The Dreadnought Boys on Aero Service

       John Henry Goldfrap / Young Adult
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The Dreadnought Boys on Aero Service
Produced by Demian Katz and the Online DistributedProofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (Images courtesyof the Digital Library@Villanova University(http://digital.library.villanova.edu/))



AS HERC TURNED, HE WAS CERTAIN THAT HE HAD SEEN A FACEVANISH QUICKLY FROM THE CASEMENT. --Page 62.]

THE DREADNOUGHT BOYS ON AERO SERVICE

BY CAPTAIN WILBUR LAWTON

AUTHOR OF ”THE DREADNOUGHT BOYS ON BATTLE PRACTICE,” ”THE DREADNOUGHT BOYS ABOARD A DESTROYER,” ”THE DREADNOUGHT BOYS ON A SUBMARINE,” ETC.

NEW YORK HURST & COMPANY PUBLISHERS

Copyright, 1912, BY HURST & COMPANY

CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I. SOMETHING NEW IN NAVAL LIFE 5

II. ”IF HE'S A MAN, HE'LL STAND UP” 17

III. FOR THE TROPHY OF THE FLEET 30

IV. THE AERO SQUAD 39

V. UNCLE SAM'S MEN-BIRDS 50

VI. NED INVENTS SOMETHING 59

VII. A RESCUE BY AEROPLANE 73

VIII. HERC GETS A ”TALKING TO” 84

IX. A CONSPIRACY IS RIPENING 93

X. A DREADNOUGHT BOY AT BAY 103

XI. IN THEIR ENEMIES' HANDS 113

XII. ”STOP WHERE YOU ARE!” 123

XIII. HARMLESS AS A RATTLESNAKE 136

XIV. FLYING FOR A RECORD 148

XV. A DROP FROM SPACE 156

XVI. THE SETTING OF A TRAP 167

XVII. THE SPRINGING THEREOF 178

XVIII. ON BOARD THE SLOOP 190

XIX. ”BY WIRELESS!” 200

XX. NED, CAST AWAY 213

XXI. A STRIKE FOR UNCLE SAM 223

XXII. SOME ADVENTURES BY THE WAY 233

XXIII. ”YOU ARE A PRISONER OF THE GOVERNMENT!” 243

XXIV. A DASH FOR FREEDOM 255

XXV. THE MYSTERIOUS SCHOONER--CONCLUSION 267

The Dreadnought Boys on Aero Service

CHAPTER I.

SOMETHING NEW IN NAVAL LIFE.

One breezy day in early June, when a fresh wind off shore was whippingthe water into sparkling white caps, excitement and comment fairlyhummed about the crowded foredecks of the big Dreadnought _Manhattan_.

The formidable looking sea-fighter lay with half a dozen other smallernaval vessels--battleships and cruisers--in the stretch of water knownas Hampton Roads, which, sheltered by rising ground, has, from timeimmemorial, formed an anchorage for our fighting-ships, and is as richin historical associations as any strip of sea within the jurisdictionof the United States.

The cause of all the turmoil, which was agitating every jackie on thevessel, was a notice which had been posted on the ship's bulletin boardthat morning.

It was tacked up in the midst of notices of band concerts, challengesto boxing matches, lost or found articles, and the like. At firstit had not attracted much attention. But soon one jackie, and thenanother, had scanned it till, by means of the thought-wireless, whichprevails on a man-of-war, the whole fore part of the ship was nowvibrant and buzzing with the intelligence.

The notice which had excited so much attention read as follows:

”Enlisted Men and Petty Officers: You are instructed to send yourvolunteer applications for positions in the experimental Aero squad.All applications to be made in writing to Lieutenant De Frees in chargeof the experiment station.”

”Aero service, eh?” grunted more than one grizzled old shell-back,”well, I've served my time in many an old sea-going hooker, but hangedif I'd venture my precious skin on board a sky-clipper.”

”Aye, aye, mate. Let the youngsters risk their lily-white necks if theywant to,” formed the burden of the growled responses, ”but you and me'ull smoke Uncle Sam's baccy, and take our pay with a good deck underour feet.”

But this state of caution did not extend to the younger members ofthe ship's company. Least of all to Boatswain's Mate Herc--otherwiseHercules--Taylor and his inseparable chum, Ned Strong, the latter ofwhom was now chief gunner's mate of the biggest vessel in the navy.

Neither Ned nor Herc smoked. By observation of those who did indulge inthe practice, they had discovered that the use of tobacco affected moresenses than one, and rendered a man incapable of the highest physicalproficiency. The custom of smoking not only impaired the eyesight ofmany a gunner, but in the athletic sports, of which both lads wereso fond, it also showed its bad effects. Ned knew of more than onepromising young gun-pointer who had been compelled to relinquish hislaurels on account of tobacco-affected eyesight.

As a consequence, the two trim, clean-cut lads, their faces bronzed andclear from sea air and clean living, stood apart from the group aboutthe ”smoke-lamp.”

”I'm going to send in my name,” announced Ned with twinkling eyes. ”Theaero section of the navy is going to be an important one in the future.There is a good chance for a chap to advance himself in such work.”

”By the great horn spoon!” muttered Herc, in his enthusiastic,whimsical way, ”I'm with you, Ned. We'll be regular sky-pilots beforethe summer's out!”

He began to rub his shoulder-blades, while a humorous smile played overhis freckled, straightforward features.

”What's the matter?” asked Ned, noting Herc's brisk rubbing of the partaforesaid.

”Oh, hum! I thought I felt my wings sprouting,” replied Herc, with abroad grin.

”Tell you what, we've a few minutes yet. Let's get our ditty boxes--or'ditto' boxes, as you used to call them--and write our applications atonce.”

”Let's talk a while longer,” said Herc, with an odd look.

”Why, what's the matter? Surely you aren't regretting yourdetermination already.”

Herc, for reply, bent over and touched his feet.

”No; they're not cold,” he said; ”I thought for a minute they were.”Then he looked up into the cloudless blue vault of the heavens.

”Say, Ned, it's an awful long way up there, isn't it? How far, Iwonder?”

”What do you want to know for?” asked Ned, moving away.

”Oh, nothing. Only I'd like to know how far we are likely to tumble, incase we get our applications accepted, and in case we fly as high asthe sky, and in case----”

”Oh, come on, Herc,” urged Ned; ”time enough to worry about that whenwe are assigned to aero duty.”

”All that goes up must come down,” said Herc sagely, joining Nednevertheless, ”but we've reversed the process.”

”How do you make that out?”

”Well, when we were on submarine duty we explored the bottom of thesea, didn't we? And now, if all goes well, we're going to venturealoft.”

Ned burst into a laugh, and they moved off arm in arm, exchanginggreetings with the crowd of blue jackets lounging about at theafter-dinner rest. As they threaded their way among them, Herc burstinto song:

”'There's a sweet little cherub that sits up aloft!' That's me, Ned.”

”First freckled cherub I ever heard of,” chuckled Ned.

Leaving the two lads to write their letters, we feel that it is nowour duty to let our readers know something more about Ned Strong andHerc Taylor. They are two lads worth knowing. Neither of them much overeighteen years of age, they had, during their short career in the navy,each made his mark in no uncertain fashion. In his chosen branch of theservice, Ned Strong was admired by the officers and adored by the men.His advance had been rapid, and some of his more enthusiastic friendswere already hinting at a commission in sight for him in the time tocome.

As for the merry, light-hearted Herc Taylor, that befreckled youthhad as many friends among officers and men as Ned, and was one of theyoungest bos'un's mates in the navy.

As readers of the Dreadnought Boys series know, both lads had enteredthe navy, like so many other ”likely” recruits, from a farm. From thefirst a measure of luck had been theirs. But dogged perseverance, and adetermination to overcome all obstacles by honorable means, had, also,aided them not a little in their rapid advance.

In ”_The Dreadnought Boys on Battle Practice_,” we followed the earlysteps of their life in the navy. It was not all as pleasant as they hadimagined it would be. To the boys, as ”rookies,” much hard, and notover-pleasant work, fell. But scrubbing decks, cleaning paint and thelike, they accepted in good part. ”It's helping to keep our $5,000,000home trim and fit,” was the way Ned used to put it.

A ship's bully tried his best to make their paths thorny, but Ned,in a battle that will live long in forecastle annals, bested him.Kennell tried to take a despicable revenge. With a gang of rascals,he concerned himself in a plot to injure the Dreadnought Boys. Buthis machinations came to naught. Instead, Ned became the means ofsaving the inventor of a new explosive and type of gun from a seriouspredicament. Right after this, Herc's turn came, when he displayedwonderful heroism following a disastrous ”flare-back.”

Following the stirring days at Guantanamo, came a voyage on atorpedo-boat destroyer, the celebrated _Beale_. The two lads, onthis cruise, found themselves plunged into the very thick of aSouth American revolution. The uprising seriously affected Americaninterests, and, by a stroke of good fortune, our lads were able to playa prominent part in bringing the situation to a successful outcome. Inthis book one of the many exciting adventures described was the lads'escape from a prison, when it was shelled during a hot engagement, andtheir subsequent daredevil dash on board a revolutionary torpedo craft.

By this time, although, of course, their participation in therevolution could not be ”mentioned in the despatches,” the boys hadplaced themselves in line for promotion. The eyes of their superiorswere on them. But success did not spoil them or ”swell their heads.”They were still just as ready to fulfill an order promptly andcheerfully as in their apprentice days. As that is the spirit that winsin the navy, the Dreadnought Boys were singled out for some hazardouswork on board a new type of submarine. Enemies of Uncle Sam nearlysucceeded in sinking the diving boat for good and all with an infernalmachine, but the boys providentially discovered the plot in time, andsaved many lives. In that book, too, they had an interesting encounterwith Sound pirates, and played a rather prominent part in the prettyromance of the diving boat's inventor.

The opening of this book finds them back on regular duty. Although theroutine of battleship life in times of peace may seem tame and humdrum,the boys, nevertheless, devoted themselves to it with the same cheerfulzest which had carried them through so many dashing adventures.

But the quiet and monotonous daily existence which they had enjoyedduring and since the winter cruise to European stations, was not tolast long. Although they did not know it, the Dreadnought Boys were onthe brink of some most remarkable happenings.

”By the way,” said Herc, as, their letters written and deposited inthe ship's post-office, the two chums emerged on deck once more, ”youhaven't let this aerial business drive the recollection of to-morrow'sraces out of your mind, have you?”

He referred to some contests ashore, which had been arranged withenthusiasm by the officers and crews of the ships of the squadron.

”I should say not,” laughed Ned. ”Why?”

”Nothing, only there are a few chaps in the fleet who'd like to see usboth fall down hard. You're in good trim, Ned?”

”I think so. Feel fit, anyway.”

”I needn't have asked you. I know you're always in good shape.”

”I can return the compliment,” laughed Ned.

Just then the bugles began singing the calls for the busy afternoon'spractice-work on guns and at drill. With a hasty word, the chumsseparated and hurried to take their places in the big machine of whichthey were already important cogs.


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