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- Through Space to Mars - 1/35 -
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THROUGH SPACE TO MARS
Or the Longest Journey on Record
By Roy Rockwood
#4 in the "Great Marvel Series"
"Mark, hand me that test tube, will you, please?"
The lad who had made the request looked over at his companion, a boy of about his own age, who was on the other side of the laboratory table.
"The big one, or the small one?" questioned Mark Sampson.
"The large one," answered Jack Darrow. "I want to put plenty of the chemical in this time and give it a good try."
"Now be careful, Jack. You know what happened the last time."
"You mean what nearly happened. The tube burst, but we didn't get hurt. I have to laugh when I think of the way you ducked under the table. Ha, ha! It was awfully funny!"
"Humph! Maybe you think so, but I don't," responded Mark with rather a serious air. "I noticed that you got behind a chair."
"Well, of course. I didn't want broken glass in my eyes. Come on, are you going to hand me that test tube, or will I have to come and get it? We haven't much more time to-day."
"Oh, here's the tube," said Mark as he passed it over. "But please be careful, Jack."
Jack measured out some black chemical that resembled gunpowder, and poured it into the test tube which Mark handed him. Then he inserted in the opening a cork, from which extended a glass tube, to the outer end of which was fastened a rubber pipe.
He paused in his experiment to laugh again.
"What are you making--laughing gas?" asked Mark.
"No. But--excuse me--ha, ha! I can't help laughing when I think of the way you ducked under the table the other day."
"Maybe you'll laugh on the other side of your countenance, as Washington White would say," commented Mark; "especially if that big tube bursts."
"But it isn't going to burst."
"How do you know?"
"Well, I worked out this experiment carefully. I've calculated just how strong the new gas will be, and--"
"Ah, that's just it. It's a new gas, and you've never yet succeeded in making it, have you?"
"And it takes a different combination of chemicals to make it from any you ever experimented with before, doesn't it?" asked Mark.
"It does. But--"
"Yes, and I don't see how you can tell, with any amount of calculation, just how much force will develop from those chemicals, as no one ever put them together before."
"Well, maybe I can't," admitted Jack. "But this tube is very strong, and even if it does break nothing very serious can happen."
"Unless the gas you expect to generate is stronger than you have any idea of."
"Well, I'm going to do it. I've got half an hour before Professor Lenton and his class comes in, and that's time enough. Here, just hold this rubber tube under this jar, will you? And be sure to keep the edge of the jar below the surface of the water. I don't want any of the gas to escape."
He handed Mark the end of the rubber tube, and the somewhat nervous student, who was helping his chum Jack in the experiment, inserted it under the edge of a large bell-glass, the open mouth of which was placed just under the surface of water in a shallow pan.
The two lads were students at the Universal Electrical and Chemical College. They stood high in their classes, and were often allowed to conduct experiments on their own responsibility, this being one of those occasions. Jack, who was somewhat older than his companion, was of a more adventurous turn of mind, and was constantly trying new things. Not always safe ones, either, for often he had produced small explosions in the laboratory of the college. Only minor damage had been done thus far, but, as Mark said, one could never tell what was going to happen when Jack mixed certain things in test tubes and placed them over a spirit lamp, or the flame of a Bunsen burner.
"Have you got that tube under the jar?" asked Jack as he lighted a large Bunsen flame.
"It's under," answered Mark. "But say, what are you going to do in case you prove that your theory is right, and that you can make a new kind of gas? What good will it be?"
"Lots of good. If I'm right, this will be the lightest gas ever made. Much lighter than hydrogen--"
"Lighter than the kind Professor Henderson made for use in the Flying Mermaid, in which we went to the center of the earth?"
"No, I'm afraid I can't equal his gas; but then, no one can ever hope to. I'm going to make a new gas, though, and I'll show you that it will be much lighter and more powerful than hydrogen."
"More powerful, eh? Then I wish you'd have some one else hold this. I'm afraid the test tube will burst."
"What if it does? It can't hurt you--very much. But here, since you're so nervous, I'll put a pile of books all around the tube and the burner. Then, if it bursts, the books will prevent the pieces of glass from flying all about. Does that satisfy you?" and Jack began heaping some books about the burner, over which he was about to suspend the test tube containing the queer chemical.
"Yes," returned Mark doubtfully. "I suppose it's all right--unless the books will be blown all over."
"Well, I'll be jig-sawed!" exclaimed Jack with a laugh. "There's no satisfying you. You're too particular, Mark."
"Maybe; but I don't want to get hurt."
"You'll not be injured in the least. Look, you're quite a distance away, and even if it does explode and the books are scattered away, it can't hurt much to be hit by one of these volumes. There, I'm all ready now. Hold the tube firmly."
He placed the test tube in a support, clamping it fast, so that it would be held steady over the flame. Then he turned on more of the illuminating gas, which, coming through the Bunsen burner, was made intensely hot. A little column of flame now enveloped the big test tube containing the powder.
There was a little crackling sound as the heat expanded the powder, and the end of the test tube became quite red from the flame.
"That tube'll melt!" exclaimed Mark, peering over the pile of books. "It's too near the flame."
"Guess you're right," admitted Jack. "I'll raise it up a bit."
He turned down the flame and elevated the tube slightly. Then he took a position where he could watch the process of making what he hoped would be a new kind of gas. He wanted to be where he could see the vapor beginning to collect in the top of the tube, pass off through the glass in the cork, and then through the little rubber hose to the bell glass held by Mark. If the gas was generated too quickly, Jack knew he would have to turn down the heat slightly.
The crackling sound continued. Then, as Jack watched, he saw a thick, yellowish vapor collecting in the top of the test tube near the cork.
"It's coming!" he cried. "There's my new gas!"
"What's the name of it?" asked Mark.
"I haven't named it yet. I want to collect it in the jar and show it to Professor Lenton. He said he didn't believe I could make it."
The boys resumed their careful watching of the experiment. It was a nervous moment, for, from experience, Mark knew you never could tell what would happen when Jack began to try new combinations of chemicals. He was ready to drop down on an instant's warning, out of the way of flying missiles.
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