STUCK IN THE MUD

The Jove was as buoyant as a cork, and readily floated upon the water
when she recovered from her first plunge in the brine.

Frank had built her for such an emergency as this, and knew she could
not stay under water.

But the planes were injured by the shot, and she could not be driven
aloft until they were repaired.

In the meantime our friends were exposed to great danger, for all the
pirates who had been in the settlement had embarked in a fleet of
rowboats and were approaching.

“They are armed to the teeth, and evidently mean to attack us now,” said
Frank, as his companions ran in.

“Bedad, it’s a warm reception they’ll be afther gettin’,” the Irishman
replied, with a grin.

“What a pity the Jove met with this misfortune,” said Zamora,
disappointedly. “I was expecting to rescue my boy and now we cannot do
so, but must spend our time fighting these villains. It is a shame!”

“Gosh!” said Pomp; “dey am bery nigh us now, Marse Frank, an’ dis chile
s’pecs we done bettah git ready fo’ ’em.”

The inventor nodded.

He closed the metal shutters over the windows by pulling a lever, and
geared the steering wheel to the stern rudder.

Then he started the big propellers fanning the air, and they drove the
boat through the water at a moderate rate.

“It’s as good as a sthameboat she bes,” said Barney.

“Yes. The propellers move her fairly well.”

“By jingo! dey cotch us, dough, wif dem yere rowboats.”

“I expect they will, Pomp.”

Just then one of the pirates yelled in Spanish:

“Surrender!”

“Never!” replied Frank.

“Do you want us to fire at you?”

“That’s immaterial to me.”

The inventor’s cool indifference angered the man, and he turned to his
companions and gave them an order.

A volley of pistol and rifle shots followed.

They played a tattoo upon the airship, but she was proof against such
weapons, and the bullets did no harm.

“Fools!” said Frank, contemptuously; “they might just as well fling
pebbles against a brick wall.”

“G’way from dar now!” roared Pomp, as he dashed out on deck, with the
Mexican and Irishman. “G’way, I tele yo’, chilen! D’yo’ want us to plug
yo’ full ob lead, huh?”

By way of reply came a second volley.

The bullets merely flattened against the netting or glanced off, for
they had not force enough to penetrate.

Protruding the muzzles of their repeating air rifles through the
loopholes in the cage, the three now opened fire upon the men in the
rowboats.

Many a cry of agony told that the persons aimed at had been hit by the
bullets.

It surprised the natives to find that they could not reach our friends,
and it alarmed them to discover that they were getting the worst of the
battle.

Accordingly they rapidly retreated.

Thirty shots had been fired at them, and not a sound save a puff of wind
came from the rifles, but the bullets were patterned after torpedoes and
burst upon contact.

Fearful execution followed as the flying fragments of the exploded
bullets scattered and hit the various ones.

Although only thirty shots had been fired, as was said, at least fifty
men were wounded.

“Dey am gwine,” said Pomp.

“Frightened, I’ll bet,” Barney added.

“Chase them, Mr. Reade,” shouted the Mexican.

“No; let them go,” Frank replied from the dome. “We must try to get out
of the water and repair the planes.”

“Yes; but the moment we get up in the air they will fire at the Jove and
drop her again.”

“Not if we keep high out of gun range in future,” Frank answered, he
sent the machine shoreward.

He was heading his invention to land at a point distant from where the
gang were.

But just as she arrived within fifty feet of the shore, there came a
grating sound under her keel, and then a heavy shock which ran through
her, and almost felled the crew where they stood.

The Jove paused.

She had run into a mud flat.

It had been hidden under the water.

There she stuck, as if held by a vise.

“Confound it!” cried Frank, in tones of vexation, when he saw what
happened. “We are in a trap.”

“Put full power into the propellers,” suggested Zamora.

Frank tried the plan.

It proved useless, however.

He finally cut out the electric current.

“It’s of no use!” he exclaimed, in an exasperated tone.

A yell of joy escaped their enemies just then, for they seemed to
realize what had happened.

“Howl, ye divils!” roared Barney, shaking his fist at them angrily,
“but, be me sowl! it’s a dose of hot lead I’ll pump inter yez, if I have
me own way about it!”

“Whut yer gwine ter do?” shouted Pomp.

“All I can think of is to wait for the rising tide to lift us,” replied
Frank, after a moment’s thought.

This plan did not suit the rest.

It meant a long delay.

Before they liberated the Jove there was a strong chance of the pirate
gang getting the best of them.

Still they had to endure what followed.

Within a short time Frank saw a number of the gang appear upon the roof
of the castle.

Through an opening he observed that they were hauling a gun into
position to train it upon the Jove.

“See there, boys. Look up at the castle!” he exclaimed.

“Holy floy!” roared Barney. “It’s a target they’ll make av us! D’yez
moind ther ould pop-gun av thim?”

“Two shots from that piece may destroy us,” said the Mexican, in serious
tones.

“Dunno!” replied Pomp, seriously. “’Spec not.”

“You forget our Gatling,” interposed Frank.

Barney gave a cheer.

He rushed inside the next moment.

“Pomp, ye rapscallion! come wid me!” he cried.

“Gwine to fotch de gun out, honey?”

“I am that.”

They both vanished.

When they were seen again they were hauling out a rapid fire gun
operated by electricity.

It was one of Frank’s best inventions.

The weapon was capable of firing 1,000 shots a minute, and as the
bullets hurled from the piece were steel explosive shells, it may be
inferred what a dangerous piece of mechanism the gun was when in
operation.




As soon as it was on deck Frank loaded it by adjusting a coil of
cartridges on a reel at the breech fastened to a long ribbon.

Arranging the cold water reservoir for keeping it cool, and attaching
two electric wires, the inventor was ready.

The turn of a wheel brought the muzzle to the desired elevation, and in
a moment Frank touched a small lever.

That put the piece in operation.

The reports that followed were blended so closely together that they
sounded like the ripping of a piece of silk.

And the flying shots fairly whistled.

As that appalling hail of bullets began to fly up at the gunners upon
the roof, several fell.

The rest ran for their lives, and the weapon they had been preparing was
almost destroyed.

One round was enough.

Frank smiled, and remarked:

“We are rid of them now.”

“Then we are safe?” ventured Zamora.

“Temporarily,” answered the inventor.

A quarter of an hour passed slowly by.

At the end of that time the distant booming of a gun was heard coming
from the direction of the forts.

A shell flew through the air and landed in the lagoon, not far from
where the Jove lay.

Frank gave a start.

A troubled look crossed his face.

“That’s bad!” he muttered.

“Whar dat shot cum from?” asked Pomp, uneasily.

“One of the forts.”

“Faith! it’s bombarded we are, thin?” asked Barney.

“I fear so.”

All could share his alarm.

They realized their jeopardy only too well.

Fast where she floated, the airship was almost at the mercy of her
enemy’s guns, and it made them feel uneasy.

“To see us is impossible from the forts,” said Frank, “but a stray shot
may fly this way and hit us.”

“Can’t we reply?” asked Zamora.

“No. Our gun is not a mortar, and in this case is almost useless,”
replied the young inventor, sadly.

“Fo’ de lawd! must we stay heah, an’ take all dey sen’?”

“I see no help for it,” Frank answered.

The prospect made all feel decidedly blue, and they soon heard another
report and saw a second shell coming.

You may also like