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Tis evening in Sheerness, and the members of one of the families of that seaport are sitting in rapt expectancy of that last and most essential course of the Englishman's birthday dinner-the plum pudding. It is a festive occasion, for it is sister Henrietta's birthday. There are faces missing from the festive board, and those that now surround it wear a look of anxiety-a dread of something that is indefinable-or of mourning for friends and relatives absentdying-dead. Sister Henrietta's birthday, like Christmas, comes but once a year, and the family and relatives are determined to make the most of it.
Suddenly a silence falls round the board, the thrill of expectation that always goes with the looked-for climax to a feast. All are waiting. The door leading into the buttery is thrown open, and the smoking plum pudding is brought forward and takes its place of state upon the table.
And then, as the "oh's!" and "ah's!" begin to rise from the children, father, after an admonishing wave of his hand and an impressive pause, during which he looks up and down the double row of faces, opens his mouth-but no sound comes forth. Something else has suddenly gripped his attention. have heard it, they have been expecting it now these many weeks. All recognize it-there can be no mistake-the
distant purr-r-r of an aeroplane soaring high above the clustered houses.
"It's all right. Probably a British seaplane on coast patrol," reassures Cousin Dick, "down from town" for the occasion.
"Boom! boom!-boom!" say the pom-pom guns at the forts. "Crackcrack-crack" snarl the little anti-aircraft guns on the piers. And through it all, like the song to which the gunfire serves as a syncopated accompaniment, comes the sound of random riflefire, like pebbles dropping on a myriad of taut drumheads. And above it all, that menacing whirr.
The portly plum pudding is forgotten. The members of the family are in the street, gazing skyward. The whole population of Sheerness seems to be in the streets gazing skyward. There, showing indistinctly through the lower level of clouds-in the moonlight, the roar of its powerful motor penetrating the quiet night air with powerful distinctness, flies a biplane. Wheeling majestically above the Government dockyards, the German sees what he wants to see, and proceeds toward London.
Then-amid cries of "The Taubes attack us!" "Look out-the Zeppelins will be along presently!" and the gradually decreasing sound of gunfire-the biplane vanishes in the night. Its whirr is drowned by a louder sound,
similar, but made richer by its nearness. Rising out of the harbor, its two long pontoons glistening with a film of water, climbs an English seaplane. From the nose of its nacelle projects a pencil-like machine gun, and the officer crouched behind it is motioning the course to his pilot. Wheeling low over the town, the English machine speeds after the invader. Soon it, too, disappears, but the family stays in the streets. The forgotten plum pudding is cold now.
The excited, gesticulating people stand, gathered into little knots. Are there more machines coming? Will the Zeppelins follow? Why didn't the German drop any bombs? Was he saving them for Sandringham? Then the wiseacres speak. No, it wasn't a Taube, but an Albatross-the machine in pursuit a 160-horsepower Short. Very little chance of catching "the Dutchman," he had a big lead. Yes, he'll probably drop a few mementoes somewhere this night.
"Whir-r-r-snip-snip-snip! Whirr!" comes from above. The German is retreating, while behind him, perhaps half a mile-comes the big Short. "Snip-snip!" The sound of the gun comes plainly to those below, through the hum of the two powerful motors. A fainter crackling is heard as the Ger
PART OF THE FLEET OF BRITISH SEAPLANES THAT TOOK PART IN THE RAID ON CUXHAVEN
man replies with automatic pistols. Again, the machines vanish in the night and as they put out to sea, the sounds become fainter and fainter. No one speaks until the aeroplanes have passed from sight and hearing. But everyone is praying that the gunner in the Short bags his game-that the Teuton pays for his temerity with his life.
Then comes the seaplane, like a hunter returning empty-handed from the chase. Switching off, the pilot descends in a spiral and comes to the water. Entering the slip, the machine is secured by the eager hands of the naval mechanics. Opening the motor wide, the pilot drives his machine up the skidway and into the hangar. Then climbing out with dejected faces, and muttering gentlemanly curses on their luck, the officers proceed to report their exploit. Yes, they headed the German off; they think they shot a few holes in his 'plane, but they're not sure. The German was heavy with gasoline or they could never have come SO close to him. But next time-!
Then, within a few hours, comes the grim news of disaster-of lives snuffed out by bombs, in Yarmouth and Norwich.
Next time it may be Sheerness' fate, or possibly the very next time the German aeroplanes will fly still closer to London.
England has little to fear, probably,
A TAUBE-THE JEANNIN-THIS TYPE IS SAID TO BE NO LONGER BUILT
THE AVIATIK BIPLANE-AN EXAMPLE OF WHAT SOME HAVE CONSIDERED TO BE THE BEST TYPE
OF AEROPLANE YET DEVISED
from the Zeppelins, Parsevals, and Schütte-Lanzs, but with the Albatrosses, the Aviatiks, the Rumplers, and L. V. G.'s, it is a different story. Read of Germany's aeroplanes and judge for yourself.
First of all I will make a curious statement: Up to the present time aeroplanes have reflected to a nicety the temperaments of the nations who built them. Just as the average American aeroplane has been a sloppy contrivance of hay-bale wire and make
either fast or slow, but which was not phenomenal in either direction. These things are typical of the various peoples in question-from the American who says, "Well, this wire ought to hold; it stayed with me the last time I flew!" to the wiry little Frenchman who would be no more at home in a giant German biplane than would be a speedboat pilot in charge of the Mauretania.
The first machines built in Germany were copies of Wright biplanes, and copies of the more successful French
WHERE THE GERMANS BOMBARDED ENGLAND IN THEIR AERIAL RAID OF JANUARY 24
shift fittings, so has the German machine been a huge, bird-like structure of steel, inherently stable and frightfully heavy. Where the highly temperamental Frenchman has sought for graceful lines and tremendous speed, the Englishman has endeavored to produce an aeroplane which, like his
machines. The early Eulers and Aviatiks were copied from French Farmans-the Harlan from the French Bleriot, the Grade from the Demoiselles, and so on through the entire gamut of Teutonic pioneer endeavor. One thing always characterized the German products; they were heavy
WIRELESS WONDERS FROM VACUUM TUBE
CHARLES W. PERSON
'M going to invent a better and cheaper light than daylight," said Peter Cooper Hewitt of New York several years ago. "Better, because it will allow the eye to work at its highest efficiency, and cheaper, because buildings can be put up perfectly solid, without windows, light shafts or sacrifice of space." Another visionary with a pretty impossibility, thought the world.
The Cooper-Hewitt mercury vapor electric lamp, which is to be seen in photography establishments every where, and which is the one dependable factor of motion picture manufacturing, was the inventor's answer.
"I'm about ready to talk to Europe," said Mr. Hewitt several weeks ago. "I've spent eighteen years studying nothing, if a vacuum can be considered as such, and I've got a little vacuum tube here which can catch, and amplify sufficiently for the human ear to receive its message, the hundredth of a millionth of one horsepower of electrical current. That little vacuum tube is going to do the trick."
And no one is brave enough to stand up now and tell him the little vacuum tube can't do it!
This tube is only a foot long and a few inches in diameter, yet Mr. Hewitt promises a few wonders with it, such as wireless conversations at low cost between Europe and America, power to converse daily in your own home with a friend crossing the Atlantic, the transmission from one city to another of every sound uttered during an opera performance, and ability to keep up steady conversation between
a dirigible and persons on land, or between heads of allied armies, with none but the two persons talking able to catch a syllable of the conversation.
"Telephoning to Europe is not the difficult problem one would imagine," explained Mr. Hewitt, who is the grandson of Peter Cooper, "but is, in fact, simpler than communication by wireless telegraph. With the simple little tube the personnel of a wireless telephone station would be far smaller than that of the average wireless telegraph station. The current needed is about the same, but that is one of the smaller items of expense. I should think it would soon be as cheap to talk to a person in San Francisco as to telegraph."
At the top of this vacuum tube, in which lies the inventor's secret of wireless telephony, a wire is fused into the glass and connected with the "receiving electrode", which consists of a circular piece of metal through which messages from the air pass into the small receptacle. The top wire is connected with the wireless antennæ, or sound collecting wires. On the side of the tube, near the bottom, a little glass bulb protrudes, and through this the "positive electrode" enters. Externally this electrode is connected with two wires, one of which goes through a "potentiometer", which adjusts the current, and thence to the telephone headpiece, and the other of which leads to the batteries by which the receiver is operated.
Mr. Hewitt had previously discovered that if you exhaust air from a tube in the bottom of which there is a small