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patiently. He had had a thousand
plans submitted to him during the
past three months.
"Give me a thousand pounds of
melinite," answered Durand. "and I
will blow it into the earth. I will
blow away all traces of it."
"If there is a thousand pounds of
melinite to spare in France you shall
have it provided you can convince me
of the feasibility of your scheme,"
the general answered.
"It isjvery simple," replied Durand.
"In the mountains of the Vosges,
where I have lived during the last
year, I have my perfected dirigible.
I will load t with a thousand pounds
of melinite, which is as much as it
will carry, in addition to my own
weight I will steer it above Fort
Gleichen, pull the valve open, after
calculating the descent, and escape
in my parachute. The balloon will
drop squarely into the center of the
fort and blow it from the face of
They talked over the' project for a
while and the more Durand explained
the more feasible bis proposal ap
peared to the French general.
Of course, from an aeroplane only
small bombs could be dropped. But
there was no reason why a balloon
should not contain a thousand pounds
of melinite, an explosive -deadly
enough to obliterate all trace of the
famous stronghold that barred the
advance of the army. It was ob
vious, furthermore, that the dead
weight of the load after the valve had
been opened would send the dirigible
to earth with a speed and aim that
nothing could avert.
Seven days later Durand, with a
thousand pounds of melinite in his
dirigible balloon and the parachute
attached to the aluminium stern,
rose slowly above the French camp
into the air.
From the walls of the fortress the
besieged general, glass to his eyes,
watched and wondered at this new
He had sworn never to surrenler J
and by heroic privations his men had
managed to conserve still another
supply of water, though nearly al' '
their animals were dead of thirst. V
was the general's intention to cut hi,
way out at the head of his troops
on the morrow and die upon the
field unless it rained.
But the scorched heavens refused
to open. Day and night were one
brazen glow of heat. All night heat
lightning played on the horizon and
sometimes the distant muttering of
thunder was heard, but never a drop
of rain had fallen.
Durand rose slowly into the air,
and as he did so the airguns of the-
fortress opened fire upon him. But
it is the most difficult thing in the
world" to hit a quickly rising balloon,
and neither Durande nor llamarche
had any fears on that score. If the
balloon were hit, the melinite would
explode in the air and the balloon and
aviator would vanish but no harm
would come to the besiegers. At
worst, the experiment would harm
At an altitude of two thousand feet
the balloon was safe from danger.
Durand smiled as he heard the great
shells whizzing around him. He knew
that only a miracle of marksman
ship could bring him down.
At four thousand feet Durand was
only a speck in the sky, hardly to be
discerned even through Lamarche's
glasses. The French camp strained
its eyes upward. The report of the
broken man's exploit, which was to
restore his honor and bring, no doubt,
the ribbon of the legion of honor,
had become universal. And in the
beleaguered fortress for the first time
an inkling of the airman's intentions
became obvious when a tiny speck
was seen to detach itself from the
slightly larger mass and drop toward
Instantly it had begun the swift
descent, while the balloon, relieved of
its slighter burden, shot upward, in '
spite of the, rapid escape of gas. The
dirigible ascended five hundred feet
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