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Title: Round the World in Seven Days
Author: Strang, Herbert
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Round the World in Seven Days" ***

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ROUND THE WORLD IN SEVEN DAYS

by

HERBERT STRANG

Illustrated by A. C. Michael

1910



CONTENTS



     CHAPTER.

             PRELUDE

          I  THE CABLEGRAM

         II  EASTWARD HO!

        III  ACROSS EUROPE TO THE BOSPHORUS

         IV  A FLYING VISIT

          V  THE TOMB OF UR-GUR

         VI  WITH GUN RUNNERS IN THE GULF

        VII  THE WHITE DJINN

       VIII  A SHIP ON FIRE

         IX  A PASSENGER FOR PENANG

             INTERLUDE

          X  SOME PRAUS AND A JUNK

         XI  AUSTRALIAN HOSPITALITY

        XII  STALKED BY PIGMIES

       XIII  THE RESCUE

        XIV  SIR MATTHEW IMPROVES THE OCCASION

         XV  HERR SCHWANKMACHER'S CABBAGES

        XVI  A STOP-PRESS MESSAGE

       XVII  A MIDNIGHT VIGIL

      XVIII  THE LAST LAP

             POSTSCRIPT



PRELUDE


Lieutenant George Underhill, commanding H.M. surveying ship
_Albatross_, had an unpleasant shock when he turned out of his
bunk at daybreak one morning. The barometer stood at 29.41'. For two
or three days the vessel had encountered dirty weather, but there had
been signs of improvement when he turned in, and it was decidedly
disconcerting to find that the glass had fallen. His vessel was a
small one, and he was a little uneasy at the prospect of being caught
by a cyclone while in the imperfectly-charted waters of the Solomon
Islands.

He was approaching the eastern shore of Ysabel Island, whose steep
cliffs were covered with a lurid bank of cloud. If the shore was like
those of the other islands of the group, it would be, he knew, a maze
of bays, islets, barrier reefs, and intricate channels amid which,
even in calm weather, a vessel would run a considerable risk of
grounding, a risk that would be multiplied in a storm. Anxiously
noting the weather signs, Underhill hoped that he might reach a safe
anchorage before the threatening cyclone burst upon him.

As is the way with cyclones, it smote the vessel almost without
warning. A howling squall tore out of the east, catching the ship
nearly abeam, and making her shudder; then, after a brief lull, came
another and even a fiercer blast, and in a few minutes the wind
increased to a roaring hurricane, enveloping the ship in a mist of
driving rain that half choked the officers and crew as they crouched
under the lee of the bulwarks and the deckhouse.

The _Albatross_ was a gallant little vessel, and Underhill,
now that what he dreaded had happened, hoped at least to keep her off
the shore until the fury of the storm had abated. For a time she
thrashed her way doggedly through the boiling sea; but all at once
she staggered, heeled over, and then, refusing to answer the helm,
began to rush headlong upon the rocks, now visible through the mist.

"Propeller shaft broken, sir," came the cry from below to Underhill as
he stood clinging to the rail of the bridge.

He felt his utter helplessness. He could not even let go an anchor,
for no one could stand on deck against the force of the wind. He could
only cling to his place and see the vessel driven ashore, without
being able to lift a hand to save her. Suddenly he was conscious of a
grating, grinding sensation beneath his feet, and knew that the vessel
had struck a coral reef. She swung round broadside to the wind; the
boats on the weather side were wrenched from their davits and hurled
away in splinters; and in the midst of such fury and turmoil there was
no possibility of launching the remaining two boats and escaping from
the doomed vessel.

All hands had rushed on deck, and clung to rails and stays and
whatever else afforded a hold. Among those who staggered from the
companion way was a tall thin man, spectacled, with iron-grey hair and
beard, and somewhat rounded shoulders. Linking arms with him was a
young man of twenty-two or twenty-three: the likeness between them
proclaimed them father and son. The older man was Dr. Thesiger Smith,
the famous geologist, in furtherance of whose work the _Albatross_ was
making this voyage. The younger man was his second son Tom, who, after
a distinguished career at Cambridge, had come out to act as his
father's assistant.

Underhill knew by the jerking and grinding he felt beneath him that
his ill-fated vessel was being slowly forced over the reef towards the
shore. His first lieutenant, Venables, crawled up to the bridge, and,
bawling into his ear, asked if anything could be done. The lieutenant
shook his head.

"Water's within two feet of the upper deck forward, sir," shouted
Venables; "abaft it is three feet above the keelson."

"Get the lifebuoys," was the brief reply.

Venables crawled down again, and with the assistance of some of the
crew unlashed the lifebuoys and distributed them among the company.
Meanwhile the progress of the vessel shorewards had been suddenly
checked. She came up with a jerk, and Underhill guessed that her nose
had stuck fast in a hollow of the reef, and prayed that the storm
would abate for just so long as would enable him to get the boats
clear and make for the land before the ship broke up. But for a good
half-hour longer the hurricane blew with undiminished force, and it
was as much as every man could do to avoid being washed away by the
mountainous seas that broke over the vessel.

At length, however, there came a sudden change. The uproar ceased as
by magic, and there fell a dead calm. Underhill was not deceived. He
judged that the vessel was now in the centre of the cyclone; the calm
might last for forty or fifty minutes, then a renewal of the hurricane
was almost certainly to be expected. Without the loss of a moment he
gave his orders. The boats were made ready; into one they put arms,
ammunition, and tools, together with the ship's papers and
chronometer, a compass, and Dr. Thesiger Smith's specimens and
diaries; into the other more ammunition, and a portion of what
provisions could be collected from above or below water. The boats
were lowered, the men dropped into them and pulled off, leaving
Underhill and two or three of the crew still on the vessel to collect
the remainder of the provisions and whatever else seemed worth saving.
The sea was so high that the boats had much difficulty in making the
shore; but they reached it safely, and one of them, after being
rapidly unloaded, returned for the commander.

Before it regained the ship, Underhill felt a light puff of wind from
the south-west. Lifting a megaphone, he roared to the men to pull for
their lives. The boat came alongside; it had scarcely received its
load when the hurricane once more burst upon them, this time from the
opposite quarter. Underhill leapt down among his men, and ordered them
to give way. Before they had pulled a dozen strokes the storm was at
its height, but the force of the wind was now somewhat broken by the
trees and rocks of the island. Even so it was hard work, rowing in the
teeth of the blast, the boat being every moment in danger of swamping
by the tremendous seas. Underhill, at the tiller, set his teeth, and
anxiously watched the advancing cliffs, at the foot of which the
remainder of his company stood. The boat was within twenty yards of
them when a huge wave fell on it as it were out of the sky. It sank
like lead. Thanks to the lifebuoys Underhill and the men rose quickly
to the surface. Two of them, who could not swim, cried out
despairingly for help. Underhill seized one and held him up; the other
was saved by the promptitude of young Smith. Seeing their plight, he
caught up a rope which had been brought ashore, and flung it among the
group of men struggling in the water. The drowning man clutched it,
the others swam to it, and by its aid all were drawn ashore, gasping
for breath, and sorely battered by the jagged rocks.

"All safe, thank heaven!" said Underhill, as he joined the others;
"but I'm sorry we've lost the boat."

The shipwrecked party found themselves on a narrow beach, behind which
rose steep cliffs, rugged and difficult to climb. Against these they
crouched to find some shelter from the storm, and watch the gradual
dismemberment of the ill-fated _Albatross_. Wave after wave broke over
her, the spray dashing so high that even her funnel sometimes
disappeared from view. The spectators held their breath: could she
live out the storm? At last a tremendous sea swept her from the hollow
in which she was wedged, and she plunged beneath the waters.



CHAPTER I

THE CABLEGRAM


"Tenez! up! up! Ah ça! A clean shave, mister, hein?"

A touch on the lever had sent the aeroplane soaring aloft at a steep
angle, and she cleared by little more than a hair's breadth the edge
of a thick plantation of firs.

"A close shave, as you say, Roddy," came the answer. And then the
speaker let forth a gust of wrathful language which his companion
heard in sympathetic silence.

Lieutenant Charles Thesiger Smith, of H.M.S. _Imperturbable_, was
normally a good-tempered fellow, and his outburst would have deceived
nobody who knew him so well as Laurent Rodier.

It was the dusk of an evening in mid spring. Above, the sky was clear,
washed by the rain that had fallen without intermission since early
morning. Below, the chill of coming night, acting on the
moisture-laden air, had covered the land with a white mist, that
curled and heaved beneath the aeroplane in huge waves. It looked like
a billowy sea of cotton-wool, but the airmen who had just emerged from
it, had no comfort in its soft embrace. Their eyes were smarting, they
drew their breath painfully, and little streams of water trickling
from the soaked planes made cold, shuddering streaks on their faces
and necks.

An hour ago they had sailed by Salisbury spire, calculating that a few
minutes' run, at two or three miles a minute, would bring them to
their destination on the outskirts of Portsmouth. But a few miles
south the baffling mist had made its appearance, and Smith found
himself bereft of landmarks, and compelled to tack to and fro in utter
uncertainty of his course. He was as much at a loss as if he were
navigating a vessel in a sea-fog. To sail through the mist was to
incur the risk of striking a tree, a chimney, or a church steeple; to
pursue his flight above it in the deepening dusk might carry him miles
out of his way, and though a southerly course must presently bring him
to the sea, he could not tell how far east or west of his intended
landing-place. Meanwhile the petrol was running short, and it was
clear that before long his dilemma would be solved by the engine
stopping, and bringing him to the ground willy-nilly, goodness knows
where.

This was vexing enough, but in the particular circumstances it was a
crowning stroke of misfortune. To-day was the twenty-first of his
twenty-eight days' leave: to-morrow he was to begin a round of what he
called duty visits among his relatives; he would have to motor, play
golf, dance attendance on girls at theatres and concerts, and spur
himself to a thousand activities that he detested. There was no escape
for him. Perhaps he could have faced this seven days' penance more
equably if he had had the recollection of three well-employed weeks to
sweeten it. Even this was denied him. Ever since he came on leave the
weather had been abominable: high wind, incessant rain, all the
elements conspiring to prevent the enjoyment of his hobby. Rodier had
suggested that he should apply for an extension of leave, but Smith,
though he did not lack courage, could not screw it to this pitch. He
remembered too vividly his interview with the captain when coming off
ship.

"Don't smash yourself up," said the captain, "and don't run things too
fine. You're always late in getting back from leave. Last time you
only got in by the skin of your teeth, when we were off shooting, too.
If you overstep the mark again you'll find yourself brought up with a
round turn, you may take my word for it."

"I couldn't beg off after that," he said to Rodier. "Anyway, it's
rotten bad luck."

"Précisément ca!" said Rodier sympathetically.

For some little time they sailed slowly on, seeking in vain for a rift
in the blanket of mist: then Rodier cried suddenly--

"Better take a drop, mister. In three minutes all the petrol is gone,
and then--"

"I'm afraid you're right, Roddy, but goodness knows what we shall fall
on. We must take our chance, I suppose."

He adjusted the planes, so as to make a gradual descent while the
engine still enabled him to keep way on the machine, and it sank into
the mist. Both men kept a sharp look-out, knowing well that to
encounter a branch of a tree or a chimney-stack might at any moment
bring the voyage, the aeroplane, and themselves to an untimely end.
All at once, without warning, a large dark shape loomed out of the
mist. Smith instantly warped his planes, and the machine dived so
precipitately as almost to throw him from his seat. Next moment there
was a shock; he was flung headlong forward, and found himself
sprawling half suffocated on a damp yielding mass, which, when he had
recovered his wits, he knew to be the unthatched top of a hayrick.

His first thought was for the aeroplane. Raising himself, and dashing
the clinging hay wisps from his face, he shouted--

"Is she smashed, Roddy?"

"Ah, no, mister," came the answering cry. "She stick fast, and me
also."

Smith crawled to the edge of the rick and dropped to the ground. Two
or three dogs were barking furiously somewhere in the neighbourhood. A
few steps brought him to the aeroplane, lying in a slanting position
between the hayrick and a fence, over which it projected. Rodier had
clung to his seat, and had suffered nothing worse than a jolting.

"This is a pretty mess," said Smith despairingly, "one end stuck fast
in the hayrick, the other sticking over the fence: they'll have to
pull it down before we can get her out. Get off, you brute!" he
exclaimed, as a dog came yapping at his legs.

"Seize him, Pompey: seize him, good dog!" cried a rough voice.

"Call him off, or I'll break his head," cried Smith in exasperation.

"You will, will you?" roared the farmer. "I'll teach you to come
breaking into my yard: I'll have the law of you."

"Don't be absurd, man," replied Smith, fending off the dog as well as
he could. "Don't you see I've had an accident?"

"Accident be jiggered!" said the farmer. "You don't come breaking into
my yard by accident. Better stand quiet or he'll tear you to bits."

"Oh, come now!" said Smith. "Look at this. Here's my aeroplane, fixed
up here. You don't suppose I came down here on purpose? I lost my way
in this confounded mist, and don't know where I am. Just be sensible,
there's a decent chap, and get some of your men to help us out. I'll
pay damages."

"I'll take care of that," said the farmer curtly. "What the country's
coming to I don't know, what with motors killing us on the roads and
now these here airyplanes making the very air above us poison to
breathe. There ought to be a law to stop it, that's what _I_ say.
Down, Pompey! What's your name, mister?"

Smith explained, asking in his turn the name of the place where he had
alighted. Farmer Barton was a good patriot, and the knowledge that the
intruder was a navy-man sensibly moderated his truculence.

"Why, this be Firtop Farm, half-a-mile from Mottisfont station, if you
know where that is," he said. "Daze me if you hain't been and cut into
my hayrick!" He sniffed. "And what's this horrible smell? I do believe
you've spoilt the whole lot with your stinking oil." He was getting
angry again.

"Well, I've said I'll pay for it," said Smith impatiently. "Get your
men, farmer, or I shan't be home to-night. I suppose I can get some
petrol somewhere about here?"

"You might, or you might not, in the village; I can't say. My men are
abed and asleep, long ago. You'll have to bide till morning."

"Oh well, if I must, I must. Roddy, just have a look at the machine
and see that she's safe for the night. I'll run down to the station
and send a wire home, and then get beds in the village."

"Better be sharp, then," said the farmer. "You can't send no wire
after eight, and it's pretty near that now. I'll show you the way."

Smith hurried to the station and despatched his telegram; then,
learning that there was a train due at 8.2 from Andover, he decided to
wait a few minutes and get an evening paper. An aviation meeting had
just been held at Tours, and he was anxious to see how the English
competitors had fared. The train was only a few minutes late. Smith
asked the guard whether he had brought any papers, and to his vexation
learnt that, there being no bookstall at Mottisfont, there were none
for that station. However, the guard himself had bought a paper before
leaving Waterloo.

"Take it and welcome, sir," he said. "I've done with it. You're
Lieutenant Smith, if I'm not mistaken. Seen your portrait in the
papers,' sir."

"Thanks, guard," said Smith, pressing a coin into his reluctant hand.

"Englishmen doing well in France, sir. Hope to see you a prize-winner
one of these days. Goodnight!"

The train rumbled off, and Smith scanned the columns by the light of a
platform lamp. He read the report of the meeting in which he was
interested: a Frenchman had made a new record in altitude; an
Englishman had won a fine race, coming in first of ten competitors; a
terrible accident had befallen a well-known airman at the moment of
descending. The most interesting piece of news was that a Frenchman
had maintained for three hours an average speed of a hundred and
twenty miles.

"I'm only just in time," said Smith to himself. He was folding the
paper when his eye was caught by a heading that recalled the days of
his boyhood, when he had revelled in stories of savages, pirates, and
the hundred and one themes that fascinate the ingenuous mind.


                    SHIPWRECKED AMONG CANNIBALS.


                TERRIBLE SITUATION OF FAMOUS SCIENTIST.

                     (From Our Own Correspondent.)

      BRISBANE, Thursday.


      A barque put in here to-day with four men picked up from an
      open boat south of New Guinea, who reported that the
      Government survey vessel Albatross has run ashore in a
      storm on Ysabel Island, one of the Solomon group. The crew
      and passengers, including Dr. Thesiger Smith, the famous
      geologist, were saved, but the vessel is a complete wreck,
      and the unfortunate people were compelled to camp on the
      shore. They are very short of provisions, and being
      practically unarmed are in great danger of being massacred
      by the natives, who are believed to be one of the fiercest
      cannibal tribes in the South Sea.

      Four of the crew put off in the ship's boat to seek
      assistance, but they lost their mast and had to rely on the
      oars, and drifted for several days before being picked up
      in the Coral Sea. A gunboat will be despatched immediately,
      but since it cannot reach the island for at least five
      days, it is greatly to be feared that it will arrive only
      to find that help has come too late.


Smith ran his eyes rapidly over the lines, then folded the paper, and
put it into his pocket. He did not notice that his hand was trembling.
The station-master looked curiously after him as he strode away with
set face.

"Seems to have had bad news," he said to his head porter.

"Bin plungin' on a wrong un, maybe," replied the porter.

Smith left the station, and hastened down the road towards the farm.
He had clean forgotten his intention of bespeaking beds in the
village; indeed, he walked as one insensible to all around him until
he caught sight of the word GARAGE, painted in large white letters,
illuminated by an electric lamp, over a gateway at the side of the
road. Then he swung round and, passing through the gate, came to a
lighted shed where he found a man cleaning a motor car.

"Any petrol to be got here?" he asked quickly.

"As much as we're allowed to keep, sir," replied the man.

"Send a can at once to Firtop Farm, down the road."

He turned, and was quitting the shed when a word from the man recalled
him.

"Beg pardon, sir, but--"

"Oh, here's your money," cried Smith, handing him a crown-piece. "Be
quick. By the way, can you lend me two or three men for half-an-hour
or so at five shillings an hour?"

"Right you are, sir," was the reply. "I'm one; I'll get you a couple
more in no time. Be there as soon as you, sir."

Smith hurried away. On reaching the farm he found that Rodier and the
farmer were engaged in a friendly conversation, by the light of a
carriage lamp which flickered wanly in the mist.

"Wonderful machine, sir," said the farmer, whom Rodier had talked out
of his ill-humour. "Your man has been showing me over it, as you may
say, leastways as well as he could in this fog."

"We must get her out at once," rejoined Smith. "Some men are coming
up. We must get on to-night."

"Good sakes! that's impossible. She lies right athwart the fence, and
you'll have to rig a crane to lift her."

"The fence must come down. I'll pay."

"But drat it all--"

"Look here, farmer, it's got to be done. Here are the men; just oblige
me by showing them a light at the fence, and set them to take down
enough of it to free the aeroplane--carefully; I don't want it
smashed. There's a sovereign on account; you shall have a cheque for
the rest when you send in the bill."

Apparently the magic touch of gold reconciled the farmer to these
hasty proceedings, for he made no more ado, but took the lamp and bade
the three men to follow him.

"What's wrong, mister?" asked Rodier. "You look as if you had been
shocked."

Smith drew the paper from his pocket, gave it to Rodier, and then,
striking a match, showed him the paragraph, and lighted more matches
while he read it.

"Mon dieu!" ejaculated the Frenchman, when he was halfway through. "It
is your father!"

"Yes; my brother is with him. I must get home; it will kill my mother
if she sees this."

Rodier read the paragraph to the end.

"My word, it is bad business," he said. "These cannibals!... And they
have no arms. What horror!"

Smith left him abruptly and walked to the fence to see how the work of
dismantling it was proceeding. Rodier whistled, and thrusting his
hands into his pockets, sat down on a bag of straw and appeared to be
deep in a brown study. Sounds of hammering came from the fence; a
light breeze was scattering the mist, and he could now see clearly the
three men under the farmer's direction carefully removing the fencing
beneath the aeroplane. Rodier watched them for a few minutes, but an
onlooker would have gathered the impression that his thoughts were far
away.

Suddenly he sprang up, muttering, "Ah! On peut le faire, quand même.
Courage, mon ami!" and hastened to rejoin his employer.

"What distance, mister," he said, "from here to there--to the
cannibals?"

"Thirteen thousand miles, I suppose, more or less."

"Ah!" the Frenchman's face fell. "Thirteen thousand!" he repeated,
then was silent for a while, touching his brow as if making some
abstruse calculation. Smith turned away.

"Ah! Qu'importe?" cried Rodier, after a few moments. "On peut le
faire!"

He hastened to Smith, drew him aside, and spoke rapidly to him for a
few moments. The look of doubt that first came to Smith's face was
soon replaced by a look of confidence. He engaged in a hurried
colloquy with his man, at the close of which they shook hands heartily
and went to the fence to lend a hand there.

In half-an-hour the work was done; the fence was down, and the six men
carefully dragged and lifted the aeroplane over the débris, and placed
it on the road outside. While Rodier made a rapid examination of it,
to see that no damage had been done, Smith got the men to empty into
the tank the can of petrol they had brought, paid them for their
work, and handed his card to the farmer.

"Send in your bill," he cried. "Ready, Roddy?"

"All right, mister."

They jumped into their seats. Smith called to the men to stand clear,
and pulled the lever. At the same moment Rodier switched on the
searchlight. The propellers flew round with deafening whirr; the
aeroplane shot forward for thirty or forty yards along the road, then
rose like a bird into the air.

The men stood with mouths agape as the machine flew over the
tree-tops, its light diminishing to a pin-point, its clamour sinking
to the quiet hum of a bee, and then fading away altogether. In a
minute it had totally disappeared.

"Daze me if ever I seed anything like that afore," said the farmer. "A
mile a minute, what?"

"More like two," said the motorman. "I lay she'll be in Portsmouth
afore I'm half-a-mile up road. Good-night, farmer, I'm off to the
Three Waggoners."

"Bust if I don't go, too. There be summat to wet our whistles on
to-night, eh, men?"



CHAPTER II

EASTWARD HO!


Before the farmer reached the hospitable door of the Three Waggoners,
Smith had made his descent upon a broad open space in his father's
park near Cosham. There stood the large shed in which he housed the
aeroplane; adjoining it were a number of workshops. It was quite dark
now, and no one was about; but Smith clearly had no intention of
putting his machine up for the night. As soon as he came to the ground
he hurried off on foot in one direction, Rodier on a bicycle in
another, their purposeful movements betokening a course of action
arranged during the few minutes' conversation at the farm.

Smith walked rapidly through the park, and, entering the house, found
his mother placidly knitting on a settee in the large old-fashioned
hall.

"Ah, my dear boy," she said, as he appeared; "how late you are, and
how dirty! We have waited dinner for you."

"You shouldn't have done that, mother," he replied cheerfully; "though
it's very good of you."

"Well, you see, it's your last night with us for ever so long, and
with Tom and your father away--"

"Yes, I'm sorry I'm so late," Smith broke in hastily. "We were caught
in a mist. I shan't be ten minutes changing."

He ran up the stairs, and before going to his room put his head in at
the door of his sister's.

"You there, Kate? You didn't get my telegram, then? Come to my room in
ten minutes, will you? I want to see you particularly before dinner."

With a seaman's quickness he was bathed and dressed within the time he
had named.

"Come in," he said, as his sister tapped. "You've got a pretty cool
head, Sis; look at this, quickly."

He handed her the evening paper, pointing out the fateful paragraph.
Kate went a little pale as she read it; her bosom heaved, but she said
nothing.

"It must be kept from Mother," he said. "Get hold of to-morrow's
paper, and if the paragraph is there, cut it out or tear off the
page."

"But people will write, or call. They are sure to speak of it."

"That's your chance. Intercept 'em. You always read the Mater's
letters to her, don't you? Keep the servants' mouths shut. And I want
you to write for me to all those people and cry off; pressing
business--any excuse you like."

"But you, Charley?"

"I'm off to London, to-night; must see what can be done for the old
dad, you know."

"How shall we explain to Mother? She has been looking forward to your
spending your last night at home."

"Roddy will come up by and by with an urgent telephone message. The
Mater is so used to that sort of thing that she won't smell a rat."

"How you think of everything, Charley! But I'm afraid Mother will
notice something in our manner at dinner."

"Not if we're careful. You take your cue from me. Come along!"

No one would have guessed at that dinner table that anything was
amiss. Smith seemed to be in the highest spirits, talking incessantly,
describing his sudden descent on Firtop Farm and his interview with
the farmer so racily that his mother laughed gently, and even Kate,
for all her anxiety, smiled. In the middle of the meal the belated
telegram arrived, giving Smith an opportunity for poking fun at
official slowness.

Dinner was hardly over when a servant announced that Mr. Rodier was
below, asking to see Mr. Smith upon particular business. Smith slowly
lighted a cigarette before he left the room. He found Rodier in the
hall.

"Got it, Roddy?" he asked.

"Yes, I ask for globe: Mr. Dawkins give me first a pink paper. 'Sad
news this!' says he."

"I hope to goodness he'll hold his tongue about it."

"He must have it back to-morrow, he said. The inspector is coming."

"All right. Now cut off to the housekeeper and stroke as hard as you
can. I don't know when you'll get another meal."

Returning to the dining-room, Smith said--

"Sorry, Mater, I've got to go to London at once. Too bad, isn't it,
spoiling our last night. Ah well! it can't be helped."

"Is it Admiralty business, Charley?" asked his mother.

"Well, not exactly; something about a wreck, I think."

"I suppose I had better send on your things to the Leslies in the
morning?"

"I'll send you a wire. I mayn't go there, after all. Nuisance having
to change again, isn't it?"

He hastened from the room, got into his air-man suit, covered it with
an overall, emptied his cash-box into his pocket, and returned to say
good-bye. Kate accompanied him to the door.

"Buck up, old girl," he said, as he kissed her. "I'll let you know
what happens, if I can. By the way, there's a globe in the shed I want
you to send back to Dawkins, the school-master, first thing to-morrow.
Good-bye! Send Roddy after me as soon as he has finished his grub."

He hurried through the park, and coming to the shed, switched on the
electric light, which revealed a litter of all sorts of objects:
models, parts of machinery, including an aero-cycle on which he had
spent many fruitless hours, and, on a bench, a small geographical
globe of the world. Taking up a piece of string, he made certain
measurements on the globe, jotting down sundry names and rows of
figures on a piece of paper. Then he went to a telephone box in a
corner of the shed, and rang up a certain club in London, asking if
Mr. William Barracombe was there. After the interval usual in trunk
calls, he began--

"That you, Billy? Good! Thought I'd catch you. Can you give me an
hour or two?... What?... No: not this time. No time for explanations
just now.... Right!... Exactly: nothing ever surprises you."
(A smile flickered on his face.) "Well, I want you to wire to
Constantinople--Con-stant-i-no-ple--to some decent firm, and arrange
for them to have eighty gallons of petrol and sixteen of lubricating
oil ready first thing to-morrow.... Yes, to the order of Lieutenant
Smith.... Also means of transport, motor if possible: if not,
horses.--I say, Central, don't cut me off, please. Yes, I know my
time's up: I'll renew.--You there, Billy? That all right?... No,
that's not all. I want you to meet me on Epsom Downs about
midnight.... Yes, coming by 'plane.... Wait a bit. Bring with you four
bottles of bovril, couple of pounds meat lozenges, half-dozen tins
sardines, bottle of brandy--yes, _and_ soda, as you say; couple of
pounds chocolate, two tins coffee and milk.... No: I say, hold on....
Also orographical maps--maps ... o-ro-graph-i-cal maps ... of Asia
Minor, Southern Asia including India, Straits Settlements,
Polynesia.... I don't know: Stanford's will be shut, but I _must_ have
'em.... That's up to you. Bring 'em all down with you.... Well, you'd
better light a bonfire, so that I can tell where you are. You'll
manage it? Good man! See you about midnight then.... Yes: I saw it;
bad business. Hope they'll manage to hold out.... Tell you when I see
you. Goodbye!"

He replaced the receiver, and turned to find Rodier at his elbow.

"Now, Roddy," he said, "we've got two hours. Slip into it, man."

For the next two hours they worked with scarcely the exchange of a
word, overhauling every part of the engine quickly, but with
methodical care, cleaning, oiling, testing the exhaust and the
carburettor, filling the petrol tank and the reservoir of lubricating
oil, examining the turbines and the propeller--not a square inch of
the machinery escaped their attention. When their task was finished
they were as hot and dirty as engine-drivers. They washed at a sink,
filled two stone jars with water and placed them in the cage, adjusted
the wind screens, and then sat down to rest and talk over things
before starting on their night journey. Smith pencilled some
calculations on a piece of paper, referring more than once to the
globe. Then taking a clean piece, he drew up a schedule which had some
resemblance to a railway timetable.

"There! How does that strike you, Roddy?" he said, when he had
finished it.

"It strikes me hot," said the Frenchman. "What I mean, it will be hot
work. But that is what I like."

"So do I, so long as I can keep cool. At any rate we can start to the
second. Are you ready?"

The sky was brilliant with stars when, just after midnight, they took
their places in the aeroplane. Twenty-five minutes' easy run,
east-north-east, brought them within sight of the dull red glare
northward that betrayed London. Smith had so often made this journey
that, even if the stars had been invisible, he could almost have
directed his course by the lights of the villages and towns over which
he passed. He knew them as well as a sailor knows the lights of the
coast.

Just before half-past twelve, in a steep slope on his right, looming
up black against the sky, he recognized Box Hill. Passing this at a
moderate pace, which allowed them to take a good look-out, they saw in
a minute or two a small red flame flickering in the midst of a dark
expanse. Every second it grew larger as they approached; Smith did not
doubt it was the bonfire which he had asked his friend Barracombe to
kindle. Dropping to the ground within a few feet of the fire, which
turned out to be of considerable dimensions, he found a motor-car
standing near it, and Barracombe walking up and down.

"Well, old man," said Barracombe, as Smith alighted; "they call me a
hustler, but you've hustled me this time. What in the world are you
after?"

"Have you got the stuff?" returned Smith with the curtness of an old
friend.

"Yes; chocolate, bovril, the whole boiling; but--"

"And the maps?"

"_And_ the maps. A nice job I had to get them. All the shops were
shut, of course. I stole 'em."

"Played the burglar?"

"No. I went to the Royal Societies' Club, and pinched them out of the
library. Posted a cheque to pay for 'em, but there was nobody about
and I couldn't stop for red tape."

"Well, you're a big enough man to do such things with impunity. That's
why I 'phoned you: knew you'd do it somehow."

Although Barracombe was a potentate in the city, who controlled
immense organizations, and held the threads of multifarious interests,
he was very human at bottom, and Smith liked him all the better for
the glow of self-satisfaction that shone upon his face at this tribute
to his omnipotence.

"But now, what's it all mean, you beggar? Are you off to reorganize
the Turkish navy or something?"

"I'm off to the Solomon Islands."

"What!"

"That's it: going to have a shot at helping the poor old governor."

"But, my dear fellow, he'll either be relieved or done for long before
you can get there. The paper said they were practically unarmed."

"Exactly. I'm going to pick up some rifles and ammunition at one of
the Australian ports, and so help 'em to keep their end up until the
gunboat reaches them. I'll probably get there a day before the boat."

"But do you know how far it is? It's thirteen thousand miles or more."

"I know. I'm going to have a try. I've got seven days to get there and
back; then my leave's up. I can do it if the engine holds out, and if
you'll help."

"My dear chap, you know I'll do anything I can, but--well, upon my
soul, you take my breath away. I'm not often surprised, but--what are
you grinning at?"

"At having knocked the wind out of your sails for once, old man.
Seriously, we've thought it out, Roddy and I. We've more than once
done a speed of a hundred and ninety. Of course it's a different
matter to keep it up for days on end, but how long have you had your
motor-car?"

"Three months. Why?"

"And how often has it broken down?"

"Not at all; but I haven't done thirteen thousand miles at a go."

"You've done more, with stoppages. Well, I shall have stoppages--just
long enough to clean and take in petrol and oil, and that's where I
want your help. I want you to arrange for eighty gallons of petrol and
sixteen of oil, to be ready for me at three places besides
Constantinople. Here's the list; Karachi, Penang, and Port Darwin.
Could you cable me to the address in Constantinople the names of firms
at those places?"

"Of course. I'll look 'em up the first thing in the morning."

"Too late. It must be done to-night. If all goes well I shall be in
Constantinople soon after eight to-morrow--our time; and I must leave
there in a couple of hours if I'm to stick to my programme."

"Very well. I'll look out some names as soon as I get back to town.
You mean to keep me up all night. There you are, man; it's absurd; you
can't drive night and day for seven days without sleep."

"Roddy and I shall have to take watch and watch."

"But suppose you're caught in a storm; suppose the engine breaks down
when you're over the sea--"

"My dear chap, if we fall into the sea we shan't hurt ourselves so
much as if it were land. I've got a couple of lifebuoys. If a storm
comes on, too bad to sail through, we must come down and wait till
it's over. Of course any accident may stop us, even a speck of grit in
the engine; but you're the last man in the world to be put off a thing
by any bogey of what-might-be, and I'm going to look at the bright
side. It's time I was off, so I'll take the things you've
brought--oh, I see Roddy has already shipped them, so I'll get
aboard."

"Well, I wish you all the luck in the world. Send me a wire when you
land, will you, so that I may know how you are getting on."

"If I have time. Good-bye, old man; many thanks."

They shook hands, and Smith was just about to jump into his seat when
there came the sound of galloping horses, and the incessant clanging
of a bell. Smith laughed.

"Your blaze has roused the Epsom Fire Brigade," he said with a
chuckle.

"Well, I thought I'd better make a big one to make sure of you,"
replied Barracombe.

Smith waited with his hand on the lever until the fire-engine had
dashed up.

"What the blazes!" cried the captain, as he leapt from his seat,
looking from the motor-car to the aeroplane with mingled amazement and
indignation.

"Good-bye, Billy," cried Smith; "I'll leave you to explain."

The propeller whirled round, the machine flew forwards, and in a few
seconds was soaring with its booming hum into the air. Smith glanced
down and saw the fireman facing Barracombe, his annoyance being
evidently greater than his curiosity. He would have smiled if he
could have heard Barracombe's explanation.

"W-w-why yes," he said, affecting a distressing stutter; "this kind of
b-b-bonfire is a hobby of m-mine; it's about my only r-r-recreation.
M-m-my name? Certainly. My name's William bub-bub-Barracombe, and
you'll find me in, any day between t-ten and f-five, at 532
mum-mum-Mincing Lane."



CHAPTER III

ACROSS EUROPE TO THE BOSPHOROUS


It had just turned half-past twelve on Friday morning when Smith said
good-bye to his friend William Barracombe on Epsom Downs. The sky was
clear; the moon shone so brightly that by its light alone he could
read the compass at his elbow, without the aid of the small electric
lamp that hung above it. He set his course for the south-east, and
flew with a light breeze at a speed of at least two hundred miles an
hour.

His machine was a biplane, and represented the work and thought of
years. Smith never minimized the part which Laurent Rodier had had in
its construction; indeed, he was wont to say that without Rodier he
would have been nowhere. Their acquaintance and comradeship had begun
in the most accidental way. Two years before, Smith was taking part in
an aeroplane race from Paris to London. On reaching the Channel, he
found himself far ahead of all his competitors, except a Frenchman,
who, to his chagrin, managed to keep a lead of almost a mile. Each
carried a passenger. Not long after leaving the French coast, a cloud
of smoke suddenly appeared in the wake of the Frenchman's aeroplane,
and to Smith's alarm the machine in a few seconds dropped into the
sea. Instantly he steered for the spot, and brought his own aeroplane
to within a few feet of the water. To his surprise, he saw that part
of the wreckage was floating, and a man, apparently only half
conscious, was clinging to one of the stays. But for the engine having
providentially become disconnected in the fall, the whole machine with
its passengers must have sunk to the bottom.

Smith saw that it was impossible for him to rescue the man while he
himself remained in his aeroplane, for the slightest touch upon the
other would inevitably have submerged it. There was only one thing to
do. Leaving the aeroplane to the charge of his friend, he dived into
the sea, and rising beside the man, seized him at the moment when his
hold was relaxing, and contrived to hold him up until a fast motor
launch, which had witnessed the accident, came up and rescued them
both.

The man proved to be the chauffeur of the aeroplane; his employer was
drowned. Smith lost the race, but he gained what was infinitely more
valuable to him, the gratitude and devotion of Laurent Rodier. Finding
that the Frenchman was an expert mechanician, Smith took him into his
employment. Rodier turned out to be of a singularly inventive turn of
mind, and the two, putting their heads together, evolved after long
experiment a type of engine that enabled them to double the speed of
the aeroplane. These aerial vessels had already attained a maximum of
a hundred miles an hour, for progress had been rapid since Paulhan's
epoch-making flight from London to Manchester. To the younger
generation the aeroplane was becoming what the motor-car had been to
their elders. It was now a handier, more compact, and more easily
managed machine than the earlier types, and the risk of breakdown was
no greater than in the motor-car of the roads. The engine seldom
failed, as it was wont to do in the first years of aviation. The
principal danger that airmen had to fear was disaster from strong
squalls, or from vertical or spiral currents of air due to some
peculiarity in the confirmation of the land beneath them.

Smith's engine was a compound turbine, reciprocating engines having
proved extravagant in fuel. There were both a high and a low pressure
turbine on the same shaft, which also drove the dynamo for the
searchlight and the lamp illuminating the compass, and for igniting
the explosive mixture. By means of an eccentric, moreover, the shaft
worked a pump for compressing the mixture of hot air and petrol before
ignition, the air being heated by passing through jackets round the
high-pressure turbines. The framework of the planes consisted of
hollow rods made of an aluminum alloy of high tensile strength, and
the canvas stretched over the frames was laced with wire of the same
material. To stiffen the planes, a bracket was clamped at the axis,
and thin wire stays were strung top and bottom, as the masts of a
yacht are supported. The airman was in some degree protected from the
wind by a strong talc screen, also wire-laced; by means of this, and a
light radiator worked by a number of accumulators, he was enabled to
resist the cold, which had been so great a drawback to the pioneers of
airmanship.

In this aeroplane Smith and Rodier had made many a long expedition.
They had found that the machine was capable of supporting a total
weight of nearly 1,200 lbs., and since Smith turned the scale at
eleven stone eight, and Rodier at ten stone, in their clothes, the
total additional load they could carry was about 900 lbs. Eighty
gallons of petrol weighed about 600 lbs. with the cans, and twenty
gallons of lubricating oil about 160 lbs., so that there was a margin
of nearly 150 lbs. for food, rifles, and anything else there might be
occasion for carrying at any stage of the journey.

Smith was in charge of the aeroplane attached to his ship, the
Admiralty having adopted the machine for scouting purposes. It was
only recently that he had brought his own aeroplane to its present
perfection, after laborious experiments in the workshops he
established in the corner of his father's park, where he toiled
incessantly whenever he could obtain leave, and where Rodier was
constantly employed. His machine had just completed its trials, and he
expected to realize a considerable sum by his improvements. Of this he
had agreed to give Rodier one half, and the Frenchman had further
stipulated that the improvements should be offered also to the French
Government. This being a matter of patriotism, Smith readily
consented, remarking with a laugh that he would not be the first to
break the _entente cordiale_.

Just as a voyage round the world was a dream until Drake accomplished
it, so a flight round the world was the acme of every airman's
ambition. It was the accident of his father's plight that crystallized
in Smith's mind the desires held in suspension there. The act was
sudden: the idea had been long cherished.

He had decided on his course after a careful examination of the globe
borrowed from Mr. Dawkins, the village school-master. The most direct
route from London to the Solomon Islands ran across Norway and Sweden,
the White Sea, Northern Siberia, Manchuria, Korea and Japan, and
thence to New Guinea. But since it traversed some of the most desolate
regions of the earth, where the indispensable supplies of petrol and
machine oil could not be secured, he had chosen a route through fairly
large centres of population, along which at the necessary intervals he
could ensure, by aid of the telegraph, that the fuel would be in
readiness.

And now he was fairly off. Constantinople was to be the first place of
call. He knew the orographical map of Europe as well as he knew his
manual of navigation. It was advisable to avoid mountainous country as
far as possible, for the necessity of rising to great heights, in
order to cross even the lower spurs of the Alps, would involve loss of
time, to say nothing of the cold, and the risk of accident in the
darkness. Coming to the coast, in the neighbourhood of Dover, about
half-an-hour after leaving Epsom, he steered for a point on the
opposite shore of the Channel somewhere near the Franco-Belgian
frontier. As an experienced airman he had long ceased to find the
interest of novelty in the scenes below him. The lights of the Calais
boat, and of vessels passing up and down the Channel, were almost
unnoticed. On leaving the sea, he flew over a flat country until, on
his right, he saw in the moonlight a dark mass which from dead
reckoning he thought must be the Ardennes. The broad river he had just
crossed, which gleamed like silver in the moonlight, was without doubt
the Meuse, and that which he came to in about an hour must be the
Moselle. At this point Rodier, who had been dozing, sat up and began
to take an interest in things; afterwards he told Smith that they must
have passed over the little village in which he was born, and he felt
a sentimental regret that the flight was not by day, when he might
have seen the red roof beneath which his mother still lived.

After another half-hour Smith began to feel the strain of remaining in
one position, with all his faculties concentrated. The air was so
calm, and the wind-screen so effective, that he suffered none of the
numbing effects which the great speed might otherwise have induced;
but it was no light task to keep his attention fixed at once on the
engine, the map outspread before him, the compass, and the country
below; and by the time he reached a still broader river, which could
only be the Rhine, he was tired. As yet he had been flying for only
three hours: could he live through seven days of it? He had once
crossed America in the Canadian Pacific, and though he got eight
hours' sleep every night, he felt an utter wreck at the end of the
journey. To be sure, he was now in the fresh air instead of a stuffy
railway carriage, and he was riding as smoothly as on a steamer,
without the jar and jolt that made journeys by rail so fatiguing.
Still, he thought it only good policy to pay heed to the first signs
of strain, and so he slowed down until the noise of the engine had
abated sufficiently for him to make his voice heard, and said:

"Roddy, you must take a turn. We're near the frontier between Baden
and Alsace, I fancy. The Bavarian hills can't be far off. You had
better rise a bit, and don't go too fast, or we may be knocking our
noses before we know where we are."

"Right O, mister," replied the Frenchman. "You take forty winks, and
eat some chocolate for what you call a nightcap."

"A good idea. I'd rise to about 4,500 feet, I think. Keep your eye on
the aneroid."

They exchanged places. Smith ate two or three sticks of chocolate,
took a good drink of water, and in five minutes was fast asleep. But
his nap lasted no more than a couple of hours. It appeared to him that
he never lost consciousness of his errand. When he opened his eyes the
dawn was already stealing over the sky, and at the tremendous pace to
which Rodier had put the engine the aeroplane seemed to rush into the
sunlight. Far below, the earth was spread out like a patchwork,
greens and whites and browns set in picturesque haphazard patterns;
men moving like ants, and horses like locusts.

"Where are we?" he bawled in Rodier's ear.

The Frenchman put his finger on the map. Smith glanced at his watch;
it was past five o'clock. They must be near the Servian frontier. That
broad streak of blue must be the Danube. Another three hours should
see them at Constantinople, the first stage of their journey. On they
rushed, feeling chill in the morning air at the height of nearly five
thousand feet. Lifting his binocular, Smith saw a railway train
running in the same direction as themselves, and though from the line
of smoke it was going at full speed, it appeared to be crawling like a
worm, and was soon left far behind. Now they were in Bulgaria: those
grey crinkly masses beyond must be the Balkans. Crossing the Dragoman
Pass, they came into an upward current of air that set the machine
rocking, and Smith for the first time felt a touch of nervousness lest
it should break down and fall among these inhospitable crags. Rodier
planed downwards, until they seemed to skim the crests. The air was
calmer here: the aeroplane steadied; and when the mountains were left
behind they came still lower, following the railway line.

Here was Philippopolis, with its citadel perched on a frowning rock.
It seemed but a few minutes when Adrianople came into view, and but a
few more when, descending to within five hundred feet of the ground,
they raced over the plains of St. Stefano. Now Rodier checked the
speed a little, and steering past the large monument erected to the
memory of the Russians who fell in '78, came within sight of
Constantinople. Smith was bewildered at the multitude of domes,
minarets, and white roofs before him. It would soon be necessary to
choose a landing-place, and Rodier planed upwards, so that he could
scan the whole neighbourhood in one comprehensive glance.

"Slow down!" Smith shouted.

There was a large open space below him; it was the Hippodrome. He made
a quick calculation of its length, and decided not to alight. A little
farther on he came to the Ministry of War with its large square; but
there a regiment of soldiers was drilling. Rodier steered a point to
the north-west, and the aeroplane passed over the Galata bridge that
spans the Golden Horn. The bridge was thronged with people, who, as
they caught sight of the strange machine flying over their heads,
stood and craned their necks, and the airmen heard their shouts of
amazement. To the right they saw, beyond the hill of Pera, a stretch
of low open country. Passing the second bridge over the Horn, they
came to a broad green space just without the city. It was the old
archery grounds of the Sultans.

"Dive, Roddy!" Smith cried.

Rodier jerked the lever back: the humming clatter of the engine
ceased; and the aeroplane swooped down as gracefully as a bird,
alighting gently on the green sward.



CHAPTER IV

A FLYING VISIT


It was Friday morning. Groups of Turkish women, out for the day,
hastily veiled their faces and ran away, shrieking, "Aman! Aman! oh
dear! oh dear!" Swarms of children, clustering, like ants, about
nougat-sellers, fled in terror, screaming that it was the devil's
carriage, and the devil was in it. Two Greek teams playing at football
stopped their game and gazed open-mouthed; young naval cadets at
leapfrog rushed with shouts of excitement towards the aeroplane; and a
crowd of Jewish factory girls (for all races and classes use this
common playground), realizing with quick wit what it meant, flocked up
with shrill cries: "C'est un aviateur: allons voir!" A grave old Turk
mutters: "Another mad Englishman!" A Greek shouts: "Come on, Pericles,
and have a look"; and suddenly, amid the babel of unknown tongues
Smith hears an unmistakable English voice: "Oh, confound it all,
Crawford, I'm in the ravine."

Peering through the crowd of inquisitive faces, Smith sees two golfers
and hails them heartily. They elbow their way through, and Smith, who
has not yet dared to leave the machine lest the mob should invade it
and do it an injury, steps out and grasps the hand of a fellow
Englishman.

"Well, I'm hanged!" cried the new-comer; "Charley Smith, of all men in
the world."

"Hullo, Johnson!" said Smith, recognizing in the speaker a messmate of
his middy days, now a naval officer in the Sultan's service; "I say,
you can do something for me."

"I dare say I can," replied the other laughing, "but where do you
spring from? I didn't know you were in these parts."

"Only arrived five minutes ago, from London."

Johnson stared.

"Not in that machine?"

"Yes, certainly. Eight hours' run; a record, isn't it? But I'm short
of petrol. There's some ordered by wire from a man named Benzonana;
can you put me in the way of getting it quickly?"

"Of course. Benzonana's a Jew, with stores at Kourshounlou Han. But
there's no hurry. We'll get some one to look after your aeroplane, and
you'll come back with me to the club: this sort of thing doesn't
happen every day, old man. By Jove! Do you really mean to say you've
got here in eight hours from London?"

"I left there at 12.35 this morning. Barracombe--you remember him--saw
me off. But I'm sorry I can't come with you, Dick. I've only a couple
of hours to spare, and must get the petrol at once."

"My dear chap, are you mad? You can't go on at once, after eight hours
in the air. You'll crock up. Of course, if it's a wager--"

"It's a matter of life and death."

"Oh, in that case! But I'm afraid you won't get off in two hours.
Things go slow in this country, and here's the first obstacle."

He pointed beyond the crowd, and Smith saw a troop of cavalry
approaching at a hand-gallop. The throng of Turks, Jews, and
Armenians, who had all this time been volubly discussing the wonderful
devil machine, broke apart with shouts of "Yol ver! Yol ver!" (Make
way!) The troop of horsemen clattered up, and Smith saw himself and
his aeroplane surrounded by a cordon of soldiers.

The captain looked suspiciously from the two grimy travellers to the
spick-and-span Englishmen in golfing costume. He said something in
Turkish to his lieutenant.

"What does he say?" asked Smith in a whisper.

"He's telling the lieutenant they must draw up a _procès-verbal_.
Don't lose your temper, old man; he talks of putting you under arrest
as a Bulgarian spy. You'll have to be patient. I'll do what I can,
but if they make a diplomatic incident of it you'll be kept here a
week or more."

Johnson went up to the captain and addressed him politely in Turkish.
The officer looked incredulous, and said something to his lieutenant,
who trotted off across the field. In a few minutes Johnson returned to
Smith, who was walking up and down in agitation. Rodier was fast
asleep in the car of the aeroplane.

"I've given the captain the facts of the case," said Johnson, "and he
does me the honour to disbelieve me. The lieutenant has gone off to
the Ministry of War for instructions. Meanwhile, you are under arrest,
and they won't let you quit this spot without authority. If you really
mean that you must go at once----"

"I do indeed. The loss of an hour may ruin everything. My plan was to
leave here at 10.30."

"But, my dear fellow, it's that now, and past."

Smith drew out his watch: it indicated 8.50. "London time," he said.
"You're two hours in advance of it, aren't you?"

Johnson laughed.

"Of course, we get used to our own time, here. But I was saying, if
you _must_ go, this is what I suggest. You can't appear, and it's as
well, for you would certainly be delayed. I will go off to the Embassy
and hustle a bit. If the wheels can be hurried, they shall be, I
assure you. Then I'll go on to Benzonana, get your petrol, and come
straight back. Meanwhile take my advice and have a sleep, like your
man there. You look dead beat, and no wonder. Why, I suppose you've
had no breakfast?"

"I've had something, but not bacon and eggs, certainly. I shall do
very well. I will take your advice; sleep is better than food just
now. When you see Benzonana, ask if he has any addresses for me:
Barracombe was going to wire some from London. Many thanks, old man."

Johnson said a word or two to the captain, who nodded gravely as Smith
flung himself down beside the aeroplane, and, resting his head on his
arms, prepared to go to sleep.

The golfer knew the short cuts from the Ok Meidan to the city. He went
at a fine swinging pace through the hamlet of Koulaksiz, down Cassim
Pasha, up the steep hill through the cemetery, past the Pera Palace
Hotel. At that point he jumped into a carriage, and commanded the
driver to make all speed to the British Embassy. There he was lucky to
find a friend of his on the staff of the Embassy, a man well versed in
the customs and character of the Turks.

"The only thing to do," said the official, when Johnson had briefly
explained the circumstances, "is to get an order from the Minister of
War; but we shall have to hurry, as he may be attending a council, or
a commission, or something of the sort. What is your friend's hurry?"

"I don't know. He says it's a matter of life or death."

"I should say death if he goes at such a preposterous speed. It must
have been nearly two hundred miles an hour: the Brennan mono-rail is
nothing to it. At any rate, it's rather a feather in our cap--this
record, I mean, after so many have been made by the French and the
Americans--and if he has more recording to do we mustn't let Oriental
sluggishness stand in the way."

This conversation passed while they were making their way from an
upper room of the Embassy to the street. There they jumped into an
araba with a kavass on the box, dashed down Pera Street, past the
banking quarter, over the Galata bridge, up the Sublime Porte Road and
into the Bayazid Square, where they reached their destination. A crowd
of servants was grouped about the Grand Entrance, and as Johnson and
his friend Callard came up, the Turks flocked around them officiously,
assuring them with one voice that the Minister was attending a
commission. Callard took no notice of them, but passed on with Johnson
into the central hall, where, sitting over a charcoal brazier, they
found a group of attendants rolling cigarettes and discussing the
merits of the city's new water supply. Among them Callard spotted an
acquaintance, who rose and said politely, "Welcome, dragoman bey, seat
yourself."

Callard knew very well the necessity, in Turkish administrations, of
having a friend at court, and was aware, too, that where a high
official failed, a servant might succeed. But he was too well
acquainted with the customs of the country to attempt to hasten
matters unduly. He began to discuss the weather; he compared the
climate of his interlocutor's province with that of the city; he spoke
of the approaching Bairam festivities. Then, apparently apropos of
nothing, the man said, "I have been at the sheep-market to-day," a
remark which Callard took as a broad hint for bakshish: the Turk
wanted money to buy a fat sheep for the impending sacrifice. He
produced two medjidiés. The effect was magical. The two Englishmen
were guided to the small chamber where the Minister's coat hung, where
his coffee was prepared and his official attendants sat. From this
room access could be had to him without the knowledge of the hundreds
of people outside waiting for an audience: wives of exiled officers,
officials without employment, mothers come to plead for erring sons
who had been dismissed.

Introduced to the Minister's presence, Callard wasted no time. The
case was put to him; Johnson, whom he knew by sight, vouched for the
respectability and good faith of his old comrade; and the Minister,
apologizing for his subordinate's excess of zeal, scribbled an order
permitting Lieutenant Smith to pursue his business free of all
restrictions by the military authorities.

"But," he said, "I have no power to give him exemption from Custom
House control."

The Englishmen thanked him profusely, and with many salaams retired.

"We have succeeded better than I hoped," said Callard, as they passed
out; "but we are still only half way, confound it! We shall have to
hurry up if Smith is to get off in time. Arabadji," he cried to the
coachman awaiting them at the door, "the Direction-General of the
Custom House."

The driver whipped up his horse; they dashed down the Sublime Porte
Hill, and drew up at the entrance to the Custom House.

"Is the Director-General here?" Callard asked of the doorkeeper.

"He is a little unwell, but the English adviser is here."

"We will see him," returned Callard; adding to Johnson, "We are in
luck's way; the English adviser does his best to lessen the
inconveniences of the Circumlocution Office."

They went up-stairs, and were met by an attendant who showed them into
an unpretentious room, where an Englishman, wearing a fez, was seated
at a table covered with papers and surrounded by a crowd of merchants
and officials. Questions of infinite variety were being submitted to
him.

"Excellence, are we to accept as samples two dozen left-hand gloves?
This merchant brought two dozen right-hand gloves last week."

Then the merchant and the official began to wrangle. For some minutes
Callard in vain tried to get a word in edgeways; then at last the
Councillor, pushing back his fez with an air of weary patience, turned
to the newcomers and asked their business. A few words sufficed; the
Councillor rang a bell on the table, and when his secretary appeared,
ordered him to make out a _laissez-passer_ for Lieutenant Smith for
all the Custom Houses of the Empire. This done, he turned once more to
listen to the interminable dispute about the left-hand gloves.

"We are doing well," said Callard, as the two left the Custom House.
"There's still nearly an hour to spare. Now for the petrol."

They drove across the Galata bridge to the district of Kourshounlou
Han, and found that Benzonana had had the petrol ready at early
morning, and, what was more, had it at that moment in a conveyance for
transport. Johnson asked him if he had received any addresses from
London, and the man handed him a folded paper. Then, asking him to
send the petrol and some machine oil at once to the Ok Meidan, the two
Englishmen reentered their carriage, dashed up the Maltese Street,
past the Bank and the Economic Stores, up the Municipality Hill, and
again down by a short cut to the Admiralty. It was an hour and a half
since Johnson had set forth on his errand.

They found Smith and Rodier talking to the second golfer, boiling
coffee in a little portable stove, and eating a kind of shortbread
they had purchased of one of the simitdjis or itinerant vendors of
that article who had been doing a roaring trade with the children, and
even the elders, among the sightseers.

"Don't taste bad, spread with Bovril," said Smith, as Johnson and
Callard alighted from their carriage.

The crowd had grown to immense proportions. Smith said they had been
clamouring ever since Johnson had been gone, and he would rather like
to know what they said.

"Probably discussing whether the Commander of the Faithful won't order
you to be flung into the Bosphorus," said Callard.

The soldiers were still on guard round the aeroplane. Johnson
approached the captain and showed him the Minister of War's order.
Almost at the same moment an aide-de-camp came galloping up from the
Minister himself to assure the officer that all was right.

"But don't go yet, captain," said Johnson anxiously. "My friend will
require a clear space for starting his aeroplane, and without your men
we shall never get the crowd back."

The officer agreed to wait until the Englishman departed, and Johnson
returned to Smith to give him the paper he had received from
Benzonana. Callard had already related their experiences at the
Ministry of War and the Custom House.

"But what about the petrol?" asked Smith. "Time's getting on."

"He said he had it all ready to send. Ah! I guess this is it coming."

A way was parted through the crowd, and there came up with great
rattling and creaking a heavy motor omnibus of the type that first
appeared on the streets of London. It was crowded within and without
with Turks young and old.

"Where did you get that old rattler?" asked Smith, laughing.

"Oh, several came out here a year or two ago; bought up cheap when the
Commissioner of Police couldn't stand 'em any longer. They're always
breaking down. No doubt your petrol is inside, and you may think
yourself lucky it has got here."

The car came to a stand: the Turks on the roof retained their places;
those within lugged out the cans of petrol and oil, and placed them in
the aeroplane at Rodier's direction. Smith meanwhile was chatting with
the Englishmen, fending off their questions as to his destination.

"I may send you a wire from my next stopping-place," he said. "That
reminds me. Will you send a wire to Barracombe for me, Johnson? You
know his address. And one to my sister at home. I promised I would let
her know. Simply say 'All well.' Now can you get the captain to clear
the course for me?"

The captain and his men took a long time over this business, and Smith
longed for a few London policemen to show them how to do it. But the
excited crowd was at length forced back so far as to allow a
sufficient running-off space. Smith shook hands warmly with the
Englishmen; with Rodier he took his place in the car; then at a jerk
of the lever the aeroplane shot forward, and, amid cries of "Good
luck!" from the Englishmen, clapping of hands and loud "Mashallahs!"
from the excited mob, it rose gracefully into the air.

"Only five minutes late, mister," said Rodier. "All goes well."



CHAPTER V

THE TOMB OF UR-GUR


Charles Thesiger Smith was not one of the romantic, imaginative order
of men. Even if he had been, the speed at which he travelled over the
Bosphorus gave scant opportunity for observation of the scenes passing
below. He had no eye for the tramps, laden with grain from Odessa,
coming down from the Black Sea; for the vessels of ancient shape and
build, such as the Argonauts might have sailed in when questing for
the Golden Fleece; for the graceful caiques rowed by boatmen in
zouaves of crimson and gold, in the sterns of which the flower of
Circassian beauty in gossamer veils reclined on divans and carpets
from the most famous looms of Persia and Bokhara. These visions
touched him not: he was crossing into Asia Minor, a country of which
he knew nothing, and his attention was divided between the country
ahead and the map with which Barracombe had nefariously provided him.

The next stage of his journey, the first place where a fresh supply of
petrol awaited him, was Karachi, in the north-west corner of India. It
was distant about 2,500 miles. A gallon of petrol would carry him for
forty-five miles, and his tank had a capacity of eighty gallons, so
that with good luck he would not need to replenish it until he reached
Karachi. Though he hoped that his own endurance and the engine's would
stand the strain of the whole distance without stopping, he had chosen
his course so that, if he felt the necessity of alighting for brief
intervals, he might at least find pleasant country and amicable
people.

His aim was to cross the Turkish provinces in Asia and strike the
Persian Gulf, a slightly longer route than if he had gone through
central Persia, but having the great advantage of affording a possible
half-way house at Bagdad, Basra, or Bushire, in each of which towns he
would almost certainly find Europeans. It had the further advantage
that, when he had once sighted the Gulf, he would have no anxiety
about the accuracy of his course, since by keeping generally to the
coastline of Persia and Baluchistan he could not fail to arrive at
Karachi. It was a great thing to be independent of nautical
observations, for as he approached the shores of India it might be
difficult to take his bearings by his instruments, this being the
season of the monsoon.

When he left Constantinople his anemometer indicated a velocity of
eighteen miles in the south-west wind, which, as he was steering
south-east, was partly in his favour. One of the disabilities which
he, in common with all airmen, suffered, was the impossibility of
ascertaining the velocity of the wind when he was fairly afloat. He
had to make allowance for it by sheer guesswork, unless he was
prepared to slow down or even to alight. He had reckoned that, even
with the slight assistance of the wind, he could hardly hope to reach
the head of the Persian Gulf before six o'clock, which would be past
nine by the sun; but he thought he might reasonably expect to reach
the Euphrates before sunset; and since the map assured him that that
river ran a fairly direct course to the Gulf, he might follow it
without much difficulty if the night proved clear, and so assure
himself that he was not going astray.

The country over which he was now flying was hilly, and he kept at a
fairly high altitude. The map showed him that the great Taurus range
lay between him and the eastern extremity of the Mediterranean. Within
an hour and a half after leaving Constantinople he came in sight of
its huge bleak masses stretching away to right and left, but still a
hundred miles or more distant, although, on the right, spurs of the
Cilician part of the range jutted out much nearer to him. On the
right, too, he descried from his great height a broad and glittering
expanse of water, which the map named Lake Beishehr. Making for the
gap in the mountains near the Cilician coast he found himself passing
over a comparatively low country, and soon afterwards descried the
blue waters of the Mediterranean and the island of Cyprus rising out
of it a hundred miles away.

Setting now a more easterly course, he passed over an ironbound coast,
its perpendicular cliffs fringed with dwarf pines; and then over a
large town which could be none other than Antioch. Half-an-hour more
brought him within sight of another city, doubtless Aleppo. He still
steered almost due east, though a point or two southward would be more
direct, because he wished to avoid the Syrian desert; a breakdown in
such a barren tract of country would mean a fatal delay. Soon
afterwards he reached a broad full river, flowing rapidly between
verdant banks.

"The Euphrates," he shouted to Rodier.

"Ah! I wish we had time for a swim," replied the man.

For some time Smith followed the general course of the river, avoiding
the windings. Severely practical as he was, he could not pass through
this seat of ancient civilizations without letting his mind run back
over centuries of time, recalling the names of Sennacherib, Cyrus and
Alexander; and how Cyrus had not shrunk from drying up the bed of
this very river in his operations against Babylon. On the ground over
which he now flew mighty armies had fought, kingdoms had been lost and
won, four or five thousand years ago. The passage of so modern a thing
as an aeroplane seemed almost a desecration of the spirit of
antiquity, an insult to the _genius loci_.

Hitherto the weather and the conditions for flying had been perfect.
The wind had dropped, the sun shone brilliantly, but its heat was
tempered to the airmen by the very rapidity of their flight. At
length, however, about two hours before sunset, Smith noticed a
strange wobbling of the compass needle. It swung this way and that
with rapid gyrations, its movements becoming more violent every
moment. Suddenly the aeroplane reeled; the sky seemed to become black
in one instant; there was a vivid flash of lightning, followed by a
tremendous thunder-clap and a flood of rain.

Smith was desperately perturbed. He had run straight into an electric
storm. It was hopeless to attempt to make headway against it; the
strain upon the planes would certainly prove more than they could
stand. He had already slackened speed and planed downwards, so as to
be able to alight if he must, with the result that the machine became
more subject to vertical eddies of the wind, that continually altered
its elevation, now hurling it aloft, now plunging it as it were into
an abyss. Once or twice he tried to rise above the storm, but
abandoned the attempt when he saw how great an additional strain it
placed upon the planes. It seemed safer to keep the engine going
steadily and make no attempt to steer. He was no longer over the
river, and the ground below was comparatively flat, presenting many a
clear spot suitable for alighting; but with the wind blowing a
hurricane a descent might well prove disastrous. The worst accidents
he had suffered in the early days of his air-sailing had always
happened near the ground, when there was no way on the machine to
counteract the force of the wind.

All that he could do was to cling on and do his best by quick
manipulation of the levers to keep the machine steady. After fifteen
very uncomfortable and, indeed, alarming minutes, the violence of the
wind abated, and the rain became intermittent, instead of pouring down
in a constant flood. The compass was oscillating less jumpily, and it
was now possible to see some distance ahead. Owing to the
extraordinary behaviour of the compass, the baffling gusts of wind,
and the necessity of keeping his whole attention fixed on the
machinery, he had lost all idea of direction and even of time, and he
began to be anxious lest darkness should overtake him before he had
regained his course. But guessing that the area of the storm was of
small extent, he hoped to run out of it, and increased his speed,
expecting in a few minutes to discover the Euphrates again, when all
would be well.

Unhappily, though the wind had dropped, the sky became blacker than
ever, and another deluge of rain fell, so densely that at a distance
of a few yards it seemed to be an opaque wall. Coming to the
conclusion that he had better take shelter until he could at least see
his way, he planed downwards, calling to Rodier to keep a sharp
look-out for a landing place. Suddenly, in the midst of the downpour,
a huge dark shape loomed up ahead, appearing to rise almost
perpendicularly above the plain. For a few seconds it seemed to Smith
that he was dashing into a solid wall of rock. Luckily he had checked
the speed of the engine. He now stopped it altogether, but the
aeroplane glided on by its impetus, and he felt, with a sinking of the
heart, that nothing could save it.

All at once the mass in front seemed to open. Instinctively Smith
touched his steering lever; the aeroplane glided into the fissure; in
two or three seconds there was a bump and a jolt; it had come to a
stop, and was resting on an apparently solid bottom.

Monsieur Alphonse Marie de Montausé, a distinguished member of the
Academy of Inscriptions, a pillar of the Société d'Histoire
diplomatique, and a foreign member of the Royal Society, had been for
nearly a year engaged at Nimrud in the work nearest to his heart, the
work of excavation. It was a labour of love for which he was very
jealous. He believed it was his mission to reveal to an astonished
world the long-buried secrets of ancient civilizations; he could not
bear a rival near the throne of archæological eminence; and in this
exclusive attitude of mind he had undertaken this expedition without
the companionship of a fellow-countryman, or even of any white man,
devoting himself to his patient and laborious toil, assisted only by
an Egyptian cook, a number of Arab labourers, and such natives of
Babylonia as he had attracted to his service by the promise,
faithfully kept, of good and regular pay.

His excavations had been, on the whole, disappointing. He had
unearthed specimens of pottery and metal-work, tradesmen's tablets of
accounts, seals, bas-reliefs, differing little from those which could
be found in many a European museum; but he had not for many months
lighted upon any unique object, such as would open a new page in the
history of archæological research, and make Europe ring with his name.

His money was nearly all expended; his permit from the Ottoman
Government was on the point of expiring; he was sadly contemplating
the necessity of leaving this barren field and returning to France;
he had, indeed, already despatched a portion of his caravan to begin
its long journey to the coast, remaining with a few men to finish the
excavation of the _tell_--the mound covering the remains of a
Babylonish city--on which he was engaged, in the hope of discovering
something of value, even at the eleventh hour. He had almost completed
it, and he could easily hurry after the slow-moving caravan, and
overtake it in a day or two.

One Friday, to his great joy, he came across, in the wall of the
_tell_, a large inscribed mass of brickwork, weighing, perhaps,
half-a-ton, which, from the cursory inspection he was able to make of
it in the semi-darkness, he believed might prove sufficiently valuable
to compensate all the disappointments of the weary months. In his
enthusiasm he had no more thought of his caravan, and though a
terrific thunderstorm burst over the place just as his men were
getting into position the rude derrick by means of which they would
lower the masonry into the trench cut in the side of the _tell,_ his
ardour would suffer no intermission in the work. It is true that in
the trench they were in some measure protected from the storm. The
lashings had been fixed on the brickwork under his careful
superintendence; the men were on the point of hauling on the ropes,
when a thing of monstrous size and uncouth shape glided silently into
the opening of the trench, and came to rest there.

Instantly the men gave a howl of terror, released the ropes, and took
to their heels. Monsieur Alphonse Marie de Montausé was left alone.

Remembering that he was an explorer, an enthusiast, and a Frenchman,
the reader will hardly need to be told that Monsieur de Montausé was
beside himself with fury. The dropping of the ropes had caused the
masonry to fall against one of the feet of the derrick, and it came
down with a crash. But this was not the worst. In the semi-darkness,
the nature of the intruder could not have been clear to Monsieur de
Montausé; but he heard a voice calling in some unknown tongue; some
human being had dared to interlope upon his peculiar domain; and the
wrathful explorer did only what might have been expected of him: he
began to pour forth a torrent of very violent reproof and objurgation,
to which the sober English tongue can do scant justice.

"Ah! scélérats!" he cried. "What do you mean? De quoi
mêlez-vous? You are rogues: you are trespassers. Know you not that
I--oui, moi qui vous parle--have alone the right of entry into this
_tell_? Has not the administration of the French Republic arranged it?
Allez-vous-en, allez-vous-en, coquins, scélérats!"

"Mais, monsieur--" began Rodier, stepping out of the car.

The sound of his own language only added fuel to Monsieur de
Montausé's wrath. Had some rival appeared on the scene at the very
moment when he saw the crown of his long toil? Had some overeager
competitor obtained a permit, come before his time, and arrived to
enter upon the fruits of his predecessor's labours and rob him of half
his glory? "Mais, monsieur," said Rodier, but the explorer fairly
shrieked him to silence, approached him, smote one fist with the
other, and hurled abuse at him with such incoherent volubility that
Smith, whose French was pretty good, could not make out a word of it,
and held on to the levers in helpless laughter.

"Mais, monsieur, je vous assure--" began Rodier again, when he thought
he saw a chance; but the explorer shouted "Retirez-vous! J'insiste que
vous vous en lliez, tout de suite, tout de suite!" And then he began
over again, abuse, recrimination, expostulation, entreaty, pouring in
full tide from his trembling lips. More than once Rodier tried to stem
the flood, but finding that it only ran the faster, he resigned
himself to listen in silence, and stood looking mournfully at his
ireful fellow-countryman until he at length was forced to stop from
sheer lack of breath.

"Mais, monsieur," Rodier's voice was very conciliatory--"I assure you
that our visit is purely accidental. My friend and myself desire only
too much to quit the scene. But you perceive, monsieur, that our
aeroplane--"

"Ah, bah! aeroplane! What have I to do with aeroplanes? You interrupt
my work, I say: the aeroplane is a thing of the present; I have to do
only with the past; there were no aeroplanes in Babylonia. Once more I
demand that you withdraw, you and your aeroplane, and leave me to
pursue my work in tranquillity."

"Mais, monsieur, il s'agit précisément de ça! Withdraw: yes,
certainly, at the quickest possible: but how? You perceive that our
aeroplane is so placed that one cannot extricate it without
assistance. If monsieur will be so good as to lend us his
distinguished help, so that we may remove it from this hole--"

"Hole! Mille diables! It is a trench; a trench excavated with many
pains in this _tell_. As for assistance, I give you none, none
absolutely. You brought your aeroplane here without assistance: then
remove it equally without assistance; immediately: already you waste
too much time."

"Mais, monsieur, our mission is of life or death."

"N'importe, n'importe. I tell you I am quite unmoved. No interest is
superior to that of science--the science of archæology. I tell you I
have just made a discovery of the highest importance. I have but a
short time left; you, you and your ridiculous machine, have scared
away my imbeciles of workmen; they will not return until you have gone
away; the leg of my derrick is smashed; I demand, I beseech, I
implore--"

"Pardon, monsieur," said Smith, coming forward, and courteously
saluting the stout, spectacled little Frenchman, whom he could just
see in the growing darkness. "We regret extremely having put you to
this trouble and inconvenience, and I assure you that but for the
storm we should never have dreamed of entering here, and interrupting
the great work on which you are engaged."

Smith's quiet voice and slow, measured utterance made an instant
impression. A man can hardly rave against a person who remains calm.
Moreover, the Frenchman was mollified by the speaker's evident
appreciation of the value of his work.

"Eh bien, monsieur?" he said courteously.

"I am a seaman, monsieur," proceeded Smith; "my friend here is an
engineer, and between us I have no doubt that we can repair the leg of
your derrick and assist you to place the masonry where you will. All
that I would ask is that you in return will help us to remove our
aeroplane from your trench into the open plain."

"Certainly, certainly; with much pleasure," said the Frenchman
eagerly; "I will light my lantern, so that we may see what we are
about."

Smith and Rodier stripped off their drenched coats, and by the light
of Monsieur de Montausé's lantern soon spliced up the broken leg of
the derrick, set the contrivance in a stable position, and lowered the
mass of brickwork to the spot the explorer pointed out. It was no
sooner safely settled than Monsieur de Montausé, oblivious of
everything else, bent over it, and, holding one of the lanterns close
to the inscription, began to pore over the fascinating hieroglyphics.
Smith could not help smiling at the little man's enthusiasm: but it
was necessary to remind him of his share of the compact.

"Ah, oui, oui," he said impatiently; "in a few moments. This is a
magnificent discovery, monsieur; your aeroplane is completely
uninteresting to me. This is nothing less than a portion of the tomb
of Ur-Gur; see, the inscription: 'The tomb of Ur-Gur, the powerful
champion, King of Ur, King of Shumer and Akkad, builder of the wall of
Nippur to Bel, the king of the lands.' This was written nearly five
thousand years ago; what is the aeroplane, a thing of yesterday, in
comparison with this glorious relic of antiquity?"

"Precisely, monsieur; beside it the aeroplane sinks into
insignificance; yet, as a man of honour--"

"Ah, oui!" cried the Frenchman, starting up. "Let us be quick, then;
you take one end, I the other. You push, I pull; voilà!"

"It is perhaps not so simple, monsieur," said Smith; "we must first
see that there is no obstruction, and then if you could persuade some
of your men to come back, we should be able to remove the aeroplane
more quickly. I fear we could hardly do it alone."

Monsieur de Montausé was so anxious to get rid of his visitors that he
assented eagerly to this course. Four or five of the men, drawn back
by the light of the lantern, were hovering at the end of the trench;
the explorer hailed them, and assuring them that they would suffer no
harm, persuaded, them to lend a hand. Rodier, meanwhile, had walked
through the trench to see that the course was clear, and shoved aside
with little ceremony some of the objects Monsieur de Montausé had
unearthed. With the aid of the Frenchman himself and his men the
aeroplane was carefully dragged out into the open.

"It is done. Adieu, messieurs," said Monsieur de Montausé. Then,
turning to his men: "As for you, imbeciles, I have no more need of you
at present. Go and eat your supper. I shall eat nothing until I have
deciphered the whole of the inscription."

"One moment, monsieur," said Smith; "we were driven out of our course
by the storm, and I am not certain of our whereabouts. Can you tell me
the latitude and longitude of this place?"

"Ah, no. I am not a geographer. The surface of the globe: bah! It is
the rind of the orange, it is the shell of the nut; I seek the juice,
the kernel. But I can tell you this: We are not far from the left bank
of the Tigris, near its confluence with the Zab, and about a hundred
kilometres from the ruins of Nineveh. Adieu, monsieur."

The two airmen resumed their coats, switched on their searchlight, and
made a rapid examination of the engine, which appeared to have
suffered no injury: then took their places. When the sparking began,
and noisome smoke poured from the exhaust, the workmen again yelled,
but as the machine, after a short run, sailed noisily into the air,
they fell prostrate in utter consternation.



CHAPTER VI

WITH GUN RUNNERS IN THE GULF


A glance at the sodden map showed Smith that he had been driven at
least fifty miles out of his course. He could not afford time to
return to the Euphrates: he would now have to follow the course of the
Tigris until it joined the larger river. It would be folly to attempt
a direct flight to Karachi, for in so doing he would have to pass over
the mountainous districts of Southern Persia and Baluchistan, where,
if any mishap befel the aeroplane, there would be absolutely no chance
of finding assistance. Luckily the moon was rising, and by its light
he was soon able to strike the Tigris near the spot where it flowed
between the hills Gebel Hamrin and Gebel Mekhul into the Babylonian
plain. From this point, keeping the hills well on his left, he steered
south-east until about midnight he came upon an immense expanse of
water, shimmering below him in the moonlight, which he concluded to be
nothing else but the Persian Gulf.

By this time he was both tired and hungry. Rodier and he had eaten a
few biscuits spread with Bovril, and drunk soda-water, while they
were examining the engine, but they both felt ravenous for a good
square meal. Smith, however, had set his heart on completing his
flight to Karachi, where his scheme would allow an hour or two for
rest and food, and he was the more determined to carry out his
programme, if possible, because of the delay caused by the storm.

His plan was to keep close to the left shore of the Persian Gulf, not
following its indentations, but never losing sight of the sea. The
coast, he saw by the map, made a gentle curve for some six hundred
miles, then swept southward opposite the projecting Oman peninsula,
and thence ran almost due east to Karachi. The coast was for the most
part hilly, and as he was now travelling at full speed there was
always a risk, unless he flew high, of his being brought up by a spur
or a rock jutting out into the Gulf; and as he did not wish to
maintain too great an altitude, he altered his course a point or two
to the south, flying over the sea, but not far from the shore.

Rodier and he took turns at the engine, each dozing from sheer
weariness during his spell off. They flew on all through the night,
and when dawn began to break, saw straight ahead land stretching far
to right and left. There was no doubt that this was the Oman
peninsula, which, jutting out from the Arabian mainland, almost closes
the Gulf. Steering now a slightly more northward course, and rising
to clear the hills of the peninsula, Smith passed over the neck of
land, and found himself in the Gulf of Oman, half-way between the head
of the Persian Gulf and Karachi.

Now that it was light, there was no longer the same necessity for
keeping out to sea. Indeed, it was merely prudent to come over the
land, so that if anything happened to the engine he would at least
have an opportunity of descending safely. The engine had worked so
well that he scarcely feared a breakdown, but he was not the man to
take unnecessary risks.

Glancing at his watch, he calculated that he was about two hours
behind time. As he had been flying at full speed except during the
storm, he could hardly hope to make up the lost time except by
diminishing the intervals for rest which he had allowed for before
starting. It was, at any rate, important to lose no more. He had just
come to this conclusion when there was a sudden snap in the framework
of one of the planes. Looking round anxiously, he at once reduced the
speed, feeling very thankful that the mischief had not developed
during the storm, when the aeroplane must have inevitably crumpled up.
Now, however, the weather was fair, and he could choose his
landing-place. He had no doubt that the accident was due to the
enormous strain which had been put upon the structure by the storm. A
glance showed him that the plane was still rigid enough to stand the
strain of motion at a lower speed, but that would neither satisfy him
nor achieve success, and so he decided to alight and try to remedy the
defect.

As he began to plane downwards, Rodier pointed to a cluster of huts at
the mouth of a small river. A dhow lay moored to a rough wooden jetty
beyond the hamlet. Between it and the huts was an open space of
considerable extent, and though when Rodier first drew his attention
to the place they must have been more than a mile distant from it, he
could see, even without his binocular, a crowd of people moving about
the open space.

"We may find a forge there," shouted Rodier.

Smith nodded, but he felt a little uneasy. It seemed likely that he
had now reached what is known as the Mekran coast, and he remembered
the ill reputation it bore with the officers of British ships who had
seen service in these waters. The people had been described as greedy,
conceited, unwilling, and unreasonable as camels, and their
treacherous and cruel disposition was such that, thirty or forty years
before, Europeans who landed on any part of their seaboard would have
done so at great peril. Smith, however, had a vague recollection of
their having been taught a salutary lesson by the Karwan expedition,
and no doubt the presence of British war vessels in the Gulf had done
something to correct their turbulence. He had to choose between
finding a landing-place inland, out of sight of the inhabitants of
this fishing village, and landing among them on the chance of getting
the use of a forge, for it would probably be necessary to weld the
broken stay. Deciding for the latter course, he steered straight for
the village, and, circling round it, dropped gently to earth in the
open space near the jetty.

The aeroplane had been seen and heard some time before it reached the
spot, and its flight was watched with open-mouthed curiosity by the
men, who paused in their work of carrying ashore bulky packages from
the dhow. When they saw the strange visitant from the sky descending
upon them, they gave utterance to shrill cries of alarm, dropped their
burdens, and fled in hot haste up the shore, disappearing behind the
huts. As he alighted, Smith noticed, close to the aeroplane, one of
these packages, which had burst open in the fall, and saw with
surprise that it contained rifles.

"I say, Roddy," he said; "this is rather unlucky. We have interrupted
a gun-running."

"Ah, no, it is lucky, mister," returned the Frenchman. "We shall not
need now to buy rifles _en route_; we can help ourselves; these are
contraband, without doubt."

"That's true, I suspect; rifles are sure to be contraband here; but
this is a wild district, and the people won't be too well-disposed
towards us, coming and stopping their little game. We've a right to
impound the rifles, I daresay, but I really think we had better look
the other way."

"Wink the other eye, as you say. Well, at present there is no one to
look at. The people do not speak French, I suppose?"

"Nor English, probably. They are Baluchis, I suppose, and perhaps
haven't seen a white man before. Just look and see what's wrong with
the stay while I go up to the village and parley."

Rodier stripped to his shirt, got his tools out of the little box in
which they were kept, and set to work in as unconcerned and
business-like a way as if he had been in the workshop at home.
Meanwhile Smith, puffing at a cigarette, walked slowly towards the
nearest hut. His easy manner gave no sign of alertness; but in reality
he was keeping a keen look-out, and had already descried some of the
natives peeping round the walls of the huts. Having taken a few steps
he halted, looked inquiringly around, and hailed the lurking villagers
with a stentorian "Ahoy!" At first there was no response, but on his
advancing a little farther and repeating the call two or three swarthy
and dirty-looking men came slowly from behind the nearest hut. Smith
noticed the long spears they carried. He smiled and held out his hand,
but the men stopped short and eyed him doubtfully, jabbering among
themselves. He bade them good morning, inviting them to come and have
a talk, but saw at once by the lack of expression on their faces that
they did not understand him.

Somewhat perplexed, and trying to think of signs by which he could
explain what he wanted, he saw a different figure emerge from the
background, a small, bent, olive-skinned old man, clad in a white
turban and dhoti. He came forward hesitatingly.

"Salaam, sahib," he said humbly.

"Oh, I say, can you speak English?" asked Smith eagerly, suspecting
that the man was a Hindu.

"Speak English very fine, sahib," replied the man, with a smile.

"Thank goodness! Well, now, is there a smith in the village? You know
what I mean: a blacksmith, a man who makes iron things?"

It was not a very clear definition, but the Hindu understood him.

"Yees, sahib," he said; "smif that way." He pointed to a hut at a
little distance.

"That's all right. Fetch the smith along, and I'll get you to tell him
what I want."

"I know, sahib, I tell them. I do big trade in this place. They silly
jossers, sahib; think you a djinn."

"Well, put that right, and hurry up, will you?"

The Hindu salaamed and returned to the group of villagers. An excited
colloquy ensued, the man pointing now to the Englishman, now to the
aeroplane, and now to the dhow alongside the jetty. Presently the
Hindu came back.

"Silly chaps say what for you come here, sahib. You know too much,
they say."

Smith guessed that they supposed his visit had something to do with
the smuggling operations in which they were engaged. He explained
quickly that he was merely an ordinary traveller, on his way to India
in one of the new air carriages in which Englishmen were accustomed to
make long journeys, and he promised to pay the smith well for any
assistance he could give in repairing a slight injury which the
carriage had suffered in a storm. The Hindu carried this message to
the villagers, who were now increasing in number as they regained
confidence, and after another discussion he returned, accompanied by a
big man, the dirtiest in the crowd, the others following slowly.

He found it no easy matter, through his smiling but incompetent
interpreter, to explain that he wanted the use of the smith's
appliances. To quicken their apprehension he produced a couple of
half-crowns, pointing out that they were worth four rupees, and
offered these as payment when the work was done. The Hindu recognized
the King's head on the coins, and eagerly assured the Baluchis that
they were good English money; but the smith, true to the oriental
habit of haggling, rejected them scornfully as insufficient, and was
backed up by a chorus of indignant cries from the crowd.

Smith, impatient at the loss of time, and forgetting that any show of
eagerness would merely encourage the natives to delay, was incautious
enough to show them a half-sovereign. Though the Hindu appeared to do
his best to persuade them that this was generous pay, they showed even
greater contempt, and became more and more clamorous.

"Greedy chaps want more, sahib," said the Hindu deprecatingly.

"Very well," replied Smith, pocketing the coin. "We'll do without
them."

He turned his back on them, and returned at a saunter to the
aeroplane, the crowd, now swelled by the arrival of apparently all the
inhabitants of the village, old and young, pressing on behind. It was
evident that they had now lost their fear of the strange machine.

"How are you getting on, Roddy?" he asked. "These asses won't take
half-a-sovereign to lend a hand."

"Imbeciles! But the stay must be welded."

"Well, we'll pretend we can do without 'em. I daresay that will bring
them round."

For a few minutes the two men made a great show of activity,
completely disregarding the crowd curiously watching them. The plan
had the desired effect. The Hindu came forward and said that the smith
would accept the gold piece, if he were paid in advance.

"Not a bit of it. If he likes to help he shall have it when the work
is done," replied Smith, turning to resume his interrupted work.

The smith, now fearful of losing his customer, began to abuse the
Hindu for not completing the bargain. At length, with a show of
reluctance, Smith relented, and with the aid of the villagers the
aeroplane was wheeled to the smithy. It proved to be very poorly
equipped, having a very primitive forge and a pair of clumsy native
bellows; but Rodier set to work to make the best of it, welding the
broken stay with the smith's help, while his employer remained outside
the hut to keep watch over the aeroplane, which the people were
beginning to examine rather more minutely than he liked. To drive them
off, Smith set the engine working, causing a volume of smoke to belch
forth in the faces of the nearest men, who ran back, holding their
noses and crying out in alarm.

Smith filled in the minutes by opening a tin of sardines and eating
some of the fish sandwiched between biscuits. The sight of small fish
brought from a box struck the villagers with amazement, which was
redoubled when he removed the stopper from a soda-water bottle and
drank what appeared to be boiling liquid. Presently, however, he
noticed that some of the men were quietly withdrawing towards the
huts, behind which they disappeared. Among them was the Hindu, who was
apparently summoned, and departed with a look of uneasiness. Smith
went on with his meal unconcernedly, though he was becoming
suspicious, especially when he found by-and-by that all the men had
left him, the crowd consisting now only of women and children.

"Nearly done, Roddy?" he called into the hut.

"Yes, mister. The smith has took his hook, though."

"All the men have gone behind the huts. I wonder what they are up to."

Rodier took up a hammer, and gently broke a hole in the flimsy back
wall of the hut.

"There's a big crowd beyond the village," he reported. "Having a
pow-wow, too. They've got spears and muskets."

"That looks bad. Hurry up with the stay. The sooner we get out of this
the better."

He noticed that the smith had now rejoined the crowd. No doubt he
intended to make sure of getting his money. The mob behind the huts
was growing noisy, and Smith gave a sigh of relief when Rodier came
out with the mended stay and proceeded to fix it in place. While he
did this, Smith beckoned some of the lads forward, and made them
understand by signs that he wished them to help him wheel the
aeroplane round. The slope between it and the sea was very rough
ground, but it afforded space for starting off, and the moment Rodier
had finished his job he swung the aeroplane round and started the
engine. The smith, looking on suspiciously, took this as a signal for
departure and rushed forward, clamouring shrilly for the promised
payment. Smith gave him the half-sovereign, then jumped into his
place, Rodier running beside the machine as it moved down the slope.

At this moment there was a shout from the village, which swelled into
a furious din as the men came rushing from behind the huts, and saw
the white men preparing to leave them. The aeroplane gathered way.
Rodier was on the point of clambering into his place, as he had often
done before, by means of the carriage supporting the wheels. But the
machine jolting over the rough ground delayed him. The yelling crowd
rushed down, some hurling spears, and others endeavouring to seize the
Frenchman. He kept his grip on the rail, but another jolt forced him
to loosen his hold, the machine suddenly sprang upwards, and Rodier
fell backward among his captors.

Smith scarcely realized what had happened until he was many feet in
the air; but seeing at a glance over his shoulder that Rodier was left
behind, he put the helm over and warped the planes to a perilous
degree. The aeroplane was fifty or sixty yards from the starting place
when Smith's action caused it to swerve like a wounded bird; then it
recovered itself, and turning in a narrow circle swept back towards
the confused knot of men on the beach. Smith planed down straight upon
them, intending to land and rush to Rodier's assistance. But
perceiving that the Frenchman was struggling on the ground, with a
dozen turbaned figures clustering over him, he steered straight for
the middle of the group. There was a dull thud, and then another, and
he felt a harsh jolt as the chassis struck some of the standing men.
Smith had stopped the engine when he turned, and the aeroplane,
brought up by this obstruction, sank to the ground, being saved from
damage only by the spring attachments of the carriage.

Drawing his revolver, Smith leapt from his seat and dashed towards the
group. Six or eight men lay on the ground, some of them too badly hurt
to rise; the rest of the crowd had taken to their heels, and the whole
population was in full flight, the children screaming with terror. In
an instant, to Smith's relief, Rodier sprang to his feet. Together
they turned the machine once more towards the sea.

"Are you hurt, Roddy?" asked Smith.

"Ah, the villains! they have given me a dig or two. Let us get away
from this, mister. We are getting later and later."

He jumped into the car; Smith again started the engine; and as the
machine rose into the air it was followed by a howl of rage from the
baffled Baluchis. Half-a-dozen slugs pattered about it, piercing
several holes in the planes. Already one of these had been gashed by a
spear, which still stuck in it. But no serious damage had been done,
and in a few seconds the aeroplane was flying at full speed over the
sea.

It is one of the drawbacks of aerial travel that conversation can only
be carried on in shouts. Smith would have liked to talk over things
with Rodier, but the noise of the engine and the boom of the air as
the machine cut through it smothered his voice unless he bellowed.
Only a few words passed between them as they flew along a little
distance out to sea. Rodier bathed two slight wounds he had received
in the scuffle with water from the pots filled during the storm, and
assured Smith that they were nothing to trouble about.

Some few minutes after leaving the inhospitable village they noticed
the smoke of a steamer, a good deal nearer the shore than the dhows
which they had seen occasionally on the Gulf. It was too far distant
for them to determine its size and nationality, or to guess the
direction in which it was bound. Smith decided to speak it in passing,
but, observing that the stay had not been thoroughly fixed in the
hurry of their departure, he looked about for a suitable
landing-place, where the finishing touches might be given. The coast
was rocky and precipitous, and the tops of the cliffs were strewn for
a considerable distance inland with innumerable boulders, large and
small, which would render landing dangerous, and starting perhaps more
dangerous still. At length, however, just as he was thinking of
running inland, in spite of the loss of time, Rodier caught sight of a
large expanse of smooth rock, left bare by the falling tide. He
pointed it out to Smith, who made a hasty calculation of its extent,
and judged that it would serve his purpose. Steering to it, he circled
round it and dropped gently upon its western end, scaring off a
flamingo that was sunning itself there in solitary state.

"We came well out of that, Roddy," he said, as they set to work on the
stay.

"But we lose time by all these stops, mister," replied Rodier. "We can
perhaps make it up if you keep your gold in your pocket."

"I made a mistake there, certainly. If anything of the kind occurs
again our motto must be 'take it or leave it.'"

"Just as you say to a cabby."

"You are sure you are not hurt much?"

"No more than with a cat's scratches. You came in the stitch of time,
though."

"'A stitch in time saves nine,'" quoted Smith, smiling a little at the
Frenchman's mistake. "That's why we had better make a good job of
this. We don't want to stop again."

Ten minutes' work sufficed to fix the stay firmly in its place. Smith
again started the engine, the aeroplane taking the air when it was
only half-way across the rock. They looked around for the steamer when
they were again going at full speed, but it was no longer visible. In
a few minutes, however, the smoke again came into view, and as they
rapidly approached it Smith was delighted to see that it came from the
funnel of a small gunboat, which was steaming in the same direction as
their own flight, making probably for Bombay or Karachi. The chances
were that such a vessel in these waters was British, so Smith steered
towards it, shouting to Rodier that they might perhaps arrange a
tit-for-tat with the Baluchis.

There was much excitement on board the gunboat when the aeroplane
planed down and soared over it at its own pace, just high enough to be
out of reach of sparks from the funnel.

"Who are you?" shouted Smith through a megaphone.

"Gunboat _Penguin_, Captain Durward, bound for Bombay. Who are you?"
came the answer.

"Lieutenant Thesiger Smith, of the _Imperturbable,_ bound for
Karachi."

"The deuce you are! What do you call that vessel of yours?"

"My pet lamb," replied Smith, grinning. "I say, sir, I've no time for
explanations. Are you policing these seas?"

"This is my beat. Why?"

"Some Baluchis are gun-running fifty miles up the coast, that's all.
Thought you'd like to know."

"Are they, begad! Thanks for the tip. Can you describe the spot?"

"A tiny village lying behind a point. A river runs through it, and
there's a short jetty. Sorry I can't give you latitude and longitude.
You'll catch 'em if you hurry up. Hope you will, and--run 'em in.
Good-bye."

He set the engine at full speed again, and as the aeroplane soared on
like a swallow its departure was followed by a lusty British cheer.

"Three hours late, mister," Rodier bawled in Smith's ear.



CHAPTER VII

THE WHITE DJINN


It was half-past six by Smith's watch, near eleven by local time, when
the aeroplane sailed across the long mangrove swamp that forms the
western side of the harbour of Karachi. The sun was intensely fierce,
and Smith, who found its glare affecting his eyes painfully, had
donned a pair of huge blue-glass goggles. He was glad that he had done
so when, passing over the crowded shipping of the port, he saw the
sandy arid tracts around and beyond the town. Steamers hooted as the
aeroplane flew above them; half-naked coolies lading the vessels with
wheat and cotton, the produce of Sindh and the Punjab, dropped their
loads and stared upwards in stupefied amazement. Smith could not wait
to enjoy his first view of an Indian city. His business was to land at
the first convenient place and find Mr. John Jenkinson, whose godown
was near the Custom House, and obtain from him the petrol bespoken by
Mr. Barracombe.

Being in complete ignorance where the Custom House lay, though he
guessed it would be somewhere near the seafront, he was at first at a
loss in which direction to make. There was no suitable landing-place
in the crowded city itself, and to the immediate south of it there
appeared to be nothing but mangrove swamps. Ascending to a
considerable height, however, he saw, some distance to the east, near
a railway line, a stretch of open brownish ground on which little red
flags stood up at intervals. He instantly jumped to the conclusion
that this was the golf course, though at this time of day there were
no players to confirm his judgment. This was an advantage, because it
promised that he might land without being beset by curious spectators.
Accordingly he steered in that direction, hoping that having safely
landed his aeroplane he might find some means of reaching the merchant
whose name Mr. Barracombe had cabled to him.

It happened that, just as the aeroplane swooped down upon the golf
course, an open vehicle like a victoria was driving slowly along a
road that crossed it from the railway towards the city. The turbaned
driver pulled up his horse and stared open-mouthed at this
extraordinary apparition from the sky, and when the aeroplane
alighted, and from the car stepped a tall, dirty creature with a
monstrously ugly face, the native whipped up his horse and with
shrill cries sought to escape the clutches of what he felt in his
trembling soul must be a djinn of the most evil kind.

Smith shouted to him to stop, but in vain; whereupon he picked up his
heels and ran to overtake the carriage. The horse was a sorry
specimen, and Smith, being a very passable sprinter, soon came up with
it, jumped in, and called to the driver to take him to Mr. Jenkinson's
godown. The man yelled with fear, and in sheer panic flogged his horse
until it went at a gallop, the vehicle swaying in a manner that any
one but a sailor would have found unpleasant. Both horse and driver
seemed to be equally affected with terror, but since the carriage was
going towards the city Smith was perfectly well satisfied, and did not
turn a hair even when it narrowly escaped a collision with a
bullock-wagon.

On they went, past some buildings on the right which appeared to be
barracks, until they reached a street in which there were so many
people that Smith thought it time to pull up before mischief was done.
Leaning forward, he gripped the driver's dhoti and drew him slowly
backward. The man yelled again; the passers-by stood in wonderment;
but with his backward movement the driver tightened his grip on the
reins, and within a few yards the panting horse came to a standstill.

"Where is Mr. Jenkinson's godown?" said Smith, releasing the driver.
But the man's terror was too much for him. Throwing the reins on the
horse's back, he sprang from his seat and fled, a vision of bare brown
legs twinkling amid white cotton drapery.

By this time a crowd of chattering natives had gathered round, who,
not having seen the aeroplane, were more amazed at the driver's
evident terror than at the passenger. He was dirty, it is true, and
not clad like the sahibs whom they were accustomed to meet, but when
he had removed his goggles they saw that he was certainly a sahib.
Smith was about to ask some one to direct him to Mr. Jenkinson's when
a native policeman pushed his way through the crowd, and in a shrill,
high-pitched voice and wonderful English, announced that he had come
to take the number of the carriage; it was clearly a case of furious
driving to the danger of the public.

"Shut up!" said Smith impatiently. "Find me a driver to take me to
Jenkinson sahib."

"Certainly, your honor," said the man, becoming deferential at once.

One of the bystanders, seeing the chance of earning a few pice,
volunteered to drive.

"Jenkinson sahib? all right, sahib; down by Custom House. You bet!"

The carriage rolled off, followed by a crowd of runners, eager out of
pure inquisitiveness to see the matter through. They passed Government
House, turned into dusty Macleod Road, and in five or six minutes
reached the Custom House, where, turning to the left for a short
distance along the Napier Mole, the driver pulled up at a wooden
godown, and said--

"Here we are again, sahib. Jenkinson sahib, all right."

Smith ordered the man to wait for him, and went into the godown. Here
he met with a disappointment. In answer to his inquiry the native
clerk, looking at him curiously, said that Mr. Jenkinson was not
there, was not even in Karachi.

At this Smith looked blank.

"Your name, sir, is Lieutenant Smith?" said the clerk politely, but
with an air of doubt.

"It is."

"Then I tell you what, sir. Cable came yesterday for Mr. Jenkinson. I
wired it, instanter, as per instructions, to esteemed employer at
Mahableshwar, where he recuperates exhausted energies. Reply just
come. Here you are: 'Refer Lieutenant Smith Mr. Macdonald. Regret
absence.' Mr. Macdonald, sir, little way off. I have honour to escort
you: do proper thing."

He conducted Smith some distance down the Mole, the carriage
following. Luckily Mr. Macdonald had not returned to his bungalow for
tiffin, but was napping in a little room behind his office, darkened
by close trellises, which are found necessary for keeping out the
clouds of sand blown up from the shore.

"Eh, what?" said Mr. Macdonald, when his clerk awakened him. "A
visitor this time of day? Well, show him in."

He let a little light into the room, and stared when Smith was
introduced. Smith was dripping with perspiration, and not having been
able to wash since leaving London, he felt that his appearance must
give a fellow-countryman something of a shock.

"What do ye want, man?" asked Mr. Macdonald, somewhat testily.

"Mr. Jenkinson referred me to you, sir--"

"I have no vacancies, none whatever, and--"

"My name is Lieutenant Smith, of His Majesty's navy, and I have just
arrived from England."

"I beg your pardon, Mr. Smith; I took ye for--well, I don't know what.
Take a wee drappie? You came by the _Peninsular_, no doubt. I hear she
came in this morning."

"No. I came by aeroplane."

The Scotsman stared.

"What's that ye were saying?"

"By aeroplane. The fact is, Mr. Macdonald, I'm in a hurry. I've got to
get off within an hour or so; and I want some petrol for my engine.
Mr. Jenkinson was to have arranged it for me, but being absent he
refers me to you, and I shall be immensely obliged if you can manage
it for me, and excuse my not entering into particulars, for which I
really haven't time."

"Is that a fact? Petrol, is it? Come away with me; only, upon my word,
sir, I will take it very kind if you will give me a few particklers of
this astonishing business as we go."

He put on a sun helmet, and led the way from the room. Jumping into
the victoria, he ordered the temporary coachman to drive to Harris
Road, a quarter of a mile beyond the Custom House. In the two minutes
occupied by the drive, Smith told the Scotsman merely that he had come
from Constantinople and was proceeding immediately to Penang on
important business.

"It took ye a week, I suppose?"

"No, I left there rather less than twenty-four hours ago."

"Man, you astonish me; fair take my breath away. But here we are."

He alighted at a store kept by a Parsi. It was a matter of a few
moments to purchase the petrol and machine oil, Smith paying for it
with English gold. The tins were rolled out; Mr. Macdonald hailed a
closed cab, into which they were put, and then they set off to return
to the golf links, Mr. Macdonald accompanying Smith, curious to see
the machine which had performed such an astonishing journey.

"I've read in the papers about these aeroplanes, but never seen one
yet. Is it your opinion, now, that we'll have a war in the air one of
these days?"

"I shouldn't wonder. We shall have cruisers and battleships, air
torpedoes and destroyers, air mines and air submarines."

"Are you pulling my leg, now?" asked Mr. Macdonald, but he received no
reply, for Smith had noticed an European provision shop, and
remembering that his biscuits and chocolate were running low, he
called to the driver to stop, and made some purchases. He took the
opportunity to lay in a dozen bottles of soda-water, and added a few
packets of Rodier's favourite cigarettes, for smoking during the
halts, for he would never allow a match to be struck near the engine.

Mr. Macdonald plied him with questions during the remainder of the
drive, and Smith was ready enough with his answers except on his
personal concerns. When they arrived at the links they found the
aeroplane surrounded by a vast crowd. The majority were natives, but
there was a sprinkling of Englishmen in the inner circle, and some
soldiers from the barracks were doing police duty in keeping the
onlookers at a distance from the aeroplane. Two British officers and
some civilians were talking to Rodier, who was cleaning the engine
with the assistance of a young fellow with the cut of a ship's
engineer.

The arrival of the cabs caused a stir among the spectators. Smith
alighted, asked Mr. Macdonald to see that the petrol and provisions
were carried quickly to the aeroplane, and advanced to ask Rodier how
he had been getting on.

"Like a house on fire, mister," replied the man. "Mr. Jones here is
just off the _Peninsular_, and has helped a lot."

"I say," said one of the officers, "is your man stuffing us up? He
says you have come from London in twenty-four hours."

"Quite true, Hawley," said Smith, with a smile. "Remember I googlied
you for a duck at Lord's last year?"

The officer stared.

"By George, it's Charley Smith! I didn't know you; you're like a
sweep. Yes, by George! and I stumped you and got it back on you. How
are you? Rogers, this is a gentleman of the King's navee--Charley
Smith, Elphinstone Rogers."

"How d'e do? Rummy machine, what!" said Captain Rogers.

"Yes, by George!" said Hawley. "What's your little game?"

"I've got seven days' leave, and am off big game hunting. Can't wait
for liners in these times."

"You don't say so!"

"Tigers, eh?" said Rogers. "Wish I was you! But is it safe? Looks
uncommon flimsy, what!"

"I hope for the best, but I haven't got a minute to spare. Sorry I
can't have a go at your pads again, Hawley. Finished, Roddy?"

"All complete, mister."

"All the stuff onboard?"

"Yes."

"Well, Mr.--Jones, is it? Much obliged to you. Roddy, pay those
fellows who've carried the stuff, and the drivers."

He handed him some silver.

"Hoots, man," said Mr. Macdonald; "that'll never do. They'll swank for
a week if you give them all that. Leave it to me."

"All right. You know best. Many thanks for your help. Hawley, d'you
mind getting your men to clear the course? I don't want to break any
bones. And perhaps you'll send a cable home for me. Address Thesiger
Smith, Cosham. Say 'All well.'"

"I'll do it, with pleasure."

"Thanks. Good-bye. Sorry I've got to rush off."

He shook hands all round, and jumped on board.

Rodier had already taken his place at the engine. It took a minute or
two for the soldiers to force the crowd back, an interval which Smith
utilized to trace on the map, for Rodier's guidance, the course he had
decided to follow. Then, the clatter of the starting engine silencing
the clamour of the crowd, the aeroplane ran forward and soared into
the air. Its ascent was hailed with a babel of shouts and cheers.
Smith waved his hand to his friends below; then, seeing that Rodier
had the map before him, he spread himself in his seat for a
comfortable nap.



CHAPTER VIII

A SHIP ON FIRE


Rodier had his full share of the Gallic dash which had won first
honours in airmanship for France, but it was combined with the
coolness and circumspection bred of scientific training, so that Smith
was able to take repose in serene confidence that, barring accidents,
the aeroplane would fly as safely under Rodier's charge as under his
own. Karachi was soon a mere speck amid the sand. In less than
half-an-hour the aeroplane was crossing the swampy delta of the Indus.
Soon afterwards it flew over the Run of Cutch into Gujarat, leaving
the hills of Kathiawar on the right. Sweeping over the head of the
Gulf of Cambay, it crossed the railway line from Bombay to Baroda, and
then the broad river Nerbudda. The city gleaming white in the
sunlight, far to the left, must be Baroda itself. The course traced by
Smith in the few minutes before leaving Karachi, avoided the high
western Ghauts that fringe the Indian coast to far south of Bombay.
Rodier therefore steered somewhat to the east, coming in the course
of twenty minutes to the river Tapti. Seeing a line of mountains
straight ahead, he swung round still more to the east, following the
valley of the river until he had completely turned the mountains, the
northernmost spurs of the Ghauts.

Now he turned south-east once more, crossed the Chandaur chain, and
presently came in sight of the Godaveri river, which traverses the
whole breadth of Hyderabad. Near Indor he left the river on his left.
By this time it was becoming dark. Smith still slept, and Rodier, who
was not able to steer by the stars, was considering whether he had not
better waken his employer when he spied the characteristic glare from
a locomotive furnace far ahead. In half-a-minute he had caught up the
train, and slowed down to make sure of the direction in which the
railway ran. He found that it was almost exactly south-south-east, and
concluded from a glance at the map that he was above the connection of
the Hyderabad railway running from Warangal to the coast of the Bay of
Bengal. Reassured, he resolved to let Smith have his sleep out,
followed the line until it swept eastward at Secunderabad, and then,
steering a little to the left, put the engine once more to full speed.
In less than an hour afterwards he saw a vast expanse of water
glistening in the light of the rising moon, and knew that he had
reached the sea.

Being by this time thoroughly stiff and tired, and knowing, moreover,
that Smith would navigate the aeroplane over the sea with much more
certainty than himself, he shouted to awaken him. This proving
ineffectual, he leant over and nudged his shoulder. Smith was awake in
an instant.

"Where are we?" he cried; but no answer was necessary; he saw the sea
below him, and stretching far to the east, north, and south. He
exchanged places with Rodier, who, too tired even to eat, fell asleep
at once.

"Good thing he woke me," thought Smith. It was one thing to fly over
land, with guiding marks in the shape of rivers, mountains, and other
physical features that could be recognized more or less easily from
the map; and quite another to cross the pathless ocean. But with a
compass and a clear sky the course would present no difficulty to a
seaman, and Smith settled down to a flight that would be without
obstruction for at least seven hundred miles.

He knew that in the Bay of Bengal the prevailing wind at that season
is south-westerly. Whether there was any wind or not it was impossible
to ascertain while the aeroplane was maintaining its enormous speed;
certainly there was none to cause unsteadiness. If wind there was, it
blew in his, favour, and all that he would have to do would be to
allow in steering for a slight northerly drift. He would certainly
sight the Nicobar group, and possibly the Andaman Islands if he did
not make sufficient allowance for the wind; but he was determined not
to alight if he could help it until he arrived at Penang; he had lost
time enough already.

It was the first time he had flown across so wide an expanse of sea,
and he felt a touch of anxiety lest the engine should break down. If
any accident should happen he had made up his mind that the only thing
to be done was to don the lifebuoys, cut the engine loose, and trust
to the buoys to keep them and the planes afloat until their plight was
observed from some passing vessel. In the darkness this would, of
course, prove a vain hope; even in daylight the chance that a vessel
would be in sight was remote. But the die was cast: the engine was as
yet working perfectly; and in three or four hours, all being well, he
would come in sight of land.

There being no obstruction to fear, he kept at a height of only a
hundred feet above sea level. The sea was calm, gleaming like a sheet
of silver in the moonlight, so that the aeroplane seemed to fly over a
continuous glistening track. Steadily it flew on; Smith had nothing to
do but to sit still, feed the engine with petrol, and keep his eyes
alternately on the compass and the stars.

At length, about six o'clock by his watch--past eleven in the
longitude to which he had arrived--he caught sight ahead of a dark
outline on the water, no doubt a group of islands, though whether the
Andamans or the Nicobars he did not feel sure. Knowing that they were
all hilly in formation, he slackened speed, intending to run down
their coastline rather than cross them. It would not be difficult to
find one of the many channels between them through which he could
continue his flight, past the northern end of Sumatra to Penang. By
taking a southerly course, moreover, he would, be able to assure
himself of his direction.

After a short run parallel with the coastline he came to a wide
channel which he believed to be, and subsequently ascertained to be,
the Ten Degree channel between Little Andaman and Car Nicobar. From
this, if he was right, there would be an uninterrupted course
south-east to Penang. But within half-an-hour of entering the channel,
still flying low, he suddenly ran into a dense cloud of exceedingly
pungent smoke, which completely hid the sea beneath him. It made him
cough, and woke Rodier with a start.

"What's this, mister?" he shouted, rubbing his eyes.

"Forest on fire," shouted Smith in reply, though he was surprised to
meet with the smoke so far from land as he supposed himself to be. He
hastily planed upwards, in case, by some error of navigation, he had
come upon land and might endanger the aeroplane among hills or
tree-tops, and also to avoid the risk of explosion from a stray spark.
Still more surprised was he when, after only a few seconds, the
aeroplane passed completely through the smoke, and he saw the sea
again. At that instant, just as they reached the windward side of the
smoke-cloud, which was evidently blown by an easterly wind, Rodier
gave a cry.

"Mon Dieu! A ship on fire!"

Smith instantly checked the engine, and, swinging round in a narrow
circle, saw a dark shape below him from which smoke was pouring up.
There was no flame, but as the aeroplane dropped gently downwards
Smith saw that Rodier's explanation must be correct, the ship being a
sailing vessel.

A fire at sea is the sailor's worst terror. Urgent as was his own
errand, Smith could not pass without at least inquiry, so he sank
still lower, steering as close alongside the vessel on the windward
side as the planes would allow. He perceived now that she was
dismasted and had a bad list. Lifting his megaphone, he shouted--

"Ahoy there! Who are you?"

No answer reached him, though he saw that the crew were crowding on
deck, gazing up at him, and one man, no doubt the captain, was making
a trumpet of his hands.

"I can't hear owing to the noise of my engine," shouted Smith.
"Haven't you got a megaphone?"

He was acutely conscious at that moment of two disadvantages which the
airman had not yet been able to surmount. He had not yet invented a
noiseless engine, nor could he keep the aeroplane motionless in the
air. If Smith could have transformed his vessel for a few minutes into
a Zeppelin airship he would gladly have done it.

Now a megaphone had been brought to the captain, and his words came,
though faintly, to the ears of the airmen.

"Barque _Elizabeth_, from Calcutta to Dundee with jute. Dismasted in a
cyclone ten days ago west of the Andamans; been adrift ever since.
Fire broke out in cargo in the fore hold; had as much as we could do
to keep it under; no time to rig a jury mast. Afraid of flames
bursting through any minute."

He asked no questions and showed no surprise about the aeroplane. It
was evident that he could give no thought to anything but the
desperate plight of his vessel.

Smith was in great perplexity. He could do nothing for the ship;
perhaps his best course would be to make all speed for the nearest
port and send a steamer to her assistance. An idea struck him.

"Can't you get off in your boats?" he called.

"All carried away but one. She won't hold half of us. Besides, can't
desert the ship."

"Many passengers?"

"Only my daughter."

"His daughter, Roddy. I wish we could do something, but I don't know
what."

"Ah! go down and lift her off, mister."

Smith reflected. A girl would probably weigh little more than the
petrol they had consumed. The suggestion was feasible, and if the
captain's daughter had pluck enough to risk the journey, no doubt her
father would be glad to know that she at least was safe.

"We can but make 'em the offer," he said to Rodier; then shouted
through the megaphone: "We're coming down. Get your men to clear the
deck aft, and show lights and stand by to lend a hand."

All this time the aeroplane was moving slowly in circles over the
vessel, being still careful to keep on the windward side for fear of
sparks. When Smith's instructions had been carried out, he selected a
landing place just abaft the mizzen and, warping his planes
alternately, brought the aeroplane gently to the deck. Fortunately
the bulwarks were sufficiently low not to catch the planes or the
stays supporting them.

Smith and Rodier stepped on deck, and were instantly surrounded by a
group of the officers and crew.

"Get for'ard," shouted the captain to the men. "D'you want to see a
blaze?"

He was left with the first mate.

"I'm in a pretty fix, sir," he said, after a rapid glance at Smith.
"We drifted south and southeast after the storm, then lay becalmed for
a day or two; yesterday an east wind sprang up and carried us
northward."

"What are your bearings?" asked Smith. "I'm in the Navy."

"You don't say so, sir! Yesterday's observations gave us latitude nine
degrees forty-seven minutes south and longitude ninety-four degrees
thirty-two minutes east."

"Well, look here, the best thing I can do is to run for a port and
send you help."

"I'd take it very kind if you would, sir. I was thinking of sending my
daughter off in the boat to-morrow with a few men; but we've managed
to keep the fire under so far, and if there's a chance of getting help
within a day, say, perhaps we can keep all together. It's terribly
risky in these seas in an open boat."

"Well, I'll set a course for Penang--"

"Port Blair's nearer, sir, in South Andaman."

"But I'm more likely to find a fast steamer at Penang. And as to your
daughter, captain, she'd better come along with us."

"In that what-you-may-call-it, sir?"

"Yes, certainly. We can easily carry her, and make a comfortable seat
for her behind ours if you give us a cushion. We've come from London,
so she needn't be afraid."

"From London! Near seven thousand miles! Jigger me if ever I heard the
like of it! What do you think of that, Mr. McWhirter?"

"Rather a long un," replied the mate.

"Well, hang me, if you've come across the Bay of Bengal, you're sartin
sure to be able to make Penang. She shall go with you, and that'll be
one load off my mind. Go and fetch her, Mr. McWhirter. She's rather a
superior gal, sir, though I say it myself. She's had a rattling good
eddication; talks French like a native, and as for music and singing,
I've never heard any gal as could touch her, that's a fact. Here she
is."

Smith was not sorry that the outflow of paternal pride was checked. He
wanted to get on. A girl of about twenty came forward with the mate.
She was very self-possessed, and met Smith's look frankly.

"My daughter, Mr. ----. I don't know your name, sir," said the
captain.

"My name's Smith." He doffed his cap.

"Now, Margy, my girl, Mr. Smith, who's in the Navy, is going to be so
kind as to take you in his what-you-may-call-it to Penang, and send a
steamer to take us off or tow us in, as the case may be."

The girl looked startled, glancing from Smith to the aeroplane, and
then at her father.

"I think I'd rather stay with you, Father," she said quietly.

"And I'd rather you didn't," he said bluntly. "You don't know the risk
as I do, my gal," he added kindly. "The blessed ship may blaze at any
moment."

"I know, Father; but we've been in danger for several days, and I've
got used to it."

"Ay, that's true, and you've been an uncommon plucky girl, I _will_
say. She ain't like them females that faint and go into high strikes
and fidget your life out," he said to Smith, who observed the girl's
face flush. "Now, my dear, you'll go with Mr. Smith, and please your
old father. There ain't a morsel of danger; he's come safe all the way
from London, and I never see a better bit of manoeuvring, I _will_
say, than when he brought the what-you-may-call-it down on the deck as
light as a feather. It'll be a big sight safer than this poor old
hulk, and I'll be thankful to know as you're safe in Penang. You can
berth with my old friend Sam Upton and his missis, and please God
I'll come for you in a day or two."

"I assure you, Miss--Miss Margaret," said Smith, "that there's really
very little risk. We've come six thousand odd miles safely, and it's
not far to Penang, you know. You won't be the first lady to fly in an
aeroplane."

"Ma foi, non!" cried Rodier, unable to keep silence any longer. "I
myself, mademoiselle, have kept company in an aeroplane with a lady.
Ah, bah! vous parlez français; eh bien! cette femme-là a été ravie,
enchantée; elle m'a assuré que ce moment-là fut le plus heureux de sa
vie."

"Shut up, Roddy," whispered Smith, smiling, however, as he caught a
twinkle of amusement in the girl's eyes.

"I will go if you wish," she said to the captain, without replying to
Rodier.

"That's right. Mr. McWhirter, will you please get a couple of cushions
and put them in the thingummy where Mr. Smith shows you."

The seat was quickly prepared. Meanwhile Smith consulted with Rodier
on the somewhat delicate problem how to make a start from the deck,
which obviously did not afford more than a few feet of running-off
space. Rodier hit on a solution, and by the time the passenger's seat
was ready the necessary arrangements had been made.

"Now, my gal," said the captain, "step aboard. You sing like a bird;
it's only right you should fly like one." It was obvious that the
worthy seaman was making clumsy efforts to be cheerful. "I'll see you
in two days, or three at most; we've got a raft ready, you know, in
case the fire beats us. But, bless you, I shouldn't be surprised if we
have a fire-engine coming through the sky next; there's no knowing
what these clever young sparks won't be inventing. God bless you!"

The girl threw her arms round her father's neck. Smith turned away;
there were tears in the old man's eyes. The captain conducted her to
her place. Then he took Smith aside.

"You'll look after my gal, sir?" he said in an undertone. "She's all
I've got. Suppose you _do_ come down; what then?"

"I shall jettison the engine and keep afloat by the planes. We've a
couple of life buoys, too. But I don't think we shall come down, so
make yourself easy, and we'll save your vessel."

"There's one man that never forgets a good turn, and that's John
Bunce. Where shall I find you in Penang, sir, if I get there safe?"

"Oh! I shan't be there. I'm going straight on to the Solomon Islands."

"Well, sir, if you're ever Rotherhithe way, you'll find me at 197
Prince's Road; I'm retiring after this voyage. Margy'll be proud to
give you a cup of tea, and I _will_ say I'd like you to hear her
sing."

"All right, I won't forget. All ready, Roddy?"

"Ready and waiting, mister."

Smith went to his place.

"Are you quite comfortable, Miss Bunce?" he said, noticing that the
girl was pale and nervous. "I'm sorry I can't give you my seat, but my
man and I must sit together. You'll forgive us for turning our backs
on you."

The girl smiled faintly without speaking. Several of the crew had
ranged themselves on each side of the aeroplane, to hold it steady
until the propellers had worked up a good speed. Smith started the
engine; the deafening whirr began: then at the word "Go!" the sailors
released their holds and the aeroplane lurched forward just clear of
the bulwarks. Margaret Bunce clutched the rail nervously. One or two
of the men had been somewhat slow in letting go, causing the aeroplane
to cant over in a manner that was alarming to the onlookers. But long
practice with the aeroplane in all kinds of gusty weather had
developed in Smith an instinct for the right means of meeting an
emergency of this nature. Like a bicyclist, he did the right thing
without thinking. The vessel righted itself at a touch on the warping
lever, and in two or three seconds she was sailing rapidly away from
the ship.



CHAPTER IX

A PASSENGER FOR PENANG


From the information given him by Captain Bunce, Smith hoped to pick
up the lights of Penang without much difficulty. While on the ship's
deck he had noticed that the easterly breeze was very light, so that
even with the slight additional weight he carried, his speed would not
be greatly diminished. With good luck three or four hours would see
him safe in port.

Rodier pulled out his watch soon after they started, and comparing it
with the schedule of the journey, shouted in Smith's ear--

"We are four hours late, mister."

"I know we are," cried Smith. "Confound you, Roddy, you're always
telling me I'm late. If you say anything like that again I'll throw
you out."

Rodier grinned.

"Mademoiselle wouldn't like that," he shouted. "Tout va bien,
mademoiselle?" he said, turning to the lady. "Vous n'avez pas peur?"

"It is terribly fast," said the girl breathlessly, and Rodier came to
the conclusion that Captain Bunce's opinion of his daughter's
linguistic ability was exaggerated.

The moon had set, and the flight was continued in almost total
darkness. At length, shortly before four o'clock in the morning, Smith
caught sight of lights ahead. He had touched at Penang some years
before, when his first ship was on her way out to the Australian
station, and he knew that the most suitable place for alighting was a
large open space, clear of vegetation and buildings, about a mile from
the port. In a few minutes the aeroplane was flying over the sleeping
town. He slackened speed, and circled around for some time, seeking
the spot with the aid of his searchlight. He discovered it with more
ease than he had dared to hope, and bidding Rodier look out for
obstacles, descended to the ground.

"Here we are, Miss Bunce," he said cheerfully, as he stepped out. "I
hope you feel none the worse for your ride."

"It is wonderful," said the girl. "I shall never forget it."

"The question is, what are we to do now? Your father mentioned a
friend of his, but as I have little time to spare I think you had
better come with me to my friend Mr. Daventry. He is in the
administration here, and I am sure Mrs. Daventry will be glad to do
anything she can for you. You see, I can find my way there in the
dark, I think, whereas we should have to wait until daylight to find
your father's friend, and that would be a nuisance in every way."

"I will do whatever you think best."

Leaving Rodier with the aeroplane, the other two set off towards the
town.

"You will try to send help to Father?" said the girl.

"As soon as it's light. This is Sunday morning, by the way. _You_'re
all right, but I'm afraid I look far from Sundayish. Still, no one can
see me, and I shall be off before the people go to church."

"So soon as that? Aren't you very tired?"

"Not so tired as I've been in the manoeuvres. We get a nap in turn,
you know."

"How _can_ you sleep when you're in such terrible danger?"

"Well, you see I'm used to it. We don't think of the danger. Perhaps
it's because I've never had a bad accident. The want of a decent meal
is the worst of it. We haven't had one since Thursday night, but I
daresay we can keep going on light fare for another three or four
days."

"You know I've often wanted to go up in an aeroplane, though I
suspect I should have backed out if I had really had the chance. I'm
very glad Father insisted on my coming, but I wish it had been
daylight; I could only hold on and try not to be afraid."

"I'm sorry we can't take you with us--no, I don't quite mean that,
Miss Bunce; of course you couldn't come careering about; what I mean
is that I shall be very glad to take you a daylight trip one of these
days if you care to come--when we get back home, of course. Captain
Bunce was kind enough to give me an invitation; he said you would give
me a cup of tea--"

"And sing to you! I know exactly what he said; but you mustn't pay too
much attention to Father. He's a dear old man, but quite absurd over
my little accomplishments."

"But I may have a cup of tea?"

"With or without sugar--if you really mean it."

"Of course I mean it. One of these days you will find my aeroplane at
your door--"

"Good gracious! it will be in pieces, then, for our street isn't wide
enough to give it room."

"Well, you'll find _me_ at the door then; and after I have had my cup
of tea, with three lumps of sugar, and you have sung a little
song--just to please your father, of course--we will walk to where my
man is waiting with the aeroplane, two or three streets off, and we'll
take a jaunt to Greenwich Park, or Richmond, or wherever you like."

"That will be very nice," said Miss Bunce, and Smith wished it were
not too dark to see her face, for the tone expressed utter disbelief.
He wanted to assure her that he meant what he said, but, reflecting
that he had better not seem to suggest that she doubted it, he said--

"That's settled, then. I suppose it will be three or four months
before you get home, and I shan't have another leave for I don't know
how long, so we won't fix a date. Now Mr. Daventry's bungalow is in
this direction; I hope I shall be able to find it."

They walked about for some minutes before Smith was able to satisfy
himself that he had discovered the bungalow. They passed through the
compound, looked with a smile at the native servant sleeping on a mat
at the door, and laughed to see him jump when awakened by Smith's
vigorous rapping. At a word from Smith the man went into the dwelling,
but a moment afterwards a window above the entrance was thrown open,
and a loud voice demanded what was the matter.

"That you, Daventry?" Smith called.

"Yes. Who are you? What's the matter?"

"It's Charley Smith. Sorry to disturb you at this unearthly hour, old
chap."

"What in the name of--! All right. I'll come down."

They saw a light struck; in a minute they saw framed in the doorway a
tall man in pyjamas, holding a candle.

"Come in, Smith," he cried. "Why, what the--! Here, I say, I won't be
a minute."

Setting down the candle on the doorstep, he hurriedly fled. Smith
glanced at the girl. She was quite unembarrassed, and when she caught
his eye she frankly smiled. "She's the right sort," he said to
himself. Presently Mr. Daventry returned in trousers and a smoking
jacket.

"Excuse my leaving you. I went to--to waken Mary," he said. "She'll be
down in a minute; come in. Didn't know you were married, old boy," he
whispered, taking Smith by the arm.

"Hush!" said Smith anxiously, hoping that Margaret Bunce had not
caught the words.

Mr. Daventry led them into his dining-room, turned on the lights, and
looked inquiringly at his visitors. The girl was already unpinning her
low cloth hat.

"Why, what on earth--!" exclaimed Mr. Daventry; "what have you been
doing to yourself, Smith?"

"I _am_ a bit of a sweep, no doubt, but you can give me a bath. The
fact is--well, it's plaguey difficult to tell it shortly--but the fact
is I picked up this lady--no, hang it all! Miss Bunce, please help me
out."

"Mr. Smith picked me up, as he says, from a burning ship in mid-ocean,
and was kind enough to bring me here in his aeroplane."

"Sounds simple, don't it?" said Smith, as Mr. Daventry looked from one
to the other in amazement.

"But--I don't understand--mid-ocean--an aeroplane? Mary," he added to
a lady in a dressing-gown who had just entered, "come and listen to
this. You know Charley Smith? Miss--Miss--"

"Margaret Bunce," said the girl, rising.

"My wife. Now, let us all sit down and see if we can make this out. If
I understand aright Miss Bunce was in a burning ship in mid-ocean--"

"Oh, poor thing!" said Mrs. Daventry sympathetically, going to
Margaret and taking her hand.

"And--correct me if I'm wrong--Smith descended out of the clouds,
caught up Miss Bunce, and flew with her to the house of his nearest
friend. Is your aeroplane outside, old man?"

"It's a mile away, in charge of my chauffeur. I think I had better
tell the whole story from the beginning."

"I think so, too; it's rather cloudy at present. Have a cigar--if the
ladies don't mind."

"Well, two days ago I learnt that my father was shipwrecked along
with the company of his survey vessel on one of the Solomons,
practically unarmed, the report says. As the news was taken to
Brisbane by some of the crew in an open boat, they must have been at
the mercy of the savages for a week or more, and probably hard pushed.
Of course a gunboat was to be sent to relieve them, but as every hour
was important I decided to try to get to them in my aeroplane and take
them some ammunition. Last night, coming somewhere south of the
Andamans, we saw a ship on fire; she was adrift, lost her masts and
all boats but one. The captain asked me to send help as soon as I got
here, and Miss Bunce was good enough to accept our escort, and here we
are."

"Good heavens!" exclaimed Mr. Daventry. "But--I don't understand yet.
How did you come to be by the Andamans? Where did you come from?"

"Left London early Friday morning: came by Constantinople and
Karachi."

"Upon my word, Smith, if I didn't know you I should be inclined to ask
if you are sober. You have come all the way from London since Friday
morning?"

"Exactly. But I know you'll excuse me: I haven't time to tell you any
more. We are already four hours late, and every hour means nearly two
hundred miles. There are two things I want to do. First to arrange
with the port officer to send help to Captain Bunce; then to get the
petrol and lubricating oil ordered for me here. Van Kloof's the man.
You know him, of course."

"Yes, but it's Sunday."

"The better the day, the better the deed. I must have the petrol; I
must start in two hours or less. And I should like a good bath and a
breakfast first."

"You shall have both, but surely you can wait till daylight."

"I'm afraid I can't. It is very awkward, I admit, and I fear I shall
give you and several others a lot of trouble; but needs must when the
devil drives, as they say, and the devil in this case is Father Time.
You see, I've not only got to take some rifles and ammunition to the
shipwrecked party, but I must rejoin my ship by Friday morning, or
there'll be ructions. I've got a name for overstepping the limit, and
my captain warned me that I'd better rejoin promptly this time."

"We mustn't hinder him, Jack," said Mrs. Daventry.

"But, hang it all, Mary, do you understand what it means? He'll kill
himself, rushing round the world like this."

"Not at all; I'm pretty tough," said Smith. "Now, old fellow, what is
the best you can do for me?"

"Go and get your things on, Jack," said Mrs. Daventry practically.
"You can take Mr. Smith down to the harbour and get what he wants.
I'll see about the bath and the breakfast, and I am sure Miss Bunce
will help; I won't disturb the servants. Really, it is quite
exciting."

"Thank you, Mrs. Daventry. It is very good of you. But I'm sure Miss
Bunce ought to go to sleep."

"I am not a bit sleepy," said the girl, "and I shall certainly help
Mrs. Daventry."

"Come along then, my dear," said the hostess. "We will go and see to
things at once."

In five minutes Mr. Daventry was down. He and Smith left the house and
made their way rapidly to the harbour. The port officer complained at
having his beauty sleep disturbed, and when he learnt that his
assistance was wanted for a burning ship near the Andamans he declared
that he wished wireless had never been invented.

"People know too much nowadays," he grumbled. "They'll know what we
think before we think it next."

"Don't undeceive him," whispered Smith to Daventry, anxious to escape
the necessity of lengthy explanations. The port officer agreed to send
a steamer in search of the _Elizabeth_ as soon as it was light. Then,
without losing a minute, Daventry led Smith to the house of Mr. Van
Kloof, of whom the petrol had been ordered.

"He's a bit of a slow-coach," said Daventry, "and will want to know
all about it, so I advise you to tell him everything; or better still,
leave it to me."

"Very well. Anything to save time."

Mr. Van Kloof was hard to awaken. When he was at last aroused by his
servants, he put his head out of his bedroom window, and demanded
gruffly what was the matter.

"Come down, Van Kloof, and I'll explain. It's a matter of life or
death," said Daventry.

"Vat is it? An earthquake?"

"Worse than that. Slip into your breeches, man."

The merchant presently appeared at his door in shirt and breeches, and
carrying a revolver.

"You got a cable from London ordering eighty gallons of petrol to be
held ready for Lieutenant Smith?" said Daventry.

"So. Dat is quite true."

"Well, here is Lieutenant Smith, and he wants the petrol at once."

Mr. Daventry explained where the petrol was to be sent.

"No, it cannot be done, Mr. Daventry. It is Sunday morning. My store
is closed, and I do not understand the hurry."

"Lieutenant Smith is off to the Solomon Islands to save his father
from being eaten by cannibals. There isn't a moment to lose."

"Dat is strange. For vy should I take oil for a motor-boat up country?
You are playing games vid me?"

"Of course not. He's not going by motor-boat, but by aeroplane."

"Oho! Tell dat to the marines."

"Hang it, Van Kloof, listen without interrupting. Mr. Smith has come
by aeroplane from London, and is going on at once. Give me the key of
your store, and we'll go and get the stuff ourselves."

"Veil, of all the--pardon me, gentlemen, but you vill allow me to be
shocked to hear such news at five o'clock on a Sunday morning. I vill
come vid you. I must vake up some coolies to carry the cans. But it
shall be done; I vill myself see to it. I must look vell at dis
aeroplane."

"You're sure we can rely on you?"

"I vill bring all before an hour, you may trust me for dat."

"Then we'll hurry back, Smith, and see about your breakfast. What
about your man, by the way?"

"He's cleaning the engine by searchlight, and eating sardines and
biscuits, or something of the sort."

"Couldn't we fetch him?"

"I'm afraid there isn't time, and besides, he can hardly leave the
aeroplane unattended. It's hard lines, but I'll make it up to him when
we get back."

They returned to the bungalow. A steaming bath was ready. When Smith
had bathed, he found hot coffee and eggs awaiting him. He ate and
drank ravenously, and in a quarter of an hour declared that he must
get back to the aeroplane.

"Nonsense," said Daventry. "The petrol won't be there for half-an-hour
yet. You'll just lie down and rest, and have a comfortable smoke. I'll
go up the hill and take some food to your man."

"You're a good fellow," said Smith, dropping into a capacious
arm-chair. Mrs. Daventry arranged a cushion behind his head, Miss
Bunce placed a stool for him to stretch his legs on, and in
half-a-minute he was fast asleep.

"Don't wake him for an hour," said Mr. Daventry, as he left the house;
"I'll see that all is ready for him."

The sun was rising when Mrs. Daventry, now dressed for outdoors,
wakened the sleeper by lifting his hand. He sprang up with a start.

"Now, don't be agitated," said Mrs. Daventry. "It's just six o'clock.
Jack has gone to see that all is ready for you, and Miss Bunce and I
are coming to see you start. Really, I quite envy her, though I'm sure
I should never have the courage to go up in the air."

"You'll think nothing of it some day. You've been very kind, and I'm
immensely obliged to you. By the way, will you ask Daventry, in case I
forget it, to send a cable to my sister to say that I'm all right?"

"I won't forget. Now shall we go?"

They found that a small crowd had collected round the aeroplane. Mr.
Daventry and Mr. Van Kloof were there, with several other Englishmen,
and a number of Chinese coolies and nondescript natives stood at a
little distance, gazing in wondering silence. Rodier had his watch in
his hand, and looked reproachfully at his employer. Smith pressed
through the crowd, shaking hands with the Englishmen one after
another, but declaring that he had no time for talking. He shook hands
with the Daventrys and Miss Bunce last of all, thanking them very
heartily for their assistance; then, calling for a clear space, he
followed Rodier to his seat. Almost before the onlookers could realize
what was happening, the aeroplane was in action, and while they were
still discussing the extraordinary nature of this means of locomotion,
it had soared into the air, flown humming away from them, and become
a mere speck in the eastern sky.

They were scarcely clear of the ground before Rodier, raising his
voice to a bellow, shouted--

"Mister!"

"Yes. What?" replied Smith, fearing that something was wrong.

"Mister! We are four hours ten minutes late!"



                               INTERLUDE


"I'm afraid it's all up, doctor."

Day had just broken. Lieutenant Underhill, standing rifle in hand at
his post in a corner of the barricade, addressed Dr. Thesiger Smith,
who had come to relieve him.

"You think we can't hope for relief?" replied the doctor.

"Yes. The boat must have foundered, or got lost, or perhaps has fallen
into the hands of the savages. We've come to our last tin of biscuits;
we've hardly ten rounds of cartridges among us."

"What can we do then?"

"Either fight till we drop, or give in; there's nothing else. The end
will be the same either way, but the first would be the quicker."

The doctor stroked his beard with his thin hand. His son joined them;
not the ruddy, clean-shaven youth that had landed from the wreck
twelve days before, but a gaunt man whose hollow cheeks were dark with
a stubby beard.

"Underhill gives up hope at last," said his father.

"Then I'm ashamed of him," said Tom cheerfully. "Never say die. Go and
have a sleep, old man; it's enough to give any one the blues, keeping
watch in the dark. You'll feel better after a nap. Had any trouble?"

"No, they haven't made a sound. I almost wish they had. Anything would
be better than this eternal keeping watch for an enemy that's afraid
to come on."

"Well, not being a fighting man, I prefer for my part to keep a whole
skin as long as I can. Go and sleep, and the pater and I will talk
things over."

Underhill, who was tired out, withdrew to the centre of the camp, and
throwing himself on a tarpaulin, was soon plunged in an uneasy
slumber.

It was twelve days since the wreck, ten since the boat had put off to
seek assistance. When the storm had subsided, the castaways, drenched
to the skin, had taken stock of their situation. It was a wild and
desolate spot, far from the track of ships; months might pass before a
vessel came in sight. They had only a small store of food, barely
sufficient, even if husbanded with the utmost care, to last a
fortnight. From their position at the foot of rugged cliffs it was
impossible to tell what sustenance the island afforded, and the evil
reputation of the natives did not give promise of peaceful
exploration. While not actually head hunters, like the inhabitants of
the New Georgian group to the south, they were said to be treacherous
and vindictive. At the southern end of the island, as Underhill knew,
there was a Wesleyan mission station, placed in a somewhat
inaccessible spot, and at Tulagi, on Florida Island to the south, was
a Government station and the seat of the Resident. It might be
possible to reach one or the other of these, but even so they would be
compelled to wait indefinitely, there being no telegraphic
communication between either and a civilized port.

Reflections like these did not tend to cheer the castaways; but, now
that the sun shone once more out of a clear sky, the invincible
optimism of the British sailorman displayed itself, and the men began
to scramble up the cliffs with almost light-hearted eagerness. At the
top they found themselves at the edge of a dense and tangled forest.
Underhill sent some of the crew to search for a likely camping place,
while the remainder hauled up the boat's cargo. A comparatively clear
space, about a hundred and fifty yards square, was discovered within a
short distance from the cliffs. A stream running through the midst
ensured a good supply of water, and here Underhill determined to make
his camp.

Great havoc had been wrought in the forest by the storm. Many trees
had been snapped off or uprooted; the ground was strewn with broken
branches; and when the whole party were assembled at the spot, and the
arms and provisions had been covered with a tarpaulin, Underhill sent
all hands to collect broken timber for forming a breastwork.
Fortunately, a good number of tools had been brought from the vessel,
and as the men came in with their loads, Rumbold, the ship's
carpenter, set to work, with the assistance of two or three, to
surround the enclosure with a rough fence. Underhill ordered them to
avoid the use of hammers and axes, the noise of which, carrying far in
these solitudes, might attract the attention of the natives, who, for
all he knew, had a village in the neighbourhood. There was no lack of
tough creepers which were serviceable for binding the logs together,
and a great number of cactus-like plants were cut down to form a
defensive lining to the barricade.

In the course of three or four hours the whole encampment had been
roughly fenced. It would not, in its present condition, prove a very
formidable obstacle to a determined attack; but the day had become
very hot, and Underhill was anxious to avoid overworking the men. The
barricade could be strengthened next day.

Just before nightfall the company ate a spare supper of tinned meat
and biscuit, and then, in a little group apart from the rest,
Underhill, with his officers and the Smiths, held a council to decide
on a course of action. They determined, after brief discussion, that
next day four of the men should take the boat and try to make their
way to Tulagi. The loss of the second boat had rendered it impossible
for the whole party to embark; but no doubt the Resident at Tulagi
would have boats of some sort at his disposal, and in these the
castaways could be taken off. When once at Tulagi, they would have to
wait until the first vessel touched at the island. Four men, including
Venables, volunteered to make the voyage, and were ready to start that
night; but every one was exhausted by the adventures and fatigues of
the day, and Underhill thought it best that they should have a night's
rest before they set off. Having arranged for watches to be kept as on
board ship, he gave the order to turn in, and their clothes and the
ground having been well dried by the afternoon sun, they passed a
comfortable and undisturbed night.

Up at daybreak, they first of all occupied themselves with completing
the barricade; then, about eleven o'clock, when they were preparing to
escort the four men to the boat, which had been anchored at the foot
of the cliff, some one cried out that he saw brown men advancing
through the woods. Underhill instantly ordered the barricade to be
manned, and served out arms and ammunition as far as they would go
round. There were only a dozen rifles, however, among twenty men; the
rest armed themselves with tools and implements of various kinds.

Soon a large body of brown-skinned, fuzzy-headed natives, armed with
spears, clubs, and bows and arrows, came slowly towards the camp.
Their attitude was apparently friendly, but, remembering their
reputation for treachery, Underhill did not trust them, and refused to
leave the shelter of the barricade in answer to their invitation,
expressed by signs, to come forth and palaver with them. It was well
he refrained, for when they were within a few yards of the camp they
suddenly darted forward with a wild whoop. Underhill ordered his men
to fire a volley over their heads, hoping to scare them away without
bloodshed; but the reports of the rifles did not make the astounding
impression it usually produced upon savages, and Underhill could not
but believe that they were not wholly unacquainted with the use of
firearms. They advanced with the more ferocity, and it was not until
several had fallen to another volley from behind the barricade that
they drew back to the shelter of the woods.

It would clearly be unsafe to attempt to reach the boat while the
savages were in view. As time went on they appeared to increase in
numbers, and every now and then they sent a flight of arrows into the
camp. But the garrison kept out of sight behind the barricade nearest
to the enemy, and their missiles either stuck in it, or fell
harmlessly within the enclosure.

So the day passed. The fact that trouble had come so soon impressed
Underhill with the necessity of sending for assistance without delay.
The prospect of a siege, with only a limited supply of ammunition to
repel assaults, and a scarcely greater supply of food, was very
disturbing. He had little fear of being able to beat off attack so
long as ammunition lasted, but when it was all spent, the savages must
overpower the white men by sheer weight of numbers. Venables now
wished to recall his undertaking, and remain in the fighting line; but
Underhill decided that he must go in command of the other men.
Accordingly, at nightfall, the four crept through a small gap made in
the seaward face of the barricade, and clambered down the cliff.
Underhill listened anxiously for a time, wondering whether the men had
been discovered, or whether they had safely reached the boat; but
after an hour of silence he concluded that either the enemy had not
been watching in that quarter, or that the boat had slipped away
unobserved in the darkness.

The night was undisturbed, but with dawn the natives reappeared. The
lesson of the previous day had not proved effectual; they came
resolutely up to the barricade in a vast yelling horde. Underhill
ordered his men to reserve their fire until the enemy was within a few
yards of the enclosure; then two rapid volleys with repeating rifles
and revolvers opened a great gap in the throng, and the survivors,
scared by their losses, once more betook themselves to the woods.
Several times during the day they returned to the attack, pushing it
home each time with more determination, and towards evening with a
rage and frenzy that could only be due to the stimulation of strong
liquor. At this last onset the defenders were almost overwhelmed,
repeated volleys seeming only to inflame the fierce warriors. For some
minutes there was a hand-to-hand fight as they made desperate
endeavours to scale the barricade, and only when a score of their
number lay dead and wounded did they relinquish the contest. They took
away the wounded, but left the dead where they lay, and in the night
the garrison had the gruesome task of carrying the bodies to the edge
of the cliff and casting them into the sea. For some time Dr. Smith
was kept busy in attending to the wounded among his own party, and
next day one of the stokers, struck by a poisoned arrow, succumbed to
blood-poisoning, and his comrades, at dead of night, gave him sailor's
burial.

Some days passed, and no serious attack was made, though the garrison
had to be very wary to avoid the arrows which flew at intervals into
the enclosure. One evening, soon after sunset, one of the men on watch
noticed a small light approaching the barricade, and thought at first
it was one of the phosphorescent insects which abounded in the woods,
and which the garrison had seen every night like little lamps among
the trees. But as it came nearer he perceived that it grew larger and
brighter, and moved from side to side with more regularity than was
probable with an insect, and at length he saw that it was a
smouldering torch held by a native, who was waving it to and fro to
cause a flame. Evidently he was coming to fire the barricade. A
well-directed shot brought him down, but to guard against any more
attempts of the same kind Underhill had the barricade constantly
drenched with water from the stream, a fatiguing job, but one that was
welcome to the men, in that it gave them something to do.

Day after day went by. It was clear that the enemy were trusting to
famine to accomplish their end. Luckily, it never entered their heads
to hasten the inevitable by damming up the stream before it entered
the enclosure. If they had done this the garrison could hardly have
held out for a day. In that hot climate a constant supply of water was
a prime necessity. But water without solid food would not keep them
alive, and as the stock of provisions diminished, and no help came,
they saw the horrors of starvation looming ever nearer. Underhill and
Tom Smith assumed a false cheerfulness before each other and the men,
but on the morning of the twelfth day Underhill was unable to keep up
the pretence any longer.

"I didn't want to show Underhill," said Tom to his father, when the
lieutenant had gone; "but we're just about done, I think."

"I'm afraid so, Tom. Poor Jenkins had a touch of delirium in the
night, and we are all getting so weak that we shall go off our heads."

"Well, I've got an idea. I thought I'd mention it to you before I
spoke to Underhill. The blacks haven't been near us for a day or two,
but you may be sure they are not far off. I fancy they've got a camp
or a village in the woods yonder. They must have food there, and I
don't see why we shouldn't try a night attack on them, and run away
with all we can lay hands upon. If we must, perish, better perish
fighting than starving."

"Yes, but it would be folly to attempt it unless we saw a chance of
success, and I see none. We don't know where their camp is; they may
be constantly on the watch, and could take us in the rear and occupy
our camp before we could get back. Besides, we might have to go a long
way, and how could we find our way back again?"

"One difficulty at a time, Father. As to finding our way back, we
could light small fires at intervals, which would serve as
guide-posts."

"And betray us to the enemy."

"But I shouldn't undertake it unless we discover that the course is
clear. I don't believe these natives ever keep watch by night; we have
seen no sign of them at night since they tried to burn us. The chief
difficulty is that we don't know the exact direction of their camp,
but why shouldn't I go out to-night and locate it?"

"Very dangerous, my boy."

"There's danger anyway," replied Tom, with a shrug. "I should take my
pocket compass; two or three of those insects would be enough to light
it."

"I think we had better remain all together, Tom. Help may yet come.
Why should you imperil your life, perhaps in vain?"

"Well, Father, I think I ought to chance it. I'll be careful! if I'm
seen I can make a bolt for it; and I fancy I can pick up my heels
quicker than the fuzzy-wuzzies, even though they don't wear boots."

Dr. Smith was still loth to acquiesce in the proposal, but Tom
returned to it more than once during the day, and at last obtained his
father's consent. It was scarcely easier to win over Underhill; but
with him Tom cut the matter short.

"You command the men," he said, with a smile. "My father commands
me--in a sense, for I'd have you know I am over age. I'm going to have
a try. Get the men ready to make a dash when I come back, for if I
succeed the sooner we set about it the better."

The knowledge of his intended expedition had a wonderful effect on the
spirits of the men. Their faces brightened: they threw off the
lethargy of despondence which had settled upon them, and discussed
with some animation the chances of success.

An hour after nightfall, having first looked and listened for any sign
of the enemy, Tom was let out through a gap in the barricade. He
caught two or three light-giving insects in the bushes just beyond,
and set off in the direction in which the natives had always retreated
when their attacks were beaten off.

It was pitch dark in the belt of forest. Night insects hummed around;
sometimes Tom heard the rustle made by some small animal as it darted
through the undergrowth; there was no other sound. He was able to
determine his general direction by means of the compass, but as the
forest grew thicker he began to fear that he would find more
difficulty than he had anticipated in retracing his course. The damp
warm air was oppressive; now and then he struck his head against a
low branch, stumbled over a stump or a fallen bough, or found his feet
entangled in the meshes of some creeping plant. He was soon bathed in
perspiration; every new sound made him jump; and with every stumble he
waited and listened with beating heart, wondering if he had betrayed
his presence to the enemy. He thought ruefully that his speed as a
sprinter would avail him little on ground like this; he had his
revolver, but that would be useless against numbers; discovery would
mean death.

Amid so many obstructions his progress was terribly slow. It was seven
o'clock when he started; when it occurred to him to look at his watch
he was startled to find that two hours had passed. He could not tell
how far he had come, nor guess how far he had yet to go. He hesitated;
should he go back? Was there any use in struggling further? What
chance was there in this dense forest of finding what he sought? Might
he not even miss the savages' camp altogether, go beyond it, leave it
either on his right hand or his left, or perhaps stumble upon it
suddenly, and be discovered before he had a chance to flee? But he put
these questions from his mind. He had set out to find the camp; no
harm had befallen him. There was a strain of doggedness in his nature;
he had won his scholarships at school and at Cambridge by sheer grit;
his tutor had declared that Tom Smith was certainly not brilliant,
but he was much better: he was sound and steady; and the same
qualities that had won him successes which more brilliant men envied,
came out in these novel circumstances in which he was placed. Tom
decided to go on.

Presently he came to a break in the woodland; he saw the stars
overhead. He was very wary now, and waited at the edge of the clearing
for a long time, peering all round, turning to listen on every side,
before he crossed and entered another belt of forest beyond. Again he
had to struggle through darkness and dense entanglements, then
suddenly he started; far ahead he thought he discerned amid the
blackness the dull glow of a fire. With infinite caution he picked his
way through the thinning undergrowth; the glow increased; and at
length he found himself on the edge of a wide open space in the midst
of which there was a camp fire, and around it the rude grass huts of
the savages. He saw no one, heard no sound; all were asleep.

Stealthily he crept round the encampment. Here and there he saw
cooking-pots, and caught the faint odour of roasted flesh. Had the
savages any store of food, he wondered. If not, his journey was vain.
The fire did not give light enough for him to see anything very
clearly. At last, however, when he had almost made the circuit of the
camp, he saw a man move out from one of the huts towards the fire, on
which he cast some logs that lay beside it. A flame shot up. As the
man returned to his hut, he put his hand into one of the cooking-pots
and drew out the limb of a small animal, from which he tore the flesh
with his teeth. Tom was satisfied. No doubt each of the pots contained
a quantity of food. Surely if he brought his comrades to the spot, and
they fell upon the camp suddenly, with loud cries and the noise of
firearms, they might strike panic into the savages, and at least have
time to possess themselves of the contents of the pots.

He looked at his watch. It was past ten o'clock.

He could return more quickly than he came, and, if he did not lose his
way, would regain his camp within half-an-hour after midnight. There
would be plenty of time for the whole party to reach the savages'
encampment before the dawn rendered it dangerous. Moving away slowly
until he was out of earshot, he then walked as quickly as he could
back through the forest. But he was not a mariner, and even a mariner
would have been at fault in tracking his course by compass through
dense forest. He judged his general direction accurately, but he
swerved a little too far to the right, and suddenly found himself on
the brink of the cliff. He dared not go back into the forest, lest he
should lose more time in wandering, so he decided to keep as close to
the sea as possible, thinking that he must in time arrive at his camp.
His path was tortuous; once he had to strike inland to avoid a deep,
wooded ravine; but presently he heard the sound of falling water, and,
quickening his steps, came almost suddenly upon the barricade.

The whole company were awake. They had almost given him up for lost.
It was one o'clock. Underhill sternly checked a cheer from the
sailors, when Tom ran up. He told what he had seen.

"Hadn't we better wait till to-morrow night?" suggested Dr. Smith.

"To-night! to-night!" cried the men eagerly. The knowledge that food
was within reach of them was too much for famishing men. Who knew if
they would have strength or sanity for the task after another
sweltering day? Underhill could not refuse them; he gave orders for
the whole company to march at once.

None was left to guard the camp; the little company of sixteen could
not be divided. They set off in single file, Tom leading the way, not
because he had any hope of treading in his former course, but because
he alone had traversed the forest, and he alone had a compass.

The plan of lighting fires to guide them on the return journey was
given up. The forest was so dense that such fires would have been of
little use; further, they might cause an immense conflagration which,
though it would effectually scare the enemy, would destroy what the
famished men so urgently needed, food.

Their progress was even slower than Tom's had been. They had to stop
frequently to make sure that all were together, and, as ill luck would
have it, Tom found that he was leading them through a part of the
forest where the entanglements were more intricate and less penetrable
than those he had formerly encountered. But he plodded on doggedly,
speaking to no one of his anxiety when a glance at his watch told how
time was fleeting. If they did not reach the camp of the savages
before dawn their toil and fatigue would be wasted, and their peril
greater than it had ever been.

Here and there, where the trees grew less close together, he felt a
slight breeze blowing in his face, and at length he detected a faint
smell of wood smoke. He halted, and told the rest, in a whisper, that
they were approaching a settlement. From this point they advanced
still more slowly and cautiously. Then, with a suddenness that took
them aback, they came to the edge of a clearing. At first Tom was not
sure whether it was the same that he had seen before. He had indeed
approached it from a different direction. But a glance around
satisfied him on this point, and the party stood within the shelter of
the trees while Underhill gave his orders. They were to fire one
shot, then rush forward with loud shouts, seize what food they could
lay hands on, and flee back in all haste. There was no time to be
lost, for the sky already gave hint of dawn.

Underhill had scarcely finished speaking when there was a cry from a
point near at hand. They had approached the camp from the wind-yard
side; the breeze had carried either some murmur of Underhill's voice,
low as he had spoken, or some faint scent which the natives, as keen
in their perceptions as wild animals, had detected. Instantly the camp
was in commotion: the dusky warriors poured forth from their little
huts, and swept, a wild, yelling horde, upon the weary company.



CHAPTER X

SOME PRAUS AND A JUNK


Smith's destination, on leaving Penang, was Port Darwin in the
Northern Territory of Australia. He had never been at that port, and
knew that a few years before it had been little more than a collection
of grass humpys, inhabited by Chinese and Malays, with an iron shed
for a Custom House, and a vast expanse of forest and jungle behind.
But it was the principal port in the northern part of Australia, and
he had no doubt that at Palmerston, the thriving town on the eastern
shore, he would be able to obtain the necessary supply of petrol and
oil.

His map informed him that his course lay across the Malay Peninsula,
Dutch Borneo, and the islands of Celebes and Timor. It was necessary
to rise to a considerable height to cross the hills that run like a
spine on the Malay Peninsula, and having passed those, he came in
little over an hour to the eastern coast, about a hundred and fifty
miles north of Singapore. In another hour and a half he reached the
coast of Borneo, whence for nearly three hours he saw beneath him an
almost unbroken sea of foliage, only one range of hills breaking the
monotony. Somewhat after midday he came to the straits of Macassar, at
the south-east extremity of Borneo. As he crossed these, he had an
unpleasant shock. The engine missed sparking once or twice when he was
half-way across the Straits, and he shouted to Rodier to loose the
life buoys in case it failed. There were several small craft beneath
him, so that he had no doubt of being picked up if the aeroplane fell,
unless, indeed, sharks "got in first," as he put it. But the
interruption of the sparking was only temporary, and he reached the
island of Celebes safely. Then he thought it merely prudent to descend
and overhaul the engine, though he deplored the loss of time. He
landed on a solitary spot where there was no likelihood of being
molested, and Rodier having cleaned the fouled plug that had caused
the trouble, they went on again.

They were sailing low over the deep bay formed by the two huge
tentacles that run south and south-east from the crab-like body of the
island, when suddenly, above the noise of the engine, they heard the
sharp crack of a shot, then two or three more. Glancing up the bay to
his left, Smith saw a large junk, its sails hanging limp, surrounded
by a number of small craft which from their appearance he guessed to
be praus. He had read many a time of the fierce Malayan pirates that
used to infest these seas, and was somewhat surprised to find that
piracy had apparently not been wholly suppressed. As a matter of fact,
European vessels no longer ran the same risks as of old, the Malays
having learnt by experience that sooner or later retribution was bound
to overtake them; but it was a different matter with Chinese junks. So
long as these could be attacked successfully and secretly, with no
witnesses to carry information to the outside world, there was little
risk in swooping down upon them. The celestial government did not
follow up piratical forays of this kind in seas distant from the
Empire itself; and the Malays were not likely to attack unless they
had a great advantage over their victim in point of numbers. A junk
might be seized and its crew massacred without the slightest whisper
of the event coming to civilized ears.

Smith saw the praus clustering round the junk like a swarm of bees. It
was impossible to doubt what the result would be. He was loth to lose
more time: the plight of a Chinese vessel was no concern of his; yet
as he glanced up and down the bay and saw that it could obtain help
from no other quarter, he could not bring himself to leave the
hapless Chinamen to the fate that must overtake them unless he
intervened. Slackening speed, he cried to Rodier--

"We must do something."

The Frenchman nodded. Smith swung the aeroplane round, and descended
until it was circling immediately over the junk and its assailants.
Cries of amazement broke from some of the Malays as they caught sight
of this strange portent from the sky, but the greater number were
climbing up the sides of the junk, heedless of all else than the work
in hand. There was something fascinating to Smith in the spectacle:
the almost naked Malays, armed with their terrible krises, swarming on
every part of the vessel; the Chinamen with pikes, muskets, and
stink-balls fighting with the courage of despair to keep the boarders
at bay. As yet the Malays had not gained a permanent footing on the
deck, but for every man that was felled or hurled back into the praus
there were a dozen to fill the gap, and the most valorous of fighters
could not long contend against such odds.

For a little while Smith was perplexed as to what he could do to help
them. The necessity of keeping the aeroplane in motion did not permit
either Rodier or himself to use his revolver effectively. Without
doubt the Malays would be scared off if they fully realized his
presence, for they could scarcely have seen an aeroplane before, and
it must be to them a very terrifying object. But a Malay, when drunken
with hemp and his own ferocity, is as little subject to impressions of
his surroundings as an infuriated bull. The men left in the praus were
gazing up in terror at the humming aeroplane; but even during the few
seconds of Smith's hesitation the others gained the deck of the junk
forward of the mast, and with fierce yells and sweeping strokes of
their krises began to drive the Chinamen towards the poop. In a few
minutes the whole crew would be butchered and thrown to the sharks.

Suddenly an idea occurred to Smith. He planed upwards till the
aeroplane reached a height of about a hundred feet above the vessel,
calling to Rodier to bombard the boarders with the full bottles of
soda-water which they had with them. The Frenchman chuckled as he
seized the notion. Smith kept the aeroplane wheeling in a narrow
circle over the scene of combat, and when it was vertically above the
deck Rodier flung down several bottles one after another among the
Malays. The effect was instantaneous. These novel missiles flung from
so great a height, acted like miniature bombshells, exploding with a
loud report as they touched the deck, and flying into myriad
fragments. Not even the most rage-intoxicated Malay could withstand
the shock. The noise, the prickly splinters of glass, peppering
their half-naked bodies like a charge of small shot, altered their
blind fury to dismay and panic. With screams of affright they rushed
to the sides of the junk. But the men left in the praus had already
begun to paddle frantically away, heedless of the fate of their
comrades. These plunged overboard, and swam after the departing
vessels, whose flight Rodier speeded with another bottle or two. In
less than a minute the junk was clear.

For some minutes Smith shepherded the praus toward the shore. Every
now and then he saw a swimmer disappear suddenly: without doubt the
sharks were gathering to claim their prey. Then, feeling sure that the
Malays were too much terrified to think of renewing their attack on
the junk, he again set his face eastward towards the open sea.



CHAPTER XI

AUSTRALIAN HOSPITALITY


Darkness was falling when the airmen came in sight of the chain of
small islands running from Java eastward almost to the Australian
coast. Knowing that these islands were very hilly, Smith rose to a
great height, using his flashlight every now and then to guard against
mishap. If he had not known the nature of the islands he could almost
have guessed it from the behaviour of the aeroplane, which now tended
to shoot upwards, now to sink downwards, irrespective of any volition
of his own. This proved to Smith that he had come into a region of
variable currents of wind, such as might be set up by the hollows and
ridges of mountain tops. The forcing of the machine upwards implied
that the pressure of the air ahead was increased, owing to a lull in
the wind behind; the sinking implied that the force of a contrary wind
was diminished, and that the inertia of the machine prevented it from
readily accommodating itself to the new conditions. During this part
of the voyage Smith had to be constantly alert to warp the planes
instantaneously when he detected the least sign of instability, and he
was very glad when he saw once more the reflection of the stars in the
sea beneath him, and knew that he would encounter no more obstacles
between Timor, which he had just passed, and Port Darwin.

His concern now was to pick up the light which, according to the
Admiralty's sailing directions, shone from an iron structure a hundred
and twenty feet high, about a mile south of Point Charles, the western
extremity of Port Darwin. Approaching the port from the west, as he
was, he should have no difficulty in seeing the light at a distance of
eighteen or twenty miles, the sky being clear. But as time went on
neither he nor Rodier caught sight of the red speck for which they
were looking. Half-past eight came, local time, as nearly as Smith
could calculate it by his watch, which still registered London time;
and even allowing for the hours lost he should by now have touched
land. He was beginning to feel anxious when he suddenly found land
below him--a land of dense forests, apparently low and flat. The
question was, whether this was the mainland of Australia or an island,
possibly Bathurst Island, north of Port Darwin. It was impossible to
tell. There was no time to ponder or weigh possibilities; yet if he
took the wrong course he might be hours in discovering his mistake,
and this part of Australia being almost wholly uninhabited he might
fail to find any guidance even if he descended. By a rapid guess--it
could not be called reasoning--he concluded that he had probably
steered a too southerly course, and that he would do right if he now
steered to the north-east. His indecision had lasted only a few
seconds; he brought the aeroplane round until she flew over the line
of breakers washing the shore, and followed the coast at full speed.

Within a quarter of an hour both the men caught sight at the same
moment of the red glow of the light, which grew in brilliance as they
approached it, and then diminished as the lamp revolved. Steering now
to the east, in ten minutes they were sailing over the town of
Palmerston, the capital of the Northern Territory. The lighted
streets, crossing at right angles, formed a pattern below them like
the diagram for the game of noughts and crosses. They found a landing
place a little to the north-east of the town, beyond the railway, and
having safely come to earth, Smith left Rodier to attend to the engine
and hastened towards the nearest house, a sort of bungalow of wood and
iron. Sounds of singing came from within.

A Chinaman opened the door to his knock. Smith asked if the master was
at home.

"Massa inside allo lightee," answered the man. "Me go fetchee,
chop-chop."

He soon returned, followed by a stalwart bearded Australian of about
fifty years, smoking a big pipe.

"Well, mate," he said, eyeing Smith curiously by the light of the door
lamp; "what can I do for you?"

"I must apologize for troubling you on Sunday night," began Smith.

"No trouble, I assure you. Come in." He led Smith into a little room
near the door. "We've a few friends in the parlour," he added, "and I
guess you can tell me here what you want."

"Well, to put it shortly, I should be very much obliged to you if
you'd direct me to Mr. Mackinnon. He's got some petrol waiting for me,
at least I hope he has, and I'm in great need of it."

"Well, that's real unlucky now. He went to Pine Creek down the line
only yesterday, and won't be back till to-morrow. Are you Lieutenant
Smith, may I ask?"

"Yes, that's my name."

"Mackinnon got a cable from Java on Friday about the petrol. He told
me about it, and mighty astonished he was. Motor-cars are pretty
scarce about here, and he hasn't got a great quantity of petrol. I
suppose it's for a motor-boat you want it? When did you leave
Java?--before the cable, I guess."

"I haven't come from Java at all. The cable was sent through there
from London. The fact is, I've come in an aeroplane."

"What! Over the sea?"

"Yes, over sea and land. I left Penang early this morning, and must go
on at once."

"Well, if I ain't just about flummuxed! D'you mean to say you've come
pretty near two thousand five hundred miles to-day?"

"Yes; I'll tell you in a word all about it."

His host, whose name was Martin, listened in mute amazement as Smith
briefly related the occasion of his long journey.

"Why, man," exclaimed Mr. Martin, when he had concluded his story;
"wonders'll never cease. You must be dead beat. I never heard the like
of it. Come into the other room. The boys'll be mad to hear this."

"Really, I'd rather not. I haven't any time to lose, and Mr. Mackinnon
being away--"

"Oh, that don't matter. He didn't expect you so soon, but we'll get
what you want, though it is Sunday. But a bite and a sup will do you
all the good in the world, and won't take you long, and the boys will
just go crazy if they don't see you. Why, it's round the world you're
going. My sakes! Come along."

He almost dragged Smith into a large, low room, where several men and
women, boys and girls, were seated round the wall. They were singing
hymns to the accompaniment of a harmonium. A table loaded with
eatables was pushed into a corner. The entrance of Mr. Martin,
followed by a dirty, unkempt, and oddly dressed stranger, caused an
abrupt cessation of the singing. The girl at the harmonium sprang up
with a startled look.

"What is it, Father?" she asked anxiously.

"Nothing to be scart about, my girl. Neighbours, this gentleman has
come all the way from London in an aeroplane."

The announcement was received in dead silence. Smith stood like a
statue as he listened to Mr. Martin's hurried explanation, resigning
himself to be the target of all eyes. Everybody crowded about him,
silent no longer, but all asking questions at once. Mrs. Martin went
to the table and brought from it a dish of chicken patties, which she
pressed upon him.

"Do'ee eat now," she said, in the broad accent of Devonshire. "I made
'em myself, and you must be downright famished."

"Not quite so bad as that," said Smith, with a smile, "I had a good
breakfast at Penang, and have nibbled some biscuits and things on the
way."

"Biscuits are poor food for a hungry man. Eat away now, do."

Other members of the family brought ale, cider, fruit, cakes, enough
for a dozen men, and for some minutes Smith's attention was divided
between eating and drinking and answering the questions which poured
upon him in a never-ending flood. Conscious of the lapse of time, he
at last said that he must go and obtain the fuel for his engine. The
men rose in a body, prepared to accompany him.

"I don't think we had better all go, neighbours," said Mr. Martin.
"I'll take Mr. Smith to the Resident; we shall have to see him about
the petrol, you know."

"There's one thing your friends can do for me," said Smith. "I want
ten or a dozen rifles, and a lot of ammunition. Can you provide them
at such short notice?"

"I should just think we can," said Mr. Martin. "Neighbours, get
together what Mr. Smith wants, and take 'em out along to the
aeroplane. It's just a step or two beyond the railway, from what he
says. Mother, send out some eatables, too, something better than
biscuits, to Mr. Smith's man, who's looking after it. Now, Mr. Smith,
come along. The Residency isn't far off: we're only a small town."

The two set off, and in a few minutes arrived at the Residency, a
stone building of more pretensions than the wood and iron erections of
which the town mostly consisted. The Resident was at home. Once more
Smith had to tell his story, once more to listen to exclamations and
reply to questions, grudging every moment that kept him. The Resident
had heard of the wreck of the _Albatross_, in which he had been
particularly interested, because he had some slight acquaintance with
its commander.

"I heard by wire only yesterday, Mr. Smith, that a gunboat had been
sent from Brisbane to the relief of your friends. She started three
days ago, and can't possibly reach the wreck until to-morrow at
earliest. But surely she will be there before you?"

"Not if I can get off soon, and don't meet with an accident on the
way. It's nearly two thousand miles from here to Ysabel Island, I
think?"

"I can't tell you within a hundred or two, but it's about that. When
do you think you will get there?"

"About midday to-morrow, with luck. I shall take on here enough petrol
to last the whole way, if I'm not thrown out of my course or meet with
mishap; but I suppose I can get a fresh supply at Port Moresby, if
necessary?"

"I very much doubt it. And what about getting back?"

"I'm going on as soon as I've seen that my people are safe--if I'm not
too late. I've got to rejoin my ship at 9 a.m. on Friday morning, or I
run the risk of being hauled over the coals."

"Surely not. They will make allowances, seeing what your errand has
been."

"They don't make allowances easily in the Navy, sir. Besides, I've set
my heart on being back in time."

"You will return this way, then. Ysabel Island is this side of the 180
degree line."

"Well, no, sir. Having started, I mean to get round the world if I
can."

"You're a sportsman, I see. Well, now, what will your best course be?"

He opened a map.

"I've planned it all, sir," said Smith hurriedly. "I go on to Samoa:
I'm sure to find petrol there; then Honolulu, San Francisco, St. Paul,
and St. John's, all big places, where I shall be able to get all I
want. Now, sir, I know Sunday night must be an awkward time, but, with
your assistance, I daresay I can get the petrol from Mr. Mackinnon's
store."

"There is a little difficulty which we shall have to get over. We've a
very strict regulation against entering at night any godown
containing explosives, owing to the risk of fire. Mr. Mackinnon's
godown will be locked up; his Chinaman will have the key; and as
Resident I can't openly countenance a breach of the rules. We have had
a great deal of trouble to enforce them, and any relaxation would have
a very bad effect on the Chinamen: they wouldn't understand it."

"Don't you worry about that, sir," said Mr. Martin. "Leave it to me.
There'll be a fine to pay to-morrow," he added, with a chuckle; "and
you can make it pretty stiff as a warning to the Chinese; it'll be
paid on the nail, I assure you."

"Very well, Mr. Martin. I shall know nothing about it officially until
you come before me to-morrow, and I'll read you a severe lecture in
addition to fining you. You can come to me for a subscription
afterwards. Good-bye, Mr. Smith: good luck. I sincerely hope you'll
find your friends safe and sound. Give my kind regards to Lieutenant
Underhill."

Smith left the Residency with Mr. Martin, who led him to the Chinese
quarter of the town, a dark assemblage of small huts, pig-sties, and
poultry runs.

"I don't know where Mackinnon's boy lives," said Mr. Martin. "We shall
have to hunt him up."

All the huts were apparently in darkness, and Smith, as he walked
rapidly beside his guide, thought that he preferred the smell of
petrol smoke to the mingled odours that assailed his nose. At length
they discovered a light amid the gloom, and hastening towards it,
discovered that it proceeded from an oil-lamp within one of the huts,
the door of which was open. Here they saw a group of Chinamen
squatting on the floor, engaged in playing a game with small figures
carved in bone.

"Hi, boys," called Mr. Martin; "can tell where Ching-Fu keeps?"

"My tellee massa," cried one of the younger men, rising. "My go long
that side, show wai-lo."

"Come on, then: chop-chop."

"Allo lightee, massa: my savvy."

He led them through what appeared to Smith an intricate maze of narrow
alleys, and presently pushed open the door of a hut, and called the
name of Ching-Fu, entering without ceremony. The Englishmen heard
voices raised as in altercation, and after some minutes the guide
reappeared, followed by a burly compatriot, rubbing his eyes.

"He catchee sleep, say what for come fetchee this time."

"Now, Ching-Fu," said Mr. Martin, "this gentleman wants seventy
gallons of petrol, at once. Mr. Mackinnon got a cable about it
yesterday. Come and get the cans, and have them taken up to my house
at once."

"No can do, massa," replied the man in a shrill tone of voice, that
seemed singularly unbefitting to his massive frame. "Topside man
catchee my inside godown this time, ch'hoy! he makee big bobbely."

"Never mind about that. I'll pay the fine."

"No can do, no can do so-fashion. Massa pay squeeze; all-same, my
catchee plenty bobbely, makee my too muchee sick."

"I'll take care you don't suffer. Come along: there's no time to
lose."

"This time Sunday, look-see, massa. No workee Sunday, no fear; that
joss-pidgin day."

"I can't waste time talking." Smith whispered in his ear. "Yes; Mr.
Smith will give you ten shillings for yourself if you hurry up."

"Ch'hoy!" cried the other man. "Massa numpa one genelum; my go long
too, Ching-Fu. No can catchee ten bob evely day."

Ching-Fu suffered himself to be persuaded. He beat up three or four of
his neighbours, and proceeded with them to the godown, the Englishmen
following to ensure that no time was lost. In half-an-hour the
necessary supplies of petrol and lubricating oil were being wheeled up
on trucks towards Mr. Martin's house. On the way Smith noticed a
number of reddish lights at irregular intervals, moving in the same
direction, and there were more people in the streets than when he had
come down, all hurrying one way.

"By Jingo!" said Mr. Martin, "the news has spread, and it looks
uncommonly like a torchlight procession. Hullo, Jenkins, what's the
matter?"

"That you, Martin?" replied the man addressed. "Everybody's talking
about an aeroplane that's come down somewhere near Mackenzie's shed,
and I'm off to see if it's true. Haven't you heard about it?"

"I did hear something of the sort. I'll be up there, too, by-and-by."

Smith was a little annoyed at the possibility of being delayed by a
crowd of spectators, but there was evidently no help for it. He
returned to Mr. Martin's house, being assured by his host that he need
have no anxiety about the safe delivery of the petrol.

Meanwhile Rodier, on Smith's departure, had, as usual, set to work to
clean the engine. He was tired and sleepy, and he would have been more
than human if he had not thought that his employer had rather the best
of the arrangement. But any private soreness he might have felt did
not affect the speed or the thoroughness of his work. He first of all
examined the wires: there was nothing wrong with them. Then he
unscrewed the plugs and laid them on top of the engine, pulled the
engine over, and finding that there was a poor spark, concluded that
it was rather sooty. After cleaning the parts thoroughly with petrol,
he again started the engine. The sparking being still weak, he
examined the magneto: it was choked with grease. The next thing was to
clean the brush with petrol and try the plugs again. The spark was now
strong, and after giving everything a final polish, he replaced the
plugs, satisfied that the engine was in good working order.

Switching off the searchlight for economy's sake, and leaving only the
small light that illuminated the compass, he sat down, opened a tin of
sardines, and began to eat them with biscuits. A fastidious person
might have objected to the mingling of flavours, olive oil and petrol
not combining at all well; but Rodier was too old a hand to be dainty.
He was in the act of munching a mouthful when his head dropped forward
on his breast, and he fell into a sound sleep.

He was wakened by a voice in his ear. Jumping up with a start, he
beheld a crowd of people watching him, men in Sunday coats, men in
shirt sleeves, ladies in light dresses, boys in knickerbockers and
Norfolks, girls in pinafores, Chinamen in coats of many colours, many
of the throng holding torches and lanterns.

"Ah! mille diables!" he cried. "Keep back! This is not a penny
theatre."

"Nor yet a cook-shop," said one of the visitors, with a laugh; "though
you might think so."

And then Rodier saw that the men and boys foremost in the group
carried plates, dishes, bowls, bottles, jugs. One had a dish of
chicken patties, another a plate of bananas, a third a bowl of
Devonshire junket, a fourth a loaf of bread; others had cheese,
apples, bottled beer, Australian wine, doughnuts, pork sausages,
sponge cake, ham sandwiches; in short, all the constituents of a high
tea except tea itself.

"Thought you might be hungry after your ride," said one. "Have a
sandwich?"

"Have a banana?" said another. "You won't get 'em like this in
London."

"Dry work, ain't it?" said a third, pulling a cork. "That'll buck you
up."

"Please take one of my doughnuts," piped a small boy, creeping around
the right leg of a sturdy planter.

"Ma foi! This take the cake," cried Rodier, laughing heartily. "Thank
you, thank you, thank you! But truly I shall be very--very
discomfortable if I eat all this riches. Ah; this is good, this is
hospitality. My friends, I thank you, I love you; vive l'Australie!"

Bubbling with excitement, he shook hands with this one and that; and
both hands being engaged at once in this hearty mode of salutation, he
would have been able to enjoy little of the good fare provided had
not one of the group begun to fend off the enthusiastic visitors.

"That's enough," he said; "give him breathing space. Eat away, man;
the junket won't keep; everything else will, and you can take with you
what is left."

Thus, when Smith arrived on the scene, he found his man surrounded by
an alfresco confectioner's shop, eating, laughing, talking, and
breaking forth into eloquent praise of Australian hospitality.

"Ah, mister," he cried, as Smith joined him; "this is a country! We
are pigs in clover. There is here enough for a regiment of Zouaves."

Here a diversion was caused by the arrival of Mr. Martin's friends
with rifles and ammunition enough to equip a company of grenadiers.
Smith accepted a dozen rifles and two or three hundred rounds of
ammunition; and these had just been placed in the car when the
Chinamen arrived with the petrol. He implored the torchbearers to
stand back while the inflammable fluid was put on board. This was done
amid a buzz of excitement, everybody talking at once.

"Speech! speech!" cried some one in the crowd, and Smith, thinking the
shortest way out of his embarrassment was to comply, stood up in the
car and thanked his good friends in Palmerston for the warmth of
their reception, and their kindness in supplying his wants.

"You will excuse me from saying more, I know," he added. "I have
nearly two thousand miles still to go; my father is in great danger;
and we are already several hours behind time. I can't shake hands with
you all, but I shall never forget your kindness. Now, if you will
clear the course so that I can get a run-off, I will say 'good-bye,'
and hope that some day I may come back and not be in such a hurry."

His simple words were cheered to the echo. Then Mr. Martin and three
or four more pressed the throng back. The good people cheered again as
the machine ran forward and sailed above them, and Smith, as he looked
down upon the sea of faces lit up by the flaring torches until it
became a blurred spot of light, felt cheered and encouraged, and set
his face hopefully towards the starlit east.



CHAPTER XII

STALKED BY PIGMIES


Smith had noticed before leaving Palmerston that the wind had risen
and was blowing steadily from the north-west. He was very anxious not
to miss Port Moresby, the principal harbour in British New Guinea, for
he hoped, in spite of what the Resident at Palmerston had said, to be
able to replenish his stock of petrol there, knowing very well that
among the smaller islands of the South Pacific the places where petrol
was kept must be very few. He determined, however, if he should fail
to make Port Moresby, to steer straight for Ysabel Island. If it
turned out to be impossible to obtain petrol, he would have to resign
himself to the inevitable, return to Australia on the gunboat that had
been dispatched to relieve the castaways, and endure as
philosophically as he might the consequences of overstepping his
leave.

His course lay across the head of the Gulf of Carpentaria. By
daybreak, if he were able to keep up full speed through the night, he
should have passed the northernmost end of the Yorke Peninsula, and it
might then be possible to take his bearings by the group of islands in
the Torres Straits. On leaving these islands behind him he should soon
come in sight of the mountain chain running from the middle of the
Gulf of Paqua to the south-eastern extremity of New Guinea. He might
expect to sight these mountains from a very great distance, and in
particular, if he could distinguish Mount Astrolabe, the square,
flat-topped mountain lying behind Port Moresby, he would have no
further anxiety about his position.

The engine was working as well as ever, and by keeping over the sea,
Smith was able to avoid any gusts or cross-currents of air that might
be set up by irregularities in the conformation of the land. Taking
turns as usual with Rodier at the wheel, he was able to get a few
hours of sleep; about an hour and a half after daybreak he descried
the strange shape of Mount Astrolabe towering nearly four thousand
feet into the sky, and in less than a quarter of an hour afterwards he
came to the coast, a little to the west, as he judged, of Port
Moresby.

The aspect of the coast was far from inviting. There were long
stretches of mangrove forest lining the shore, from which unpleasant
exhalations arose, affecting his sense of smell even at the height of
a hundred feet. Beyond rose limestone hills, very scantily wooded,
with a plentiful crop of rocks and stones. There was scarcely a patch
of level ground to be seen. He came almost suddenly upon the port,
lying in a hollow of the hills, and for some time looked in vain for a
suitable landing place. The aeroplane, circling over the harbour, was
seen by the sailors on the ships and the people on the quays, and its
appearance brought all work to a standstill.

At length Smith discovered at the north end of the little town a spot
where landing was just possible if the descent was not endangered by
the wind. He felt more nervous than at any other time during his
voyage, and was on the alert to set the propellers working at the
first sign that the wind was too strong for him. To his great relief
he came safely to the ground, with no other misadventure than
collision with a huge eucalyptus tree at the edge of the clearing.
Without loss of time he made his way down to the town, and accosting
the first white man he met, asked to be directed to the residence of
the Administrator.

"You're a stranger, I guess," said the man, who had not seen the
aeroplane. "Come from Sydney?"

"No, from Port Darwin."

"Gosh! We don't often have vessels from there. How's my friend Mr.
Pond?"

"I don't know him."

"Well, that's real strange. I thought everybody knew Dick Pond; he's
lived there fifty years or more. Say, what's up?" he asked of a man
hurrying in the opposite direction.

"It's down. Didn't you see it or hear it?"

"Hear what?"

"The aeroplane."

"An aeroplane! You don't say so."

"It's a fact. Wonder you didn't hear it. It made a noise like a
thousand humming birds, and came down not half-a-mile over yonder.
Some German fellow, I shouldn't wonder, from Constantine or Finsch.
Hope we're not in for trouble; I'm off to see."

"So will I. Go straight on, stranger; you see that constable there?
Well, turn down by him, and you'll come to the Administrator's in
about five minutes."

Smith had taken off his overalls, so that his appearance attracted no
more than a passing glance from the sailors, clerks, merchants, and
natives whom he met hurrying towards the spot where the aeroplane had
descended. He found the Administrator's house without difficulty. Not
having a card, he gave his name and rank at the door. The
Administrator was at breakfast with his family when Lieutenant Smith
was announced. Imagining that a war vessel had unexpectedly put in at
the harbour, he rose and went to the door to greet his visitor and
invite him to his table. A look of disappointment crossed his face
when he saw a dirty, unshaven object before him, dressed in stained
brown serge, offering no resemblance to the trim spick-and-span
officer he had expected to see.

"I'm sorry to trouble you, sir," said Smith, "I'm in need of some
petrol, and--"

"I don't keep petrol," said the Administrator shortly. "You've come
here by mistake, no doubt. There's no petrol for sale in the port, to
my knowledge."

"That's awkward. I'm afraid I must go on without. The aeroplane
uses--"

"The aeroplane! What aeroplane?"

"I've come from Port Darwin in my aeroplane, and am going on at once
to the Solomon Islands. I think I can just about manage it, so I won't
detain you any longer, sir."

"Come now, let me understand. You have come from Port Darwin--by
aeroplane! Where is it?"

"About half-a-mile beyond the town, sir."

"But--from Port Darwin--across the sea?"

There was nothing for it. Once more Smith retailed the outline of his
story, the Administrator listening with growing amazement. In the
midst of it a young Englishman came up, out of breath with running.

"Good morning, sir," he panted. "An aeroplane has just come down;
people say it is a German. What had we better do?"

"Keep our heads, I should think," said the Administrator. "Mr.
Williams--my secretary--Mr. Smith. The aeroplane is Mr. Smith's, and
has come from Port Darwin in ten hours. Just run down to the harbour,
Williams, and tell Captain Brown to send up all the petrol there is in
the launch, and a few gallons of machine oil as well. Be as quick as
you can."

The secretary opened wide eyes.

"Where's it to be taken, sir?"

"To the aeroplane, as quickly as possible."

The young man ran off, looking as though he had received a shock.

"This will give us excitement for a twelve-month, Mr. Smith," said the
Administrator. "It's lucky I can help you. I have just returned from a
tour of inspection, and there are a few gallons of petrol in my
motor-launch: not very much, I'm afraid, but better than nothing. I'm
afraid I was rather short with you just now, but you'll admit that
there was some excuse for me."

"Don't mention it, sir."

"It's the queerest thing I ever heard in my life; in fact, I'm only
just beginning to believe it. Come in and have some breakfast; it'll
be an hour or more before they get the petrol up, and I'd like my wife
and youngsters to hear about it from your own lips. You'd like a wash,
eh? Come along."

He led the way to his bath-room, turned on the water, arranged the
towels, and bidding Smith come to the first room downstairs on the
left when he was ready, he went off to prepare his family for the
guest.

Smith was by this time used to the exclamations of wonder, the volleys
of questions, the compliments and gusts of admiration which his story
evoked. He came through the ordeal of that breakfast-table with the
coolness of a veteran under fire. His hostess asked whether sailing in
the air made him sea-sick; her elder son wanted to know the type of
engine he favoured, the quantity of petrol it consumed per hour, and
what would happen if he collided with an airship going at equal speed
in the opposite direction. The younger boy asked if he might have a
ride in the aeroplane; the girl begged Smith to write his name in her
album. The governess sat with clasped hands, gazing at him with the
adoring ecstasy that she might have bestowed on a godlike visitant
from another sphere. Presently the Administrator said--

"Now get your hats on. We'll take Mr. Smith up in the buggy and see
him off."

When they reached the aeroplane they found Rodier demolishing some of
the good things provided by Mrs. Martin, the centre of an admiring
crowd of curious white men and wonder-struck natives. Two Papuan
constables were patrolling around with comical self-importance. The
petrol had arrived. When it was transferred to the aeroplane the
Administrator insisted on drinking Smith's health in a glass of Mr.
Martin's beer, and then called for three cheers for the airmen. His
daughter had brought her kodak and took a snapshot of them as they sat
in their places ready to start. The natives scattered with howls of
affright when the engine began sparking, the constables being easily
first in the stampede, one of them pitching head first into the
eucalyptus. The engine started, the men cheered, the women waved
handkerchiefs, and as the aeroplane soared up and flew in the
direction of the coast the whole crowd set off at a run to gain a
position whence they might follow its flight with their eyes.

For some time Smith steered down the coast, intending to cross the
Owen Stanley range as soon as he saw a convenient gap. After about
twenty miles, however, he ran with startling suddenness into a
tropical storm. It was as though he had passed from sunlight into a
dark and gloomy cavern. Rain fell in torrents, and he knew by the
extraordinary and alarming movements of the aeroplane that the wind
was blowing fiercely, and not steadily in one direction, but gustily,
and as it seemed, from all points of the compass. For the first time
since leaving the Euphrates he was seriously perturbed. It was true
that the force of the wind did not appear to be so great as it had
been before his meeting with Monsieur de Montausé on the Babylonian
plain; but his situation was more perilous than then, for he was
passing over hilly country, and the vertical wind-eddies were
infinitely more difficult to contend with. To attempt to alight would
be to court certain destruction; his only safety was to maintain as
high a speed as possible, trusting to weather through. He judged by
the compass that the wind was blowing mostly from the south-east,
almost dead against him. Fearing lest the enormous air-pressure should
break the planes if he strove to fly in the teeth of the wind, he
decided to swing round and run before it for a time, in the hope that
it would drop by and by. As he performed this operation the aeroplane
rocked violently, and he thought every moment that it must be hurled
to the ground; but by making a wide circle he got round safely, and
keeping the engine at full speed he retraced his course, soon seeing
Port Moresby again, far below him to the left. He had no means of
exactly determining the rate at which he was now travelling under the
joint impulse of the wind and his propellers; but from the way in
which the landscape was slipping past him he thought the speed could
hardly be less than two hundred and twenty miles an hour.

It occurred to him now to increase his altitude, with the idea of
rising above the area of the disturbance. But he found that the
mountains on his right hand rose higher than he had supposed. In
proportion as he ascended, they seemed to rise with him. He saw their
snow-clad tops stretching far away into the distance, and became
conscious of a great difference in the temperature. He began to feel
dizzy and short of breath, and presently his eyes were affected, and
he saw everything as in a mist. When Rodier shouted that he was
feeling sick Smith at once checked the ascent.

The aneroid indicated a height of 8000 feet, and it was clear from the
greater steadiness of the machine that it had risen out of the stratum
of air affected by the storm. But Smith's satisfaction at this was
soon dashed by the discovery that there was something wrong with the
engine. It missed sparking, recovered itself for a minute or two, then
missed again. Smith looked anxiously below him. The nearest ground was
about a thousand feet beneath; on his right the mountains still rose
hundreds of feet above him, blocking the way to his true course.
Hoping that the failure in the sparking was only temporary, Smith
swung the aeroplane round, in order to take advantage of this calm
region of air and at least fly in the right direction. At the same
time he looked out anxiously for a spot to which he might descend if
the defect in the engine proved persistent.

In a very few moments it was clear that to continue his flight would
be no longer safe, and he prepared to glide. While he was searching
for a convenient landing place the sparking ceased altogether. The
whole country was rugged; below, almost wholly forest land as far as
the eye could reach; above, bare rocks or scrub, and at the greatest
altitude, snow. The aeroplane flew on for a little by its own
momentum, and Smith wasted a few painful seconds before, despairing of
finding level ground, he began to descend in a long spiral.

As he neared the ground, Rodier's quick eye detected a little river
cutting its way through the forest, and at one spot a widening of its
bed, due, probably, to the action of freshets. Here there was a narrow
space of bare earth, the only clear spot in the landscape, and even
this was surrounded with dense woodland. He pointed it out to Smith.
There was no room for mistake or misjudgment. Smith knew that if he
did not strike the exact spot the aeroplane must crash into the
forest that lined both banks of the river. Never before had so heavy a
demand been made upon his nerve and skill. But the severe training of
the Navy develops coolness and judgment in critical situations; his
long apprenticeship to aerial navigation enabled him to do the right
thing at the right time; and, thanks to the calmness of the air in
this lofty region, the machine answered perfectly to his guiding hand,
and settled down upon the exact spot he had chosen, the little open
stretch on the right bank of the stream, within eight or ten yards of
the water.

His hand was trembling like a leaf when he stepped out on to the land.
The teeth of both men were chattering.

"Mon Dieu!" cried Rodier. "That was a squeak, mister. Le diable de
machine! It seem I do nothing at all but clean, clean, all the way
from London, and yet--"

"And yet down we come, 'like glistening Phaethon, wanting the manage
of unruly jades,'" quoted Smith. "Still, we're safe, and I've known
men killed or lamed for life getting off a horse."

"But with the horse you have the whip, with the machine you have only
the rags to clean her with. Ah! coquine, I should like to flog you, to
give you beans." He shook his fist at the engine.

Smith laughed.

"Beans would suit a horse better, Roddy," he said. "Let's be thankful
the breakdown didn't happen while we were in the storm. That would
have been the end of us. Come on, we'll soon put things to rights.
This loss of time is getting very serious."

They set to work to discover the cause of the failure. As they
expected, the sparking plugs were completely clogged. Smith took these
down to the stream to give them a thorough cleaning, while Rodier
overhauled the other parts of the machine. When, after half-an-hour's
hard work, everything appeared to be in order again, they sat down to
snatch a meal, leaving the plugs to be replaced at the last moment.

While thus engaged, Smith scanned the surroundings with some
curiosity. The stream, in cutting its way through the hillside, had
hollowed it out in a gentle curve. The channel itself threaded the
base of a huge natural cutting, most of which was covered with trees,
only the middle part, where the torrent had laid bare a path, being
comparatively clear. All around were trees large and small, tall and
stunted, leafy and bare. As Smith's eye travelled upward, he noticed
about a hundred and fifty yards distant, almost at the top of the
gorge, a small ape-like form flitting across a part of the forest that
was a little thinner than the rest.

"See that, Roddy?" he said.

Rodier looked round.

"What, mister?"

"An ape, I fancy, perhaps an orang-outang. I know they infest the
forests of the Malayan archipelago, but I can't call to mind that
they're natives of New Guinea."

"All the natives of New Guinea are apes," said Rodier viciously. "At
Port Moresby they came round me like monkeys at the Zoo."

"There he is! Do you see him?"

Smith's hand stole mechanically to his hip pocket, where he kept his
revolver. Then he smiled, remembering that the chances of stopping an
orang-outang with a revolver bullet were about one in ten thousand.

"I don't see him, mister."

"He has disappeared. But, my word, Roddy, there's another, and
another--four or five; look at them, in the undergrowth yonder. I
don't like this. They're savage beasts if offended, and if they attack
us we shall be in rather a tight corner."

He rose, keeping his eye on the spot where the ape-like forms had
shown themselves for an instant, to vanish again. As his eye became
accustomed to the gloomy depths of the forest, he became still more
alarmed to see a number of black, apish faces at various points among
the thick undergrowth surrounding the clearing. Another form flitted
across the thin open space in which he had seen the first.

"By George! he's got a bow in his hand. They're men! This is worse
still. The orang-outang is bad enough, but he avoids men, I believe,
unless interfered with or alarmed. These forest savages are dead shots
with their arrows, and they'll look on us as intruders. If they're as
spiteful as most of their kind we shall have trouble. Get your
revolver ready, but we must pretend we haven't noticed them. You've
got to replace those plugs; do it as quickly as you can. Don't look
round; I'll keep guard."

He saw several of the savages pass across in the same direction as the
first, and now he noticed, what had escaped him before, that they were
diminutive creatures, certainly not more than four feet high. He had
clearly stumbled upon a settlement of forest pigmies. From what he had
read of pigmy races he knew that it required extreme patience and a
great expenditure of time to win their confidence. That was out of the
question now. His first impulse was to hail them, and try to make
friends of them by offering some small present; but he checked himself
as the thought flashed upon him that a movement on his part might
startle them and provoke a discharge of their tiny arrows, which were
probably poisoned. He could not doubt they had seen him long before he
had seen them, and had been for some time playing the part of silent
spectators, being kept at a distance, perhaps, by the aspect of the
strange object which they had observed descending among them from the
sky. It must be sufficiently alarming to their untutored eyes. But
after a time their dread seemed to be overpowered by curiosity or
hostility, and Smith saw, with alarm, that the little figures were
gradually drawing nearer, flitting silently as shadows from tree to
tree, and hiding themselves so effectually, even when they came to
closer quarters, that nothing but the flicker of a brownish form among
the undergrowth, or a round black head projecting from tree or bush,
betrayed their presence.

"Nearly done, Roddy?" he asked, without turning.

"Pretty near."

With an outward calmness that corresponded little to his inward
sensations Smith lit a cigarette, racking his wits for some means of
keeping the pigmies at a distance without provoking a cloud of arrows
or a dash in force. The half-circle was gradually becoming narrower.
He fancied that their silent movements were checked when he began to
smoke, and this suggested to him that an appeal to their curiosity
might hold them intent or awestruck until Rodier had finished his
task.

"How much longer, Roddy?" he asked quietly.

"Three minutes."

Smith did the first thing that occurred to him. He took a letter from
his pocket, tore it slowly into small pieces, and let the fragments
float away on the breeze. This device appeared to be successful for a
few seconds; but when the scraps of paper had disappeared or fallen to
the ground the pigmies resumed their stealthy silent advance. Smith
had another idea. Whistling the merry air of the "Saucy Arethusa," he
took two backward steps towards the aeroplane, seized a half-empty
petrol can, and strolled unconcernedly with it to the bank of the
stream, which at this point formed a slowly moving pool. As he went he
unscrewed the stopper, and on reaching the brink, he poured some of
the petrol into the water. Then taking two or three matches from his
box, he struck them together, and flung them into the petrol floating
on the surface.

The effect of his stratagem was immediate. The spectacle of water
apparently on fire was too much for the simple savages. For the first
time they broke their silence, and were seen rushing up the wooded
slope, uttering shrill cries of alarm. Only then did Smith become
aware how numerous they were. The whole forest seemed to be alive with
them.

"Done, mister," cried Rodier.

Smith hurried back to the aeroplane, noticing as he approached several
small arrows sticking upright in the ground close to it.

"They shot at you when you turned your back," said Rodier. "Shall we
fire at them?"

"No; leave them alone. I think they're scared now. But it's lucky I
thought of setting fire to the petrol, or they would certainly have
been upon us, and there's such a crowd of them that we might have been
done for. Set the engine working. The noise will keep them away."

With some difficulty they turned the aeroplane round to face down
stream, where there was a fairly level stretch of a few yards for
running off. Vaulting on board, they started, and in five or six
seconds the aeroplane was humming along a hundred feet above the
trees.



CHAPTER XIII

THE RESCUE


Smith had taken no account of the time he had lost, first by the
storm, then by the overhauling of the engine; but, little or much, it
increased the peril of his father, and lessened his own chance of
accomplishing what he had set out to do. When an engine is always
running at full speed, time lost can only be made up by reducing the
length of stoppages, and Smith felt even this to be almost out of the
question. As soon as he was once more afloat, he thought his best plan
was to make for the coast again, and follow this without attempting to
cross the mountains.

The storm had ceased; the engine was working smoothly, and, steering
south-east, Smith in a few minutes found himself again in the
neighbourhood of Port Moresby. Again he ran down the coast, but when
about half-way between the port and the extreme south-east corner of
the island he espied a gap in the mountain chain and sped through it,
almost exactly on the ten-degree line. He had to rise to a
considerable height, and was for some moments troubled by the masses
of snow-white cumulose clouds that lay beneath him, cutting off all
view of the ground. The vast expanse of cloud lay dazzling white in
the sunlight, with peaks and crags such as he imagined Alpine summits
must show. But though it appeared to be perfectly still, every now and
then he saw small jets of mist shoot upward, like water from a geyser,
and at such times the vertical currents affected the elevation of the
aeroplane. He soon crossed this cloudy sea, however, and in a few
hours reached the north-east coast of New Guinea, and knew that
nothing but an island-spangled sea separated him from his destination.

About noon he came in sight of the mountains of Vanguna Island to the
east of New Georgia. Ysabel Island lay beyond this, running from
north-west to south-east. His intention was to round Cape Prieto, the
south-eastern extremity of it, and search the eastern shore northward.
In another hour he saw Russell Island, a green gem in the ocean
southward, and beyond this, to the south-east, the peaks of
Guadalcanar. Another twenty minutes brought him abreast of Florida
Island, and he was heading up the Indispensable Strait, with Thousand
Ships Bay and the lofty peaks at the southern end of Ysabel lying on
his left hand.

All at once Rodier descried a cloud of smoke on the horizon far up the
strait. Lifting his binocular, he shouted excitedly--

"It is a gunboat, mister. She flies the British flag."

"We've beaten her!" cried Smith.

He was divided between pleasure at his success, and sorrow that the
castaways were as yet unrelieved, for he could not doubt that the
gunboat was the same that had been dispatched from Brisbane to their
assistance. Before many minutes had elapsed he had overtaken the
vessel. Slowing down and wheeling overhead, he saw that the aeroplane
was the object of wondering interest on the crowded deck.

"Ahoy, there! Who are you?" he shouted through his megaphone.

"Gunboat _Frobisher_, Captain Warren," came the reply. "Who are you?"

"Aeroplane without a name, Lieutenant Smith of H.M.S. _Imperturbable_,
bound for Ysabel Island to relieve Lieutenant Underhill."

"The dickens! That's my job! Where do you hail from?"

"From London, sir. I'm afraid I've beaten you by a neck."

"Great Scott! Is this the Admiralty's latest?"

"Not official, sir; I'm here in a private capacity. My father's among
the wrecked party. I'm on leave."

"So it seems. When are you due back?"

"On Friday morning."

"I'm sorry for you, then. But, goodness alive! when did you start? The
wreck was only reported four days ago."

"Started Friday morning, sir."

"Gammon!"

"Rasher to you, sir."

"You haven't lost much time, at any rate. What's your speed?"

"About a hundred and ninety. Whereabouts was the wreck, sir?"

"A hundred miles or so up the coast, according to the men of
Underhill's party with me."

"Then I'll bid you good-bye for the present. I'll tell him you're
coming."

"Hope you'll find him alive."

Waving a good-bye, Smith flew on at full speed. For twenty minutes he
did not attempt to follow the indentations of the coast, but set a
course parallel with its general trend. Then, however, he steered so
that, without actually tracing every curve of the shore, he was able
to survey it pretty closely. By dead reckoning and the assistance of
his chart he was able to check from minute to minute his approximate
position.

He had passed Mount Gaillard, and saw, some miles to the north, the
remarkable saddle shape of Mount Mahaga. Then he made a bee-line for
Fulakora Point. Rounding this, his course was to the north-west. The
coast was steep and precipitous; here and there were reefs, over which
the sea broke in white upward cascades, and he was at no loss to
understand how even the most skilfully navigated vessel might easily
come to grief. About forty miles from the extremity of the island he
flew over an immense lagoon, extending for several miles between
Ysabel Island and a series of islets and reefs lying off the shore.
From this point the sea was dotted with islets so numerous that it was
impossible, at his high speed, to identify them. But he recognized the
deep indentation of Marcella Bay, confirming his observation by the
conspicuous wooded islet rising some hundred feet from the sea at its
northern arm. He knew that the scene of the wreck must be within a few
miles of this point, and reduced his speed so that he might scan the
sea for any sign of the _Albatross_.

For some time he flew up and down, but failed to distinguish a
battered hull, a funnel, or any remnant of the vessel. It was plain
that she had been entirely broken up. This was perplexing. He wondered
how he was to discover the party, if they were yet alive. The island
itself appeared, from his position off the shore, to be an
impenetrable mass of forest. Flying in a little nearer, and going
dead slow, Rodier presently caught sight of a square fenced enclosure
within a few yards of the edge of the cliff. Smith steered directly
over it, descending to a height of about fifty feet, and then saw in
the middle of the space a long piece of navy tarpaulin, several
biscuit tins, a hammer, two or three hatchets, and other objects,
which only white men could have placed there. It flashed upon him in a
moment that the shipwrecked party had encamped here. But there was not
a human being in sight, and he felt a stabbing conviction that he had
come too late.

Sick at heart, he made up his mind to descend and examine the place
and its surroundings more closely. There was plenty of room for the
aeroplane within the enclosure. Coming to the ground, he stepped, with
Rodier, out of the car, each carrying his revolver. Now he saw, in
addition to the articles before mentioned, a good number of arrows at
various points, a few broken spears, a tomahawk of a rude kind. Here
and there, on the barricade and below it, there were dark stains.
These signs only increased his anxiety, but at the same time awakened
wonder. Why had the party left their fort? It seemed scarcely likely
that they had been overpowered in an assault, for there were no marks
of a struggle within the barricade, and if the savages had succeeded
in an attack they would certainly have appropriated all that they
could lay hands on; even the most trivial objects would be precious to
unsophisticated children of nature. Rodier suggested that the
castaways had been taken off by some passing vessel, and Smith,
catching at the hope, was beginning to accept this view, when, lifting
the tarpaulin, he found beneath it the papers of the _Albatross_, some
notebooks filled with jottings in his father's spidery handwriting,
and a few small cases that contained bits of rock, fossils, and other
specimens dear to the geologist, each labelled with the name of the
place where it had been found.

Smith was now thoroughly alarmed. He knew that his father, if he had
quitted the place voluntarily, would never have left behind these
fruits of his labours. Yet why was the fort deserted?

"Ah, bah! They have gone foraging," said Rodier, unwittingly hitting
on the truth.

"But they would never leave the place unguarded," replied Smith. "The
savages certainly attacked them; look at the arrows and spears. But
Mr. Underhill would not have yielded without fighting; yet there are
no dead bodies, not even the cut-up earth there would be if they had
had a tussle. I can't account for it any way."

"Well, mister, we better look them up."

"In the aeroplane, you mean?"

"Yes. They must be here, in this island, or not here. In the
aeroplane we search all over."

"It will be like looking for rabbits in bracken," said Smith, pointing
to the forest. "Still, we must try."

He sat down on a biscuit tin to think over the position and evolve a
plan. A random search might be mere waste of time. Starting with the
assumption that the castaways were still on the island, he said to
himself that they must have left the fort voluntarily, or there would
certainly be signs of a struggle. That they had left no one on guard
seemed to show that they were in no alarm, otherwise they would have
carried their belongings with them. His father, he knew, would not
abandon his note-books and specimens. Was it possible that they were
making reprisals on the enemy who had previously attacked them? But
even in this case they would hardly have left their fort wholly
undefended, unless in the heat of victory they had rushed out in
headlong pursuit, a rash movement which a naval officer would hardly
countenance. Besides, they were but ill-provided with arms. Had they
been enticed forth by the savages? In that case the savages would
surely have plundered the camp, unless--and now his thought and his
pulse quickened--unless there had not yet been time. Perhaps they had
only recently left the place. Then they could not be far away, and if
they had yielded to allurement there might still be time to save
them. He started up, and told Rodier, who had begun his customary task
of cleaning the engine, the conclusion to which he had come.

"We will ascend at once," he said, "and scour the neighbourhood. The
forest is thick, but perhaps there are clear spaces in it. Let us lose
no time."

They dragged the aeroplane to the inner extremity of the enclosure,
turned it round, and started it towards the sea. In less than a minute
it was two hundred feet in the air. Then Smith wheeled round and
steered across the camp, intending to take that as a centre, and
strike out along successive radii, so that in the course of an hour or
two, even at moderate speed, he would have searched a considerable
extent of country in the shape of a fan. It was a question how far he
should proceed in one direction, but relying on his idea that the
evacuation of the camp could only recently have taken place, he
resolved to content himself at first with a distance of about ten
miles.

Having risen to a height of about three hundred feet, he found that he
commanded a view of many miles of the country. Far to the south were
the mountains; all around was forest, broken here and there by patches
of open rocky ground. Beneath him the trees were so densely packed
that a whole army might have been encamped among them without giving
a sign of its presence. He sped in a straight line west-north-west of
the fort, at a speed of between forty and fifty miles an hour; to go
faster would have rendered careful exploration of the country
difficult. Having completed ten miles without passing over a single
spot of clear ground, he flew about five miles due west, then turned
the machine and steered back towards the fort along the next imaginary
radius of his circle. He had arranged that Rodier should scan the
country to the left while he himself kept as good a look-out to the
right as was possible when he had engine and compass to attend to.
They had not flown far on this backward journey when Rodier, who was
using his binocular, shouted that he saw, on a headland far to the
left, what appeared to be a native village. Smith instantly steered
towards it. It was the first evidence of human habitation they had as
yet come across, and even at the risk of losing his bearings he must
examine it. He could now afford to go at full speed, and a few minutes
brought him above the village, which was a collection of rude huts
perched on a steep headland overlooking the sea, and defended on its
inland and less precipitous side by barriers of stakes. The noise made
by the engine as the aeroplane swept down towards the village first
drew all the inhabitants from their huts into the open enclosure, and
then sent them scampering back with shrieks of alarm as they saw the
strange object in the air. A glance sufficed to assure Smith, as he
wheeled round the village, that it contained no white men, unless they
had been taken inside the huts, which was unlikely. Without loss of
time he steered as nearly as he could towards the point at which he
had diverged from his settled course, and returned to the camp,
pausing once to examine a small tract where the trees were somewhat
thinner, allowing him to see the ground beneath.

Once more he started, steering now in a more westerly direction. There
were several clear spaces along this radius, and Smith flew over them
slowly, more than once wheeling about to make sure that his eyes had
missed nothing. But at these times he saw no human beings, nothing but
the wild animals of the forest, huge pigs being diminished to the size
of rabbits, and dingoes to the size of mice. These scurried away when
they heard the noise of the engine, and Smith hovered around for a
time to see if the flight of the animals attracted the attention of
men, but in vain.

Having again covered ten miles, as nearly as he could judge, he swung
round to the southwest. A minute or two later he came to the largest
open space he had yet seen, clear of undergrowth as well as of trees.
There were no huts upon it, and at first he saw no sign of men; but
all at once Rodier cried that there was a ladder against one of the
trees on the farther side of the clearing. Flying towards it, and
descending until the aeroplane was level with the tree-top, Smith was
amazed to see a brown woman, with a brown baby under her arm,
scuttling down the ladder towards the ground. At the same time he
became aware that there were ladders against many of the trees in the
neighbourhood, and women and children were descending by them, showing
all the marks of terror. He had come upon a collection of the curious
tree-houses, sixty or seventy feet from the ground, which some of the
islanders inhabit. The terrified people when they reached the ground
fled into the forest. There was no man among them, which led Smith to
suspect that the men were either hunting for food, or were perhaps
fighting with the castaways. Instead of returning directly to the
camp, therefore, he pursued his flight across the forest in the same
direction in which the startled natives had run. Now for the first
time he wished that he could have had a silent engine, for then his
ears might have given the information which failed his eyes. Though he
flew to and fro for some time in the vicinity of the tree-houses, he
discovered no other break in the forest; and the impossibility of
knowing what was going on beneath that vast screen of foliage began
to affect him with hopelessness of success.

He wished it were possible to descend in the clearing, and continue
his search on the ground. The appearance of the aeroplane was so
terrifying to the islanders that he need fear no opposition to his
landing. But the idea occurred to him only to be at once dismissed.
When once among the trees, away from the aeroplane, he would be no
longer sacrosanct. Those islanders who had actually witnessed his
descent might fear him as a denizen of the sky; but any others that
met him in the forest would not be restrained by superstitious fear
from, treating him as an enemy. Further, having once involved himself
in the obscure and pathless depths of the forest, he might wander for
hours, or even days, without finding the aeroplane. It was an
impossible course of action. Hopeless as he was becoming, he felt that
he could do nothing better than persevere as he had begun; after all,
he had as yet covered only a small wedge of the segment he had
proposed to himself.

But he now found himself in a difficulty. In the excitement of his
recent discovery he had neglected to keep a watch upon the compass,
and he was now at a loss to know the precise direction in which to
steer. He must certainly go to the east, but he could not tell whether
he was north or south of the camp. It occurred to him that by rising
to a greater height he might probably be able to descry the camp, so
he planed upwards until he attained an altitude of nearly two thousand
feet, Rodier searching the country seawards through his binocular.

"I see it!" he cried at length, adding, as Smith began to steer
towards it, "Wait a minute, mister; I see all the country better here;
I can pick out the clearings, though they are only dark blots; but yet
I can do it."

He swept the country for miles around. Beyond the forest, far to the
west, there were stretches of rugged uplands, bare of vegetation. It
was not at all likely that the Englishmen had gone so far from their
camp, whether willingly or unwillingly. To the east and south-east
stretched the sea, and Rodier declared that he saw, an immense way
off, the smoke of a steamer, no doubt the gunboat. Lowering the glass
to scan the nearer prospect, he suddenly gave a lusty shout.

"I see smoke, mister; a quite little smoke, as of a cigarette."

"Where?" asked Smith eagerly.

"South-east of us, in the forest, about five or six miles off."

"We'll go and see what it comes from."

Smith scarcely dared to hope that the discovery of the smoke would be
of any assistance to him. But it was the first indication of a camp
within the forest, whether of the islanders or of his friends, and he
could not neglect to investigate it. The aeroplane flew along at the
speed of a swallow. In little more than three minutes it reached the
twine of smoke. Checking the engine, Smith wheeled the aeroplane round
until it passed slowly over an extensive gap in the forest. He looked
down. The smoke rose from a fire in the midst of the clearing. At a
little distance from it there was a throng of islanders, gazing up
awe-struck at the strange apparition whose approach had been heralded
from afar, and which now circled above them, making terrifying noises.

But Smith was not interested in the islanders. He peered among them
and around for white men. He felt a shock of bitter disappointment;
all the upturned faces were brown. But the movement of the aeroplane
brought him to the verge of the forest, and then Rodier gave a shout
of delight.

"There they are! There they are, mister!" he cried, pointing obliquely
downwards.

Smith looked over. In the shade at the foot of the trees he saw a
number of men bound each to a trunk. Their faces, directed upwards,
were too darkly shadowed for him to distinguish their race; but they
were clothed. Beyond doubt they were the castaways.

In a moment he determined what to do. While the aeroplane circled
slowly above their heads the islanders would feel no more than awe
and wonder. They huddled together like a flock of sheep in a
thunderstorm, probably not as yet connecting the aerial visitant with
their prisoners. What was required was to scatter them, suddenly, in a
way that would smite them with terror, and cause them to flee without
thought of the captives helpless against the trees.

Smith sailed away eastward, disappearing from their sight. He had made
a quick mental calculation of the extent of the clearing. Rising to
the height of about three hundred feet above the ground, while still
out of sight he suddenly stopped the engine and warped the planes for
a dive. The aeroplane descended rapidly, grazed the tops of the trees,
and then, more slowly, swept, silently, in a gentle curve towards the
throng of men, who were chattering about the mysterious sky visitor.
When they caught sight of it they were struck dumb, and for a few
moments seemed to be fixed to the ground with amazement. Then, as it
came directly towards them, and Smith set the noisy propellers in
motion, they uttered shrieks of dismay and terror, and fled like hares
into the forest.

Some of them started too late. Smith, being now near the ground, set
the engine going at low speed, overtook a group of the islanders
before they reached shelter, and with a touch of the aeroplane
flung them violently on their faces. He then wheeled round, and rose
once more into the air in order to effect a complete descent. The
prostrate natives lay for some time in a paralysis of fear; but
finding that they were unhurt, and that the monster had withdrawn from
them, they picked themselves up, and ran to overtake their friends,
leaving the space clear.

In another minute Smith had brought the aeroplane safely to the
ground. Rodier and he sprang out and ran towards the bound figures.

"It's Charley!" called a voice, in tones wherein surprise and joy were
blended.

And then the sailormen, famished and feeble as they were, broke forth
in hoarse cheers and incoherent shouts, which died away in sobs.



CHAPTER XIV

SIR MATTHEW IMPROVES THE OCCASION


To cut the bonds of the prisoners was the work of only a few moments.
The sailors, the instant they were free, made a rush upon the
villagers' cooking-pots, their passion for food overcoming curiosity,
gratitude, and all other sentiments. Dr. Smith gripped his son's hand,
his emotion being too great for words. Tom slapped his brother on the
back. Lieutenant Underhill was divided between his eagerness to learn
all the circumstances of this strange intervention and his anxiety to
prevent his men from getting out of hand. But a glance at them as they
made free with the natives' provisions relieved him on this score, and
when Smith explained that he had on board the aeroplane certain
delectables in the shape of chicken patties (becoming rather stale),
doughnuts, plumcake, a bottle of Australian burgundy, and sundry other
remnants of the provisions furnished by the hospitable folk of
Palmerston, he voted an immediate adjournment for lunch, and the
officers, with the Smiths, were soon satisfying their clamant hunger.

"How in the world did you know about us?" asked Tom.

"By cable from Brisbane."

"Then our boat did not go down?" said Underhill.

"No; your men lost their sail and rudder, and drifted until they came
into the current along the south coast of New Guinea. They were picked
up by a barque bound for Brisbane, and carried there."

He gave them a rapid summary of his flight across the world. The
sudden change in their fortunes induced a readiness to find amusement
in the most trifling incident, and they laughed loud and long as he
retailed the little mishaps and the comic episodes of his journey.
Then Underhill in his turn related all that had happened since the
wreck, and all became grave again as he told of the capture in the
early morning after their night march, the wild orgy in which their
captors had indulged, the elaborate preparations they had made under
the direction of their sorcerer for the sacrificial rite to which
their captives were destined. But for the appearance of the aeroplane
he had no doubt that within a few short hours they would have been
massacred, and their skulls hung up at the entrance of the huts as
signal marks of the villagers' prowess.

"The poor wretches hate all white men," said Underhill, "and it can
hardly be wondered at. They are recruited to labour in our
plantations, and come back with ailments unknown to them until they
met the white man. They do not distinguish, and a geologist like Dr.
Smith--"

"Ah!" said the doctor anxiously; "my specimens!"

"They are safe, Father," replied Charley. "I saw them in your fort.
The fact that the place had not been looted gave me some hope that you
were still alive. I wonder that the islanders have not made hay of
everything."

"No doubt they deferred the performance until they had disposed of
us," said Underhill. "But now, how do we stand? You have saved us, but
you can't take us all off in your aeroplane."

"A gunboat is on her way here; I passed her; she will arrive soon."

"Hurray!" shouted the men.

"Your men are on her, Mr. Underhill," continued Smith. "She will
probably arrive by the time we get back to the fort."

"That is a difficulty. We must be at least seven or eight miles from
it, and the whole country is forest in which the natives may waylay
us. They have left our rifles, but practically all our ammunition is
gone."

"I have rifles and ammunition, as you see. But the savages have had
such a fright that I think they will keep out of the way of the
aeroplane. If I fly as low as possible over the trees they will hear
the humming and run away, and you can steer your course by the same
sound."

"A good idea. We'll burn their huts and weapons, as a warning to
behave better in future, and then we'll go."

This was done, Smith and Rodier appropriating as trophies several
spears and bows and arrows, and also some of the fetish charms hung at
the entrance to the huts. The crew, having satisfied their hunger,
hunted through the village for loot, and grumbled when they found
nothing that they considered worthy the consideration of British
sailormen. Then Rodier took the aeroplane aloft, Smith having decided
to walk with the rest, and the party set off towards the coast,
marching by the guidance of the sound that descended from the
tree-tops, dulled by its passage through thick layers of foliage.

The scare had proved effectual. Never a sign of the natives was seen
during the three hours' march to the fort. When they reached it, Dr.
Smith hastened at once to assure himself that his specimens and
note-books were safe. Tired out, the whole party lay down to rest.

"We'll go and meet the gunboat, Roddy," said Smith, when the aeroplane
alighted. "Captain Warren will be glad to hear that all is well."

They set off, flew down the coast, and in a few minutes descried the
gunboat, apparently about fifteen miles off.

"All well, sir," shouted Smith, as he met the vessel. "I'll pilot you
to the place."

"You have put my nose out of joint," replied the captain, "and done my
men out of a fight, too. Well, I'm glad Underhill is safe. How far
have we to go?"

"An hour will do it, sir. I'll keep you company; a jog-trot will be a
pleasant change after my scamper."

"Diable, mister," said Rodier; "that will waste an immense quantity of
petrol, and we have none to spare."

"You're right, Roddy. I daresay we have used in the last few hours
enough to carry us to Samoa."

He explained to Captain Warren the necessity he was under of
economizing fuel, and promised to fire a rifle as a guide to him when
the gunboat came abreast of the fort. Then he returned at full speed,
brought the aeroplane to the ground within the enclosure, and having
arranged with his brother to give the signal when the gunboat came in
sight, lay down beside Rodier and was fast asleep in an instant.

He was wakened by a roar of cheering when Captain Warren, with some of
his men, the four members of the crew of the _Albatross_, and a
corpulent little civilian about fifty years old, marched into the
camp, bringing a load of provisions. A huge bonfire was kindled in the
centre of the enclosure, and round it the whole company gathered to
enjoy a royal feast. Darkness had sunk over the land; the flames cast
ruddy reflections upon their features; and no one observing their
cheerful expression, or listening to their merry chat, would have
suspected that, a few hours before, half of the party had been face to
face with a terrible death. Smith was the hero of the day. Lieutenant
Underhill got up and proposed his health; the toast was drunk in wine,
beer, and water, and some wild dogs that had been allured from the
forest by the glare fled howling when the mariners raised their lusty
voices to the tune of "For he's a jolly good fellow." Nor was Rodier
forgotten. Tom Smith called for the honours for him also; he was
acclaimed in shouts of "Good old Frenchie!" "Well done, matey," and
sundry other boisterous tokens of applause.

Nothing would content the party but that Smith should tell the story
of his flight. They listened spell-bound as he related his
experiences at the various stopping-places, and his adventures at sea.
When the story was finished, the cheers broke out again, and the stout
little man who accompanied Captain Warren's party, and whose
spectacles gleamed with good humour, rose to his feet and cleared his
throat.

"Pray, gentlemen, silence for Sir Matthew Menhinick," said Captain
Warren, with twinkling eyes. Sir Matthew was an ex-prime minister of
Queensland, known to his intimates as Merry Matt, and to the whole
continent as a jolly good fellow. Being at Brisbane when the news of
the wreck came, he instantly decided to join Captain Warren's rescue
party. If he had a weakness for hearing his own voice, what could be
expected in a man whose speeches filled volumes of legislative
reports, but who was now in his retirement, deprived of these daily
opportunities of addressing his fellow men?

"Gentlemen," he said, beaming on the company; "officers and gentlemen,
and able seamen of His Majesty's Navy, I am a plain, blunt chap, I am,
as you all know, and I can't dress up what I've got to say in fine
language like the Governor-General, but I can't let this occasion pass
without saying a word or two about the great, the wonderful, the
stupendous achievement of our friend, Mr. Thesiger Smith. (Loud
cheers.) This is a proud moment in my life. I remember when I was a
nipper in London, before any of you were born except our friend the
doctor, I saw in a place called Cremorne Gardens a silly fellow of a
Frenchman--present company excepted--try to fly with wings strapped to
his arms. Of course he came a cropper and broke his back. I remember
my dear old mother shaking her head and telling over to me that fine
bit of poetry:

    Cows and horses walk on four legs,
    Little children walk on two legs;
    Fishes swim in water clear,
    Birds fly high into the air;

and impressing on me that boys mustn't be little beasts, nor try to be
fishes, or birds, or anything else they wasn't meant to be. But now,
gentlemen, in this wonderful twentieth century, them old doctrines are
as dead as Queen Anne. We've got submarines diving and roving along in
the depths of the sea; we've got aeroplanes that fly up into the air;
and we've got men, gentlemen, men of grit and backbone, men of courage
and determination, that 'fear no foe in shining armour,' men like our
friend Mr. Smith (roars of applause), who brave the perils of the deep
and the chance of the empyrean, who take their lives in their hands
and think nothing of it. Some croakers will tell you the Old Country
is going to the dogs. Don't you believe it. ("We won't.") I don't
believe she ever will go to the dogs while she's got left a man of the
old, honourable, and respected name of Smith. (Laughter and cheers.)

"Mr. Underhill just now referred in feeling terms to the personal
results of Mr. Smith's enterprise. But for him, some of our number
would by this time have crossed the bourne whence no traveller
returns. I need not speak of the joy and pride that must have filled a
father's and a brother's breast--" (Here the speaker blew his nose and
wiped a mist from his spectacles. Then he resumed.) "As I was saying,
our friend has accomplished a wonderful feat, gentlemen. He has come
twelve thousand miles in three days and a half. That's a thing to be
proud of. He tells me he's going to get back in another three days and
a half. I am sure I speak for you all when I say 'good luck to him!'
("hear! hear!") Think what it means, gentlemen. It means going round
the world in a week. When I was last in England I met a man at a hotel
who kept me up till three in the morning proving to me that the earth
is flat. I'll give Mr. Smith his address, and when he gets home he can
go and prove to him that _he's_ a flat. (Laughter.) You remember in a
play of Shakespeare there's a little chap that says he'll put a girdle
round the earth in forty minutes. His name was Puck, gentlemen. Mr.
Smith won't do it quite so quick--not this journey, at any rate--but
who knows what these young scientific fellows will be a-doing of next?
Mr. Smith's aeroplane hasn't got a name, I believe, but he'd better
christen it Puck, which is the same as the Indian word _pukka_, and
means 'jolly good.'"

"Now I'm not going to make a speech, so I'll just conclude these few
remarks by wishing Mr. Smith a safe journey home, quick promotion, and
a seat in the House of Lords. He's used to going up, and that's about
as far up as he can go."

When the cheering had ceased, the company crowded about the aeroplane,
and gazed at it as if by sheer hard staring they might discover the
secret of its speed.

While Rodier explained its working to some of them, Smith sat with the
officers, his father and brother, and Sir Matthew, discussing the
immediate future.

"You must be very tired," said his father. "Don't you think you have
better give up the idea of returning at once, and come with us? The
Admiralty will stretch a point if we cable an explanation."

"On no account, father," replied Smith. "I am going back. I had the
good luck to get here in time. That's all right so far. But after
coming through the air I couldn't stand a slow voyage back; it would
be like riding in a growler after a taxi. Besides, I confess I am out
to make a record. I can't make a name in geology, but why shouldn't I
go down to posterity as the first man to fly round the world?"

"In seven days, as Sir Matthew remarked," added Tom. "It will be
rather a feather in your cap, old fellow, if you can do it."

"Oh, I'll do it, if only my engine holds out. By the way, Roddy ought
to be cleaning up in preparation for starting. I hope he won't be
demoralized by this ovation. Roddy," he called, "it's time to clean
up."

"All right, mister," replied the French man. "I'll take the shine out
of her."

"Roddy's English is not perfectly accurate," said Smith, laughing;
"but he's exactness itself in his work." He pulled out his watch.
"It's exactly eighty-one hours since I left London; I've got
eighty-seven to get back in."

"How will you go?" asked Underhill.

"First to Samoa, then Honolulu, then 'Frisco, and straight across the
States."

"You'll have to beware of interviewers," said Tom. "You may be sure
the newspaper men have got wind of you by this time."

"I don't know. Barracombe wouldn't say anything; I don't think Johnson
in Constantinople would, and--"

"My dear fellow, don't make any mistake," said Captain Warren.
"Nobody ever does say anything, but the newspaper men somehow or other
know what you think about when you're abed and asleep."

"They must all be Irishmen, then."

"Or Americans. I wouldn't mind betting that they are getting up a
reception for you at 'Frisco--"

"But they don't know I'm going there."

"No matter; the word has gone out to keep a watch for you, and every
town in the States will be on the _qui vive_. I'm rather sorry for you
when you come down for petrol; you won't get off so easily as you did
on the way out."

"Of course you won't," said Tom. "I suppose you'll wire ahead for
petrol to be held ready for you? That will give you away."

"No, I shall chance it. I can get petrol in any town in the States,
and I won't risk delay by announcing myself."

"You had better have a good sleep before you start," said Underhill.
"What time do you want to go?"

"Not later than midnight."

"Well, you've got nearly four hours. Your man had better sleep, too.
I'll see to the engine."

"Roddy won't allow that. I see that he has got help. He'll be finished
in half-an-hour. By all means put him to bed then, if you'll promise
to wake us both in good time."

"I'll do that. I won't spoil sport. Go to the further end of the camp,
and I'll tuck you up in the tarpaulin, put some food on board, and see
that everything is shipshape."

Smith was glad enough to avail himself of the opportunity of three or
four hours' continuous sleep on land. Rodier showed more reluctance,
declaring that he was as fit as a fiddle; but Captain Warren bore him
away from the crowd of admirers, and stood over him until he, like his
master, was sleeping soundly.

A quarter of an hour before midnight the two airmen were awakened.
Farewells were said, hands were shaken all round, every one wish them
good luck, and precisely at twelve they took their seats and set forth
on the two thousand miles flight to Samoa.



CHAPTER XV

HERR SCHWANKMACHER'S CABBAGES


A little before twelve on Monday, Herr Rudolph Schwankmacher, one of
the most respected residents of Apia, capital of Samoa, was reclining
under the shade of a plantain in his garden beyond the promontory of
Mulinuu, enjoying the conversation of a friend and the refreshing
bitterness of a bottle of light lager beer. The garden rose a few feet
above the level of the ground in front of it, and afforded an
excellent view over the sea. Hither Herr Schwankmacher was wont to
retire for a brief spell of rest and meditation in the heat of the
day, and on this occasion he had been accompanied by a compatriot
newly arrived from Germany, to whom he was expatiating on the
pleasures of colonial life in general, and in particular on the
delights of rearing cabbages in so rich and prolific a soil.

"Yes," he said, "you will find no cabbages like these in Germany. You
see them. They are grown from seed. It is not a month since I put the
seed in the ground, and the plants are already flourishing. They will
soon be full-grown, and then I shall pickle them, and have for every
day in the year a dish that will remind me as I eat it of the days of
my youth in the dear Homeland. Ach! the Homeland; it is very dear. I
love it, although I would not return to it for the world. This is the
happy land, my friend. It is a fairland. It is a beautiful land for
copra, flowers, and cabbages. I am content."

He tossed off a glass of beer and lay back on the green sward, puffing
at a pipe and gazing benignly up into the broad-leaved canopy that
sheltered him from the midday sun. For some time he reclined thus,
dropping a word now and then to his companion, answering his
questions, but always returning to the cabbages.

As they lay in this placidity and ease they were suddenly aware of a
slight buzzing in the air. Herr Schwankmacher raised himself on his
elbow, and looked around for the insect that had dared to intrude into
this peaceful cabbage-patch. There was no insect in sight of such a
size as to account for the deep-toned hum, which was growing louder
moment by moment.

"This is strange," he said. "I never heard such a noise before."

"I have heard it," said his friend. "I have heard it very close. The
last time was when Count Zeppelin's airship came down in the
Teutoberger Wald. I was there."

"So; but Count Zeppelin would not be here in Samoa. We have no
airships here. The newspapers say that there is much activity in
Europe, especially among the French and English, in this new pastime,
but I dare say the greater part of what they say is lies. But really,
the noise is becoming very great; I am unable to explain it."

Both men were now sitting erect, looking to right, to left, seawards,
landwards, towards the hills. All at once the sound ceased, a shadow
was cast upon them, and before they could realize the situation a
strange, uncouth object glided from behind them over the plantains,
and came to rest in the centre of the cabbage-patch.

Herr Schwankmacher sprang to his feet with a nimbleness surprising in
a man of his size, and rushed forward, snorting with rage and
indignation. His friend followed, neither indignant nor enraged, but
very much interested in the occurrence. His intelligent eyes gleamed
behind his glasses; he had himself experienced aerial adventures.

It chanced that Rodier was the first to step out of the machine. As
the burly, bearded, white-clad figure of Herr Schwankmacher cantered
heavily toward him, he lifted his cap, and with that sunny smile
which had accompanied him through life, he said--

"Monsieur, je vous fais mille excuses. Voudriez-vou bien me dire ou
l'on puisse obtenir de la pétrole."

"Sapperment!" cried the infuriated German. "Es ist ein kriechender
Franzose!"

It was well that Rodier did not understand him, or, never having been
called a sneaking Frenchman before, he would certainly have fallen
tooth and nail on the offender, though in respect of bulk the German
would have made two of him. Fortunately for the keeping of peace, he
was quite ignorant of the German tongue, and when Herr Schwankmacher
proceeded to shake his pipe at him, and deliver his opinion of
trespassers in general and French trespassers in particular, with
intermittent allusions to cabbages, Rodier only listened with the same
gentle smile and deprecating movements of his grimy hands.

Smith, joining him, addressed Herr Schwankmacher in English, but his
intervention seemed only to add fuel to the flames. The German knew no
English; neither Smith nor Rodier knew German; and the affair promised
to come to a deadlock. But here a peacemaker stepped in. Herr
Schwankmacher's friend, who appeared to be greatly amused, stepped
forward with a noticeable limp.

"Gentlemen, gentlemen, zis is not business. Permit me, sir," he said
to Smith.

He took Herr Schwankmacher by the arm, and spoke a few words to him;
upon which the German consented to be silent and in dudgeon resumed
his pipe.

"My friend, sir," the second man went on, "is vat you call chippy
because you come plomp into his bed of cabbage, very fine vegetable,
vich remind him of his youthful days in ze ever-to-beloved Homeland."

"Oh, well," said Smith, "assure him that I am very sorry. I didn't
mean to hurt his cabbages, and I'll pay for any damage that I've
done."

"Was sagt er?" said Herr Schwankmacher suspiciously.

His friend translated Smith's words. Schwankmacher grunted.

"The fact is," continued Smith, "we've run short of petrol, and I had
to come down. I hoped to make Apia; that is it, yonder, I suppose?"

"Zat is so. You vant petrol. Zen I introduce you to excellent firma
vat supply ze Commandant. It is good petrol; I know it, for ze firma
receive large consignments of it from ze highly respectable firma I
haf ze honour to represent--Schlagintwert Gesellschaft of Düsseldorf.
Sir, viz compliments."

He took from a capacious pocket a bulky book in a red paper wrapper.

"Zis is our price list, sir, revise and correct. Ve can supply anyzink
vatefer, and I shall esteem it great favour to haf ze opportunity to
quote for petrol, machine oil, planes, stays, plugs, propellers,
levers, air-bags, goggles, overalls, accumulators--"

"Thanks, but at present I want nothing but petrol and machine oil, and
I must have them at once, as I have to start for Honolulu without
delay."

"For Honolulu, sir?"

"Yes."

"Across ze sea?"

"There's no other way, is there?"

"Sree sousand miles?"

"Rather less, isn't it?"

"Ach! zis knocks me into a--vat you call it?--into a billycock."

He turned to Herr Schwankmacher, who had just refilled his pipe, and
repeated to him the astounding announcement. The German scoffed.
Seeing that there was no help for it if he wished to get away in a
reasonable time, Smith explained that he was halfway on a voyage round
the world, and had not a minute to spare.

"Ach! business are business. Zat is vat take me round ze world. Permit
me, sir."

He handed Smith a large business card, inscribed with the name
"Hildebrand Schwab," and the address of his firm in Düsseldorf.

"Ve shall lose no time, sir," he added. "Zis is ze most amazing zink
zat efer haf I heard, and I esteem it great honour to haf ze
opportunity to introduce you to ze excellent firma vat supply you viz
petrol for your so vonderful machine. Vun minute until I tell Herr
Schwankmacher, zen ve go doublequick."

Herr Schwankmacher's vexation and incredulity vanished together when
his friend told him the facts of the case. He was a good fellow at
bottom, and now that he knew that the aeroplane's descent in his
garden was purely accidental, he was ready to do all in his power to
speed the parting guest. In a few minutes Smith was hurrying along the
shore road with a German on either side, at his left the surf roaring
on the fringe of coral reef, at his right a screen of tufted palms and
plantations running up the lower slopes of the mountains. He soon came
to a collection of drinking-bars and stores, all bearing German names.
Herr Schwankmacher, now transformed into a cordial host, invited him
to drink a bottle of lager with him at one of the bars, but he excused
himself and followed Schwab into a large store where every sort of
requisite for machines was kept in stock.

The purchase of petrol proved to be a lengthy transaction, for Schwab
was impelled to tell the story to the store-keeper, he repeated it to
his clerks, they ran out to tell the neighbours, and the place was
soon thronged with Germans--merchants, clerks, sailors, stokers--all
eager to see the airman who was flying round the world. The store was
filled with smoke and gutturals. The purchase being at last concluded,
the cans were rolled to a motor lorry which lumbered along in the
direction of Mulinuu like a triumphal car at the head of a procession.
First came Smith with Schwankmacher on his right and Schwab on his
left; then a crowd of the German population, in which wealthy
merchants found themselves neighbours to grimy stokers, and youthful
clerks to the inevitable uniforms; the tail was formed of swarthy
Samoans, men and women, skipping boys and laughing girls with flowers
in their hair.

Rodier had cleaned the engine, and was eating his dinner among the
cabbages. He favoured the crowd with a pleasant smile, although some
were Germans, and because others were pretty.

The petrol was placed on board and the tank filled, Smith, with
long-suffering patience, replying to the questions of the
English-speaking spectators. All was at last ready for the start;
Schwab, who alone of the company had knowledge of the conditions, made
himself useful in clearing the course; and Schwankmacher positively
declined to accept payment for the plants which had been crushed under
the aeroplane, and those which were trampled by the spectators' feet.

When the airmen were in their places, Schwab limped up.

"Permit me to shake hands viz ze first circumnavigator of ze sky," he
said with effusion, "and to remind you zat my firma Schlagintwert vill
be most happy to supply you viz anyzink vatefer zat you need, and in
vatefer region of ze globe you may be, on receipt of postcard,
telegram, cable, or Marconigram. Hoch!"

His cheer was taken up by the crowd. The machine moved forward. Herr
Schwankmacher, stepping back, fell into the arms of a grinning stoker,
and a little native boy, shrieking with fright, ran head-first into
the corpulent frame of a merchant who was more stable in his copra
business than in his legs. The aeroplane flew up; the crowd watched
its ascension like adoring worshippers of some sky deity; and in three
minutes it was a mere speck in the cloudless blue.



CHAPTER XVI

A STOP-PRESS MESSAGE


Mr. John McMurtrie, editor of the _Toronto Sphere_, a capable
journalist and a man of many friends, strolled into his office about
three o'clock one Wednesday afternoon. His first extra edition was due
at four, and it may seem that he had allowed himself a very short time
for dealing with fresh items of news that had come to hand since noon;
but he had an excellent assistant, who took a real interest in his
work, so that there was no need for the editor to hurry his luncheon
or the ensuing cigar.

"Well, Daniels," he said genially, as he entered his assistant's room.
He sat across a corner of the table, exhibiting a well-developed calf
neatly covered with golfing hose. "Is there anything fresh and frothy
on the tape?"

"Not much. A wire from 'Frisco about those flying men."

"You don't say so?"

"Here it is."

He handed the slip to his chief, who ran his eye over the message. The
words employed were few, but a journalist of McMurtrie's experience
instinctively covered the bare bones with a respectable integument,
and clothed this with a quite picturesque raiment by force of the more
ornamental parts of speech.

The substance of what he read was as follows: A cable message had
reached San Francisco from Honolulu in the afternoon of the previous
day, announcing that an aeroplane had alighted there about three
o'clock that morning, the owner, a Lieutenant Thistleton (so it was
corrupted) Smith declaring that he had come from Samoa in sixteen
hours, and was proceeding to San Francisco. He had left three hours
later, having waited only to take in a stock of petrol. On receipt of
this message the editor of every newspaper in the city had arranged
for a relay of reporters to be up all night and watch for the arrival
of this extraordinary machine. Shortly after midnight the hum of the
propellers was heard over Golden Gate, and a light in the sky
indicating the course of the aeroplane, a dozen journalists, in
motor-cars, rushed after it, but were hopelessly out-distanced. They
discovered it on the outskirts of the city. The airmen had already
landed. The reporter who was first in the race seized upon Lieutenant
Smith, and learning that he had only alighted to obtain more petrol,
rushed him back to the city in his car. His comrades and competitors,
on arriving, sought to interview the second man, whose name they had
not been able to ascertain; but he was very uncommunicative, being
occupied in cleaning the engine. Lieutenant Smith was back with petrol
in twenty minutes; in half-an-hour he was again on his way. This
extreme haste caused great disappointment to the airmen and civic
dignitaries of the city, they having risen from their beds on hearing
of his arrival to honour Lieutenant Smith with a reception. When they
reached the spot where he had descended, he had been gone some ten
minutes. In the race to meet him, one of the motor-cars collided with
an electric-light standard and was overturned, its occupant, Mr.
Aeneas T. Muckleridge, being carried to hospital in a critical
condition. Several San Francisco newspapers had published interviews
with Lieutenant Smith, one of them ten columns long.

Mr. McMurtrie chuckled as he read this dispatch in the shorthand of
the news agency.

"Bedad, 'tis worth a special editorial, Daniels. But why didn't we get
it before, man? It ought to have been in time for the morning
papers."

"You remember, sir, there's been something wrong with the line to-day
through the storm."

"So there has, indeed. Well, take out that stuff about the new British
tariff, and send Davis in to me."

He went into his room, sat back in his chair, pushed up his golfing
cap, and smiled as he meditated the periods of his editorial. In a few
moments a thin, ragged-headed youth entered with an air of haste and
terror. He carried a paper-block, which he set on his knee, looking
anxiously at the editor. Mr. McMurtrie began to dictate, the
stenographer's pencil flying over the paper as he sought to overtake
the rapid utterance of his chief. The article, as it appeared on the
second page of the _Sphere_ an hour later, ran as follows:

      HOCUS POCUS

      A hoax, or as our merry ancestors would have called it, a
      flam, is usually the most ephemeral and evanescent of human
      devices. Like a boy's soap bubble, it glitters for a brief
      moment in iridescent rotundity, then ceases to be even a
      film of air. It is unsubstantial as the tail of Halley's
      comet. On rare occasions, it is true, its existence is
      prolonged; many worthy people are beguiled; and some
      enthusiasts are so effectually hoodwinked as to persist in
      their delusion, and even to form societies for its
      propagation. But mankind at large is sufficiently sane to
      avoid a fall into this abyss of the absurd, and, having
      paid its tribute of laughter, goes its way without being a
      cent the worse.

      San Francisco appears to be the latest victim of The Great
      Aviation Hoax, and we shall watch the progressive stages of
      its disillusionment with sympathetic interest, or the
      development of its newest cult with sincere commiseration.
      Like many other phenomena, good and bad, this gigantic
      flam, it will be remembered, took its rise in the east. Its
      genesis was reported in Constantinople nearly a week ago:
      then at intervals we learnt that these mysterious airmen,
      one of whom with artful artlessness had adopted the plain,
      respectable, and specious name of Smith, had manifested
      themselves at Karachi, Penang, and Port Darwin
      successively. The curtain then dropped, and the world
      waited with suspense for the opening of the next act,
      though there were some who suspected that the performers
      had slipped away with the cash-box during the interval, and
      would never be heard of again. However, the curtain has at
      last rung up at the golden city of the west, and it is
      certainly a mark of the ingenuity of the concocters of the
      hoax that they allowed at least twenty-four hours for the
      passage of the Pacific. In another column we give an
      account of a visit to San Francisco, in the small hours of
      this morning, from which it will be seen that the city
      fathers narrowly escaped making themselves ridiculous, the
      flying men having wisely disappeared before the municipal
      deputation, hastily summoned from their beds, had time to
      make the indispensable changes in their attire. It need
      scarcely be hinted that there are many accomplished
      aviators in San Francisco who would take a jovial pleasure
      in lending themselves to this amusing hoax, if only for the
      chance of seeing their most reverend seniors in pyjamas.

      A glance at the itinerary of the alleged world tourists,
      coupled with a comparison of dates, will show how
      impossible it is for them to have covered the stages of
      their tour in the time claimed. Indeed, it is almost an
      insult to our readers' intelligence even to suggest this
      comparison. The record put up by Blakeney in his New
      York-Chicago flight was 102 miles per hour for six
      consecutive hours. If the flying men who are now asserted
      to have touched at San Francisco are the same as were
      reported by the Constantinople correspondent of the London
      _Times_ on Friday last, a simple calculation will show that
      they must have flown for many days at a time at twice
      Blakeney's speed, with the briefest intervals for food and
      rest. It is not yet claimed that the alleged Smith and his
      anonymous companion have discovered a means of dispensing
      with sleep, or that they are content, like the fabulous
      chameleon, to live on air. Our children may live to witness
      such developments in the science of aviation as may render
      possible an aerial journey of this length and celerity; but
      so sudden an augmentation of the speed and endurance of the
      aeroplane, to say nothing of the more delicate mechanism of
      the human frame, demands a more authentic confirmation of
      the midnight impressions of the San Francisco journalists
      than has yet come to hand. In short, we do not believe a
      word of it, and our speculation at the moment is, what
      brand of soap or tinned meat, what new machine oil, or
      panacea for human ills, these ingeniously arranged
      manifestations are intended to boom.


"What do you think of that, Davis?" asked Mr. McMurtrie at the end of
six minutes' rapid dictation. It was his pardonable weakness to claim
the admiration of his subordinates.

"Bully, sir," replied the shorthand-writer timidly. As a matter of
fact, he thought nothing at all, his whole attention having been so
completely absorbed by his task of making dots and curves and dashes
as to leave no portion of his brain available for receiving mental
impressions. But the editor was satisfied. Telling the youth to
transcribe his notes and send the flimsies page by page as completed
to the printer, he took up his golf sticks, passed through the outer
office, instructing his assistant to read the proof, and departed to
his recreation.

There is an excellent golf course on the Scarborough Bluffs, the
rugged, seamed, and fissured cliffs that form the northern shore of
Lake Ontario, near Toronto. Boarding a trolley-car, Mr. McMurtrie soon
reached the club-house, where he found his friend Harry Cleave
already awaiting him.

"Hullo, Mac. Day's work done?" was Mr. Cleave's salutation.

"Indeed it is. The best day's work I have done for a good while."

"Then you are pitching into somebody or something, that's certain.
What is it this time?"

"Bubbles, my boy. Those flying-men are after spinning again. Some of
the 'Frisco men will have a pain within side of 'em when they read how
I have touched 'em up. Now then, Cleave, we've got the course to
ourselves. I'm sure I can give you half a stroke and a beating. 'Tis
your honour."

The consciousness of having touched up the 'Frisco men seemed to have
a salutary influence on Mr. McMurtrie's play. He was in the top of
form, won the first two holes, and was in the act of lifting his club
to drive off from the tee of number three, when a faint buzzing sound
from the direction of the lake caused him to suspend the stroke and
glance over the placid blue water. Far away in the sky he saw a dark
speck about the size of a swallow, which, however, grew with
extraordinary rapidity, and in a few moments declared itself to be an
aeroplane containing two men.

"Be jabers!" quoth Mr. McMurtrie, resting his club on the ground and
watching the flying machine with eyes in which might have been
discerned a shade of misgiving.

It was, perhaps, thirty seconds from the time when he first caught
sight of it that the aeroplane came perpendicularly above his head,
the whirring ceased, and the machine descended with graceful swoop
upon the well-cropt turf within fifty yards of the spot where the two
golfers stood. As soon as it alighted, Mr. McMurtrie handed his sticks
to the caddie, and, as one released from a spell, hurried to meet the
man who had just stepped out of the car.

"That's Toronto over yonder?" said Smith without ceremony.

"Indeed it is," replied McMurtrie, taking stock of the dirty
dishevelled figure. "Your name's not Smith?"

"Indeed it is!"

"Holy Moses!" ejaculated McMurtrie, and, to Smith's amazement, he
turned his back and sprinted at the speed of a race-horse towards the
club-house a few hundred yards away. He rushed to the telephone box,
rang up his office, and, catching at his breath, waited with feverish
eagerness for the answer to his call.

"You there, Daniels? I'm McMurtrie. For any sake stop press, cancel
that leader, put back the tariff, votes for women, anything, only
stop it.... What!... Edition off the machine!... Don't let a copy
leave the office.... What!... First deliveries made!... Recall 'em,
or the paper's ruined. Smith's here!... No, This-something Smith ...
no, you ass, the naval lieutenant, he flying man: don't you
understand!... understand!... are you there?... Get out a special
edition at once.... Where's Davis? Bring him to the 'phone to take a
note.... That you, Davis? Take this down.... 'As we go to press we
have the best of evidence for the statement that the marvellous
world-flight of that intrepid young airman, Lieutenant Thistledown
Smith, of the British Navy, is a sober fact, and not, as our sceptical
wiseacres have asserted, an ingeniously concocted hoax. Lieutenant
Smith descended at 3:50 this afternoon on the Scarborough Bluffs,
having accomplished the enormous distance from San Francisco without a
stop, in the marvellous time of twelve hours, twenty-one minutes, and
fourteen seconds. In our final edition, which will be accelerated, we
shall publish an interview with Lieutenant Smith, with exclusive
particulars of his remarkable voyage and his romantic career."

"I'm not so sure of that," said Smith dryly. He had entered with Mr.
Cleave, and heard the frenzied editor's concluding sentences. "To
begin with, I stopped at St. Paul, and was lucky enough to escape
without attracting any attention. I shouldn't have been here but for
the storm."

"For goodness' sake, Lieutenant, don't tell anybody that. A little
stop at St. Paul isn't worth making a fuss about. You'll come along
into the city with me, and we will get a few of the boys together and
give you a topping dinner."

"I'd rather be hanged," said Smith. "The fact is, I only came down to
get enough petrol on board to take me across the Atlantic. You can
tell me where to get what I want?"

"Indeed I can. I tell you what. I'll 'phone for the petrol--how much
do you want?--and get it out here in no time. You won't mind me
ringing up a few particular friends, and inviting them out to see
you?"

"Please don't do anything of the kind. I'm very tired; I'm not
presentable; and I've no time to spare."

"Sure you wouldn't be after declining to answer a question or two--to
be worked up into an interview, you know?"

"Really, I've nothing to tell. You appear to know a good deal about me
already, and I'm sure your imagination can supply the rest."

"But there's a gap, lieutenant. We can't account for you between Port
Darwin and Honolulu."

"We're wasting time," said Smith despairingly. "Be so good as to order
up the petrol; then I'll give you a few headings."

McMurtrie was delighted. He gave the order to a firm in the city,
requesting that the petrol should be sent out by motor at once. Then
he took Smith and Cleave into the luncheon-room, which they had to
themselves, ordered a meal for Smith, and drinks for Cleave and
himself, and while Smith was eating, filled his note-book with
jottings, which he foretold would sell out two editions of his paper
like winking.

Rodier, meanwhile, was cleaning the engine.

To execute an order smartly is one of the first of business virtues.
Smith was satisfied that the virtue was appreciated in Toronto: the
petrol arrived, as McMurtrie assured him, in the shortest possible
time. Unluckily the Toronto men of business had their share of
humanity's common failing--if it is a failing--curiosity. McMurtrie,
with Smith at his elbow, had scrupulously refrained from explaining
what the petrol was wanted for; his assistant, Daniels, had been too
busy seeing the special edition to press to run about gossiping; and
Davis, the shorthand-writer, the third in the secret, had become so
mechanical that nothing stirred emotion within him; he wrote of
murders, assassinations, political convulsions, Rooseveltian exploits,
diplomatic indiscretions, everything but football matches, with the
same pencil and the same cold, inhuman precision. But it happened that
one of the compositors in the _Sphere_ printing office, who took a
lively interest in the affairs of his fellow mortals, had a bet with a
friend in the plumbing line about this very matter of the mysterious
flying men. No sooner had he set up his portion of the editor's note
than he begged leave of absence for half-an-hour from the overseer,
whipped off his apron, and rushed off to demand his winnings before
the loser had time to spend them in the _Blue Lion_ on the way home
from work. They repaired, nevertheless, to the _Blue Lion_ to settle
their account; they told the news to the barman, who passed it to the
landlord; a publisher's clerk heard it, and repeated it to the
manager; the manager acquainted the head of the firm as he went out to
tea; the publisher mentioned it in an off-hand way to the man next him
at the café; and--to roll the snowball no further--half Toronto was in
possession of the news before the _Sphere_ appeared on the streets.

The result was a general exodus in the direction of the Scarborough
Bluffs. On foot, on bicycles, in cabs, motor-cars, trolley-cars,
drays, and all kinds of vehicles, every one who had a tincture of
sporting spirit set off to see two men and a structure of metal and
canvas--quite ordinary persons and things, but representing a Deed and
an Idea.

Thus it happened that close behind the dray conveying the petrol came
a long procession, the sound of whose coming announced it from afar.

"'Tis the way of us in Toronto," said McMurtrie soothingly, when Smith
vented his annoyance.

The crowd invaded the club-grounds, to the horror of the
green-keepers, and rolled past the club-house to the aeroplane, where
Rodier, having finished cleaning, was regaling himself with an
excellent repast sent out to him by Mr. McMurtrie. Cheers for
Lieutenant Smith arose; Rodier smiled and bowed, not ceasing to ply
his knife and fork until a daring youth put his foot upon the
aeroplane. Then Rodier dropped knife and fork, and rushed like a cat
at the intruder. The Frenchiness of his language apprised the
spectators that they were on the wrong scent, and they demanded to
know where Lieutenant Smith was. Knowing Smith's dislike of
demonstrations, Rodier was about to point lugubriously to the edge of
the cliff, when some one shouted "Here he is!" and the mob flocked
towards the club-house, from which Smith had just emerged. Rodier
seized the opportunity to finish his meal, and direct the operations
of the men who had brought the petrol.

Smith had not found himself in so large a crowd of English-speaking
people since he had left London. The early morning enthusiasm of the
San Francisco journalists was hard to bear, but the afternoon
enthusiasm of Toronto was terrible. Hundreds of young fellows wanted
to hoist him to their shoulders; dozens of opulent citizens perspired
to carry him to the city in their cars; some very young ladies panted
to kiss him; and a score of journalists buzzed about him, but upon
them McMurtrie smiled with a look of conscious superiority. Smith
whispered to him. The editor nodded.

"Gentlemen!" he shouted, holding up his hand.

"Silence!... Hear, hear!... S-s-sh!... Don't make such a row!...
Same to you!... Let's hear what Jack McMurtrie has got to say."

Thus the babel was roared down.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said McMurtrie; "Mr. Smith--"

"Three cheers for Smith!" shouted some one; horns blurted; from the
edge of the crowd the first notes of "For he's a jolly good fellow"
were heard, and they sang it through twice, so that those who had
missed the beginning should not be hurt in their feelings.

"Ladies and gentlemen," began McMurtrie again, when he could make his
voice heard, "Mr. Smith, who is rather hoarse from constant exposure
to the night air, asks me to thank you for the warmth of your
reception. He has been good enough to give me full particulars of his
wonderful journey, which you will find in the final edition of the
_Sphere_. As I've no doubt at all that you are anxious to have the
chance of seeing Mr. Smith performing the evolutions which up to this
time have been witnessed by next to nobody but the stars and the
flying fishes, he has consented, at my request, to give a
demonstration, provided that you'll allow him a clear run, and don't
be accessory to your own manslaughter."

This announcement was greeted with loud cheers. The crowd fell back,
allowing Smith a free course to the aeroplane.

"Bedad," said McMurtrie; "I wouldn't wonder but they tear me to pieces
before I get safe home. But I'll skip into a motor-car as soon as you
are started. Now, is there anything I can do for you before you go?"

"Only send two cables for me; one to my sister: here's the address;
say simply 'All well.' The other to Barracombe, 532 Mincing Lane,
London, asking him to meet me at home at eleven p.m., to-morrow. You
won't forget?"

"I will not. But you're a cool hand, to be sure."

A space was cleared; the aeroplane ran off, soared aloft, and for a
few seconds circled over the heads of the spectators. Then a voice
came to them from the air, not so much like Longfellow's falling star
as an emission from a gramaphone.

"Good-bye, friends. Thanks for your kind reception. Sorry I can't stay
any longer; but I've got to be in Portsmouth, England within
twenty-four hours. Good-bye."

The aeroplane wheeled eastward, and shot forward at a speed that made
the onlookers gasp. When it had disappeared, they became suddenly
alive to the suspicion that Jack McMurtrie had practised a ruse on
them. They gave a yell and looked round for him. A motor-car was
making at forty miles an hour for Toronto.



CHAPTER XVII

A MIDNIGHT VIGIL


Mr. William Barracombe was the most punctual of men. He entered his
office in Mincing Lane precisely at ten o'clock on Thursday morning.
His letters had already been sorted and arranged in two neat piles on
his desk. Topmost on one of them was a cablegram from Toronto: "Meet
me home eleven p.m. Smith." He never admitted that anything would
surprise him, and in fact he showed no sign of excitement, but looked
through his correspondence methodically, distributing the papers among
several baskets to be dealt with by respective members of his staff,
or by himself. This done, he rang for the office boy, ordered him to
remove the baskets, and then took up the cablegram again.

"By Jove!" he said to himself.

He reached down his A B C and looked out a train for Cosham.

"I may as well go down to dinner," he thought.

His next proceeding was to telephone to his chambers instructing his
man to meet him at Waterloo with his suit-case. Then he wrote a
telegram to Mrs. Smith announcing that he would dine with her that
evening. Thereupon he was ready to tackle the business problems which
would absorb his attention until five o'clock.

On arriving at Cosham Park he was taken to the study, where Kate Smith
was awaiting him.

"You have heard from Charley?" she said anxiously, after shaking
hands.

"Yes. Have you?"

"He wired 'All well.' He is very economical. All his messages have
been just those two words, except yesterday's from Honolulu. That was
'Father safe.'"

"That's magnificent. He didn't tell me that, the rascal. Like you, I
have nothing before but 'All well.'"

"Do tell me what he wired you this time. I was afraid when we got your
telegram that something had happened."

"Not a bit of it. He expects to be here at eleven."

"How delightful! I am quite proud of him, really. You can come and see
Mother now. I wanted to speak to you first because she knows nothing
about Charley's journey. I thought it best to keep it from her until
I knew about Father, and having kept it so long I decided to leave it
for Charley to tell himself. I don't know whether I can manage it. I'm
so excited I could scream."

"Don't mind me. Ah! How d'ye do, Mrs. Smith?" The lady had just
entered. "You'll forgive my presumption?"

"Not at all--that is, an old friend like you doesn't presume, Mr.
Barracombe. Have you heard from Charley lately?"

"A word or two. He's coming home to-night. He asked me to meet him
here."

"How vexing! I mean, I wish I had known before; I can tell you what I
couldn't tell a stranger: we've fish for only three. But I am glad the
dear boy will have a few hours at home before he rejoins his ship. It
was very annoying that his leave should be spoilt. I am sure his
captain works him too hard."

"I don't fancy he'll consider his leave spoilt. But don't be concerned
about the fish; he won't be home till eleven."

"My bed-time is ten; I haven't made an exception for years; but I
shall certainly sit up for him; if you'll play cribbage with me to
keep me awake. We dine at eight. You know your room?"

A servant entered.

"Please, m'm, there's a man asking for Mr. Charley."

"Who is he, Betts?"

"A stranger to me, m'm. His name is Barton, and he's a farmer sort of
man."

"Did you tell him that Mr. Charley is not at home?"

"Yes, m'm. He said he'd wait."

"Tell him that Mr. Charley will not be in till eleven. He had better
call again."

The servant returned in a minute or two.

"Please, m'm, the man says he don't mind waiting. He has come miles
special to see Mr. Charley, and he says he won't be put off. He seems
a bit put out, m'm."

"I'll go and see him, Mother," said Kate. "It may be important."

"Perhaps Mr. Barracombe will go with you, my dear. The man may be
intoxicated."

Kate and Mr. Barracombe proceeded to the hall, where stood a man in
rough country garments, his calves encased in brown leather leggins.

"You wish to see my brother?" said Kate.

"I do so, if Mr. Charles Thusidger Smith, R.N., be your brother, miss.
He give me this card wi's name prented on it, and vowed and declared
he'd send me a cheque as soon as he got my bill for the damage he
done. 'Tis a week come Saturday since I sent my bill, and daze me if
I've got a cheque or even had any answer. That's not fair dealing; it
bean't proper; that's what _I_ say."

Mr. Barracombe's eyes twinkled. He glanced at Kate, and said--

"Your name is B-B--"

"Barton, sir; Firtop Farm, Mottisfont."

"What is this b-b-bill for d-d-damages you speak of?"

"Why, sir, 'twas like this. Last Thursday night as was, I was just
a-strippin' off my coat to go to bed when I heard a randy of a noise
out-along, and my dogs set up a-barkin', and goin' to look, there was
a airyplane had shoved hisself into my hayrick, and a young feller
a-splutterin' and hollerin', and usin' all manner of heathen language
to my dog. He cooled down arter a bit, when I'd spoke to him pretty
straight, axin' who'd pay for the mess he'd made, and he went
down-along to village, sayin' he'd take a bed there for hisself and
his man, and pay me what was fair. Drown me if he wasn't back in
half-an-hour, all of a heat, tellin' me in a commandin' way--being an
officer by what he said--to pull down my fence and help him hoist that
airyplane on to the road. I wouldn't stir a finger till he'd promised
faithful to pay, not me; then we worked me and some labourin' men he
brought, till we was all of a sweat, and we got the dratted thing out,
and off she went, whizzin' and buzzin' in a way I never did see. Come
mornin' I took a look at things, and there was half my hay not worth a
cuss for horse or ass, and thirty feet of fence fit for nowt but
firewood. 'Send in your bill,' says he, and send it I did, and neither
song nor sixpence have I got for it. Thinks I, I'll go and see if he
give me a right name and address, and a mighty moil 'twas to find the
place, and no train back till mornin', and my wife don't know where I
be."

"Very annoying. What's the amount of your b-b-bill?"

"Here it be. Cast your eye on it, sir. I ain't overcharged a penny."

He handed Mr. Barracombe a soiled paper folded many times--"To damage
to hay, repairing fence, and cleaning up, _£_4 2_s_ 4-1/2_d_."

"What's the ha'penny?" asked Mr. Barracombe.

"I never thowt there'd be any question of a ha'penny, drown me if I
did. The ha'penny be for the ball of twine we used to get fence
straight. I didn't want it set up all crissmacross, mind 'ee, and you
have to draw a line same as when you're plantin' 'taties."

"Well, Mr. B-B-Barton, I'm sorry Mr. Smith isn't at home, but the
f-fact is he's been for a voyage round the world, and won't be home
till eleven."

"That's a good 'un. Round the world! Why, I tell 'ee this was only a
se'nnight ago. I seed him myself. He couldn't get a half nor a quarter
round the world in the time. My son Jock be a sailor, and he don't do
it under six months. That won't wash with Isaac Barton. No, no, if
he'll be home at eleven he hain't been round the world. Anyway, I'll
bide till he comes. I dussn't show my face to home without _£_4 2_s._
4-1/2_d._, railway fare extry."

"If that's the case I'd b-better p-p-pay you myself. Mr. Smith will
settle with me. Here's a f-f-five-pound note: that will pay your
b-b-bill and your f-fare, and leave something over for a b-bed in the
village if you can't get home to-night."

"Well now, that's handsome, be dazed if it hain't."

"Just receipt your bill, w-will you? By the b-bye, Mr. Smith didn't
pay you anything on account?"

"I won't tell a lie. He did. He give me a pound, but that don't come
in the reckonin'. Hay was _£_3, wood fifteen shillin', men's time
_£_1, beer two shillin', odds and ends five shillin', nails
four-pence, twine a ha'penny, makin' _£_5, 2_s._ 4-1/2_d._ I've a-took
off _£_1, leavin' _£_4 2_s_. 4-1/2_d._"

"Very well. Here's a s-stamp."

The farmer receipted the bill.

"Thank'ee, sir." He cleared his throat, "If I med make so bold, sir,
meanin' no offence--"

"What n-now?"

"Why, sir, speakin' in my simple common way, I never hears a body
stutter in his talk but I think of my brother Sam and how he cured
hisself. He was a terrible bad stutterer in his young days, he was,
nearly bustin' hisself tryin' to get it out, poor soul. But a clever
parson chap learned him how to cure hisself, and if I med make so
bold, I'll tell 'ee how 'twas done."

"I shall be d-delighted."

"Well, this parson chap--ah! he was a clever feller, everywhere except
in the pulpit--he said to my brother, 'Sam,' says he--he always talked
in that homely way--'Sam, poor feller, I'll tell 'ee what the bishop
told me when I stuttered so bad I couldn't say 'Dearly beloved
brethren' without bub--bub--bubbing awful. 'Say the bub--bub--bub
inside yerself,' says he, 'and then you can stutter as long as you
like without a soul knowin' it. My brother Sam thowt 'a med as well
give it a trial, and he did, and bless 'ee, in a week he could talk as
straightforward as the Prime Minister, and no one 'ud ever know what a
terrible lot of b's and m's and other plaguey letters he swallered.
Try it, sir; say 'Baby mustn't bother mummy' that way ten times every
morning afore breakfast, and 'Pepper-pots and mustard plasters' afore
goin' to bed, and I lay you'll get over it as quick as my brother
Sam. Good-night, sir and miss, and thank 'ee."

"Why _do_ you pretend so?" said Kate, laughing, when the door was
shut.

"My dear Kate, I have stuttered for pleasure and profit ever since I
discovered the efficacy of it at school. When I didn't know my lesson
one day I put on a stammer, and my bub--bub--bubbing, as the farmer
calls it, made the master so uncomfortable that, ever afterwards, at
the first sign of it he passed me over. That's why I'm such a fool
to-day."

"You're incorrigible. Come, it's time to dress for dinner."

The time between dinner and eleven passed all too slowly. Mrs. Smith
and Barracombe played cribbage; Kate was restless, opening a book,
laying it down, touching the piano, going to the window and peering
out into the dark.

"Why are you so restless to-night, Kate?" asked her mother. "One would
think that Charley had been away for months instead of a week."

"Ah, but you see, Mother, he hasn't--"

"Hasn't what--Fifteen two, fifteen four--Well, Kate?"

"Has never been quite so late home on his last night of leave, has he,
Mother?"

"That is true--one for his nob. I really think they ought to make him
a captain, for he seems to be an exceedingly useful officer. He went
away last Thursday, as I understood, on some business connected with a
wreck. I do hope none of the poor men were drowned. I often think of
my husband, Mr. Barracombe, on the other side of the world, going
about among those dreadful coral reefs, and I wish he would retire and
live safely at home. I could never understand what he finds
interesting in bits of stone and things of that sort, but of course he
is a very distinguished man."

So the good lady prattled on, placidly unconscious of her nearness to
the border-line between comedy and tragedy.

The clock struck eleven.

"Thank you, Mr. Barracombe; I have enjoyed the game," said Mrs. Smith.
"Charley will soon be here."

"Let us go to the door," said Kate. "Perhaps we shall hear him."

"Mr. Barracombe will go with you, Kate; I am a little afraid of the
night air. Wrap yourself up."

The two went to the conservatory door, overlooking the park. The sky
was clear, the air was still; not a sound was to be heard. Every now
and then a broad flash of light fleetingly illuminated the sky; it was
no doubt the searchlight at Spithead.

"I wish he would come," said Kate. "It would be terrible if anything
went wrong at the very last. How far is it across the Atlantic?"

"It's three thousand five hundred miles to Liverpool from New York,
and rather more from Toronto; a ticklish journey, with no chance of
landing till he gets to Ireland."

"It makes me shudder to think of him crossing the sea in that frail
machine."

"People shuddered at the first railway train, speed ten miles an hour;
now we grumble at fifty. In a few years we shall have an aerial
Marathon, with the circumference of the globe for the course."

"Hark! What is that?"

"The rumble of a train," said Barracombe, after a moment's silence.
"Shall we walk down to the sheds? There's a clear view from there,
without trees; we could see the aeroplane a long way off, though
probably we should hear it first."

They went on, remained at the sheds for some minutes, scanning the
sky, then retraced their steps. A quarter-past eleven struck. Kate
grew more and more anxious, and Barracombe found it more and more
difficult to talk unconcernedly. They returned to the house, and
entering through the conservatory, discovered Mrs. Smith asleep in her
chair. Barracombe noiselessly put some coal on the fire, and they
stole out again.

Half-past eleven.

"Don't you think you had better go to bed, Kate?"

"I couldn't sleep if I did, Billy. I couldn't even lie still. Oh, how
helpless one feels! Charley may be drowning, and we don't know it, and
can't do anything to help."

"Pull yourself together, Kate. I am sure he is all right. He probably
started later than he intended. You may be sure he wouldn't start
unless the engine was in thorough good order. Let us go in and play
patience."

"No, no; I must move. Let us walk down the road."

Barracombe was more perturbed than he would admit. It was unlike Smith
to miscalculate. His telegram was probably sent off at the moment of
starting, or even after he had started, from Toronto. If the engine
had worked at all, it would work at full speed, so that the loss of
time on the journey implied either contrary winds, a mistaken course,
or a serious mishap. Kate was so little in the mood for talking that
Barracombe in responsive silence could toss the various probabilities
about in his mind until he felt a nervous excitability that annoyed
him.

They walked up and down the silent road. The church clock struck a
quarter to twelve. The minutes dragged until it was again heard. A
little after twelve they stopped short at the same moment; Kate
grasped Barracombe's arm.

"Listen!" she said.

A faint sound, like the murmur of the wind, but becoming louder with
extraordinary rapidity.

"Oh, Billy!" cried the girl. "Run; he'll be at the sheds first."

She caught his hand and tugged him towards the park gate, a hundred
yards distant.

"My dear Kate!" he protested; "I'm not so young as I was. _Let_ him be
there first, confound him!"

But he ran all the same. The engine was roaring overhead,
_fortissimo_; looking up, the two panting runners saw the flashlight.
A sudden silence, as when the word _tacet_ in an orchestral score
hushes to silence bassoons and horns, drums and cymbals, all the
instruments that but a moment before were convulsing the air with
myriad waves of sound.

"He's gliding!" cried Kate, standing breathless at the door of the
shed. The machine descended silently and rested on the smooth level
sward. Kate darted forward.

"Oh, Charley!" she cried; "you've come!"



CHAPTER XVIII

THE LAST LAP


"Rather late, ain't you!" said Barracombe, as Smith jumped from the
aeroplane.

"Hallo, Sis. Hallo, old man!" cried Smith. "We've done it; seven days,
to the minute!"

Kate flew into his arms: only next day did she discover the ruin of
her dress.

"I've a voice like a corncake," said Smith, disengaging himself. "Glad
to see you, Billy."

"You're a wonder! But, God bless me! you look awfully done up. You
look positively ill. Come up to the house at once; we don't want you
crocked."

"Come on, Roddy," said Smith hoarsely. "You'll stay with us to-night.
Leave the machine for once. You see, Billy, I have to rejoin at nine
to-morrow--to-morrow, I say; I mean this morning. That gives me nine
hours, and as I haven't been to bed for a week I want seven good solid
hours sleep."

"But really, Charley, you don't look fit to rejoin," said Kate. "Your
cheeks are dreadfully thin, and your voice is nearly gone."

"Well, of course, I'm dead tired; feel all to pieces, in fact. But all
I want is sleep."

"And a medical certificate," put in Barracombe. "I've known a fellow
get two months' leave for what he called a strained heart. Strained it
to some purpose, for he got married before his leave was up. We'll get
you a certificate--a doctor's, not a parson's."

"I don't mind if you do, after I've rejoined; but I must show up
without fail at nine a.m. I'm later than I meant to be. Got snowed up
at St. John's."

"You didn't come straight from Toronto, then!"

"No. Didn't care to risk it. Besides, it would have meant eighteen
hours in the air at a stretch. I don't think Roddy and I could have
stood that. I took St. John's--in Newfoundland, Kate--on the way."

"But I thought Newfoundland was near the North Pole."

"A common mistake. St. John's is considerably southward of our
latitude. But they've had a cold snap there lately, and we came down
in a snowdrift and had to be dug out. We had an easy flight across the
Atlantic; the engine has behaved splendidly all through, thanks to
Roddy. But I'm glad to be home; by Jove, I am!"

This conversation passed as they walked up to the house. Mrs. Smith
had been wakened by the noise of the engine, and stood just within the
door to welcome her son. She, too, was struck by his haggard
appearance, and declared she must send for the doctor.

"Why, Mother, you're not going to coddle me at my age," he said. "You
ought to be in bed. Off you go: I shall be all right in the morning. I
shall have something to tell you then. Breakfast at eight sharp, by
the way; or I shan't get to Portsmouth in time."

"Very well, my dear. Simmons is up, keeping some food warm for you. I
will tell him. Goodnight."

"I've such loads to tell you," said Smith, when she had gone; "but I'm
afraid it must wait. By the way, Kate, I suppose nothing of importance
has come for me?"

"A few letters, mostly from the people you disappointed, I suspect.
I'll fetch them."

When she returned, Smith immediately noticed a long official envelope
in the bundle. He tore it open.

"Great Scott!" he cried. "An order to rejoin on Wednesday without
fail. That's a nasty whack."

"Any explanation?" asked Barracombe.

"Not a word. Some sudden whimsy of the admiral's, I suppose. Have you
got yesterday's paper, Kate?"

"I remember now," cried Kate. "How silly of me to forget it! The
_Implacable_ broke down, and your ship was ordered to replace her."

"Just my luck!" exclaimed Smith gloomily. "Last time I was late the
ship was going shooting. Now I shall miss her altogether when she's at
manoeuvres. Captain Bolitho will put me down as a hopeless rotter."

"What nonsense, Charley! You had seven days left, and you're not bound
to be within call at a moment's notice. I'm very glad the ship has
left Portsmouth, for now you can't rejoin, and you'll have time to
rest."

"I'm not so sure, Kate," he cried, suddenly sitting up, and scanning
the paper she had brought. "Where's the fleet? Ah! Irish coast. I'll
rejoin, as sure as I'm alive. You see, I'm due at nine. I'm not
physically incapable, and in the aeroplane I can easily do it if I can
find the squadron. The _Implacable_ was with the Blue fleet, operating
from Bear Haven, I see. It's worth trying, anyhow."

"Magnificent, but absurd," said Barracombe. "You won't find them,
either."

"A fiver that I will."

"No, thanks. By the way, you owe me a fiver."

"How's that?"

"Look at this."

He handed Smith Farmer Barton's receipted bill, and related what had
happened in the evening.

Smith laughed.

"I'd forgotten him; but his bill is no doubt among this batch. To come
back to the point. I am serious. I mean to rejoin my ship at nine. To
give myself plenty of time I'll start at six. It's now past twelve;
I'll set my alarm clock for six. I'm sorry for Roddy, I'm afraid, he
must clean the engine. D'you mind finding him?--Ah! here he is, and
Simmons with soup. Thank you, Simmons. Sorry to keep you up so late."

"I'm glad to see you back safe and sound, sir," said the man
respectfully.

Smith shot a glance at Rodier, but the look of surprise on the
Frenchman's face showed that he, at any rate, had not been talking.
Kate's expression proved that she was equally surprised.

"And I hope the Master and Mr. Tom are as well as could be expected,
sir," added Simmons.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, sir, I knew the Master had met with a accident--"

"But I cut the paragraph out of the paper," cried Kate.

"Yes, miss, that's what made me go and buy one. I assure you I haven't
said a word to a soul, miss, guessing as you wanted it kep' from the
Mistress, and you can't trust female maids."

"But how did you know I had gone out to the Solomons?" asked Smith.

"'Twas a bit in the _Times_ first put me on the scent, sir, about a
sensation in Constantinople about two daring and intrepid airmen that
came down there sudden-like and went away in a jiff. No names were
named, sir, but I guessed it was you and Mr. Rodier."

"Johnson had discretion, at any rate," murmured Smith. "Well!"

"Next day there was a bit about two airmen coming down at some place
in India, sir. Putting two and two together--"

"I see. No names again?"

"No, sir, not till to-night."

"To-night, eh?"

"Yes, sir. There's a bit in the _Evening News_ to-night, not strictly
true, sir. I've got it here."

He drew the paper from his pocket, and pointed to the following
paragraph--

      The mysterious airmen whose doings have been reported at
      intervals during the last few days have now appeared at San
      Francisco. One of them is said to be a Lieutenant
      Thistleton Smith, who, according to our correspondent,
      explained that he has a bet of £10,000 with a well-known
      sporting nobleman that he will circle the globe in a
      fortnight. The general opinion in San Francisco is that
      these sporadic appearances of airmen in far-distant spots
      are part of a cleverly devised scheme of world-wide
      advertisement, engineered by a Chicago pork-packing firm
      who have more than once displayed considerable ingenuity in
      pushing their products.

There was general laughter when Smith read this paragraph aloud.
Rodier alone was solemn.

"They think we boom pigs!" he cried indignantly. "Pigs themselves."

"Well, Roddy, truth will out," said Smith. "I'm sorry to keep you up,
by the way, but I shall have to leave at six o'clock. Would you mind
running down to the shed and--cleaning the engine?"

"Mon Dieu! I do nothing for a week but clean the engine."

"Yes, poor chap, but you shall have a rest after this. Go to bed when
you've got things shipshape; I shall go alone; only about four hundred
miles this time."

"You really mean it, then?" said Barracombe.

"Decidedly. If you knew Captain Bolitho you would see that there's no
help for it."

"Well, then, the sooner you eat your supper and get between the sheets
the better. I'll tuck you up."

"Tuck in and tuck up. Very well."

"Your bath shall be ready at six, sir," said Simmons.

A few minutes after six o'clock, Smith made his ascent, his departure
being witnessed by his sister and Barracombe and the whole domestic
staff. He flew rapidly over Hampshire, Dorset, Devon; crossed the
Bristol Channel, and made a bee-line for Bear Haven at the entrance to
Bantry Bay. Soon after eight he descried a number of dull grey specks
strung like beads on the western horizon. They must be one or other of
the opposing fleets, either the Reds or the Blues; but which? He must
go and see. Altering his course a point or two, in a few minutes he
was running down the line of warships, which were steaming line ahead,
apparently in the direction of Bear Haven. At a glance he recognized
the _Thunderbolt_, notoriously the lame duck of the Reds, lagging
three or four miles behind the rest. Smith slowed down to quarter
speed as he passed the leading ships, and a few blank shots were fired
at him for form's sake, for the guns were incapable of an inclination
that would be dangerous to him at his height of 3,000 feet, even if
they were throwing live shell.

He drew clear of the squadron, and was about to put his engine at full
speed again when an aeroplane shot up from the deck of the flagship
and started in pursuit, followed at a short interval by a second
aeroplane from a vessel some distance down the line. Smith smiled to
himself. From what he knew of the service aeroplanes, the _Puck_, as
he had now named his vessel, was in no danger of being overtaken; but
if the airmen of the Red fleet wanted a run, he was not the man to
baulk them. In a few minutes the pursuers began to close in; he
increased the speed to eighty miles; still they gained on him. Another
notch in the regulator increased his speed to a hundred miles an hour,
at which he felt that he should be able to hold his own. He found,
however, that one of the aeroplanes was still gaining, and it was not
until he had increased his speed another twenty miles that the _Puck_
began to draw away.

"Now to business," Smith said to himself.

Paying no more attention to the pursuers, except by a glance to assure
himself that, though hopelessly outstripped, they were still following
him, he searched the horizon ahead for signs of the Blue fleet. The
rugged coast of Cork county had been for some time in sight, and as
Smith was well acquainted with it from experience in former
manoeuvres, he was able to steer straight for Bear Haven as soon as
the landmarks were distinguishable. It was more than half-an-hour
after sighting the Red fleet when he flew over Bantry Bay to the
harbour. Except for a number of colliers it was empty.

Smith had already decided on his course of action if he should find
that the fleet had put to sea. He would adopt the tactics that had
succeeded so well in Ysabel Island, searching, not the land this time,
but the sea, fanwise, while his fuel lasted. The position of the
colliers seemed to indicate that they had only recently been engaged
in coaling, so that in all probability the fleet had left that morning
and was not far away. Probably, too, it was in the open Atlantic, and
not sheltering in any of the innumerable inlets of the western coast.
He steered due west, noticing as he did so that the pursuers were
still doggedly on his trail, and had gained considerably while he had
been investigating the harbour.

He looked at his watch. It was twenty-five minutes to nine. He would
reach his ship in time if it were not more than eighty-five miles
distant, supposing that it was going in the same direction, or perhaps
a hundred and ten if it were coming towards him. Rising to the height
of 4,000 feet, he searched the sea in all directions through his
binocular. He noticed with amusement that one of the pursuing
aeroplanes had come down on Mizzen Head; the other was still labouring
after him. There were fishing smacks here and there near the coast,
looking like moths. Far to the left he saw a liner pouring its black
smoke into the air; it might have been a cockroach in widow's weeds.
And there, far in the west, what is that? Smoke, or a cloud? In two
minutes there is no longer any doubt; in three minutes the shapes of a
squadron of battleships can be clearly seen; in five minutes Smith's
practised eyes, now that he has descended, can distinguish the
_Imperturbable_, flying the admiral's flag, among what to a landsman
would appear to be a dozen exactly similar vessels. Glancing back, he
sees that the Red Scout has changed her course, and is already only a
speck in the southern sky.

It was precisely ten minutes to nine by Smith's watch when the _Puck_,
literally received with open arms by two-score sturdy tars, alighted
on the deck of the _Imperturbable_.

"Come aboard, sir," said Smith cheerfully to his captain.

"So I see," was the laconic reply.

"Sorry I was away, sir, when your recall arrived--in the South
Pacific."

"In the--what?"

"The South Pacific, sir, or thereabouts."

"Don't you think, Mr. Smith, you are going a little too far?" said the
captain sternly.

"Well, sir," replied Smith naïvely, "it _was_ a goodish distance. But
I have managed to get back within my leave. Ten minutes to spare,
sir."

Captain Bolitho gasped.

"Do you mean to tell me, seriously, you have been to the South
Pacific?"

"Certainly, sir. I left home about midnight last Thursday, and got
back not quite nine hours ago. Went to the Solomon Islands _viâ_
Penang and Port Darwin, and come home _viâ_ Samoa and 'Frisco."

"But--but--then you have been _round the world_, sir--in _how_ long?"

"Seven days, sir. My leave expires at nine this morning."

Mechanically, like a man in a dream, the captain took out his watch.

"Twenty-five minutes past eight," he said. "You needn't have hurried
yourself. You've another half-hour by Irish time. Perhaps you'd like
to fill it up by a trip round Ireland," he added dryly.

Smith smiled. The first lieutenant broke in--

"Look-out reports, sir, another aeroplane was sighted behind Mr.
Smith's."

The admiral, who had been an amused auditor of the colloquy between
Captain Bolitho and his lieutenant, was a man of intuitions.

"There are no aeroplanes on this coast except the two with the Reds,"
he said. "Mr. Smith, you have now reported yourself for duty. Our
single aeroplane has broken down; we must impress yours for public
service. I will not ask you what you have seen; but you will at once
follow the strange aeroplane, and endeavour to find out the position
and course of the enemy's fleet."

In less than a minute Smith was in the air; in ten minutes he had
overtaken the Red aeroplane, flying high as he approached, and
hovering over his late pursuer, who made vain efforts to rise above
him. The immense engine power of the _Puck_ gave her as great an
advantage over her rival in soaring as in horizontal speed. By the
rules of the manoeuvres the Red aeroplane was out of action as soon as
the _Puck_ rose vertically above her. Wasting no further time, Smith
continued his course, and in half-an-hour sighted the Red squadron,
noted its strength and course, and in another half-hour was back on
the deck of the _Imperturbable_.

"I found the enemy, sir, about ninety miles S.S.E., eight battleships
and about a dozen scouts. Their course was west."

The admiral made a rapid calculation.

"By Jove!" he said, "they will catch Pomeroy before we join him. But
there's time yet. We can warn Pomeroy to meet us twenty miles
north-east of the spot previously arranged. I think, Captain Bolitho,
we may perhaps overlook Mr. Smith's little irregularity in joining if
he gives us a full account of his--er--experiences, after dinner
to-night."

"And the Reds, sir?"

"Before dinner, one or the other of us will be out of action. Whether
Reds or Blues, we shall have leisure to hear how Mr. Smith went round
the world in seven days."



                              POSTSCRIPT


The following extracts from the Press, neatly pasted in Kate Smith's
scrap book, have a certain historical and romantic interest for the
persons concerned, directly or indirectly, in the incidents of the
foregoing narrative.

      (_From Our Own Correspondent_.)

      CONSTANTINOPLE, Friday.

      The appearance of an aeroplane this morning caused a
      considerable sensation. It descended in the old archery
      ground of the Sultans, to the terror of the juvenile
      population that now uses the Ok Meidan as a common
      playground. It contained two passengers, and though no
      authentic information is obtainable, it is rumored that the
      daring and intrepid airmen have made a rapid flight from
      Berlin, and are proceeding to Persia on a secret mission
      connected with the Bagdad railway.


      (_From Our Own Correspondent_.)

      BOMBAY, Monday.

      The natives of the Mekran coast are again showing signs of
      insubordination. The gunboat _Penguin_ has just come into
      harbour, and her commander, Captain Durward, reports that
      on Saturday he discovered a crowd of Baluchis in the act of
      smuggling arms into an apparently innocent fishing-village.
      He landed a party of bluejackets half a mile east of the
      village, and swooped upon it simultaneously with an attack
      from the sea. The villagers scattered in all directions,
      but the ring-leaders were captured, together with a large
      number of rifles and ammunition. The coup reflects the
      greatest credit on this able and energetic officer.

      _Later_.

      The craze for aviation has at last broken out in India. Two
      airmen made a sudden appearance at Karachi on Saturday, and
      departed after a brief stay for the interior. They are said
      to be in the employment of the Nizam of Hyderabad, who is
      spending vast sums on his latest hobby.


      BRISBANE, Monday.

      News has just arrived by wireless from the gunboat
      _Frobisher_, off Ysabel Island, that the crew of the
      survey-vessel _Albatross_, which was wrecked there a
      fortnight ago, are safe. The party, it will be remembered,
      includes the famous geologist, Dr. Thesiger Smith. The
      message is very brief, and a reference it makes to an
      aeroplane is thought to be an error.--REUTER.


      SINGAPORE, Wednesday.

      The Penang correspondent of the _Free Press_
      telegraphs--"The barque _Elizabeth_ put in to-day in tow of
      a steamtug of this port, and reported an extraordinary
      incident in mid-ocean. She was dismasted a fortnight ago in
      a cyclone south of the Andamans, and while drifting, fire
      broke out in the forehold, and was kept under with the
      greatest difficulty. Her plight was discovered and reported
      here by the driver of an aeroplane who was making a flight
      in the neighbourhood, and the tug was immediately sent to
      her assistance. Conflicting rumours are prevalent as to the
      identity of the aviator in question; Captain Bunce, of the
      _Elizabeth_, insists that the airman's name was Smith, but
      his account is rather confused, and the most generally
      accepted opinion is that he is an officer of the German
      navy, which has recently adopted the aeroplane for scouting
      purposes. On no other supposition can his presence so far
      from land be accounted for. Owing to the facts that he
      arrived in the night of Sunday and departed immediately, no
      trustworthy information is obtainable."--REUTER.


      _(From Our Own Correspondent_.)

      TORONTO, Wednesday.

      The later editions of the _Sphere_ contain a detailed
      account of the extraordinary world-flight accomplished by
      Lieutenant Thesiger Smith of the British navy, which sets
      at rest the rumours and speculations of the past week.
      Lieutenant Smith left London last Friday at 12.30 a.m.
      (Greenwich time), and arrived here this afternoon,
      descending on the golf links on Scarborough Bluffs. I will
      wire full particulars later.


      _(From Our Own Correspondent_.)

      PARIS, Monday.

      The Cross of the Legion of Honour was to-day presented by
      the President of the Republic to M. Laurent Rodier, who
      accompanied your Lieutenant Thesiger Smith last month on
      his adventurous flight around the world. It is understood
      that the French Government has taken up the remarkable
      invention due to M. Rodier and his English confrère, and
      has offered M. Rodier the headship of a new State
      aeronautical department.


      THE NEGLECT OF GENIUS.

      To the Editor of the _Spectator_.

      SIR,--The paragraph in the _Times_ of Monday relating to
      the honour awarded to M. Rodier, suggests sad reflections
      to a patriotic Englishman. We have not as yet heard that
      Lieutenant Smith's wonderful achievement has been in any
      way recognized by our government. Abroad, genius is
      fostered: here, it is slighted. How long shall such things
      be?--I am, Sir, etc.,

      PRO BONO PUBLICO.


      [We have repeatedly declared our hatred of Protection in
      every shape and form, so that we shall not be misunderstood
      when we say that we cordially endorse our correspondent's
      complaint. If the present Government, which in general has
      our hearty support, devoted as much energy to the
      cultivation of British Genius as it now devotes to the
      spoon-feeding of British Industry, we should have less
      reason to fear the growing menace of Socialism.--ED.
      _Spectator_.]


      The King has been pleased to confer the honour of I
      knighthood on Lieutenant Charles Thesiger Smith, R.N.


      THESIGER-SMITH--BUNCE.--On July 12th, at St. George's,
      Hanover Square, by the Rev. Canon Montague, uncle of the
      bridegroom, Sir Charles Thesiger Smith, Captain R.N., elder
      son of Dr. Thesiger Smith, M.A., F.R.S., to Margaret, only
      daughter of the late John Bunce, master mariner.

      AN AIRMAN'S WEDDING.

      An interesting announcement in another column recalls a
      romance of the air and sea. Sir Charles Thesiger Smith,
      whose famous flight round the world last year has not yet
      been repeated, was yesterday married to Miss Margaret
      Bunce, the lady whom he rescued in mid-ocean from a burning
      vessel, and carried with him to safety. Many notable people
      attended to witness the ceremony, and the presents include
      a gold scarf-pin in the shape of an aeroplane, the gift of
      the King.





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