Robur the Conqueror
Chapter 22. The Go-Ahead Is Launched
On the following 19th of April, seven months after the unexpected return of Uncle
Prudent and Phil Evans, Philadelphia was in a state of unwonted excitement.
There were neither elections nor meetings this time. The aerostat "Go-Ahead,"
built by the Weldon Institute, was to take possession of her natural element.
The celebrated Harry W. Tinder, whose name we mentioned at the beginning of
this story, had been engaged as aeronaut. He had no assistant, and the only
passengers were to be the president and secretary of the Weldon Institute.
Did they not merit such an honor? Did it not come to them appropriately to rise in
person to protest against any apparatus that was heavier than air?
During the seven months, however, they had said nothing of their adventures;
and even Frycollin had not uttered a whisper of Robur and his wonderful clipper.
Probably Uncle Prudent and his friend desired that no question should arise as to
the merits of the aeronef, or any other flying machine.
Although the "Go-Ahead" might not claim the first place among aerial
locomotives, they would have nothing to say about the inventions of other
aviators. They believed, and would always believe, that the true atmospheric
vehicle was the aerostat, and that to it alone belonged the future.
Besides, he on whom they had been so terribly--and in their idea so justly--
avenged, existed no longer. None of those who accompanied him had survived.
The secret of the "Albatross" was buried in the depths of the Pacific!
That Robur had a retreat, an island in the middle of that vast ocean, where he
could put into port, was only a hypothesis; and the colleagues reserved to
themselves the right of making inquiries on the subject later on. The grand
experiment which the Weldon Institute had been preparing for so long was at last
to take place. The "Go-Ahead" was the most perfect type of what had up to then
been invented in aerostatic art--she was what an "Inflexible" or a "Formidable" is
in ships of war.
She possessed all the qualities of a good aerostat. Her dimensions allowed of
her rising to the greatest height a balloon could attain; her impermeability
enabled her to remain for an indefinite time in the atmosphere; her solidity would
defy any dilation of gas or violence of wind or rain; her capacity gave her
sufficient ascensional force to lift with all their accessories an electric engine that
would communicate to her propellers a power superior to anything yet obtained.
The "Go-Ahead" was of elongated form, so as to facilitate her horizontal
displacement. Her car was a platform somewhat like that of the balloon used by
Krebs and Renard; and it carried all the necessary outfit, instruments, cables,
grapnels, guide-ropes, etc., and the piles and accumulators for the mechanical
power. The car had a screw in front, and a screw and rudder behind. But
probably the work done by the machines would be very much less than that done
by the machines of the "Albatross."
The "Go-Ahead" had been taken to the clearing in Fairmount Park, to the very
spot where the aeronef had landed for a few hours.