The motor rangers cloud.., p.5
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       The Motor Rangers' Cloud Cruiser, p.5

          

  CHAPTER V.

  TROUBLE WITH A HAT.

  He was speedily furnished with a peaked yachting cap belonging to Nat.It sat oddly, almost comically, on his large head, but none of the boyswas inclined to laugh at the professor just then. They were far toointerested in hearing what the eccentric man had to tell about thevoyage of the _Tropic Bird_.

  “We sailed from San Francisco, as you no doubt know from the papers,”said the professor, “without the object of our mission being divulged.There is no harm in telling it now.

  “It had been ascertained that a certain phase of the sun spots would bereached on this present day. As you are perhaps aware, it has long beena theory of scientific men that there was some intimate relationbetween that phenomenon and the volcanic disturbances and earthquakesthat occur in these seas from time to time.”

  “I think that we learned something like that in physics,” said Nat,nodding.

  “In physic?” chuckled Joe, but was frowned down.

  The professor went on:

  “It was my duty, assigned to me by the Smithsonian Institute and theBritish Royal Geographical Society, working in concert, to investigatesuch a disturbance and make elaborate reports thereon. At mysuggestion, it was also decided to engage a moving-picture operator totake photos of the whole scene, which must prove of inestimable benefitto scientific knowledge. The _Tropic Bird_ was chartered to convey theexpedition, and Mr. Tubbs was placed under contract to take thepictorial record of the scene, if we were fortunate enough to encounterone.

  “We cruised about for some time, awaiting the exact condition of thesun spots which would indicate that a phenomenon of the kind I was insearch of was about to be demonstrated. Some days ago my observationsshowed me that the desired condition was at hand. As fortune would haveit, on that very day we sighted these islands—or rather those islands,for they have completely vanished as I predicted they would.

  “We landed, and found the islands to be of distinctly volcanic origin,and, seemingly, of recent formation. At any rate, they are not charted.”

  Nat nodded.

  “Of course there was no trace of habitation. But a few creepers andshrubs of rapid growth had taken root in the clefts of the lava-likerock, of which the islands were composed. I saw at once that it washere, if anywhere, that a seismic disturbance would result, in allprobability, providing the conditions were favorable. That night, onour return to the ship, the captain of it waited on me.

  “After much beating about the bush, he informed me that his crew wasaware of my belief that the islands would be the center of a volcanicdisturbance, and that they refused to remain in the vicinity. He deniedbeing alarmed himself, however. I succeeded in calming the crew’sfears, and we remained at anchor off the islands for some days. Atlast, signs of the storm which broke to-day began to make themselvesmanifest on my instruments. I realized that the great moment was athand.

  “I warned Mr. Tubbs, here—a most valuable assistant—to be ready at anymoment. I was confident that with the breaking of the storm the islandswould vanish. But nothing was said to the crew. Quite early to-day Mr.Tubbs and I embarked in that small boat and lay off the islands. I wascertain that the storm would be magnetic in character, and would breakwith great fury.”

  “However did your boat live through it?” asked Nat.

  “She is fitted with air chambers, and specially built to weather anystorm,” was the reply. “But to resume: The cowardly captain, when hesaw the storm coming up, sounded a signal for us to return on board.When we did not, he hoisted sail and made off, leaving us to our fate.The storm broke, and there was a spectacle of appalling magnificence.Mr. Tubbs behaved with the greatest heroism throughout.”

  Here Mr. Tubbs blushed as red as his own hair, and waved a deprecatoryhand.

  “I guess it was watching you kept me from feeling scared,” he declared,addressing the professor; “but anyhow, I got my pictures.”

  “We have some faint idea of what the storm was,” put in Nat; “but canyou explain something to us?” and he described to the professor themanner in which the _Nomad_ had been drawn toward the volcanic islands.

  “Pure magnetism,” declared the scientist, “a common feature of suchstorms.”

  “But our craft is of wood,” declared Nat.

  “Yes, but your engines, being metallic, of course, overcame thatresistance. You are fortunate, indeed, not to have been drawn down whenthe islands vanished. It was a terrific sight.”

  Nat explained that during that period they were all unconscious andthen went on to tell of the experiences through which they had passed.

  “Oh, why wasn’t I on board your craft?” moaned Mr. Tubbs, as heconcluded. “What a picture that chasm would have made! It’s theopportunity of a lifetime gone.”

  The boys could hardly keep from smiling over his enthusiasm; but Natstruck in with:

  “It’s an opportunity I don’t want to encounter again,” an opinion withwhich everybody but Mr. Tubbs—even the professor—concurred.

  “And now,” said the man of science suddenly, “I don’t wish to alarmyou, young men, but it is possible that there may be some reflex actionexerted by this storm. In other words, there may be a mild recurrenceof it. In my opinion we had better get as far away from this spot aspossible.”

  The others agreed with him. Ding-dong dived below to his engines. Nattook his station on the bridge.

  “By the way, what about the boat?” asked Nat suddenly, referring to thecraft from which they had rescued the scientist and his assistant.

  “Unless you want it, we will let it drift,” said the professor. “It istoo large for you to hoist conveniently, and it would impede your speedif you towed it.”

  And so it was arranged to leave the boat behind, but Mr. Tubbs took aseries of pictures of it as the _Nomad_ sped away. The professor alsowaved the craft, in which they had weathered so much, a farewell. But,when doing so, in some manner the peak of his borrowed cap slipped frombetween his fingers. The headpiece went whirling overboard, and fellinto the sea with a splash.

  “God bless my soul, I’ve lost my hat!” he exclaimed for the second timethat day, as the catastrophe happened.

  “He’ll use up every hat on board. You see if he don’t,” confided Mr.Tubbs to Nat, while the professor gazed fondly at the spot where thecap had vanished.

 
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