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´╗┐Title: Stand By - The Story of a Boy's Achievement in Radio
Author: McAlister, Hugh
Language: English
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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 "Stand By - The Story of a Boy's Achievement in Radio" ***

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[Illustration: Shoulders squared, head up, young Renaud stood beneath
his wireless aerial.]

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                STAND BY

                             The Story of a
                       Boy's Achievement in Radio

                                  _by_

                             HUGH MCALISTER

                              _Author of_

                 "A VIKING OF THE SKY," "FLAMING RIVER"
                  "STEVE HOLWORTH OF THE OLDHAM WORKS"
                    "THE FLIGHT OF THE SILVER SHIP"
                      "CONQUEROR OF THE HIGHROAD"

                    THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING COMPANY

                          AKRON, OHIO   NEW YORK

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                STAND BY

                           Copyright, MCMXXX
                 _by_ The Saalfield Publishing Company
                Printed in the United States of America

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                CONTENTS

                        I THE CRYSTAL WHEEL
                       II STRANGE EXPERIMENTS
                      III HOT WIRES
                       IV THE GANG TAKES A HAND
                        V TAPS
                       VI AMAZING THINGS
                      VII HARNESSING LIGHTNING POWER
                     VIII COMPRESSED POWER
                       IX SARGON SOUND
                        X A PENCIL LINE
                       XI A MYSTERIOUS CALL
                      XII THE NARDAK
                     XIII WITHIN THE SILVERY HULL
                      XIV DANGER AHEAD
                       XV SHAGUN
                      XVI QUEST FOR CAMP
                     XVII BESIEGED
                    XVIII PROSPECTING
                      XIX IN THE GONDOLA
                       XX F-O-Y-N
                      XXI KILLERS OF THE ARCTIC
                     XXII HOPE AND DESPAIR
                    XXIII FIGHTING THROUGH
                     XXIV ON TO GLORY
                      XXV FROM THE DESERT OF ICE

------------------------------------------------------------------------

                                Stand By


                               CHAPTER I

                           THE CRYSTAL WHEEL


There it stood--a great glass wheel, half submerged in the dusty clutter
of an old outhouse filled with broken chairs, moth-eaten strips of
carpet, and a tangle of ancient harness. Lee Renaud, spider webs draping
his black hair and the dust of ages prickling at his nose, persisted in
his efforts to clear this strange mechanism of its weight of junk.

At last it was freed, a three-foot circular sheet of glass mounted on a
framework of brass and wood. Held against the wheel by slips of wood
were pads of some kind of fur, now worn to a few stray hairs and bits of
hide. The circle of glass turned on an axis of wood which passed through
its center, and attached to this was a series of cogwheels and a handle
for cranking the whole affair--at considerable speed, it appeared.

Lee Renaud backed off a bit as he stared at the thing. Glittering in the
dim sunlight that filtered into the storage shed, it looked strange,
almost sinister.

But then the boy had found everything here at King's Cove strange and
outlandish. King's Cove! It sounded rather elegant. Instead, it
consisted of a handful of shacks that housed a little village of farming
and fishing folk, an ignorant people given over to poverty and
superstition. King's Cove had been aristocratic in its past. A fringe of
rotting, semi-roofless "big houses" up beyond the cove testified to the
long-gone past when a settlement of rich folk had set out great orange
orchards and camphor groves in that strip of South Alabama that touches
the Gulf of Mexico. All had gone well until the historic freeze of 1868
had ruined the tropic fruits and emptied the purses of the settlers.
After that, the population steadily drifted away from King's Cove.
Squatters came in to fish and to scratch the soil for a living.

Of all the old-timers only Gem Renaud remained. He loved the semi-tropic
climate, the great oaks swathed in Spanish moss, the bit of sea that
indented his land. He preferred remaining in poverty to moving elsewhere
and beginning life over again. So he lived on in a white-columned old
house that year by year got more leaky and more warped.

Then Gem Renaud had slipped and injured his leg. And Lee Renaud had been
sent down by his family to look after his Great-uncle Gem.

Lee's home was in Shelton, a pleasant and progressive town. Lee's mother
was a widow. Her two older boys were already at work. This vacation, Lee
had counted on his first steady job, work at a garage. But because he
was not already working and could be spared most easily, the lot had
fallen on him to be sent down to King's Cove.

And here at King's Cove the boy felt that he had stepped back into the
past a hundred years or more--the queer ignorant villagers; no
electricity, only candles and little old kerosene lamps; no automobiles,
only wagons drawn by lazy, lanky mules or by slow oxen; homemade boats
on the bay and bayou; Uncle Gem's great tumble-down old house where
Pompey, the negro that cooked for him, lighted homemade candles in
silver candlesticks and served meager meals of corn pone and peas in
china that had come from France three-quarters of a century ago.

When Lee went down to the shack of a country store for meal or kerosene,
the village loafers looked "offishly" at the tall boy with close-clipped
black hair, knickers, and sport cap usually swinging in his hand. Lem
Hicks, the storekeeper's boy, Tony Zita, one of the fishing folk, and
other lanky youths, barefooted and in faded overalls, seemed to have no
particular interest in life save to lounge on boxes in front of the
store and spit tobacco juice into the dust. Sometimes when Lee passed
the line of loafers, he caught remarks muttered behind his
back--"Stuck-up! Thinks he's citified, ain't he!" Once when Lee got
home, he found mud spattered on his "store-bought" clothes--and he
hadn't remembered stepping in a puddle either!

Uncle Gem was a queer figure himself. The tall, stooped old man with his
sideburns, his chin-whiskers, his long-tailed coat of faded plum color,
was a prisoner of his chair now.

As Lee, all dusty and cobwebby, burst in from the storage room, his
questions about the strange crystal wheel woke a gleam of excitement in
the old man's eyes.

"The glass wheel--you never saw anything like it before, eh?" Uncle
Gem's long fingers tapped the chair arm. "Gadzooks! That was our
old-time 'lightning maker.' My brothers and I had a tutor, one Master
Lloyd, a Welshman, and a very conscientious, thorough little man. He
used this mechanism to prove to us boys that electricity, or 'lightning
power,' as he dubbed it, could be tapped by mankind."

"And did he--could he?"

Great-uncle Gem nodded emphatically.

Lee Renaud's own black eyes lighted with excitement, too. Electricity!
Why, he was so used to it that he had always just taken it for
granted--electricity for lights, cars, telephones. And yet here was a
man in whose childhood it had been a mere theory, a something to be
gingerly toyed with.

But that old wheel must hold power--or rather man's groping after power.

"Wonder if I could make electricity with it?" Lee was thinking aloud.

"Umph, of course, if there's enough left of the old mechanism to hitch
it up right. I could show you--ouch! Confound that leg!" In his interest
in electricity, the old man had forgotten his injury and had tried to
put his foot to the floor.

"Wait, wait, Uncle Gem! Pompey and I can carry you, chair and all."

The darky and Lee finally did achieve getting Mr. Renaud down the steps
and out to the dusty, cluttered storehouse. Then Pompey departed for his
kitchen, muttering under his breath, "Glad to get away. Pomp don't mix
in with no glass wheel and trying to conjure lightning down out of the
sky."

"Pomp's not very progressive," old Gem Renaud smiled wryly. "Lots of
other folks around here too that are superstitious about this business
of trying to get electricity out of the air with a piece of glass."

For the rest of that day and for other days to come, the work of
renovating the strange old wheel went forward. There was more to be done
than one might think for, and so little with which to do the repairing.
Propped in his chair, old Gem directed, and Lee, scraping up such crude
material as he could in the cast-off junk about the place, tried to
carry out his orders.

A brass tube, set in a standard of glass and branching forward so that
its two arms nearly touched the crystal plate, had once been set with
rows of sharp wires like the teeth of a comb. Most of these were missing
now, and Lee spent the better part of one day resetting the empty
sockets with metal points patiently hacked from a bit of old barbed wire
fencing.

Next, the moth-eaten pads of fur must be replaced.

"Glass and fur," puzzled Lee. "That's a strange combination."

Gem Renaud tugged at his chin-whisker while his mind went searching back
into the past. "That book of science, we studied as boys, explains it,
if I can just remember. It was something about 'a portion of fair glass
well rubbed with silk or fur or leather begets this electrica.'"

"Why, there seem to be all kinds of rubbers or exciters. I reckon
though, since fur was used on this contraption at first, fur is what we
better use again." Lee Renaud got up and stretched his legs, then went
outside.

He had remembered seeing some squirrel skins tacked to old Pomp's cabin
door. And now he was going forth to do some bargaining.

"Hey, Pompey," the boy held out his best silk necktie, "how about
trading me those skins for this?"

The bright silk was most beguiling. The negro hesitated a moment, then
capitulated.

"Yas, sir, I'd sho like to swap. I--I reckon I might's well trade. You
take along them skins, but please, sir, don't connect me in no way with
any glass wheel conjuring you might be using those squirrel pelts for."

Restraining his laughter, Lee solemnly agreed and soon departed,
carrying four good pelts with him. He cut out good-sized pieces of the
fur and nailed these on the four blocks of wood that had held the
original fur pads. Then he fixed the blocks back in their places on the
frame so that the revolving glass would brush between the two pairs of
pads, one pair at the top, and one pair at the bottom.

Cogwheels had to be geared up and a new handle made to replace the old
one that had rotted. It was dusk of day before Lee Renaud was ready to
test out the ancient "lightning maker." Great-uncle Gem sat erect and
eager in his chair. Pompey stood in a far corner, holding a candle for
light, rolling his eyes in something of a fright, but sticking by to see
after Marse Gem, no matter what happened.

Lee's heart half smothered him with its excited pounding.

Creak of rusty cogs, whirl of the wheel, fast, faster!

All in a tremble, young Renaud brought his knuckle near to the row of
metal points set so close to the revolving disc. His hand was still a
space from the metal when with a sharp crackle a spark leaped across.

He had done it! He was making electricity--like those old experimenters!
Lee burst into a wild shout.

With a sudden booming detonation, a gunshot roared across the little
room, dwarfing every other sound. So close it was that Lee Renaud felt a
bullet almost scorch across his face, and heard it thud viciously
against a wall. Pomp's candle clattered to the floor, went out. There
came a sound as though Great-uncle Gem had slumped across his chair.

Outside, stealthy footsteps made off into the darkness.



                               CHAPTER II

                          STRANGE EXPERIMENTS


The shot that rang out in the night was echoed by a yell from Lee, who
dropped in a huddle beside the glass wheel. For a moment he crouched
there, fighting against a wild desire to crawl back under the clutter of
rubbish, and hide. What did it all mean? In the dark silence beyond the
open window, what manner of fiend was waiting to shoot down innocent
people?

But a muttering and moaning and sounds of difficult breathing came to
him from other parts of the room. Uncle Gem, old Pomp, both of them
might be wounded, dying! He couldn't crouch here like a craven and leave
them to their fate. Lee forced himself to action. He began to crawl
across the room to where he knew there were some matches and a candle.
Fumbling around in the dark, he at last got the candle lighted, stood up
and looked about him.

Pompey, face downwards upon the floor, was moaning loudly, "Lordy,
Lordy, the lightning of the air done struck us, like I knowed it
would--"

"Lightning nothing! Don't you know a gunshot when you hear one?" burst
from Lee. "If you're not hurt yourself, come help me quick with Uncle
Gem--he looks like he's dead!"

"Oh, Marse Gem, is you kilt?" Pomp, who had suffered no injury save
fright, rolled to his feet and came on the run, his kindly old black
face all distorted with grief.

Indeed Gem Renaud did look like one dead. He hung slumped sideways, half
fallen out of his chair. His drawn face was ashen, his hands limp and
cold.

But, though Lee searched frantically, he could find no sign of gunshot
wound or oozing blood. Together he and Pompey laid the long figure out
at ease on the floor, sponged the face with a wet handkerchief, and
rubbed hands and wrists. At last old Gem Renaud opened his eyelids with
a slow, tired movement. Then he motioned Lee to prop him up into sitting
position.

"Just fainted--heart not so good! This shooting--must have been that old
fool, Johnny Poolak--taking another shot at the glass wheel--"

"Sh-shooting at the wheel?" stammered Lee. "What for?"

"What for? For superstition mostly," old Gem Renaud's black eyes snapped
angrily, "and some for meanness, too!"

As Great-uncle Gem regained his strength, he told about this Poolak, the
half-wit, full of fool religions and imbued with all the superstitions
that ignorant people hold to. The rest of the uneducated squatters here
in the village were about on this level too. Once, long ago, when Renaud
had been experimenting with his crude electrical devices, a cyclone
swept the fringes of the town. Immediately the ignorant villagers
coupled the crystal wheel with the disaster, and Poolak, bent on
destroying the source of evil, took a shot at the "lightning maker."

"Evidently," went on Gem Renaud, "old Poolak has noted your work out
here and thinks you're all set to bring on another cyclone and so has
taken another shot at the contraption. If you'll dig out the bullet
that's imbedded in the wall beyond our wheel of glass, I'll wager that
you'll find it's a silver bullet. Silver is the only weapon to down
witchcraft according to all the old superstitions, you know."

That night, before he went to bed, Lee slipped down to the old storage
room. There, by the light of a candle, he pried with his knife blade
into the wall just beyond the crystal wheel. And sure enough, the bullet
that he dug out was not made of lead, but of silver. A rough lump that
old Poolak must have molded for himself, melting down a hard-earned
twenty-five cent piece, most likely! The silver bullet on his palm gave
Lee Renaud a queer sensation, a feeling that he had stepped very far
back into a past peopled with eerie fears and superstitions.

The next day Lee moved the whole apparatus of the glass wheel into an
unused room on the second floor of the dwelling house. It was safer up
there. A fellow didn't have it hanging over his head that a pious old
ignoramus was liable to shoot up one's affairs again with silver
bullets.

The wheel, with its wooden base and brass tubes, was heavy, so Lee
carried it over piecemeal. This taking it apart and putting it back
together again gave young Renaud a much better knowledge of it than he
had had heretofore. There was the hollow brass prime conductor,
supported on its glass standard and so fixed on its frame that the metal
points set on the ends of its curved out-branching arms nearly touched
the glass plate. Lee knew that in some way the metal points collected
the electricity generated on the glass whirl of the plate and conveyed
this electricity to the hollow brass collector. But there was something
else he needed to know.

"Uncle Gem," he questioned, "why is a little chain hung from the fur
cushions so as to just dangle down against the floor--what's it good
for?"

"Gadzooks, boy! You can ask more questions in a minute than I can answer
in a year." Great-uncle Gem tugged at his militant chin-whisker. "Wish I
could lay hands on Master Lloyd's old schoolbook on the sciences. It
explains lots. Let me see, though, it goes something like this. By the
friction of the whirling glass plate against the fur cushions,
electricity is developed--the glass plate becomes positively
electrified, and the cushions negatively--"

"Positive, negative--positive, negative," muttered Lee Renaud, shaking
his head as if he didn't quite take it all in.

"Be quiet, sir!" ordered Uncle Gem testily. "Now that I've started
remembering this blamed thing, I want to finish my say. Without the
chains, the cushions are insulated, and the quantity of electricity
which they generate is limited, consisting merely of that which the
cushions themselves contain. We conquer this by making the cushions
communicate with the ground, the great reservoir of electricity. To do
this, we merely lay a chain attached to the cushions on the floor or
table. After this connection is made, and the wheel is turned again,
much more electricity is conveyed to the conductor. Now, young man, do
you see?"

"I--I'm much obliged, Uncle Gem. Reckon I took in a little of it." Lee
blinked dazedly and off he went, still muttering under his breath,
"Positive, negative--positive, negative."

That old science book Uncle Gem was always talking about--if he could
only find it, he could learn something. For the rest of the day Lee
poked around in the dim and dusty attic high up under the eaves of the
big house. Now and again he brought down some volume to submit to Uncle
Gem's inspection. But always Gem Renaud shook his head--no, that was not
it, not THE BOOK.

Then at last Lee found it, a great calfskin-bound old volume stored away
at the bottom of a trunk. Even before he carried it to Uncle Gem, he had
a feeling this was the right one. It was so full of strange old
illustrations, it was so ponderous--of a truth, it had to be ponderous
to live up to its name, "Ye Compleat Knowledge of Philosophy and
Sciences."

Gem Renaud's hands shook with excitement as he took hold of the ancient
tome that had played so large a part in his long gone childhood
training.

"Here's a whole education between two covers. Just listen to the index."
Old Renaud began to read, "Astronomy, Catoptrics, Gyroscope, Distance of
Planets, Intensity of Sound, Solar Spectrum--"

"And electricity, there's plenty about that too, isn't there?" Lee
Renaud couldn't help but break in.

"Yes, yes," Gem Renaud agreed with him absently, and went on flipping
through the pages. "How natural they all look, the old illustrations,
the waterwheel, undershot and overshot, the waterchain, the turbine
engine! It seems just yesterday that Master Lloyd, the Welshman, had us
boys all down at the creek building these mechanisms out of canes and
what-not, building them so as they'd really work, to prove to him that
we understood what he was trying to teach us."

"And did you build electrical things too?"

"Why, yes. Master Lloyd sent all the way back to New York to get the
proper materials for us."

Materials from New York! Lee turned away in disappointment. He had been
hoping to experiment some with electricity himself, but what had he out
here to work with?

Later in the day Lee picked up the old book again and plunged into its
strange, stilted dissertation on electricity. He learned that away back
in 1745, von Kleist, a priest in Pomerania, had experimented with a
glass jar half full of water, corked, and a long nail driven through the
cork to reach down into the water. When the old Pomeranian priest
touched this nail head to a frictional machine, he got a "shock" that
made him think the jar was full of devils. And that ended
experimentation for him. But the next year two Hollanders, professors at
Leyden University, carried von Kleist's experiment forward till they
developed the Leyden Jar, a practical method for storing electricity.

To Lee Renaud, stumbling upon all this old knowledge, it seemed that he
himself was just discovering electricity. For most of the fifteen years
of his life, he had merely accepted electricity as an ordinary, everyday
thing. Now the real glory of it smote him, thrilled him, inspired him.
He longed desperately to try out these primitive experiments for
himself. Here on these pages was given the beginning of man's knowledge
of electricity, the beginning of man's struggle to harness this mighty
power into usefulness.

If only he could "grow up" with this marvelous power, understand it,
step by step! A large order, indeed! Especially for a youngster stuck
off in the backwoods.

But anyway, Lee Renaud flung young enthusiasm and will power into this
strange task he was setting for himself.

Already he had the crystal wheel that could make a spark, that could
generate electricity. But unless that electricity could be "stored," it
had no usefulness. So it was up to him to make an electrical condenser.
But of what?

Umph, well, those old fellows in the past had gone right ahead and used
such things as came to hand--and he was going to do the same thing.

Lee studied the chapter on electricity in "Ye Compleat Knowledge of
Philosophy and Sciences" until he could almost say it by heart. Jar of
fair glass, brass rod "compleated" with a knob, wooden stopper, sheets
of substance tinfoil, chain of brass, three coiled springs--these were
the things Lee needed to make the Leyden Jar, which was to be his first
forward step in electricity.

Desperately he ransacked the place for "laboratory material" and finally
gathered together an old metal door knob, an empty fruit jar, a few
links of small chain, some tin cans and bits of wire. It didn't look
very scientific--that pile of junk!

But Lee Renaud set his jaw doggedly, and got down to work. Since he had
no "substance tinfoil," he figured that perhaps pieces of tin from old
tin cans might do. So he slit down a can, and cut it nearly all the way
off from its bottom. The round bottom he patiently trimmed till it would
just slip in through the neck of the jar. By rolling the tin sides
smaller, he managed to push the whole affair down into the jar, where
the released roll of the tin sprung itself out to fit neatly against the
inside surface of the glass. Then the outside had to be "tinned" and Lee
kept trying until he found a can that was a good tight fit when the jar
was pushed down into it.

And there, he had made a start! Instead of tinfoil, the jar was at least
covered in tin in the prescribed manner two-thirds of the way up, inside
and outside.

Instead of "ye brass rod" that the old book called for, he used a length
of wire which he "compleated" with the old brass door knob. He thrust
this wire through a wooden stopper he had whittled to fit the mouth of
the jar. He had no metal springs, but decided to make the contact with
the bit of chain fastened to the end of the wire. When this was thrust
down into the jar, the little chain rested on the tin bottom, which was
still in part connected with the tin side lining.

Lee Renaud had worked terrifically hard at his job, but now that he
stood back to inspect the finished product, it looked more like junk
than ever. It didn't seem humanly possible that such a thing could be an
adjunct to collecting power, to storing the marvel of electricity.

Half-heartedly Lee held the knob of the jar to the metal points set
against the crystal "friction maker." After a few minutes of this, he
grasped the jar in his left hand and experimentally approached his right
thumb towards the knob.

There came a scream and a rattle of glass and tin as the jar was flung
from Lee's hand to smash into a hundred bits on the floor. The boy
leaped high in the air and came down, apparently trying to rub himself
in six places at the same time.



                              CHAPTER III

                               HOT WIRES


Lee's screech and the crashing clatter of glass and tin brought old
Pompey on the run to see what the "devils in the jar" had done now to
Marse Lee.

From the next room sounded the pounding of Uncle Gem's cane as he
thumped the floor to summon someone to tell him what was happening.

Lee hurried to his uncle, looking rather sheepish, and rubbing his elbow
where the "prickles" still tingled.

"No, sir, not hurt; just got kicked a little," he reassured the old man.
"That thing I made looked mighty innocent, but it had power to
it--more'n I thought for."

Lee Renaud's first experiment lay smashed all over the floor, but he
didn't care. He could make another Leyden Jar, for he still had the
shaped pieces of tin, the knob, and the rest of the necessities. In
spite of the smash, he was terrifically thrilled--he had tapped power,
real power that time! He had learned something important too:
electricity was not anything to be played with. It was as dangerous as
it was powerful.

With his next Leyden Jar, Lee went forward more carefully. There was a
contrivance of his own that he wanted to try out this time, too.

And a very crude contrivance it was--nothing more than a length of wire
and two long slivers of a broken window pane.

The boy gave the wire a twist around the outer tin and left one end
free. Then he charged the inner tin negatively at the friction machine,
and the outer tin (wire and all) positively, at the positive pole of the
mechanism.

Next, oh so carefully, gripping the free end of the wire between the two
strips of glass--he didn't crave any more shocks like that first one--he
brought the wire close, and closer up towards the brass knob.

Before he could ever touch wire to knob--Wow! There it came! Snap,
crackle, across the air-gap shot a spark an inch long!

Lee's hands trembled a little as he laid aside his glass pincers. Sure
enough, he had done something this time. That was such lively
electricity he had gotten penned up in the glass jar that it couldn't
wait for any connecting metallic pathway to be made but had to go
leaping across the air-gap.

Power! Power! He was tapping it--and getting a wild excitement out of
the job.

It was all true! True! Just like the old book said!

And the musty, ancient volume was full of queer diagrams and elegantly
stilted descriptions of other strange experiments. As he turned the
pages, Lee Renaud longed to try out more of these things--all of them,
if possible.

"Think of it!" Lee muttered admiringly. "That old fellow, Volta, without
any friction wheel at all, just piled up some metal and wet cloth and
got an electric current! By heck, I want to try that! I want to make a
'Voltaic Pile,' too!"

The makings of the Voltaic Pile sounded simple enough. Just some discs
of iron and copper piled up with circles of wet flannel placed in
between. Volta had connected his iron discs and his copper discs with
two different wires. Next he touched the ends of the two wires together,
and--hecla! He found that electricity began to flow between the copper
and the iron.

But when he started out on the hunt for this material, Lee soon ran
aground. He got some pieces of iron all right, and as for flannel, a
moth-eaten wool shirt in an attic trunk would do for that. But the
copper--there seemed to be none anywhere on the whole Renaud place.

Finally old Pompey came to the rescue.

"I don't know nothing 'bout copper, but you might find it down in Marse
Sargent's junk pile. He's been dead a long time, but he sho must a
throwed away a heap of stuff in his day. Folks been carrying off
what-not-and-everything from that junk pile in the gully for years--and
there's still yet junk left there smothered down in the weeds and the
bushes."

Following Pompey's directions, young Renaud strode along the little
woods path that the old darky had pointed out to him. At first he went
forward whistling gayly, but after a while the spell of the forest laid
its silence upon him. Sometimes the narrow trail wound through the piney
woods where a little breeze soughed mournfully in the tree tops and the
afternoon sun slanted downwards to cast a weaving of shadows upon the
ground. Then again the little path dipped into close glades of live oak
where the long gray moss dripped down from the branches, and where the
sunshine could scarce penetrate to dapple the shadows. It was eerie out
here in the woods, and silent--no, not exactly silent either. Now and
then a bird call drifted on the air. And occasionally there came a
slight crackle of brush. Now Lee heard it off to the side of him, now
directly behind. Was that a stealthy padding, a footstep--was he being
followed?

Time and again the boy whirled around quickly, but never could catch
sign of any movement whatever, or of any hulking form lurking back in
the shadows.

He was being foolish, that was all. He kept telling himself that it was
just the soughing of the pine boughs, the ghostly, shaking curtain of
the long moss that had gotten on his nerves. Best thing for him to do
was to keep his mind on what he had come for, and wind up his business
out here in the woods.

It was all as old Pomp had said. Just beyond the scarred snag of the
lightning-blasted pine, a flat-hewn log lay across the gulch for a
foot-bridge. Then a "tollable piece" on down the gully, where it wound
in close behind what had once been a rich man's house, Lee found a
fascinating tangle of cast-offs partly buried in matted vegetation and
drift sand. One wheel and the metal skeleton of what once must have been
a dashing barouche, debris of broken china and battered kitchen
utensils, rusted springs, a splintered table leg--a little of everything
reposed here!

As Lee dug into the tangle of junk and vines, there came again the
cautious crackle of a twig. Someone was watching him. He was sure of
that. But why--what did it mean?

It was after he had started home that the mystery solved itself somewhat
for him. Lee was stepping along in the dusk, rather jubilant over having
unearthed an old copper pot. Its lack of bottom didn't matter--all he
wanted was copper. And he hoped a bent strip of metal was zinc. Volta
had used zinc in another experiment.

Lee strode forward, full of plans of what he was going to try next. Then
a tingle of fear knocked plans out of his head as the bushes parted and
a hand reached out and grabbed him by the pants leg.

All manner of things flashed through Lee Renaud's mind. Remembering how
loungers at the store had looked their dislike of him, and how Poolak
had carried prejudice further and had taken a shot at his friction-wheel
experimenting, Lee had full reason to tingle with fear at that clutching
hand. Stealthy footsteps had dogged him all up and down these woods, and
now he was being dragged off.

The boy stiffened and tightened his grip on the copper pot. He'd put up
a fight against whatever was happening to him!

Then as the bushes parted more fully and Lee saw the owner of the
clutching hand, he almost dropped the pot in his surprise. A
wizen-faced, shock-headed youngster stood before him, one arm uplifted
as if to shield his face.

"You--you don't look so turrible," said the child. "I bin following you
all evening, and you don't look so harmful. Anyhow, Jimmy Bobb allowed
he wanted to set eyes on you, and I come to take you to him--"

"Jimmy Bobb, who's he? What does he want with me?" queried Lee.

"Jimmy's my older brother, only he ain't near so big as me. He had
infantile para--para something--"

"Paralysis, was it?" put in Lee.

"Yeah, that's what a doctor what saw him one time said it was. But
Johnny Poolak, him that preaches when the spell gets on him, said it
warn't nothing but tarnation sin what twisted Jimmy all up. I dunno. But
Jimmy, he can't move by himself, just got to sit one place all the time.
He heard 'em talking 'bout you. He don't never see nothing much and he
wanted to see you. But promise you won't conjure up no imps, no nothing
and hurt him."

Lee Renaud felt a wave of pity for the bleak existence of the crippled
one, though caution stirred in him too. He didn't exactly like to mix in
with these Cove people. In every meeting with them, he had sensed their
antagonism toward him. If he happened to tread on the toes of their
ignorance and superstition, why, like as not they'd fill him full of
buckshot! He turned back into the path that led toward home.

"Say, you, ain't you coming?" The child clung to him with desperate,
clutching hands. "Jimmy, he's so powerful lonesome. He said to me,
'Mackey, you go git that there furriner and bring him down here. Folks
tell how he's got store-bought clothes and slicks his hair and looks
different an' all. And I ain't never seen nothing different in all my
life.' And I promised Jimmy I'd get you. Please, mister, you--you--"

"I--yes." The child was so insistent that Lee Renaud found himself
following down the path. This by-trail twisted in and out through some
thickets and suddenly came out before the clean-swept knoll whereon was
perched Mackey Bobb's home.

Lee Renaud may have thought he had seen poor folks before, but now he
found himself face to face with real poverty. The dwelling was a square
log cabin with a log lean-to on behind. Inside was bareness save for a
homemade bedstead spread with a faded old quilt and one chair set by the
window opening that had no glass but merely closed with a heavy shutter
of wooden slabs. Although it was summer, a fire blazed up the
mud-and-wattle chimney. Before it knelt a lanky woman in a faded wrapper
and a sunbonnet, frying something in a skillet.

Lee had met these Cove women now and then out on the road, as they
carried eggs or chickens to the store to barter for store-bought
rations. Always they had on wide aprons and sunbonnets. He hadn't known
they wore these flapping bonnets in the house too.

The woman rose languidly from her supper cooking and came across the
room. She looked worn out and old without being old. Her clothing was
awkward and her hands were work-roughened, yet she held to a certain
dignity.

"Howdy. I'm right thankful to you for coming," she said. "Jimmy here has
been pining for a sight of you. He don't never get to see much."

Then Lee saw Jimmy, the prisoner of the old homemade armchair by the
window opening. The boy's limp, twisted legs told why he was a prisoner.
The body was undersized, and the face was old with pain, but Jimmy
Bobb's dark blue eyes were eager, interesting eyes.

"You, Mackey," ordered the woman, "draw out the bench from the shed
room. And now, mister," extending her hand, "lemme rest your hat, and
you set and make yourself comfortable."

When he had first stood on the threshold of this house of poverty, Lee
Renaud had thought he was going to be embarrassed with people so
different from any he had ever known. But here he found genuine courtesy
to set him at ease. More than that, the terrible eagerness in Jimmy
Bobb's eyes turned Lee Renaud's thoughts entirely away from Lee Renaud.
This Jimmy Bobb knew so little, and he wanted to know so much.

"Is it rightly true," burst from Jimmy before Lee had hardly got settled
on the bench, "that you got a whirling glass contraption up at the big
house what pulls the lightning right down out of the sky?"

"Well," Lee tugged at his chin in perplexity. How in Kingdom Come was
he, who knew so little about electricity, going to explain it to a
fellow who knew even less? "Well," Lee made another start, "it's kind of
this way. The glass wheel when turned very, very fast between some fur
pads, or rubbers, generates a spark of power called electricity. Smart
men have proved that this electricity that we generate and the lightning
that flashes in the sky are full of the same kind of power. Lightning,
you know, shoots through the air in zigzag lines."

"I know. I've watched it often. It goes like this," and the excited
listener made sharp, jerky motions with his hand.

"That's it. And the electrical discharge from a man-made battery shoots
out jagged, too, like the lightning. Lightning strikes the highest
pointed objects. Electricity does that too. Lightning sets fire to
non-conductors, or rends them in pieces. Lightning destroys animal life
when it strikes, and electricity acts just that way--"

"It sounds turrible powerful," muttered Jimmy Bobb. "What and all you
going to do with this here power you are getting out of the air?"

"Nothing in particular," said Lee ruefully. "I haven't managed to get
any too much of it. But back in the town where I have always lived,
there are plenty of folks brainy enough to make electricity do lots of
work for them. It makes bright lights and runs telephones and street
cars and talking machines--"

"How might a street car look? Tele--telephone, what's that?"

So the eager questioning went. Lee Renaud found himself leaping
conversationally from point to point, drawing word-pictures of a host of
everyday conveniences that had seemed so commonplace to him but that
seemed almost like magic when recounted to this boy who had never seen
anything.

In the midst of all this talk, Sarah Ann Bobb, Jimmy's mother, still in
the flopping sunbonnet, came forward bearing a tin platter set with the
usual Cove meal of corn pone and fried hog-meat. "Set and eat," she said
hospitably.

"I--thank you, ma'am, no--" Lee leaped up in confusion. He hadn't known
he was talking so long. Night had dropped down upon him. "Uncle
Gem--he'll be worried--doesn't know where I am, or what might have
happened to me. I--I reckon I better trot along," Lee stammered, as he
reached for his cap that was "resting" where the woman had hung it on a
wall peg.

"You, Mackey," said Sarah Ann Bobb with her kind, crude courtesy, "draw
out one of these here pine knots from off the fire so you can light him
down the path."

As Lee said his hasty good-byes, crippled Jimmy Bobb sat in his prison
chair like one dazed.

"Street cars, 'lectric lights, talking contraptions!" he muttered to
himself. "If," shutting his eyes tightly, then opening them wide, "if I
could only see something myself, oncet, anyway!"



                               CHAPTER IV

                         THE GANG TAKES A HAND


For days after that visit, Jimmy Bobb stuck in Lee's mind. The cripple
boy had so little. If only there were something one could do to give him
a little pleasure!

Then a plan came to Lee. He just believed he'd--well, what he believed
was so vague that he couldn't put it into words, but it started him off
on a very busy time.

Lee turned back through the pages of the old science book, studying a
section here, copying off a diagram there in painstaking pencil lines.
In between times he roamed the Renaud place from attic to cellar, from
old stable yard to wood lot. And the things he collected--a broken
pipestem, a bit of beeswax, some feathers, an old cornstalk, wire, a
needle, a few threads raveled from a piece of yellowed silk! A strange
assortment for a strong, husky boy to spend his time gathering together!
Anybody might have thought he had gone as batty as old Johnny Poolak.
Only there was nobody to see. And as for bothering about making himself
ridiculous--um! well, Lee Renaud was so intent upon his task that all
thought of self had gone out of his head.

Towards the end of the week, Lee tramped over to the Bobb cabin.

"Good evening, everybody! Tomorrow suppose--" in his excitement, Lee
twisted his cap round and round in his hands--"suppose old Pomp and I
come here and carry Jimmy, chair and all, over to our place. I've got
something to show him. It would be all right, wouldn't it?"

"Would it! O-o-oh! Think of going somewhere!" Jimmy Bobb swayed in his
chair. His eyes seemed to get three sizes bigger. "I can, can't I, ma?"

Not being given to over many words, Sarah Ann Bobb merely nodded. But
her face was no longer apathetic; some of its tiredness seemed to have
gone away.

The next day, though, when Lee and old Pomp parted the bushes on the
narrow trail and came out on the bare knoll of the Bobb place, things
appeared entirely different. There was a change in atmosphere--due to a
group of rough-looking fellows massed close to the cabin door. Some of
those tobacco-spitting loafers Lee had had to navigate around every time
he went to the country store! Like all the Cove people, these gangling
youths were an unkempt, taciturn lot. Even as Lee and Pomp drew nearer,
they gave no greeting, but merely drew closer together like a guard
before the door.

Lee Renaud could almost feel the down on his spine prickle as his anger
rose against them. What was this gang up to? They had gathered here for
something! Must have heard that he and Pomp were going to carry Jimmy
over to the electrical shop. Full of the Coveite's ignorances and
superstitions, they must have gotten together here to try to interfere
with his plans. Well, just let 'em try to stop him--just let 'em!
Involuntarily his fists clenched, his jaw tightened. He was going to
give Jimmy a good time--as he'd planned! He'd fight 'em all before he'd
give up!

Renaud strode forward, with old Pomp edging back a little behind him.

Lem Hicks, who seemed to be leader of the gang, detached himself from
his fellows and stepped out into the path.

When the long-armed, hulking Lemuel spoke, what he had to say came
nearer knocking the wind out of Lee Renaud than any fist blow might have
done.

"We--we allowed we'd carry Jimmy over for you."

Lee stood like one rooted to the ground. He couldn't believe he'd heard
aright. There must be some trick in it. This rough gang was up to
something.

His fists, that had relaxed, tightened up again. Another was stepping
out of the group, the one they called Big Sandy. He was a tall fellow,
but he grasped a couple of poles taller than himself.

"Done cut some hickory saplings for to slide under Jimmy's chair for
handles, like. Jimmy, he ain't so big, but I allow he'd be quite a tote
for just you two. Us four can do it more better--"

"Sure--fine!" Lee Renaud's voice surprised himself. He blurted it out
almost before he knew it. But there was a something in the eyes of these
boys that made him say what he did. It was that same terrible
eagerness--like in Jimmy Bobb's--that hunger after something of interest
in their meager lives.

Little dark Tony Zita (one of those lowlife fishing folk, old Pomp had
once dubbed him) darted up close to Lee, a new light in the black eyes
beneath his tousled black locks. "You gonner let us see it all--what you
gonner show to Jimmy? We ain't never seen no 'lectricity, nor nothing!"

It was a lively procession that went forward down the little woods trail
between the log cabin and the warped and leaking elegance of the old
Renaud mansion. Jimmy Bobb, almost hysterical with excitement, rode like
a king in the wheelless chariot of his old armchair. Lem and Big Sandy,
being the strongest in the bunch, handled a pole end on either side
where the weight was heaviest. The Zita boy and Joe Burk put a shoulder
to the other ends of the poles. Mackey, who went along too, and Lee took
their turns at carrying.

Class feeling had been swept away. The antagonism of these secluded
backwoods folk for a "city dude what slicked his hair," the antagonism
of an educated fellow toward the narrow, suspicious ignorance of country
louts--a new feeling had suddenly taken the place of all this. This
group was now just "boys" bound together by an interest.

Up in the littered second-story room that served as Lee's workshop,
young Renaud didn't need to press very strongly his warning against
"folks mixing too much with the dangers of electricity." The great glass
wheel, with its strange gearing of wood and brass and fur, laid its own
spell of warning on the boys. The old thing did look queer and
outlandish. One almost expected some black-robed wizard to step out of
the past and "make magic" on it.

Well, electricity was a sort of magic, it was so wonderful and powerful,
thought Lee, only it wasn't the "black magic" of evil; it was a great
power for good.

As Lee cranked the machine into a swift whirl, the other boys stood well
back, but looked with all their eyes. Like a showman putting his charges
through their stunts, Lee put all his crude, homemade apparatuses
through their paces.

"He's doing it! He's ketching lightning, like they said!" whispered Tony
Zita as sparks leaped and crackled across the metal points set in brass
so close to the wheel.

He showed his Leyden Jar "that you stored electricity in just like
pouring molasses in a bucket, then shot it out again on a wire what
sparks!"

He exhibited his Voltaic Pile, a crude stack of broken bits of iron and
pieces of a copper pot and squares of old flannel wet in salt water
that, as Lem Hicks admiringly put it, "without no rubbing together of
things--without no nothing doing at all except piling up of wet iron and
copper--just went ahead and made this here electricity!"

"Gosh A'mighty," Lem exclaimed, "that's a smart thing! Wish I could fix
up something like it oncet!"

Jimmy Bobb didn't have so much to say. He just looked, taking it in and
storing it away in his eager hungering brain.

Then Lee opened a wall cupboard and brought out his latest
treasures--the things he had prepared especially to show Jimmy Bobb what
electricity could do. He came back to the group now, bearing the piece
of broken pipestem in his hand. It was a clear, yellowish piece of stem,
with a pretty sheen to it. Lee handed it to Jimmy, along with a rag of
flannel cloth.

"Rub the yellow stuff with the cloth," he ordered. "Rub hard."

Jimmy's legs might be feeble, but his arms were strong. He put in some
sharp, vigorous rubs, his face excited but withal mystified. He didn't
know what it was all about, but he was making a try at it.

"Now that's enough." As he spoke, Lee scattered some downy feathers on
the table. "Reach the yellow piece out, somewhere near the feathers," he
went on, "and see what'll happen."

Jimmy stretched out the old piece of pipestem, and the feathers leaped
up to it as though they were alive.

"Well, I'll be blowed!" shouted Jimmy, trying the experiment time and
again, and each time having the fluff leap up to cling to the stem.
"What is it? What makes it act all alive?"

"Electricity." Lee Renaud picked up the broken stem. "This thing is
amber. I just happened to find it in a junk pile. An old book told me
about how people found out long ago that 'delectable amber, rubbed with
woolen' would generate enough electricity to draw to itself light
objects."

"I'll be blowed! Well, I'll be blowed!" Jimmy Bobb kept saying to
himself, as he tried the amber and feather stunt over and over. "Just
think, I can rub up this here lightning-power myself!"

Lee Renaud was not through with his show pieces yet. From the cupboard
he brought out the strangest little contraption of all. Upon the center
of a stout plank about two feet long, he had erected two small posts of
wood. The tiny figure of a man, ingeniously cut out of cornstalk pith,
sat in a swing of frail silken thread that hung suspended from the tops
of the posts. At one end of the board was an insulated standard of
brass. At the other end was a brass standard, uninsulated. Lee carefully
arranged this curious apparatus so that the insulated stand was
connected with the "prime conductor" of the old glass friction-wheel.
Against the other standard was laid a little chain so that the chain end
touched the floor, thus making what is known electrically as ground
contact.

Now the fun began. Electrified by its connection with the prime
conductor, the insulated standard drew the tiny figure in the silken
swing up against the brass where the figure took on an electrical
charge. Then off swung the little man to discharge his load of
electricity against the ground contact post at the other end of the
board.

This way, that way swung the tiny figure, an animated little cornstalk
man that for all the world looked as if he was enjoying his high riding.
Back and forth, back and forth he swung, pulled now by the positive, now
by the negative power of that strange thing, electricity. And he
continued to swing just as long as electrical power was supplied to him.

Shouts of laughter greeted the antics of Lee's little man.

"This here electricity's fun!"

"Better'n a show!"

"We can come again, huh, can't we?"

Altogether, Lee Renaud had a pleasurable afternoon showing off his
treasures. His pride was punctured a bit, though, when, upon leaving,
one fellow said, "This here 'lectricity's a right pretty thing. Pity it
ain't no use for helping folks."



                               CHAPTER V

                                  TAPS


"What's this? What's this?" A rough voice from the doorway startled Lee
so that he nearly dropped the glass jar half full of salt water, in
which he was just placing a strip of tin and a long stick of charcoal.

The man behind the big voice was a little wizened, gray-headed fellow,
with twinkle lines around his eyes that rather belied his gruff manner.

"Well, well, well!" boomed the visitor. Lee thought in amazement that he
had never heard such a vast bellow proceed out of such a little man.
"Um, yes, you must be Lee, Gem's nephew. He told me I'd find you up
here. I'm Doctor Pendexter from Tilton, old friend of Gem's. Just now
heard about his bum leg and came over to see him. Gem, consarn him,
never does write to anybody. Looks like you're getting ready to generate
some sort of power. Used to dabble in electrics myself, I have no time
for that nowadays. What's that you're up to?"

"I was just following out the Volta experiments as best I could." Lee
touched the jar with its half load of salt water. "Was trying tin and
charcoal for electrodes."

"Um! Go on with it." Dr. Pendexter drew up a chair close beside Lee's
work table.

At first Lee was embarrassed at having an older head watching over his
crude tests. However, as he struggled sturdily on with what he had
planned to do, interest in the work claimed his attention till there was
no room left for feeling self-conscious.

With a firm twist at each end, Lee proceeded to connect the tops of his
two electrodes with a bit of wire. There, he had done it as Volta said.
And if Volta were right, there ought to be electricity passing from one
of his crude electrodes to the other. He'd test it in his own way. With
a quick clip, he cut the wire in the middle, setting the ends apart but
very nearly touching. He laid a finger on the gap. A tiny prickling shot
through his finger. The thing was working feebly, but working enough to
show that the theory was right. Fine--he'd learned another way of making
electricity! Then his excitement quickly faded, leaving him looking
rather doleful.

"What's the matter? Didn't it work? It ought to. I've dabbled at that
experiment myself. It always works--"

"Yes, sir, it worked. All the old tests I've tackled so far have. But
just something to play with is as far as I seem to get. I can't find out
how to apply the power, how to make some use out of it."

Dr. Pendexter's quick ear caught the note of tragedy in the boy's voice.
To the man came a sudden realization of what a struggle this boy must be
having as he strove alone to fathom the almost unfathomable mysteries of
electricity. Being a man of action, Pendexter applied a remedy in his
own way.

"Consarn it all," he roared, "don't look so blasted blue! You're coming
on fine, as far as you've gone." The little Doctor cast a quick eye
around the room at the bottles and jars, the Voltaic pile and the
crystal wheel with its renovated gear. "The trouble is, you're going
sort of one-sided with nothing but one old book to learn out of," and he
flipped the calfskin cover of "Ye Compleat Knowledge" with his
forefinger. "You've got to the point where you need something modern to
study. What do you know about magnets and magnetism and electromagnets?"

"N-nothing," stammered Lee Renaud in confusion.

"Umph!" from the Doctor. "Well, you've been missing out on one of the
biggest things in electricity. The electromagnet, that's the king pin of
'em all!"

"I've seen little magnets, sort of horseshoe-shaped bits of metal that
you can pick up a needle or a tack or the like with. Didn't know magnets
had anything to do with electricity!"

"You better be knowing it then!" The Doctor banged the table with an
emphatic fist. "The electromagnet is the thing that puts the 'go' in
telegraphy, the telephone, this radio business. Say, I'm going to send
you a book about it, a modern one. You study it!" And with that parting
command, the wiry, roaring little man was gone.

Staring at the empty chair drawn up close beside his latest experiment
in tin and charcoal, Lee Renaud had the feeling that he had only
imagined Dr. William Pendexter. The wizened little man with the
outlandish voice was queer enough to have been generated out of a jar by
one of these old electrical experiments.

A few days later though, Lee had good proof that Pendexter was very
real--and a man of his word, too. When Lee made a trip down to the
village store for a can of kerosene, Mr. Hicks, who was postmaster as
well as storekeeper, shoved a package over the counter to him and said,
"Today's mail day." (Mail came only three times a week to this little
backwash village of King's Cove, and then never very much of it.) Mr.
Hicks thumped the packet importantly, "This here come for you. Must
amount to something, 'cording to the passel of stamps they stuck on to
it."

It most certainly did amount to something. When he got off to himself,
Lee's hands trembled so that he could hardly tear the wrappings away.
Ah, there it was--a big, fat, red-bound volume, with gold letters, "The
Amateur Electrician's Handbook."

There was information enough within those red covers to set Lee Renaud
off on a brand new set of experiments. From a battery made of a trio of
glass jars containing salt water, each jar holding its strips of zinc
and copper, and fitted with wiring, he charged a bar of soft iron until
it was magnetized--but this would stay magnetized only so long as the
current was put to it. Then he electrified a bit of steel--and it became
a permanent magnet.

Lee became more ambitious in his experimenting. He was after power,
something that would generate real movement. And so he rushed in where a
more experienced hand might have been stalled by the lack of material.
But Lee Renaud staunchly refused to be stalled, even though his supply
of working material was nothing much beyond bits of tin, iron, some
barbed wire, old nails, broken glass, and pieces of brass salvaged from
old cartridges.

And out of such junk, Lee proposed to make himself an electric motor!

Well, that was the next step for him. If he were going forward, he just
had to make a motor.

His first attempt was the simplest of the simple. According to
directions and diagrams in the new red book, he took current from his
Voltaic Cell and put it in a circuit through a loop of wire which lay in
a strongly magnetized field. The push of power in the lines of magnetic
force, through changes in the connections, set the loop to revolving.
And there it was, his electric motor! Very sketchy, very rudimentary
indeed, but it worked in its own crude way.

Later, and after much study, he decided to attempt a real little dynamo.
This, by comparison with number one, was to be an elaborate affair,
comprising a loop of wire revolving between the poles of a
horseshoe-shaped permanent magnet, with two half-cylinders connected to
the revolving loop of wire and touched at each half-turn by stationary
metal brushes. The metal brushing was to turn the alternating current
into a direct current. In the making, Lee ran into all sorts of
troubles, mostly due to his poor materials. But he kept on, and at last
produced something that sputtered and coughed and was as cranky as a
one-eyed mule. But it ran part of the time--enough to teach Lee more
about electric motors than all the reading in the world could have done.

A few weeks later, Dr. William Pendexter drove his prim little car out
again to see how Gem Renaud's leg was progressing--which really wasn't
necessary for old Mr. Renaud was coming on finely. He might just as well
have admitted that the real reason for driving twenty miles to King's
Cove was to see how Lee and electricity were hitting it off.

The wiry little man roamed all over the Renaud place and roared his
approval of Lee's cranky, balky dynamo. When he was climbing into his
car, he called, "Hi there, Lee! I've got to go to Tilton and back to
bring something I want for Gem. Want to go for the ride?"

To Lee, who for months now had been stuck away down in the backwoods
Cove, this trip to town seemed to be bringing him into another world,
the progressive world that he had slipped out of for a spell. Drug
stores, banks, cars, tall poles for telegraph and telephone wires,
electric lights--seeing all these again made his dabblings at Voltaic
Cells and the crystal wheel seem truly to belong to a long-gone,
primitive period.

Pendexter got out at the railroad station, motioning for Lee to follow.
He wrote off a telegram, handing it to the operator. All the while Lee
stood like one transfixed, staring in fascination at the telegraph
instruments on the dispatcher's table. Almost without knowing it, the
boy was mentally calculating on the coils of wire, the shining brass.
Electricity ran that thing; here was power hitched up and working.

Pendexter jerked a thumb in the boy's direction when he had caught the
operator's eye.

"Plumb batty on electricity!" For once the Pendexter roar was silenced
to a mere whisper. "Found him down there in the Cove experimenting all
by himself. Consarn it, John Akerly, tell him something about
electricity! You know plenty. Got to go by the house for a package--be
back." And the Doctor disappeared.

Akerly reached out a long finger and suddenly clickety-clicked the
instrument. "Want to know something about that?" he queried sharply, but
with a grin wrinkling up his leathery face.

"I--what--yes, sir!" The click and the voice had startled Lee.

"Know anything about batteries?"

"I made some that worked--sort of. You mean putting two metal strips in
an acid solution so as to produce an electric current. Then a lot of
jars with this stuff in 'em, and wired up right--you set 'em together
and that forms a battery--"

"You've got it, kid! With that much in your noodle, I reckon I can pass
on to you something about this telegraphing business. To begin with,
I've got a battery here, with a wire from one pole of it passing through
my table and going all the way to Birmingham. Say that this wire came
all the way back from Birmingham and connected with the other pole of my
battery, what would that make?"

"An electric circuit," answered Lee. "One that--"

"Yes, one that included the Birmingham station in its circle. Only there
isn't any return wire--"

"Then it isn't a cir--" Lee began.

"Yes, it is! Think, boy! This old earth of ours is a mighty good
electric conductor--"

"Of course!" Lee was crestfallen that he hadn't thought of that. "I've
grounded wires myself, and made the circuit."

"All right then. We've got our wire going to Birmingham, grounded at the
Birmingham station, and the earth acting as a return for our current.
Now we'll say this circuit is fixed around some instruments on my table,
and fixed around the same sort of instruments on the table in
Birmingham. Well, when I start tapping my telegraph key--making and
breaking the circuit--won't this current be stopped and started at
Birmingham just like it is here? Huh?"

"Yes--an instrument on the same circuit." Lee cocked his head sidewise
in deep thought. "It just naturally would be."

"Well, son, that's telegraphy!"

"Telegraphy! Great jumping catfish! Is that all there is to it?"

"Er-r, not exactly," said Akerly dryly. "There's the relay, or local
battery circuit, the electromagnet sounder, special stuff and duplex
work, signals, the code to be learned." The dispatcher paused a moment
in his recital, pulled a battered book out of a drawer, opened it at a
page full of queer marks, and added, "Here's the code."

Lee bent over the page. "I see," he said, then added with a wry grin,
"or rather I don't see! How do you hitch all those little signs up so
that they mean something on an instrument?"

"All right--it's like this. I'll tap the telegraph key for a tenth of a
second. That means I've let the current flow for a tenth of a second. We
call that a 'dot.' A three-tenths of a second tap makes the 'dash.' Put
'dot,' 'dash,' 'dot' together in all sorts of combinations, and you've
got the code. When the fellow at the other end of the line knows the
code, he can understand what you're tapping to him."

A couple of hours later when Pendexter breezed back into the office, he
found the two of them still at it, with the talk switching back and
forth about magnetic rotations and cycles and frequency, about
multiplying powers and symmetry and resonance.

"Looks like you two sort of speak the same language," rumbled the
Doctor. "Didn't mean to leave you at it all day but got a patient up
there. Had to stop--"

"Why, it's--it's late!" Lee looked dazed at the passage of time. "Your
work, I didn't mean to keep you from it--" and the boy leaped up.

"I like to talk about electricity. Come again and we'll jaw some more."
Lanky, long John Akerly shook hands heartily.

Lee's mind fairly seethed with the information it had tried to absorb
about coils and codes and induction and what-not. Electricity was a
language that Dr. William Pendexter spoke too, and the twenty miles back
to King's Cove fairly slid by.

As they drove up to the high sagging porch of the old Renaud place, the
little grizzled Doctor started pulling a wooden box out of the back of
his car. Lee put a willing shoulder to it, and involuntarily grunted a
little. Just a little old box--but gosh, it was heavy!

"Not in here," roared the Doctor, as Lee started to ease the thing down
in his Great-uncle Gem's room. "Go on upstairs."

Breathing hard, Lee lugged it on, and following directions, slid it down
in a corner of his workshop.

"That's right! Good place for it. Some junk I'm going to leave with
you," rumbled Pendexter. "Get the lid off."

The next moment Lee Renaud was on his knees beside the box, touching the
contents as though they were gold and diamonds. A code book, some
tattered pamphlets full of sketches and diagrams, and these well mixed
in with coils of copper wire, screws, an old sounder still bearing its
precious electromagnets, some scrap glass and brass. It might all have
looked like trash to somebody else, but not to Lee Renaud.

Right here under his hand, experimental stuff such as he had never even
hoped to buy! He touched one prize, then another.

"It's too much! You don't really mean to leave it?"

"Leaving it! By heck, of course I am. My wife would skin me alive if I
brought that box back home to just sit and catch dust and spider webs
again. Never fool with it any more, myself,--no time."

"I--I--how will I ever thank you?" Lee couldn't keep his hands from
straying over the old sounder and the bits of real copper wire.

"Do something with it!" roared Pendexter, backing off testily from any
further thanks. "Do something with it, that's what!"



                               CHAPTER VI

                             AMAZING THINGS


"Just wonder if'n I'll ever get it right! Wisht I'd paid more attenshun
to teacher that year we had one!" Lem Hicks ran a tragic hand through
his sandy hair till it stood out like a bottle brush.

He sat at the table in Lee's workshop. Before him stood a homemade
contraption young Renaud fondly hoped bore enough resemblance to a
telegraphic outfit to work. Spread open beside the instrument was the
code book, and spread open beside the code book was an old Blue-backed
Speller. Lem, with a finger poised above the telegraph key, frantically
studied first one book, then the other. It was no use! The excitement of
the occasion had driven all the "book larnin'" out of Lem's head. For
days he had been planning on this, the first telegraphic message to be
sent in King's Cove. But the final effort of "putting words into
spelling" and then "putting spelling into code" was too much for him. He
just had to tap something, though. Lee, waiting at a similar instrument
down in the old storage house, which was the end of their telegraph
line, was all set to see if the thing really worked. In desperation Lem
clickety-clicked at the only piece of the code he could seem to
remember--three quick taps, three long taps, then three quick taps
again.

And before he had hardly finished, there came a bang of doors
downstairs, a gallop of feet on the stairs, and Lee Renaud shot
breathless into the room.

"In trouble? What's the matter?" he yelled. "Short-long-short, three
times each, that's S. O. S., the distress signal of the world. I thought
this thing must have blown up or busted or electrocuted somebody." Lee
dropped limply on a bench.

"Naw," said Lem, flushing shamefacedly. "Every bit of the code 'cept
that went clean out of my head. I wanted to get something to you--"

"It got me, all right!" Lee burst out laughing. "But say, man, it
worked! We've made us something here. That set of taps clicked through
to me as clean as anything. When we get some more code in our heads, we
can really talk to each other over the wire."

Lee Renaud's experimenting with the telegraph set in motion a strange
surge for King's Cove, a surge of educational longings. For the first
time in their drab lives, some young Coveites "wisht they had sat under
a teacher more."

In the past these tow-headed youngsters had looked upon the few months
of schooling that occasionally came to them as something to be dodged as
manfully as possible. Now with the hunger upon them to enter the grand
adventure of sending one's thoughts, clickety-click, far away across a
wire, the mistreated reading books and dog-eared spellers were dug out
and actually studied. "Great snakes! A fellow railly had to know sump'n
if he was goin' to put his thoughts into spellin', and then put spellin'
into code," remarked one lank youth as he lolled in front of the village
store, and Tony Zita mournfully allowed it was "more worser than tryin'
to scramble eggs, then tryin' to unscramble them."

Great-uncle Gem could hobble around now with his stick. He began taking
as lively an interest as the youngsters in Lee's "tapping machine."
Quite often he would come limping up to sit in the workshop, his black
eyes twinkling beneath bushy white brows at the electrical chatter going
on around him.

"Just think," Lee was day-dreaming, "if I had wire enough, I could make
my battery send a telegraph signal all the way to Mr. Akerly in Tilton,
on to Birmingham, maybe on to my home folks in Shelton--"

"Wait there, wait there! Hold your horses, young man!" Uncle Gem
interposed, not wanting this dreamer to dream too big a dream and then
have it crash. "Maybe some day you'll progress enough to send far
messages by this wireless we read about, but as long as you're still
talking about telegraph wires, just remember that it would cost some few
thousand dollars just to string wires from here to Tilton--"

"A thousand dollars--um, and some more thousands! Gosh, I didn't know
wire cost like that!" Lee's face fell. "I'd been hoping, anyway, that we
could stretch a wire on to Jimmy Bobb's so he'd be sort of in touch with
folks. He's so--so--"

"From here to the Bobb place is more than half a mile. Half a mile of
wire is a considerable bit. Here, give me a pencil; let me do some
figuring." Great-uncle Gem bent his head above a scrap of paper.
"There's the horse lot and the cow pasture--we don't have any cattle on
the place these days. All that was fenced once, four strands high. You
might as well take what you can find of it and put it to some use."

"Hurrah for the famous Renaud-Bobb Telegraph Company!" shouted Lee,
leaping up and letting out a whoop like a wild Indian. "Uncle Gem can be
president. Who wants to join this mighty organization?"

It seemed that everybody did, or at least all the young crew in King's
Cove. Taking stock in this booming concern consisted merely in
contributing all the labor and man-power you had in you.

Stringing up even a half mile of telegraph wire turned out to be a vast
task; especially since the wire had to be yanked down from old fences,
and some of it was barbed, from which the barbs had to be untwisted. But
whenever a Cove youth could be spared from hoeing 'taters and corn or
pushing the plow, he rushed off to the Renaud place to work ten times
harder. Only this new labor was interesting work--work with a zest to
it. One crew logged in the woods for tall, strong cedar poles that were
to carry the wires, another crew de-barbed old fencing, still another
dug the line of post holes. A great search went on for old bottles to be
used as glass insulators.

Then the actual stringing up began to go forward.

"Mind, you boys," warned Uncle Gem, "don't let anybody's clothesline get
mixed up in this. We don't want to stir up any hard feeling round here
against our project."

Which very likely was the reason why the stringing up halted for a time
while more old fencing was de-barbed, and why, in the dark of a night,
Nanny Borden's clothes wire miraculously reappeared on its posts.

It was hard for untrained hands to set the posts firm and in a straight
line, harder still to string the much-spliced wire taut.

At last, though, the great day came when the Renaud-Bobb Telegraph Line
reached from station to station.

The lonely little Bobb cabin suddenly became a center of interest. There
was always some youngster happening along who wanted to send a message
over the line. Jimmy Bobb's eager mind picked up the code quickly. His
long fingers learned to click the key with real speed. The cripple began
to know happiness. For the first time in all his starved, meager years,
he was getting in touch with life.

Then one day while Lee Renaud was away from his workshop, a frantic
message came clicking over the crude wires.

"That thing's banging like fury up there!" Uncle Gem waved his stick
ceilingwards as Lee dashed into the house.

The boy hesitated a moment. He had come for a bag, and was going out to
the old junk heap in the gully. Right now something new was surging in
his brain and there might be some metal on that old carriage frame that
would help him.

The stuttering of the telegraph clicked on again.

"Just some of the gang wanting to gab," Lee muttered, turning away.

Then the insistent note of the click caught his ear.

"That's--that's S.O.S.!"

Up the stairs he leaped, taking two at a time.

Sharp and loud came the tap-tap-tap, three short, three long, three
short! S.O.S.! Save! Save! Save! Again three short, three long--a little
crashing thump of the key--then blankness.

"What is it? What is it?" pleaded Lee's clicking key.

No answer.

"Something's happened! Can't get any answer from Jimmy!" he shouted as
he left the house on the run. "Send Pomp for help to Ray's meadow--"

Great-uncle Gem, for all his injured leg, must have put some speed into
his search for Pomp. For, as Lee sped down the woods path, he could hear
the old darky somewhere behind him hallooing, "Help! Help!" and clanging
the dinner bell as he headed across the village towards the open hay
fields where everybody was cutting grass while the weather held.

With that racket Pomp would stir up somebody, never a doubt! But Lee
wasn't wasting time waiting on reinforcements. With that last insistent
tap-tap call of the telegraph still beating in his ears, he stretched
his long legs down the path.

Hurtling through bushes, dodging swishing limbs, he burst panting into
the clearing of the Bobb hilltop. Here no human sound greeted him.
Instead, the awful crackle of flames filled the air. Whorls of smoke
curled up from almost every part of the old shingle roof. As he looked,
the smoke whorls began to burst into tongues of flame.

Lee raced to the door and flung himself inside, shouting, "Jimmy, Jimmy,
where are you?"

There was no answer.

The heat and smoke were nearly overpowering. Lee dropped to the floor
and crawled across the room. Yes, here by the ticker was Jimmy's chair,
and Jimmy in it, slumped in a huddle. Lifting the limp form to his
shoulder, Lee staggered back to the door and out into the fresh air.

As he laid Jimmy down in the shelter of the trees on the side off the
wind, shouts greeted him. The whole woods seemed alive with people. Pomp
and his dinner bell had done their work.

While Lee revived Jimmy Bobb, an impromptu water-line formed. Like
magic, buckets and tubs and even gourds of water passed up from the
spring under the hill to the flaming hell of the roof. Cove women, not
being given to style, wore plenty of clothing. Here and there, a wide
apron or a voluminous Balmoral was shed, wetted and wielded as a weapon
to beat down the flames. Crews of howling small boys broke pine brush
for brooms and swept out any creeping line of flame that caught from
sparks and headed for the fence, the slab-sided chicken house, or the
cow shed.

Then it was over. The fire was out. Blackened rafters and a pall of
smoke told what a fight it had been. The roof was gone, but the cabin
walls stood, and the meager homemade furniture was safe.

Sarah Ann Bobb, stirred for once out of her habitual calm, stood near
Jimmy, waving her hands and weeping.

One of the Cove men detached himself from the smoke-stained group and
went up to her. "Don't take on so, Miz Bobb," he consoled awkwardly.
"Hit war that old no 'count chimney what must've done it. We aims to
build you a new one, and set on another roof. Done plan to start
tomorrow, the Lord sparing us!"

"I ain't crying sorrowful." Sarah Ann's knees let her down on the
ground. "I'm so happy Jimmy ain't dead!"

"I'm all right, maw," Jimmy assured her, "but I bet the telegraph's all
busted."

"Yep, considerably busted, I suppose." Lee sounded inordinately
cheerful. "But all the real stuff we need is still here, and we'll be
building her over again, good as new, maybe better."

"Oh," Jimmy Bobb settled back down, "I'm right thankful you saved hit.
Hit sho saved me!"



                              CHAPTER VII

                       HARNESSING LIGHTNING POWER


"Aiming for to go up to Renaud's?" asked Big Sandy as he fell into step
alongside of Lem Hicks.

"Yep! Wanter see how them new fixings up there are going to turn out,"
was Lem's answer.

"You ain't--you ain't sorter scared?"

"Scared?" Lem wheeled on Big Sandy, then grinned himself as he saw the
teasing grin on the other's face.

"Honest Injun, though," went on Big Sandy, "lots of folks round here are
scared plumb stiff over this electricity stuff. Old Poolak's had one of
his preaching fits. He's been spreading the word that it warn't fire
from the chimney what burned Miz Bobb's roof, but lightning fire what
our telegraph conjured down out of the sky. According to his tell, it
ain't Scriptural to be taking electricity out of the air and hitching it
on to man's contrivances. Johnny allows it's tampering with evil and's
goner bring down fire and brimstone on the whole Cove 'less'n folks take
axes to our newfangled fixings--"

"Johnny Poolak better mind his own business and not be mixing in with
our wires." Lem's chin went out belligerently. "I'm banking turrible
strong on this new fixing of Lee's. It's so mysterious-like, it don't
seem anyways reasonable. Yet if it works, it'll be the wonderfullest
thing what ever happened down here in the Cove."

"Well, I'm for it, strong." Big Sandy flung open the gate to the Renaud
yard and went in. Lem followed.

The "new fandangle" that Lee was working on now was an attempt at radio.
Telegraphy was wonderful enough. But that took wires, thousands of
dollars' worth to reach any distance at all. With radio, one merely sat
at a machine, turned a key and picked up sound that went hurtling
through the air with only electrical power to bear it on. It seemed
unbelievable--yet man was already doing this unbelievable thing. And Lee
Renaud, stuck off in the backwoods, had the temerity to make a try at
this same wonder.

Lee was subscribing to a magazine now, "The Radio World." Hard study and
the endless copying of hook-up designs from its pages was the way he was
preparing ground for his next experiment. By degrees he had gathered
together in his old workshop such materials as he could lay hands on.
His collection was crude enough to have gotten a laugh out of a regular
"radio ham," but it was the best he could do under the circumstances.

True enough, little rip-roaring Dr. Pendexter, out of the kindness of
his heart, had wanted to buy Lee considerable experimental stuff. But
somehow the boy's pride had rebelled at being under too much obligation
to anyone.

"I thank you, but no, sir," he had stammered, "I can't let you give me
everything. It would be different if I could only earn money some way to
pay for it--"

"There is a way!" snorted the Doctor. "Only I didn't want you fooling
away time at it when you could be going forward with electricity. Hell's
bells! You've got too much pride!"

The way of money-making that Dr. Pendexter pointed out to Lee was the
gathering of wild plants for medicinal purposes. Now and again the boy
sent in little packets of such things as bloodroot, wild ginseng, and
bay leaves. Quite a lot of herbs brought in only a few dollars, but that
money wisely expended brought back some very wonderful things through
the mail. One time it was two pairs of ordinary telephone receivers;
another time it was a piece of crystal; again it was a little can of
shellac and some special wire. In addition, Lee had gathered together an
assortment of his own--a piece of curtain pole, some old curtain rings,
a piece of mica that had once acted as "back light" in an ancient buggy
top, a length of stout oak board, sundry bits of wire and second-hand
screws and nails.

Back in his home town of Shelton, Lee had once listened in at someone
else's radio--a sleek affair with all its interior workings neatly
housed in a shining wooden case. In those days Lee had never dreamed of
aspiring to own a radio, much less aspiring to make one by using an oak
board, an old curtain pole and pieces of wire as parts.

Throughout the making, the lanky youths of King's Cove "drapped in" on
Lee whenever they could, to see how the work was progressing.

Now, when Big Sandy and Lem hurried along the shady lane in the dusk,
and on up to the workshop, they found Tony and little Mackey and Joe
Burk already there ahead of them.

"The aerial's done up!" shouted Tony Zita. "Done did it yesterday. Had
to finish the job by lantern light."

"I helped!" little Mackey Bobb was fairly bristling with pride. "Us all
went up through that funny little door right in the roof of this here
house. One end of the wire's hitched to a pole that's lashed onto a
chimney. T'other end of the wire is rigged to a scantling what's nailed
to the barn."

"And you're countin' on that high-sittin' wire to pick up music out of
the air for you?" asked Big Sandy incredulously.

"Jumping catfish, no!" exploded Lee, who was cutting wrapping paper into
long strips. "We've got to hitch up a sight of apparatus here in the
house, too."

"Ain't there something I can do?" Lem Hicks moved over to the bench
where Lee was working.

Soon everybody was hard at it, doing whatever he could on this strange
contraption young Renaud was evolving. The younger boys scraped and
trimmed at smoothing off the heavy oak plank that was to be the base of
the outfit.

Lee had spread around him on table and bench a half dozen "Radio
Worlds," propped open to show diagrams full of coils and lines, and
lettered at certain points, A, B, C, D, and so on.

"This paper says the timing coil is most important, so we better go
mighty careful on that." Lee produced a piece of old-fashioned wooden
curtain pole, three inches in diameter. "A ten-inch length is all we
need."

When this core was measured and cut, Lee began to wind it smoothly in
the strips of tough brown wrapping paper that he had already prepared.
As he wound it on, Lem, armed with the little can of shellac and a stiff
feather for a brush, bent above the job and carefully shellacked each
piece.

After the neatly wrapped core with its dose of the sticky gum had dried
out a little, the hardest task of all was undertaken--winding on the
wire tuning coil itself. The paper strips had been easy to handle, but
managing the lively, wriggling wire was a very difficult task.

"Help, everybody! We've got to step lively to get this thing on right
away, while the shellac is still some sticky, so it will hold the wire
firm." Lee waved his roll of wire, and there was a general rush for
everyone to have a finger in this excitement.

A couple of fellows held the wire taut, and another couple, gripping the
ends of the wooden rod with tense fingers, turned it steadily. As the
master hand, Lee laid the coils in place at each turn. With even the
simple machinery of a lathe and foot pedal, it would have been an easy
job to wind the core. But with only excited boyish fingers to grip and
turn, the task was one of considerable difficulty. The wire would writhe
and knot. Now and again coils slipped and refused to lie smooth.

"Unwind it! Try it again!" Brows bent, mouth set firmly, Lee unwound and
rewound, over and over again. This thing had to be right. No use making
it if the wire didn't lie smooth and close, without any space at all
between the coils.

"Um! That looks sort of like it now!" Lee said with satisfaction as he
fastened down the last tag end.

The other boys drew close and gazed upon it pridefully.

"Gosh, it does look right! Slicker'n silk, and 'pears to be real close
kin to that there picture in the book," Big Sandy said, holding the
illustration of the tuning coil in a "Radio World" up beside their
effort in wire and wood. "I thought you was being tollable persnikerty,
doing it over so much, but reckon you was right."

"The sliding contacts come next. Wonder if we can mount them now?" In
lieu of store-bought metallic contacts, Lee produced a pair of old metal
curtain rings. "Got to punch holes in 'em so we can stick in the copper
rivets."

And so the work went forward. Night after night the gang met in Lee's
workshop. There was a certain amount of the apparatus that even
untrained hands could attend to, such as cutting the four-inch squares
of paraffined paper and tinfoil, alternating these in a stack, then
placing these between two blocks of wood and screwing them tightly
together. This was the "condenser" that, according to the printed
directions, was to help the electric vibrations pass through the
earphone receivers.

Since the human ear alone could not detect the sound waves that touched
the aerial, a sort of electrical ear was necessary. And this electrical
ear was nothing more than a piece of sensitive galena crystal and a wire
of phosphor bronze. If this thing that Lee Renaud was building turned
out right, when that phosphor bronze wire came in contact with the bit
of crystal, the mysterious sound wave would become audible.

Lee himself attended to the delicate task of mounting the galena crystal
and adjusting the two rods that held the sliding contacts, also the
soldering of various "lead in" and "lead out" wires.

Then at last it was all done. For Lee Renaud, this was a crucial time.
It didn't seem possible that this homemade contraption of wood and wire
and old curtain fixtures could really reach out into the ether and pull
down music for its users.

According to one of old Pomp's favorite expressions, the young inventor
felt "more nervouser than a rabbit what's bin shot at and missed."

He would have liked to have tried out the thing alone. But there was no
chance of that. Every youngster in the Cove was packed in that old
upstairs workshop. Even a couple of flop-eared 'possum hounds had
managed to sneak in at their young masters' heels. Here was a full
audience and everything set for a great night.

On the heavy oak base on the table before Lee, the tuning coil, the
crystal detector, the condenser, and the terminals for the head phone
plugs were arranged and fitted in their proper places. The last cutting,
stripping and soldering of connecting wires had been attended to.

"G-gosh, I'm almost afraid to give it a try," muttered Lee to himself.
"S'pose it don't work!"

He couldn't keep his hand from trembling as he set one of the sliding
contacts at the middle of the tuning coil, and moved the other just
about opposite.

Young Renaud had on one pair of ear phones. Jimmy Bobb and Lem Hicks,
heads right together, shared the other pair.

Lee, all keyed up to hear something, adjusted the sharp little phosphor
bronze wire on the detector until the point just touched the crystal. No
sound came. Lee could feel the tenseness of the crowd, could sense the
gasp of bitter disappointment from Jimmy and Lem. In desperation, he
slowly moved the slider along the tuning coil. Suddenly a burst of
orchestra music rolled in to those at the ear phones. Faintly at first,
then swelling triumphantly as Lee Renaud slid his contacts along the
coil!

Those first listeners sat spellbound till others, eager for their turn,
snatched away the ear phones.

Like one in a trance, Jimmy Bobb sat with the music still ringing in his
soul.

"Gee," he whispered, "those fiddles, high and sweet, like they was right
in the next room!"

"And they were really in Gulf City, fifty miles from here!" laughed
young Renaud. "Let's make a try for Madsden. That will be a good bit
farther--something like a hundred miles."

Until far into the night the group stayed "tuned in," excitedly swapping
phones, eagerly listening to the first real music in their lives.

King's Cove was in touch with the world! It had suddenly come out of the
nowhere into the somewhere. A copper rivet slid along a coil of wire,
and in a fraction of a second this bunch of boys in faded, ragged
overalls was in contact with music in another county, music in another
state even!

Then there came a swishing thud against the outside of the house as if
made by the recoil of wire.

"S-s-sh!" hissingly whispered little Mackey, who had been peering out of
the window. "Something out on the barn roof--like a man with hisself all
humped up, creeping, creeping--"

"Somebody's been at our aerial--cut it off!" agonized Lee, realizing to
a certainty what that swish of wire against the house had meant.

Another had taken in the situation, too, it seemed. The shutters of the
next room were flung open and Great-uncle Gem's voice rang out angrily,
"What you up to on that roof? Don't be trespassing on my place, you
Johnny Poolak!"

From the slant of the barn roof a fanatical voice croaked back,
"Lightning power belongs up in the sky. The Lord's agin humans what
steals his lightning. Fire and brimstone! But the wire's cut! And I'm
a-saving King's Cove!"

"Better be saving your own hide!" shouted old Gem. And from that
second-story window roared a pistol shot.

A thud and a bump from the barn roof. Then footsteps crashing off,
running through the underbrush.

Into the radio room limped Gem Renaud, wiping off a smoking,
long-barreled old pistol. "Just shot up in the air," he announced
angrily. "But I hope I put enough fright into that old nuisance to run
him into the next county."



                              CHAPTER VIII

                            COMPRESSED POWER


"How far a piece you goner take it?" questioned Lem Hicks.

"You stay here. I'll amble on down to where the road forks off into the
woods. That'll put us more'n a mile apart. This outfit worked all right
just from room to room, but we're giving it a real try-out now." Lee
Renaud's voice was full of suppressed excitement.

He wore a contraption, the like of which was never seen before. On his
head was a cap of straps that held a pair of radio ear phones in place.
On his chest hung a small transmitter that could be adjusted to his
lips. Slung against his back, all neatly packed into a sort of knapsack,
was a mechanism that operated by means of a crankshaft driven by hand.
The whole machine was less than twelve inches square, but so geared that
when its hand crank was turned at thirty-three revolutions per minute,
its generators made thirty-three hundred revolutions per minute. In
Lee's pocket was folded a miniature aerial.

Lemuel Hicks wore a similar outfit.

Portable radio--that was something ambitious for a youngster to be
tackling!

But Lee Renaud had made many steps forward since that night when he had
put King's Cove in touch with the world with his homemade radio. The
Cove itself had stepped out a bit in the last months. It had become a
place of sharpest contrasts. Though mule and ox carts still creaked down
its sandy village road, within its cabins nightly sounded the tinkle of
music which radio, that modern of the moderns, plucked from the air of
the great outside world. The radios were homebuilt affairs, some the
galena crystal type, some the carborundum type, all patterned after
Lee's first attempt--but they got the music, the news, and the latest
crop prices. They were waking up the Cove out of its long lethargy.

Over in Tilton, Dr. Pendexter had told a newspaperman of the struggle a
lone boy was making to master electricity, and had laughed about the
whimsy of radio in that backwash, the Cove.

The reporter knew a good story when he heard one, and wrote up Radio and
the Cove--with a strange outcome for Lee Renaud.

That newspaper story was good human-interest news. It was copied by
other papers and was read by a far-reaching audience. Then things began
to happen.

Touched by the pathos of a boy's lonely struggle, radio fans here, there
and elsewhere packed boxes of material and sent them down to Renaud of
the Cove. Americans are generous when human interest hits the heart.
Books, wires, tubes--Lee Renaud was almost swamped in the wealth of
experimental material. And Lee even had a visit from one of the regular
relay station inspectors. There was talk of making the Cove a step in
the Relay Organization of America and erecting a sending station there.
The talk died down, but out of the affair Lee got in touch with American
Radio Relay and was given a call number, "RL."

With the thoroughness peculiar to him, Lee made no spectacular plunge,
but went ahead step by step. As he had followed the beginnings of
electricity up through that ancient scientific book, so he now tried to
"grow up" along with the moderns, in radio.

The making of a new type radio transmitter was his dream, but he began
his work back at the very beginning. Up in his workshop stood copies of
some of the very first radio models. There was a primitive looking Hertz
Resonator, or Receiver. It was nothing but a hoop of wire, its circle
being broken at one point by a pair of tiny brass balls, with a very
small air-gap between. When this resonator was set up across a room,
exactly opposite the spark-gap of an electric oscillator, and the key of
the oscillator was manipulated, sparks shot across the gap in the wire
hoop, even though the hoop was not attached to a current. And that was
wireless--the first one! In Lee's collection were also copies of the
Branly Coherer and the Morse Inker, and of that amazingly simple radio
apparatus with which the inventor Marconi shook the world.

As Marconi had built on the discoveries of Hertz and Lodge and Branly,
so Renaud planned to build on Marconi. Where other modern inventors had
seen the vision of huge transmitting machines and tremendous power,
young Renaud's vision was to ensmall radio.

Months of work had gone into these outfits that he and Lem Hicks bore on
their backs. There was power in them, but of necessity they were crudely
built.

And now would this simple mechanism transmit sound for more than the few
yards for which it had been tested thus far? Time and again as he
tramped along, Lee was tempted to halt, set up his outfit, and seek
connection with Hicks, waiting at the village.

But he had set the forks of the road as his distance, and Lem wouldn't
be expecting him before a certain time anyway.

At last he was there, where the rambling country road divided, one
branch dropping down into the valley, the other leading over a wooded
ridge. It was all a matter of minutes for young Renaud to assemble his
outfit, erect the folding aerial above his head, adjust the mouthpiece,
and crank the handshaft for power. He was in a tremble as he pressed the
buzzer signal and tensely waited for some sign that the sound had gone
through.

But no reply came in through the small ear phone receivers. The whole
world seemed suddenly still, save for the faint rustle of wind in the
leaves, the twit-twit of a bird off in the woods.

"Guess it won't work. It's failed!" Lee's mind was registering dully
when, with a hissing "zip" that made him leap clear of the ground, a
distinct buzz sounded in the ear pieces.

"H-hello! You--you hear me? You Lem!" Lee shrieked into the little
transmitter.

"Hey! Plain as day! You like to blew my head off!" came the delighted
voice of Lem Hicks. "Whoop-la, you done made something, Lee Renaud!"

For a spell the two boys passed excited words back and forth through
this thing that had made a mile of space as nothing. Then a sudden beat
of hoofs down the woods road made Lee leap back towards the ditch. He
had hardly cleared the way when a lank bay horse, lathered in mud and
sweat, plunged around the bend.

At the sight of this strange apparition in head-strap and ear pieces,
with aerial wire rising above its head like horns, the horse shied,
snorting and plunging.

"Hi, be you man or devil?" shouted the mud-spattered rider, trying to
rein in his animal. "What for be you rigged up to scare honest folk out
of the road?"

"I--just trying an experiment," Lee hastily slipped his head free of
aerial harness and the mouth and ear pieces, so that he looked human
once more.

"No time for any of your 'speriments to be hindering me," called the
rider over his shoulder, as his horse plunged on down the road. "I'm
spreading the call for help. Floods over everything up Sargon Sound!
Folks homeless and dying!" and with a clatter of hoofs, he was gone.

He was a surprised rider, though, when he galloped into King's Cove
village some ten minutes later and found that his news had preceded him.

Two little portable radio machines, manipulated by a couple of
youngsters, had brought the word faster, ten times faster, than his
horse could travel and men were already preparing to set out to rescue
the flood sufferers.



                               CHAPTER IX

                              SARGON SOUND


A line of wagons were unloading along a ridge of land that overlooked
the turbid yellow waters of the Sargon flood. One group of men were
stacking sacks of meat and meal, which had been lugged over the hill
road to help feed the stricken families that had lost everything.
Another group had already started for the woods with their saws and axes
to fell trees for rafts, on which to bring off the hundreds of refugees
huddled on ridges still showing above the water.

"Powerful heavy, and don't feel like nothing to eat," said Jed Prother,
giving a disdainful kick against some crates and a pile of metal pieces
wrapped in old sacking which he had just lifted off a wagon.

"Hi--don't! That's our radio! Might break something!" protested Renaud,
coming on the jump.

"Radio? Huh!" snorted Prother. "Better have brought meat and blankets
'stead of that thing! No time to tinker at toys down here!"

"He must allow to serenade the rabbits and the 'possums--give 'em a
little music, perhaps," broke out another of the workmen with a bitter
laugh.

Lee Renaud started to retort, then checked his words. These fellows had
a right to feel bitter, with all their possessions swept away in that
rolling ocean of muddy waters. It was an appalling disaster. A
cloudburst up in the hills had flooded a whole valley. Trees, houses,
dead animals rode the current in a procession of horror. And if help did
not reach out soon to the pitiful families marooned on tiny islands,
human bodies would be swirled off into that awful drift.

The need was great, yet there were so few to do the relief work, and the
equipment of homemade scows and lumbering log rafts was so inadequate.

Sargon district was peculiarly isolated--fourteen miles from a railroad,
not an automobile in the whole valley, no telegraph or telephone
connections. Starvation, sickness from exposure, any of a hundred other
ills could sweep in on the trail of the Sargon flood before the outside
world would be aware of it.

These facts stalked endlessly through Lee's mind as, with Lem Hicks to
help him, he began unpacking his crates and sackcloth bundles in a tiny
cabin on the edge of the flood. Here was wireless apparatus, a fearful
jumble of it! This stuff might work--and then again it mightn't.

"Two strong huskies! Better be rowing a boat 'stead o' tinkering!" was a
jeer that drifted in through the cabin door.

Maybe they ought to, and yet--with a sudden out-thrust of chin, Renaud
settled back to work. Jeering be blowed! He must carry on as best he
could.

Shades of all inventors! Lee Renaud had brought to Sargon Valley his old
Marconi model, with a wild scheme for hitching a receiving circuit on to
it. He had lugged down, also, his two crude little portables for field
radio use, but they were too unperfected as yet to depend on for any
distant use. And "distance" was what young Renaud had to get in an
emergency like this.

Lem Hicks thought that in all these months he had learned a bit about
wireless. But he was lost in trying to follow the complexities of the
improvised wiring plan Renaud was flinging into shape. Batteries,
induction coils, couplers, transformers seemed to fairly spring into
place. In his haste, Lee appeared to be rushing the work with incoherent
carelessness, but in fact he was following a wiring plan of rigid
exactitude, binding, twisting, tying wires with fingers that knew the
meaning of every move.

Lem, unskilled as he was, could only fetch and carry.

"Lively now! Let's get at the aerial! Where's the hammer, the chisel?"
Like one demented, Renaud drove himself and Lem Hicks, too.

Here was a bewildering tangle of coils and tubes hitched onto the little
old-fashioned Marconi "brass pounder" of electric wireless telegraph.

Then at a touch from Lee the spark began to sputter. Adjustments, and it
sputtered more.

"Now--now! It's hitting it up! And I'm going to CQ Mobile till the cows
come home!" muttered Lee between set teeth. "That's the nearest big city
and we got to have help out of 'em for down here--quick!"

To the crackle of the spark, the "urgent" call sped over watery waste
and land ridges towards civilization.

Every few seconds Lee eased up on his telegraphic tapping and switched
over to listen. "Ah, we've touched a station!"

"WDK talking! Point Hope Amateur Relay. Who are you, brother? New
station, eh? Glad you're on the air." On and on the string of Morse
rolled in.

"Idiot!" snorted Lee in disgust, switching his key back to transmission
with a vicious jab. "We've got to have action, not gab!" Then with
steady spark he hammered relentlessly, "S.O.S.--S.O.S.--S.O.S.--Help!
Help! Save!"

That brought Station WDK up to taw in a hurry, knocked the gab out of
him, and held him keyed for business. "Shoot! Who's in trouble? We stand
by to help!" flashed in the message.

Lee settled down to transmission. His code poured out in a steady stream
from the brass pounder. "RL Amateur Station calling. Sargon River
district flooded. Need immediate help. Cut off from everywhere--no
railroads--no telegraph. Need food, tents, doctors. Pass on the call!"

On through the day Lee Renaud stuck to his pounder, CQing up and down
the whole state of Alabama, sending word of the dire need. Mobile,
Anniston, Birmingham--the cities over the state were tapped into touch.

Yes. Help was coming. Red Cross was answering the S.O.S. of the lone
operator down in the flood country. "O.K. for you, Flood Station RL. On
the way with supplies, tents, doctors, couple more radios and relief
operators. Army Post sending emergency airplanes. Coast steamer at
Mobile wants to head up the Sound for rescue work. Can she make it?"

And so, hour after hour, Lee Renaud kept his old Marconi
sparking--taking innumerable calls, sputtering back directions in Morse.

Then his little portable radios had their inning. Lem Hicks, with one of
the fieldpack mechanisms on his back, traveled the return trail till he
was halfway between Sargon and King's Cove. From here he relayed the
flood reports from Lee on to Jimmy Bobb at the Cove. This was done to
ease the minds of the King's Cove folk who had plenty of kin all up and
down Sargon Valley, and were anxious for news.

It was a blessed thing, though, that young Renaud had pounded his old
Marconi on longdistance calls for aid through the day, for the night
hours brought a new and worse disaster. A great power dam, fifty miles
up the Sargon, broke under the pressure of water, and by early morning a
second flood rushed down and widened the first flood by miles.



                               CHAPTER X

                             A PENCIL LINE


Lee did not know just what had happened in that brief interval when he
nodded at his post, but he awoke to find himself sprawled in the midst
of radio wreckage on the floor of his cabin, which was reeling and
rocking, adrift in the flood. Water swishing over his face had brought
him around. It was coming in fast now, and the cabin was sinking. He
would have to get out.

Something must have struck him when the flood swept off the cabin, for
his head throbbed dizzily. Nevertheless he managed to climb to the
rafters, dragging with him his little shoulder-pack radio though he
feared the fall had ruined it. Hacking with his pocket-knife, he tore
off enough shingles to let himself out on the roof.

All about him stretched a horrible yellow sea. On its drift were other
flood-loosed buildings, tangle of house furnishings, swollen dead
animals, bellies up, and now and then a human corpse.

Like some frail skiff sucked into the wake of a great ocean liner, Lee's
sodden little roof rolled smashingly against a big two-story cupolaed
dwelling that was careening magnificently on its way to the Gulf of
Mexico. The boy was catapulted into the air, then down into the flood,
and came up, swimming for life. When the waves flung him against the big
derelict again, he clung desperately to the ragged planking of what once
must have been the porch, caught his breath, and began to draw himself
up into this new haven of doubtful safety.

Heavy with weariness and the weight of water, it was a momentous matter
to inch himself up the house wall to gain a high window sill and to
crawl over. Half-fainting from exhaustion, he fell inside on the
slippery floor.

A voice beat in his ears. It was startling to have words come out of
that shadowy corner across the room.

"Hi, stranger! A perilous ride we're having!" Lying on the floor was a
heavy-built man with iron-gray hair, and skin bronzed almost to
mahogany. His face was drawn with pain and one leg was stiffly bound in
crude splints made of broken chair slats. "Captain Jan Bartlot,
explorer, welcomes you to his home." A hand was extended as Lee crawled
across the floor. "Devil of an exploration we're on now! Looks like our
last one, though I've been in worse fixes and come out--once in Egypt,
another time in Borneo."

Lee felt that this was some mysterious dream he was having. The flood,
the drifting, this man with bronzed face and queer accent--all seemed
part and parcel of the dream. It was too strange to be true.

But it was true. And this did look to be the last voyage in this life
for the man and the boy unless rescue came to them. But how could they
get help--how let people know of their perilous position?

His radio could do it! If only he could make it work.

Lee's whole body was a mass of weariness; his head was still dizzy. But
as his senses cleared, he mechanically set to work to repair his little
shoulder-pack radio. On the wave-rocked floor he spread out the parts.
The heavy little cogwheels, the crankshaft, the coil of stout
wire--these could be patched together. Lee rummaged through the derelict
house for repair material. He smashed open the swollen doors of closets
and cupboards and found glass jars, some tins, nails and pieces of wire.
With these he went forward with his task. But it was hopeless! He could
find nothing to replace the delicate network of minute wiring that had
crossed the little selenized sheets in the transmitter and receiver. The
blow that had torn this fragile meshwork away had destroyed all
usefulness of the radio. There was nothing for Lee to do except wait and
watch the flood wastes for some rescue boat.

Meantime he would try to keep the stranger with the broken leg as
comfortable as possible on that dipping, careening house floor. It is
remarkable how, in times of dire stress, two utter strangers can be
drawn together. In a short time they are as old friends. Friendship made
and cemented by danger! Lee Renaud and Captain Bartlot talked of many
things.

One could almost forget present danger in listening to Captain Bartlot,
mining explorer, tell of the weird, out-of-the-way places of the world
where he had gone in search of the rare stones and minerals that were
his hobbies. He had prospected down in tropic jungles, where one had to
dodge the poison darts of black head-hunters, where one encountered
monster animals and reptiles. He had gone into the Arctic wastes, into
the underground treasure-houses of buried cities, into the tombs of the
ancients.

"If this ark of ours would only stop pitching so, why, boy, I'd show you
some of the specimens I have in this case," Bartlot said, his hand
touching a leather roll that lay beside him on the floor. "There's one
of those rare green fire-diamonds from out of an Aztec king's tomb, and
a piece of nickel-iron star stone from a meteor that fell in frozen
Greenland. Rather far extremes, eh? A New York museum wants to buy my
collection. I came back to my old home where I could catalog my
specimens in peace and write up their histories for museum records. And
after all my travels and close calls, here I am in my own living-room,
my leg smashed by a cabinet sliding across the floor, and the whole
house adrift on the flood tide of my native Alabama River."

The lurching of the drifting house ended the sentence in a groan, as the
injured man, despite Lee's efforts, rolled across the floor.

"The water is coming in fast now," said Lee. "Do you think I could help
you upstairs?"

With a bed slat for a crutch, Bartlot labored up the stairway, young
Renaud lifting and tugging to the limit of his strength. Somehow they
accomplished it though Bartlot fell unconscious when the last step was
achieved. Diamonds in their leather roll and some useless radio junk had
no particular value in a crisis like this. Nevertheless, Renaud returned
to the first floor and carried these possessions, some tins of food, and
a couple of soggy blankets up the slippery stair. Step by step, the
hungry waters crept up and up behind him.

What would the end be? Would this sagging, sinking building last much
longer? A booming detonation hurled a negative answer to the question.

A floating mass of logs and uprooted trees had crashed into a portion of
the old house. Lower and lower in the flood tide rode the battered
derelict. The water was coming up to the second floor.

There was still the cupola tower above the roof. If they could reach
that! With a blanket knotted under the unconscious man's arms, Lee began
to drag him up the narrow, ladder-like stair that led into this turret.
His heart was sick at the horrible jolting he had to inflict on the
injured man. A blessing on his unconsciousness! It must hold him in its
pall until--until--now they were up!

Lee carried their belongings up this second flight, and wedged the
trapdoor down between them and that creeping flood below. Here was
safety until the house battered to pieces in the torrent.

Jan Bartlot came out of his stupor and lay very still, clenching his
teeth against groaning.

Death lurked near. To keep his mind off the boom and thunder of the
flood, off the lap of water creeping, creeping up toward their last
refuge, Lee Renaud bent over his wrecked radio. His fingers straightened
a loop of aerial here, made a connection there, cranked at the motor
shaft for power. It was all no use. Too much of the selenized plate
wiring missing! But he had to be doing something.

Crouching in this last lift of floor space, he idly drew his pencil
point back and forth across the tiny receiver plate, outlining the mesh
of missing wires--and almost screamed as a faint buzzing seemed to
follow in the path of the pencil lines.

Extraordinary! Out of all reason! Electricity following a pencil line as
though it were a wire!

A faint hope burned!

Like a madman, Lee cranked at the generator arm, adjusted transmitter
and receiver, shot the buzzer.

And like a miracle sweeping over that yellow torrent, a sound came to
him in the receiver:

"Renaud? That you? Been searching all night. First buzz signal just hit
us. Where are you?"

"Stand by, Lem!" Renaud cranked frantically for more power. "Out in an
old cupola top house--sinking fast. That double sugarloaf mountain peak
looms just to the west of us."

"Airplanes searched there last night," wirelessed young Hicks. "Must a
missed you. Coming again, two of 'em!"

But it wasn't an airplane that rescued them after all. To get an injured
man out of a drifting house and aboard a ship of the air was beyond
question. So Renaud stuck to his post till one of the rescue motor boats
could thread the flood litter and circle in near enough to get a hawser
to the derelict. Supporting the half-conscious Bartlot on
life-preservers that had been flung to him, Lee kept his burden afloat
till both could be drawn aboard.

                  *       *       *       *       *

In that night, when Lee had been swept adrift, the Sargon Sound district
had seemed to progress a hundred years. Yesterday it had been a land on
foot or on mule-back, without telephone or telegraph. Today on a height
above the flood, a city of tents had sprung up. Motor trucks, muddy to
the wheel top, showed how transportation had been accomplished. Supplies
in stacks, a long hospital tent, doctors, nurses, a flotilla of
seaplanes moored in the crescent-shaped harbor! A line of refugees
filing into a field soup kitchen, and more refugees coming into safety
aboard a bluntnosed steamer that had been scouring the islands!

Radio had done it! Radio had brought the assistance of a whole state to
the relief of the flood sufferers down in this isolated district.

"Gosh!" Lee exclaimed as he stepped from the putt-putting little motor
boat, "folks sure answered the call of that old Marconi 'brass pounder'
in something like a--like a hurry!"

"Sho did!" Lem Hicks' voice was fervent. "And, boy, when you brought
radio down here, you done something!"



                               CHAPTER XI

                           A MYSTERIOUS CALL


The winter following the Sargon Valley flood was a busy one for Lee
Renaud. The spectacular success of his little "pencil line" radio outfit
brought him considerable newspaper notice. He even had offers from one
or two radio concerns for the outright purchase of his portable model.

But both his staunch friends, Dr. Pendexter and Captain Bartlot, advised
against the sale of his rights in the little mechanism he had invented.
It was in a crude state now but, developed and improved, it might have
the makings of a fortune in it, especially if it could be advertised in
a big way.

So Lee sent in an application to Washington to have his model patented,
and then dropped back once more into the oblivion of King's Cove, and
hard work.

The mysterious pencil line that had acted in the place of a wire
connection, and so had saved his and Bartlot's lives, had proved to Lee
Renaud that there were many hitherto undreamed-of agencies for radio
improvement. The boy longed to experiment in a big way with those
crystal detectors that act as the electric ear of radio--such as
zincite, and bornite, and silicon-antimony. But working with what
materials he had, Lee improved his little machine until instead of a
mere ten-or twenty-mile reach, he stretched its sending power to a
hundred, then to two hundred miles.

Lee's vision grew. He dreamed of radio encircling the earth. Since his
own little mechanism had stretched its call to reach on from twenty to
two hundred miles, why couldn't it be improved to reach across frozen
wastes of the far north, across jungles, across oceans? Oh, for a chance
to study modern radio! A chance to live with one of those splendid,
modern sending machines that concerns backed by huge wealth were
producing! He had been going it so alone.

It was a blow to young Renaud when he found that Captain Bartlot was
leaving the Gulf Coast, going north for an indefinite stay. Lee had come
to depend greatly on the encouragement and advice of this tall, bronzed
man who, for all of his quiet look, had lived through more hairbreadth
adventures than most folk even dream could happen.

It was to place his museum collection, which he had spent the better
part of his life in gathering, that Captain Bartlot was going to New
York. Before he sailed, though, as a parting gift to Lee Renaud, he laid
in the young fellow's hand a bit of odd-looking stone in a tiny box.

"That doesn't look like much of a gift to a fellow who has stood by you
on the 'burning deck,' or rather on the sinking housetop," he said with
a laugh. "But if you happen to want to turn it into a bit of money for
your experimenting, the Brant-Golden Jewelry Company over in Tilton
would likely be interested in it."

Some weeks later, when a tall, dark-haired youngster, who had made the
twenty-mile trip to Tilton on horseback, slid the tiny box with the bit
of stone in it across the jeweler's counter, the Mr. Brant, of
Brant-Golden, undid the wrappings rather diffidently, emptied the
contents into his hand with a careless flip--then indulged in a shout
and a sort of Indian-dance leap that jounced his pince-nez clear off his
dignified nose.

"Why--er--ah! An ancient Egyptian balas-ruby, cut octahedronal!" He
balanced it on his palm, turned it so that the facets caught the light,
now pale rose, now deepening to orange. "Don't see one in a hundred
years over here. Must be the stone Jan Bartlot was telling me about.
Say, young man, I'll give you five hundred dollars for it!"

Lee Renaud opened his mouth--shut it. He was too surprised to say
anything.

"Eight hundred, then, if it's real!" Mr. Brant mistook Lee's silence of
pure surprise as negation of his first offer. Then, as if afraid the
strange ruby might melt in his hand, the jeweler dashed into his testing
room.

The balas-ruby was real, a semi-precious stone. It was the peculiar
ancient Egyptian glyph, or inscription sign, cut into its back that gave
the stone its triple value.

His head still reeling with amazement, Lee rode back to the Cove with a
check in his pocket--the first eight hundred dollar check he had ever
seen in his life.

He had not dreamed that Captain Bartlot was making him such a gift. The
money was a wonderful boon. Not all of it went into radio
experimentation, however. A part of the sum re-roofed Great-uncle Gem's
leaking old mansion. Another part went to Lee's mother back in the North
Alabama city of Shelton. And there were still some funds left to invest
in the costly experimental material young Renaud had longed for. He
pushed on continually with his work of trying for distance, trying to
amplify the weak sounds that traveled from far places on the mighty push
of electrically generated waves that needed to be magnified and
regenerated before the human ear could hear them.

Great-uncle Gem was wrapped up in Lee's work. Every experiment held his
keenest interest.

"Gadzooks!" snorted the old gentleman. "This radio business has added
ten years to my life. I was just drying up and aging for the lack of
interest in something."

Night after night, old Gem sat before the radio Lee had built for him,
keeping in touch with the world without moving out of his armchair.

"Eh, what's that now?" Gem Renaud waved his cane at a queer-looking
metal tube Lee was bringing in from his workshop. This was a brass
cylinder some ten inches long by two inches thick. Caps of a silvery
metal closed the ends, and a roll of fine wire was attached to each cap.
In his other hand, Lee carried a compact wooden case.

"Just a new type storage cell and some selenium plates for aerial wave
catchers that I want to try out on your radio."

Lee dropped down beside the mechanism and set to work. For an hour and
more, he tapped and screwed and soldered.

"There, that's sort of like it!" He cut on the switch and leaned
forward, tense, listening.

Clear as a bell, purer and with less static interference than ever
before, music from a distant station rolled through the room.

"It's those selenium plates," jubilated young Renaud. "They catch the
waves better than any other aerial going!"

Far into the night, he and old Gem sat tinkering, trying this station
and that, enjoying themselves hugely. It was along toward midnight that
they picked up a strange message out of the air.

"Renaud of the Radio, do you want to go to the Arctic?"

Just that; nothing more.



                              CHAPTER XII

                               THE NARDAK


As Lee Renaud, burdened with two heavy leather cases, stepped off the
train in Adron, Ohio, and made his way toward the station exit, a big
bronzed man rushed forward to meet him.

"Good for you, Lee!" and Captain Bartlot reached a hand for one of the
cases. "You did what I was counting on--came in time to superintend the
copying of that portable of yours for the field radio use. Say, want to
go to the hotel first or straight out to the Nardak's hangar?"

"On to the Nardak!" said Lee. "I couldn't rest till I saw it, anyway."

Radio certainly was getting Renaud "somewhere." Like a magic jinnee of
old, it had picked him up by the scruff of the neck, swished him out of
a dreamy Gulf Coast village, and landed him in this hustling midwestern
city that was famed for its rubber factories and its airship hangar. If
radio, to be exact, hadn't bodily brought him here to Adron, at least it
had been the motive power that had gained for him this trip.

"Renaud of the Radio, do you want to go to the Arctic?"

That had been the beginning of it all. A puzzling communication, that,
to drop in on a fellow out of mid-air. Later had come another message in
explanation. Both were from his friend, Captain Jan Bartlot. He was
planning a "mush" into the Arctic by airship, to prospect for gold and
other valuables. He had sold his jewel collection for a vast sum, and
now the call of adventure was taking him back into a life of
exploration. Captain Jan was the type of man whom danger lures as a
honey-pot lures bees. A great new gold rush was stirring the Western
Hemisphere--a flying rush into Canada's frozen Arctic on the hunt for
that precious metal. A fur-clad adventurer's discovery of gold-bearing
rock in the northern wilds of the Mackenzie Delta had sent men trekking
into that frozen land by canoe, by foot, by dog-sled. On his other
explorations, Jan Bartlot had followed land trails and sea trails. But
now he proposed to follow the air trail up into the Arctic, to take a
huge dirigible into that land of storms and snows. It was an expedition
fraught with danger, yet one of marvellous practicability----if handled
right. Instead of pushing north for many months on a long trek by canoe
and sled, prospectors, geologists, mining engineers, mining-syndicate
scouts, all the personnel of a vast mining operation could be
transported into the north in record time.

For this mammoth gold hunt, the modern surveyor's implement was to be
the camera, and the connecting link between the various scout parties
was to be the "voice of radio."

On a dangerous journey like this, radio operators had to have something
besides a nimble brain and mechanical ability; they must needs possess
courage, stamina. It was remembrance of the way one Lee Renaud had stood
by an injured man aboard a sinking, derelict roof in the Sargon flood
that had caused Bartlot to offer the young fellow a chance to go on this
wild, wonderful expedition.

In his long explanatory message sent to Renaud at King's Cove, Bartlot
had stated that he wanted to try out the boy's portable radio model as a
connecting link between various mining explorations in the field of
operation--was offering five thousand dollars for the right to copy this
model and test it, provided Renaud went on the trip. A dangerous test he
was offering the young inventor, but if it succeeded--well, it meant
world advertising, and the Renaud Portable going over the top, big.

Would Renaud go?

The answer was Lee Renaud himself. After making the necessary
arrangements for the care of his Great-uncle Gem, Lee had caught the
first train north.

As they taxied across Adron, the busy rush of trucks and cars, the clang
and clatter of this factory metropolis, and the loom of skyscrapers
furnished a thrill for the visitor--but it was as nothing to the thrill
of his first sight of a dirigible.

Captain Bartlot had wirelessed Renaud that an airship, the dirigible
Nardak, was to be their mode of travel. But Renaud had not dreamed how
immense this ship would be. Even before he saw the monster of the air,
the unique building that housed it loomed before his eyes like some
magic growth.

There it stood--a master structure in dun-colored steel, semi-paraboloid
in shape, like a mastodonic egg cut in half lengthwise. A one-story
structure eleven hundred feet long, and tall enough to take a twenty-two
story skyscraper under its roof, with room to spare!

While their taxi was still some miles from the airport, its enormous
bulk dominated its surroundings.

Men in impressive uniforms patrolling outside the building seemed like
minute toys in comparison. Small wonder, when the doors behind them
weighed six hundred tons each and stood two hundred feet high.

As the two got out of the taxi and came up the paved way, Bartlot
motioned to a couple of officials. "Commander Millard, Chief Engineer
Goode," he called out, "here's another of our staff, second in command
at the radio--my friend Renaud."

"Glad to meet you! Ah--a word with you, Captain?" and Millard, briefly
acknowledging the introduction, went aside with Bartlot.

A heated argument ensued. Voices, lowered at first, rose now and then.
"A mistake--too young, country bumpkin--risk to expedition."

Lee had the uncomfortable feeling that he was the subject of discussion.

Then Captain Bartlot came striding back, his jaw set, his bronzed face
tinged an angry red.

At his command, a couple of stationary engines, housed on either side of
the building, were set to generating. Under their power the huge curved
doors began to roll back, each door moving on twenty steel wheels on a
curved track that carried it back along the side of the building. As he
stepped forward and took a view down that vast vault, Lee Renaud felt
reduced to smallness--of a truth! As he looked upward, there was a sense
of surrounding immensity that left him weak in the legs. Two hundred
feet up, under the ridge of the roof, toy workmen labored on a duralumin
framework that had been lifted up by cranes. Not a sound came from them,
they were too far away.

Lee Renaud caught his breath. Within this mountain of steel and glass,
six football games, a chariot race and a circus could be staged
simultaneously.

"The largest building in the world without internal supports or columns
of any kind," said Jan Bartlot, "and er-r, the only building in the
world that has its own peculiar brand of weather. Ah--ca-chu-ah!" the
Captain ended in a wild sneeze as a heavy shower rained down upon them.

Lee looked about in puzzlement. The sun was shining brightly outside.

"Condensation," explained Bartlot. "All sorts of temperatures meet in
here, form a fog, and occasionally roll down in rain."

"But the Nardak? I thought it was housed in here?" Lee cast his gaze
over the vast emptiness.

"She's coming in now. Don't you hear the buzzer?"

"Bz-z-z!" A radio within the building had picked up the signal from the
approaching ship. Men rushed forward from all sides and took their
stands at stated intervals along the length of the building.

From the magazine illustrations he had seen of dirigibles, Lee Renaud
pictured to himself how the Nardak would come--an elongated balloon
drifting through the air, casting off thousand-foot lengths of rope for
men to seize and drag her down to earth.

But the huge Nardak swept into her dock in a very different manner.



                              CHAPTER XIII

                        WITHIN THE SILVERY HULL


The Nardak was coining into her hangar--not drifting through the air,
but rolling in on wheels. From far down the track line that entered the
covered dock came a heavy rumbling. Then a long line of trucks appeared,
running smoothly over the docking rails. Anchored to these was the vast,
silvery shape of the Nardak, an aeronautical leviathan nearly eight
hundred feet long by a hundred and forty feet high.

"The Nardak on wheels! I thought it was a ship of the air!" gasped
Renaud.

"So it is," laughed Captain Bartlot, "but this is the simplest way of
getting her into her hangar. Even with these rolling doors opened to
make an enormous entrance, there is always the danger that the cross
winds and gusts that sweep into the hangar will batter this
lighter-than-air craft against the walls or roof. She's been on a test
flight. Her crew landed her out on the unobstructed field, then anchored
her on wheels for the trip indoors."

After the Nardak was in the hangar, the ground crew stepped forward and
fastened her ropes through the iron rings in concrete pillars that
studded the floor here and there on either side of the docking rails.

"We won't have all this assistance and landing paraphernalia to help us
when we get up into the ice country," said Bartlot. "But we are counting
on another landing method that we are going to try out when the need
comes. All right, young man," motioning Lee to follow, "want to see this
'cigar' of mine at close quarters?"

The huge dirigible in its sheen of silvery paint did look like a
mammoth, tinfoil wrapped cigar--a cigar eight hundred feet long!

As Lee Renaud went up the little set of drop-steps and entered the hull,
he was overwhelmed at the amazing intricacy of the interior. Seen from
without, the simple lines of the dirigible would seem to indicate that
it was nothing more than a great gas bag. But within that silvery casing
was a structure as complicated as that of a steel skyscraper. Three
thousand metal struts criss-crossed in a maze of latticed girders.

"Tons, and thousands of tons of weight!" thought Lee. "How can this load
even lift, much less fly!"

As if in answer to the thought, Bartlot spoke. "These struts--duralumin,
an alloy metal, that's what they are made of. There, laid on the floor
of the runway, is a discarded girder that's just been taken out. Lift
it."

Lee took a long breath, got a grip on the thing, gave a great tug--and
almost fell backwards. Sixteen feet of girder, and it weighed next to
nothing! He could almost lift it with a finger!

"And yet the weight of six men couldn't bend it!" Bartlot remarked in
answer to Lee's questioning look.

They passed on down the catwalk, or metal promenade plank that ran the
whole length of the hull. On either side were arranged the great tanks
of gasoline that furnished the motive power for the dirigible, and the
twenty separate balloonets or gas bags that contained helium, which was
the lifting power of the ship.

"Here's a case where _a la_ the old rhyme, the cow will jump over the
moon." Captain Jan pointed to the gas bags. "These remarkable gas-tight
containers are made of thousands upon thousands of portions of
gold-beater's skin, which is the small tough section of the intestine of
a steer. More than 1,500,000 cattle from the various stockyards
contributed to the making of these helium bags--so in the name of
science, the cow is going to soar pretty high."

One marvel after another aroused Lee Renaud's admiration as his capable
guide took him from end to end of the ship, and down through the
ladderways that connected with the outside gondolas that housed the
engines, the navigating room, the quarters for the crew. There was the
great rudder to guide her through the ocean of air, the flippers for
elevation, the keel corridor for storage, the laboratory, the
photographic room, the instruments for recording speed, height, weather.

Wonderful equipment, on a wonderful craft. Yet Lee Renaud found his eyes
straying here and there, searching for something more.

"The radio-room, eh? I'll bet a ton of duralumin, you're on pins to set
your eyes on it. Well, I've saved radio for the climax--saved the best
for the last, and I know that's a truth, so far as Lee Renaud's
concerned." Captain Jan exploded into his big laugh as he led the way
forward toward a compartment in the navigating section of the ship which
was built at the bow, just under the nose. This navigating section was
arranged with the control-room set first, the chart-house immediately
behind, and behind this again the radio-room with its complete
broadcasting and receiving equipment.

As Lee Renaud got his first eyeful of the Nardak's radio equipment, his
breath seemed to cut off and his hair fairly stand on end for
excitement. Here was radio--real radio!

Into wall panels, from floor to ceiling, were set elaborate mechanisms
of grills and tubes and coils. In the center of the compartment was a
desk and chair, as though this were some secretarial room in a
skyscraper office building. But instead of housing pen and ink and
paper, this desk housed the marvelous apparatus that could send word by
air, instead of by ink.

A man in shirt sleeves, and with head phones adjusted, sat humped over
the radio desk, working at a dial. This was Jack Simms, radio chief of
the Nardak. As Captain Bartlot made the introductions, a ferocious
scowl, emphasized by a great scar across the left cheek, seem to draw up
Simms' face, and he spoke shortly, "Howdy, youngster!" with what
appeared to Lee unnecessary emphasis on the "youngster." All these
veterans seemed to have it in for the youngest member of the crew, and
to resent his being thrust in among them.

While Simms rather perfunctorily explained to his newly arrived
assistant the various parts of this very modern and powerful radio unit,
Lee couldn't keep his eyes off the scar across the man's cheek. What Lee
did not know, at that time, was that Simms had gained that perpetual
decoration by sticking to his radio post aboard a rammed and sinking
ocean liner--a post that he held till he had put wireless through to
other ships that answered the call and rescued every man jack aboard the
wreck.

"Now here are our ten-meter transmitters for exploring ultra-short
waves," Simms' cool voice went on. "With condensers adjusted for maximum
plate current, sounds from quite a respectable distance can be brought
into the clear. I'll demonstrate." He turned the tiny marking light on
the dial. "That ought to get us Station ZEAF at Brinton, two hundred
miles away."

As the dial light came to rest, a clear burst of beautiful music rolled
through the little room.

"That's hitting it up pretty fine." Lee's face glowed. "I reached out to
two hundred once with an old battery, some barbed wire and the like. Got
the sound, but it was distorted, like the singer was yelling out of the
side of his mouth--"

"You've made radio, huh? Receiver, or transmitter?"

"Both."

As Lee, at Simms' prompting, told something of the various experiments
he had tried, Bartlot quietly left the room, to return later bearing the
leather case containing the boy's portable model.

Without a word, the Captain opened back the leather and shoved the
contents up under Jack Simms' nose. The latter half arose, then settled
back, and went over the little mechanism carefully. He gave a long
whistle. "Some points to that, kid!"

After that, there wasn't much in the way of radio that Jack Simms didn't
go into minutely for Lee Renaud's benefit. Old Simms had found that he
and Lee talked the same language--audio frequency, voltage, detector
grid input, C3, filter, and the rest of the jargon.

                  *       *       *       *       *

For a fortnight longer, the preparation aboard the Nardak went forward.
On former trips the Nardak had been a floating pleasure palace circling
the globe with a crew of forty and with twenty passengers in luxurious
staterooms. In view of her impending arduous flight into the barren
polar wastes, all of this was being changed. Such luxurious features of
the ship as the cabin de luxe and the magnificent passenger saloon were
being discarded, and small plain cabins installed. This was done to
lighten the load on the ship and increase the capacity for the useful
load of food and fuel necessities.

During this interim, on a special rush order, an Adron factory pushed
forward the work of making six portables after Lee's little radio model.
These were for field work on the Arctic barrens.

In the airship itself, several structural changes were made. There was
the protecting of vital parts against the effects of low temperatures
and the preparation of certain special equipment for landing without any
help from the ground.

Then the great day came. The day for all aboard, and then off, adventure
bound!

For the last time the huge ship came out of her hangar on wheels. She
was ready now to be loosed, ready to take the air. To the high daring of
her mission the city of Adron did homage. Horns blared, great factory
sirens roared their calls, bands played. Now a wedge of airplanes zoomed
across the sky, come to bid the expedition farewell in their own
particular aerial style. For this departing mammoth of the air was
answering the greatest challenge of them all--a prolonged exploration
flight over the vast frozen Arctic.

On this exploration were going a wonderful picked crew of scientists,
geologists, meteorologists--learned men of many professions had striven
for a chance to face any hardship, if only they might go on this
expedition to the "geologist's paradise," the fearful, mysterious frozen
Polar Region with its lure of unrevealed secrets.

Out of the hundreds of applicants, only so few could go--some sixty men.
Because this dangerous expedition could be no stronger than its weakest
member, its personnel had to be selected with an eye to strength, health
and disposition as well as scientific ability.

A large order in the way of exploration personnel! Yet Jan Bartlot's
genius for leadership led him to pick an astonishingly capable, loyal,
brave body of men to companion him into the wilds of the Arctic.

There was stocky, blond Norwegian Olaf Valchen who came from
Spitzbergen, that far northern settlement. He had long been a lone flyer
of the icy wastes, a carrier of dynamite and other mining supplies
across the Hudson Bay territory.

"Tornado" Harrison of the United States Weather Bureau was going along
to "get the weather" for the various undertakings.

A most important member of the crew was Sandy Sanderson, the cook.
Sanderson was already well up on frigid zone cooking, having dished up
seal steak patties and walrus goulash to whaling ships over half the
oceans of the world.

On this flight, there were explorers who had already battled ice fields
with various forms of polar locomotion, some with shaggy Siberian
ponies, some with sledge huskies, some with ships of the sea. But now,
by ship of the air, by radio, by electricity, Commander Bartlot hoped
not only to penetrate the Arctic, but also to explore it.

He would have need of all the aids of modern science, for the Arctic
world breeds the most fearful of storms, spews forth the most monstrous
of grinding, treacherous icebergs, forever shifts its sky lights in a
strange visibility that deceives and magnifies and lures with mirages.

As the great ship of adventure began to rise, the bands burst into
martial tunes. Shouts roared from the throngs below. Handkerchiefs
fluttered. A little girl in a red dress held her doll aloft for her
father on board to see. Wives, mothers, sweethearts waved farewell.

Lee Renaud, looking over the side, felt suddenly engulfed in loneliness.
In all that crowd there was not one to personally wish him God speed.

The last ropes were being cast off. The vessel rose higher.

There came a shout from below. A boy on a motorcycle was threading the
crowd. "Telegram! Drop a hook!" was bawled up through a megaphone
amplifier.

Then the little yellow envelope went fluttering up on the end of a line.

"Renaud,--Lee Renaud, it's for you!" Lee's hands trembled as he tore it
open. What did it mean? What had happened?

From Great-uncle Gem! Lee's eyes devoured the line of words on the
yellow sheet. "God bless you, and keep you, and help you to show to the
world the stuff you're made out of, Lee Renaud. (Signed) G. Renaud."

Lee gulped. "G-gosh, I bet he sold a silver candlestick to get cash to
send this!" The boy was humble and exultant at the same time. Somebody
believed in him.

The ship was riding the air now. It rose majestically, like a gigantic
silvery bird, turned its prow into the north and was off.

Before the Nardak stretched uncharted wastes--the ocean of air.



                              CHAPTER XIV

                              DANGER AHEAD


A new feeling permeated the ship. She was on her own now, headed for the
great North. Only a few miles separated her from the city of Adron, but
it might as well have been ten thousand leagues, so definitely was the
voyage on.

After so much confusion of last visitors aboard, supplies being stored,
a hundred things underfoot, the crew had to get down to the business of
making affairs ship-shape. Some donned overalls, some stripped to the
waist. Men moved swiftly along the catwalk, up and down connecting
ladders.

Up in the keel corridors of the hull men were happily busy. Down in the
navigating section men were happily busy. In the heat of the engine
gondolas, slung four to each side of the hull, half-naked fellows, with
sweat dripping down their bodies, tuned the six hundred horsepower
gasoline motors for power, and more power. Ninety, ninety-five, a
hundred miles an hour--speed was coming up! They were on the way,
hurrah!

This huge floating bubble of gas prisoned in fabric was to be men's home
for many months. So the expedition settled down to making itself feel at
home.

Bob Tucker, the expedition's photographer, and three assistants, set to
work checking up on the complicated mechanism of the aerial cameras and
the million feet of film that was to be aimed at the Arctic topography.
Theirs would be the task of getting a picture record of the lay of the
land in the mineral section, so as to help the geologists in their
scientific deductions.

Up in the keel storage room, Arctic scouts went through the assortment
of skis and snowshoes, preparatory to the foot-excursions in the land of
snow. Slim up-curved sticks of the skis, broad, thong-latticed spread of
the snowshoes--methods of snow-locomotion that have come down from man's
dim, primitive past! These seemed incongruous aboard this modern sky
ship. But Captain Jan Bartlot was combining the best of many ages in
this exploration.

A little, short-haired dog walked sedately out from the crew's quarters,
navigated a ladder-like stair adroitly, and then curled up beside one of
the big observation windows. This was Yiggy, Olaf Valchen's pet. Yiggy
was an old-timer in the ways of the Arctic, having made many trips
across the snow barrens with Valchen in his mining supply transport, a
big-winged aeroplane. Out of some bits of fur, Olaf was already making
Yiggy a new set of boots for polar walking--since Yiggy, being a
temperate zone dog, had not been born with foot-pad protection like the
shaggy canines of the land of snow and ice.

Here, there and everywhere over his craft went Captain Bartlot, seeing
that all things were in proper shape. Before this start for the Arctic
could be made, weary months of closest application to detail had already
been spent by Bartlot. Equipping an expedition was a huge business.
There was the ship itself that had had to be refitted from stem to stern
in preparation for bucking Arctic storm and the terrors of the "great
cold." There had been waterproof cloth and fur and machinery and radios
and tons of food to be bought. Where they were going, there was no
grocery up the block to run to. There was no mechanician's shop around
the corner, either. So to make a ship of the air safe for getting them
there and bringing them back, and safe for landing on frozen polar
fields, one had to go prepared with hundreds of extra machine parts. One
little missing screw could mean a calamity.

A captain must think of dessicated vegetables and canned sunshine for
his crew's health. And just suppose they had forgotten to pack the snow
moss! They hadn't. It was there in its container, along with reindeer
skin boots and the down-lined gloves.

On even so slight a thing as a bundle of snow moss does the success of
an Arctic trip hang. For without this specially prepared moss to line
boots and absorb dampness, the feet of men tramping the blizzard-swept
snow barrens would freeze.

Just such details as these, and a thousand others, great and small, had
to be attended to by Captain Jan and the men who worked with him.

A trip into the frozen north was no holiday of leisure; it meant hard
work for all concerned.

The busiest place aboard the Nardak was the radio-room, with its every
space--walls, ceiling, desk--crowded with modern equipment. Here was the
powerful short-wave sending and receiving set, an intermediate wave set
for communication with near-by cities and other ships of both air and
sea, and a radio direction finder. Within this room, a group of mining
scouts was carefully taking apart and putting back together one of the
Renaud portables, under the watchful eye of Lee. These men must know
their radio mechanism. For when the great dirigible dropped these men
for scouting in various parts of the Arctic waste, radio would be their
only means of communication with the rest of the party.

The staccato tap-tapping of radio telegraph seemed never to drop silent.
Either Simms or Renaud was always at the desk instrument. As the string
of Morse came in, they deciphered the code into plain English, and
passed on the slips of paper to Tornado Harrison, weather-getter of the
expedition. From Harrison's atmospheric deductions, the route of the
ship was plotted. There was constant communication between radio-room,
chartroom and navigating section.

This Morse code that tapped in so steadily was bringing reports from the
United States Weather Bureau at Washington. These reports were the chief
aids in navigating the great dirigible.

The ocean of air is just as real as any ocean of water; it has its
currents and tides and its air-falls, similar to waterfalls, where air
pours from a higher to a lower level. It is the lay of the land below
that causes the differences in the vast ocean of atmosphere. Mountains,
forests, valleys, all produce their own peculiar currents and cross
currents in the aerial expanse above. Over hills, the air currents are
deflected upwards. Over great flat tablelands, the air flows downward
over the edges in vast Niagaras of air.

Weatherman Harrison had his air map, America of the Air, all wavy lines
and curves and whorls.

From observation posts, on land and sea, all over the world, weather
news is continually radioed to the United States Weather Bureau. From
this mass of information, the Bureau continually computes and makes
deductions and predicts impending weather conditions--which it radios
back out into the ether for the safety of ships of both sea and air.

Thus a far-flung outpost wirelesses: "Storm sweeping southwest from
Labrador at hundred and fifty miles an hour."

Knowing its intensity, its area, and its initial speed, weather chiefs
can tell that the storm will reach Toronto in so many hours, and the
Mississippi Valley in so many more hours. Storm warnings tap through the
air, radio speeds the word in all directions. In consequence, a mail
plane for the West dips south in its itinerary to avoid nasty weather;
shipping on the Great Lakes goes into dock or heads for the safety of
open water; a mammoth dirigible changes its course to circle around a
hail-and-wind-tortured sector of the ocean of air.

Between his hours of standing watch at the radio, Lee turned with
delighted eyes to the mosaic of rivers, cities, forests and farms spread
beneath the ship. Radiograms, together with the great wall map, helped
him identify the cities and the scenic wonders over which they passed.

They swept above Toledo and the smokestacks of Detroit. In splendid
spectacle, the Great Lakes rippled their waters beneath them in the
gleaming sun.

"Well, well, Lee," Captain Jan came down from the hull-storage section
into the navigation car, bringing out for display one of the fur-lined
sleeping bags and a snow knife, "how's traveling? What do you think of
your first ride in a dirigible?"

"Fine!" said Lee. "Only I might as well be sitting out on the front
porch back in King's Cove, so far as any motion can be felt. I can't
tell I'm moving until I happen to look down and glimpse cities and lakes
swishing by at considerably over a mile a minute."

"Um--yes, this thing rides a pretty even keel. Not much dipping and
diving so far. And now take a look at these." Captain Jan spread out his
armful. "No matter whether it may seem cumbersome or not, a sleeping bag
and one of these snow knives for cutting a wind-break out of a drift, is
what every man must carry if he goes off from the ship any way at all
after we land in the ice country. It's a safety rule that I'm laying
down."

"Er--yes, sir." Lee's answer was entirely absent-minded, his whole
attention bent towards the radio instrument, as he leaned forward,
listening to every click.

"Danger ahead--danger!" White to the lips, Renaud swiftly decoded the
wild tap-tapping of wireless into understandable English. "Vast area of
storms and tornado-twisters sweeping down upon us, moving at immense
speed!"

"Orders for engine-rooms, quick! Switch to the gondola telegraphs,"
roared Captain Bartlot. "Tap in orders, boy! Minutes may mean lives!
Reverse flight! Turn the ship!"

Before a terror-twister of the skies, man can only flee down the wind.



                               CHAPTER XV

                                 SHAGUN


Facing a storm, a vessel at sea would have reefed sails and laid low for
the blow. But on this great elongated gas bag, there was nothing to
reef. She could only turn tail and race the wind for her life.

Telegraph orders, rushed from control-room to engine quarters, brought
the huge dirigible up short, rearing and plunging like a frightened
steed. At touch of the engineers, the marvelous mechanism of drive-shaft
and bevel gear tilted each propeller on its axis to throw the ship into
reverse and back it around. For so huge a bulk, she wheeled in her
tracks with amazing speed.

There was need of speed!

Even in that short time while receiving the wirelessed warning out of
the air and plunging into retreat, great banks of cloud had reared
themselves on the horizon, looming black and sinister. With every
passing moment they rolled up, darker, heavier. With awful menace, a
great droning roar filled the air.

The Nardak was turning back on the very fringes of an onrushing storm
that seemed to leap out of the nowhere.

With a rumble the wind-clouds loosed their first furious gusts in a rage
that tore the clouds themselves into a jagged pattern. Ragged openings
gave vistas into the still more fearful storm that they had masked!

Through the barrage of thunderheads burst a three-headed tornado, three
huge twisting wind-spouts that seemed to reach from earth to sky.
Writhing, speeding, twisting across the sky, they pursued the Nardak
like great devouring serpents. Devourers they were! Terrific wind
velocity within those whirling storms could pluck the hair from the
human head, could tear a man limb from limb, could wrench a great
airship into shreds and splinters.

With a rush and a roar, forerunners of the storm seemed to burst upon
the Nardak from all quarters, seemed bound to beat the great hulk into
submission.

Gone was the smooth, swift gliding with which the Nardak had swept
northward for more than a thousand miles. In the fury of the gale, the
huge ship of the air rocked and plunged. Everything not built in or
lashed into place was flung crashing about the hull. Lee Renaud and
Captain Jan were careened together and then dashed to the floor and
flung hither and yon in a welter of broken furnishings.

"Is it the--the end? Will she capsize?" Lee managed to shout to Captain
Jan.

"Heavy ballast--can't turn over. This pounding within, without, that's
the danger." Even as Captain Jan spoke, came a thunderous crash of
falling objects within the hull. "The struts--if they break, they'll
slash the bags like knives!"

Like some hunted wild animal, the Nardak plunged on her way, riding the
constantly changing air currents, sweeping on the edges of the storm,
dodging between gales, by a miracle of maneuvering never letting herself
be completely swallowed in the maw of the storm monster.

Behind her, three snaky wind-spouts came together with a concussion that
rocked sky and earth. In the twinkling of an eye, the face of the land
was changed. Trees, boulders, a whole cliff were swept upward and
reduced to powder in the grinding crush of the winds. A great air wave,
like some tidal wave of the sea, flung the huge Nardak high as though it
were a bit of chaff, sucked it earthward to almost scrape the ground.

Then, as swiftly as it had roared into being, the tempest died away. The
wind muttered and rumbled low, and dropped into a strange calm.

For a little space the airship hung in this calm, quivering and
trembling like some spent runner that has barely survived a terrific
race.

By degrees, the apathy of exhaustion passed from the crew. Battered and
bruised, with strained, white faces, the men rallied from their
terrifying experience and began to take up their tasks.

With apparent serenity, the Nardak went on her way. But in many and
varied places, men labored to repair the damages of the storm. The
thrashings of a broken strut had ripped the tough cloth-and-membrane
lining of one gas bag. It was a total loss--a loss that reduced the
lifting power of the dirigible, but did not cripple the ship to any
appreciable extent. The builders had allowed an overplus of helium to
meet such an emergency. Much more alarming was the discovery of a defect
in the propeller shaft and the flapping of wind-torn fabric on the port
stabilizer fin.

Because Lee Renaud was cool-headed, as well as young and active, he took
his part in the emergency repair work that now must be done.

There was no halting of the great dirigible on her flight. She simply
went into reverse, pointed her nose to the northwest, and took up her
storm-broken course once more. If possible, she must keep to her
scheduled time of going into the Arctic. For the Arctic summer might
last two months, and it might last only a week or so. Arctic summer
means a slight melting of snow in wind-swept valleys, means black
up-thrust of rock and cliff here and there where the snow-cap has
slipped. It is in this brief period, the only time when the contour of
the terrain of this ice-locked land is even slightly exposed, that
geologist and scientist and gold prospector must make their swift search
for the treasure held in Arctic rocks.

So without ever slowing down, much less landing, the Nardak held to her
course, while men, like tiny midgets, crawled perilously over her hull,
within and without. In the crowded quarters of a motor gondola,
mechanics repaired and replaced a propeller, all in the space of four
hours. That was a hot and heavy task. But the real danger came to those
workers suspended in a sort of harness against the outside of the great
dirigible to repair its dismantled fin, while the giant ship held to her
speed and to her height of a thousand meters in the air.

Young Renaud was one of those who let themselves be swung in a net of
ropes between heaven and earth, while they plied great needles in the
latest thing in "dressmaking," seamstering for a new garment for the
stabilizer fin. The tattered condition of the fabric of the port fin was
evidence of the suck and pull of the storm she had grazed. More than a
third of it hung in shreds. Armed with a huge needle and a cord thread
that billowed in the wind, Lee did his share of sewing blankets into
place as patching material on the exposed framework. This would have to
do till the dirigible made her landing at that last outpost of
civilization, Shagun Post on Hudson Bay.

As the repair crew made its way up dizzy aerial ladders, back to the
safety of the interior of the hull, and walked down the long catwalk
that led between rows of fuel tanks, Lee ran his hand through his
upstanding black hair and laughingly remarked, "Whew! I'm hunting a
mirror. Want to see how many gray hairs I got, swinging out there in
that hundred-mile breeze. From the way my knees still tremble, bet it's
all--"

"Ha-ooo! Ha-ooo! Ha-ooo!" A strange pitiful wail changed Lee's joking
into an astonished gasp.

It was a wail that came up from the dim, lattice-work shadows of the
ship's bottom, some sixty-odd feet below.

"Man overboard--I mean, lost in-board!" someone shouted.

"Must've gone down from the walk here, in the plunge of the storm. A
wonder he can still holler, after being hung down there all this time!"
said Olof Valchen.

"Ropes!"

"Down the ladder there!"

"We're coming!"

A jumble of shouts echoed through all parts of the ship.

Lee was one of the first men to go swinging down a long narrow ladder
into the shadowy interlacing of beams and girders. Above the catwalk
were lights, but down here was semi-darkness, and a maze of struts that
must be threaded.

The thin wailing guided him. The gleam of his pocket flashlight glinted
on a pair of eyes far below.

Then he was there, all the way to the ship's bottom, and touching his
hands to a body wedged between girders. As Lee's hands made contact, he
gasped at what he found. And Olaf Valchen, who was the next man to get
there, echoed his gasp.

Then the two of them, sung out: "We've got the rope on! Haul away!"

What the men on the planking far above hauled up to safety and a place
in the friendly glow of lights, was no man at all, but Yiggy, the little
dog. A battered and banged-up Yiggy, but all there and very much alive,
as the wagging of his stub of a tail indicated.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Wireless calls began coming in to the Nardak from the distant north.
"What has happened? You are overdue here already!" These calls were from
the radio operator at Shagun, the wilderness settlement that would be
the dirigible's only halting place on its way to the Arctic.

A relay of supplies had been shipped here, the end of both railroad and
civilization. The Nardak was to take them aboard so as to enter upon the
last lap of her journey as fully fueled and provisioned as possible.

Seven hours behind her schedule, the great silver Nardak drifted into
the sky above Shagun.

The boom of guns and the lighting of a line of signal fires greeted her.
These were to call together a landing-crew to lend their aid in bringing
to earth the first dirigible ever seen in these parts.

For a time, the Nardak hung motionless, then by the use of movable
planes and sliding weights, by which the center of gravity was shifted,
she slowly began to nose down towards earth.

Waiting in a spreading, wedge-shaped formation were two long lines of
nearly a hundred men. Not nearly so many were really needed. But every
husky denizen of Shagun wanted to have a hand at manning the pull ropes
of this monster visitor. Slowly the great ship of the air was drawn to
earth in the vast clearing which Lomen Larsen, the Factor of the Shagun
Post, had prepared ahead of time for the reception of the sky ship.
Here, of course, was no cement landing field and ironringed cement posts
to receive mooring ropes, but the ground had been smoothed, and trees
served as mooring posts.

As Lee stepped off the ship, he felt that he had stepped off into the
Land of Contrasts. Here at Shagun ended the shining lines of steel rails
over which traveled the mighty engines and loaded cars of the Great
Northern. And here at Shagun began primitive transportation by birchbark
canoe, shoulder-pack and dog-sled by which necessities were carried on
into the North. Bearded white men, Indians, a few slant-eyed Eskimos
with cotton garments of civilization donned incongruously atop their
native furs, moved along the trails and in and out the low-roofed log
shacks. And above these primitive folk loomed the high aerial and mighty
masts of a modern powerful radio sending station!

But not for Lee Renaud, nor for anyone else of the expedition, was there
much time to stand day-dreaming over the strangeness of the long arm of
radio reaching out to touch this primitive settlement on the Arctic
fringes. For it seemed the great Nardak landed in her open-air dock one
minute, and the next the work of loading her new cargo and of further
repairing began.

Men fell to with a vim. Men learned in geology and meteorology donned
dungarees and entered upon a brand-new career of stevedoring. A
perspiring aerial photographer and an equally perspiring slant-eyed
Eskimo tugged a huge box to the hold opening. Indian trappers and the
engineers of the latest thing in air engines labored together at the
mountain of bales and barrels and tanks to be put aboard. A dozen times
Yiggy escaped his quarters and rushed joyously underfoot to enter
battle-royal with shaggy sled huskies that could swallow him at a
mouthful--and a dozen times Yiggy had to be rescued from battle, murder
and sudden death.

Muscles ached, but men joked and bantered and worked all the harder.
Then at last it was all aboard--eight hundred pounds of oil, seven tons
of gasoline, a thousand pounds of chocolate, pemmican, coffee and hard
biscuit, which were to provision this great adventure.

Ground lines were loosed, the Nardak rose slowly. A clamorous ovation
saluted her from the watchers. Shouts rose in four different languages,
the bell of the little log mission clanged its farewell. Lomen Larsen
touched off a row of powder-flares in a final uproarious salute.

Higher and higher rose the Nardak, then sped northward on her last great
stretch of flight.

What would happen in this unexplored land? Only the future could answer.



                              CHAPTER XVI

                             QUEST FOR CAMP


Lee Renaud's black eyes looked out anxiously from the shaggy fur of his
hooded parka or Eskimo coat as he climbed out on the top of the airship
to see if ice had formed. Not a pleasant task, this, in a wind pressure
created by a speed of over a hundred miles per hour, and with the
thermometer at twenty below zero! Good, no ice sheathing as yet on the
great shining hull. Coatings of ice and sleet were the danger to a
dirigible--these could weight the ship down to a tragic fall.

Below the Nardak stretched snow fields, and often great frozen lakes
where the ice lay sometimes smooth, sometimes thrust high in grotesque
ridges where some throe of nature had hurled up the frozen substance.
For days now they had been traversing the snow barrens, a strange white
world where daylight held continuously. For this was the land of the
midnight sun. Through the summer of this weird Arctic world, there would
be months of daylight, with the sun riding from horizon to horizon, but
never quite dipping out of sight. With autumn would come a twilight that
would merge into the long winter night when the sun left this frozen
land to months of darkness.

In the present daylight period, the Nardak's men must make their
exploration, then flee before the night, back to civilization and home.

Ordinarily, the great ship kept to a height of well over two thousand
feet, but when the photographers wanted to picture some object, the
dirigible would be glided down to a thousand, five hundred, even a mere
three hundred feet above ground. Lee Renaud was startled to find that
ice sheets which from on high had looked glassy smooth, from the near
view stood out in deep ridges and furrows, as though broken by some
giant's plowshare. Nature turned some strange tricks up here in this
frozen North.

Everywhere was white stillness. Not a sign of vegetation; not a sign of
animal life--or so it seemed at first. Those untrained in the ways of
the Arctic do not at once realize the protective coloring which Nature
has bestowed on her denizens in this land of eternal cold.

To Lee Renaud, a wind-swept hillside over which the dirigible zoomed
low, with moving-picture cameras clicking out film, was--well, was just
a hillside dotted with black rocks where the gale had swept off the
snow. Then--and Lee opened his eyes very wide--some of the black rocks
began galloping off. In truth, these moving objects were a herd of
shaggy musk-oxen that had been pawing for snow moss among the rocks till
the shadow of the huge ship of the air had sent them snorting off in
fear. In a white land, Nature had left these creatures dark colored,
because they most often grazed on wind-swept highlands where their dun
sides melted inconspicuously into the dark splotches of the landscape.

Another time, looking down through the observation window, Lee saw the
amazing sight of a snow field that suddenly seemed to leap up into
separate white parts and go bounding off across the plain. In this case
it was a herd of white caribou that had been huddled at rest on the
snow. Scent of danger, borne down on the wind, must have stampeded them.
Soon enough young Renaud saw what that danger was, for another line of
moving white swept into view--the wolf-pack, white killers of the North!
Lee's heart shivered within him. These were so relentless; they knew
only the law of fang and claw. Tails straight behind, noses down, the
pack swept on down trail, were lost to view. But, ola, in the end the
wolf-pack would pull down its prey; it always did!

In a snow valley, where mountain cliffs rose protectingly on either
side, nestled a row of white domes. Circular hillocks with faint spirals
of blue smoke drifting upward from a crevice in the top. Eskimo
igloos--the round earth-and-stone huts banked in snow that were the
homes of the fur-clad natives of the Arctic! As the huge ship of the air
passed like a menacing shadow above this native settlement, fur-clad men
crept out from their tunnel-like doors, waved their arms and raced
wildly over the snow fields. Seen from the airship, they looked to be
tiny ants swarming out of an ant hill. Then a flight of sharp pointed
arrows shot up toward the sky, curved back uselessly to earth. The huge
ship drifted on serenely, safe in its heights from this puny
demonstration.

"Must have thought we were some vast evil spirit, drifting up from
Sermik-suak, Eskimo spirit-land!" said Valchen who had been much among
the Arctic natives and knew their life and beliefs. "The sight of this
great gas bag sweeping like a black shadow across their village was
enough to strike terror to their hearts and set them on the defensive.
On the whole, these Eskimo tribes are a kindly, hospitable lot. Let a
man come among them in peace, and they'll take him in and give him the
best they have. I've known them, in times of famine, to divide the last
morsel of fish, the last chunk of blubber with some utter stranger."

Through the speeding miles, the white northland revealed itself to eyes
that by degrees were learning to distinguish between the still white
that meant snow wastes, and the moving white that meant some animal
leaping into action on hoof or padded paw. On the ice of great lakes
that were almost inland seas, now and again one glimpsed some shaggy
mound of flesh and white fur that was a great polar bear, seeking his
food through a break in the lake ice. In the air, the honk of geese, the
weird laughter of the long-billed loons flying north in the continuous
daylight, often echoed the siren of the dirigible.

In the navigating-room, maps and charts were always in evidence now.
Across their surfaces, lines drawn in day by day showed the progress of
the ship. Its position was checked constantly both by magnetic compass
and by sun compass. The ship's course was directed away from northwest
and headed due north now.

"There it is--the tri-pointed crest of Coronation Mountain!" shouted
Olaf Valchen, eye to the telescope and one arm wildly waving, beckoning
the others to come and see for themselves.

In the distance, like a regal crown, showed the points of a group of
mountains, rising above swirling clouds that masked all save the
high-flung peaks themselves.

"It's somewhere near that range that we'll find Rottenstone
Lake--Nakaluka, the Eskimos call it. And when we stand on its shores
we'll be standing on wealth. There are rock mounds in this region where
the stone is so old, it has cracked and lets the shining treasure veins
show through. I know. I've seen it myself." Valchen's usually deep voice
was high-pitched with excitement. He pulled from beneath his fur
overgarment a tiny map of caribou hide with some lines scrawled upon it.
"The hunger fever was upon me when I drew this, some five years ago, but
I am sure the lines are right. There's the tri-mountain; and the sun
observations I took then tally with our present check-up, in part,
anyway."

Below them stretched snow field and ice crag. Somewhere in that maze of
peaks and ridges lay the frozen waters of Nakaluka and its encircling
treasure mounds. In all this whiteness, its frozen waters would be no
more noticeable than a tiny grain of dust would be on the expanse of a
great plate glass show window.

The only feasible method of procedure seemed to be to get aerial
photographs, piece together the long strips of film, and from a study of
these get an idea of the lay of the land. This would take time. To
cruise continually would burn the precious fuel and oil that must be
more or less hoarded for the return trip. Better to establish a central
camp for sleeping and eating, then to radiate out on air trips at
regular intervals.

For a time the dirigible forged ahead, the eyes of all watchers
searching the snow barrens for a safe base camp. Below them a snow fog
began creeping over the land, a mysterious curtain of blue and gray
light. As they swept on in this strange haze, snow hills and valleys
took on warped, unreal proportions. The official decision was that it
was better to land now than to risk crashing into some shrouded peak.

At other landing fields there had been hundreds of men to pull at the
drag ropes and gently ease the ship to earth. Here there was naught save
snow and perhaps a polar bear or two--no very active assistance at
landing in that!

Lee Renaud, like the rest of the crew, was full of anxiety as to how the
new, and untried method Captain Jan was depending on would work. He
hurried along the corridor to a trapdoor section where Bartlot and a
number of his officers and men were grouped about a great flat metal
plate that was connected to a windlass by hawsers passing over two sets
of pulleys.

In the meantime, the dirigible, by motor power and the use of elevators,
had been descending lower and lower, until it was now less than a
hundred feet above the great ice field.

At a word of command from the Captain, the metal plate was let down
through its opening in the ship. They heard when it struck the ice with
a clank.

Along one of those pulley hawsers had been affixed a heavily insulated
length of pliable electric wiring. Now, with hand that trembled a little
as he began his great experiment, Captain Jan pushed an electric button
that connected power from one of the ship's generators to this wire
leading down to the plate resting on the ice far below. This plate was
in reality an electric stove. As the current hit it, it was supposed by
its heat to sink rapidly into the ice. Then when the electricity was cut
off, it would freeze deep and fast into the ice--or so men hoped and
prayed it would.

After a breath-taking interval, Captain Jan turned the windlass gently,
to see if the plate-anchor held in the ice. More and more he wound on
the turn shaft--and the anchor held! The experiment was working! A great
shout went up from all sides. Many hands cranked at the windlass, taking
in the lines, gradually forcing the ship down and down.

At last the pneumatic bumpers touched ice. It was all hands out to see
what manner of frozen world they had landed in.

Viewed from above, this surface had looked smooth enough, but now they
found it to be far from a "looking-glass surface." There were up-ended
ice cakes and pressure ridges to be clambered over. Of a certainty,
water must be somewhere under this ice sheet. For water freezing,
expanding, contracting, was what shot up the slabs of pressure ice. This
was no pleasant place to dwell. There were whole stretches where the ice
floor had split asunder in deep crevasses and purple chasms. Seeming
snow hills were mere masks across gully traps.

For a night, or for the length of a period that would have been a night
had the hazy red ball of the sun ever dropped entirely below the
horizon, the expedition rested in this strange ice waste.

Then a party set out on foot to reconnoiter the land. Captain Jan,
Valchen, a dozen others. Lee Renaud was glad his strong young legs
gained him a place in this crew. Of necessity, each man had to bear a
stout load. One could not venture out in the bare white wastes without
food and weapons, a fur sleeping-bag to crawl into in case of a storm,
and a great knife for cutting snow blocks to build a wind-break. Also,
the party carried bundles of bright, orange-hued flags to mark their
trail.

Excitement hung over this little group as they made their start at
trail-breaking into the unknown. Some on snowshoes, some on skis, they
marched out under the strange glow of the Arctic sun, a glow that
sometimes crisped and blistered, but never seemed to hold any cheer in
its pale gleams that slanted over eternal ice.

After they had crossed miles of ice level and laboriously scaled frozen
cliffs, they came down into a strange valley. On every side were snow
mounds, like haycocks in assorted sizes, some the height of a man, some
as tall as a one-story building. They were the roofs of round pits. Some
pressure below had blown up these weird snow bubbles.

Bartlot, in the lead, stumbled against one. Its sides caved in and the
Captain shot out of sight down in a snow hollow fifteen feet deep. Lines
were flung down and soon he was drawn out, breathing hard and pretty
well banged up, but luckily not seriously injured. After that, the party
moved forward, roped together for protection.

Out of curiosity, they now and again slashed openings in the snow domes.
Some covered pits fifty and a hundred feet wide, and vastly deep. It
behooved them to pick their way carefully here, and to test each step
with an Alpine staff thrust into the snow ahead. Behind the party, the
orange gleam of the route flags marked a zig-zag trail and showed the
way back to the base camp.

After threading this valley checkered with pitfalls, and climbing a
range of ice hills all pitted and honeycombed by underground pressure,
Bartlot's party halted on the crest of the ridge to gaze ahead in blank
astonishment. A huge dark blot, a triangle in shape, loomed blackly
against the white of a mountain of snow. It was as though some giant,
passing up this valley, had painted his huge triangular flag on the
smooth white, and had gone on his way.

To find the meaning of that mysterious black tri-cornered surface, they
must push on to it. It could not be far, just across the valley and up
the next height.

But "just across the valley" was a deceptive term. In the haze of the
ever shifting Arctic lights, horizons are most uncanny things. Sometimes
objects far away seem almost under the nose. And again, men find their
feet mounting some small rise that in the haze they had thought was far
away. Mirages, too, fling processions of strange scenes before the eye.
A mountain, a lake, a river looms vividly ahead, then fades back into
the shadows from which it has sprung.

So it was a good ten hours of hard travel, and stumblings, and dodgings
of ice pitfalls, before the exploration party came within "normal
eyesight" view of the great black triangle.

Then they found that, instead of a black surface on the mountain side,
it was a great black hole leading back and back into the mountain
depths.

"A cave! A whale of a cave!" shouted Renaud who was taking his turn at
leading, and had scrambled up the slope a rope-length ahead of the
others.

It was a whale of a cave--one of those mammoth, finned and fluked
creatures of the sea could have drifted in here and brought his whole
family with him.

The snow domes and pits the party had just passed were as toys compared
to this evidence of mighty pressure forces within the earth. Some
terrifically violent cataclysm must have flung up these two great walls
of rock and ice that slanted together and formed a vast triangular
tunnel.

At close view, it was a place of beauty. The depths that penetrated the
mountain were dark. But here at the mighty three hundred foot entrance
all was white. Crystal fringe of ice stalactites hung from the roof like
huge prisms on a giant's candelabra. Snow banks, in soft mounds, guarded
the opening. Now and again the stiff wind swept flurries from these
drifts and scattered the white powder over the floor of the cavern in
ever-changing patterns.

"A hangar for our dirigible! She could ease into here slicker than a
banana into a peel!" shouted Captain Bartlot.

"Banana in a peel!" echoed Valchen. "Why, Captain, she could park in
here and still leave room for an airplane to sail in rings around her!
Whew! Some house we've found ourselves!"

"Think I'll do housekeeping over there, set up my portable stove and
all." Sanderson indicated a side cave like a wing room off the main
tunnel.

Electric torchlights were pulled from their packs and put into use.
Excited laughter and shouts echoed from the mighty roof and rumbled back
through the cave, as they pushed slowly on, exploring wonders as they
went. The ice drip on the cave walls had built itself into beautiful
fantasies. Here stood a row of mighty columns like the pipes of a vast
organ. Over there hung delicate ice lacework. Further on was a scalloped
basin with a pillar rising out of it, icy semblance of a statue set in a
fountain basin.

But even an ice wonder-hall set with frozen filigree could not turn
their minds over long from the pangs of hunger. The journey had been one
continuous round of labor and anxiety. The steep climb in the rarefied
atmosphere told on strength and lungs. So before penetrating the depths
of the cavern, the party decided to halt for food and rest. Back near
the entrance, they dropped down, eased their heavy burdens to the snowy
floor, and joyously opened up their packets of sandwiches and thermos
bottles of steaming hot chocolate.

As they ate, this advance crew went ahead with their planning of how
they could utilize the great tunnel to house the airship.

"We can drop the ice anchor out there on the slope," said Captain Jan
between hearty bites of a thick meat sandwich. "Then all hands can man
the drag ropes and with a little help from the motor, we ought to be
able to ease the Nardak into this ready-made hangar as pretty as you
please."

"And some of the ice pillars will do for anchor posts to knot the ropes
a--Hi, what's that?" The big fur-clad fellow who spoke cocked an eye
upward.

Suddenly zooming almost over their heads, flapping its long wings and
quavering its hoarse hooting call, a great white cliff-owl departed
indignantly, his raucous voice hurling back protest to these invaders of
his icy domain.

"Umph!" grunted Sanderson. "Looks like he's serving notice on us that
this house is already taken. Don't you reckon we'd better step up the
street to the real estate agent in the next block and see what he's got
in the way of nice Arctic mansions and cottages to offer us."

Sanderson's gay banter choked off in a sputter, and a wild look came
into his eyes.

A sound swept, through the cave, the long-drawn, shivery "wha-o-o-o-ah!"
of the wolf-pack trailing meat.

Another moment, and the killer pack surged into view, speeding out of
the depths of the cave itself.

The men screamed and leaped for the cavern walls, clambering madly up,
clinging grimly to ice ledge and ice stalactite, praying that they would
bear human weight.



                              CHAPTER XVII

                                BESIEGED


"Don't lose your grip, men! Better freeze to the walls than fall below
there!" Captain Bartlot's voice echoed through the great ice cave.

Dwarfed to mere fly-size by the immensity of vast ice columns and
ice-frescoed sides of the cavern, Bartlot's crew clung to the precarious
ledges above the white-fanged wolf-pack that crouched waiting, waiting,
below.

Sinister shapes, long-jawed, powerful, were those shaggy killers of the
North. When they had burst, full cry, from the cave depths, a paralysis
of fear had numbed the men's brains for an instant. Another instant and
they had gone leaping, scrambling, screaming up the ice wall,--with
never a thought for food or weapons, never a thought for aught save
putting space between them and those slavering, slashing jaws.

Endurance gains the wolf-pack its meat--relentless persistence in the
chase and untiring watching and waiting for hunger, weakness and thirst
to drop some beleaguered creature into their jaws.

Green eyes of hate glared up from the cave floor at the men trapped on
the ice wall. Red tongues lolled hungrily over long jaws each time there
was some faint movement of slipping or sliding, for it might presage a
human losing grip and falling into the waiting death ring below.

One man did fall--Eric Borden, of the geological surveyors. The ice
column against which his lank person was wedged broke and shot him,
slipping and clawing, down the wall. The boom of the falling ice,
Sanderson's knife hurled below, the flash of the two shots left in
Bartlot's revolver--these created distraction enough to hurl back the
wolves for a moment, while many hands reached down to rescue a comrade,
to haul him back to the ledges.

Bartlot's shots had killed a wolf. The knife had drawn blood on another.
Snarling and howling, the pack leaped upon its own unfortunates, tore
them asunder, devoured them.

The men on the ice above shivered and dug deeper into crack and crevice.

Wedged precariously between two crystal-white stalactites on the wall,
Lee Renaud trusted to the pressure of knee and foot to hold him firm,
and thus leave his hands free. In spite of weariness, in spite of nerve
rack from the hundred-eyed monster that waited below, Lee forced his
fur-clad fingers on with their tinkering at a tiny radio set he carried
on his back, a finished, polished copy of his own crude portable outfit.
Factory experts had carried out his ideas in a more compact, lighter
arrangement than he had been able to achieve with the rough materials
available in his backwoods laboratory. But whether this new arrangement
would send the call for help as effectively as that old rattletrap had
done during the Sargon flood--well, that was something to be proved.

Lee's hands trembled as he pushed the wire framing of the folding aerial
up and up over his head, while he crouched low to give room for it in
the slanting niche in which his body was jammed.

It was dangerous work, balancing one's self in a high ice crack while
below the killer horde squatted on its haunches and waited, as only the
wolf-pack can wait, for its meat. A restless, fearsome, cruel-eyed horde
it was. One unbalancing movement, and Lee Renaud's body would go
slithering down for the white-fanged horde to rend and tear into a
thousand pieces, even as it had done to its own wounded members.

Shivers like an ague shot through his body, his hands were numbing from
the bitter cold that inaction was letting creep through his double furs.

Hurry,--he must hurry! Soon he would have no more feeling, no more
control. He and his companions would be dropping down like frozen lumps
from this frozen wall--dropping to a terrible death.

Leaning forward precariously, Renaud slipped the head harness into
place, adjusted receiver and mouthpiece, and threw his strength into
cranking to generate power. His fingers, numb and clumsy within their
great fur gloves, pressed the buzzer signal of the tiny radio and sent
its staccato call hissing out through the air strata of the Arctic.

No answering buzz came back, no sign that his call had penetrated the
ether.

"Bz-z-z-z!" went his frantic signaling. "Renaud calling!" he shouted
into the tiny mouthpiece, as though to sweep his message on by the force
of his voice alone. "Renaud calling! Party trapped by wolves at ice
cave. Follow trail of route flags. Help! Bring guns, flares. Help!"

Louder and louder grew his voice. But no heartening answer was flung
back from the ship's radio. Not so much as a buzz or faintest whisper
sounded in the receiver strapped to his straining ears.

No answer. Nothing.

The only sound was a long-drawn wail as the white horde circled in
nearer, waiting, waiting beneath their prey.



                             CHAPTER XVIII

                              PROSPECTING


"Ah-boom-ah!" It sounded like guns, but it could be only the roar of
some glacier avalanche, or an ice peak splitting asunder.

"Ah-boom-ah! Ah-boom!" There it came again, almost at hand.

Puffs of white smoke, fur-jacketed men running, dropping on knee to aim,
to fire, leaping up to run on again. These were Goode, Millard,
Harrison, and a score of armed men from the dirigible. At their
onslaught, the wolf-pack leaped snarling into action, faced the hail of
lead for a moment, then fled, leaving their dead behind. The snarling
call and hunger wail of a pack cheated of its prey drifted back on the
wind.

Numb and stiff in their frost-rimed furs, the cave refugees had to be
lifted down from the ice ledges. Hot soup, and many hands to rub up
circulation in numb forms soon brought them back to normal.

"How--how'd you ever find us so quick?" asked Renaud. "Radio wouldn't
work--"

"Like thunder, it wouldn't!" ejaculated Tornado Harrison, whirling on
his heel. "Why, your voice came sliding in on that ship's instrument
like greased lightning. Simms tuned in to your voice soon as that buzz
signal zipped in. He answered you a dozen times, telling you that help
was coming. Didn't you get that?"

"Got nothing, not a sound, till those guns boomed. They were powerful
welcome, though," Renaud grinned, then sobered down. "Something wrong
with my instrument. Next time it might not work even one way. Got to
look into that."

                  *       *       *       *       *

The next few days saw mighty changes at the ice cave. Instead of
slinking wolves and flapping owls, it now housed a settlement of
humankind. A very modern settlement it was. Man had brought electricity
into the wastes of the Arctic,--electricity for heating, for cooking,
for running various mechanical devices.

Before the explorers moved into this vast, ready-built, triangular
abode, however, some precautionary steps were taken. No telling whether
bear as well as wolf had made this a den. Smoke bombs and gas rockets
were hurled in to drive out any dangerous inmates. Then when the
atmosphere cleared, thorough investigation was made by the light of
electric torches. They found themselves in a mammoth shelter. A great
opening back into the mountain that must have been full three city
blocks deep by a block wide. So high was its pointed ceiling that our
National Capitol and a couple of skyscrapers besides could have been
housed beneath it.

With the motors running gently, and with men hauling at the drag ropes,
the great silver hull of the Nardak was finally drawn into this Arctic
cave-hangar. Ice columns served as anchor posts for its hawsers. The
great dirigible held central place within the shelter. Here and there
little rooms and tunnels rayed off from the main room. In one was set up
a workshop with anvil and hammers and an electric furnace. In another a
kitchen with pots and stove and part of the stores banked against the
wall. Further on, Lee Renaud had spread some laboratory material, tubes,
acids, wires. He was trailing the flaw in his radio receiver,
experimenting with an acid dip for selenized plates, to render them
impervious to the terrific cold of this bleak white world. Since the
wiring of his radio was in perfect order, and since the little machine
worked well within a compartment heated to moderate warmth, Renaud was
more than sure that the penetrating touch of the bitter Arctic must have
interfered with his sensitized plates. With grim determination he pushed
on with his work. He must find the flaw, must find the cure. Failure of
these little portable connecting links could spell failure for the whole
expedition.

When the expedition began to settle itself into the real business of
this hazardous journey, seeking gold in this white, frozen land, Renaud
watched his little "knapsack radios" being placed in the various field
outfits with a clutch at his heart. Suppose the new acid-treated plates
worked no better than the old ones? Suppose, in dire need, the radios
failed, even as his had failed in part during the wolf episode!

Far different from anything that had ever heretofore been tried out,
were Captain Jan Bartlot's very modern methods of gold seeking. For
generations, the great Canadian Northwest has been luring men into its
frozen heart to seek wealth. The magnet which drew adventurers into this
enormous wilderness, where for hundreds upon hundreds of miles there was
no sign of human life, no vegetation save the fossilized leaves and
twigs of a million years ago, no connection with the world of living
men--the magnet which lured was mineral wealth. Gold, silver, nickel,
platinum, not reckoned in millions of dollars, but in billions, lay
almost to hand, just below the frozen crust of this frozen land. For
hope of such treasures, men in the past pushed into the very fringes of
the Arctic Circle by the primitive sledge drawn by wolf-dogs, and the
equally primitive canoe of bark or skin. With such crude, laborious
means of travel it took almost superhuman endurance to even reach the
mineral fields of the Arctic. When the old-time mining prospector
stepped off the train and aboard sled or canoe, it meant a whole summer
of grueling, grinding travel before he reached the northern ore country.
Then winter darkness would cover the land, and the prospector could do
nothing but sit down and await the coming of another spring. The
following year, when the red rim of the sun again showed above the
Arctic world, he set about his prospecting, slow work that might lead
him to wealth, but that would likely take the whole of summer daylight
in the doing. That meant another settling down for another lonely
sojourn through the night of winter. The next spring the bearded,
fur-clad prospector trekked his wealth back to civilization--if he lived
to tell the tale of those terrible years of frozen exposure, hardship
and suffering. Three years to trek a thousand miles and back! Hundreds
followed the lure of gold up into the far north. Only tens lived to get
back.

Olaf Valchen was one of those prospectors, who, eight years ago,
followed the land trail and the water trail, by sled, by skin canoe, up
into the frozen north. He had found gold--millions of dollars' worth of
it in the strange rottenstone mounds that edged a frozen lake. Three
years later he reached civilization, but as penniless as when he had
adventured forth. On the long trail, when one has to either cast away
life or gold--well, one drops the heavy skin sacks in the snow, and
struggles on, thankful to survive.

And now he was going back to try to find again the trail that led to
gold. But this time he was following the Arctic trail in a manner that
was most modern of the modern.

In the past, one year by sled and portage! Now, over the same trail by
air in a few days! As the Bartlot expedition had by dirigible so speeded
up the trek into the north, so it now planned to speed up the business
of prospecting.

In this marvel of mine-prospecting by air, the camera was to be the
surveyor's first instrument.

When the great dirigible backed out of its ice hangar and took the air
once more, it wore a new appendage--a small, boat-like arrangement that
swung by long hawsers far below the hull. In the nose of this and aimed
toward earth were set three big motion-picture cameras. The major part
of that million feet of film was about to be put into use.

As the huge ship of the air, day after day, radiated out from its cave
base on journeys that covered hundreds of miles, the steady grind of
cameras devouring film made aerial maps of the frozen hills, valleys,
mountains, and lakes.

This was no film to be "canned" and carried to a warmer clime for
development and display. To fulfill its purpose, it had to be developed
right here in liquid baths of eight hundred gallons of water. A
startling order for a land where water was not water at all, but solid
ice. So after the aerial cameras had clicked their final click, some
rousing times were had at the ice cave camp. Captain, engineers, weather
man, radio men, doctor, geologist, cook and crew, every man-jack of them
turned out to lug snow, three tons of it! Cook pots were everywhere.
Buckets and bags of snow were dumped in them to melt. In the end, tons
of snow made hundreds of gallons of water--and the film had its
developing bath, Arctic or no Arctic!

Outside on the snow barrens, the polar world went its old way. The cold
streamers of the northern lights flickered in the sky; the wolf-pack
flung its hunting howl on the winds; the great white bear stalked across
his lonely domain.

But within the shelter of the ice tunnel, a handful of humans had dared
to bring a new way of life into the Arctic wilds. Here a little audience
sat thrilled and tense before a screen on which a moving-picture machine
projected flight pictures made and developed in the very teeth of Arctic
cold. Here was pictured no tawdry drama of human love and hate. Instead
the film unrolled magnificent vistas of mountain land and lake land.
Before the screen sat the expedition geologists, exploring a thousand
miles by paper in less time than the prospectors of other days took to
explore only a few miles on foot, and with the pick and shovel. To a
geologist, this pointed range of hills meant a certain rock formation.
The lake bed presaged another. The long, low, rounded mounds circling
water meant the great pre-Cambrian rock shield, the oldest stone
formation in the north country, stone so old that its weathered seams
have chipped and cracked and broken, so that the treasure it once hid
now shows through in extrusions of gold or copper, silver or platinum.

With modern machines in that ice hangar, this little band of explorers
could tap the air of the civilized latitudes and bring its music across
thousands of miles of snow barrens. A turn of the dial in the ship's
radio-room, and the long arm of radio reached forth and plucked music
out of the air, the latest news from America's metropolitan cities,
tunes from Broadway and personal messages from well-wishers.

"Shades of all ancient explorers!" Lee Renaud chuckled to himself. "How
those old fellows would turn over in their graves at the idea of music
from Broadway being just twenty seconds from the Arctic Circle. And it
all happened because a Pomeranian monk shut some electricity in a glass
jar." As his mind went back to his own first studies of things
electrical, Lee had the strange feeling that King's Cove and all his old
life were in the realm of the unreal--that only the Arctic, and radio at
the top of the world, and a modern airship flying the polar wastes were
real.

When, from study of the aerial photographs, the geological map was
finally pieced together and arranged, it was time for the ground
prospecting to begin. The prospectors were carried out in pairs. The
dirigible landed them in various places where the ground formation was
such as to indicate the pre-Cambrian sheath rising in its long, shallow
mounds. Some men were put down within a few miles of the cave base;
some, hundreds of miles away. These intrepid ones were left with a pup
tent, an eiderdown sleeping bag, a rifle and ammunition, radio outfit
and food.

Left alone, the men were to make a temporary camp immediately and to
begin prospecting. If they made a find, they were to communicate with
the main base by radio, or by orange flags laid out on the white snow as
signals for the dirigible when it passed over again. In the prospecting
crew were the best of their kind, miners from Africa, India and the
Yukon.

The messages began rolling in incredibly soon. The ship's radio men had
to dance continual attendance on buzzer signal and radio code. The first
prospector to get in touch with dirigible headquarters was Olaf Valchen.

"Stand by--O. V. on the air! After breakfast, better hop over here in
that sky boat. Location a hundred miles west of where longitude 110 cuts
latitude 65. Come prepared to knock off a few samples of greenstone with
a geologist's hammer, and fly back to base to have 'em assayed before
supper. Come in a hurry! Got something real to show you! O. V. signing
off!"

As the great dirigible, answering this joy call, sped through the snow
haze and skimmed lower and lower, her lookouts sighted the orange signal
laid out on the frozen white, and her engines were halted. The ice
anchor was dropped and with a loud hissing seared its way to a secure
depth. The hawsers were windlassed up, and the great hull eased to earth
on its pneumatic bumpers. The entrances to gondolas and navigating
section were flung open--and the first fellow out was Yiggy, fur boots
and all, barking a delighted greeting to his stocky blond Norwegian
master. Scooping up the wriggling terrier into his arms, Olaf Valchen
led the way to his find.

A hundred paces back from where he had laid out his flag signal, the
prospector stopped on the banks of a frozen lake. Circling the lake was
a rim of low mounds. One of these, like a domed ant hill, thirty feet
high and some two hundred feet in diameter, had been partly freed of its
frozen crust. These bare spots showed dull green and gray, the famous
greenstone of the Canadian prospectors who had made lucky strikes.
Nakaluka, the rottenstone of the Eskimos! So old was this, the oldest
stone formation in the north country, that it was crumbling asunder,
cracking apart in great seams. And in those seams lay gold, glittering
and yellow.

Lee Renaud could feel his heart thumping against his double-furred
shirt. He had not dreamed that his eyes would ever see such a thing--a
great mound that was one vast heap of wealth, piled up in plain sight,
set out where anyone strolling by in the course of the last thousand
years might have seen it.

A few hours of work and they had collected bagfuls of samples, so rich
that the naked eye could almost estimate their value.

Excitement and happiness swirled through Lee Renaud. But it was not all
"gold" excitement. His chief thrill was that his radio had passed a
great test. Despite the creeping touch of abnormal cold on metal and
acid and tube, his radio had brought in the message! His latest
improvement had worked! Already still other plans were dimly outlining
themselves, plans for stretching the power of his tiny instrument,
making its call reach farther and farther.

Other reports were radioed in. Some prospectors had found other
pre-Cambrian rock mounds, but with slight gold value, for ridges of
granite rose too close and precluded the possibility of the ore veins
stretching to any distance. Here and there, though, more of the vastly
rich finds were located, mapped, stake-claimed, and sample ore taken.

On this one trip, gold worth millions of dollars could be taken out. And
that was but the beginning. In the next few years, these Arctic Barren
Lands would see civilization brought into them because of man's mastery
of the flying ship, and his new power of speeding the spoken word
through the air on the waves of radio. For this forward march of
civilization into the waste places, first bases of operation would have
to be laid. Great dirigibles would transport the gas, food, equipment up
into the North. Planes would be flown in. Hangars would be set up. Spare
engines, spare parts, together with landing gears for summer or winter,
all would be stored away. Gasoline and oil would be put down in large
caches. Gradually a combination airport and mining camp would spring
into being, with huts, radio mast, machine shops and the rest of the
equipment.

Bartlot's expedition into the great northland had achieved success. And
future success loomed ahead.

To Lee Renaud, it was all very wonderful and marvelous. Success written
in large letters! And yet through it all, he felt a strange little throb
of regret. This success had been too easy, too mechanical. He could not
down an unwonted touch of sadness that soon there would be left no more
surprises on this world of ours. No far, unknown, mysterious and frozen
outposts for man to dream about. The White North conquered, and turned
into factory ground!

But young Renaud was indulging too soon in boyish regrets over man's
conquest of the great white mysteries of the north country.

The frozen North still held some surprises for puny man who had dared
push his machines of sound and of flight into her vast lonely spaces.

The North reached her icy fingers after the huge silver Nardak loaded
with Arctic treasure and headed southward; she roared out her power in
merciless blasts that tossed and whirled the great ship like some chip
at the base of a cataract.



                              CHAPTER XIX

                             IN THE GONDOLA


"Be a good sport, Scotty! Crank her up and give me a call in about three
minutes. That's all the time I'll need to get up to the
navigation-room." Lee Renaud, Ye Tireless Radio Hound, as his shipmates
had laughingly dubbed him, pushed a batch of wireless outfit into the
grasp of Scotty McGraw, assistant port-engine tender, with a plea for a
little help in testing a new radio device.

Lee began backing out of the narrow confines of the engine gondola, but
he never gained even the flimsy, swaying catwalk leading up into the
hull. For, with a roar of fury, a sudden Arctic gale struck the ship. It
seemed to leap up out of the nowhere to whirl and pound the huge
envelope at every point. Like so much meal in a sack, Renaud was flung
crashing back into the gondola.

From other parts of the dirigible came rendings and crashings. It was as
though the great ship were caught in a giant's hand and flung hither and
yon. The Arctic had lain bland and tractable for a space, while man in
his floating gas bubble had slipped into the frozen domain to rifle it
of its stone-sheathed treasures. In suddenly awakened fury, the Arctic
loosed its weapons of sub-zero, knife-edged gale, hail, sleet, and
hurricane swirl that sucked and battered and tore.

On through the storm-darkened air, the dirigible plunged, swoop and
check, swoop and check, now half capsized, now riding high, now riding
low. Mountains fell away into blackness; the white land was left behind.
They were over the frozen sea. All control of the ship was gone, all
sense of direction lost. It might be a hundred miles, a thousand miles
off its course.

Like a toy of the winds, the huge silver bubble was tossed high on the
mad currents of the ocean of air. In some upper stratum, a rushing,
swirling river of the winds caught the dirigible in its grasp and swept
the lost ship back into the north faster than any of its human load had
ever traveled before.

A hundred, two hundred, three hundred miles an hour--then the speed
indicators broke!

Every part of the ship seemed out of touch with every other part. So far
as any human connection was concerned, the engine gondolas, the hull,
the fore-car might have been so many separate planets hurtling through
space.

Lee Renaud, battered and banged almost to pulp, thought all feeling was
gone from him forever. Yet in one awful flash, he sensed what was
befalling them now. As though the river of air had reached the edge of
some unseen, mighty precipice, and flowed over in a deadly, rushing
torrent, the ship was sucked down and down over the invisible Niagara.
Through a stratum of sleet it tore and gathered an ice sheathing of
dangerous weight.

From an engine nacelle came a jerk of machinery striving to lift the
great bag. Out of the hull rained tanks and stores, as frantic hands
cast off ballast to try to save the ship. But it was impossible to halt
the down plunge of the huge ship. In another moment, the Nardak scraped
the ice of the polar sea, its port side grinding against the ice.

As the port gondola crashed, Renaud had a fleeting sense of being
violently projected into space, then smashing heavily into the snow.
Black mist swept through his brain, cleared. He lay, a mass of aches.
Then his eyelids flicked open. He tried to scream as he gazed upward.

The dirigible, freed of the weight of one engine cabin, had shot high in
the air again!

In that moment, Renaud saw Harrison, the meteorologist, and Captain
Bartlot standing at an observation opening and looking down in distress.
Their eyes, wide with apprehension, seemed fixed on him until the huge
balloon disappeared in the mist. From somewhere on high, a piece or two
more of ballast crashed down and fell far out on the ice. A little later
a thin streak of smoke showed up against the northern sky. Had the
dirigible caught fire, or was this merely a smoke signal?

More terrible than the bitter cold creeping into Renaud's body was the
desolation creeping into his heart.



                               CHAPTER XX

                                F-O-Y-N


Renaud lay where he had been flung, in a narrow trough of snow that was
almost like a coffin. He scarce knew whether he was alive or dead. At
first the bitter cold had pierced him sharply. Now his arms felt
nerveless, like some leaden weights. All sense of touch seemed to have
left his hands. He hardly knew whether they were still attached to his
wrists or not.

Suppose he were dead? Suppose he were in his coffin? A pleasant stupor
was creeping, creeping over him.

He was dying. He was freezing to death.

Through his stupefied brain a tiny thought kept hammering desperately.
Rouse--move--stir! So the tiny impulse kept throbbing, but slower, and
slower now. It was the impulse of life resisting death to the very end.

The storm gale had spent itself, but a tag end of wind fluttered across
the wastes and hurled snow with a sudden vicious sting into Renaud's
face. Its cold slap roused the boy momentarily. He stirred. His
circulation set up its throb again. Life was calling. Lee forced himself
to a sitting posture. He must not give up. He must fight this temptation
to abandon himself to this numbing, creeping cold. In slow movements, he
freed himself of the drift snow, forced himself to stand, began to put
one numb foot before the other in shaky progress across the ice sheet
and its swathing of snow.

At last he reached the splintered debris of the engine cabin. Two men in
the wreckage! Scotty was breathing. Lee could feel the faint movement
when he laid his hands on the other's furred garment above the heart.
Then Lee had his arms under Scotty's shoulders, shaking him, pounding
him, begging him to rouse, to live. In urging another back into life,
Renaud strengthened his own muscles, hardened his own resolution to
fight.

It took long labor from both Scotty and Renaud to revive Van Granger,
the other engineer. He had been stunned by a blow on the head. The left
side of his face was all blackened and swollen from impact with the ice.
Even after his two mates had lifted him, walked him, rubbed up his
circulation with desperate, vigorous strokes, he was too weak to do more
than sit propped with his back to a snow mound near a tiny warming fire
they had started with bits of the splintered wood from the cabin.

But they must have some kind of shelter against storm, sleet and cold.
Here was plenty of material such as the Eskimos use for building their
round-topped igloos. But Scotty and Lee knew well enough that their
untrained hands held no knack for setting snow blocks into the perfect
dome of an igloo. Any dome-shaped snow carpentry of theirs was likely to
crash down on their heads at the first breath of wind. So they contented
themselves with merely setting up straight thick walls of snow blocks.
For roofing, they used material they salvaged from the wrecked gondola.
Over their whole domicile, sides and top, they banked a warm blanket of
snow, packed down hard and firm.

Every bit of food, broken machinery, pieces of wood and metal, were
painstakingly gathered and stored within or close beside their shelter.
It was a jumbled medley, remnants of broken radio, a case of chocolate,
bursted cans of fruit, bundles of fur garments. Scattered here and there
in the wreckage were lumps of the rich specimen ore taken out of the
Arctic surface mine. To men marooned on an ice sheet, gold was a
mockery. Food, instead of gold, was treasure to them now.

Lee and Scotty worked on and on, gathering bits of wreckage, banking
deeper their snow roof, pushing themselves to the point of exhaustion.
For as long as they labored, they could force off thought. But finally
they had to give in to physical weariness, had to drop down to rest. And
all unbidden, thoughts marched blackly across their minds.

What could be the end? What hope could they have?

All they knew of the dirigible was that they had seen it still aloft,
swept off in the gale. And then, later, that distant column of smoke.
Had the silver hull of the Nardak gone up in flames? Or was that
wavering smoke line a beacon, lighted by their shipmates where they had
landed? And should the Nardak still be safe, and navigable, how would
her searching crew ever find the castaways, three minute dots on the
vast sheet of ice? For, clad in their grayish white furs, they were
scarcely discernible against the white background of ice and snow.

Lee Renaud burrowed his head between his hands, as though by pressure he
would stop the ugly round of thought. But thought swept on, ceaselessly.

To make matters worse, it was drift ice they were on, a great sheet that
constantly changed its position. In a gale, it might be pounded into a
thousand pieces and become little pans that would scarce support a man's
weight.

Scotty, a short, heavy-set fellow, wearing spectacles that miraculously
had not broken in his fall, worked continually with the remnant of his
sun compass and a small magnetic compass. From position, checked by
these, and by the loom of some far, white mountain peaks he hazarded a
guess that they were in the drift somewhere to the west of
Spitzbergen--and their nearest land would be the island of Foyn, an
uninhabited speck in the polar sea, unvisited even by whalers, unless
storm drove them there.

Spitzbergen--Foyn! Land that guarded the European gateway to the Pole!
How mighty was the river of the winds! Caught in its currents, an
exploration expedition had been hurled from the American Arctic, across
the top of the world, to the polar regions above Europe.

"If the wind carries the drift aright," Scotty pointed to a distant
white height, "we may come near Foyn Island and we may be able to make
it to that piece of land by crossing from floe to floe."

"Foyn--land--uninhabited! This nearest land might be the South Pole, for
what good it'll do us!" thought Lee Renaud bitterly. Why had he forced
himself to live? Why hadn't he let himself go in that first quick,
merciful stupor? What if they did ever reach that barren, ice-sheathed
island? They might eke out their little store of food to last a few
weeks. They might catch seals, shoot a bear--get food for a month, for a
year. But in the end starvation, exposure, death must claim these
forlorn castaways.

Need to work for another helped Renaud shake off some of the black
hopelessness that enveloped him. Granger, who was ill, had to be warmed
and fed, and made comfortable as far as was possible on this insecure
haven of drifting ice. Cooking a scanty meal, melting snow for water,
cutting a crude eye-shade out of wood to protect Granger's vision from
the snow glare--just such homely tasks as these braced Lee Renaud and
set him on his feet. Shame for the weakling thoughts in which he had let
himself indulge now swept over him. He was young, he had strength. He
would keep his courage up. If he had to die--well, he would die. But he
would go like a man, master of himself.

Determination and courage seemed to color the pitiless, white frozen
waste with some glow of hope. The frozen drift felt solid to the feet,
anyway. They were here, and they were alive. Might as well settle
themselves in what comfort they could, and hold on to life as long as
possible.

Out of the jumbled mass of wreckage, he and Scotty picked such things as
might add to the comfort of their Arctic housekeeping.

"Well, here are knives and forks for our banquets." Scotty Mac held up
some aluminum splinters gathered from around the crashed gondola. "With
a little twisting and bending, we might convert 'em into fish hooks, if
that'd be more to the point."

"And here's something we'll convert into a drinking glass for ice water.
My, aren't we magnificent up here in the Arctic!" Renaud laughingly dug
out a glass shade that had once adorned a light in the Nardak's lost
cabin. "Cut glass and very chic! Bet when it made that pleasure trip
around the world, it never dreamed it would some day be turned upside
down to hold drinking water for a trio of derelicts on an ice island!
This felt, from under the engine base, might--might--" What he was going
to do with the strip of felt, Lee Renaud failed to say. Something else
caught his attention. "Why--why--" the boy gasped, then went to digging
into a mass of chocolate and tinfoil wrapping. Something had buried
itself down in the very midst of that great bundle of brown sweet.

Lee worked his hands into the mass, then lifted out some tubes, capped
in a white metal.

"My radio accumulators!" he shouted. "Thought every fraction of the
thing was smashed--but here's this much, anyway!" He carefully wiped
them off, ran his hands over every part, shook them. The liquid within
was safe.

The finding of those metal tubes wrought a vast change in Lee Renaud.
His first thought, after regaining consciousness when he had crashed on
the ice, had been to signal for help with radio. Then he had found his
mechanism smashed, an utter wreck. That, most of all, had knocked the
heart out of him. He had counted so on radio.

And now like a reprieve from the death sentence had come the finding of
these tubes, still intact. A couple of tubes,--little enough, but a
start anyway.

"It's more than von Kleist had," Lee half whispered to himself. "And
three hundred years ago von Kleist had the sense to take a bottle, a
nail and some salt water, and figure out a way to get an electric spark.
It's more than Hertz had, either, and he figured out a way to send
electric power through the air, for a tiny distance anyway. I can at
least rig up some wires and make a try at the thing."

It was a large order Lee Renaud was giving himself--to try to piece up a
radio sending machine, the most delicate and powerful of all mechanisms,
out of some smashed junk on an Arctic ice floe.

Not for nothing had Lee Renaud grown up with radio. Not for nothing had
he followed the work of those old inventors making their way forward, a
step at a time. In his own old workshop in the Cove, Lee had copied
those steps in real, working mechanisms that, however crude they might
have been, had yet achieved results. A modern, up-to-date inventor would
be used to a splendid laboratory, used to purchasing smooth, finished,
machine-made products to help with the carrying out of his ideas. But
Lee Renaud, like those oldtime pioneers in electricity, was used to
seizing upon wood and wire, scrap metal and glass.

It was this crude, hard-bought training that now gave young Renaud
courage to face some scraps of broken metal and still to hope to build a
radio here on drift ice.

Again and again Lee went through every vestige of the wreckage they had
salvaged, laying aside such objects as might possibly be of use. Some
long strips of metal, a heavy base that had once been an engine
support--here was a start on the antennae. He wired the strips to the
base, then wired them together at the top to insure stability. To his
antennae, Lee fastened a strip of torn flag that he had found in the
wreck. A bit of Old Glory fluttering above some Arctic refugees! Lee
could not know how often in the near future their eyes would be fixed on
that bit of cloth, their minds desperately wondering if the country
behind that flag would not make some attempt to save them.

Working material was of the meagerest. Wires had to be soldered--but
with what? For a whole period between "two sleeps" (there was not yet
any set day and night in this land of the midnight sun), Lee worked at
two coins, a tin box, and a tiny fire of their precious wood
splinters--and in the end achieved a rather creditable metal joining.
The cut-glass shade, so very chic, now began a new duty as, combined
with some tin, a wood stopper and a piece of wire, it served as a
battery unit.

Lee Renaud hardly paused for eating or sleeping. Always his fingers were
at it, adjusting wires, tubes, battery jars, wiring the parts. He would
creep into his sleeping bag to rest, and in less than an hour, while the
others were deep in slumber, out he would crawl, to take up his work
again. A fever of labor burned within him. He could not lay this thing
aside until he finished it, tested it, knew the best or the worst of the
case.

For the hundredth time, Renaud looked up at the bit of flag floating on
his Arctic aerial. The nation behind the Stars and Stripes would do
something towards rescue if--if only America knew the fate of the
greatest dirigible that had ever left its shores.

It was to combat that "if" that Renaud squatted beside the tangled mass
of wires and jars and metal scraps which he prayed would act the part of
a radio sender. Anyway, the thing sparked! There was some power to it!

All in a tremble he raised his finger to tap the first code click over
radio adrift in the Arctic. Foyn, the name of their nearest land, that
was the first word to send.

"F-O-Y-N on the air, F-O-Y-N--" and that was all Renaud's radio clicked.
For with a shout of anguish tearing up through his throat, he sprang to
his feet, overturning the radio in a tangled mass of loosed wire and
broken battery, and sped towards the ice edge.

Van Granger had been lying on a pallet of furs at the water's edge where
he could entertain himself with trying for fish with a piece of twisted
aluminum for a hook. Being still weak and sick, he had fallen asleep. In
a lane of sea water, not twenty feet from the sick man, Lee had glimpsed
a dark form gliding under the surface. In the next instant, thirty feet
of sea monster rolled to the surface, all hideous saw-toothed black
snout, and leaped high out of the water towards the ice edge.



                              CHAPTER XXI

                         KILLERS OF THE ARCTIC


"Help! Scotty! Killer whales!" screamed Lee, plunging forward, striving
to pull pallet, sick man and all back from the edge of the ice.

At Lee's shout, the sea monster slid back into the depths. But not for
long! There came a swish, a puff. Out of the water was thrust again the
huge black snout, in which were set two wicked little eyes.

Other black snouts were thrust above water. Ten, maybe twenty killers
rolled surfacewards and spouted.

Scotty was beside young Renaud now, helping him drag the sick man back
and back from the water's edge. Their hearts throbbed painfully. It had
been a close call. Another instant and the sea killer would have
snatched off the helpless victim and sunk to the chill, dark depths to
gorge itself on a meal of human meat.

"Hi, ya! Sea wolves! Tigers of the sea!" Such were the epithets Scotty
hurled forth as he shook his fist at the sinister black crew that kept
rising at the ice edge, sinking, rising again to glare with ravenous,
evil eyes at meat that had moved out of reach.

Many times before this, Scotty had seen service in the Arctic waters,
and knew well enough about the killer whales. Like the wolf-pack of the
snow barrens, these ferocious sea creatures hunted in bands. The man
shuddered now when he remembered what he had seen of the killers on the
trail. Sometimes these carnivori swallowed dolphins alive without even
taking trouble to kill them. Sometimes the killer-pack attacked a huge
bowhead whale, beat him into submission with leapings and poundings of
their lithe, cruel black bodies, devoured him ferociously, first the
lips, then the tongue, then the rest of the monstrous, helpless body.

Anxiously the marooned men watched the horizon for thunderhead and storm
cloud. Suppose a tempest rolled up, drove their ice field hither and yon
on the sea, smashed and ground it to pieces? It would mean a terrible
end, with the killer-pack of the sea nosing in, ready to devour.

It was hard to set the thoughts on anything else save the sinister sea
shapes that slunk away mysteriously for long stretches, then rolled back
into view, to glide and blow and watch with evil, hungry eyes.

Somehow, though, Lee forced his mind and his hands to concentrate on the
scattered debris of his broken radio. For hours he labored, repairing
the condenser, straightening springs, connecting wires. "F-O-Y-N"--that
one call had gone out on the air from his machine. Had anyone heard it?
Would he ever be able to send another?

An hour, eight hours, for days, the struggle went on. A black-haired boy
out on the bleak white of drift ice striving to rehabilitate a dead
radio! No tools, no resources, no anything save some broken wires and
metal pieces--and the eternal ice!

A wire bent here, a patient bit of soldering there--then all of a sudden
he was in touch! He had done it, made the connection, fired again the
spark of electricity that was the life of radio!

Something was coming in! A chitter-chatter of faint telegraphic code!

"Latitude 78--on the ice--drifting--"

That was all.

No matter how Renaud sent out an answering call, begged, pleaded, tapped
out the code, nothing more came in.

By the buzz from the wire circuit of his direction-finder, the call had
come from the north. From the dirigible--it could be from no other!

For a brief second these two widely separated sections of the ill-fated
expedition had been in touch. Then something had broken the connection.
Atmospheric condition--disaster--storm, who could tell what? Never
another sound came from the north.

Renaud and his companions comforted themselves with the belief that
their shipmates aboard the dirigible had survived thus far.

Except for the briefest periods off for rest and food, and to race up
and down the ice sheet to stir circulation against the treacherous creep
of the bitter cold, Lee Renaud hung feverishly over his radio. It was
their one hope, their one connecting link to anything beyond this frozen
hell.

Two more days dragged by their torturous lengths, and except for its own
little lonely click, the drift-ice radio brought no other sound. It
seemed insane to continue to place hope on this pile of junk. It had
reached a little way into some near region--once--and that was all.

Scotty began to plan how they could strike out over the ice on foot,
move on somewhere, anywhere, in hope of getting nearer to land. This
inaction was terrible. But there was Van Granger to be thought of, sick
and nearly helpless.

Sensing a discussion that he could not hear, Van Granger began begging
his companions to kill him, to put him out of his misery. He wanted to
be no drag, holding other men from their chance to make a dash for life.
Without the burden of him, they could carry food--for a greater
distance. After that, Lee and Scotty always kept their weapons with
them, or hidden out on the ice. Words of comfort and assurance seemed to
make no impression on the sick mind of their injured companion. They
feared that he would do himself some bodily injury.

In the midst of black hopelessness, Lee aimlessly tinkered at the radio
outfit. He shunted wires here and there, set a tube connection
higher--and with a sudden crackle of spark, code began sliding in!

"V-I-A-T-K-A," Lee, counting code with one hand, scratched the
mysterious letters on the snow beside him. Exhilaration shot through
him. He was in touch with something--but what, where?

"Viatka--Viatka!"

There it came again and other letters in a strange jumble that he could
not seem to unravel. The direction-finder indicated south, east.

Frantically Lee poured his own code on the air. He got nothing more,
made no other connection, could only content himself with the fact that
his radio was reaching somewhere beside the floes of Arctic.

What Lee did not know was that, days ago, his first brief call,
"F-O-Y-N," had been picked up by a young Russian amateur wireless
operator by the name of Arloff, living in a village in the Government of
Viatka. Just the faint, far signal of four mysterious letters! This call
out of the ether intrigued Arloff. He wired it on to Moscow, from whence
it was spread throughout the world.

Men began putting two and two together.

Foyn--an island at the gateway to the North Pole!

The dirigible Nardak lost above northern America after a great storm
which had rolled down thence--for days all radio communication cut off
from the Nardak, and no more word from her. And now this mysterious
call, "F-O-Y-N." Did that call hold the answer to the dark riddle of the
lost ship?

The mental eye of the world focused upon that bit of frozen land in the
polar ocean.

Though he knew nothing of this, though some atmospheric disturbance of
the air ceiling interfered with his receiving, Lee Renaud continued to
doggedly tap out his radio call of location--needs--a cry for help. In
Siberia, Alaska, Canada, stations keyed by that mysterious "F-O-Y-N"
checked in his message, tried to check their answering call across the
frozen wastes--but some Arctic interference barred the sound.

Then came some sudden change in atmospheric conditions, storm-charged
stratum of interference lifted, sound went through.

It was from the lofty wireless towers at Fort Churchill, an outpost of
civilization on Hudson Bay, that an operator got the "touch" through to
Renaud.

"Putting through to F-O-Y-N--clear the air, all else--courage to the
marooned--help coming--the planes and ice-breakers of five nations to
the rescue!"

"Rescue! Rescue!" shouted Lee Renaud, then his fingers fell to tapping
again.

"Stand by--the Arctic on the air--F-O-Y-N heard the message--we live--"
Lee Renaud slid to his knees, a prayer of thankfulness in his heart,
then fainted dead away in the snow.



                              CHAPTER XXII

                            HOPE AND DESPAIR


"Tat! Tat! T-t-tat!" It was working, the radio code was coming in! They
were in touch!

The wonder of it! From this lone camp out here on the drift ice, the
operator with his patched-up radio set was in voice connection with
lands hundreds--yes, thousands of miles away.

Some metal strips wired together, their bases banked in snow, lifted
their slender height above this tiny camp on a drift-island of ice.
Renaud's radio aerial!

Beneath it, a black-haired boy with determination in set of jaw, dark
eyes fever-bright, hands that trembled from hunger weakness in spite of
the grip a fellow kept upon himself! That was Renaud, huddled at patient
work over screws and coils and some solder on a tin box. It took
continual nursing to keep the metal patches and makeshifts in place, to
keep this thing clicking. But he was doing it! Taps--more taps! He was
in touch again with that Hudson Bay operator at a station that was a
whole ocean and half a continent away.

"Renaud--up about Foyn--are you on the air? Keep in touch with us. Your
country is organizing search crews. Airplanes and ice-breaker ships from
other nations joining the search. Give us news of the lost dirigible.
Give us your needs."

Instead of being perched out on a hunk of ice in the vast Arctic, Lee
Renaud, wireless operator, might, for all the precision of the affair,
have been seated in a swivel-chair at the telegraph desk in some
forty-story city skyscraper sending a message over the wires. He was on
the ice--but the messages were going through in great shape.

"Stand by--Renaud on the air! No more word from the dirigible, save that
call from the 78th latitude. Still clinging to hope for them. Our
needs--everything. Something dry to stand on, medicine for our eyes, and
food, FOOD!"

Lee shivered in his soggy furs. It was a marvel to be in touch even by
sound. But a nearer touch must come soon, rescue. Their ice island was
breaking in long black lanes. Every hour now the encroaching water
perilously ensmalled their domain.

Later that day the tapping in the radio box began again. The powerful
arm of Canadian radio was reaching out with its vicarious comfort. It
was a strange, homely message that traveled over the frozen wastes this
time. It had started from somewhere down South. Hundreds of amateur
radio operators of the monstrous, friendly Radio Relay Organization of
America had kept the word going. A radio "ham" in Hillton, Alabama, had
picked it out of the air and had wirelessed it on to Bington. A Bington
amateur had put it on to Johnston. By devious, criss-cross routes, a
crippled boy's little message had sped across the length of the United
States, across part of Canada, and now had been flung on the air from
that greatest of northern stations, the Hudson's Bay Aerial, to speed on
waves of ether till that makeshift aerial near Foyn caught the words:
"Lee Renaud, King's Cove is praying for you. Your true friend, Jimmy
Bobb."

Lee Renaud had need of prayers--adrift as he was on breaking ice, with
one companion injured and the other slowly falling a prey to
ice-blindness.

Under the pound of the winds and the steady grind of the waves, their
piece of ice was steadily diminishing. Where it had once stretched a
limitless field, it now lay a mere thousand feet long by some seven
hundred wide. Wet winds had turned its cover of snow into a slush two
feet deep. Lee and Scotty were continually having to move Van Granger to
new ridges to keep him above the slush.

Despite the crude eye-shades that they had whittled out of wood and tied
above their brows, the awful ice glare had wrought havoc with Scotty's
eyes, which were blue and seemed far more susceptible to the ice dazzle
than did Renaud's dark eyes.

Twice now, ice breaks had further ensmalled their island. With terrific
labor, they had moved their precious pieces of broken planking, their
radio, their scanty stores, farther in to the tough heart of the floe.
Scotty's eyes had gotten so bad by this time that he hadn't even seen a
white bear, huge sneak-thief that had crossed from another floe, come
creeping, creeping on its broad pads to dig into their pemmican cache. A
quick shot from Renaud's rifle made the dangerous marauder take to water
with lightning speed for so lumbering a beast, and soon it disappeared
in the maze of floating tablelands. Lee looked regretfully after so many
hundred pounds of meat disappearing into the distance. They had need,
dire need of that warming, rich bear steak and of the thick fur. A pity
his hand had trembled so!

"T-t-tat, t-tat!"

Staccato stutter of radio coming in again! Oslo, Norway, sending the
call.

"Courage! Relief operations pushing forward. The Russian boat,
Kravassin, most powerful ice-breaker in the world, smashing her way up
into the North towards Spitzbergen to act as base ship for the rescue
planes. Dog-sledge camps being laid on mainland to act as further supply
bases for rescue flight. Advance wedge of three great airplanes winging
into the Arctic now."

Rescue on the way even now! And the metallic click of his tiny radio
bringing the news to the human flotsam out on the drift ice!

"Rescue coming! Wonderful! And yet--" Like some black thread of cloud
that spreads till it darkens a whole horizon, a cloud of premonition, of
anxiety, spread over Lee Renaud's jubilation.

"Scotty," queried Lee, looking out over the limitless stretches of
broken, drifting white, "how big is this sea we are in?"

"Um--let me see!" Scotty, unbelievably darkened by snow glare, black
whiskers standing out fiercely round his emaciated face, kept his hand
to his poor suffering eyes, and answered slowly. "Perhaps it's a
thousand miles one way, by about fifteen hundred the other."

"Thousand--fifteen hundred!" gasped Renaud. "Why, Scotty, we're lost in
a sea as big as the whole United States east of the Mississippi. And
somewhere in that stretch of water are the pin points that are us! A
silver dot further on, maybe, that's the Nardak! However--why, no
lookout in a speeding airship can ever sight us! How can we hope?"

"Miracles. They still happen, sometimes," said the half-blind Scotty.

The next day, when Lee was trying to divide their remnant of provisions,
a little chocolate and a little pemmican, into as small portions as
would sustain life, so that it would last as long as possible, he heard
a sound up in the sky. A zoom, far away yet coming nearer, nearer!

Scotty heard it too, and ran staggering blindly in circles in the snow,
shouting.

A speck in the sky, coming close, closer--a great monoplane with orange
fuselage and silver wing.

In a furor of relief and excitement, Renaud and Scotty shouted, waved,
threw things in the air.

On it came from the south. The pilot must have seen them and was heading
their way--no, no, he was passing too far to the left. He was missing
them!

Like statues, the two on the drift ice stood rooted to their tracks.
From within the cabin, Granger's weak voice called fretfully, wanting to
know what the shouting was, what was happening?

Nothing--nothing was happening.

Ah, yes, it was! The ship of the air was coming back, coursing in the
sky trails like some trusty hunter on the scent. Ola, it must locate
them this time! Wasn't that the engine slowing, the pilot "cutting the
gun" for a swoop to their floe?

But above, and still far away to the left of the three on the great
white waste, the pilot in his silver and orange craft kept on his way,
unseeing.

After him rose hoarse shouts, that the wind whipped to nothing before
they could ever reach him. Somewhere below him, two humans flung up
their arms and dropped in the snow. Hope had gone.



                             CHAPTER XXIII

                            FIGHTING THROUGH


Radio had brought ships of the air and ships of the sea into the Arctic
to search for the lost crew from the great Nardak. Radio must now be the
guide to focus the eyes of the searchers upon these dots that were
freezing, starving humans on the boundless wastes.

Like one demented, Lee Renaud hung over his crude sending machine,
tap-tapping his call into the air. He ate next to nothing, slept only in
snatches. He must get in touch with Spitzbergen, with the base ship, the
Kravassin, anchored there.

Since that first disappointment, two other planes had circled in and
passed on, unseeing. These were two seaplanes, sturdy white-winged
biplanes, with black fuselage. They had come that close, near enough for
men on the ice to see, yet not to be seen. Frantic efforts to signal
from the ice had been all in vain. One plane had hung in the air for an
hour's reconnaissance, then had disappeared in the grim Arctic horizon,
flying back toward Spitzbergen.

"Put radios on the rescue planes. Put radios on the rescue planes,
short-wave, telegraphic type. Sending station F-O-Y-N on the drift ice
can then communicate direct and give signals to bring the planes to the
refugees. S. O. S. to the world! Help! Relay the word to Spitzbergen.
F-O-Y-N can't make the touch to its nearest station." Thus, hour after
hour, Renaud sent his call.

For forty hours now, there had been no radio connection between the
refugee camp and the rest of the world. Atmospheric disturbances, most
likely,--a storm brewing and rolling up interference between the
makeshift station and the stations of a listening world! The snow haze
was creeping over the horizon, forerunner of evil weather. And out in
the water lanes, dark forms rose now and again with a swish and a puff,
rolled to blow, and sank again. Killer whales come back, like under-sea
vultures, to await what storm and death might fling to them.

On and on went Renaud with his tapping. There was nothing else to do.
Answer or no answer, his fingers kept doggedly to their task.
Tap--listen--tap--and the snow haze closing down.

Then through the dimness to the southwest, a puff of smoke rose slim and
tall, and then spread out on the damp air in a long wavering line.
Another smoke puff, closer this time! Smoke bombs! Signals dropped from
a plane! With a sudden chitter-chatter that sent his heart pounding up
into his very throat for joy, Renaud's little radio picked up a call out
of the near air. The plane--it was sending the radio call! It was
carrying a wireless set, as Renaud had pleaded!

With flying fingers, Renaud tapped out his location. "Here--to the east
of the smoke bomb! More to the east! Now to the north!"

On came the plane. It was so easy now, with connection between ground
and air. The plane was the splendid silver and orange monoplane that had
searched in vain for them a day ago. Now it swept in a direct line above
them, flew low over the ice pack--lower, lower, but did not land.

"Major Ravoia in the SD-55. No chance to land. Break of the ice would
sink us all." It was a message that sent Renaud reeling across his
machine.

But if the SD-55 could not land, something else could. From over the
edge of the plane, as it hovered low, an object was dropped. This fell
free for a space, then fluttered open into a parachute to which was
attached a large box. As gently as a hand setting a fragile glass on a
table, the broad, inverted chalice of the parachute let its weight down
and down till it eased against the ice.

Renaud had raised his head to watch. Now he went across the ice to the
box with its draping of collapsed parachute. With a piece of metal he
beat open the top--began lifting out the contents. It was enough to stir
the heart of any half-starved marooner--food, clothing, snow glasses,
bandages and medicines, rifles and ammunition and a collapsible rubber
boat.

"Dry clothing! Something to eat! Medicine for your eyes!" he called out
huskily to poor Scotty, who, scarce seeing at all now, came wavering
across the snow slush.

The silver and orange of the monoplane was lifting above their heads
now, but its wireless was pouring out a staccato message that came
sliding briskly into the radio base on the drift ice: "Don't despair.
The ice-breaker Kravassin is fighting through to you. By radio
connection I can locate you again; can pilot the ice ship on."

With a zooming roar, the SD-55 was gone. So quickly did the flash of
orange and silver disappear into the lowering haze, that it seemed
almost a dream that it had ever hovered within hailing distance. Only,
here was the food, the clothing, the strange rubber boat, the parachute
that had eased them to the ice.

And on the air still seemed to hang the SD-55's message: "Don't
despair--Kravassin fighting through!"

On the great Russian ice-breaker hung their last hope.



                              CHAPTER XXIV

                              ON TO GLORY


The little group huddled close on their piece of drift. In the past
hour, winds had swept a huge tableland of frozen white so near that it
had verged on riding down the castaways. But instead a veer of the wind
had sent it scraping by, and shearing off the whole eastern edge of
their domain. A few more such vast, unwelcome visitors and their island
would be ground to bits.

Young Renaud, the only one of the three whom exposure had not crippled
in some way, had hastily gathered together portions of their supplies in
packs that could be strapped to each person. The queer rubber boat was
ready for launching though it seemed beyond reason to hope that this
frail craft could live for even a moment in that grinding, crashing,
ice-strewn sea.

With a sudden hoarse cry, Lee Renaud leaped to his feet, seized the
half-blind Scotty by the shoulder. "Quick! Help me lift Granger to the
boat! In it yourself! I'll stand ready to push off if--if what's coming
strikes!"

Whatever the thing was, tornado or waterspout, a crash seemed imminent.
Straight toward the piteous group on their drift island, the stormy line
of white moved. Tons of ice were hurled up in great masses that crashed
back to churn the sea in gigantic geyser spouts of turmoil.

Lee Renaud shivered and closed his eyes. It would soon be the end. God
give him strength to meet that end like a man! Shoulders squared, head
up, young Renaud stood beneath his wireless aerial with its fluttering
bit of flag that was a little piece of America up here in the Farthest
North.

Boom, crash, boom! It was a titanic sight, ice ripped and torn by
terrific power.

Then behind the ice, through the ice, there came a strange sight. Not
the tornado whirl Lee Renaud was expecting, but the great prow of a
vessel. The most powerful ice-breaker of the North, the Kravassin,
fighting through to the rescue!

Renaud's heart stood still. Relief at the reprieve from death itself
rushed through him in a revulsion of feeling that left him weak. His
limbs were as water, his bones were as sand. He crumpled to his knees.

It was a stupendous spectacle that Renaud was given to watch--a gigantic
battle between the vessel's ten thousand horsepower engines and the
frozen clutch of the North.

How could the great ship smash through to the tiny island without
sinking it?

In anguish, Renaud watched the oncoming, triple-sheathed ram of the
Kravassin cut her terrible path.

The refugees would be submerged, swept off their ice. How could the
monster heave in to them without drowning them?

But with a sure hand, Markovitch, captain of the mighty ice-breaker,
sent his crashing, metal-clad monster in a great circle about the
marooners' piece of floe. Then cutting in, he made a smaller circle, and
a still smaller circle--eased his huge vessel close. Movement was slow.
The great ram of the prow, instead of smashing, was nosing in, creeping
in now.

With a shudder of steam exhaust, she came to rest, her bulk pushing
together the ice drift before her to make a white bridge to the
marooners' island. Over her side swarmed a rescue crew, Ravoia of the
SD-55 leading on foot now to the little ice island he had located from
the air days ago. The castaways were rushed back, sped across rocking
floe, lifted across little chasms that in another moment would be great
chasms. At the ship itself, ladders and hawsers and scores of willing
hands waited to draw them up to safety.

"Easy now! He's injured! That one's not seeing much. Easy, easy!" rose
calls from the ice.

Blanket slings hoisted up Van Granger and Scotty.

Lee Renaud had the strength to go up and over by himself, though the
feel of solid ship beneath him took the last of his fighting spirit out
of him. Safe! He didn't have to be strong for himself and for the sick
and injured men longer. He was going to make a fool of himself--going to
faint. He fought off blackness in vain. He felt kind hands catch him,
lower him. The last he heard was Ravoia calling out, "Hey, get this
up--Renaud's wireless. It's made history, linked the world."

When Renaud came to, he had the feeling that he was still on a bit of
drift ice, that it must all be a marvelous dream--the great ship,
comforts, warmth, the crew calling him a hero.

With the picking up of these first refugees, the Kravassin's work had
just begun. On into the frozen north she pushed, following that one clue
of the lost dirigible, that faint wireless call Renaud's radio had
picked up--"Adrift on ice. Latitude 78."

Life aboard the Kravassin was one steady round of excitement. Food and
comforts soon brought Lee's strong young body back to normal. Snug in
furs, from hooded parka to boot tip, he took his part in the work as the
steel-clad ram bucked the floes, deeper and deeper into the frozen ocean
of the Arctic.

Never was there such a ship as the Kravassin, never such a method of
fighting the power of ice. With metal ram to crack the ice, with keel
built to ride the floe in slide movement, with ten thousand horsepower
engines to push her, the Kravassin fought her fight. Huge water tanks,
fore and aft, were filled or emptied at the rate of hundreds of tons an
hour, so the weight could be increased enormously to crush the ice or so
the ship could roll to smash itself free.

For a week the Kravassin pushed on, pathmaking through the frozen pack,
heading north, trailing the faint clue--"Lost at 78."

It was hopeless. The Arctic summer light was merging into the twilight
that meant the beginning of the long night of the Arctic winter. Man
must flee before that long period of darkness descended. Part of the
crew were ready to turn back. They had done their duty, had crossed
78,--no lost dirigible was in these parts. Perhaps it was all a
hallucination of young Renaud's fevered mind--that radio call from the
north. So the talk went.

They must push on, farther still; it was drift ice the call had come
from; the dirigible may have been swept on and on. Renaud pleaded and
begged for a longer search. He reinforced his pleading with promise of
rich pay out of the golden treasure that had crashed with the gondola on
the ice.

Because of Renaud's intense belief in that faint call, the mighty search
went on yet a little longer. Steel prow crashing tons of ice to the sky
and back--airship flotilla searching from the upper strata--men's eyes
strained ahead for glint of lost silver hulk!

A second week was wearing itself away when lookouts sighted a thread of
smoke on the north horizon.

A day later the Kravassin had fought through to that smoke.



                              CHAPTER XXV

                         FROM THE DESERT OF ICE


Small wonder that none had glimpsed the silver hull of the great Nardak!
For on the desert of ice, when the search party from the Kravassin made
landing, they found the whole crew of the lost dirigible--but no
dirigible. Not at first, anyway. Instead before their eyes lay a vast
mound of snow. Within those tons of white drift lay the wreck of the
Nardak--two engines smashed, and no fuel to run those that were left.

Haggard, bearded men, in whom hope had long been dead, laughed and
shouted and prayed when they saw the great ship, and the rescue party
swarming over the ice.

"The impossible! A miracle out of the sky! How are we found?" gasped the
worn, emaciated Captain Jan.

"The miracle? Wireless it was," Markovitch the Russian made answer in
his halting, precise English. He whirled Renaud around and thrust him
forward. "And this youngster the miracle-man is. With some broken wire
and bottles, he called to the world, and the world sent men to the
rescue."

But miracles were not over, for the wreck of the Nardak was to go out of
the Arctic under her own power.

Snow was shoveled off the huge hull. The Kravassin's machine shop had
tools and furnaces and fusing power to rehabilitate the dirigible and
put her back into the air again. Sufficient fuel was spared from the
ship's tanks to get the Nardak to Spitzbergen, that strange Arctic
island port where enormous gasoline tanks and lofty aerials of radio
towers mark man's progress in the conquest of the ice country.

From Spitzbergen, the route lay on to Oslo, Norway, where further
repairing and refueling were attended to. Then it was off across the
North Atlantic, headed for the welcoming shores of America!

These adventurers into the mysterious North were bringing back wealth,
and a knowledge of where lay Nakaluka, that Arctic lake edged with rock
rich in golden gifts. Arctic gold had nearly cost them their lives, but
it had led them to witness strange, wild sights. Now that it was nearly
over, Lee Renaud felt thankful for that wonderful experience--and living
to get out again.

Behind them lay a great white land of a frozen world lit by weird
lights, swept by winds of power--a mighty splendor that few humans ever
see and live to tell of.

Before them lay Home!

Across the Atlantic in two days! Sighting the shores of America--passing
above the great statue of the Goddess of Liberty, her arm lifted in
silent greeting--then on over New York, and landing beyond the city!

Radio, the long arm of mysterious sound that had rescued the Nardak from
the ice barrens--radio now welcomed her home. Since the time the Nardak
had touched on the shores of civilized Europe, hour by hour, minute by
minute, America had kept track of her return.

Bulletins had posted the shops and theaters of the land, "Nardak four
hours away"--"Nardak sighted"--"Nardak coming in!"

Lee Renaud knew from the interest and enthusiasm of those radio calls
that the home country was awaiting her wanderers--but for all that, he
was taken back by the vast crowd that viewed their arrival. As far as
the eye could see, the flying field, the streets, the housetops were
black with people. Bands were playing. A thunder of shouts greeted the
dirigible as she settled on American soil once again.

Young Renaud was among the last to step down from the Nardak's open
hatch. A hush fell as he came into sight, and a pathway opened before
him. Then Captain Bartlot had him by the shoulder, pushing him forward,
making him look up to where a triumphal arch loomed right ahead--an arch
built of flowers, decked with the flags of the nations of the world and
set with letters thirty inches high.

Lee Renaud's head swam dizzily as he looked up at those letters:

"Stand by--the Arctic on the air! Greeting to Renaud of the Radio! He
linked the world with his wireless call!"

And America greeted her Renaud. Shouts roared up. People laughed and
cried and hurrahed over a bewildered, dark-haired hero, who couldn't
quite take it in that it was he they were shouting over.

Out of the throng, an imposing gentleman fought his way close, grasped
Lee's hand and burst into hurried speech: "Represent the Amalgamated
Radio Corporation of America--have come a thousand miles to be first on
the ground. Our corporation offers you a million dollars for the rights
to your portable radio--"

"Sir, I'll talk later--please," and Lee pushed forward. Over there,
could he believe his eyes? His mother, Great-uncle Gem pounding his cane
and waving wildly, Jimmy Bobb in a chair--they had come all the way
here, just to see him!





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