Continuing the adventure that began here.
CHAPTER XV: Swept Up in the Tempest.
The rumble of propellers was all around us in the sky, drowning out the sound of our own engines. Planes were swooping left, right, before, behind.
“Can you think of any more attractive options?” I asked Weyland.
“A long shot,” he replied, “but we do have the fruit.” He turned to Tluxapeketl. “Miss Tluxapeketl, do you know the song ‘Tico tico no fuba’?”
“Of course,” she replied. “Every true Brazilian, no matter how remotely located, knows ‘Tico tico no fuba.’”
“Peevish!” said Weyland. “Help me with this fruit. We haven’t a moment to spare.”
“What are we doing?” I asked as we began to unload the chest of fruit.
“Our only chance of salvation is to convince the Air Corps that we are not enemies of Brazil. There is one means by which we can infallibly accomplish that object, if Miss Tluxapeketl is willing. Quick, Peevish—get the fruit on her head.”
“On her head?”
“Arrange it as artistically as you can, but quickly. Use the pineapple as a base; it should give your arrangement some structure. Good. Now apples, bananas, kumquats (not too many, Peevish, or she’ll never get them out of her hair), quinces, boysenberries,—but leave the durian, thank you. Better yet, toss it out the window. Well done! Now up to the roof, and we’ll rely on you, Miss Tluxapeketl, to give the performance of your life.
Outside the main control room was a ladder that gave access through a square hatch to the roof of the gondola. The three of us ascended the ladder; Kitty the tiger waited patiently at the foot of it for his master’s return.
For the second time I found myself on the breezy roof of an airship gondola. The planes were sweeping all around us, but the appearance of Tluxapeketl had effected an immediate change in their demeanor. They had stopped firing at us, and more and more of them were coming parallel to us, as if to have a closer look at the beautiful lady in the fruited hat.
Weyland stopped and began to beat a loud samba rhythm on the roof. I found that the taut steel cables suspending us from the gas bag produced different pitches when plucked, and I began to accompany Weyland’s drumming.
“Now, Miss Tluxapeketl!” Weyland shouted. “Sing! Sing for all you’re worth!’”
Tluxapeketl found her place in our rhythm, and she began to sing “Tico tico no fuba” very enthusiastically and very loud. Weyland kept up the samba beat, and I improvised what I believe to have been a very effective counterpoint to Tluxapeketl’s melody; but it was Tluxzapeketl’s performance on which our success depended, and her performance was extraordinary. She sang and she danced, and the very atmosphere seemed to have caught her rhythm.
Soon we began to hear additions to our music, and to our delight we discovered that many of the intrepid Air Corps flyers had joined in the performance with trumpets, trombones, saxophones, guitars, and a euphonium in one of the planes.
“Look over there!” Weyland called out to me. Following his gaze, I saw a movement on the wings of one of the planes. As two figures rose on the upper wings, I saw to my astonishment that they were young women in glittering costumes, who began to dance the samba on the wings very enthusiastically. No sooner had they appeared than others stood up on other planes all around us.
“The Brazilian Air Corps Wing Dancers!” Weyland shouted. “We’ve done it, Peevish!”
Tluxapeketl kept singing, and the orchestra all around us kept playing, and the dancers kept dancing, until we finally reached the river delta at the Atlantic Ocean. Then, as we left Brazilian airspace, the planes all swooped around us and in front of us, forming intricate patterns, until they finally moved into formation to spell out the words VIVA BRASIL. With that they left us, and we ended our musical performance.
“Delightful folks, Brazilians,” said Weyland. “Intensely patriotic. That was what I relied upon, of course.”
“It is a little windy now,” said Tluxapeketl.
“The wind has picked up a bit, hasn’t it?” I remarked.
“And it is getting cloudy,” Tluxapeketl added. She pointed forward toward the east, where, following her indication, I turned my gaze.
What I saw was a massive wall of cloud, such as I had never seen before, except perhaps in my nightmares.
“That looks ominous,” I said.
“We’d better steer clear of it,” Weyland replied. “To the control room.”
He immediately descended the ladder, with the two of us close behind. As soon as Weyland reached the floor, Kitty greeted him enthusiastically, rubbing against his hip.
“Turn us back, Peevish,” said Weyland as we entered the control room. “That storm looks like a little more than we can handle.”
The gondola was beginning to sway a little as the wind grew stronger and gustier. I made my way across the rocking floor to the controls and tried to spin the wheel, but no matter how much pressure I applied the thing would not turn.
“It won’t budge,” I reported.
“The wind must be too strong for the rudder,” said Weyland, and even as he spoke we could hear and feel the wind increasing in intensity. “Try reversing the engines.”
I pulled the lever from FORWARD to BACKWARD, and the motors whined and groaned. But we continued to run with the wind, faster and faster, hurtling toward the wall of cloud.
“How fast is the wind blowing now?” asked Weyland.
I looked at the wind-speed gauge. “What does it mean when it shows an eight on its side?”
“It means it’s blowing a little faster than we’d like,” said Weyland.
Suddenly the heavens burst open all around us, and we were surrounded by roaring rain, flashing lightning, and crashing thunder.
Tluxapeketl was scratching Kitty’s neck. “Don’t be afraid, Kitty,” she said. “Mr. Weyland will think of something.”
Don’t miss tomorrow’s thrilling episode: