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THE two men listened in the darkness. They heard the sound of a steamer heaving through the waves; a motorboat horn shrilled now and then; and from the shore came the snort and rumble of a train.

Anderl nudged his companion. “Do you hear anything?”

The other shook his head.

“It seemed as though—there it is again!” From afar sounded a deep, scarcely audible

rumble, as of an invisible storm approaching from behind the mountains. The rumble lasted only three seconds and then died out.

“I know that voice,” said Anderl, his broad face lighting with a grin. “It’s he. He has entered the air circle, or we could not tell the direction from which the sound came. He’ll be here directly.”

Four minutes elapsed. There was no further rumble to be heard.

“You’re wrong, Anderl,” dubiously commented the mechanic.

“The dickens I am! Look up there!”

Away up in the sky a dim point of light appeared, disappeared, reappeared at regular intervals.

“Those are Morse signals. Do you suppose any little angel in Heaven could flash the Morse code like that? It is Hardt, as sure as I am Anderl. Let her loose now, so that we won’t be late.”

The motor started up and the bow of the boat cut through the churning water.

On shore the searchlights blazed forth, their rays groping through the dark like giant fingers to illuminate the path of the flying machine when it came within range of their light.

Anderl’s boat was hovering near the landing float.

“It will be a little while yet before he can come down,” called the engineer who was operating the searchlights.

Anderl nodded. “Yes, he has far too much speed to land.”

The speck in the sky curved in wide circles above the lake. With every curve it came lower, then inclined toward the north and disappeared momentarily from view.

“He must first lose his speed through the retarding influence of the air resistance,” commented Anderl, with the authority of an expert.

When the machine finally reappeared, it was gliding only 600 feet above the lake. With a loud roar it swooped down in a spiral curve. The impact of the pontoons against the surface of the water sent up a high fountain of spray. Its speed rapidly decreased through contact with the water until finally the powerful machine came to a stop in front of the landing float. Like a gigantic, ghostly bird, it gleamed with metallic luster in the blinding glare of the searchlights.

Anderl’s boat was the first to reach the side of the weird, propellerless monster. Its wings, veined with exhaust pipes which had their outlet toward the rear, extended out like a great flat roof.

Anderl climbed nimbly up a ladder to the smooth body, and looked through a port window into the interior of the air-tight cabin. There in the electric illumination, scarcely recognizable in the thick leather helmet which concealed his head, sat Hans Hardt. Anderl, who was familiar with every detail of the machine’s construction, turned a valve cap and thus released the air from the cabin until the pressure inside was equal to that outside. Immediately afterwards, a small door was opened from the interior.

“Welcome home, Mr. Hardt,” cried Anderl, joyfully waving his green cap.

“Hello, there, Anderl,” came the hearty reply. “Has everything gone all right, Mr. Hardt?”

“Yes, Anderl, everything has gone well.”

Anderl gave a glad shout, which ended the conversation.

A motor tug towed the machine to the shore, where it was anchored with a strong chain. Hans Hardt stepped onto the landing float. The ocean hop had been successfully completed.

Hans stepping onto landing float

It was only a small group that welcomed the flier on his return. Although it had become generally known that Hans Hardt had started the flight to America, nobody but the few intimately connected with his project could conceive of his returning on the same day that he had started. Moreover, as the arrival of a large flying machine at the field was an every-day occurrence, there were no outside spectators.

Thus ended, as it had begun, Hans Hardt’s trans-Atlantic flight, quietly, unobtrusively, and without publicity of any sort. The lack of noise and confusion was a relief to the weary flier after the strain of his eventful day. He briefly greeted the engineers and rode home with the business manager of the construction plant, Mr. Kamphenkel. Anderl, sitting next to the chauffeur, was as proud as though he himself had flown to America.

“Have you actually been in America to-day?” queried Kamphenkel, to reassure himself that the stupendous event was a reality.

“Positively. At exactly seven minutes past twelve by American time I gave a bottle of beer to a journalist over there. The poor man was mystified by my behavior.”

Kamphenkel seized the engineer’s hand and exclaimed with fervor: “Forgive me for doubting your achievement. An old man like myself doesn’t grasp new things so easily. You have effectively demonstrated that a rocket driven by a liquid fuel can produce the result upon which you calculated, and I no longer doubt your success in overcoming the resistance of the air. It is almost beyond comprehension. The mere thought that a human being can entirely leave the earth is most upsetting.”

“My first trip, however, did not proceed entirely according to program, Mr. Kamphenkel,” replied Hardt seriously. “For a while everything went all right. I ascended, as in an ordinary airplane, to an altitude of 13,000 feet. Then I started the first projection. For exactly two minutes I let the exhaust pipes work full force. With the pressure thus obtained from the backward explosions, my speed was increasing at the rate of 100 feet a second, and at the expiration of the two minutes I had reached a speed of two and a quarter miles a second. Then, with fuel shut off, my machine shot ahead under this projectile force. In half an hour I was penetrating the final air strata and had covered about 3,000 miles. In the second projection the exhaust pipes were performing to scarcely more than half their capacity, the projectile force was correspondingly weaker, and I had to turn on the fuel for the third time in order to reach America.”

“How do you account for this decreased effectiveness in operation?”

“Probably the reason lies in the sudden cooling off of the exhaust pipes during the free trip through airless space. I was, for the most part, high above the air circle in the space beyond the earth which has no heat. In the future construction of such machines some means must be devised to heat the exhaust pipes before starting their operation.”

“In the space beyond the earth,” said Kamphenkel musingly. “Please go on. How was the landing?”

“Oh, that was accomplished smoothly. I descended gradually so that the air worked like a brake, without, however, opposing sufficient resistance to heat my apparatus. In this manner my speed was checked by more than 300 feet a second, and I could glide down as in an ordinary airplane. The small, isolated lake south of Detroit, which Dr. Hardt selected, proved a practicable landing and taking-off place. Through being obliged to make the three projections, however, instead of the two upon which I had counted, my fuel was neady exhausted. I should be over there yet if it had not been for my uncle, who remained in Detroit purposely to provide additional fuel. It might not have been so easy for me to secure large quantities of alcohol in a country under Prohibition.”

The engineer became silent. “And the return trip?”

“I had a little trouble then, too. The American alcohol must have been adulterated, and its heating power was considerably reduced. I therefore needed great acceleration power so as to reach as quickly as possible the necessary projecting speed. And then,” Hardt smiled wryly, “the pressure became too strong for me. I scarcely had the strength to shut off the exhaust pipes for the free trip. I must have been unconscious for a time. During the swift passage over the projectile curve it did not matter, but if I hadn’t returned to consciousness before my machine shot into the air, it would have burned without a doubt.”

“Great heavens!” exclaimed Kamphenkel in alarm. “It was a monstrous risk for you to take this first trip alone. But you wouldn’t be stopped.”

“There was no other way, Mr. Kamphenkel. As you know, our means were not sufficient to construct an apparatus large enough to hold two persons. People want to see results before they put their money into a scheme like this.”

“Well, it won’t be so easy, in spite of your marvelous results,” commented the business manager, “to raise money in this impoverished Germany of ours for something which doesn’t promise immediate returns.”

“That is quite true,” agreed Hardt, little pleased by the thought. “There will be no money gained, either, by my contemplated trip to the moon.”

The car drew up to the entrance of Hardt’s home. Anderl hastened to open the door. “Anderl,” said Hardt, as he stepped out, “if we had enough money, you and I would travel together next time.”

Anderl grinned, showing two rows of faultless white teeth.

“Shall I rob the Reichsbank, Mr. Hardt?” Hardt smiled. “You would succeed in that, too, Anderl. What have you there?”

The lad handed the engineer a folded paper. “A cablegram, Mr. Hardt. It came just before you arrived, and as it is from your uncle in America, I thought its contents must be important, so I kept it with me.”

“Tommy Bighead?” said Hardt wonderingly as he read the message. Then suddenly he laughed out, as he recalled the scene of presenting the bottle of beer.

“Read it, Mr. Kamphenkel,” he said, handing over the cablegram. “I am offered $250,000. Once again good old Uncle Alex has put something over.” He slapped Anderl on the back. “You don’t need to rob the Reichsbank, Anderl. Everything is all fixed up.”

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