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HOME > Science Fiction > Five Thousand Miles Underground29 > CHAPTER III WASHINGTON DECIDES
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 “We must catch that cylinder1!” the professor exclaimed. “Some one may find it when it comes down and analyze2 the gas. Then he would discover how to make it. The cylinder must come down!”  
“Don’t see how we can proximate ourselves inter3 th’ vicinity of it lessen4 we delegate th’ imperial functions of ornithological5 specimens6 t’ some member of this here party,” observed Washington.
“If you mean we can’t catch that there contraption unless we turn into birds I’ll show you that you’re mistaken!” cried Andy Sudds. “I guess I have a trick or two up my sleeve,” and the old hunter quickly threw open the breech of his gun and inserted a couple of cartridges7.
He raised the piece to his shoulder and took quick aim. There was a sliver8 of flame, a puff9 of smoke and a sharp report. The professor and the boys who were watching the cylinder saw it vibrate up in the air. Then there came a whistling sound. An instant later the metal body began to descend10, and it and the weight fell to the earth.
“I’m sorry I had to put a bullet through it, Professor,” said old Andy with a queer smile, “but it was the only way I saw of bringing it down. Hope it isn’t damaged much.”
“It doesn’t matter if it is,” the scientist answered. “I can make more cylinders12, but I don’t want that secret of the gas to become known. Your bullet served a good turn, Andy, for it let the compressed vapor13 out just in time.”
“Then we may consider the experiment a success,” said Mark, as Washington went to where the cylinder had fallen, to detach it from the weight and bring both to the shed.
“It seems so,” Mr. Henderson answered. “True, it was only an experiment. We have yet to test the ship itself.”
“When can we do that?” asked Jack14.
“I hope by Monday,” the scientist answered.
“Will you try it in the water or air first?” asked Mark.
“I’m almost certain it will float in the water,” the aged11 inventor said. “It does not require much work to make a ship which will do that. But the air proposition is another matter. However, since the cylinder rose, I am pretty sure the Flying Mermaid15 will.
“But we have done enough work to-day. Let’s rest and have something to eat. Then, with Sunday to sit around and talk matters over, we will be ready for Monday’s test.”
Some of the game Andy had killed was soon on the table, for Washington, in addition to his other accomplishments16, was an expert cook. During the evening the boys and their friends sat in the living room of the big shed and talked over the events of the day.
Sunday was spent in discussing what adventures might lie before them should they be able to descend into the big hole. Washington did not say much, but it was easy to see he had no notion of going. He even began to pack his few belongings18 in readiness to leave the service of Mr. Henderson, for whom he had worked a good many years.
No one remained long abed Monday morning. Even Washington was up early in spite of the interest he had lost in the professor’s voyage.
“I jest wants t’ see yo’ start fer that place where they buries live folks,” he said.
In order to properly test the Flying Mermaid it was necessary to move the craft from the shed from which place it had never been taken since it’s construction was started. It had been built on big rollers in anticipation19 of this need, so that all which was now necessary was to open the doors at the end, and roll the craft out.
This was accomplished20 with no small amount of labor21, and it was nearly noon before the big ship was moved into the open. It was shoved along to a little clearing in front of the shed, where no trees would interfere22 with its possible upward movement.
Everyone was bustling23 about. The professor was busiest of all. He went from one machine to another; from this apparatus24 to that, testing here, turning wheels there, adjusting valves and seeing that all was in readiness for the generating of the powerful gas.
As the airship was half round on the bottom and as it rested in a sort of semi-circular cradle; it brought the entrance some distance above the ground. To make it easier to get in and out while preparations for the trial were going on, Bill and Tom had made an improvised25 pair of steps, which were tied to the side of the ship with ropes.
Up and down these the professor, the boys and Andy went, taking in tools and materials, and removing considerable refuse which had accumulated during the building of the craft.
Finally all was in readiness for starting the making of the gas. The ship was not wholly complete and no supplies or provisions for the long voyage had been taken aboard. The Flying Mermaid was about a ton lighter26 ............
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