WITH THE NIGHT MAIL
A STORY OF 2000 A.D.
With the Night Mail
At nine o'clock of a gusty winter night I stood on the lower stages of
one of the G. P. O. outward mail towers. My purpose was a run to Quebec
in "Postal Packet 162 or such other as may be appointed"; and the
Postmaster-General himself countersigned the order. This talisman opened
all doors, even those in the despatching-caisson at the foot of the
tower, where they were delivering the sorted Continental mail. The bags
lay packed close as herrings in the long gray under-bodies which our
G. P. O. still calls "coaches." Five such coaches were filled as I
watched, and were shot up the guides to be locked on to their waiting
packets three hundred feet nearer the stars.
From the despatching-caisson I was conducted by a courteous and
wonderfully learned official--Mr. L. L. Geary, Second Despatcher of the
Western Route--to the Captains' Room (this wakes an echo of old
romance), where the mail captains come on for their turn of duty. He
introduces me to the Captain of "162"--Captain Purnall, and his relief,
Captain Hodgson. The one is small and dark; the other large and red; but
each has the brooding sheathed glance characteristic of eagles and
aëronauts. You can see it in the pictures of our racing professionals,
from L. V. Rautsch to little Ada Warrleigh--that fathomless abstraction
of eyes habitually turned through naked space.
On the notice-board in the Captains' Room, the pulsing arrows of some
twenty indicators register, degree by geographical degree, the progress
of as many homeward-bound packets. The word "Cape" rises across the face
of a dial; a gong strikes: the South African mid-weekly mail is in at
the Highgate Receiving Towers. That is all. It reminds one comically of
the traitorous little bell which in pigeon-fanciers' lofts notifies the
return of a homer.
"Time for us to be on the move," says Captain Purnall, and we are shot
up by the passenger-lift to the top of the despatch-towers. "Our coach
will lock on when it is filled and the clerks are aboard."...
"No. 162" waits for us in Slip E of the topmost stage. The great curve
of her back shines frostily under the lights, and some minute alteration
of trim makes her rock a little in her holding-down slips.
Captain Purnall frowns and dives inside. Hissing softly, "162" comes to
rest as level as a rule. From her North Atlantic Winter nose-cap (worn
bright as diamond with boring through uncounted leagues of hail, snow,
and ice) to the inset of her three built-out propeller-shafts is some
two hundred and forty feet. Her extreme diameter, carried well forward,
is thirty-seven. Contrast this with the nine hundred by ninety-five of
any crack liner and you will realize the power that must drive a hull
through all weathers at more than the emergency-speed of the "Cyclonic"!
The eye detects no joint in her skin plating save the sweeping
hair-crack of the bow-rudder--Magniac's rudder that assured us the
dominion of the unstable air and left its inventor penniless and
half-blind. It is calculated to Castelli's "gull-wing" curve. Raise a
few feet of that all but invisible plate three-eighths of an inch and
she will yaw five miles to port or starboard ere she is under control
again. Give her full helm and she returns on her track like a whip-lash.
Cant the whole forward--a touch on the wheel will suffice--and she
sweeps at your good direction up or down. Open the complete circle and
she presents to the air a mushroom-head that will bring her up all
standing within a half mile.
"Yes," says Captain Hodgson, answering my thought, "Castelli thought
he'd discovered the secret of controlling aëroplanes when he'd only
found out how to steer dirigible balloons. Magniac invented his rudder
to help war-boats ram each other; and war went out of fashion and
Magniac he went out of his mind because he said he couldn't serve his
country any more. I wonder if any of us ever know what we're really
"If you want to see the coach locked you'd better go aboard. It's due
now," says Mr. Geary. I enter through the door amidships. There is
nothing here for display. The inner skin of the gas-tanks comes down to
within a foot or two of my head and turns over just short of the turn of
the bilges. Liners and yachts disguise their tanks with decoration, but
the G. P. O. serves them raw under a lick of gray official paint. The
inner skin shuts off fifty feet of the bow and as much of the stern, but
the bow-bulkhead is recessed for the lift-shunting apparatus as the
stern is pierced for the shaft-tunnels. The engine-room lies almost
amidships. Forward of it, extending to the turn of the bow tanks, is an
aperture--a bottomless hatch at present--into which our coach will be
locked. One looks down over the coamings three hundred feet to the
despatching-caisson whence voices boom upward. The light below is
obscured to a sound of thunder, as our coach rises on its guides. It
enlarges rapidly from a postage-stamp to a playing-card; to a punt and
last a pontoon. The two clerks, its crew, do not even look up as it
comes into place. The Quebec letters fly under their fingers and leap
into the docketed racks, while both captains and Mr. Geary satisfy
themselves that the coach is locked home. A clerk passes the waybill
over the hatch-coaming. Captain Purnall thumb-marks and passes it to Mr.
Geary. Receipt has been given and taken. "Pleasant run," says Mr. Geary,
and disappears through the door which a foot-high pneumatic compressor
locks after him.
"A-ah!" sighs the compressor released. Our holding-down clips part with
a tang. We are clear.
Captain Hodgson opens the great colloid underbody-porthole through
which I watch million-lighted London slide eastward as the gale gets
hold of us. The first of the low winter clouds cuts off the well-known
view and darkens Middlesex. On the south edge of it I can see a postal
packet's light ploughing through the white fleece. For an instant she
gleams like a star ere she drops toward the Highgate Receiving Towers.
"The Bombay Mail," says Captain Hodgson, and looks at his watch. "She's
forty minutes late."
"What's our level?" I ask.
"Four thousand. Aren't you coming up on the bridge?"
The bridge (let us ever bless the G. P. O. as a repository of ancientest
tradition!) is represented by a view of Captain Hodgson's legs where he
stands on the control platform that runs thwartships overhead. The bow
colloid is unshuttered and Captain Purnall, one hand on the wheel, is
feeling for a fair slant. The dial shows 4,300 feet.
"It's steep to-night," he mutters, as tier on tier of cloud drops under.
"We generally pick up an easterly draught below three thousand at this
time o' the year. I hate slathering through fluff."
"So does Van Cutsem. Look at him huntin' for a slant!" says Captain
Hodgson. A fog-light breaks cloud a hundred fathoms below. The Antwerp
Night Mail makes her signal and rises between two racing clouds far to
port, her flanks blood-red in the glare of Sheerness Double Light. The
gale will have us over the North Sea in half an hour, but Captain
Purnall lets her go composedly--nosing to every point of the compass as
"Five thousand--six, six thousand eight hundred"--the dip-dial reads ere
we find the easterly drift, heralded by a flurry of snow at the
thousand-fathom level. Captain Purnall rings up the engines and keys
down the governor on the switch before him. There is no sense in urging
machinery when Æolus himself gives you good knots for nothing. We are
away in earnest now--our nose notched home on our chosen star. At this
level the lower clouds are laid out all neatly combed by the dry fingers
of the East. Below that again is the strong westerly blow through which
we rose. Overhead, a film of southerly drifting mist draws a theatrical
gauze across the firmament. The moonlight turns the lower strata to
silver without a stain except where our shadow underruns us. Bristol and
Cardiff Double Lights (those statelily inclined beams over Severnmouth)
are dead ahead of us; for we keep the Southern Winter Route. Coventry
Central, the pivot of the English system, stabs upward once in ten
seconds its spear of diamond light to the north; and a point or two off
our starboard bow The Leek, the great cloud-breaker of Saint David's
Head, swings its unmistakable green beam twenty-five degrees each way.
There must be half a mile of fluff over it in this weather, but it does
not affect The Leek.
"Our planet's overlighted if anything," says Captain Purnall at the
wheel, as Cardiff-Bristol slides under. "I remember the old days of
common white verticals that 'ud show two or three thousand feet up in a
mist, if you knew where to look for 'em. In really fluffy weather they
might as well have been under your hat. One could get lost coming home
then, an' have some fun. Now, it's like driving down Piccadilly."
He points to the pillars of light where the cloud-breakers bore through
the cloud-floor. We see nothing of England's outlines: only a white
pavement pierced in all directions by these manholes of variously
coloured fire--Holy Island's white and red--St. Bee's interrupted white,
and so on as far as the eye can reach. Blessed be Sargent, Ahrens, and
the Dubois brothers, who invented the cloud-breakers of the world
whereby we travel in security!
"Are you going to lift for The Shamrock?" asks Captain Hodgson. Cork
Light (green, fixed) enlarges as we rush to it. Captain Purnall nods.
There is heavy traffic hereabouts--the cloud-bank beneath us is streaked
with running fissures of flame where the Atlantic boats are hurrying
Londonward just clear of the fluff. Mail-packets are supposed, under the
Conference rules, to have the five-thousand-foot lanes to themselves,
but the foreigner in a hurry is apt to take liberties with English air.
"No. 162" lifts to a long-drawn wail of the breeze in the fore-flange of
the rudder and we make Valencia (white, green, white) at a safe 7,000
feet, dipping our beam to an incoming Washington packet.
There is no cloud on the Atlantic, and faint streaks of cream round
Dingle Bay show where the driven seas hammer the coast. A big
S. A. T. A. liner (_Société Anonyme des Transports Aëriens_) is diving
and lifting half a mile below us in search of some break in the solid
west wind. Lower still lies a disabled Dane: she is telling the liner
all about it in International. Our General Communication dial has caught
her talk and begins to eavesdrop. Captain Hodgson makes a motion to shut
it off but checks himself. "Perhaps you'd like to listen," he says.
"'Argol' of St. Thomas," the Dane whimpers. "Report owners three
starboard shaft collar-bearings fused. Can make Flores as we are, but
impossible further. Shall we buy spares at Fayal?"
The liner acknowledges and recommends inverting the bearings. The
"Argol" answers that she has already done so without effect, and begins
to relieve her mind about cheap German enamels for collar-bearings. The
Frenchman assents cordially, cries "_Courage, mon ami_," and switches
Their lights sink under the curve of the ocean.
"That's one of Lundt & Bleamers's boats," says Captain Hodgson. "Serves
'em right for putting German compos in their thrust-blocks. _She_ won't
be in Fayal to-night! By the way, wouldn't you like to look round the
I have been waiting eagerly for this invitation and I follow Captain
Hodgson from the control-platform, stooping low to avoid the bulge of
the tanks. We know that Fleury's gas can lift anything, as the
world-famous trials of '89 showed, but its almost indefinite powers of
expansion necessitate vast tank room. Even in this thin air the
lift-shunts are busy taking out one-third of its normal lift, and still
"162" must be checked by an occasional downdraw of the rudder or our
flight would become a climb to the stars. Captain Purnall prefers an
overlifted to an underlifted ship; but no two captains trim ship alike.
"When _I_ take the bridge," says Captain Hodgson, "you'll see me shunt
forty per cent. of the lift out of the gas and run her on the upper
rudder. With a swoop upwards instead of a swoop downwards, _as_ you say.
Either way will do. It's only habit. Watch our dip-dial! Tim fetches her
down once every thirty knots as regularly as breathing."
So is it shown on the dip-dial. For five or six minutes the arrow creeps
from 6,700 to 7,300. There is the faint "szgee" of the rudder, and back
slides the arrow to 6,500 on a falling slant of ten or fifteen knots.
"In heavy weather you jockey her with the screws as well," says Captain
Hodgson, and, unclipping the jointed bar which divides the engine-room
from the bare deck, he leads me on to the floor.
Here we find Fleury's Paradox of the Bulkheaded Vacuum--which we accept
now without thought--literally in full blast. The three engines are
H. T. &. T. assisted-vacuo Fleury turbines running from 3,000 to the
Limit--that is to say, up to the point when the blades make the air
"bell"--cut out a vacuum for themselves precisely as over-driven marine
propellers used to do. "162's" Limit is low on account of the small size
of her nine screws, which, though handier than the old colloid
Thelussons, "bell" sooner. The midships engine, generally used as a
reinforce, is not running; so the port and starboard turbine
vacuum-chambers draw direct into the return-mains.
The turbines whistle reflectively. From the low-arched expansion-tanks
on either side the valves descend pillarwise to the turbine-chests, and
thence the obedient gas whirls through the spirals of blades with a
force that would whip the teeth out of a power-saw. Behind, is its own
pressure held in leash or spurred on by the lift-shunts; before it, the
vacuum where Fleury's Ray dances in violet-green bands and whirled
turbillions of flame. The jointed U-tubes of the vacuum-chamber are
pressure-tempered colloid (no glass would endure the strain for an
instant) and a junior engineer with tinted spectacles watches the Ray
intently. It is the very heart of the machine--a mystery to this day.
Even Fleury who begat it and, unlike Magniac, died a multi-millionaire,
could not explain how the restless little imp shuddering in the U-tube
can, in the fractional fraction of a second, strike the furious blast of
gas into a chill grayish-green liquid that drains (you can hear it
trickle) from the far end of the vacuum through the eduction-pipes and
the mains back to the bilges. Here it returns to its gaseous, one had
almost written sagacious, state and climbs to work afresh. Bilge-tank,
upper tank, dorsal-tank, expansion-chamber, vacuum, main-return (as a
liquid), and bilge-tank once more is the ordained cycle. Fleury's Ray
sees to that; and the engineer with the tinted spectacles sees to
Fleury's Ray. If a speck of oil, if even the natural grease of the human
finger touch the hooded terminals Fleury's Ray will wink and disappear
and must be laboriously built up again. This means half a day's work
for all hands and an expense of one hundred and seventy-odd pounds to
the G. P. O. for radium-salts and such trifles.
"Now look at our thrust-collars. You won't find much German compo there.
Full-jewelled, you see," says Captain Hodgson as the engineer shunts
open the top of a cap. Our shaft-bearings are C. M. C. (Commercial
Minerals Company) stones, ground with as much care as the lens of a
telescope. They cost £37 apiece. So far we have not arrived at their
term of life. These bearings came from "No. 97," which took them over
from the old "Dominion of Light," which had them out of the wreck of the
"Perseus" aëroplane in the years when men still flew linen kites over
They are a shining reproof to all low-grade German "ruby" enamels,
so-called "boort" facings, and the dangerous and unsatisfactory alumina
compounds which please dividend-hunting owners and turn skippers crazy.
The rudder-gear and the gas lift-shunt, seated side by side under the
engine-room dials, are the only machines in visible motion. The former
sighs from time to time as the oil plunger rises and falls half an inch.
The latter, cased and guarded like the U-tube aft, exhibits another
Fleury Ray, but inverted and more green than violet. Its function is to
shunt the lift out of the gas, and this it will do without watching.
That is all! A tiny pump-rod wheezing and whining to itself beside a
sputtering green lamp. A hundred and fifty feet aft down the flat-topped
tunnel of the tanks a violet light, restless and irresolute. Between the
two, three white-painted turbine-trunks, like eel-baskets laid on their
side, accentuate the empty perspectives. You can hear the trickle of
the liquefied gas flowing from the vacuum into the bilge-tanks and the
soft _gluck-glock_ of gas-locks closing as Captain Purnall brings "162"
down by the head. The hum of the turbines and the boom of the air on our
skin is no more than a cotton-wool wrapping to the universal stillness.
And we are running an eighteen-second mile.
I peer from the fore end of the engine-room over the hatch-coamings into
the coach. The mail-clerks are sorting the Winnipeg, Calgary, and
Medicine Hat bags: but there is a pack of cards ready on the table.
Suddenly a bell thrills; the engineers run to the turbine-valves and
stand by; but the spectacled slave of the Ray in the U-tube never lifts
his head. He must watch where he is. We are hard-braked and going
astern; there is language from the control-platform.
"Tim's sparking badly about something," says the unruffled Captain
Hodgson. "Let's look."
Captain Purnall is not the suave man we left half an hour since, but the
embodied authority of the G. P. O. Ahead of us floats an ancient,
aluminum-patched, twin-screw tramp of the dingiest, with no more right
to the 5,000 foot lane than has a horse-cart to a modern town. She
carries an obsolete "barbette" conning-tower--a six-foot affair with
railed platform forward--and our warning beam plays on the top of it as
a policeman's lantern flashes on the area sneak. Like a sneak-thief,
too, emerges a shock-headed navigator in his shirt-sleeves. Captain
Purnall wrenches open the colloid to talk with him man to man. There are
times when Science does not satisfy.
"What under the stars are you doing here, you sky-scraping
chimney-sweep?" he shouts as we two drift side by side. "Do you know
this is a Mail-lane? You call yourself a sailor, sir? You ain't fit to
peddle toy balloons to an Esquimaux. Your name and number! Report and
get down, and be----!"
"I've been blown up once," the shock-headed man cries, hoarsely, as a
dog barking. "I don't care two flips of a contact for anything _you_ can
"Don't you, sir? But I'll make you care. I'll have you towed stern first
to Disko and broke up. You can't recover insurance if you're broke for
obstruction. Do you understand _that_?"
Then the stranger bellows: "Look at my propellers! There's been a
wulli-wa down under that has knocked us into umbrella-frames! We've been
blown up about forty thousand feet! We're all one conjuror's watch
inside! My mate's arm's broke; my engineer's head's cut open; my Ray
went out when the engines smashed; and ... and ... for pity's sake give
me my height, Captain! We doubt we're dropping."
"Six thousand eight hundred. Can you hold it?" Captain Purnall overlooks
all insults, and leans half out of the colloid, staring and snuffing.
The stranger leaks pungently.
"We ought to blow into St. John's with luck. We're trying to plug the
fore-tank now, but she's simply whistling it away," her captain wails.
"She's sinking like a log," says Captain Purnall in an undertone. "Call
up the Banks Mark Boat, George." Our dip-dial shows that we, keeping
abreast the tramp, have dropped five hundred feet the last few minutes.
Captain Purnall presses a switch and our signal beam begins to swing
through the night, twizzling spokes of light across infinity.
"That'll fetch something," he says, while Captain Hodgson watches the
General Communicator. He has called up the North Banks Mark Boat, a few
hundred miles west, and is reporting the case.
"I'll stand by you," Captain Purnall roars to the lone figure on the
"Is it as bad as that?" comes the answer. "She isn't insured, she's
"Might have guessed as much," mutters Hodgson. "Owner's risk is the
worst risk of all!"
"Can't I fetch St. John's--not even with this breeze?" the voice
"Stand by to abandon ship. Haven't you _any_ lift in you, fore or aft?"
"Nothing but the midship tanks and they're none too tight. You see, my
Ray gave out and--" he coughs in the reek of the escaping gas.
"You poor devil!" This does not reach our friend. "What does the Mark
Boat say, George?"
"Wants to know if there's any danger to traffic. Says she's in a bit of
weather herself and can't quit station. I've turned in a General Call,
so even if they don't see our beam some one's bound to help--or else we
must. Shall I clear our slings. Hold on! Here we are! A Planet liner,
too! She'll be up in a tick!"
"Tell her to have her slings ready," cries his brother captain. "There
won't be much time to spare.... Tie up your mate," he roars to the
"My mate's all right. It's my engineer. He's gone crazy."
"Shunt the lift out of him with a spanner. Hurry!"
"But I can make St. John's if you'll stand by."
"You'll make the deep, wet Atlantic in twenty minutes. You're less than
fifty-eight hundred now. Get your papers."
A Planet liner, east bound, heaves up in a superb spiral and takes the
air of us humming. Her underbody colloid is open and her
transporter-slings hang down like tentacles. We shut off our beam as she
adjusts herself--steering to a hair--over the tramp's conning-tower. The
mate comes up, his arm strapped to his side, and stumbles into the
cradle. A man with a ghastly scarlet head follows, shouting that he must
go back and build up his Ray. The mate assures him that he will find a
nice new Ray all ready in the liner's engine-room. The bandaged head
goes up wagging excitedly. A youth and a woman follow. The liner cheers
hollowly above us, and we see the passengers' faces at the saloon
"That's a good girl. What's the fool waiting for now?" says Captain
The skipper comes up, still appealing to us to stand by and see him
fetch St. John's. He dives below and returns--at which we little human
beings in the void cheer louder than ever--with the ship's kitten. Up
fly the liner's hissing slings; her underbody crashes home and she
hurtles away again. The dial shows less than 3,000 feet.
The Mark Boat signals we must attend to the derelict, now whistling her
death song, as she falls beneath us in long sick zigzags.
"Keep our beam on her and send out a General Warning," says Captain
Purnall, following her down.
There is no need. Not a liner in air but knows the meaning of that
vertical beam and gives us and our quarry a wide berth.
"But she'll drown in the water, won't she?" I ask.
"Not always," is his answer. "I've known a derelict up-end and sift her
engines out of herself and flicker round the Lower Lanes for three weeks
on her forward tanks only. We'll run no risks. Pith her, George, and
look sharp. There's weather ahead."
Captain Hodgson opens the underbody colloid, swings the heavy
pithing-iron out of its rack which in liners is generally cased as a
settee, and at two hundred feet releases the catch. We hear the whir of
the crescent-shaped arms opening as they descend. The derelict's
forehead is punched in, starred across, and rent diagonally. She falls
stern first, our beam upon her; slides like a lost soul down that
pitiless ladder of light, and the Atlantic takes her.
[Illustration: "SLIDES LIKE A LOST SOUL DOWN THAT PITILESS LADDER OF
LIGHT, AND THE ATLANTIC TAKES HER"]
"A filthy business," says Hodgson. "I wonder what it must have been like
in the old days."
The thought had crossed my mind too. What if that wavering carcass
had been filled with International-speaking men of all the
Internationalities, each one of them taught (_that_ is the horror of
it!) that after death he would very possibly go forever to unspeakable
And not half a century since, we (one knows now that we are only our
fathers re-enlarged upon the earth), _we_, I say, ripped and rammed and
pithed to admiration.
Here Tim, from the control-platform, shouts that we are to get into our
inflators and to bring him his at once.
We hurry into the heavy rubber suits--and the engineers are already
dressed--and inflate at the air-pump taps. G. P. O. inflators are
thrice as thick as a racing man's "flickers," and chafe abominably under
the armpits. George takes the wheel until Tim has blown himself up to
the extreme of rotundity. If you kicked him off the c. p. to the deck he
would bounce back. But it is "162" that will do the kicking.
"The Mark Boat's mad--stark ravin' crazy," he snorts, returning to
command. "She says there's a bad blow-out ahead and wants me to pull
over to Greenland. I'll see her pithed first! We wasted an hour and a
quarter over that dead duck down under, and now I'm expected to go
rubbin' my back all round the Pole. What does she think a postal
packet's made of? Gummed silk? Tell her we're coming on straight,
George buckles him into the Frame and switches on the Direct Control.
Now under Tim's left toe lies the port-engine Accelerator; under his
left heel the Reverse, and so with the other foot. The lift-shunt stops
stand out on the rim of the steering-wheel where the fingers of his left
hand can play on them. At his right hand is the midships engine lever
ready to be thrown into gear at a moment's notice. He leans forward in
his belt, eyes glued to the colloid, and one ear cocked toward the
General Communicator. Henceforth he is the strength and direction of
"162," through whatever may befall.
The Banks Mark Boat is reeling out pages of A. B. C. Directions to the
traffic at large. We are to secure all "loose objects"; hood up our
Fleury Rays; and "on no account to attempt to clear snow from our
conning-towers till the weather abates." Under-powered craft, we are
told, can ascend to the limit of their lift, mail-packets to look out
for them accordingly; the lower lanes westward are pitting very badly,
"with frequent blow-outs, vortices, laterals, etc."
Still the clear dark holds up unblemished. The only warning is the
electric skin-tension (I feel as though I were a lace-maker's pillow)
and an irritability which the gibbering of the General Communicator
increases almost to hysteria.
We have made eight thousand feet since we pithed the tramp and our
turbines are giving us an honest two hundred and ten knots.
Very far to the west an elongated blur of red, low down, shows us the
North Banks Mark Boat. There are specks of fire round her rising and
falling--bewildered planets about an unstable sun--helpless shipping
hanging on to her light for company's sake. No wonder she could not quit
She warns us to look out for the backwash of the bad vortex in which
(her beam shows it) she is even now reeling.
The pits of gloom about us begin to fill with very faintly luminous
films--wreathing and uneasy shapes. One forms itself into a globe of
pale flame that waits shivering with eagerness till we sweep by. It
leaps monstrously across the blackness, alights on the precise tip of
our nose, pirouettes there an instant, and swings off. Our roaring bow
sinks as though that light were lead--sinks and recovers to lurch and
stumble again beneath the next blow-out. Tim's fingers on the lift-shunt
strike chords of numbers--1:4:7:--2:4:6:--7:5:3, and so on; for he is
running by his tanks only, lifting or lowering her against the uneasy
air. All three engines are at work, for the sooner we have skated over
this thin ice the better. Higher we dare not go. The whole upper vault
is charged with pale krypton vapours, which our skin friction may
excite to unholy manifestations. Between the upper and the lower
levels--5,000, and 7,000, hints the Mark Boat--we may perhaps bolt
through if.... Our bow clothes itself in blue flame and falls like a
sword. No human skill can keep pace with the changing tensions. A vortex
has us by the beak and we dive down a two-thousand-foot slant at an
angle (the dip-dial and my bouncing body record it) of thirty-five. Our
turbines scream shrilly; the propellers cannot bite on the thin air; Tim
shunts the lift out of five tanks at once and by sheer weight drives her
bulletwise through the maelstrom till she cushions with a jar on an
up-gust, three thousand feet below.
"_Now_ we've done it," says George in my ear. "Our skin-friction that
last slide, has played Old Harry with the tensions! Look out for
laterals, Tim, she'll want some holding."
"I've got her," is the answer. "Come _up_, old woman."
She comes up nobly, but the laterals buffet her left and right like the
pinions of angry angels. She is jolted off her course in four ways at
once, and cuffed into place again, only to be swung aside and dropped
into a new chaos. We are never without a corposant grinning on our bows
or rolling head over heels from nose to midships, and to the crackle of
electricity around and within us is added once or twice the rattle of
hail--hail that will never fall on any sea. Slow we must or we may break
our back, pitch-poling.
"Air's a perfectly elastic fluid," roars George above the tumult. "About
as elastic as a head sea off the Fastnet, aint it?"
[Illustration: THE STORM]
He is less than just to the good element. If one intrudes on the
Heavens when they are balancing their volt-accounts; if one disturbs the
High Gods' market-rates by hurling steel hulls at ninety knots across
tremblingly adjusted electric tensions, one must not complain of any
rudeness in the reception. Tim met it with an unmoved countenance, one
corner of his under lip caught up on a tooth, his eyes fleeting into the
blackness twenty miles ahead, and the fierce sparks flying from his
knuckles at every turn of the hand. Now and again he shook his head to
clear the sweat trickling from his eyebrows, and it was then that
George, watching his chance, would slide down the life-rail and swab his
face quickly with a big red handkerchief. I never imagined that a human
being could so continuously labour and so collectedly think as did Tim
through that Hell's half hour when the flurry was at its worst. We were
dragged hither and yon by warm or frozen suctions, belched up on the
tops of wulli-was, spun down by vortices and clubbed aside by laterals
under a dizzying rush of stars in the company of a drunken moon. I heard
the rushing click of the midship-engine-lever sliding in and out, the
low growl of the lift-shunts, and, louder than the yelling winds
without, the scream of the bow-rudder gouging into any lull that
promised hold for an instant. At last we began to claw up on a cant,
bow-rudder and port-propeller together; only the nicest balancing of
tanks saved us from spinning like the rifle-bullet of the old days.
"We've got to hitch to windward of that Mark Boat somehow," George
"There's no windward," I protested feebly, where I swung shackled to a
stanchion. "How can there be?"
He laughed--as we pitched into a thousand foot blow-out--that red man
laughed beneath his inflated hood!
"Look!" he said. "We must clear those refugees with a high lift."
The Mark Boat was below and a little to the sou'west of us, fluctuating
in the centre of her distraught galaxy. The air was thick with moving
lights at every level. I take it most of them were trying to lie head to
wind but, not being hydras, they failed. An under-tanked Moghrabi boat
had risen to the limit of her lift and, finding no improvement, had
dropped a couple of thousand. There she met a superb wulli-wa and was
blown up spinning like a dead leaf. Instead of shutting off she went
astern and, naturally, rebounded as from a wall almost into the Mark
Boat, whose language (our G. C. took it in) was humanly simple.
"If they'd only ride it out quietly it 'ud be better," said George in a
calm, as we climbed like a bat above them all. "But some skippers
_will_ navigate without enough lift. What does that Tad-boat think she
is doing, Tim?"
"Playin' kiss in the ring," was Tim's unmoved reply. A Trans-Asiatic
Direct liner had found a smooth and butted into it full power. But there
was a vortex at the tail of that smooth, so the T. A. D. was flipped out
like a pea from off a fingernail, braking madly as she fled down and all
"Now I hope she's satisfied," said Tim. "I'm glad I'm not a Mark
Boat.... Do I want help?" The C. G. dial had caught his ear. "George,
you may tell that gentleman with my love--love, remember, George--that I
do not want help. Who _is_ the officious sardine-tin?"
"A Rimouski drogher on the lookout for a tow."
"Very kind of the Rimouski drogher. This postal packet isn't being towed
"Those droghers will go anywhere on a chance of salvage," George
explained. "We call 'em kittiwakes."
A long-beaked, bright steel ninety-footer floated at ease for one
instant within hail of us, her slings coiled ready for rescues, and a
single hand in her open tower. He was smoking. Surrendered to the
insurrection of the airs through which we tore our way, he lay in
absolute peace. I saw the smoke of his pipe ascend untroubled ere his
boat dropped, it seemed, like a stone in a well.
We had just cleared the Mark Boat and her disorderly neighbours when the
storm ended as suddenly as it had begun. A shooting-star to northward
filled the sky with the green blink of a meteorite dissipating itself in
Said George: "That may iron out all the tensions." Even as he spoke, the
conflicting winds came to rest; the levels filled; the laterals died out
in long easy swells; the airways were smoothed before us. In less than
three minutes the covey round the Mark Boat had shipped their
power-lights and whirred away upon their businesses.
"What's happened?" I gasped. The nerve-storm within and the volt-tingle
without had passed: my inflators weighed like lead.
"God, He knows!" said Captain George, soberly. "That old shooting-star's
skin-friction has discharged the different levels. I've seen it happen
before. Phew! What a relief!"
We dropped from ten to six thousand and got rid of our clammy suits. Tim
shut off and stepped out of the Frame. The Mark Boat was coming up
behind us. He opened the colloid in that heavenly stillness and mopped
"Hello, Williams!" he cried. "A degree or two out o' station, ain't
"May be," was the answer from the Mark Boat. "I've had some company this
"So I noticed. Wasn't that quite a little draught?"
"I warned you. Why didn't you pull out round by Disko? The east-bound
"Me? Not till I'm running a Polar consumptives' Sanatorium boat. I was
squinting through a colloid before you were out of your cradle, my son."
"I'd be the last man to deny it," the captain of the Mark Boat replies
softly. "The way you handled her just now--I'm a pretty fair judge of
traffic in a volt-flurry--it was a thousand revolutions beyond anything
even _I_'ve ever seen."
Tim's back supples visibly to this oiling. Captain George on the c. p.
winks and points to the portrait of a singularly attractive maiden
pinned up on Tim's telescope-bracket above the steering-wheel.
I see. Wholly and entirely do I see!
There is some talk overhead of "coming round to tea on Friday," a brief
report of the derelict's fate, and Tim volunteers as he descends: "For
an A. B. C. man young Williams is less of a high-tension fool than
some.... Were you thinking of taking her on, George? Then I'll just have
a look round that port-thrust--seems to me it's a trifle warm--and we'll
The Mark Boat hums off joyously and hangs herself up in her appointed
eyrie. Here she will stay, a shutterless observatory; a life-boat
station; a salvage tug; a court of ultimate appeal-cum-meteorological
bureau for three hundred miles in all directions, till Wednesday next
when her relief slides across the stars to take her buffeted place. Her
black hull, double conning-tower, and ever-ready slings represent all
that remains to the planet of that odd old word authority. She is
responsible only to the Aërial Board of Control--the A. B. C. of which
Tim speaks so flippantly. But that semi-elected, semi-nominated body of
a few score persons of both sexes, controls this planet. "Transportation
is Civilization," our motto runs. Theoretically, we do what we please so
long as we do not interfere with the traffic _and all it implies_.
Practically, the A. B. C. confirms or annuls all international
arrangements and, to judge from its last report, finds our tolerant,
humorous, lazy little planet only too ready to shift the whole burden
of private administration on its shoulders.
I discuss this with Tim, sipping maté on the c. p. while George fans her
along over the white blur of the Banks in beautiful upward curves of
fifty miles each. The dip-dial translates them on the tape in flowing
Tim gathers up a skein of it and surveys the last few feet, which record
"162's" path through the volt-flurry.
"I haven't had a fever-chart like this to show up in five years," he
A postal packet's dip-dial records every yard of every run. The tapes
then go to the A. B. C., which collates and makes composite photographs
of them for the instruction of captains. Tim studies his irrevocable
past, shaking his head.
"Hello! Here's a fifteen-hundred-foot drop at eighty-five degrees! We
must have been standing on our heads then, George."
"You don't say so," George answers. "I fancied I noticed it at the
George may not have Captain Purnall's catlike swiftness, but he is all
an artist to the tips of the broad fingers that play on the shunt-stops.
The delicious flight-curves come away on the tape with never a waver.
The Mark Boat's vertical spindle of light lies down to eastward, setting
in the face of the following stars. Westward, where no planet should
rise, the triple verticals of Trinity Bay (we keep still to the Southern
route) make a low-lifting haze. We seem the only thing at rest under all
the heavens; floating at ease till the earth's revolution shall turn up
And minute by minute our silent clock gives us a sixteen-second mile.
"Some fine night," says Tim. "We'll be even with that clock's Master."
"He's coming now," says George, over his shoulder. "I'm chasing the
The stars ahead dim no more than if a film of mist had been drawn under
unobserved, but the deep air-boom on our skin changes to a joyful shout.
"The dawn-gust," says Tim. "It'll go on to meet the Sun. Look! Look!
There's the dark being crammed back over our bow! Come to the
after-colloid. I'll show you something."
The engine-room is hot and stuffy; the clerks in the coach are asleep,
and the Slave of the Ray is near to follow them. Tim slides open the aft
colloid and reveals the curve of the world--the ocean's deepest
purple--edged with fuming and intolerable gold. Then the Sun rises and
through the colloid strikes out our lamps. Tim scowls in his face.
"Squirrels in a cage," he mutters. "That's all we are. Squirrels in a
cage! He's going twice as fast as us. Just you wait a few years, my
shining friend and we'll take steps that will amaze you. _We'll_ Joshua
Yes, that is our dream: to turn all earth into the Vale of Ajalon at our
pleasure. So far, we can drag out the dawn to twice its normal length in
these latitudes. But some day--even on the Equator--we shall hold the
Sun level in his full stride.
Now we look down on a sea thronged with heavy traffic. A big submersible
breaks water suddenly. Another and another follow with a swash and a
suck and a savage bubbling of relieved pressures. The deep-sea
freighters are rising to lung up after the long night, and the
leisurely ocean is all patterned with peacock's eyes of foam.
"We'll lung up, too," says Tim, and when we return to the c. p. George
shuts off, the colloids are opened, and the fresh air sweeps her out.
There is no hurry. The old contracts (they will be revised at the end of
the year) allow twelve hours for a run which any packet can put behind
her in ten. So we breakfast in the arms of an easterly slant which
pushes us along at a languid twenty.
To enjoy life, and tobacco, begin both on a sunny morning half a mile or
so above the dappled Atlantic cloud-belts and after a volt-flurry which
has cleared and tempered your nerves. While we discussed the thickening
traffic with the superiority that comes of having a high level reserved
to ourselves, we heard (and I for the first time) the morning hymn on a
She was cloaked by a skein of ravelled fluff beneath us and we caught
the chant before she rose into the sunlight. "_Oh, ye Winds of God_,"
sang the unseen voices: "_bless ye the Lord! Praise Him and magnify Him
We slid off our caps and joined in. When our shadow fell across her
great open platforms they looked up and stretched out their hands
neighbourly while they sang. We could see the doctors and the nurses and
the white-button-like faces of the cot-patients. She passed slowly
beneath us, heading northward, her hull, wet with the dews of the night,
all ablaze in the sunshine. So took she the shadow of a cloud and
vanished, her song continuing. _Oh, ye holy and humble men of heart,
bless ye the Lord! Praise Him and magnify Him forever._
"She's a public lunger or she wouldn't have been singing the
_Benedicite_; and she's a Greenlander or she wouldn't have snow-blinds
over her colloids," said George at last. "She'll be bound for
Frederikshavn or one of the Glacier sanatoriums for a month. If she was
an accident ward she'd be hung up at the eight-thousand-foot level.
"Funny how the new things are the old things. I've read in books," Tim
answered, "that savages used to haul their sick and wounded up to the
tops of hills because microbes were fewer there. We hoist 'em into
sterilized air for a while. Same idea. How much do the doctors say we've
added to the average life of a man?"
"Thirty years," says George with a twinkle in his eye. "Are we going to
spend 'em all up here, Tim?"
"Flap along, then. Flap along. Who's hindering?" the senior captain
laughed, as we went in.
We held a good lift to clear the coastwise and Continental shipping;
and we had need of it. Though our route is in no sense a populated one,
there is a steady trickle of traffic this way along. We met Hudson Bay
furriers out of the Great Preserve, hurrying to make their departure
from Bonavista with sable and black fox for the insatiable markets. We
over-crossed Keewatin liners, small and cramped; but their captains, who
see no land between Trepassy and Blanco, know what gold they bring back
from West Africa. Trans-Asiatic Directs, we met, soberly ringing the
world round the Fiftieth Meridian at an honest seventy knots; and
white-painted Ackroyd & Hunt fruiters out of the south fled beneath us,
their ventilated hulls whistling like Chinese kites. Their market is in
the North among the northern sanatoria where you can smell their
grapefruit and bananas across the cold snows. Argentine beef boats we
sighted too, of enormous capacity and unlovely outline. They, too, feed
the northern health stations in ice-bound ports where submersibles dare
Yellow-bellied ore-flats and Ungava petrol-tanks punted down leisurely
out of the north like strings of unfrightened wild duck. It does not pay
to "fly" minerals and oil a mile farther than is necessary; but the
risks of transhipping to submersibles in the ice-pack off Nain or Hebron
are so great that these heavy freighters fly down to Halifax direct, and
scent the air as they go. They are the biggest tramps aloft except the
Athabasca grain-tubs. But these last, now that the wheat is moved, are
busy, over the world's shoulder, timber-lifting in Siberia.
We held to the St. Lawrence (it is astonishing how the old water-ways
still pull us children of the air), and followed his broad line of
black between its drifting ice blocks, all down the Park that the wisdom
of our fathers--but every one knows the Quebec run.
We dropped to the Heights Receiving Towers twenty minutes ahead of time
and there hung at ease till the Yokohama Intermediate Packet could pull
out and give us our proper slip. It was curious to watch the action of
the holding-down clips all along the frosty river front as the boats
cleared or came to rest. A big Hamburger was leaving Pont Levis and her
crew, unshipping the platform railings, began to sing "Elsinore"--the
oldest of our chanteys. You know it of course:
_Mother Rugen's tea-house on the Baltic_--
_Forty couple waltzing on the floor!_
_And you can watch my Ray,_
_For I must go away_
_And dance with Ella Sweyn at Elsinore!_
Then, while they sweated home the covering-plates:
_West from Sourabaya to the Baltic--_
_Ninety knot an hour to the Skaw!_
_Mother Rugen's tea-house on the Baltic_
_And a dance with Ella Sweyn at Elsinore!_
The clips parted with a gesture of indignant dismissal, as though
Quebec, glittering under her snows, were casting out these light and
unworthy lovers. Our signal came from the Heights. Tim turned and
floated up, but surely then it was with passionate appeal that the great
tower arms flung open--or did I think so because on the upper staging a
little hooded figure also opened her arms wide towards her father?
* * * * *
In ten seconds the coach with its clerks clashed down to the
receiving-caisson; the hostlers displaced the engineers at the idle
turbines, and Tim, prouder of this than all, introduced me to the maiden
of the photograph on the shelf. "And by the way," said he to her,
stepping forth in sunshine under the hat of civil life, "I saw young
Williams in the Mark Boat. I've asked him to tea on Friday."
[Illustration: "I'VE ASKED HIM TO TEA ON FRIDAY"]
AERIAL BOARD OF CONTROL BULLETIN
Aerial Board of Control
No changes in English Inland lights for week ending Dec. 18.
PLANETARY COASTAL LIGHTS. Week ending Dec. 18. Verde inclined
guide-light changes from 1st proximo to triple flash--green white
green--in place of occulting red as heretofore. The warning light for
Harmattan winds will be continuous vertical glare (white) on all oases
of trans-Saharan N. E. by E. Main Routes.
INVERCARGIL (N. Z.)--From 1st prox.: extreme southerly light (double
red) will exhibit white beam inclined 45 degrees on approach of
Southerly Buster. Traffic flies high off this coast between April and
TABLE BAY--Devil's Peak Glare removed to Simonsberg. Traffic making
Table Mountain coastwise keep all lights from Three Anchor Bay at least
five shipping hundred feet under, and do not round to till beyond E.
shoulder Devil's Peak.
SANDHEADS LIGHT--Green triple vertical marks new private landing-stage
for Bay and Burma traffic only.
SNAEFELL JOKUL--White occulting light withdrawn for winter.
PATAGONIA--No summer light south C. Pilar. This includes Staten Island
and Port Stanley.
C. NAVARIN--Quadruple fog flash (white), one minute intervals (new).
EAST CAPE--Fog flash--single white with single bomb, 30 sec. intervals
MALAYAN ARCHIPELAGO lights unreliable owing eruptions. Lay from Somerset
to Singapore direct, keeping highest levels.
_For the Board_:
ST. JUST } _Lights._
VAN HEDDER }
Week ending Dec. 18th.
SABLE ISLAND LANDING TOWERS--Green freighter, number indistinguishable,
up-ended, and fore-tank pierced after collision, passed 300-ft. level 2
P.M. Dec. 15th. Watched to water and pithed by Mark Boat.
N. F. BANKS--Postal Packet 162 reports _Halma_ freighter (Fowey--St.
John's) abandoned, leaking after weather, 46° 15' N. 50° 15' W. Crew
rescued by Planet liner _Asteroid_. Watched to water and pithed by
postal packet, Dec. 14th.
KERGUELEN MARK BOAT reports last call from _Cymena_ freighter (Gayer
Tong-Huk & Co.) taking water and sinking in snow-storm South McDonald
Islands. No wreckage recovered. Addresses, etc., of crew at all A. B. C.
FEZZAN--T. A. D. freighter _Ulema_ taken ground during Harmattan on
Akakus Range. Under plates strained. Crew at Ghat where repairing Dec.
BISCAY, MARK BOAT reports _Carducci_ (Valandingham line) slightly spiked
in western gorge Point de Benasque. Passengers transferred _Andorra_
(same line). Barcelona Mark Boat salving cargo Dec. 12th.
ASCENSION, MARK BOAT--Wreck of unknown racing-plane, Parden rudder,
wire-stiffened xylonite vans, and Harliss engine-seating, sighted and
salved 7° 20' S. 18° 41' W. Dec. 15th. Photos at all A. B. C. offices.
No answer to General Call having been received during the last week from
following overdues, they are posted as missing.
_Atlantis_, W. 17630 Canton--Valparaiso
_Audhumla_, W. 809 Stockholm--Odessa
_Berenice_, W. 2206 Riga--Vladivostock
_Draco_, E. 446 Coventry--Puntas Arenas
_Tontine_, E. 3068 C. Wrath--Ungava
_Wu-Sung_, E. 41776 Hankow--Lobito Bay
General Call (all Mark Boats) out for:
_Jane Eyre_, W. 6990 Port Rupert--City of Mexico
_Santander_, W. 5514 Gobi-desert--Manila
_V. Edmundsun_, E. 9690 Kandahar--Fiume
Broke for Obstruction, and Quitting Levels
VALKYRIE (racing plane), A. J. Hartley owner, New York (twice warned).
GEISHA (racing plane), S. van Cott owner, Philadelphia (twice warned).
MARVEL OF PERU (racing plane), J. X. Peixoto owner, Rio de Janeiro
_For the Board_:
MCKEOUGH } _Traffic._
The Northern weather so far shows no sign of improvement. From all
quarters come complaints of the unusual prevalence of sleet at the
higher levels. Racing-planes and digs alike have suffered severely--the
former from unequal deposits of half-frozen slush on their vans (and
only those who have "held up" a badly balanced plane in a cross wind
know what that means), and the latter from loaded bows and snow-cased
bodies. As a consequence, the Northern and Northwestern upper levels
have been practically abandoned, and the high fliers have returned to
the ignoble security of the Three, Five, and Six hundred foot levels.
But there remain a few undaunted sun-hunters who, in spite of frozen
stays and ice-jammed connecting-rods, still haunt the blue empyrean.
The scandals of the past few years have at last moved the yachting world
to concerted action in regard to "bat" boat racing.
We have been treated to the spectacle of what are practically keeled
racing-planes driven a clear five foot or more above the water, and only
eased down to touch their so-called "native element" as they near the
line. Judges and starters have been conveniently blind to this
absurdity, but the public demonstration off St. Catherine's Light at the
Autumn Regattas has borne ample, if tardy, fruit. In future the "bat"
is to be a boat, and the long-unheeded demand of the true sportsman for
"no daylight under mid-keel in smooth water" is in a fair way to be
conceded. The new rule severely restricts plane area and lift alike. The
gas compartments are permitted both fore and aft, as in the old type,
but the water-ballast central tank is rendered obligatory. These things
work, if not for perfection, at least for the evolution of a sane and
wholesome _waterborne_ cruiser. The type of rudder is unaffected by the
new rules, so we may expect to see the Long-Davidson make (the patent on
which has just expired) come largely into use henceforward, though the
strain on the sternpost in turning at speeds over forty miles an hour is
admittedly very severe. But bat-boat racing has a great future before
Skylarking on the Equator
TO THE EDITOR--Only last week, while crossing the Equator (W. 26.15), I
became aware of a furious and irregular cannonading some fifteen or
twenty knots S. 4 E. Descending to the 500 ft. level, I found a party of
Transylvanian tourists engaged in exploding scores of the largest
pattern atmospheric bombs (A. B. C. standard) and, in the intervals of
their pleasing labours, firing bow and stern smoke-ring swivels. This
orgy--I can give it no other name--went on for at least two hours, and
naturally produced violent electric derangements. My compasses, of
course, were thrown out, my bow was struck twice, and I received two
brisk shocks from the lower platform-rail. On remonstrating, I was told
that these "professors" were engaged in scientific experiments. The
extent of their "scientific" knowledge may be judged by the fact that
they expected to produce (I give their own words) "a little blue sky" if
"they went on long enough." This in the heart of the Doldrums at 450
feet! I have no objection to any amount of blue sky in its proper place
(it can be found at the 2,000 level for practically twelve months out of
the year), but I submit, with all deference to the educational needs of
Transylvania, that "sky-larking" in the centre of a main-travelled road
where, at the best of times, electricity literally drips off one's
stanchions and screw blades, is unnecessary. When my friends had
finished, the road was seared, and blown, and pitted with unequal
pressure-layers, spirals, vortices, and readjustments for at least an
hour. I pitched badly twice in an upward rush--solely due to these
diabolical throw-downs--that came near to wrecking my propeller.
Equatorial work at low levels is trying enough in all conscience without
the added terrors of scientific hooliganism in the Doldrums.
Rhyl. J. VINCENT MATHEWS.
[We entirely sympathize with Professor Mathews's views, but unluckily
till the Board sees fit to further regulate the Southern areas in which
scientific experiments may be conducted, we shall always be exposed to
the risk which our correspondent describes. Unfortunately, a chimera
bombinating in a vacuum is, nowadays, only too capable of producing
Answers to Correspondents
VIGILANS--The Laws of Auroral Derangements are still imperfectly
understood. Any overheated motor may of course "seize" without warning;
but so many complaints have reached us of accidents similar to yours
while shooting the Aurora that we are inclined to believe with Lavalle
that the upper strata of the Aurora Borealis are practically one big
electric "leak," and that the paralysis of your engines was due to
complete magnetization of all metallic parts. Low-flying planes often
"glue up" when near the Magnetic Pole, and there is no reason in science
why the same disability should not be experienced at higher levels when
the Auroras are "delivering" strongly.
INDIGNANT--On your own showing, you were not under control. That you
could not hoist the necessary N. U. C. lights on approaching a
traffic-lane because your electrics had short-circuited is a misfortune
which might befall any one. The A. B. C., being responsible for the
planet's traffic, cannot, however, make allowance for this kind of
misfortune. A reference to the Code will show that you were fined on the
PLANISTON--(1) The Five Thousand Kilometre (overland) was won last year
by L. V. Rautsch, R. M. Rautsch, his brother, in the same week pulling
off the Ten Thousand (oversea). R. M.'s average worked out at a fraction
over 500 kilometres per hour, thus constituting a record. (2)
Theoretically, there is no limit to the lift of a dirigible. For
commercial and practical purposes 15,000 tons is accepted as the most
PATERFAMILIAS--None whatever. He is liable for direct damage both to
your chimneys and any collateral damage caused by fall of bricks into
garden, etc., etc. Bodily inconvenience and mental anguish may be
included, but the average jury are not, as a rule, men of sentiment. If
you can prove that his grapnel removed _any_ portion of your roof, you
had better rest your case on decoverture of domicile (See Parkins _v_.
Duboulay). We entirely sympathize with your position, but the night of
the 14th was stormy and confused, and--you may have to anchor on a
stranger's chimney yourself some night. _Verbum sap!_
ALDEBARAN--War, as a paying concern, ceased in 1967. (2) The Convention
of London expressly reserves to every nation the right of waging war so
long as it does not interfere with the world's traffic. (3) The A. B. C.
was constituted in 1949.
L. M. D.--Keep her dead head-on at half-power, taking advantage of the
lulls to speed up and creep into it. She will strain much less this way
than in quartering across a gale. (2) Nothing is to be gained by
reversing into a following gale, and there is always risk of a
turn-over. (3) The formulæ for stun'sle brakes are uniformly unreliable,
and will continue to be so as long as air is compressible.
PEGAMOID--Personally we prefer glass or flux compounds to any other
material for winter work nose-caps as being absolutely non-hygroscopic.
(2) We cannot recommend any particular make.
PULMONAR--For the symptoms you describe, try the Gobi Desert Sanitaria.
The low levels of the Saharan Sanitaria are against them except at the
outset of the disease. (2) We do not recommend boarding-houses or hotels
in this column.
BEGINNER--On still days the air above a large inhabited city being
slightly warmer--i. e., thinner--than the atmosphere of the surrounding
country, a plane drops a little on entering the rarefied area, precisely
as a ship sinks a little in fresh water. Hence the phenomena of "jolt"
and your "inexplicable collisions" with factory chimneys. In air, as on
earth, it is safest to fly high.
EMERGENCY--There is only one rule of the road in air, earth, and water.
Do you want the firmament to yourself?
PICCIOLA--Both Poles have been overdone in Art and Literature. Leave
them to Science for the next twenty years. You did not send a stamp with
NORTH NIGERIA--The Mark Boat was within her right in warning you up on
the Reserve. The shadow of a low-flying dirigible scares the game. You
can buy all the photos you need at Sokoto.
NEW ERA--It is not etiquette to overcross an A. B. C. official's boat
without asking permission. He is one of the body responsible for the
planet's traffic, and for that reason must not be interfered with. You,
presumably, are out on your own business or pleasure, and should leave
him alone. For humanity's sake don't try to be "democratic."
The Life of Xavier Lavalle
(_Reviewed by Réné Talland. École Aëronautique, Paris_)
Ten years ago Lavalle, "that imperturbable dreamer of the heavens," as
Lazareff hailed him, gathered together the fruits of a lifetime's
labour, and gave it, with well-justified contempt, to a world bound hand
and foot to Barald's Theory of Vertices and "compensating electric
nodes." "They shall see," he wrote--in that immortal postscript to "The
Heart of the Cyclone"--"the Laws whose existence they derided written in
fire _beneath_ them."
"But even here," he continues, "there is no finality. Better a thousand
times my conclusions should be discredited than that my dead name should
lie across the threshold of the temple of Science--a bar to further
So died Lavalle--a prince of the Powers of the Air, and even at his
funeral Céllier jested at "him who had gone to discover the secrets of
the Aurora Borealis."
If I choose thus to be banal, it is only to remind you that Céllier's
theories are to-day as exploded as the ludicrous deductions of the
Spanish school. In the place of their fugitive and warring dreams we
have, definitely, Lavalle's Law of the Cyclone which he surprised in
darkness and cold at the foot of the overarching throne of the Aurora
Borealis. It is there that I, intent on my own investigations, have
passed and re-passed a hundred times the worn leonine face, white as the
snow beneath him, furrowed with wrinkles like the seams and gashes upon
the North Cape; the nervous hand, integrally a part of the mechanism of
his flighter; and above all, the wonderful lambent eyes turned to the
"Master," I would cry as I moved respectfully beneath him, "what is it
you seek to-day?" and always the answer, clear and without doubt, from
above: "The old secret, my son!"
The immense egotism of youth forced me on my own path, but (cry of the
human always!) had I known--if I had known--I would many times have
bartered my poor laurels for the privilege, such as Tinsley and Herrera
possess, of having aided him in his monumental researches.
It is to the filial piety of Victor Lavalle that we owe the two volumes
consecrated to the ground-life of his father, so full of the holy
intimacies of the domestic hearth. Once returned from the abysms of the
utter North to that little house upon the outskirts of Meudon, it was
not the philosopher, the daring observer, the man of iron energy that
imposed himself on his family, but a fat and even plaintive jester, a
farceur incarnate and kindly, the co-equal of his children, and, it must
be written, not seldom the comic despair of Madame Lavalle, who, as she
writes five years after the marriage, to her venerable mother, found "in
this unequalled intellect whose name I bear the abandon of a large and
very untidy boy." Here is her letter:
"Xavier returned from I do not know where at midnight, absorbed in
calculations on the eternal question of his Aurora--_la belle Aurore_,
whom I begin to hate. Instead of anchoring--I had set out the
guide-light above our roof, so he had but to descend and fasten the
plane--he wandered, profoundly distracted, above the town with his
anchor down! Figure to yourself, dear mother, it is the roof of the
mayor's house that the grapnel first engages! That I do not regret, for
the mayor's wife and I are not sympathetic; but when Xavier uproots my
pet araucaria and bears it across the garden into the conservatory I
protest at the top of my voice. Little Victor in his night-clothes runs
to the window, enormously amused at the parabolic flight without reason,
for it is too dark to see the grapnel, of my prized tree. The Mayor of
Meudon thunders at our door in the name of the Law, demanding, I
suppose, my husband's head. Here is the conversation through the
megaphone--Xavier is two hundred feet above us.
"'Mons. Lavalle, descend and make reparation for outrage of domicile.
Descend, Mons. Lavalle!'
"No one answers.
"'Xavier Lavalle, in the name of the Law, descend and submit to process
for outrage of domicile.'
"Xavier, roused from his calculations, only comprehending the last
words: 'Outrage of domicile? My dear mayor, who is the man that has
corrupted thy Julie?'
"The mayor, furious, 'Xavier Lavalle----'
"Xavier, interrupting: 'I have not that felicity. I am only a dealer in
"My faith, he raised one then! All Meudon attended in the streets, and
my Xavier, after a long time comprehending what he had done, excused
himself in a thousand apologies. At last the reconciliation was effected
in our house over a supper at two in the morning--Julie in a wonderful
costume of compromises, and I have her and the mayor pacified in beds in
the blue room."
And on the next day, while the mayor rebuilds his roof, her Xavier
departs anew for the Aurora Borealis, there to commence his life's
work. M. Victor Lavalle tells us of that historic collision (_en plane_)
on the flank of Hecla between Herrera, then a pillar of the Spanish
school, and the man destined to confute his theories and lead him
intellectually captive. Even through the years, the immense laugh of
Lavalle as he sustains the Spaniard's wrecked plane, and cries:
"Courage! _I_ shall not fall till I have found Truth, and I hold _you_
fast!" rings like the call of trumpets. This is that Lavalle whom the
world, immersed in speculations of immediate gain, did not know nor
suspect--the Lavalle whom they adjudged to the last a pedant and a
The human, as apart from the scientific, side (developed in his own
volumes) of his epoch-making discoveries is marked with a simplicity,
clarity, and good sense beyond praise. I would specially refer such as
doubt the sustaining influence of ancestral faith upon character and
will to the eleventh and nineteenth chapters, in which are contained the
opening and consummation of the Tellurionical Records extending over
nine years. Of their tremendous significance be sure that the modest
house at Meudon knew as little as that the Records would one day be the
world's standard in all official meteorology. It was enough for them
that their Xavier--this son, this father, this husband--ascended
periodically to commune with powers, it might be angelic, beyond their
comprehension, and that they united daily in prayers for his safety.
"Pray for me," he says upon the eve of each of his excursions, and
returning, with an equal simplicity, he renders thanks "after supper in
the little room where he kept his barometers."
To the last Lavalle was a Catholic of the old school, accepting--he who
had looked into the very heart of the lightnings--the dogmas of papal
infallibility, of absolution, of confession--of relics great and small.
The completion of the Tellurionical Records closed what Lavalle himself
was pleased to call the theoretical side of his labours--labours from
which the youngest and least impressionable planeur might well have
shrunk. He had traced through cold and heat, across the deeps of the
oceans, with instruments of his own invention, over the inhospitable
heart of the polar ice and the sterile visage of the deserts, league by
league, patiently, unweariedly, remorselessly, from their ever-shifting
cradle under the magnetic pole to their exalted death-bed in the utmost
ether of the upper atmosphere--each one of the Isoconical
Tellurions--Lavalle's Curves, as we call them to-day. He had
disentangled the nodes of their intersections, assigning to each its
regulated period of flux and reflux. Thus equipped, he summons Herrera
and Tinsley, his pupils, to the final demonstration as calmly as though
he were ordering his flighter for some midday journey to Marseilles.
"I have proved my thesis," he writes. "It remains now only that you
should witness the proof. We go to Manila to-morrow. A cyclone will form
off the Pescadores S. 17 E. in four days, and will reach its maximum
intensity in twenty-seven hours after inception. It is there I will show
you the Truth."
A letter heretofore unpublished from Herrera to Madame Lavalle tells us
how the Master's prophecy was verified.
(_To be continued_.)
Required immediately, for East Africa, a thoroughly competent Plane and
Dirigible Driver, acquainted with Petrol Radium and Helium motors and
generators. Low-level work only, but must understand heavy-weight digs.
MOSSAMEDES TRANSPORT ASSOC.
84 Palestine Buildings, E. C.
* * * * *
Man wanted--Dig driver for Southern Alps with Saharan summer trips. High
levels, high speed, high wages.
Apply M. SIDNEY
Hotel San Stefano. Monte Carlo
* * * * *
Family dirigible. A competent, steady man wanted for slow speed, low
level Tangye dirigible. No night work, no sea trips. Must be member of
the Church of England, and make himself useful in the garden.
The Rectory, Gray's Barton, Wilts.
* * * * *
Commercial dig, central and Southern Europe. A smart, active man for a
L. M. T. Dig. Night work only. Headquarters London and Cairo. A linguist
Charing Cross Hotel, W. C. (urgent.)
* * * * *
For sale--A bargain--Single Plane, narrow-gauge vans, Pinke motor.
Restayed this autumn. Hansen air-kit. 38 in. chest, 15-1/2 collar. Can
be seen by appointment.
N. 2650. This office.
=The Bee-Line Bookshop=
BELT'S WAY-BOOKS, giving town lights for all towns over 4,000 pop. as
laid down by A. B. C.
THE WORLD. Complete 2 vols. Thin Oxford, limp back. 12s. 6d.
BELT'S COASTAL ITINERARY. Shore Lights of the World. 7s. 6d.
THE TRANSATLANTIC AND MEDITERRANEAN TRAFFIC LINES. (By authority of the
A. B. C.) Paper, 1s. 6d.; cloth, 2s. 6d. Ready Jan. 15.
ARCTIC AEROPLANING. Siemens and Galt. Cloth, bds. 3s. 6d.
LAVALLE'S HEART OF THE CYCLONE, with supplementary charts. 4s. 6d.
RIMINGTON'S PITFALLS IN THE AIR, and Table of Comparative Densities. 3s.
ANGELO'S DESERT IN A DIRIGIBLE. New edition, revised. 5s. 9d.
VAUGHAN'S PLANE RACING IN CALM AND STORM. 2s. 6d.
VAUGHAN'S HINTS TO THE AIR-MATEUR. 1s.
HOFMAN'S LAWS OF LIFT AND VELOCITY. With diagrams, 3s. 6d.
DE VITRE'S THEORY OF SHIFTING BALLAST IN DIRIGIBLES. 2s. 6d.
SANGER'S WEATHERS OF THE WORLD. 4s.
SANGER'S TEMPERATURES AT HIGH ALTITUDES. 4s.
HAWKIN'S FOG AND HOW TO AVOID IT. 3s.
VAN ZUYLAN'S SECONDARY EFFECTS OF THUNDERSTORMS. 4s. 6d.
DAHLGREN'S AIR CURRENTS AND EPIDEMIC DISEASES. 5s. 6d.
REDMAYNE'S DISEASE AND THE BAROMETER. 7s. 6d.
WALTON'S HEALTH RESORTS OF THE GOBI AND SHAMO. 3s. 6d.
WALTON'S THE POLE AND PULMONARY COMPLAINTS. 7s. 6d.
MUTLOW'S HIGH LEVEL BACTERIOLOGY 7s. 6d.
HALLIWELL'S ILLUMINATED STAR MAP, with clockwork attachment, giving
apparent motion of heavens, boxed, complete with clamps for binnacle. 36
inch size, only £2. 2. 0. (Invaluable for night work.) With A. B. C.
certificate, £3. 10s. 0d.
Zalinski's Standard Works.
PASSES OF THE HIMALAYAS. 5s.
PASSES OF THE SIERRAS. 5s.
PASSES OF THE ROCKIES. 5s.
PASSES OF THE URALS. 5s.
The four boxed, limp cloth, with charts, 15s.
GRAY'S AIR CURRENTS IN MOUNTAIN GORGES. 7s. 6d.
=A. C. BELT & SON, READING=
SAFETY WEAR FOR AERONAUTS
Flickers! Flickers! Flickers!
=High Level Flickers=
"_He that is down need fear no fall_"
_Fear not! You will fall lightly as down!_
Hansen's air-kits are down in all respects. Tremendous reductions in
prices previous to winter stocking. Pure para kit with cellulose seat
and shoulder-pads, weighted to balance. Unequalled for all drop-work.
Our trebly resilient heavy kit is the _ne plus ultra_ of comfort and
Gas-buoyed, waterproof, hail-proof, non-conducting Flickers with pipe
and nozzle fitting all types of generator. Graduated tap on left hip.
=Hansen's Flickers Lead the Aerial Flight=
=197 Oxford Street=
The new weighted Flicker with tweed or cheviot surface cannot
be distinguished from the ordinary suit till inflated.
Flickers! Flickers! Flickers!
APPLIANCES FOR AIR PLANES
was to our forefathers on the ground,
is to their sons in the air.
The popularity of the large, unwieldy, slow, expensive Dirigible over
the light, swift Plane is mainly due to the former's immunity from
Collison's forward-socketed Air Van renders it impossible for any plane
to pitch. The C. F. S. is automatic, simple as a shutter, certain as a
power hammer, safe as oxygen. Fitted to any make of plane.
186 Brompton Road
LUNDIE & MATHERS
Sole Agts for East'n Hemisphere
* * * * *
Starters and Guides
Hotel, club, and private house plane-starters, slips and guides affixed
by skilled workmen in accordance with local building laws.
Rackstraw's forty-foot collapsible steel starters with automatic release
at end of travel--prices per foot run, clamps and crampons included. The
safest on the market.
_Weaver & Denison
AIR PLANES AND DIRIGIBLE GOODS
=Planes are swift--so is Death=
=Planes are cheap--so is Life=
_Why_ does the 'plane builder insist on the safety of his machines?
Methinks the gentleman protests too much.
The Standard Dig Construction Company do not build kites.
They build, equip and guarantee dirigibles.
=_Standard Dig Construction Co._=
Millwall _and_ Buenos Ayres
* * * * *
We shall always be pleased to see you.
We build and test and guarantee our dirigibles for all purposes. They go
up when you please and they do not come down till you please.
You can please yourself, but--you might as well choose a dirigible.
=STANDARD DIRIGIBLE CONSTRUCTION CO.=
Millwall _and_ Buenos Ayres
* * * * *
for 'planes tying-to in heavy weather, save the motor and strain on the
forebody. Will not send to leeward. "Albatross" wind-hovers,
rigid-ribbed; according to h. p. and weight.
_We fit and test free to 40° east of Greenwich_
L. & W. POWELL
196 Victoria Street, W
* * * * *
Gayer & Hutt
Birmingham AND Birmingham
Towers, Landing Stages,
Slips and Lifts
public and private
Contractors to the A. B. C., South-Western European Postal Construction
Sole patentees and owners of the Collison anti-quake diagonal tower-tie.
Only gold medal Kyoto Exhibition of Aerial Appliances, 1997.
AIR PLANES AND DIRIGIBLES
C. M. C.
Our Synthetical Mineral
are chemically and crystallogically identical with the minerals whose
names they bear. Any size, any surface. Diamond, Rock-Crystal, Agate and
Ruby Bearings--cups, caps and collars for the higher speeds.
For tractor bearings and spindles--Imperative.
For rear propellers--Indispensable.
For all working parts--Advisable.
Commercial Minerals Co.
* * * * *
IF YOU HAVE NOT CLOTHED YOURSELF IN A
YOU WILL PROBABLY NOT BE INTERESTED IN OUR NEXT WEEK'S LIST OF AIR-KIT.
Resurgam Air-Kit Emporium
HYMANS & GRAHAM
Lower Broadway, New York
* * * * *
¶ It is now nearly a century since the Plane was to supersede the
Dirigible for all purposes.
¶ TO-DAY _none_ of the Planet's freight is carried _en plane_.
¶ Less than two per cent. of the Planet's passengers are carried _en
_We design, equip and guarantee Dirigibles for all purposes._
Standard Dig Construction Company
MILLWALL and BUENOS AYRES
Flint & Mantel
at the end of Season the following Bat-Boats:
=GRISELDA=, 65 knt., 42 ft., 430 (nom.) Maginnis Motor, under-rake rudder.
=MABELLE=, 50 knt., 40 ft., 310 Hargreaves Motor, Douglas' lock-steering
=IVEMONA=, 50 knt., 35 ft., 300 Hargreaves (Radium accelerator), Miller
keel and rudder.
The above are well known on the South Coast as sound, wholesome
knockabout boats, with ample cruising accommodation. _Griselda_ carries
spare set of Hofman racing vans and can be lifted three foot clear in
smooth water with ballast-tank swung aft. The others do not lift clear
of water, and are recommended for beginners.
Also, by private treaty, racing B. B. _Tarpon_ (76 winning flags) 137
knt., 60 ft.; Long-Davidson double under-rake rudder, new this season
and unstrained. 850 nom. Maginnis motor, Radium relays and Pond
generator. Bronze breakwater forward, and treble reinforced forefoot and
entry. Talfourd rockered keel. Triple set of Hofman vans, giving maximum
lifting surface of 5327 sq. ft.
_Tarpon_ has been lifted _and held_ seven feet for two miles between
touch and touch.
_Our Autumn List of racing and family Bats ready on the 9th January._
AIR PLANES AND STARTERS
¶ Monorail overhead starter for family and private planes up to
twenty-five foot over all
_Hinks & Co., Birmingham_
* * * * *
J. D. ARDAGH
I AM NOT CONCERNED WITH YOUR 'PLANE AFTER IT LEAVES MY GUIDES, BUT _TILL
THEN_ I HOLD MYSELF PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR LIFE, SAFETY, AND
COMFORT. MY HYDRAULIC BUFFER-STOP _CANNOT_ RELEASE TILL THE MOTORS ARE
WORKING UP TO BEARING SPEED, THUS SECURING A SAFE AND GRACEFUL FLIGHT
Remember our motto, "_Upward and Outward_," and do not trust yourself to
so-called "rigid" guide bars
J. D. ARDAGH, BELFAST AND TURIN
ACCESSORIES AND SPARES
CHRISTIAN WRIGHT & OLDIS
Accessories and Spares
Hooded Binnacles with dip-dials automatically recording change of level
All heights from 50 to 15,000 feet £2 10 0
With Aerial Board of Control certificate £3 11 0
Foot and Hand Foghorns; Sirens toned to any club note;
with air-chest belt-driven from motor £6 8 0
Wireless installations syntonised to A. B. C.
requirements, in neat mahogany case, hundred mile range £3 3 0
Grapnels, mushroom anchors, pithing-irons, winches, hawsers, snaps,
shackles and mooring ropes, for lawn, city, and public installations.
Detachable under-cars, aluminum or stamped steel.
Keeled under-cars for planes: single-action detaching-gear, turning car
into boat with one motion of the wrist. Invaluable for sea trips.
Head, side, and riding lights (by size) Nos. 00 to 20 A. B. C. Standard.
Rockets and fog-bombs in colours and tones of the principal clubs
A selection of twenty £2 17 6
International night-signals (boxed) £1 11 6
Spare generators guaranteed to lifting power marked on cover (prices
according to power).
Wind-noses for dirigibles--Pegamoid, cane-stiffened, lacquered cane or
aluminum and flux for winter work.
Smoke-ring cannon for hail storms, swivel mounted, bow or stern.
Propeller blades: metal, tungsten backed; papier-maché; wire stiffened;
ribbed Xylonite (Nickson's patent); all razor-edged (price by pitch and
Compressed steel bow-screws for winter work.
Fused Ruby or Commercial Mineral Co. bearings and collars. Agate-mounted
thrust-blocks up to 4 inch.
Magniac's bow-rudders--(Lavalle's patent grooving).
Wove steel beltings for outboard motors (non-magnetic).
Radium batteries, all powers to 150 h. p. (in pairs).
Helium batteries, all powers to 300 h. p. (tandem).
Stun'sle brakes worked from upper or lower platform.
Direct plunge-brakes worked from lower platform only, loaded silk or
_Catalogues free throughout the Planet_
* * * * *
The following changes have been made to the text:
Page 30: "passenger's faces" changed to "passengers' faces".
Page 41: "Instead of shuting" changed to "Instead of shutting".
Page 68: "orgie" changed to "orgy".
Page 71: "earth,and water" changed to "earth, and water".
Page 82: "Milwall and Buenos Ayres" changed to "Millwall and Buenos