hope he does--the gyroscope must
be used."

"I am glad to hear you say so," spoke the inventor, "but I never
would have been able to perfect it had it not been for my friend
Dick Hamilton."

"Why don't you blush, Dick?" asked Innis, playfully.

"I don't take any credit to myself at all," said the young
millionaire.

"Well, I'm going to give it to you," declared the aviator.  "From
now on the gyroscope stabilizer will be known as the
Vardon-Hamilton, and some additional patents I contemplate taking
out will be in our joint names."

"Thanks," said Dick, "but I'll accept only on one condition."

"What is that?"

"It is that no money from this invention comes to me.  If I win the
twenty thousand dollar prize I'll be content."

"What are you going to do with the money?" asked Paul Drew, for Dick
really had no need of it.

"I'll build a new gym, at Kentfield," was the reply.  "Our present
one is too small.  We need an indoor baseball cage too."

"Good for you!" cried Innis.  "You're a real sport!"

In the evolutions of the airship each one aboard was given a chance
to pilot her.  He was also allowed to stop and start the machinery,
since it could not be told at what moment, in an emergency, someone
would have to jump into the breech.

It was about three o'clock in the afternoon, when Dick's ship was
nearing the Western borders of Pennsylvania, that Paul, who was
looking down through the celluloid floor in the cabin, cried out:

"Something going on down below us, boys!"

All save Innis, who was steering, crowded around the odd window.

"Why, there's an airship meet going on down there," said Dick.
"Look, there are a lot of monoplanes and some biplanes."

"Let's go down a bit and salute them," suggested Larry.

"Down she is!" cried Innis, as he pulled over the lever of the
deflecting rudder.  "Say when, Dick."

"Oh, keep her up about two thousand feet.  We don't want to
interfere with any of their evolutions."

But the advent of the Abaris seemed welcomed by the other airships
that were taking part in the evolutions below.  Two of them, which
had been flying high, at once pointed their noses upward, and raced
forward to get in line with Dick's craft.

"They're going to race us!" Paul shouted.

"Come on, Dick, now's your chance!"

"Shall I?" the young millionaire asked of Mr. Vardon.

"Yes, go ahead.  Let's see what we can do to them.  Though they are
probably much swifter than we are."

"Take the wheel, Dick!" cried Innis.  "I want to see you beat 'em."

The implied challenge was at once accepted, and in another moment
the impromptu race was under way.



CHAPTER XXIV
GRIT'S GRIP


Two large biplanes were in the race with Dick Hamilton's airship.
They were of the latest type, as could be noted by the young
millionaire, and were swift craft.  They had come up from behind,
on a long, upward slant, and were now about in line with each other,
and on a par with the Abaris, though considerably below her.

"Say, look at that crowd of people!" exclaimed Paul, as he stood at
the side of Dick who was at the wheel.  The cadet was ready to lend
any assistance that might be needed in working the airship.

"Yes, there is quite a bunch," observed Dick, as he opened the
gasolene throttle a little wider, and took a quick glance down
through the celluloid bull's-eye in the floor of the cabin.  "It's
a big meet."

They were flying over a big aviation park, that Mr. Vardon at once
recognized as one in which he had given several exhibitions.

"This is quite a meet, all right," the aviator remarked as he noted
at least ten machines in the air at one time.  There were mono and
biplanes, but only two of the latter were near enough to Dick's
machine to engage in the impromptu race with it.

"How are we coming on?" asked Paul.

"Holding our own," answered the young millionaire.  "I haven't
started to speed yet.  I'm waiting to see what those fellows are
going to do."

The latter, however, were evidently also hanging back trying to "get
a line" on the performance of the big craft.  The pilots of the
lower biplanes could, very likely, tell by the size of the Abaris
that she was no ordinary airship, and, in all probability, they had
read of her, and of the try for the prize.  For Larry Dexter made
a good press agent, and had written many a story of Dick's plans.

"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,
I guess."

"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
throttle.

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
inch.

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
below.

"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
that."

"They're falling behind now," observed Paul.  "Go to it, Dick, old
man!"

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
scoundrel, Dick."

"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
there."

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
overboard."

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
surprise.

"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.



CHAPTER XXV
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
on.

"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
right."

"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
cabin.

"But she's still on her course," he added, after a glance at the
compass.

"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
them."

"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
later.

"We'll get some news the first landing we make," suggested
Lieutenant McBride.

"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
sandwiches."

"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
the recollection.

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
going on."

"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
waste."

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
machines.

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
relieved fashion.

"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
gloves?"

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
due North.

"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."



CHAPTER XXVI
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
cloud showed.

"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
bath?"

"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
now!"

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?"

"How long?"

"Just thirty-five hours, four minutes and eight seconds!" was the
answer.

"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
up."

"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,"
added Innis.

"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
morning."

"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
much."

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
water.

"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!"



CHAPTER XXVII
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
for bait."

"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
paper.

"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
they try."

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
right.

"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
aircraft.

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
some time."

"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
we'll have."

"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
starting motor.

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
the air.

"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
added.

"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
without stop."

"But we still have one landing to our credit if we need it," said
Paul.

"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
member.

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
Dick's.

"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."



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.



CHAPTER XXIX
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
wheel.

"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
volume.

"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
was discovered.

"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
stopped!"

"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
falling, Dick!"

"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
Dexter.

"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
motor--"

"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
did before."

"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
are avoided.

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
the pilot-house.

"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
a landing.

"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
failure.

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!"



CHAPTER XXX
AN ATTACK


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
government money.

"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
is, Dick."

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
to us."

"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
eye.

"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
airship.

"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
this.

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.



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.



CHAPTER XXXII
SAVING UNCLE EZRA


For a moment those aboard Dick's airship uttered not a sound.  Then,
as they saw the rival craft sifting slowly downward, gliding from
side to side like a sheet of paper, they looked at one another with
horror in their eyes.  It seemed such a terrible end.

Dick was the first to speak.

"We'll have to go down and help them," he said simply.  "Some of
them may be--alive!"

It meant stopping the race, it meant making the last of the two
landings allowed them.  And it was a landing in a wild and desolate
place, seemingly, for there was no sign of city or town below them.
And just now, after her repairs, when everything was running
smoothly, it behooved Dick and his associates to take advantage of
every mile and minute they could gain.  Otherwise some other craft
might get in ahead of them.

Yet Dick had said they must go down.  There was no other course left
them, in the name of humanity.  As the young millionaire had
observed, some of those in the wrecked airship might be alive.  They
might survive the fall, great as it was.

"Send her down, Mr. Vardon," said Dick quietly.  "We may be able to
save some of them."

If he thought that possibly he was losing his last chance to win
the trans-continental race, he said nothing about it.

The motor was shut off, and there was silence aboard the Abaris.
No one felt like talking.  As they volplaned downward they saw the
wreck of the Larabee strike the outer branches of a big tree, and
then turn over again before crashing to the ground.

"She may catch fire from the gasolene," said Dick, in a tense voice.
"We ought to hurry all we can."

"I could go down faster," said Mr. Vardon, "by starting up the
motor.  But I don't like to until I see what sort of landing ground
we'll have."

"No, it's wiser to go a bit slowly," agreed Lieutenant McBride.
"We must save ourselves in order to save them--if possible.  It's
a terrible accident!"

As they came nearer earth they saw a comparatively smooth and level
spot amid a clearing of trees.  It was not far from where the wreck
lay, a crumpled-up mass.  Down floated the Abaris gently, and hardly
had she ceased rolling along on her wheels that Dick and the others
rushed out to lend their aid to Uncle Ezra and the others.

Dick's uncle lay at some little distance from the broken craft.

"He's alive," said his nephew, feeling of the old man's heart.
"He's still breathing."

Lieutenant Wilson, as the name of the army officer on the Larabee
was learned later to be, seemed quite badly injured.  He was tangled
up in the wreckage, and it took some work to extricate him.  Larson
was the most severely hurt.  He was tenderly placed to one side.
Fortunately the wreck had not caught fire.

"Let's see if we can revive them," suggested Lieutenant McBride,
nodding toward Uncle Ezra and his fellow soldiers.  "Then we will
consider what is best to do."

Simple restoratives were carried aboard Dick's airship, and these
were given to Uncle Ezra, who revived first.  He opened his eyes
and sat up.

"Where--where am I?" he  stammered.  "Did I win the race?"

"No, Uncle Ezra, I'm sorry to say you didn't," answered Dick,
gently.  "There was an accident, and your airship is smashed."

The old man slowly looked over to the crumpled mass of planes and
machinery, and then, slowly and painfully, for he was much bruised,
he pulled a note-book from his pocket.  Leafing over the pages he
announced:

"Busted to smithereens, and she cost me exactly eleven thousand five
hundred and thirty-three dollars and nineteen cents!  Oh, what a lot
of money!"  And the expression on his face was so painful that Dick
felt inclined to laugh, solemn as the occasion was.  But he
restrained himself.

"Where's that fellow Larson?" asked Uncle Ezra.

"Badly hurt," said Dick, quietly.

"Oh, well, then I won't say anything," murmured the old man.  "Oh,
what a trip it was!"

"Are you much hurt?" asked Dick.

It did not appear that his uncle was.  The fall had been a lucky
one for him.  His helmet had protected his head, and he had on two
suits of clothes, well padded.  The others were dressed likewise,
but it had not saved Larson.

Lieutenant Wilson's most serious injury was a broken leg, but he
was also otherwise hurt.  He soon recovered consciousness, and said:

"Please don't misjudge me.  I could not stop Larson from trying to
ram you.  He was insane, I guess.  We have had a terrible time with
him.  He was mad to try to win this race.  We remonstrated with him
when he sailed toward you, but he said he was only trying to show
you what a superior machine he had, and how much better his mercury
stabilizers worked than your gyroscope.  But I really fear he meant
you some injury."

"I think so, too," said Lieutenant McBride, "and I am glad to learn
no one else was in the plot."

"And his own foolish actions were the cause of this wreck," went on
Lieutenant Wilson.  "He said he was sure of winning after he had
left you behind, and he wanted to try some experiments in quick
turns.  He made one too quick, and broke off one of the planes."

"Well, we must consider what is to be done," said Mr. Vardon.  "We
must get you all to a hospital and a doctor, at once."

"Don't mind about me," replied Lieutenant Wilson, gamely.  "If you
can send me help, do so, but don't delay here.  Go on and win the
race.  You have the best chance, I believe."

"We don't go on until we see you cared for," spoke Dick.  "We would
take you all with us, only it might endanger you."

"Well, I wish you'd take me!" exclaimed Uncle Ezra, limping about.
"I want to get back home.  Nephew Richard, I'm sorry I tried to beat
you in this race."

"That's all right, Uncle Ezra," answered the young millionaire.
"You had as good a right to try for the prize as I did."

"But I want to say I didn't have no hand in trying to butt into
you," went on Mr. Larabee.  "It was all that--that unfortunate man's
idea," he added more softly, as he gazed at Larson who was still
unconscious.  "Dick, will you forgive me, and shake hands?"

"Surely, Uncle Ezra," and as their hands met, Grit, who had been
eyeing Mr. Larabee narrowly, uttered a joyful bark, and actually
wagged his tail at Uncle Ezra.

"Grit, you shake hands, too," ordered Dick, and though Uncle Ezra
was a little diffident at first, he grasped the extended paw of the
bulldog.  They were friends for the first time.

"We could take Uncle Ezra in the airship," said Paul, after a pause,
"and if we could only send out a call for help for Lieutenant Wilson
and Larson, they would be looked after."

"There's an army post not far from here," spoke Wilson.  "If you
could make a trip there--"

"We'd have to land again, to summon aid, and this is the last stop
we are allowed in the race," said Mr. Vardon.  "I don't see how--"

"Your wireless!" interrupted Lieutenant McBride.  "We can send out
a call to the army post by that--if they have a wireless station."

"They have," answered Lieutenant Wilson, as his fellow officer
looked at him.  "If you will summon aid from there, we will be well
taken care of."

"Good!" cried Dick.  "That problem is solved."

The wireless apparatus was brought out, the small balloon inflated,
and it carried aloft the aerials.  Then, while the call for aid was
being sent out, Lieutenants Wilson and Larson were made as
comfortable as possible, and some of Uncle Ezra's scratches and
bruises were looked after.

"No more airships for me," he said bitterly, though with a chastened
spirit.  "I'm going to stick to farming, and my woolen mill.  Just
think of it--over eleven thousand dollars in that pile of--junk!"
and he shook his head sadly at the wreck of his airship.

"We'll take you on to San Francisco with us, if you like," said
Dick.  "You can see us win the race--if we can," he added.

"You still have an excellent chance," said Lieutenant McBride.  "My
advice to you would be to remain here a few days to rest up and make
sure all your machinery is in good order.  The time will not count
against you.  By that time the injured ones will be cared for.  Then
you can go on again and complete the course.  You have enough oil
and gasolene, have you not?"

"We could ask that some be brought from the army post, if we have
not," Dick answered.  "I think we will adopt that plan.''

"And I--I hope you win," said Uncle Ezra.  "I'd like to see that
twenty thousand dollars come into the family, anyhow," he added,
with a mountainous sigh.



CHAPTER XXXIII
WITH UNCLE EZRA'S HELP


"We're off!"

"On the last lap!"

"No more landings!"

Thus cried Innis, Paul and Larry as they stood in the cabin of the
airship.  Once more they were on the flight.

"This train makes no stops this side of San Francisco!" cried Dick
Hamilton, after the manner of the conductor of a Limited.  "That
is, I hope we don't," he added with a grim smile.  "If we do it will
cost me twenty thousand dollars."

"Quite an expensive stop," observed Lieutenant McBride.

"Don't think of it!" said Uncle Ezra.  "Nephew Richard, after my
failure, you've just GOT to win that prize."

"I'll try," Dick answered.

It was several days after the events narrated in the last chapter.
The wireless, sending out its crackling call, had brought speedy
help from the army post, and the two lieutenants were taken to the
hospital by their fellow soldiers.

Larson recovered consciousness before Dick and his friends left,
but was delirious, and practically insane.  They had to bind him
with ropes to prevent him doing himself and others an injury.  His
mind had been affected for some time, it was believed.

Some time later, I am glad to say, he recovered, in a sanitorium,
though he was always lame from the accident.  He was a much
different man, however, and begged Dick's forgiveness for trying to
collide with him.  Lieutenant Wilson made a quick recovery, and, in
spite of the mishap, still kept up his interest in aviation, winning
much fame for himself.

The army officers, who came to attend the injured ones, brought Dick
some supplies and gasolene.

Uncle Ezra begged that some part of his wrecked airship be saved,
but it was impossible.  There was little left that was worth
anything, and Dick, by taking his uncle as an extra passenger, added
enough weight as it was, so that no parts of the Larabee could be
taken along.

"I might have saved a little," said Uncle Ezra, with a sigh.  "I've
lost a pile of money!"  But he realized that it was out of the
question.

The Abaris had been gone over minutely, and put in excellent shape
for her final dash.  She was taken to the edge of a sloping
table-land and there once more launched into space.  Before that,
however, Lieutenant Wilson had been taken back to the army post, and
Larson sent to the hospital.  Lieutenant Wilson wished Dick and his
friends all sorts of good luck.

Then, with Uncle Ezra aboard, the start was made.  There was some
crowding, because of the extra passenger, and his valise, which he
insisted on bringing with him, but this could be borne.

"We ought to make San Francisco in three hours now," said Dick, when
they were up in the air once more.

Uncle Ezra was frankly delighted with his nephew's craft.  He did
not even say it was wasteful, when Dick told him how much she cost.

"I know airships are terrible expensive--terrible!" said Mr.
Larabee, as he looked at the note-book in which he had jotted down
every item of money paid for his own.

That Larson had wasted money, and used much of what was given him
for his own purposes was very evident.  But it was too late to think
of that now.

Uncle Ezra told of their experiences in crossing the continent.
They had really had excellent luck, and in the hands of a better
aviator, or one more dependable, the Larabee might have won the
race.  She was really a good biplane, but could only carry three,
and then with no comfort at all, as compared to Dick's.  But the
mercury stabilizers worked fairly well, though not as good as the
gyroscope.

"Yes, I was sorry, more than once, that I ever left Dankville,"
Uncle Ezra said, "but Larson wouldn't let me stop.  He kept right
on.  I'm sure he was crazy."

On and on rushed the Abaris.  She was racing against time now, and
every minute and mile counted.  While down on the ground, helping
save Uncle Ezra, Dick had, by wireless, communicated with the army
authorities in San Francisco, telling them he was coming on the last
stage, and asking that a landing-place be designated.  This was
done, Presido Park Reservation, on the outskirts of the city being
named as the spot where the craft could officially come down.

"We'll soon be there," remarked Dick, who was at the wheel.  It was
afternoon, and by computation they were not more than ninety miles
from their goal.

"See anything of any other craft?" asked Paul of his chum.

"Take a look, Innis," suggested the young millionaire.  "We might
get a race at the last minute."

Innis swept the horizon with the glasses.

"There's something coming behind us," he said.  "I can't tell
whether it's a big bird, or an airship."

A little later, however, the speck in the blue sky was made out to
be a big biplane, rushing onward.

"They're probably trying for the prize," said Dick.  "Of course we
don't know anything about their time and stops, but, just the same,
I'm going to beat her in, if I can.  We'll run the motor under
forced speed, Mr. Vardon, and feed her heated gasolene."

"That's the idea!" cried the aviator.  "That ought to help some."

The motor was so adjusted as to take heated gasolene, the liquid
vaporizing and exploding better than when cold.  The Abaris rushed
on at increased speed.

But so, also, came on behind her the other airship.  As Dick had
said, that craft might have no chance, having used up more than her
limit of stops, or having consumed more elapsed time than had he.
But, for all that, he was taking no chances.

The other craft was a swift one.  That was easily seen as it slowly
crept up on Dick.  The speed of each was terrific.  The gages showed
ninety-five miles an hour for the Abaris.  At that rate the city of
Oakland, just across the bay from San Francisco, was soon sighted.

And then something happened that nearly put Dick out  of the race.
His  motor suddenly stopped, and all efforts to start it proved
futile.

"We've got to go down!" cried our hero, and within sight of the
goal, too!  This is fierce!"

"What's the trouble?" asked Larry.

"Not a drop of gasolene left!" said Mr. Vardon, with a tragic
gesture, as he made an examination.  "There's a leak in the tank.
We haven't a drop left.  The vibration must have opened a seam and
we've been spilling our fuel as we went along."

"There goes the other airship!" cried Innis, as the big biplane
flashed by them.  They had now crossed Oakland and the bay.

"And the Presido Park is in sight!" yelled Paul, pointing to a big
field, now black with people, for the coming of Dick had been
flashed all over San Francisco and Oakland.

"We can never make it," the young millionaire murmured.  "We'll have
to volplane down, but we can't reach the park.  Oh, for a gallon of
gasolene! One gallon would do!"

"What's that!" cried Uncle Ezra, coming from his bunk room.  "What
do you want of gasolene?"

"To complete the trip," cried Dick.  "Ours is all gone!  A gallon
would do."

"Then, by hickory, you shall have it!" suddenly cried Mr. Larabee.

"Where can you get it?" demanded Dick.  "There isn't a drop aboard!

"Oh, yes there is!" his uncle answered.  "Here it is," and he
brought from his room a square, gallon can.

"Great Scott!" cried Dick, as he took it and hurried with it toward
the empty tank.  "Where in the world did you get it?"

"I brought it along in my valise to clean the grease spots off my
clothes," answered Uncle Ezra, simply.  "I got all oil from my
airship.  But I wasn't going to buy a new suit when I could clean
my old one."

"Whoop!" cried Dick, with boyish enthusiasm.  "This may save the
race for us."

The Abaris had already begun to settle down, but a moment later, as
the motor received the supply of gasolene so Providentially
provided, she shot forward again, her momentum scarcely checked.

On and on she rushed.  It was nip and tuck now between her and the
rival airship.  The big crowd in the aviation field yelled and
shouted at the sight of the thrilling race.

The other airship seemed to falter and hesitate.  The pilot cut off
his motor, but too soon.  Dick rushed his craft on, passed the
other, and then, seeing that he had the advantage, he turned off
his power, and volplaned to the landing spot just about fifteen
seconds in advance of his rival.  He had beaten in the race at the
last minute.  But it still remained to be seen whether he had
triumphed over other, and possibly previous, arrivals.

Out of the Abaris rushed the young millionaire and his friends
before she had ceased rolling over the ground.  The other biplane
was just behind them.

An army officer ran out of the crowd of spectators.

"Who is the pilot of this craft?" he asked.

"I am," answered Dick.

"And where is your official army timekeeper?"

"Here," answered Lieutenant McBride, saluting.  "Are we the first
to cross the continent?"

How anxiously Dick waited for the answer.  "No, not the first,"
replied the San Francisco officer.  "One biplane arrived yesterday.
What is your time?"

Lieutenant McBride made a hasty calculation.

"Sixty-two hours, forty minutes and fourteen seconds from, New York,
taking out the time of two landings," was the reply.

"Then you win!" cried Captain Weston, as he introduced himself.
"That is, unless this other craft can better your time.  For the
first arrival was seventy-two hours altogether."

And Dick had won, for the biplane with which he had just had the
exciting race, had consumed more than eighty hours, exclusive of
stops, from coast to coast.

"Hurray, Dick!  You win!" cried Innis, clapping his chum on the
back.

"The best trans-continental flight ever made!" declared Captain
Weston, as he congratulated the young millionaire.

"I'd like to have gotten here first," murmured Dick.

"Well, you'd have been here first, only for the delay my airship
caused you," said Uncle Ezra.  "I'm sorry."

"But you get the prize," spoke Lieutenant McBride.

"Yes," assented Captain Weston, of Fort Mason.  "It was the time
that counted, not the order of arrival.  Which reminds me that you
may yet be beaten, Mr. Hamilton, for there are other airships on
the way."

But Dick was not beaten.  His nearest competitor made a poorer
record by several hours, so Dick's performance stood.

And that, really, is all there is to tell of this story, except to
add that by the confession of Larson, later it was learned that he
had tampered with Mr. Vardon's gyroscope, as had been suspected.
The twenty thousand dollars was duly paid, and Dick gave the United
States government an option to purchase his patents of the Abaris.
For them he would receive a substantial sum, and a large part of
this would go to Mr. Vardon for his gyroscope.

"So you'll be all right from now on," his cousin Innis remarked.

"Yes, thanks to your friend Dick Hamilton.  My good luck all dates
from meeting him."

"Yes, he is a lucky chap," agreed Paul.

"I think Uncle Ezra had all the luck this trip," put in Dick, as he
heard the last words.  "That gasolene he brought along to clean the
grease off his clothes saved our bacon, all right.  It sure did!"

And I believe Dick was right.

Mr. Hamilton, to whom Dick wired a brief message of the successful
ending of the trip, telegraphed back:


"Congratulations.  You made good after all.  I haven't any doubts
now."


"That's another time I put one over on dad!" laughed Dick.

"Where are you going, Larry?" asked the young millionaire, as he
saw his young newspaper friend hurrying across the aviation field.

"I'm going to wire the story to the Leader," was the answer.  "I
want 'em to know we crossed the continent and won the prize.  It'll
be a great beat!"

Of how Dick was feted and greeted by an aviation club in San
Francisco, of how he was made much of by the army officers, and how
he had to give many exhibition flights, I will say nothing here, as
this book is already lengthy enough.  Sufficient to remark that the
young millionaire had a great time at the City of the Golden Gate,
and Uncle Ezra and his friends enjoyed it with him.  Grit, also,
came in for a share of attention.

Dick Hamilton left his airship with the San Francisco army officers,
as he had agreed to do, for they wanted to study its construction.
In due season, the party started back East.

"I rather calculated you'd go back in the airship," said Uncle Ezra.
"Railroad fare is terrible expensive, and I've lost so much money
already--"

"I'll buy your ticket," said Dick generously, "especially as you
helped me win the race," and Mr. Larabee, with a look of relief on
his face, put back his pocketbook.

"And now for Hamilton Corners!" exclaimed Dick, as they got in the
train.  "I've had enough of airships for a while, though it was
great sport."  And here we will take leave of Dick Hamilton and his
friends.





End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Dick Hamiliton's Airship, by Garis


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