THE ENGINE OF THE CLOUDS

Frank Reade, Jr., was a dashing young man of distinguished appearance,
attired in fashionable clothing.

He was noted for his wonderful skill at inventing electrical and
mechanical wonders of various kinds.

In this work he was ably assisted by a diminutive negro, named Pomp, and
a rollicking, red-headed Irishman, called Barney O’Shea, who invariably
were his traveling companions on the trips he made with his inventions.

Judging that the boy was beyond all recovery, and deeming it wisest to
pay first attention to the living, Frank lifted the detective up and
carried him into the house.

He met the coon and the Celt running toward him.

“Gorramighty!” panted Pomp. “Wha’ de trouble, Marsa Frank?”

“I found this senseless man and a dead boy at the gate just now!”

“Be heavens, it’s a bloody murdher, then!” exclaimed Barney.

“So it seems. Help me in with this fellow till we revive him.”

They carried Reynard into the sitting-room, laid him down, and seeing
his badge, discovered that he was a detective.

Restoratives were applied and he began to revive, upon observing which
Frank went out to get the dead boy.

When he reached the gate, to his amazement he found that the body of
little Joe Crosby had mysteriously disappeared.

Frank hunted all over, but failed to find it.

Completely at a loss to account for the mysterious disappearance, he
returned to the house and told his friends about it.

Reynard had recovered.

Sitting on the sofa, he heard that the body was gone.

Then he told Frank and his friends what had occurred.

As soon as they heard the story they realized that a brutal crime had
been perpetrated by an avaricious, unscrupulous rascal, who ought to be
punished for his sin.

“I’d better apprise the local authorities of the deed and the strange
loss of the body,” said Frank, briskly. “In the meantime, Mr. Reynard,
you had better try to find Martin Murdock.”

“Holy smoke! Here’s a daisy game!” the detective replied. “Your head’s
level, Mr. Reade. I’m off. You’ll hear from me again!”

And away he went.

Frank followed him out.

He went to inform the police.

It was then nearly eleven o’clock.

Barney and Pomp had been in the workshop putting the finishing touches
on a new flying machine Frank invented.

Everything was completed, but in their hurried exit they had left the
electric arc lights lit in the shop.

When the inventor was gone the Irishman said to Pomp:

“D’yer moind yer wor afther lavin’ ther loights lit in ther shop.”

“Me?” said the coon. “G’way! ‘Twarn’t me, honey. Yo’ done it.”

“Go an’ turrun thim out, naygur!”

“Won’t do nuffin’ ob de kine.”

“Neither will I, me jewel.”

“When Marse Frank come back he gwine ter git mad.”

“Shure, you’re a dead man, then, fer I’ll blame it on you.”

“An’ I’se gwine ter say dat yo’ done did it, chile.”

“Ther two av us will get it in ther neck, then.”

“Dunno ‘bout dat, I’ish,” said Pomp. “If I’se got ter go, yo’ go, too!”

And so saying, he suddenly grabbed Barney by the nape of his neck and
the slack of his pants, and rushed him into the yard.

Away they scudded across the garden toward the shops, the Irishman
unable to stop himself, and Pomp grinning and chuckling over the
advantage he had gained.

“Whoop!” yelled Barney, as his legs flew along. “Begorry, I’ll have yer
scalp fer this, ye puckered-up hyaena!”

“Cl’ar de track!” roared the delighted coon. “Heah come de cyclone!
Golly, what a roast, Barney!”

Propelling the Celt before him, he reached the half-closed door of the
shop, slammed Barney against it with a bang, causing it to fly open, and
barked his nose on the panel.

“Murdher!” raved the Celt. “Faix, me bugle is bushted!”

“Put on de brakes!” howled the coon.

Then he hauled off with his big foot and gave a Barney a boost that
landed him on his ear in the middle of the big room.

Unluckily for the dusky practical joker he tripped over a plank and
landed on top of the Irishman with a thud.

The next moment Barney had him by the leg, dragged him over to a tackle
hanging from the wall, secured the hook around the coon’s ankle and
hoisted him up by the rope.

When Pomp’s woolly head cleared the ground Barney tied the rope to a
cleat and picked up a barrel stave.

“Watch me droive him troo ther wall!” he roared.

It was now his turn to chuckle and laugh.

Pomp began to look sick.

Around swished the stave over the coon’s coat-tail.

Whang!

Bang!

Plunk!

Thump!

For reports like pistol shots pealed out as Barney brought the stave
down upon the coon’s anatomy.

A bellow ripped from between Pomp’s thick, blubbery lips.

“Fo’ de Lawd’s sake, stop dat!” he yelled, frenetically.

“Yer will ploog me wid yer fut, hey?” roared Barney.

Then he soaked the coon again.

Whack!

Crack!

Biff!

Boom!

Pomp squirmed, roared, and suddenly grabbed his tormentor.

“Unfasten me dar!” he howled, as he pinched the Irishman. “If yo’ doan
done it I’se gwine ter chaw yer, honey!”

“Holt on!” yelled Barney, in tones of agony. “Bad cess to yer, it’s a
choonk yez will take out av me entoirely. Lave aff, yer bottle-nosed
gorilla, or I’ll go around on a crootch!”

“No, sir! No, sir! Not’ll yo’ luf me down yere.”




“Yis! Yis!” howled Barney, complying. “Ouch, me leg! Whoo—oh—oh!”

The moment Barney let go the rope he tore himself free and rushed out of
the shop, pursued by the coon.

In the middle of the big room stood Frank’s new invention.

It was formed like a sharp-prowed ship, and was made of aluminum.

There was an air-rudder at the bow and a water-screw and rudder at the
stern, while the deck was railed in.

From the bow projected a long ram, while at the stern were two enormous
air-propellers, one larger than the other.

Two turrets crowned the deck, with tubes rising from their roofs, on top
of which were a pair of tremendous helices.

From one tube to the other ran two more horizontal tubes, between which
were ranged five more big helices.

These helices were revolved, as were the other wheels, by a strong
current of electricity, to lift the engine up in the air.

In the forward turret, which was designed for the steersman, stood a
powerful electric searchlight, and in the midship section a circular
deck-house, pierced by doors and bull’s-eyes.

It was a remarkable-looking machine, the material and mechanism of which
combined extreme lightness with the greatest of strength.

As Frank had built other flying machines with mechanical parts similar
to those employed in this one, which had proven successful, he was sure
this one would operate.

The young inventor had returned from police headquarters when Pomp
chased Barney out into the yard, and going between the practical jokers
he separated them.

Both were forced to shake hands and go to bed, and the inventor turned
out the lights and followed them.

On the following day Frank received reports from the police, from time
to time, but nothing was found of the missing body of poor little Joe
Crosby.

Toward nightfall Tom Reynard returned to Readestown.

He made his way at once to Frank’s house, and meeting the celebrated
inventor in his library, he asked him:

“Well, have you found the corpse?”

“No. The police have hunted all over but failed.”

“How strange! Suppose some one stole it—probably medical students, who
want it for dissection. I’ve got bad news.”

“What is it?” asked Frank, curiously.

“Learned that Martin Murdock returned to Chicago last night. To-day he
drew a small fortune in money from his bank, went to New York and
started for Europe in the trans-Atlantic steamer Red Star.”

“So he escaped you, eh?”

“Yes. He knows that his crime is exposed, and wants to escape arrest.
He’s got plenty money to do it, too. But I’ve telegraphed on to
Liverpool to the police to hold him on a charge of murder. I’ve got a
warrant to arrest him on that charge and am going after him.”

“He may suspect your design, and give you the slip.”

“Yes, I know. Such a daisy game has been played before. But it’s the
best I can do,” said the detective.

“I know a surer way than that to catch him.”

“How? How?” eagerly asked Reynard.

“Chase him in my new flying machine. Heard of it?”

“Yes. The papers mentioned that you had such an invention.”

“My interest in the case is excited. Do you want to do it?”

“I’d be delighted, if you’ll allow me to.”

“Oh, I want a use to put the engine of the clouds to, and as this is a
good one I’ll see if I can’t aid the ends of justice with the machine.”

“Good! When shall we start?”

“The day after to-morrow. As we can make one hundred miles an hour
through the sky in her, we are bound to soon overhaul the steamer. We
have only to provision and equip the engine now.”

The four set to work at once on the airship.

By the second day she was ready, and they all embarked.

Frank entered the forward turret, the machinery was started, the helices
whirled, and the engine arose and passed through the open roof of the
shop and shot up into the sky.