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首页 » 英文短篇小说 » Along the Mohawk Trail » CHAPTER XX GORDON GOES UP IN THE AIR—ALSO HARRY
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 “Hey, Harry, come up here, will you? Gordon’s having a fit.”
“Honest, Harry, you ought to see him—he’s wound up!”
“On the level, Harry, he’s doing a hornpipe in the cabin—come on up, don’t miss it!”
“Say, Harry, come up here till we get hold of you! How did you ever manage to do that, anyway? It was great! Gordon’s waving the field glass round his head—we can’t stop him!”
“Red Deer’s waiting to get his hands on you, old man—he’s got a scout smile a yard long! You ought to get a special award for that! It was great!”
“That was wonderful, Harry! You deserve a vote of thanks for licking those college fellows, but I don’t see how you did it single-handed!”
The voices came from a group of scouts as they crowded at the yacht’s rail. A rival group dragged him into a large, broad, dilapidated fishing-smack, furnished with a gasoline engine.
“I want all you boys to get out of that thing and come aboard here,” called Mr. Danforth, seconded by the half dozen of the troop whose presence he had already secured.
Harry was literally pushed up the steps, the rest following him.
“How are you?” said Dr. Brent, grabbing him with one hand and pounding his shoulder with the other. Mr. Danforth very cheerfully pushed Dr. Brent out of the way. “Harry, my boy, how are you? It was magnificent! You’re a wonder! How do you feel?”
“Fine and dandy,” smiled Harry.
“You must be all played out,” said Morrel. “Do you feel like a cup of coffee?”
“Do I look like a cup of coffee?” Harry laughed. “Where’s the Kid, anyway?”
“The Kid went up in the air when you touched the finish line and hasn’t come down yet. He told us all not to speak to you till he’d seen you first—didn’t he, Tilford?”
“Sure, they’re all crazy about you here, Harry. You’ve got them hypnotized. Gordon’s applied for a patent on you.”
“Say, Harry,” said Charlie Greer, the Beavers’ corporal, “we’ve been writing to Oakwood. Where’ve you been, you old tramp? Gordon says you’ve been doing light housekeeping on the top floor of old what’s-its-name mountain.”
“Yes, I’ve been cooking for the Kid,” Harry answered. “He’s a whole famine in himself.”
“Harry, those were regular rowing oars, weren’t they? How did you manage ’em, anyway?”
“Yes, they were as long as a spelling lesson. I believe it was that placard those fellows had that helped me. I just couldn’t stand for that. Hel-lo, Langford, old boy! Well, it’s good to see your pudgy face!”
“Sh-h-h, here he comes,” cried Roy Carpenter, the Hawks’ patrol leader, as Gordon’s head became visible above the companionway.
“Dearie me!” said Waring. “Let’s get from under!”
Gordon made a dive for Harry, and grabbed him. “Come down, come down!” said he.
“Hello, Kid, down where?”
“Go ahead, Harry boy,” said John Walden, knowingly. “By all means, go!”
But Harry had no choice.
“I thought I would wait until you had seen your friends,” said Miss Crosby, shaking hands with him, “to congratulate you for your perfectly wonderful—”
“Did you have a good view, Miss Crosby?”
“Saw everything. And your friend explained things to me. Oh, he’s such an interesting little fellow, and he isn’t a bit bashful, is he?”
“Well, not so you’d notice it,” said Harry.
All of Mr. Danforth’s party had now to congratulate him, and in the midst of it Raymond Vinton, corporal of the Hawks, appeared in the doorway of the cabin.
“Mr. Arnold,” said he, with a profound air of mock deference, “Goodwin, the daring aviator, has just sent a special message aboard asking if the victor of the boat-race would like to take a little joy ride with him over to Vermont. What shall I say?”
“Oh, isn’t that just lovely!” said Miss Antoinette.
“Great,” answered Harry. “Things are certainly coming my way. Here, Raymond, have you met Miss Crosby? Miss Crosby, Mr. Vinton is corporal of the Hawk Patrol, such as it is, and he’s great on deducing. You just waste a few minutes talking to him, won’t you, while I go on deck and see if they’re trying to guy me.”
But they were not “guying” him. Sure enough, there in a boat at the foot of the yacht’s steps sat a young man in a pair of greasy overalls. It was Goodwin’s mechanic.
“Harry,” said Dr. Brent, “go by all means. It’s a chance not to be lost. It isn’t every one who has such a dramatic opportunity of breaking his neck. And when you return, if you do, you’ll find the troop up at the float. If you are inclined to accept the poor hospitality of our humble camp after all this,” he added with a humorous smile, “you’ll find us waiting for you with the Swan.”
“The how?” asked Harry.
“The Swan, my boy, the boat you just saw. It is ours till September first—ours and paid for. Harry, my boy, I can see by the look in your eye that you are going to call your scoutmaster down for getting the troop mixed up in this racing affair—but we couldn’t resist the invitation, and your corporal, acting for you, voted to see it through. But as for the Swan, Harry, I will not hear one word against her.”
“She looks as if she might do a mile or so an hour—with the current. Is it your joke, Doctor?”
“I hired her from a country youth after scouring the country. If you choose to join the mockers, do so. I stand by the Swan, Harry, I’m afraid it’s going to be a job to drag the boys off this yacht, but it’s got to be done. Your friend Mr. Danforth is great!”
“They’re moving to Oakwood this Fall.”
“So I hear—that’s fine. Well, my boy, you’d better be off for your joy ride.”
It was hard for Harry to say good-by to his genial host and the party on the yacht, but he made the rounds of the cordial group, promising to see them in the Fall—at least, the Danforths and Miss Crosby, who told him that she would surely be in Oakwood to see little Pen win the aero contest.
With many expressions of good-will from Mr. Danforth, and a good deal of mock deference from the troop, he got into the little boat and was rowed ashore. The man in the greasy overalls led the way to a spacious green near by, around which a rope fence had been stretched. The enclosure was already lined with people. Others, more anxious to witness the flight than to examine the machine, were comfortably seated on rocks or sprawled on the grass outside. The man’s greasy overalls acted as a password, and the crowd opened to let him cross the rope with Harry.
“That’s the fellow,” said some one, alluding to Harry, who gave no heed to the comments on himself, for his interest was fixed on the center of the field, where a perfect whirlpool of dust was rising, almost entirely obscuring the aeroplane.
“They’re trying out the motor,” the man explained.
“Jiminy!” said Harry. “She goes some, doesn’t she?”
“Four hundred and seventy turns a minute,” said the man.
“How fast will that send her?” Harry asked.
“Forty miles an hour against a brisk wind.”
“How fast do you suppose that would send a small boat?”
“Now you’ve got me—they don’t have to figure so much for slip in the water. Water’s a dense medium; but the air’s thin; you’ve got to remember that. You interested in air work?”
“Why, yes,” said Harry, “but I’m not very well posted. What’s the pitch of a propeller, anyway?”
“That’s its angle—you can’t get two aviators to agree about that. Mr. Goodwin uses an eight-foot fan. You see, if we got the full benefit of those four hundred and seventy turns we could make a streak of lightning look like a snail, but you understand it’s like walking up a treadmill,—you’ve got to walk like the mischief to keep ahead of the game. Mr. Goodwin saw you win that race. Well, here we are.”
It surprised Harry a little to hear this grimy-faced, besmirched, greasy young man talk so intelligently. But the experience is not uncommon for those who interest themselves in aviation. A machinist or electrician who lays down his ordinary work to devote his skill to the conquest of the air, usually does so by reason of an ardent love of the science; and there is not a more scientific and competent set of mechanics than those who have attached themselves to successful aviators.
Goodwin, an active little man, with keen black eyes, came forward from the little group surrounding the machine to welcome Harry.
“Ah,” said he, “that was a splendid race. I congratulate you. It occurred to me that you might like to go up with me—eh?”
“Indeed, I should,” said Harry. “It was good of you to ask me.”
“Not at all, there’s an empty seat, if you’re not afraid.”
“Not much,” laughed Harry. “I’d have come a long way for this chance.”
“We haven’t got much air to stand on,” said Mr. Goodwin. “We’ll have to speed a bit, I think.”
“We won’t get arrested for speeding, anyway,” suggested Harry.
“True enough,” laughed the aviator, as he went about his machine, trying the wire bracing as one tries the strings of a harp. “If there’s anything you want to know, my boy, just fire away. These reporters have got me worked up so I’m a regular ‘Questions and Answers Column’ in a newspaper. Now’s your chance—any posers?” He glanced whimsically at Harry, who was already absorbed in an inspection of the graceful medley of wing and wire and polished struts.
The machine was a biplane of forty-two feet lateral extent, with forward stability planes similar to the Wright model. Instead of the tips of the main planes being flexible, however, which is a chief feature of the famous Wright machine, the lateral stability of the craft was controlled by hinged wings, midway between the upper and lower planes at each extremity, more after the fashion of the Van Anden device. Harry noticed the curve of the main planes, for he had heard that here lay one of the elusive secrets of aviation and a rule which would apply as well to a boy’s model as to a man-carrying craft. The cross-ribs rose rather abruptly from the front an inch or more above the forward horizontal framing, then curved evenly back. The curve of the canvas was not the arc of a circle at all, but a sort of humpback shape, cleverly designed to catch the air in front, imprison it for the fraction of a second, and pour it slowly out under the rear to make room for more. Many a stick had been steamed and bent and dried and thrown away before that ugly, but efficient, curve had been decided on.
“I must see that Pen has his planes flexed right if we have to go out and harpoon a whale to get the whalebone,” thought Harry.
The strength and perfect rigidity of the machine were obtained by a multiplicity of wire braces running in every direction. There was some good reason for the presence of every stick and brace, for every little curve or turn. Even the canvas was laid on diagonally for the bracing effect it might have. And though the machine looked simple, considering its great responsibility, Harry could well believe that every detail of it was the result of years of study and experiment.
For the aeroplane is not a discovery, nor an invention, either, in the ordinary sense, but the combined application and the nice adjustment of a dozen worked-out principles and a hundred ingenious devices for riding the baffling and unstable air currents. Every jut and turn, every little projection, every eccentric form of wing or plane or rudder, had its scientific explanation. Yet most boys who see an aeroplane think they can go and build one. But the money which is often expended for wood and tools might better be used to purchase books containing the rudimentary facts, a knowledge of which has made the conquest of the air possible and goes far to make it safe.
Two seats, side by side, were cozily placed in the center between the upper and lower planes, with the control device near at hand, and thus every movement that a bird makes,—the flex of wing, the flap of tail, the guiding tendency of this or that little stir of throat and body,—was at the command of the operator. The telescope, the first tool of aviation, had forced the swallow and the sea-gull to yield up their secret, and here it was amid a network of frame and wire, at the service of man.
Goodwin’s voice aroused Harry from his absorption. “No questions answered after the train leaves,” he said. Harry felt very much at home with him already. Here was a man, unaffected, simple, offhand, competent, self-assured, and levelheaded. Nothing of the crank or the visionary,—the kind of man who helps to advance the science of aviation.
“I thought the propeller looked pretty big across the field,” said Harry; “but it doesn’t look so big now. That all there is to the motor,—just that that’s on the propeller?”
“That’s all, but it’s enough,” Mr. Goodwin answered.
“It makes a whole lot of fuss, anyway.”
“Right you are, and she fits like a suit of clothes. It isn’t wholly a question of how much power you have, you know, but does the power fit? That’s the question. See?”
“But doesn’t more power mean more speed?” Harry asked.
Goodwin laughed. “No, not exactly. The motor sustains the machine in flight. Now, if there’s a good big supporting wing area, why, the engine can be smaller—it’s got to be, in fact.”
“I’m afraid I’ll have to go to the foot of the class,” laughed Harry.
“So? Why? You never studied the subject? Well, see here, now, I’ll give you the A B C of it and then we’ll hop in. The more spread there is, the less supporting work the propeller has to do. So a powerful motor fits a small machine, and a big machine takes less power to get the same results. Now, you take Curtiss; he cuts down his planes, makes his machine small, and what’s the answer? Does he get along with less power? No, he needs more. You see, it isn’t a case of more power, more speed. It’s having your power to fit your machine. The propeller is more than a propeller,—it’s a sustainer as well. Stop the propeller of a boat, and the boat stands still. Stop an aero propeller, and down she comes. Propeller keeps her up and keeps her going—two jobs. If you lessen your support in one way, you must make it up in another. An aeroplane is sustained by its speed with help from its planes. Well, now, the more area you have, the less the motor has to do. You’ve heard aviation compared to sailing, and that’s just the very thing that it isn’t a bit like. Did you ever skate on thin ice? Well, there you have it. If you want to keep from going in, skate fast. Now, if you put a large motor on a large machine, you don’t get a normal increase of speed, by any means. So you see, it’s not a question of power—it’s a question of a nice, neat fit, as you might say.”
Harry remembered this later, when he saw more than one model aeroplane lurch and flutter to the ground, to the amazement and disappointment of its young maker. And when he returned to Oakwood, he remembered the words of his aviator friend, “It isn’t a question of power—it’s a question of nice, neat fit.”
“That’s a gnome motor,” concluded Mr. Goodwin; “revolving type, air-cooled, saves the weight of a fly-wheel because the whole thing is a fly-wheel in itself. Is she all right, Joe? Hop in, then, my boy.”
It was a moment that Harry Arnold never forgot. He would have liked to study the machine a little longer before taking flight, for every detail of it excited his keenest interest. It seemed almost incredible that this man who climbed into the seat beside him could be so offhand about so momentous a thing as mounting and riding the invisible air, but he got in as if he were about to drive a familiar horse along a quiet country road.
Two men stood behind the main planes, steadying them, and the mechanic stood at the center, at the end of the bird-like tail, where the vertical rudders were placed.
The aviator placed one foot conveniently near a small pedal beneath him. His other foot and both of Harry’s rested on a bar, which was all that kept their legs from dangling loosely over the edge of the lower plane. On the outer side of each seat rose one of the supporting struts of the plane above them, forming a convenient handle to steady oneself by.
Mr. Goodwin put his hands on either side of a wheel before him, placed like the steering gear of an automobile. Beside him was an upright lever. He wet his finger and held it up. Then he pulled out a little strip of cheesecloth and held that up. It fluttered a little to one side. “A little to the left, Joe,” said he. The man at the tail pulled the machine about till it faced directly into the breeze—what little there was. Then one of the men at the end came forward and began kicking stones out of the way.
The suspense, to Harry, was delightful. Even here on the ground his position was one of openness and freedom. Below him there was nothing but the bar on which his feet rested. His position, little more than a comfortable perch, gave him a first thrill of exhilaration.
“Run her out, Joe,” called the aviator.
There was a little jerk, and the machine started along the ground, gathering speed till it clipped along at a good pace. Harry saw the men at the ends of the planes pushing and steadying. Their chests were about level with the lower plane. Presently, Goodwin put his foot on a little button, and Harry nearly jumped from his seat from the sudden whir behind him. Louder and more tumultuous it grew, till it rivaled the noise of a sawmill. He saw one of the men at the plane ends reaching up. Yes, they had left the ground. The frame vibrated, sending little tremors through him. They were skimming along toward the encircling crowd.
Presently, Goodwin, holding the wheel steadily, pulled it toward him. The little pair of horizontal planes, resembling a box kite, which were situated about twelve feet in front of them, turned slightly on their axles so that Harry could not see between them now, and he was presently conscious of a backward tilt of his body. They were rising. The noise of the propeller just behind him was deafening. The whole frame was convulsed with its movement. It was plain now that every wire was needed.
Harry clasped the upright by his side and looked down. The line of spectators blurred as the machine passed over it. Then, as they mounted higher, following the tilt of the forward runner, things became clearer, until, about three hundred feet from the ground, land and crowd took their proper perspective, and Harry saw beneath him hundreds of upturned faces.
He now felt scarcely any motion at all. When he closed his eyes, he could not have told that he was moving, save for the wind in his face. The deafening roar of the fan made questions impossible unless he yelled, and the aviator seemed too much occupied to talk.
Soon, still holding the wheel stiff, Goodwin pushed it from him, and the little planes in front twirled back to their former position, while the back of Harry’s seat seemed to be pushing him forward. Now, he could look straight between these two little forward planes again, and he knew the machine was coming to an even keel. They were at a height of five hundred feet or more, heading directly across the lake. Now and then, Goodwin turned the wheel slightly, and once, as he did so, Harry glanced behind him, and could just make out, through the whirring fan, the two vertical planes at the end of the tail turning a little to right or left, like a fish’s tail.
The seat was not equipped with springs, yet there was no jolting; indeed, there was no sense of motion at all, except for the wind, and the terrific straining and vibration of every part of the machine. Yet the boats in the lake beneath them receded, and in a little while they were above the Vermont shore.
Now, again, the forward planes turned slightly and the greater spreads of canvas followed them obediently upward, till Harry reclined against the back of his seat as in a steamer chair. When they came to an even keel again he realized that this had been done to clear the tree-tops on a hill well in from the Vermont shore. The absence of all sense of rapid motion continually tempted him to release his hold of the supporting bar, only to grasp it again whenever he looked at the tiny specks below, and at the lake winding its way like a river on a map.
Now, for the first time, the operator placed his hand on the lever, still holding the wheel stiff with the other hand. The hinged planes, out at the end between the main planes, rose on the right-hand side and sank on the left-hand side simultaneously. There was a sense of sudden lift, the left end of the craft rose higher, higher, till the machine swung full to the left. There was no jolting, only a delightful consciousness of being swept around. Now, again, the crowd on the New York side was clear to view. Again the lake, with its tiny, screeching boats, stretched below them. When they were almost above the field whence they had started, the vibration became less furious, the propeller slowed down, stopped. A grateful silence prevailed.
“Anything wrong?” asked Harry, apprehensively.
“No, indeed,” said his companion.
The machine coasted slowly, easily, downward, held stable by the lever control, with an ever so slight declining of the forward planes. Harry did not know when they touched the ground. When he alighted, he saw the tracks of the wheels for fully fifty feet behind. And it was only in that way that he was able to determine where the aeroplane had left the unstable and invisible currents of sustaining air for the homely but reliable support of good old Mother Earth.
“Look at him,” said Goodwin, with a grin, as he climbed out.
“It’s easy to tell he’s one of those scouts we hear so much about,” laughed a reporter who stood near. “First thing he does is to go back and study the tracks!”


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