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HOME > Classical Novels > The Admirable Tinker > CHAPTER SEVEN THE STOLEN FLYING-MACHINE
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 "You vas a vonder-child!" said Herr Schlugst. "You know dat machine as good as me!" And his goggle1 eyes stared out of his round, good-natured face at Hildebrand Anne in a wondering admiration2.  
"Yes; I think I have got the hang of her," said Hildebrand Anne with some pride, looking up at the great cigar-shaped balloon which hung motionless in the still air.
"Vat3 for do dey call thee Tinkar? You vas not look like a tinkar; and you vas not haf—do not haf de tinkar brain."
"Well, I've been called Tinker ever since I can remember; and one name's as good as another," said Hildebrand Anne indifferently. "But you'll let me cross over to Paris with you to-morrow, won't you?"
"I vill not! I vill not! Dere is de danger! De great danger! We must vant de calm dat ees dead! I take no von vith me but mine own self! And I vas not vould go, not for nodings; but I vas vant de tousand pounds. Dere is my leetle girl to be lived and educate."
"But I do so want to be one of the first to cross the Channel in a flying-machine," said Tinker plaintively4.
"Ach, to be vurst! to be vurst! Dat is you English top and toe! Do I vas hunt de orchid5 to be vurst discoverer? Not mooch. I hunt him for money. Do I cross de Channel in my machine to be vurst? Nein, nein. I cross him for de tousand pounds. And you I vould not take, no, not for de oder tousand pound. Bah! You vas not at all von vonder-child; you vas von foolish! Good-night, mine young friend, good-night." And Herr Schlugst went into the galvanised iron hut where for the time being he lived, watching over his precious machine.
The Tinker came out of the palisade which surrounded it, and walked down the cliff into Brighton quite disconsolate6; he could not see how to get his way. He came into the Paragon7 Hotel and dressed for dinner as sulky as a naturally cheerful soul could be. He showed no readiness to talk, and his father presently condoled8 with him on his lowness of spirits. Tinker said briefly9 that he had had a disappointment.
"Ah, they are terrible things, disappointments, when one is eleven years old," said Sir Tancred. "Later in life they lose their edge."
On his words there came into the dining room a rotund, middle-aged10 Jewish gentleman, coated with dust and wearing a harassed11 air.
"Look," said Sir Tancred, "that's Blumenruth, the Jungle millionaire."
The financier gazed gloomily round the room, looking for a table. At the sight of Sir Tancred, an idea seemed to strike him, his face brightened a little, and he came to them.
"How do you do, Sir Tancred Beauleigh?" he said, shaking hands warmly. "May I dine at your table? I want a word with you, a word which may be profitable to both of us."
"By all means," said Sir Tancred in the manner he always adopted towards profitable financiers of Hamburg extraction, a manner extremely condescending13, without being offensive.
The financier sat down; smudged the dust across his face with a coloured silk handkerchief; and breathed heavily. Then he looked at Tinker as though he would like him sent away.
"Anything you may say before him will go no further," said Sir Tancred, quick to mark the meaning of the look. "Let me introduce you. Mr. Blumenruth, my son Hildebrand."
The financier bowed, but he still looked unhappy at Tinker's presence. A waiter brought him some soup, and he began upon it hurriedly. Sir Tancred went on with his dinner in a tranquil14 indifference15. The financier finished his soup: looked again at Tinker, and burst out: "Well, it can't make any difference! I want your help, Sir Tancred, and you're the one man in England who can help me; you're used to these things." And he smudged the dust on his face a little more.
Sir Tancred murmured politely, "Only too pleased."
"I must be in Paris either to-night or to-morrow morning for an hour's talk with Meyer before the Bourse opens. And I must leave England without anyone knowing I've left it. It may make a difference to me of—of a hundred thousand pounds."
"Pardon me," said Sir Tancred suavely16. "I like my clients to be open with me. It will make a difference of ruin. The Cohens have you in a hole."
The millionaire gasped18, "My goodness! how did you know? It means ruin—or—or I make a hundred thousand."
"I see," said Sir Tancred. "Well?"
"I left London quietly in a motor-car. Before I'd gone twenty miles, a racing19 Panhard, stuffed with private detectives—men I've sometimes employed myself"—he almost sobbed20 at the thought—"passed me; and another came up, and dropped back to a mile behind. They're here in Brighton. I'd given it up; I was going to dine here, sleep the night, and go back to London to fight it out—not that it's of any use unless I can see Meyer—when I saw you. I'll give—I'll give five thousand pounds to anyone who can get me across to Paris secretly. It's here—in my pocket." And he tapped his breast.
Sir Tancred thought earnestly for fully21 five minutes; then he said, "It can't be done."
"Don't say so! now don't," said the financier, "The money's here! Here!" and he again slapped his breast pocket.
"It's no use," said Sir Tancred. "I might smuggle22 you out of the hotel; but there isn't any sort of vessel23, steamer, steam yacht, or launch to take you across."
"Let's go to Dover in my car!"
"What's the use? The detectives would follow in theirs."
The financier groaned24, and some large tears ran down his face. He bent25 his head to hide them; and for all that he was not pleasant to look upon, Tinker felt sorry for him.
"Cheer up, man," said Sir Tancred. "You can always begin again!"
But the financier would not be heartened. He made a wretched dinner; after it he followed Sir Tancred into the billiard room, and steadily26 drinking brandies and sodas27, watched him play pool. At eleven he went to bed. Tinker had gone to bed long before, but his door was just open, and he saw the financier go into his room. Five minutes later he stole across the corridor, and, without knocking, opened the door and went in. The financier was sitting at a table, gazing through a mist of tears at a nice, new nickel-plated revolver. He had no real intention of blowing his brains out, but with the childlike, emotional spirit of his race, he had persuaded himself that he had, and was luxuriating in his woe28.
"What do you want?" he moaned.
"I've come to show you a way of getting to Paris," said Tinker, closing the door softly.
"Mein Gott!" cried the millionaire, relapsing into his vernacular29 in his excitement. "How? How?"
"By Herr Schlugst's flying-machine."
"A flying-machine! Is the boy mad?"
"No, I'm not. I've been with Herr Schlugst on three trial trips; and the last two he let me work it most of the time. It's as easy as winking30, once you know how to do it, and he says I understand it as well as he does. It's all ready for the journey. We've only got to get into it without waking him; and he sleeps like a log."
"Mein Gott! Mein Gott! What a plan! I'm to fly in the air with a little boy! Oh, good gracious me! Good gracious me! What am I to do?" And he stamped up and down, wringing31 his hands.
"It's that or the revolver," said Tinker sweetly.
The financier clutched at his hair and raved32: fear and avarice33, conflicting, tore at his vitals. He owed his millions to no genuine force of character, but to luck, industry, and dishonesty. In this great crisis of his life he was helpless. Tinker, trained from babyhood by his wise father to study his fellow creatures, understood something of this, and began to goad34 him to the effort.
"It's a lot of money to lose," said he thoughtfully.
"The sweat of my brow! The sweat of my brow!" groaned the financier, who had really made it by the nimbleness of his tongue.
"And it seems a pity to blow your brains out, which hurts a good deal, before you've tried every chance," said Tinker.
The financier groaned.
"At any rate, if we did come a cropper, you'd be no worse off."
"Ah!" cried the financier, stopping short. "Why shouldn't I wake Herr Schlugst, and get him to take me?"
"Because he won't," said Tinker quietly. "He told me that nothing would induce him to try a flight in the night. He's all right in the daytime, but the darkness funks him. Foreigners are like that; they'll go to a certain point all right, but there they stop. That's what I've noticed. I notice these things, you know." He spoke35 indulgently.
It never occurred to the financier to doubt him; he was already a little under the influence of the cooler head. He walked up and down a little longer; and Tinker said no more. He had been taught to leave people to themselves when he saw them beginning to come to his way of thinking.
At last, with a horrible grimace36 which showed the depth of his agony, the financier cried, "I'll come! I'll come! I'll trust my life—oh, my precious life—to you. After all, you rescued the Kernaby child; and you had to fight to do it! I'll risk it! Oh, my money! My money!"
"Very good," said Tinker. "I'll come for you at half-past twelve. Put on your warmest great-coat. It'll be cold." And he slipped gently out of the room.
Five minutes later the distracted financier rang his bell, and ordered a bottle of 1820 liqueur brandy. It was the best thing he could have done: a private detective, who was sitting on guard in a room lower down the corridor to see that he did not go downstairs again, believed him to have thrown up the sponge, and to be drowning his sorrow, and allowed himself to become immersed in the current number of the Family Herald37.
As was his practice, Sir Tancred, on his way to bed, looked in on Tinker, and found him sleeping the profound sleep of youth and innocence38. But no sooner did he hear his father in bed and still, than he rose from that profound sleep of youth and innocence, dressed, even to his great-coat. He took a letter from his pocket, and put it prominently on the dressing-table. It ran:
I have taken Bloomenroot to Parris in Herr Shlugst flyingmacheen. Bring him to meet me at the Ifell Tower.
Your affectionate son
Then, with his boots in his hand, he stole across to the financier's room. Thanks to the brandy, the financier looked very much wound up. Tinker bade him write on a sheet of notepaper, "Don't call me till eleven," pinned it on the outside of his bedroom door, locked it, and took the key. He left the sitting-room39 door unlocked. Then he opened the window, and, followed by his protégé, who was already shivering with dread40, he stepped out on to the balcony with the air of the leader of an army. The balcony ran round the hotel, as a way of escape during a fire; it was broad, and since the night was starry41, but fairly dark, they were little likely to be seen from below by the detectives watching the hotel doors. They walked round to the back, came through a window into a bathroom, through the bathroom on to the servants' staircase, and went right down into the basement.
"I get up early in the morning before the servants, and I had to find a way out," said Tinker in an explanatory whisper.
He led the way through the kitchen into a long passage, set with the doors of cellars on either side. At the end of the passage was a short ladder with rounded iron rungs, by which barrels were lowered, and Tinker, mounting three rungs, pushed back a bolt, raised the heavy trap a little, and peered about from under it.
"The street's clear," he said. "Come on!"
He slipped out on to the pavement, helped the clumsy financier through the trap, caught his hand, and ran him across the street into a narrow lane.
"There!" he said cheerfully. "That's the most difficult part of the business! You're out of the hotel, and not a soul knows it!"
The financier's spirits brightened. Tinker had shown him his mettle42, and he began to have confidence. Besides, he had drunk a good deal of the bottle of brandy. They hurried through the town by byways, and up on to the cliffs. As they neared the palisade, and saw the great bulk of the balloon looming43 through the starlight, the panting financier's spirits sank: his teeth chattered44, and his knees knocked together.
"Oh, buck45 up! Buck up!" said Tinker impatiently. "You're all right! You're all right!"
It was a matter of a few seconds for him to climb the door of the palisades, drop lightly on the other side, and open it. He steered46 the financier gingerly round the planes, past the propelling and steering47 fans, and got him into the car. He set him well forward in the bows of it, and began to let the rope unwind from the windlass which moored48 the flying-machine. All the while he heard the steady snores of Herr Schlugst, sleeping in his iron hut.
The flying-machine rose slowly with very little creaking for all the greatness of the planes; the last of the rope ran out, and the lights of the town sank like stones in water beneath them.
"Right away!" cried Tinker joyfully49, and the financier gasped.
When the lights of the town were a mere50 blur51 beneath them, Tinker switched on the electric lamps, and the millionaire saw him sitting on a wicker seat in the stern of the boat-shaped car, surrounded by levers, instruments, and dials. Tinker bade him grip the steel rails on either side of the car, and get ready for a swoop52. Then he set the motor going, and steered round the flying-machine on to her course. She rose and rose, moving steadily forward at the same time, far above the sound of the waves of the Channel.
Now Herr Schlugst did not rely so much on his propeller53 for speed as on his skilful54 adaptation of the principle on which the bird swoops55. When the aneroid told Tinker that the car had reached the height of 3000 feet, he opened a valve, and let the gas escape slowly from the balloon. The instant she began to sink he switched to a slight downward angle the great planes, some seventy feet long, which were fixed56 parallel to the car. The machine began to glide57 downwards58 on them, gathering59 momentum60 from the weight of the car, at a quickly increasing speed, until she was tearing through the air at the rate of forty miles an hour, and sinking a hundred feet in the mile. The financier sat hunched61 up, gasping62 and shivering as the air whizzed past his ears and shrilled63 among the ropes. Tinker, with an air of cheerful excitement, kept the machine on her course, and watched the aneroid: his face of a seraph64 was peculiarly appropriate to these high altitudes, though the millionaire was too busy with his fears to observe the fact.
In half an hour the machine had rushed down to five hundred feet above the sea: Tinker switched the planes to the same angle upwards65: and the momentum drove her up the incline of the air with little diminished speed. Then he turned a tap and let the stored gas, compressed in an aluminum66 cylinder67, flow into the balloon, and restored the whole machine to its former buoyancy. Moving more and more slowly the higher it rose, the flying-machine once more gained the height of 3000 feet, and once more swooped68 down from it. At the beginning of the upward sweep, Tinker said, "Another swoop like that will bring us to Paris."
The financier, who had spent the time qualifying for a place among the invertebrates69, only groaned. Tinker was disgusted; but he said, "Cheer up! You're the first man who has ever crossed the Channel in a flying-machine. You'll be in the History books!"
The car rose and rose: Tinker had just resolved to swoop from 3500 feet this time, when of a sudden she rose out of the windless area into a stiff breeze, icily chill. They learnt what had happened by the balloon bumping down on their heads with apparent intent to smother70 them, and in a breath the car was spinning round, and jerking furiously to and fro. The millionaire screamed and bumped about the car, and bumped and screamed. Tinker set his teeth, jammed the flying-machine into the teeth of the wind, switched down the planes, and tried to drive her down. It was no use; she was whirled along like a piece of thistledown. Then he opened the valve and let her sink. In three minutes she had fallen below the wind, and was shooting swiftly on the downward swoop. The financier was staring at him with a frenzied71 eye. Tinker closed the valve, and said with a joyous72 brightness, "She was quite out of control for a good five minutes!"
The financier frankly73 gave it up; with a rending74 gasp17 he fell back in a dead faint.
Tinker shrugged75 his shoulders, regulated the pace of the machine by letting gas flow from the cylinder into the balloon till it was of the proper buoyancy, then roped the senseless financier to the bottom of the car, and came back to the helm.
The wind they had risen into had been blowing towards the east, so they had not lost ground during their tossing, but they had been driven south of their course, and he did not know exactly how to get back to it. On the dark earth beneath he could see towns as blurs76 of light on all sides of him, but no one of them was big enough to be Paris. He let the machine swoop on down to five hundred feet, and up again. On the upward course, from fifteen hundred feet he saw a great blur of light on the northern horizon: it was Paris, and he was swooping77 past it. He steered the machine round without taking the way off her, and swooped down towards the city. At the end of the swoop he was already over the suburbs, and he switched off the electric lamps. He took the way off the machine by switching up the planes; and then, using only the propeller, circled round, seeking for the Eiffel Tower. Presently he saw it looming through the first dim grey light of the dawn, steered over it, let fall a grapnel, and hooked it into the railings which ran round it; took a turn of the rope round the windlass, and wound the machine down to within twenty feet of the top. Then he went to the financier, unroped him, and kicked him in the ribs78 ungently.
As he kicked, saying, "Get up! Get up!" an astonished voice below cried, "Qui vive?"
Looking over the side of the car Tinker saw dimly the figure of a gendarme79, and said briskly, "Santos-Dumont!"
"Vive Santos-Dumont!" cried the gendarme with enthusiasm.
Tinker went back to the financier, and kicked him again.
"Where am I? Where am I?" he murmured faintly.
"On the top of the Eiffel Tower," said Tinker.
"What? Saved! Saved!" cried the financier, for all the world as though he had been in a melodrama80; and he sat up.
"I should like the five thousand pounds, please," said Tinker, brought back by the touch of earth from his aerial dreams to cold reality.
"Five thousand pounds!" cried the financier, every faculty81 alert at the mention of money. "No, no! How am I to get five thousand pounds? Five hundred now! Five hundred pounds is an enormous sum—an enormous sum for a little boy, or even fifty! Yes, yes; fifty!"
"That's really very tiresome," said Tinker very gently. "I never thought you'd be so foolish as to leave all that money in empty rooms in an hotel. Well, well, we must fly straight back and get it. I hope we shall have as good luck as we had coming over." And he turned to the levers.
"Here! here! here!" screamed the financier; tore a button off his coat in his haste to get at his breast pocket; whipped out his notecase, and with trembling fingers took five notes from the bundle which stuffed it, and thrust them into Tinker's hand.
Tinker counted them, made sure that each was for a thousand pounds, and put them in his pocket. Then he looked down at the gendarme, and said in French:
"I want to drop my assistant. Will you conduct him to the bottom of the tower?"
"Mais oui! Avec plaisir, Monsieur le Comte!" cried the gendarme, striking himself hard on the chest to show his eager enthusiasm.
"Merci bien," said Tinker, lowering the rope ladder.
The gendarme held it steady, and the financier descended82 gingerly. When he was off it, and the gendarme had loosed it, Tinker said "Au revoir! and mind you wire to my father at once, and let the grapnel rope slip out of the windlass." Lightened of the financier, the machine shot up into the air.
Tinker's task was done: he had only to restore the machine to Herr Schlugst; but he had a long while to wait. He realised suddenly that he was hungry and very, very sleepy. By letting some gas escape, he reduced the machine to a controllable buoyancy, and set about warming the coffee which the thoughtful Herr Schlugst had ready made. Then with brown bread, butter, and German sausage, he made an excellent breakfast. It was light by the time he had finished; and he set about looking for a sleeping-place, for he could not keep awake long. A wood on a hill some miles away seemed to him the spot he sought. He swooped gently for it, and was soon anchored to a tree-top and sleeping peacefully. It was past noon when a shouting awoke him. He looked down to find the wood full of people, four or five bold photographic spirits in the tree to which he was anchored, but nowhere near his grapnel, which was among the smaller branches. The roads leading to the wood were choked with bicycles, motor-cars, and pedestrians83; and a station near was disgorging a crowd of people from an excursion train. It was time to be going.
He cut the grapnel rope, and started leisurely84 for Paris. He reached it in about an hour, and circled about it, observing it from above. Then he came to the Eiffel Tower, and practised steering round it, to the great joy of an excited and applauding crowd which thronged86 its top and stages. It was a great moment. He steered away over Paris, made a meal of the coffee, brown bread, and sausage left, and came back.
He was growing tired of waiting, and was meditating87 crossing over the top of the tower and pouring a little water from the ballast tank on the sympathetic crowd, when he saw his father and Herr Schlugst forcing their way through it. At once he rose above the tower and let down the grapnel. A dozen hands seized it, and drew down the machine. Tinker let the stored gas flow into the balloon to allow for Herr Schlugst's extra weight; and lowered the rope-ladder. The bursting Teuton came clambering up it, forcing down the car and planes by his weight on to the heads of the crowd, which was forced to hold them up with a thousand hands.
"Ach, you young tevil my machine to sdeal!" he cried, tumbling into the car.
"You shouldn't have refused to take me with you," said Tinker, preparing to slip over the other side on to anyone's head.
"What haf you broke? What haf you broke?" cried Herr Schlugst, looking round at the instruments with a practised eye, and seeing them unharmed.
"Nothing. What should I break anything for?" said Tinker scornfully.
"No; dere is nodings broke, schoundrel. But vere—vere is mine von tousand pound? I ask you! Vare is mine von tousand pound! You haf ruined me! Ruined me!"
"Oh, that's all right!" said Tinker. "I had a passenger who paid his fare. Here are two thousand pounds." And he gave him two of the notes.
Herr Schlugst opened his mouth and stared at the notes, "Doo tousand pound! Doo tousand pound!" he muttered thickly. "You vas von vonder-child! Von vonder-child!"
Tinker bade him good-bye, and slipped out of the car, leaving him to fly to some smooth place in the environs, where he could dismantle88 his machine. Sir Tancred was too thankful for Tinker's safety to be very angry with him: and they descended the tower surrounded by gendarmes89, who were put to it to preserve Tinker from the embraces of excited persons of either sex. One fat Frenchman, indeed, kissed him on both cheeks, crying, "Vive le rosbif! vive le rosbif!" before he could ward12 him off.
At the bottom of the tower Mr. Blumenruth, radiant and triumphant90, burst through the throng85, flung himself upon them, and dragged them to a smart victoria which awaited them. He told them joyously91 that he had cleared eighty-seven thousand pounds, and protested that they should be his guests at his hotel as long as they stayed in Paris. On the way to it Sir Tancred got down to buy some cigars, and he was barely in the shop when the financier said in a jerky way to Tinker, "I saw a very neat little motor-car, which I should like to make you a present of. But I say—I don't want you to tell anyone—how—how ill I was up there. My spirit was all right, of course; but that rarefied air—acting on business worries—produced a state of nervous prostration92. I—I wasn't quite myself, in fact."
Tinker looked at him with intelligent interest, and, closing one of his sunny blue eyes, said thoughtfully, "Nervous prostration? Is the motor a Panhard?"
"Yes," said Mr. Blumenruth.
"If you hadn't been so—so—upset, I've no doubt you'd have sailed the machine yourself," said Tinker warmly.

Arsene Lupin
The Three Eyes19章节

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