PROFESSOR FEATHERWIT TAKING NOTES.





"To the house!" cried the professor, raising his voice to

overcome yonder sullen roar, which was now beginning to come

their way. "Trust all to the aeromotor, and 'twill be well with

us!"



The wiry little man of science himself fell to work with an

energy which told how serious he regarded the emergency, and,

acting under his lead, the brothers manfully played their part.



Just as had been done many times before this day, a queer-looking

machine was shoved out from the shed, gliding along the wooden

ways prepared for that express purpose, while Professor

Featherwit hurried aboard a few articles which past experience

warned him might prove of service in the hours to come, then

sharply cried to his nephews:



"Get aboard, lads! Time enough, yet none to spare in idle

motions. See! The storm is drifting our way in deadly earnest!"



And so it seemed, in good sooth.



Now fairly at its dread work of destruction, tearing up the rain

dampened dirt and playing with mighty boulders, tossing them here

and there, as a giant of olden tales might play with jackstones,

snapping off sturdy trees and whipping them to splinters even

while hurling them as a farmer sows his grain.



Just the one brief look at that aerial monster, then both lads

hung fast to the hand-rail of rope, while the professor put that

cunning machinery in motion, causing the air-ship to rise from

its ways with a sudden swooping movement, then soaring upward and

onward, in a fair curve, as graceful and steady as a bird on

wing.



All this took some little time, even while the trio were working

as men only can when dear life is at stake; but the

flying-machine was afloat and fairly off upon the most marvellous

journey mortals ever accomplished, and that ere yonder

death-balloon could cover half the distance between.



"Grand! Glorious! Magnificent!" fairly exploded the professor,

when he could risk a more comprehensive look, right hand tightly

gripping the polished lever through which he controlled that

admirable mechanism. "I have longed for just such an

opportunity, and now--the camera, Bruno! We must never neglect

to improve such a marvellous chance for--get out the camera,

lad!"



"Get out of the road, rather!" bluntly shouted Waldo, face

unusually pale, as he stared at yonder awful force in action. "Of

course I'm not scared, or anything like that, uncle Phaeton,

but--I want to rack out o' this just about the quickest the law

allows! Yes, I DO, now!"



"Wonderful! Marvellous! Incredible! That rara avis, an

exception to all exceptions!" declared the professor, more deeply

stirred than either of his nephews had ever seen him before. "A

genuine tornado which has no eastern drift; which heads as

directly as possible towards the northwest, and at the same

time--incredible!"



Only ears of his own caught these sentences in their entirety,

for now the storm was fairly bellowing in its might, formed of a

variety of sounds which baffles all description, but which, in

itself, was more than sufficient to chill the blood of even a

brave man. Yet, almost as though magnetised by that frightful

force, the professor was holding his air-ship steady, loitering

there in its direct path, rather than fleeing from what surely

would prove utter destruction to man and machine alike.



For a few moments Bruno withstood the temptation, but then leaned

far enough to grasp both hand and tiller, forcing them in the

requisite direction, causing the aeromotor to swing easily around

and dart away almost at right angles to the track of the tornado.



That roar was now as of a thousand heavily laden trains rumbling

over hollow bridges, and the professor could only nod his

approval when thus aroused from the dangerous fascination.

Another minute, and the air-ship was floating towards the rear of

the balloon-shaped cloud itself, each second granting the

passengers a varying view of the wonder.



True to the firm hand which set its machinery in motion, the

flying-machine maintained that gentle curve until it swung around

well to the rear of the cloud, where again Professor Featherwit

broke out in ecstatic praises of their marvellous good fortune.



" 'Tis worth a life's ransom, for never until now hath mortal

being been blessed with such a magnificent opportunity for taking

notes and drawing deductions which--"



The professor nimbly ducked his head to dodge a ragged splinter

of freshly torn wood which came whistling past, cast far away

from the tornado proper by those erratic winds. And at the same

instant the machine itself recoiled, shivering and creaking in

all its cunning joints under a gust of wind which seemed composed

of both ice and fire.



"Oh, I say!" gasped Waldo, when he could rally from the sudden

blow. "Turn the old thing the other way, uncle Phaeton, and

let's go look for--well, almost anything's better than this old

cyclone!"



"Tornado, lad," swiftly corrected the man of precision, leaning

far forward, and gazing enthralled upon the vision which fairly

thrilled his heart to its very centre. "Never again may we have

such another opportunity for making--"



They were now directly in the rear of the storm, and as the

air-ship headed across that track of destruction, it gave a

drunken stagger, casting down its inmates, from whose parching

lips burst cries of varying import.



"Air! I'm choking!" gasped Bruno, tearing open his shirt-collar

with a spasmodic motion.



"Hold me fast!" echoed Waldo, clinging desperately to the

life-line. "It's drawing me--into the--ah!"



Even the professor gave certain symptoms of alarm for that

moment, but then the danger seemed past as the ship darted fairly

across the storm-trail, hovering to the east of that aerial

phantom.



There was no difficulty in filling their lungs now, and once more

Professor Featherwit headed the flying-machine directly for the

balloon-shaped cloud, modulating its pace so as to maintain their

relative position fairly well.



"Take note how it progresses,--by fits and starts, as it were,"

observed Featherwit, now in his glory, eyes asparkle and muscles

aquiver, hair bristling as though full of electricity, face

glowing with almost painful interest, as those shifting scenes

were for ever imprinted upon his brain.



"Sort of a hop, step, and jump, and that's a fact," agreed Waldo,

now a bit more at his ease since that awful sense of suffocation

was lacking. "I thought all cyclones--"



"Tornado, my DEAR boy!" expostulated the professor.



"I thought they all went in holy hurry, like they were sent for

and had mighty little time in which to get there. But this

one,--see how it stops to dance a jig and bore holes in the

earth!"



"Another exception to the general rule, which is as you say,"

admitted the professor. "Different tornadoes have been timed as

moving from twelve to seventy miles an hour, one passing a given

point in half a score of seconds, at another time being

registered as fully half an hour in clearing a single section.



"Take the destructive storm at Mount Carmel, Illinois, in June of

'77. That made progress at the rate of thirty-four miles an

hour, yet its force was so mighty that it tore away the spire,

vane, and heavy gilded ball of the Methodist church, and kept it

in air over a distance of fifteen miles.



"Still later was the Texas tornado, doing its awful work at the

rate of more than sixty miles an hour; while that which swept

through Frankfort, Kansas, on May 17, 1896, was fully a half-hour

in crossing a half-mile stretch of bottom-land adjoining the

Vermillion River, pausing in its dizzy waltz upon a single spot

for long minutes at a time."



"Couldn't have been much left when it got through dancing, if

that storm was anything like this one," declared Waldo, shivering

a bit as he watched the awful destruction being wrought right

before their fascinated eyes.



Trees were twisted off and doubled up like blades of dry grass.

Mighty rocks were torn apart from the rugged hills, and huge

boulders were tossed into air as though composed of paper. And

over all ascended the horrid roar of ruin beyond description,

while from that misshapen balloon-cloud, with its flattened top,

the electric fluid shone and flashed, now in great sheets as of

flame, then in vicious spurts and darts as though innumerable

snakes of fire had been turned loose by the winds.



Still the aerial demon bored its almost sluggish course straight

towards the northwest, in this, as in all else, seemingly bent on

proving itself the exception to all exceptions as Professor

Featherwit declared.



The savant himself was now in his glory, holding the tiller

between arm and side, the better to manipulate his hand-camera,

with which he was taking repeated snap-shots for future

development and reference.



Truly, as he more than once declared, mortal man never had, nor

mortal man ever would have, such a glorious opportunity for

recording the varying phases of nature in travail as was now

vouchsafed themselves.



"Just think of it, lads!" he cried, almost beside himself with

enthusiasm. "This alone will be sufficient to carry our names

ringing through all time down the corridors of undying fame! This

alone would be more than enough to--Look pleasant, please!"



In spite of that awful vision so perilously close before them,

and the natural uncertainty which attended such a reckless

venture, Waldo could not repress a chuckle at that comical

conclusion, so frequently used towards himself when their uncle

was coaxing them to pose before his pet camera.



"Is it--surely this is not safe, uncle Phaeton?" ventured Bruno,

as another retrograde gust of air smote their apparently frail

conveyance with sudden force.



"Let's call it a day's work, and knock off," chimed in Waldo. "If

the blamed thing should take a notion to balk, and rear back

on its haunches, where'd we come out at?"



Professor Featherwit made an impatient gesture by way of answer.

Speech just then would have been worse than useless, for that

tremendous roaring, crashing, thundering of all sounds, seemed to

fall back and envelop the air-ship as with a pall.



A shower of sand and fine debris poured over and around them,

filling ears and mouths, and blinding eyes for the moment,

forcing the brothers closer to the floor of the aerostat, and

even compelling the eager professor to remit his taking of notes

for future generations.



Then, thin and reed-like, yet serving to pierce that temporary

obscurity and horrible jangle of outer sounds, came the voice of

their relative:



"Fear not, my children! The Lord is our shield, and so long as

he willeth, just so long shall we--Ha! didn't I tell ye so?"



For the blinding veil was torn away, and once again the trio of

adventurers might watch yonder grandly awesome march of

devastation.



"Heading direct for the Olympics!" declared Professor Featherwit,

digging the sand out of his eyes and striving to clean his

glasses without removing them, clinging to tiller and camera

through all. "What a grand and glorious guide 'twould be for

us!"



"If we could only hitch on--like a tin can to the tail of a dog!"

suggested Waldo, with boyish sarcasm. "Not any of that in mine,

thank you! I can wait. No such mighty rush. No,--SIR!"



There came no answer to his words, for just then that swooping

air-demon turned to vivid fire, lightning playing back and forth,

from side to side, in every conceivable direction, until in spite

of the broad daylight its glory pained those watching eyes.



"Did you ever witness the like!" awesomely cried Bruno, gazing

like one fascinated. "Who could or would ever believe all that,

even if tongue were able to portray its wondrous beauty?"



"What a place that would be for popping corn!" contributed Waldo,

practical or nothing, even under such peculiar circumstances. "If

I had to play poppy, though, I'd want a precious long handle

to the concern!"



More intensely interested than ever, Professor Featherwit plied

his shutter, taking shot after shot at yonder aerial phenomena,

feeling that future generations would surely rise up to call him

blessed when the results of his experiments were once fairly

spread before the world.



And hence it came to pass that still more thrilling experiences

came unto these daring navigators of space, and that almost

before one or the other of them could fairly realise that greater

danger really menaced both their air-ship and their lives.



Another whirly-gust of sand and other debris assailed the

flying-machine, and while sight was thus rendered almost useless

for the time being, the aerostat began to sway and reel from side

to side, shivering as though caught by an irresistible power, yet

against which it battled as though instinct with life and

brain-power.



Once again the adventurers found it difficult to breathe, while

an unseen power seemed pressing them to that floor as

though--Thank heaven!



Just as before, that cloud was swept away, and again air came to

fill those painfully oppressed lungs. Once again the trio

cleared their eyes and stared about, only to utter simultaneous

cries of alarm.



For, brief though that period of blindness had been, 'twas amply

sufficient to carry the aeromotor perilously near yonder

storm-centre, and though Professor Featherwit gripped hard his

tiller, trying all he knew to turn the air-ship for a safer

quarter,-'twas all in vain!



"Haste,--make haste, uncle Phaeton!" hoarsely panted Bruno,

leaning to aid the professor. "We will be sucked in and--hasten,

for life!"



"I can't,--we're already--in the--suction!"





PRINCE WICKED AND THE GRATEFUL ANIMALS PSALM 1 facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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