Continuing the adventure that began here.
CHAPTER XII: Aeronauts of the Amazon.
“Although, under ordinary circumstances, you are our whitewater expert,” said Weyland, “would you be willing to accept a suggestion from me?”
“I should certainly make no objection to it,” I replied as we gained vertical velocity with every passing second.
“Then I suggest we make use of the resources at our disposal. We have a hammer, a pocket knife, and some nails. First, take the hammer and use the claw end to pry up the seats.”
I set to work immediately on the seat on which I had been sitting. In short order, I had it detached from the boat.
“Excellent, Peevish,” said Weyland. “Now, if you will hand it to me, I can get to work on it while you pry up the other one. It behooves us to work efficiently, as we are operating under a certain time constraint.”
We changed places in the falling boat, and while I worked on prying up the other seat, Weyland began to whittle the first one with the pocket knife, forming a gracefully arched shape front to back.
“I have the other one now,” I reported. We had now plummeted about a third of the way down toward the rock-strewn gulf below.
“Good job. Hand me that one, and take this one and nail this end here, so that it projects from the boat perpendicularly. I’ll prepare the other one.”
I made sure to use a good number of nails, so that the altered seat was attached firmly to the edge of the boat. Meanwhile, Weyland was busy on the other seat, and by the time I had finished hammering, he had it ready.
“First-rate work, Peevish,” he said. “Now do the same with this one on the opposite side, and I’ll make some alterations to the oars.”
I soon had the other seat nailed in place, and at the same time Weyland handed me his curious construction. He had used his necktie to attach the oars end to end with the blades pointing outward and twisted slightly, and in the middle he had put a sort of handle made of nails.
“Now get in the front of the boat,” he said, “and spin that clockwise with all your might.”
Once again we changed places, and I began spinning Weyland’s construction as fast as I could turn it.
Seconds before we would have been smashed on the rocks, our reconstructed boat swept forward in a graceful parabola and began to rise into the sky again.
“Splendid, Peevish!” said Weyland. “Luckily I spent some time with Mr. Curtiss suggesting some improvements to his production models. I had no time to construct proper ailerons, but we should be able to steer simply by leaning left and right. Just keep that propeller turning.”
I was spinning the propeller as fast as I could, which took quite a lot of effort; but the alternative was plunging into foaming rapids in the gorge below.
Soon, however, the aspect of the landscape below us changed. We came to an escarpment where the land came down to the level of the river, and the water below once again took on a placid and inviting character.
“My wrists are beginning to get a little sore,” I mentioned to Weyland.
“Look at that down there!” said Weyland. “I’d say we’ve reached civilization!”
Indeed, we could see not too far ahead of us what looked for all the world like an English village transplanted to the Amazon jungle. We could see the roofs of houses and public buildings constructed very much in the English style, and a well-laid-out street plan with a central square open on one side to the river.
“This is a spot of luck,” said Weyland. “Let’s set down in the river right by the village square, and we’ll see how well connected these people are. Perhaps they have a wireless set we can use to warn the authorities that Kun is in control of the archdiocese.”
I slowed the propeller a little, and we began to descend. Rather than a steep descent that might have ended in an uncomfortable landing, we came down in a spiral path, which gave the inhabitants of the little town ample opportunity to spot us. As we came closer, we saw a few of them in the village square looking up at us. They had every appearance of being European; they were dressed in decent European style, and when they began to wave at is even their gestures had a European flair. Each time we passed over the square in our spiral path, more of the inhabitants had appeared, gazing up at what I admit must have appeared to be a very odd aircraft. By the time we landed—I must say we did it very neatly in the water right next to the town square—there were dozens of people to greet us with a hearty cheer.
“Welcome to Pleasant River,” said a distinguished-looking gentleman as we moored our aquatic aeroplane at the little dock. “My name is Thompson; I have the honor to be the mayor of this town, and on behalf of all of us I should like to say how happy we are to have you here.”
“Thank you, Mr. Thompson,” said Weyland as we disembarked. “I can hardly tell you how delighted we are to find an outpost of civilization in the heart of the jungle.”
“We’re quite proud of it in our little way, yes,” said Mr. Thompson. “We think we’ve managed to build ourselves a little oasis, as it were, where we loyal subjects of Her Majesty can enjoy all the comforts of home.”
“It will certainly be pleasant, after what we’ve been through,” I said. “Going over a tremendous waterfall, for a start.”
“Oh, you went over Thunder Falls, did you?” asked Mr. Thompson.
“That would have been the end of us,” said Weyland, “if Peevish hadn’t been so deft with our improvised propeller. And of course there were the crocodiles before that.”
“Oh, yes, dashed nuisances, the crocodiles,” said Mr. Thompson. “Did you try Romeo and Juliet?”
“King Lear, actually,” said Weyland.
“Ah! Good choice. I shall have to remember that the next time.”
“And then, of course,” I added, “there were the jaguar, the puma or mountain lion or Nittany lion or cougar or panther or catamount, the leopard, the African lion, the Siberian tiger, and the Canada lynx of unusual size.”
“Indefatigable trackers, Siberian tigers,” said Mr. Thompson.
“You forgot our fall from the cliff,” said Weyland.
“Oh, yes, and we fell off a precipice as well,” I added.
“Goodness!” said Mr. Thompson. You have had some adventures, haven’t you?”
“And we narrowly avoided an encounter with a party of savage natives,” said Weyland. “Cannibals, most likely.”
“What, the natives?” Mr. Thompson laughed. “Oh, no, sir, there you have made a bloomer, so to speak.”
“They’re not cannibals?” Weyland asked. “I had heard there were cannibals in this jungle.”
“No, the natives are of the most pacific disposition imaginable,” said Mr. Thompson. “They are mostly vegetarian, in fact, and may be regarded as completely harmless. We are the cannibals. Guards—”
Suddenly I felt myself seized from behind by both arms. Weyland also had been taken in hand by two large and well-dressed gentlemen.
“Take them to the cage and get them ready for dinner,” said Mr. Thompson. “And, Reginald, if you could mix up a batch of that barbecue sauce we liked so well the last time, I’m sure we’d all be very grateful.”
Don’t miss tomorrow’s thrilling episode: