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- The Air Ship Boys - 4/34 -
Major Honeywell was almost paralyzed with astonishment when he saw that the vessel was sealed and that it bore on its side, instead of the conventional Aztec design, this inscription in black: "Miguel Vasquez, 1545."
"What was in it?" asked Ned quickly when the Major came to this part of his narrative.
"That man was undoubtedly a soldier who marched out of Mexico in 1539 with Friar Marcos, the great explorer," went on Major Honeywell, ignoring the question, "and when others gave up the search for the famed seven cities of Cibola and the wealth of the Aztecs that every Spaniard believed rivaled the treasure of the Incas, this man kept on. Either by accident or design Miguel Vasquez was left by the expedition and six years later he wrote on cowhide and concealed in that vase one of the most valuable historic records extant in America to-day--confirmation that there was a real basis for the tales that lured the Spaniards to this region in quest of treasure."
Stepping to a trunk Major Honeywell took from a compartment a tin tube. From this he extracted a stiff sheet of parchment-like material.
"It's writing, isn't it?" exclaimed Ned.
"Yes, and Spanish. It is Miguel Vasquez's last will and testament, written over three hundred and fifty years ago. And here is a translation of it. You may read it yourself. That is my secret-- and yours now!"
And these are the words that turned the current of Ned Napier's life:
"A relation of Miguel Vasquez soldier of Spain made in the year 1546 concerning the hidden city of Tune Cha. Coming out of Saint Michael in the Province of Culican I journeyed with Captain Marco de Nica in 1539. At Vacupa I departed from him and remained now six years among those of this land. Three years I dwelt in the town of Acuco and heard often of the city of Tune Cha wherein is to be found the Temple of Turquoise than which none more beautiful is to be found, not even in Castile itself. Such I have seen with my own eyes. It standeth within a palace of five hundred rooms or more wherein are to be found priestly vessels of gold and silver. And this same palace or City of Priests is compassed about by a massive wall. And in the center of the palace standeth the Temple, facing the sun which is the sacred place of al Quivera, Arche and Guyas. And the walls of this Temple are naught but precious Turquoise even to the height of forty feet or more, and the pillars thereof are of gold and silver alternate. Knowledge of this hidden and beautiful city hath not been reported unto Spain nor even unto Nueva Espana. From Acuco it lieth thirty day's travel west of north and as I estimate in 36 degrees latitude in the mountains of Tune Cha. From the Rio de Chuco it lieth west six days' travel. Nor may it be discovered but by those who have knowledge of it. Miguel Vasquez"
"What I had hoped to do," said Major Honeywell at last, "was to make the most perfect balloon ever built and discover through you this hidden temple of turquoise treasure. You say you cannot do it."
Something he had never felt before shot through Ned's body. His face flushed and then grew pale under the spell that was on him.
"Major Honeywell," he said suddenly, "I don't know of a balloon that can be made to fly for a week. But if it is necessary to have one to do what you wish I'll make it and I'll find Vasquez's Turquoise Temple."
THE CONTRACT, AND LIQUID HYDROGEN
"I knew you'd do it," exclaimed Major Honeywell, beaming. "Now we'll have my friend Senor Oje up and get right at the details."
"One moment, Major Honeywell. It is easy to say what I just told you. But it means I've got to do something no one has ever done. I've got to take with me--in the balloon, of course--the material to replace the gas I lose."
"Well, that's easy, isn't it? For you--" qualified the old soldier.
"I guess you don't know much about ballooning," laughed Ned.
"Will money enable you to do it?"
"I hope so! Other experimenters have tried to carry materials to make gas. I'm going to take the gas itself in a glass jar."
"In a glass jar!"
"Precisely. Liquefied hydrogen gas."
At that moment Senor Pedro Oje, who had been summoned by Major Honeywell, entered the room. An almost Indian complexion and cast of countenance indicated his Mexican origin. What had taken place was related to Senor Oje, and he left no doubt that he was thoroughly in sympathy with the project. He soon put matters on a business basis.
"We are to share alike in what is found, I understand," he said. "Major Honeywell will have a third interest because the secret is his. This young man is to have a third because the risk is his. And I am to have a similar portion for furnishing the capital. And that brings us to the real starting point," the Mexican capitalist continued. "What is it to cost?"
"Ten thousand dollars at least," answered Ned instantly.
"Phew!" exclaimed Major Honeywell.
Senor Oje, not unused to speculative investments, gave no sign of surprise.
"How shall it be arranged?" was his only comment.
"Put that amount to my personal credit in the First National Bank-- if you care to trust me."
"We are trusting you with more than that," replied Major Honeywell with earnestness.
"It will take me six weeks to make my arrangements. In that time, as I need the money, I will draw on the account," said Ned.
"Very good," said Senor Oje; "I will draw up the agreement."
"Now," continued Ned, addressing Major Honeywell, "what is your interpretation of the message of the Spaniard?"
"Of course Vasquez's words must be modernized. What he termed the Tune Cha Mountains begin in New Mexico and extend northwesterly into Arizona and Utah. In many places their plateaus rise eight thousand feet above the sea. Their thousands of peaks and canyons are fit rivals of the wonders of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. Nowadays they are known by many names--the Sierra Chusca, the Lokaeboka, the Carrisco. 'Thirty days' travel west of north' is not very definite, but it certainly locates the palace in the far northwestern part of these mountains.
"The Rio de Chuco can only mean the Chusco river. The only place in its winding course that is six days' journey from the mountains is where it joins the Amarilla. This is south and east of Wilson's Peak, which is our landmark."
"Very good," exclaimed Ned, briskly. "Now, what is the nearest point in civilization?"
"Then that is my starting point. This is June twentieth. I shall be ready by the last day of July. Of course I shall need a special car."
"Very well," responded the capitalist. "I see you know what you want."
"Incidentally," exclaimed Ned, "I shall, of course, be permitted to carry my own assistants."
"Assistants? Yes, of course," replied Major Honeywell, "but they must be persons of discretion."
"My chum, Alan Hope, who will make the ascension with me, will be one, and a colored boy, Elmer Grissom, who has helped me prepare for all my flights, will be the other."
There was no dissent.
"When shall I make my report?" Ned added.
Major Honeywell and his friend conferred a moment.
"Will five weeks be enough time for your exploration?"
"I think so; perhaps less."
"Then we will meet you at the Coates House in Kansas City on the first day of August."
Senor Oje arose and lit a fresh black cigar.
"It will be well for you and Major Honeywell to talk over these things while I see my Chicago banker," said he. And with a good- natured "Adios, Senores," he left the apartment.
"Now, about this liquid hydrogen?" began Major Honeywell at once.
"Well," said Ned, "instead of ballast, I'm going to carry reserve hydrogen with me."
"And is that so difficult?" asked the Major.
"Impossible, if you try to carry material to make the gas," answered
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