Written by Johnny Gruelle
Grandpa had finished building the chicken coop and he walked out in front of the house to speak to a neighbor.
Johnny and Janey, who had been watching Grandpa with such interest, grew tired of waiting for his return.
“Let’s build a Flying Machine,” Johnny said after a while. “Grandpa has finished and will not need the boards that are left and we can find plenty of nails.”
“Do you think we can build a Flying Machine?” asked Janey, delighted at the idea.
“Easily!” Johnny told her. “Of course we can’t make one that will really fly, but we can pretend that it goes ’way up in the air.”
“It will be loads of fun!” cried Janey, and she jumped up and down and smiled.
So Johnny got an old box and nailed four or five boards to the sides for wings.
“It should have a sail,” Janey said.
“Yes, it needs a sail and a mast and a rudder,” replied Johnny. “Run in and ask Grandma for an old sheet to make the sail of, will you, Janey? I’ll be putting on a mast and the rudder.”
When Janey came running back with an old sheet she said, “I just thought! We must have something to start and stop the Flying Machine with, so Grandma gave me two empty spools. We can use them.”
“Just the thing!” Johnny answered. “I’ll put them at the front of the box and label one ‘Start’ and the other ‘Stop.’”
“How can we guide the Flying Machine when we get to flying?” Janey asked. “When we make believe we’re flying, I mean.”
“I’ve put only one nail in the rudder,” Johnny replied, “so that by pulling on these strings we can guide it. See?” And Johnny showed his sister how the board with only one nail in it turned from side to side as he pulled the strings.
“Oh! That’s fine!” Janey exclaimed. “I’ll ask Grandma if we may have some lunch to take with us on our trip,” and she ran into the house.
When Janey came out with a tiny basket of lunch Johnny had marked “Polly Ann” on both sides of the box. He had fastened the sail made from the old sheet to a stick and ran a string through a screw-eye, so that the sail could be raised or lowered whenever they might wish.
“Let’s see!” Johnny mused. “Have we everything we need?”
“Well, here are the wings, the rudder, the ‘Start’ and ‘Stop’ spools and the sail,” Janey told him. “I think that is all, don’t you?”
“All right, then, Sis! Put the lunch on one of the sails. No!” and Johnny hammered a nail on one side of the box, “hang the basket of lunch there and climb in. It’s going to be a tight squeeze for both of us. But it won’t take this Flying Machine long to get to Mars or Venus or the Moon, and we can get out and rest on some of the Stars if we get tired.”
“Let’s go to the Moon first, and then to the Milky Way!” Janey cried.
“All right, if you are ready!” Johnny agreed, as he sat in the bottom of the box, in front of Janey. “Hold your hat, Sis, for here she goes!”
And Johnny turned one of the spools in the front of the box.
“Oh! isn’t the view grand from up here, Johnny!” Janey cried. “See, there is Grandma’s house ’way down below, and we are getting closer to the Moon all the time!”
“Those are strange birds flying by, Sis,” said Johnny, who could make believe any way he liked. “Can you make out what they are?”
“Yes,” Janey answered, as she looked at the chickens in the yard, “they are Eagles. See that beautiful big one with the red comb? That’s a Roc!”
“My, I wish this Flying Machine would really Fly!” Johnny said, a little later. “But it’s fun pretending anyways. Let’s get out at the next Star, Sis, and eat our lunch. I didn’t eat much breakfast and I’m hungry!”
“All right!” said Janey, who wasn’t tired of the play either. “Wait a minute!” as Johnny started to climb out of the box. “You forgot to stop the Flying Machine.”
“Well, I’ll bring it to a stop very slowly,” Johnny told her. “So that we won’t strike these mountain tops and tip over!”
And he turned the “Stop” spool a fraction of an inch.
Neither of the children was prepared for what followed.
The Polly Ann shot up over the fence, suddenly, scattering the startled chickens in all directions, and as Johnny and Janey crouched low in the box the familiar objects about the farm whizzed by them like bullets.
“We are really going!” Janey gasped, as they sped upward. “I feel as if I’d like to jump!”
At this Johnny caught his sister’s foot and held it tight.
“Don’t look over the side until you get used to flying!” he cautioned her, very wisely.
“Twist the other spool!” Janey told him. “I don’t like to be up so high. Everything seems so small.”
Johnny gave the other spool a twist and the Flying Machine swept ahead at twice its former speed.
“You’re twisting the wrong spool!” Janey screamed.
“You must have been twisting the wrong one all the time, somehow. See, you’ve been twisting the one marked ‘Start.’”
“Sure enough! That’s just what I did,” Johnny admitted. “Well, I’ll twist the other now.”
The Flying Machine came to such a sudden halt that the children were almost thrown from the box, and the basket of lunch was whirled off its nail so suddenly that it flew straight ahead of the Flying Machine for nearly a hundred feet before it curved to the earth.
The children watched it curve and circle as it fell. Then the paper came off and there was a regular shower of sandwiches, doughnuts and small cakes.
“Now, Mister! You be careful or we’ll never get back!” Janey cried as she clutched her brother tightly by the collar. “Send the Flying Machine down to the ground again, Johnny. Please do!”
But the Flying Machine, when it stopped, hung suspended in the air although when Johnny gently twisted the “Start” spool and it started off again, it went in the opposite direction from the earth.
“It won’t go down,” cried Johnny, as he brought the Flying Machine to a stop again. “What shall we do?”
“Well, if it won’t go down, there’s nothing we do but go on!” Janey answered. “It’s all your fault for building the Flying Machine!”
“Now, Sis, that isn’t fair!” cried Johnny. “You know you suggested putting on the spools, and if we’d left them off we shouldn’t have started. What we should have thought of was something to make the Flying Machine go up or down as we wanted. Now it only goes ahead or stops.”
“Try guiding it with the rudder,” Janey suggested.
So Johnny twisted the “Start” spool, and as the Flying Machine started forward he pulled one of the rudder strings. The Flying Machine slowly turned and flew in a large circle.
“We can’t do it!” Janey cried, the tears coming to her eyes. “We can’t make it go down as we want to! We’re only flying in a circle above Grandma’s farm. See! Grandma and Grandpa and a lot of other people are out looking at us!”
Sure enough, so far below that they looked like tiny specks of dust, the children could see their grandparents and many of the neighbors watching them as they sailed.
Johnny brought the Flying Machine to a stop directly over Grandma and Grandpa and the neighbors, and they could hear Grandpa calling to them quite distinctly. The children called back at the top of their voices, but they couldn’t make Grandma and Grandpa hear.
Johnny tried twisting first one spool and then the other, but this jerked the Flying Machine so much that his sister objected. She said she would rather go on than stay just where they were, doing nothing. So the children took off their hats and waved farewell to the people below, and Johnny, twisting the “Start” spool gently at first, increased the speed until the Flying Machine sped along like a meteor, leaving the farm far below and behind.
The different colors in the fields gave the Earth a sort of patchwork effect, but as the Flying Machine climbed higher and higher the yellows and greens and blues blended together until the Earth was more the color of an opal. In fact, the children now saw a continuous change of colors, ranging from a deep yellow to a bluish purple, with every now and then a speck of crimson as the sunlight glanced along a hill.
“Isn’t it beautiful!” Janey cried. “I don’t feel as if I wished to jump any more, do you?”
“No, I don’t feel like jumping,” her brother answered, and he stopped the Flying Machine so that he could see better. “Look, Sis, what causes that yellow blaze down there?”
They both looked over the side of the Flying Machine and saw the Earth bathed in a sheen of gold, with here and there glimpses of brilliant purple showing.
“Oh! I know what it is now!” Janey cried, presently. “A thunder storm has just passed between us and the Earth and the sun is shining on the Clouds. Look! See the lightning?”
A faint rumble came up to them like someone rolling potatoes down a wooden trough, and a vivid streak of blue zigzagged through the yellow of the clouds.
“The purple we see is the Earth in shadow beneath the clouds,” Johnny concluded, after a while.
The children watched the strange sight for a long time
before they decided to go on. Then they looked away for a moment, and when they looked back toward the Earth they could not find it at once. They had traveled so far that the Earth now seemed no larger than a bright Star, and but for the fact that it was almost beneath them they would never have recognized it at all.
Lots of other Stars could be plainly seen now. The Moon had grown to an enormous size; in fact, it almost filled the sky behind them. The children were greatly surprised to see it. They had been watching the Stars in front of them and they had not once turned their heads the other way.
“What is that?” Janey cried suddenly, as she grasped her brother’s arm and pulled one of the rudder strings so that the Flying Machine swung around to face the Moon.
Johnny was so startled at the wonderful sight that he gave the “Stop” spool a twist and brought the Flying Machine to a stop with a jerk.
“It must be the Moon!” said Johnny, in an awed voice, after he had looked at the enormous object in speechless amazement for fully five minutes.
“It is the Moon!” Janey agreed. “See, there is the Man in the Moon’s face as plain as day, and there are mountains and valleys, too. See?”
The Moon, seen from where the children viewed it, was of a pale bluish-greenish tint, except where the rays of the Sun slanted across the mountain peaks and into the deep valleys. It seemed to Johnny and Janey as though they were looking through beautiful blue-green glass down into a dark well; for wherever the Sun did not shine or was not reflected from the mountains into the valleys the Moon’s surface was black—so black that it made the rest of the Moon seem transparent. This seemed to the children very strange.
“Say, Sis,” Johnny exclaimed, “this can’t be the Moon after all! It must be some extra big Star.”
“I believe it is the Moon,” said his sister, “for, you can see the face of the Man in the Moon quite plainly. But it is a great deal larger than it usually is, and it doesn’t look quite as it does from the earth. But see! There are the Man’s eyes and nose and mouth.”
“Yes, I see it now,” Johnny admitted. “But it isn’t exactly the same view we have from the Earth.”
“You are right, Johnny!” said Janey, after a moment. “It isn’t the same view. We must have passed to the other side of the Moon!”
Johnny started the Flying Machine again and steered it toward the Moon. And as they whirled around the side of the Moon the part that resembled a man’s face twisted about until it disappeared.
“I can’t tell whether we are getting closer to the Moon or not!” cried Johnny anxiously.
Presently, however, they saw the face of the Man in the Moon coming around from the other side.
“We must have made a complete circuit of the Moon,” Janey decided. “See, Johnny, the rudder is pulled over to one side! That’s the reason!”
Johnny pulled the rudder string until the Flying Machine was aimed right at the Moon, and they approached it at great speed.
“Slow down, Johnny!” Janey cried, when they could make out all the mountain tops and valleys very distinctly. “It feels too much as if we were falling when we go so fast.”
So Johnny twisted the “Start” spool backwards until they were flying very slowly and seemed to be floating down toward the Moon’s surface as lightly as a feather.
The Flying Machine was still headed directly toward the Moon, and this gave the children the impression that they were falling. But Johnny, by pulling the rudder about occasionally, steered the Flying Machine so that they landed among large mushrooms and strange ferns, instead of on the mountain tops or in the deep valleys they had seen on the other side of the Moon.
For, although the children did not know this, they had passed around the side of the Moon that always faces the Earth and had landed in the Magical Land of Noom.