Ross then came forward with his big kite. It could not be entered in the races, because all the kites for racing had been of standard size.
"What are those little balls?" one of the boys asked, pointing to bundles covered with paper and attached to a leading string, which were fastened at fifty-foot intervals to the leading wire.
"You'll see," said Ross, and up went the big kite. It flew steadily and well and when a couple of hundred yards above the ground, he made it fast to one of the stakes. Then, while every one watched, he gave the leading string a sharp tug, and then a succession of pulls, breaking loose each of the little bundles attached to the leading wire. And, as the people looked, first one and then another American flag burst out of its covering, the lowermost and largest bundle being a big Stars and Stripes that floated out gallantly above the kite-ground.
"Now," said Ross, turning to the Kite-Master, as the boys had begun to call Tom, "out with your secret! What is it?"
Tom turned to the Forecaster.
"Is it all right for to-day?" he asked.
The weather expert looked keenly at the sky, glanced at the weather-vane and the whirling anemometer, and nodded his head.
"I think so," he said. "The weather's a little gusty, but this is the time to try. Nothing venture, nothing have!"
At the word, Tom ran off into the house. The boys watched him, wondering what new contrivance the Kite-Master was going to produce.
He reappeared in a moment, carrying with him a new kite, a little larger than the others, but of the same usual pattern. This was not particularly exciting. He laid the kite down on the ground and ran into the house again. In a moment, he was out again with another.
"Going to fly them tandem?" asked Ross.
Tom did not answer. He laid that one on the ground and returned into the house again.
"Do you suppose he's got three?" Anton asked. This was amazing riches, three kites. All the boys knew what a tremendous amount of careful and exacting work went into the making of even one of them.
Out darted Tom and laid a third and then a fourth kite on the ground. The four great kites, each of them with the forward part white and the rear section painted black, made a noble showing in the afternoon sun. Ralph, with his ever-ready camera, stepped forward.
"Wait a minute," said Tom, "I've got another one," and he darted into the house to get it. He returned a moment later with a fifth kite, similar in every detail to the other four and then, readily enough, posed beside the kites for his picture. Overhead flew the Stars and Stripes.
"I want that for the Review," said Fred.
"What are you going to do, Tom?" asked Ross.
Tom hesitated a moment and then announced:
"I'm going to try for a world's record!"
The audacity of this startled the boys for a moment, and then a shout went up, while word was passed around the crowd that Issaquena County was going to try for the kite record of the world.
The first kite, which no one but Tom and the Forecaster had yet seen in flight, took the air and was off. Tom gave it four hundred feet of line and then fastened his second kite, which he let run up until eight hundred feet more of the line was out. The wind was now stronger, registering twenty-two miles an hour. The three lower kites were run in tandem, about two hundred feet of line apart. When the last of the five kites was still on the ground, the topmost one was out of sight, and the kites were carrying only a fraction of the weight of wire that their lifting surface could bear.
"I'm afraid of it, sir," said Tom, his finger on the wire that was running from the reel, "it doesn't feel right."
"Probably your lower kite is in gusts," the Forecaster answered. "Let her go up, there may be calmer wind higher. Fasten on your three small ones, now, Tom; you might as well have all the sail area that you can."
The eighth kite was started on its journey upwards. Only those with the strongest eyes now could see the second group of three, the first pair was far out of sight.
With Anton carefully measuring the angle of altitude and giving Tom the figures in a low voice, Tom, watching the registering apparatus on the reel, suddenly announced:
"Two miles up!"
The reel rattled merrily as the line was paid out, the brake keeping it at exactly a uniform pressure under Tom's skillful guiding.
"Two miles and a half!"
The crowd began to press around the reel. Nothing was visible in the air, now, nothing but a thin piece of wire leading up into the sky. Had no one known that the kites were there, high above the clouds, it would have seemed like black magic. Some of the superstitious negroes began to mutter among themselves.
The boys yelled in delight.
"Up with her, Tom!" cried Fred.
"It's the amateur world's record!" announced the Forecaster.
The words were scarcely out of his lips when there came a sudden sharp crack. The kite-wire snapped close by the reel and as it curled on itself the coils appeared to run up into the sky.
"Gone! My kites are gone!" cried Tom, and a perfect howl of disappointment went up from all the boys.
"Gone!" cried the Forecaster, "of course they're gone, but we're going after them!"
Throwing himself on the back of an old mule which a darky had ridden to the kite ground, he started full tilt after the disappearing wire, the whole membership of the League streaming at his heels.
DEFEATING THE FROST
Out across fields and woods, the Forecaster leading on the old mule, the boys followed the direction of the kite. Bob's pocket compass held them true to their course and Tom's keen sense told of any shift of the wind. The boys ran fast, the mule ran faster, and Lassie and Rex ran faster still. Only Anton, the crippled lad, had stayed behind.
Midway up the first hill, Fatty dropped out. His intentions were good, but he was no match for the others in running. Monroe, the athlete of the group, was swinging along in light springy strides; Bob, the silent, ran heavily and mechanically; while Tom, eager for the recovery of his kites, kept to the front with the other two.
The Forecaster checked his mule and let the boys come up to him.
"It's no use trying to outrace the kites, boys," he said, "they're dropping in any case. But as they were three miles up, they were also three miles to leeward, and as they won't fall like a stone but float down gently, it'll be another mile or two at least before they strike ground. So you've a five mile run ahead of you and you'd better settle down into a jog trot, for you can never keep up this pace."
The faces of the boys fell at the thought of a five mile run, for while they were all strong and vigorous, cross-country running was not one of their regular sports.
Ross turned to the younger boys of the party, calling them by name.
"You'd better drop out," he said kindly; "you won't be able to keep it up and there's no use getting yourselves worn out and then having to walk back, half dead. Fred," he continued, turning to the editor-in-chief, "you'd better quit, too."
"Not much," answered Fred, "I've got to write this up for the Review."
The Forecaster smiled. He liked pluck.
"All right, my boy," he said, "come along, if you want to. Still, I think Ross is right."
Over fields and woods they ran, but it was an hour before Bob, lean, wiry and silent, pointed to the sky.
"Kite!" he said.
The weather expert pulled up the mule and drew out his field glasses.
"Yes," he said, "that's the string of kites, sure enough. But they're going up, boys, not coming down."
"Going up, sir?" exclaimed Tom. "They couldn't be! They must be coming down. All the kites were out of sight when the wire broke."
"They have come down, of course," the Forecaster replied, "but they're certainly going up now. And, what's more, they're going up fast."
"But they can't be!" the boy protested. "The wire isn't holding on to anything."
"How do you know?" the meteorologist rejoined. "Perhaps the wire has got foul of something. I remember, once, how Eddy of Bayonne had a string of nine kites get away from him. They crossed the water between New Jersey and Staten Island. The owner had to take a train and then a small boat after them. On Staten Island he took another train and then a street car, and another street car, all the time hanging out of the window, to keep track of the fugitives, which were sailing away merrily."
"Chasing a kite with a train and a street-car sounds funny," puffed Tom.
"On Staten Island," the Forecaster continued, "the wire caught in a telegraph post, and, of course, as soon as the wire held, the kites took the proper angle to the wind and shot up in the air again. Before Eddy could reach the place, the wire chafed through and broke again, but the kites had risen another mile or more. Falling diagonally, they crossed the lower end of New York Bay toward Long Island. Eddy had to take a ferry boat, next, to chase the runaways. He crossed to New York and took the elevated railroad to Brooklyn. An hour later, he caught sight of the kites again. One of the groups had reached the ground and dragged. That sent the other six up in the air again. They flew over the whole of Brooklyn and fell again, finally entangling themselves in a telephone wire. When the owner finally reached them, after a chase of thirty miles, in two States, three of the kites, still undamaged, were flying safely in the air, never having come to ground at all."
"I hope mine aren't smashed," Tom said eagerly. The story had given him hopes.
On the boys pounded. Fred was at the end of his strength. Ross, himself, was almost done out, but he felt that, as head of the League, he ought to go on. Seeing, however, that the editor-in-chief might really hurt himself unless he gave in, Ross decided to stop. He knew that Fred would give up if he did.
"I've had enough, Fred," he said at last. "Let the other three go ahead. We can't hope to beat Monroe."
The editor stopped, willingly enough. He looked a little longingly at the other three, as they ran on.
"I'd have liked to be there, so as to write it up," he announced wistfully.
"You can't be everywhere, Fred," Ross answered, and the two boys turned homewards.
Monroe, Bob, and Tom, with Monroe leading, swung on their way. Twenty minutes more passed. Tom's heart was beating like a trip-hammer and there was a drawn look about his face which showed that he was nearly done. Bob, who had not uttered a word since he first saw the kite, and who had not varied his pace by a fraction since he began, was jogging along as though he were a machine. Monroe still ran springily and with the jauntiness which betokened the practised runner.
Then, suddenly, the Forecaster pointed ahead.
"There's something caught in that tree!" he said.
In another minute the kite wire could be seen. It had hooked its coils into a bale of barbed wire, and in trying to lift this had entangled the bale in the branches.
As though he were starting for a hundred yard dash, Monroe sped ahead. Grimly, Bob tried to catch up to him, but it was like a bull-dog chasing a deer. Tom, his face in the tense grin of exhaustion, struggled bravely, but dropped behind step by step.
Monroe was within fifty feet of the tree when a sudden thought struck him. He slowed down, and as Bob caught up to him, said in a low voice:
"Tom's made a great run! Let him be the first to get there."
As the pace slowed down, Tom, his gait a little staggering, caught up with the other two and passed them. He reached the tree first and looked up.
"My kites!" he cried. "And I got the amateur record!" and he collapsed on the ground at the foot of the tree, worn out but supremely happy.
With the approach of winter, kite-flying became less popular as a sport, but two or three times a month Tom sent up one of his kites with the meteorograph, and the observations were faithfully forwarded to Osborne, whose original gift of the two kites had been the stimulus to the Mississippi League of the Weather.
The first few flakes of snow turned the attention of the boys to an entirely new line of weather observations. Many and many a time had the boys noticed the strange shapes of snow-flakes, but without paying much attention to them. On the first Saturday after the light snow-fall, however, three different boys brought in rough drawings of star-like and feather-like snow forms that they had noticed.
"I've been wondering," said Anton, thoughtfully, "what makes snow-flakes take those shapes? Hail comes down in lumps, and rain-drops must be round, because when you see the first heavy drops of a shower they make round blobs on the ground with pointed splashes at the side."
"A snow-flake," the meteorologist replied, "is a collection of icy crystals. If you could look at one under the microscope, Anton, you'd see that every little projection that goes to make up the shape of the flake, is a six-sided crystal. You've eaten barley-sugar from a string some time, haven't you?"
"Sure!" said several of the boys, and one added, "Mother often makes it."
"How does she make it?" queried the Forecaster.
"Melts up some sugar and water and, as when it begins to cool off, she hangs a string in the middle of the pot and the sugar settles on that."
"It settles in regular shapes, doesn't it?"
"Well, those are crystals. When water cools into ice, boys, it does the same thing. Haven't you sometimes seen, after a cold night, a lot of needles shooting out from the sides from a puddle?"
"Yes, sir, often."
"Those are all six-sided crystals. Frost on the window pane is made in the same way. All those designs that look like lace work or trees or ferns are six-sided crystals produced by water-vapor, in the air, cooling and crystallizing on the cold glass. Ice crystals grow from each other quite readily. This is called twinning."
"But why are they always so regular?"
The Forecaster shook his head.
"You're always expecting everything to be regular, Ross," he said. "They're not regular at all. There are thousands of different forms. The United States is fortunate in having one man who's the world's expert on snow crystals, and he examines and photographs thousands every year and adds, perhaps, two or three new examples each season."
"Who's that, sir?" asked Fred.
"Wilson A. Bentley, of Jericho, Vermont," the Forecaster answered. "He's made thousands of photographs of snow crystals through a microscope. What's more, he's done it for the love of the work. Why don't you send him a copy of the Review, Fred? I'm sure he'd like to see it. Perhaps he might send you some prints of his snow crystals. He'd appreciate a plate of Caesar's sunsets and Ralph's clouds, I'm sure."
"I'll send them to him right away," the editor answered.
"Why is it," queried Anton, "that when snow-flakes fall slowly and only a few of them at a time, they are big, but when there's a heavy snow-storm the flakes are small?"
"Because they are manufactured in different layers of the air," the Forecaster answered, "in the upper air, eight or ten miles up, where the faintest cirrus clouds are, they are not flakes at all, but tiny needle-like crystals, called spicules. In the depth of the Arctic winter, near the North Pole and especially on the Greenland ice-cap—one of the coldest regions of the world—the wind is full of these spicules, which one can't very well call snow.
"Snow-flakes that come from the cold regions of the air, three or four miles high, generally have a solid form. All, of course, show the six-sided form of the snow crystals. Being smaller and heavier in proportion to their surface they fall more quickly. In the layers of the atmosphere, one or two miles high, where the air is not as cold and where the content of water vapor is higher, the flakes have more opportunity to grow as they slowly sink through the air. Snow-flakes that have been formed only a short distance above the ground become large and feathery, the kind of which northern peoples say that 'the old woman of the sky is plucking her geese.'"
"I suppose, in the northern part of the country, sir," Ralph suggested, "snow has to be measured, as well as rain."
"Certainly," the Forecaster answered, "otherwise we wouldn't be able to tell the precipitation of a region at all. There is a regular instrument for it, called a shielded snow-gauge. This is like a rain-gauge, boys, only it stands ten or twenty feet above the ground, to avoid surface drifting. The snow caught is melted and expressed as so many inches of precipitation. Sometimes the depth of snow is measured by thrusting a measuring stick down to the ground.
"Of course, that's not nearly all that the Weather Bureau has to do with snow. In the northern states, especially of the Pacific Coast, snow surveys are of great importance. The Weather Bureau often sends men to determine the amount of snow that has fallen over a given area, in order to find out how much water may be expected. This is needed in flood forecasts and irrigation projects. Some of our men, boys, can tell you thrilling tales of their expeditions on snow-shoes up snow-covered slopes where there is never a trail.
"Railroads whose tracks run through the regions of heaviest snowfall build snowsheds to keep their lines from being buried in avalanches, and these sheds are built to withstand pressures calculated by the Weather Bureau. Where drifting occurs and the railroad tracks are being covered with the drifting snow, it is the combined snow and wind records of the Weather Bureau which form the basis for the work of the rotary-snow-plow.
"Even so, boys, the value of the work of the Weather Bureau in snow surveys is very small compared with the importance of frost warnings. These save the country tens of millions of dollars every year, especially in the fruit sections."
"You mean by smoking them?" queried Ross. "Father heard about that a couple of years ago and bought a lot of fire-pots for his orchard."
"How did he succeed?" asked the Forecaster.
"He didn't succeed at all," the boy answered. "There were only two bad frosts that spring, and both times the evening before had been so warm that no one suspected that there would be frost before morning. The one night that he did start the fires, it turned warm towards midnight and we wouldn't have needed the fires any way. Old Jed Tighe, who's got the biggest fruit farm here, has made fun of Father's fire-pots ever since."
"Now, if your father had received the Weather Bureau's frost warnings in advance," the Forecaster said, "he wouldn't have wasted fuel on the night that there wasn't a frost and he wouldn't have let his crop freeze on the nights that the temperature really did drop below the danger point. For example, boys, if the League of the Weather had been in existence at that time and could have given good frost warnings, all that crop would have been saved, wouldn't it?"
"Yes, sir," said the boys, "it would."
"Of course," the Forecaster continued, "a really progressive fruit-grower ought to make himself partly independent of the Weather Bureau. He can put up frost-alarm thermometers."
"What are they, sir?" asked Anton.
"They're thermometers with an electrical attachment, something on the principle of the thermostat, which you see nowadays in big buildings. A thermostat is electrically connected with a tiny lever, and when the air of a room gets to a certain heat, the increasing temperature operates a lever and closes the steam pipe which brings the heat. When the temperature falls below a certain point, the lever is released and the steam rises again. The same principle is used as a fire alarm. When the air inside a building rises to a point hotter than it could naturally do, it operates a lever which rings an alarm bell. The frost thermometer acts exactly on the same principle. When the temperature of the air, near a fruit orchard, falls to within three or four degrees of the point at which the fruit will be harmed, the fall of the mercury breaks an electric circuit which starts an alarm bell ringing in the owner's house, perhaps a half mile away."
"I've been wondering," began Anton in his meditative way, "whether it wouldn't cost more to heat all the out-of-doors than it would be to lose some of the fruit."
"You haven't got the idea of it at all," the weather expert said briskly. "It's got nothing to do with heating the whole of out-of-doors."
"Then what are the fires for?"
"Just to heat a very small section of the air on the ground. Don't forget, boys, that a fruit tree ten feet high may have all the fruit on its lower branches, up to five or six feet, absolutely killed off, while the top branches are unharmed."
"How's that?" queried Ross in surprise. "I thought frost came down from on top, and that the higher up you went the colder it would be."
"Not at all," the weather expert answered. "Frost comes from down below. When the air is still and clear, the earth loses heat by radiation. The heat goes up and up and through the air to higher levels, the cold earth cooling the air below. Therefore, on a frosty night, in a region where frosts are rare, or at a time of year when frosts are few, a still clear night will cause a belt of cold air perhaps only a few inches in depth, perhaps ten or twenty feet in height, this belt being several degrees colder than the air overhead.
"Now, Ross, you can see that to light huge fires, with the intention of warming up all the air, would be foolish and unnecessary. All that is needful is to heat this lower cold belt of air, a few feet in depth, and only to heat it the three or four degrees necessary to bring it to the warmth of the air above."
"But suppose a wind comes up and blows the heat away?" asked Anton.
The Forecaster smiled at the question.
"If a wind comes up," he answered, "you wouldn't need to use any heat at all, because the wind would mix the warmer air overhead with the cooler air below and there couldn't be any killing frost."
"But doesn't it cost an awful lot?"
"It costs less than to lose your crop," the weather expert replied. "Usually you can figure that a frosty night will take a gallon of oil per tree, or from twenty to twenty-five cents. In a fruit growing section a grower is unlikely to have more than four or five still, freezing nights a year when his crop may be ruined by frost, so that he will spend a dollar or so per tree in protecting his orchard. As there are few fruit trees which bring in a profit of less than ten dollars during the season, and some a great deal more—according to the nature of the crop—the proportionate expense of heating is small compared with the amount of fruit saved."
"Then you think that heating an orchard will save the fruit?"
"Absolutely without any question," the weather expert answered. "And, if the fruit-grower will keep in close touch with the Weather Bureau, he will know when precautions are necessary. Of course, boys, it's especially important for this work that there are a number of co-operative observers, because frost is not a widespread general phenomenon. You could have a fearful killing frost down in the hollow where Anton's house is, or in the low ground near your house, Ross, and still Tom's place, on that little hill, would be quite safe. One of the things that the League of the Weather ought to be able to do this winter and spring is to see that frost is fought. Even when your fathers haven't got regular oil-pots, boys, a few smudges with heavy smoke, drifting over the orchards or the truck fields, if started early enough in the evening may check a freeze."
"Why, sir?" asked Ross. "Smoke isn't hot."
"No, my boy. But you remember that I told you that the cold was caused by the radiation of heat from the earth escaping into the air and through it. If there's a steady layer of smoke, like a blanket, floating across the land, the heat radiating from the earth will not have a chance to escape to the upper air. It will stay in the lower layer of the air and thus keep it from dropping to the killing temperatures of a true freeze. That's what the Indians of the pueblos used to do."
In the mild winters and early springs of Issaquena County, there seemed little reason for the boys of the League to trouble themselves with frost warnings, but, at the Forecaster's urgency, the boys kept wide awake for it. It happened, though, that the lads had talked so much about their frost protection plans that several of the farmers decided to get some oil-burning fire-pots for use that spring, in the event of a freeze. Jed Tighe, however, one of the few people of the neighborhood who had shown but a perfunctory interest in the League, laughed to scorn the idea of buying the fire-pots, as Fred had suggested in a recent issue of the Review. Even Jed Tighe read the little sheet every week, in spite of his alleged scornfulness.
One afternoon, when Ross was over at the club-house, where he spent so much of his spare time, Anton pointed out that the conditions were ripe for a killing frost.
"The hottest to-day was sixty-two degrees," he said, "and you remember Mr. Levin told us that one wasn't ever safe unless the maximum was sixty-four. There's not a cloud in the sky anywhere and there's practically no wind, and what there is, Tom told me over Bob's wireless, is from the northwest, and that's the worst quarter. I was just going to take the dew-point when you came in."
"Let's do it now, Anton," said Ross. "Got the cup?"
For answer the crippled lad took down from the shelf a small tin mug. It was already bright and shining, but he polished it until it looked like silver.
"I've got the jug of ice-water ready," he said.
Pouring some tap water into the cup, and filling it about one third full, he began to stir it round and round with a thermometer. The mercury in the tube quickly dropped, until it read 50 deg., showing the temperature of the water.
"Now, Ross," said Anton, "pour in the ice-water slowly."
Ross picked up the pitcher and began to let the water trickle in a tiny stream into the bright tin cup. Anton went on stirring.
Steadily the mercury descended in the tube as the water in the cup grew colder and colder. Ross poured in more and more slowly. Then suddenly, quite suddenly, while both boys were watching, the brightness of the tin cup clouded over, as though with a sudden fog. Anton drew out the thermometer and looked at it.
"The dew-point's only thirty-four," he cried, "and as we've got to figure frost at three or four degrees lower, it'll be so cold that there won't be any fog to stop a freeze. Ross, it's just the night for a killing frost. What do you think we'd better do?"
The older lad hesitated.
"If you don't mind, Anton," he said, "I'll stay to supper, and we'll see what your night observations say."
By evening the threats of a frost were even more definite and the two boys consulted what had best be done.
"I can easily get Father to start his fire-pots," said Ross, "we got them all fixed up this winter. Bob's dad has got some fruit, and we can warn him by wireless, and we could get a lot of the fellows together. I don't want to make a mistake, though. If we suggest that the fire-pots ought to be started and then it doesn't freeze, we'll hurt the League a lot more than we'll help it."
"I wish we could talk it over with Mr. Levin," said Anton, "but he's down with one of his sick spells and we oughtn't to disturb him. Whatever we do, we've got to do it on our own."
"Let's get Bob here," suggested Ross, "he's got a steady head."
"And Fred," Anton added, "he's read all the Weather Bureau stuff on Frosts, I know. He's been writing his articles for the Review from them."
"All right," said Ross, "I'll slip over and call for Fred and you get Bob on the wireless and ask him to come over here."
An hour later, the four boys were poring over the weather maps, comparing notes and observations and trying to decide whether they ought to do anything. Fred, always ready to take up something new, was for plunging ahead, on the chance that there might be frost, but doubted whether a frost was likely. Ross, as head of the League, was a little timid and afraid to make a serious mistake. Anton was firmly convinced that a killing frost would come before morning. Bob settled it.
"Better for the League to be laughed at than chance having the crops ruined," he said.
This turned the scale, and from a discussion of the advisability of frost warning, the question turned to the best way of letting people know. It was decided that Bob should return to his wireless, get as many of his connected operators in touch as possible and get them to warn their districts. Fred, who had persuaded his father to install a 'phone, was to get in touch with the few farmers in the district who had telephones and ask them to spread the warning. Anton was to borrow his father's buggy and drive to points not reached in any other way, and Ross was to go on his pony. By this means, the county would be fairly well covered. The boys were just separating, when Bob stopped.
"Jed Tighe!" he said.
"Oh, let the old skinflint go," said Fred, "there isn't any way of reaching him, any way."
"That doesn't seem quite fair," said Ross, dubiously, "he's got more fruit than anybody else."
"It isn't fair," said Bob.
"I've been wondering," said Anton, "if we oughtn't to notify Jed Tighe somehow."
"We've got to," said Bob.
"And only get rowed at for our pains," declared Fred.
This was so likely that all the boys felt the truth of the remark and there was a moment's silence.
"Play square," said Bob.
"Jed Tighe has never done anything to help the League," said Fred. "I don't see why we should do anything to help him."
"Well," said Ross, "we can't take that stand. Any chap that needs help ought to be warned. If you saw his house on fire, Fred, you wouldn't hesitate to tell Jed Tighe, would you?"
"No," answered the editor doubtfully, "I wouldn't, but this seems different, some way. We might be making fools of ourselves and he'd have the laugh on us for ever."
"Better be laughed at for trying to help than blamed for not trying," repeated Bob.
This was unanswerable and to Ross was deputed the dubious pleasure of notifying the hard old farmer. As the boys separated, Anton looked at his watch.
"It's going to be all hours before you get home to your own place, Ross," said Anton, "it would be a shame if your fruit ran a risk by your being late. Your dad hasn't got a 'phone."
"That's easily fixed," said Ross.
He went to the door and whistled. Rex came bounding up. Ross went to the table and scribbled on a piece of paper:
"Frost to-night! Light the pots!"
This he fastened securely to the Airedale's collar.
"Home! Rex!" he said.
The terrier looked up in his master's face to make sure that it was an order, and not a game, and evidently being satisfied, started down the road at a long sweeping trot. About a hundred yards away he stopped and turned round to look. Ross was expecting this, so raised his arm and pointed. Quite satisfied, Rex swung round to the road again and galloped out of sight.
The boys separated at once, Bob to his wireless outfit, Fred to his 'phone. Anton, however, did not get in the buggy, as arranged. Instead, his father, knowing that the lad was frail, packed him off to bed and drove in the buggy himself, warning all his neighbors. Ross, on his little pony, riding like another Paul Revere, covered many miles. It was well on towards midnight when he reached Jed Tighe's house. The dogs broke out into a furious barking, and, wakened by their tumult, the old farmer with his thin scraggly beard, came to the door.
"What do you want, coming to my house at this hour of the night?" he began, not recognizing his visitor.
"It's me, Ross Planford," the boy answered. "I came to tell you that it's going to freeze tonight."
"That's a nice reason for getting a man out of his bed! Besides, it ain't so. There's never been a frost in this county later'n April 3." He snapped his fingers at the boy. "That's how much you know about it."
Ross found it hard to keep down his temper at this discourtesy.
"It's going to freeze, just the same," he retorted.
"Well, let it freeze, and you, too."
The old farmer began to close the door.
"But your fruit'll all be frosted!"
"Save it yourself, then," snapped Jed Tighe and slammed the door.
Ross dug his heels into his pony and started for home. The ride had taken him six miles out of his way and he was anxious to get home to make sure Rex had delivered his message. Still, as he rode, his pony's hoofs seemed to beat out the message:
"Save it yourself, then!"
Why should he?
Why shouldn't he?
The gallop came down to a trot and then to a walk, as Ross brooded over what he should do. As it chanced, his path lay near one of the younger members of the League, who had bought a small wireless outfit, similar to that of Anton's. Ross reined in.
As at Jed Tighe's, the hounds announced his arrival and the farmer poked his head out of the window. He recognized the boy at once.
"What's up, Ross?" he asked. "Anything wrong?"
"There's a killing freeze coming tonight, Mr. Lovell," the boy answered. "We're warning every one with fruit trees to start a smudge going. And, Mr. Lovell, can I use the wireless for a minute?"
"Of course. Much obliged for the tip, my boy, I'll get right up and attend to things. Of course, I don't know as it'll do any good, if it's a goin' to freeze; to my way o' thinkin' it's goin' to freeze and nothin'll stop it. But no one can say that Tim Lovell was too lazy to try an' save his crops."
Ross tied his pony and hurried up to his friend's room. In a minute the wireless was buzzing and presently, back came the answering buzz. Georgie sat up in bed and listened.
"I'll go with you to Jed Tighe's," he said, "that is, if Father'll let me."
"Try it," said Ross, "if he will, you can jump on the pony behind me."
Permission was readily granted, for the farmer was grateful for his own warning, and in less than ten minutes' time the two boys were galloping back along the frosty road to the old skinflint's place.
"Aren't you going to tell him about the frost?" asked George, as Ross turned his pony off on the windward side of the orchard.
"I have told him," answered Ross, and he related the story of the meeting, gathering together dry twigs and branches as he talked.
George waxed indignant.
"I'd let him go to grass!" he said.
"That's what I thought at first," Ross replied, "but if you saw a chap drowning, you'd jump in and save him without waiting to find out whether he was delirious and didn't want to be saved."
"Of course," George answered, "any fellow would jump in."
"That's what we're doing, we're jumping in."
Minutes were precious and the two boys worked with all their might, gathering piles of twigs and dry sticks. There was a heap of straw and stable manure a field or two away, and Ross rolled several wheelbarrow loads of it across the fields. After two hours' work, the boys had a row of little piles of fuel, covering one quarter of the length of the orchard.
"You light the first one, Georgie," said Ross, wanting to give the younger lad the honor, for he had worked pluckily and hard.
The lad went down and touched a match to the first pile. It blazed up merrily, and just as the smoke began to rise, the wheels of a buggy were heard along the road. A moment later Bob jumped out.
"Hello!" was all he said.
He cast one glance at the piles and commenced to work with a will. Presently a shout was heard and Ralph, the photographer, appeared on his wheel.
"There's a bunch more coming," he said, and he, too, set to work.
"Frost!" said Bob suddenly, as he pointed to a small glistening crystal of hoar frost on a blade of grass.
The boys cheered. Their prophecies were justified, and they plugged at the work harder than ever. Bob, who feared neither Jed Tighe's tongue, nor anything else, opened the farmer's stable, harnessed and hitched up a team, and commenced to draw the manure and straw to the edge of the orchard. It was now three o'clock and the frost was beginning to form rapidly.
"We can't save the rest of it," said Ross, as he looked longingly at the far quarter of the orchard; "we've got all we can do to keep going what we've got."
Four o'clock and five o'clock passed. The sun rose. Promptly at five-thirty, his regular hour, old Jed Tighe got up and walked to the window to see what kind of a day it was. He rubbed his eyes and looked again, astonished.
There, on his land, using his team of horses, was a group of eight boys, their forms only occasionally seen through the blanket of smoke which drifted sluggishly over and through the trees of his orchard. The ground was white with hoar frost and the lower branches of the trees in the yard had frost crystals on them. The farmer dressed hurriedly and went out.
A dead silence fell along the boys as the tall spare form of the farmer was seen approaching. Georgie and some of the younger ones shrank back. Ross stood his ground. Bob lounged forward.
Jed Tighe said never a word. He cast a shrewd glance at the fruit trees in the orchard which had been nearest to the fires and the smudges, and then, still silently, walked down the entire line of the fires until the end of it, and beyond. On the unprotected stretch, the frost lay thick. He stood thoughtfully a moment and then walked back up the line, more slowly, until he came to where Ross stood, watching him.
"So you did save it, eh?"
"Yes, Mr. Tighe," the boy said, "I did."
"And I suppose you think I told you to?"
"Yes, you did."
"I'm not any fonder of being made to look like a fool than most men are," the farmer said, "but I'm fair." He turned on his heel and started to walk away. Over his shoulder he snapped:
"Twenty-five per cent of the value of the difference between the fruit on the protected and the unprotected parts of my ground goes to the League. And I'll let my boy, Bill, join you."
CLEARING AN INNOCENT MAN
The saving of Jed Tighe's crop did more to establish the reputation of the Mississippi League of the Weather than anything which the boys had done since the League was organized. Although Jed Tighe was stern by nature, he was thoroughly fair. He had no hesitation in placing the credit where it belonged, and the boys soon found that they had no stronger ally than the hard-spoken old farmer.
Even his friendship, however, did not prepare the boys for the farmer's sudden arrival at their club-house, on a Saturday afternoon, two weeks later. He drove up in a ramshackle old buggy, driving two of the finest horses in the county. Skinflint though he was, he loved horses. He came into the club-house and eyed the boys standing around the table.
"I'm going to ship some potatoes to Chicago," he said abruptly, without any preface. "I want to know whether they'll be safe from freezing on the way."
There was a moment's dead silence. The boys had not bargained for such a point-blank demand for help, and it took them off their feet. One looked at the other and several shuffled uncomfortably. The Forecaster watched the lads keenly, interested to see how they would face the issue. Ross spoke first.
"Well, Mr. Tighe," he said hesitatingly, "we haven't done any figuring on the weather outside this neighborhood, as yet."
This cautious attitude did not appeal to Fred, who always wanted to plunge in head first.
"Sure we can, Ross!" he declared.
The president of the League looked inquiringly at his mainstay, the silent Bob, and, in answer to his unspoken question, the other nodded.
"We could try it, of course, if you wanted us to," agreed Ross.
"Ain't I asking you to?" said their visitor, sharply.
"But suppose we don't get it just right?" Ross queried.
"That's the chance I'm taking," the farmer replied. "But there's no doubt that you know a lot more about it than I do, and your guess is likely to be nearer than mine. Those potatoes have just got to go to Chicago some time next week, anyway."
"It's a new stunt for the League," said Ross again, hesitating, but the editor-in-chief broke in impatiently.
"We might as well tell what we know," he said. "We do know that there's a cold wave on the way."
"There is? How cold?" the farmer asked, with a sudden quickening of interest.
"Cold enough to freeze potatoes, at any rate," assured Fred. "I was looking at the Weather Map only about an hour ago. Oh, it's going to be cold, all right."
"How do you know?" Jed Tighe demanded. "If I'm goin' to act on what you boys say, I'd like to know how you find out."
"I've been wondering," put in Anton thoughtfully, "if it wouldn't be a good idea to have Mr. Tighe go over the map with us. He might be interested in figuring it out, and then if we didn't hit it just right, he'd know we'd done our best, anyway."
"Well," rejoined the farmer grimly, "if I've got to hand you over some of my crop this fall, I might as well find out what sort of project I'm supporting. I really would like to see how you find out. You boys certainly made good on that frost business the other night."
From a hook over the compositor's "case," Fred reached down a sheaf of the Daily Weather Reports, and laid those for the last three days on the table in front of Anton. The Forecaster stood by to help the crippled lad and to correct him if he made any mistakes in his explanations.
"All our weather in the United States," the boy began, explanatorily, "comes from the west."
"Why?" snapped back Jed Tighe.
The Forecaster smiled. He realized that the question went to the very root of weather knowledge. The query was a poser to Anton. He stammered.
"I know it does," he said, "but just why, I—I—"
"You'll have to begin at the beginning, Anton," put in the Forecaster quietly. "If Mr. Tighe really wants to know, you can't take anything for granted. Explain to him the circulation of the atmosphere, just the way I taught it to you during the winter."
The crippled lad's face brightened. He knew, now, how to proceed.
"All changes of weather, Mr. Tighe," he said, "happen because of the winds, and all the changes of winds are due to the differences in heat at various parts of the globe, especially at the equator, where it is always hot, and at the poles, where it is cold nearly all the year round."
"You mean to say that the weather at the North Pole and at the equator has anything to do with our weather here?"
"Everything," Anton answered, nodding his head. "The heat of the sun is what causes weather changes, because winds are due to the heating of the air, and the sun is the only thing that heats the air. At the equator, where the sun shines nearly overhead all the year round, the air gets to be very hot. Hot air expands, and as it gets bigger, it displaces the cold air above it. Gravity pulls down the colder air on both sides of this belt of rising hot air, and the down-flowing cold air on both sides blows in toward the equator under the warm air, where the heat of the sun warms it again, and, in turn, it rises. This is going on all the time and is one of the chief things that starts the winds blowing."
"But winds don't always blow the same way," said the farmer; "you talk as if they did."
"Some of them do," Anton replied. "There are lots of places where the winds hardly change, at all, but always blow in the same direction. You read of sailing ships taking the 'trade winds' when coming from Europe to America. Those are all easterly winds and blow towards the American coasts all the year round."
"I don't see how they can," the other objected.
"They do, Mr. Tighe," the Forecaster interrupted, endorsing Anton's statements; "the trade winds are the downflowing currents of cold air that Anton spoke of, which come down at either side of the equatorial belt to replace the warm air which is rising. The trade winds, however, form only a narrow belt and blow only near the surface of the earth. Above them, you can see the lighter clouds blowing eastward with a westerly wind, so that, quite often, in the trade winds, you can look overhead and see two layers of clouds driving in opposite directions."
"You mean to say that there are different layers of wind?" queried the farmer.
"Sure," put in Ralph, the cloud expert, "I've got photographs that show that up clearly. You've seen clouds going at different rates, haven't you, Mr. Tighe, some fast and some slowly?"
The other nodded and turned to the Forecaster, who continued.
"There are always several layers of wind, and, except above the equatorial belt," he said, "the direction of the upper air winds is generally towards the east."
"How can you tell that?"
"By the clouds, or by kites and balloons. But we don't even need to do this, because there are a few places that rise above the lower layers of the trade winds. Thus, the Peak of Teneriffe, which is in the trade-wind belt, has a continuous easterly wind on its lower slopes and a continuous westerly wind right at the summit.
"This gives three belts of weather in the tropical and sub-tropical zones. The first of these is a light up-flowing east wind on or near the equator—it shifts a little to the north or south with the change of the seasons; a belt of heavy rains and calm, the rains being due to the warm, moist, uprising air cooling by expansion so that the moisture is condensed—this region is known to sailors as the 'doldrums' and many a sailing-vessel has been held for weeks there, without enough wind to carry her the few miles necessary to get into the next belt of winds; outside this, come the downflowing easterly currents, known as the trade winds, which form a belt between the tropics and the temperate zones. Beyond this—to the north and south of the tropical zones—come the prevailing belts of strong west winds, which stretch almost to the Poles.
"The United States is in this west-wind zone and the strength and regularity of the eastward movement of the weather is because both the winds of the surface and of the upper air blow in the same direction. Naturally, the same conditions are repeated on the other side of the equator. In the southern hemisphere the land masses are not so large and the regularity of the winds is less disturbed. There, the west winds are so strong that certain latitudes are known as the 'roaring forties.' These 'forties' correspond in latitude to the northern third of the United States. Chicago and New York are both in the 'roaring forties' of the northern hemisphere."
"The way you tell it, it sounds all right," the farmer objected, "but from my experience, winds blow from all over the place."
"Locally, perhaps, they seem to," the weather expert responded, "but if you watched them closely, you'd find that about seventy per cent of the winds come from a westerly direction."
"They do here, for a fact," put in Tom, who, as official wind-measurer of the League, had been following the explanation with the keenest attention. "I've noticed that in my kite-flying. The winds are from the southwest or from the northwest nearly all the time."
"You mean both in summer and winter?"
"Yes," answered Tom, "they're more from the northwest in winter, I think, but they're generally westerly."
"If the winds are due to the position of the equator and the poles," the old farmer said shrewdly, "I don't see why summer and winter ought to make any difference."
"That," said the Forecaster, "is due to an entirely different set of conditions. It's due to the difference in radiation. There's much greater change in temperature over the land than over the sea. Take an island like Bermuda, for example. From the hottest day in summer to the coldest day in winter there isn't a change of more than forty degrees, because Bermuda is surrounded by water and is near warm ocean currents. In Arizona, on the other hand, there's a change of as much as fifty degrees of temperature in a single day. That is because land absorbs heat quickly and lets it go equally quickly. The interior of a continent in summer time heats and expands the air in the same way that the air is heated over the equator, and, in the same manner, sets in motion another system of winds, for cold air comes rushing down from all sides and forces up the rising warm air.
"Take Asia, for example, where the continental mass is large and the plateaus high. The interior becomes so hot that the air is sent up like the draught in a big chimney, and cool winds from the sea blow toward the interior from all sides in the summer time, and away from it, to all sides, in the winter time. That's what causes the famous Indian monsoons, which blow steadily to the north-east for the six months of summer and just as steadily to the south-west for the six months of winter. The native boats, there, are built on purpose for the monsoon, so that they can only sail with a fair wind and they make one round trip a year, going south with the monsoon in winter and returning with the summer monsoon."
The old farmer scratched his head.
"There's more to this than I thought," he said; "I always supposed that winds just happened."
"No, indeed," the Forecaster answered, "every place in the world has its own system of winds, though in some parts there are so many variations that it isn't always easy to distinguish between the regular and the irregular currents. In the United States the surface winds are very irregular, for we live in one of the stormiest regions of the entire world. Still, that doesn't alter the general rule that all our weather comes from the west."
"And yet," said the farmer, in a puzzled manner, "I don't see why it comes from the west."
"I think I can explain it to you," the weather expert replied. "You know that when water is running down a hole at the bottom of a basin, if it is in motion it doesn't go down straight but with a circular movement, finally making a whirlpool?"
"Of course," the farmer said.
"So does air," the Forecaster rejoined. "There is something the same sort of a whirl at the poles. The prevailing westerly winds of the United States are due to this circumpolar whirl, though modified and altered by the changes of the seasons, the differences of heat between day and night, the radiation from the land, the irregularity of the coastline, the currents of the ocean and a thousand other factors. Each of these the Weather Man has to study when he makes a forecast, but, in the United States, his work is aided by the fact that weather always travels eastward and that the storm follows regular tracks, sharply outlined, like Indian trails across the country."
"Roads in the air?" queried Fred.
"Yes, my boy," the Forecaster answered, "regular roads in the air. There used to be an old saying: 'American weather is made at Medicine Hat.' In a sense this was true, for about sixty per cent of the storm areas—'lows' or region of low barometric pressure—come from the Canadian Northwest. The St. Lawrence Valley is the outlet for our storms. You know the saying about the St. Lawrence, don't you?"
"No, tell us, Mr. Levin," begged Fred, always eager for some weather saying which he could put into the Review.
"Up there," the Forecaster rejoined, "they say that when a stranger complains about the weather, a native will reply, 'Don't mind this, we'll have another sample along in about five minutes.' And, sure enough, they do. The St. Lawrence Valley is a magnet for weather changes and has, perhaps, more storms than any other valley in the world."
"You spoke of the 'roads in the air,' sir," put in Ross, "how many are there?"
"Five regular trails," the Forecaster answered. "The northernmost one begins at the Canadian Northwest, runs along the International Boundary, crosses the Lake region and disappears up the St. Lawrence Valley. The second starts at the same point in the Canadian Northwest, travels southeast to the lower Mississippi Valley—a little north of where we are now, boys—curves up to the Ohio Valley and also escapes by the St. Lawrence route.
"A third storm track strikes into the Pacific Coast a little north of San Francisco and runs east and a little south until it joins the Ohio Valley and St. Lawrence track. A fourth develops in the southwestern states and runs along Texas and the gulf states to the Florida coast, where it curves northward along the Atlantic coast, though a few storms take a sharp turn in the Mississippi Valley and go Ohiowards. The fifth storm track is that of the West Indian hurricanes, which whirl around the West Indies and enter the United States south of Cape Hatteras or from the Gulf of Mexico and pass north or northeastward. A few of these hurricanes—like the famous Galveston type—sweep westwards a long way before the northward movement sets in. This type also goes to the St. Lawrence Valley.
"These five tracks are clearly marked, but as such areas are a thousand miles across, it follows that the country for five hundred miles on either side of the lines has its weather governed by them. Knowing these tracks is of great importance in forecasting weather, because, while you cannot always tell exactly what a storm is going to do, you definitely know some of the things that it will never do."
"What sort of things, sir?" asked Fred.
"Well, my boy," the Forecaster answered, "if there's an area of low pressure in Dakota, we know that it won't strike California; if there's one in New York, we know that Maryland is safe. A storm will never go down the Mississippi, nor up the St. Lawrence, but will always travel up the Mississippi and down the St. Lawrence."
"There does seem to be something regular about it," the farmer remarked, his interest growing, as the Forecaster took his pencil and sketched out, across the map of the United States, the five great storm tracks. "That's all right for storms, maybe. But how about a cold wave? Fred, here, said that a cold wave was coming. Can you figure that out in the same way?"
"Certainly," the weather expert answered. "As a matter of fact, it is comparatively easy. A cold wave is simply a fall of temperature caused by the cold air from the upper atmosphere sweeping downwards after a cyclone of low pressure has passed."
"A cyclone?" ejaculated Ross, in surprise. "Is there always a cyclone before a cold wave?"
"Always," the Forecaster answered, "but, unless I'm mistaken, Ross, you're using the word 'cyclone' in the wrong sense. Most people do. I suppose you think a cyclone is some kind of a whirlwind, a particularly violent storm, eh?"
"Yes, sir," said Ross, "that's what I thought."
"Well, Anton can tell you better than that," the weather expert rejoined. "Tell him what a cyclone is, Anton."
"So far as I can make out," the crippled lad answered, "a cyclone is a whirl in the air, generally from five hundred to a thousand miles across, in the middle of which the barometer is very low, and on the edge of which the barometer rises. It always has winds that blow spirally inwards, those in the United States whirling in a direction opposite to the movement of the hands of a clock.
"So you see, Ross, to the east of a 'low' or ahead of it, the winds are southeasterly, to the north they are northeasterly, to the west, or behind it, they are northwesterly, and to the south, they are southeasterly, all curving into the centre and shifting as the 'low' advances. As these 'lows' travel along the storm track at an average rate of four hundred miles a day, as mountains interfere, and as the shape of a 'low' in America isn't quite round, but looks like a sort of crooked oval, it takes close figuring to find out what the wind is going to do."
"And where does the cold wave come in?" persisted the farmer.
"That comes after the cyclone," explained Anton. "A 'low' means that the pressure of the atmosphere is less than usual, and, consequently, doesn't press the mercury up so far in the barometer. The air weighs less, that shows that it must be expanding. The winds in front blowing into a 'low' are generally warm winds. When a 'low' is traveling fast, with a 'high' or 'anti-cyclone' behind, the colder winds come rushing forward to take the place of the rising warm air and they bring colder weather with them. The freeze comes during the early clearing weather of a 'high,' before the anti-cyclonic winds—which blow in the opposite direction, the way of the hands of a clock—have had a chance to steady down."
"Then," said the farmer shrewdly, "if you get reports of wind and of barometer from points to the west and northwest, you can tell when a cold wave in on the way. Is that it?"
"Exactly," the Forecaster replied. "We cannot always tell, of course, when the weather is going to be a little colder or a little warmer, but a cold wave, serious enough to damage crops and property, can always be foretold. Remember your storm tracks again. In this county, in the State of Mississippi, we are very unlikely to get a freeze, unless there is a rapidly moving 'low' passing up towards the Ohio and St. Lawrence Valleys followed by an equally energetic 'high' plunging down from the Canadian Northwest."
"And can you always tell what the weather is like, all over the country?"
"Yes, indeed," the Forecaster answered. "There are two hundred official stations scattered all over the United States and the West Indies, each one carefully selected because its site is a key station to weather changes. Twice a day, exactly at eight o'clock in the morning and eight o'clock in the evening, the observations are taken at each station."
"And have they all got rain gauges like mine?" asked Anton.
"Yes, all of them."
"And wind-measurers, like my anemometer?" queried Tom.
"Yes," the Forecaster agreed with a smile, "and some of them have devices that make a continuous record of wind velocity."
"And barometers like mine?" put in one of the younger boys, not to be outdone.
"Various forms of barometers, and barographs, and thermographs, and sunshine recorders and all sorts of things. Some of them even have seismographs, which tell of every tiny little earthquake, that may be going on all over the world. You know, boys, there's hardly an hour of the day that there isn't a small earthquake, somewhere, and there are really quite sizeable earthquakes at least once a month. A well-equipped weather office is quite a complicated affair, and it takes well-trained men to conduct the observations and interpret them properly."
"All those observations are sent to Washington, aren't they, sir?" queried Anton. "Just as I send mine every night to Bob, for him to transmit by wireless."
"Just the same way," the Forecaster answered, "except that they're all sent in cipher, of course. Once in a while the cipher results in some queer combinations. The regular routine requires that an observer send the temperature, the barometric pressure of the atmosphere, the amount of rain or snow, the direction and force of the wind, the state of the weather, the types of clouds and the highest and lowest temperature since the last observation. I remember once, while at the Milwaukee station, we got the following message from La Crosse, Wisconsin:
"'Cross All My Ink Frozen'
"It so happened that we had Charlie Cross working at that station at that time, but the message did not apply to him, nor, for that matter, to his ink. On second consideration and reading, the message read very differently. 'Cross' was the code name of the station; 'All' meant that his barometer read 30.02 and that his morning temperature was zero; 'My' conveyed the information that his sky was clear, the wind from the south and that his minimum temperature for the night was zero; 'Ink' informed us that the wind velocity at the station was six miles an hour and that he could not add the usual height of the water in the Mississippi as the river was 'frozen.' Similar code messages are sent in twice a day from each of the two hundred stations.
"So you see, Mr. Tighe, if all these various observations combine to describe a certain weather type, if we can check up the accuracy by comparison with stations to the north, south, east and west, and if all these combine to produce a certain definite picture, our weather forecast can be made with tolerable certainty. As an absolute matter of fact, during the past six years, the exact percentage of accurate forecasts is eighty-two per cent, and of the eighteen per cent remaining, eleven were partly right. That leaves a very small proportion of mistakes in weather forecasting. Now, let us take in detail the cold wave which Fred, quite rightly, said was on its way here.
"Here is the Weather Map of the day before yesterday." He placed it on the table in front of the old farmer. "You will notice two sets of curved lines, solid lines and dotted lines. The solid lines are called 'isobars' and they follow the course of places which have the same barometric pressure. The dotted lines are called 'isotherms' and they follow the lines of places having the same temperature. These maps are never twice the same. The Weather Bureau does not possess on its books the record of any two days when the weather was duplicated over the United States."
"You mean that every day's weather map is different?"
"As different as every human face," the Forecaster replied, "and to those of us who have done much forecasting, it is as easy to see from the map when the weather is going to be peaceful or stormy as it is to tell whether a man is smiling or scowling. But let us look at these three charts closely, and you will see just why Fred was right.
"At eight o'clock in the morning, the day before yesterday, there was a well-defined 'low' with a barometer of 29.8 just east of Salt Lake City, driving warmer weather before it. Issaquena County was just recovering from the effects of a 'high,' which, as you can see on the map, was disappearing by its favorite route, the St. Lawrence Valley. What was your temperature here the day before yesterday, Anton?"
"Thirty-six degrees, sir," the crippled lad answered, rapidly consulting his week's record, which was hanging on the wall.
"Fairly cold, you see. And the wind, Tom?"
Tom pulled out a note-book from his pocket.
"North-east, sir," he said.
"Very good. Now, Mr. Tighe, you can see from the map that the barometric pressure, the isobar, running through this part of the country shows a barometric pressure of 30.30. From what Anton told you, it is easy to see that, the day before yesterday, Issaquena County was still in the grip of the tail end of a 'high,' with a high barometric pressure—five points above the low in Salt Lake City—with a cold temperature, and with a wind blowing outwards from the 'high' or anti-cyclone. Is that clear?"
"Clear as well water," the farmer declared.
"Now," said the Forecaster, "let us look at yesterday's map for eight o'clock in the morning. Here, just over the Canadian border, right at Medicine Hat—as though to make good the old proverb—is a vigorous 'high,' with a barometer of 30.50, with a temperature of 20 deg. below zero and with the winds blowing outward from the centre. The 'low,' which the day before yesterday was central over Salt Lake City, yesterday was central over Oklahoma City. It has, therefore, traveled over five hundred miles in the day. On all sides of the 'low' there is rain, and you remember how it rained here, yesterday morning, early?"
"Indeed I do," said Jed Tighe. "I didn't get out on the land until nearly eleven o'clock."
"Now what was the temperature here yesterday morning, Anton?" the Forecaster queried.
"Forty-six degrees," answered Anton promptly, for he had been expecting the question.
"Ten degrees warmer, you see, Mr. Tighe, as the 'low' came nearer. And what was the wind, Tom?"
"South-south-east," the lad answered, his note-book in hand.
"Showing," the Forecaster explained, "that during the twenty-four hours, Issaquena County had lost the effect of the 'high,' which has disappeared from the map, and was fully in the grip of the oncoming 'low.' Now, if you look at the map, Mr. Tighe, you'll see that the isobar for this region shows a barometer pressure of 29.50, a terrific drop of four points in twenty-four hours. No wonder it rained!"
The farmer bent over the map, his eyes glued on the lines which suddenly seemed to spring into life before him.
"Down over the country comes this 'low,' at the rate of five hundred miles a day, with rain and moist winds accompanying it, and sharp on its heels, racing from the north, comes the cold 'high' which we have just seen forming at Medicine Hat. The cold wave is fully organized and is on its way."
He laid the third map on the table.
"Here is the situation at eight o'clock this morning," he said. "The 'low' or storm, has swung at right angles, following the preferred Ohio and St. Lawrence Valley Route. It left Toledo early this morning and at eight o'clock was raging over the Great Lakes, with its centre north of Buffalo. It is speeding up, you see, having traveled eight hundred miles since yesterday. The cold wave 'high' from Medicine Hat has traveled along its usual track and is now central over Kansas, with clear skies and a drop of thirty degrees in temperature. There was a severe freeze in Kansas last night, with zero temperatures, and freezing point was touched on the Mexican border."
"Whew," whistled the farmer, "and is that on its way here?"
"It is," the Forecaster answered. "Your temperature?" he continued, turning to the boy.
"Thirty-seven," Anton answered.
"Going down rapidly, you see. The wind, Tom?"
"Blowing outwards from the rapidly approaching 'high.'"
"What's the barometer?" asked the farmer, who was quickly grasping the manner of reading a weather map.
"It has gone up again to 30.02. The cold wave is coming fast. Since Dodge City, Kansas, is about five hundred miles from here, and since the 'high' is traveling at about seven hundred miles a day, and as, moreover, there is generally a slight slowing up as it makes the turn, the centre of the 'high' ought to strike us here about six o'clock tomorrow morning. The cold wave, however, is in advance of the centre, so Mr. Tighe, you need to be prepared for a cold wave tonight.
"If you ship your potatoes this afternoon, as you planned to do, they would meet severe weather and might get frozen. If you ship them tomorrow, you might be safe, but you couldn't be sure, because the 'high' is turning northwards and therefore its eastward distance is not so great. If you ship them on Monday you would be safe, but even then you could not ship them to New York, for a fast train might overtake the tail of the cold wave. On Tuesday you can safely ship them to any part of the United States."
The farmer stepped back from the table and his eye roved over the boys.
"And was that the way that you lads figured out that my fruit was likely to be frozen?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," said Anton, "that was how."
"It's a marvel," the farmer declared. "I don't see why more people don't use these Weather Maps."
"Hundreds of thousands of people do," the Forecaster replied. "You'd be surprised, Mr. Tighe, if you knew how big business firms all over the country study these changes of weather. Heating and lighting plants of great cities study conditions of cold and of darkness. Municipal systems, with exposed water mains, take precautions against frost. Large stockyards, like those of Chicago, drain their water pipes. Gasoline engines are drained. Street railway companies are supposed to turn more heat into their cars. Natural gas companies are required to put on a greater pressure. Dredging of sand and gravel is suspended. Piles of iron ore, lying on wharves, are placed in the holds of vessels to keep the ore from freezing solid.
"Take ordinary questions of trade, which we all know well. Wholesalers distribute stocks of cold-weather goods to retailers when a cold spell is forecast, and wideawake retailers make special provisions for it. Advertising managers of big department stores, who prepare their advertisements for the daily papers, the day before, study weather reports very carefully. You can go into an ad-writer's office, with the sun shining in at his window, and find that he is writing display of umbrellas and rubbers. The explanation is the Weather Map, which is lying on his desk. Everywhere you go, you'll find that the really big business organizations study the Weather Reports as closely as a stock-broker studies the Wall Street reports."
The farmer stared at the Forecaster.
"Why," he said, in astonishment, "I never had any idea that the Weather Forecast was so important. I just thought people read it to know whether it was going to rain, whether they should take an umbrella or not."
"Rain forecasts," the weather expert rejoined, "may be useful for one's personal comfort, but their importance is nation-wide. Until a few years ago, one-eighth of the value of the entire raisin crop was lost every year by occasional showers while the fruit was drying. The Weather Bureau established a special service to take care of this region and for five years there has not been a single non-avoidable loss. Berries are picked before rain. Vegetables which are dug before rain, stand shipment better than those dug afterwards. In the alfalfa region, rain forecasts are all-important, since the hay can be baled in the field when it is dry but not when it is wet.
"Every kind of brick, cement, and lime manufacture has got to be protected from the rain, and twenty-four hours' notice enables all such factories to protect their product. Contractors for outdoor work make their estimates and contracts on the basis of weather forecasts, railroad companies provide against washouts, and irrigation companies control their output of water according to the expected rainfall."
"This is great stuff," said Fred, under his breath to Ross. "I'm going to run this in the Review!"
"Snow warnings," the Forecaster went on, "are of equal value. All over the western country, where the snows are apt to be heavy, the tonnage of passenger and freight trains is made up in accordance with the expected weather, and the snow-fighting equipment is prepared. On the great Western ranches, stock is hurried from the open range either to constructed shelters or to naturally protected gullies, on notice of blizzards, northers and heavy snows. This is especially necessary on sheep ranches. Twenty-four hours' notice of a heavy snow-storm saves the country at least half a million dollars in stock loss and property damage.
"Storm warnings, perhaps, are even more important. Hundreds of lives are saved, every year, by vessels remaining in port when a storm or hurricane is expected. A recent storm on the Great Lakes was forecast as being so severe that scarcely any vessels left port. Many ships, undoubtedly, would have foundered, had they been out in the gale. Yet, aside from the Weather Map, there was no local indication that bad weather was brewing. When storm warnings are issued, fishermen take steps to protect their boats and nets and a fisherman's boat and net is his whole livelihood. Lumbermen make their booms of logs secure. Rice-planters flood their crops to prevent the breaking of the brittle straw by the wind. Wherever construction work is proceeding, and a wind of unusual force is forecast, builders and engineers make doubly secure that which is already constructed, instead of proceeding with outlying portions of the structure.
"In short, Mr. Tighe, there is scarcely a business in the country which would not be benefited by a close study of weather conditions. The difference between a careful man and a careless one is the difference between a man who thinks in advance and a man who does not think until some condition of grave difficulty is thrust upon him. Weather is, to this day, and will ever remain, one of the most potent factors in human welfare, and a man cannot plan for the weather in advance, unless he has a weather forecast."
The farmer brought his fist down on the table with a thump.
"Tell me, then," he said, "since all the big business firms in the country use the Weather Bureau so completely, why do people laugh at the Weather Man?"
"That's very simply answered," the Forecaster replied, "it's because every one is not a wide-awake business firm. Ask a commission merchant, whose business depends upon his receiving his produce in good condition, whether the Weather Bureau warnings are profitable or no? Ask a fruit merchant, who knows that a difference of twenty degrees in temperature during shipment spells either profit or disaster! Ask a shipowner on the Great Lakes or the captain of a trading schooner in the Gulf! These men will tell you that their lives and their fortunes hang on their careful understanding of the weather. But if you ask some one who merely wants to know whether or not to wear new clothes or whether it will be safe to have a picnic on a certain afternoon—then, indeed, unless the weather is of the particular pattern that they prefer, you are apt to hear that 'the Weather Man is always wrong.'
"There's another reason, too," he admitted, "and that is that local conditions may differ from regional conditions. I've shown you that there's a cold wave coming, and that over this section the temperature may drop twenty degrees. But suppose your thermometer, Mr. Tighe, is near the slope of a hill, which starts a small current of air moving, just enough to keep the air well mixed, then your thermometer may not register a fall of more than ten degrees, and you'll accuse me of being an alarmist. None the less, in a valley a quarter of a mile from your thermometer, the temperature may have dropped twenty-five degrees and for a hundred miles in every direction, the average temperature will be equally low.
"Suppose, over a section as large as the Gulf States, or New England, the Weather Bureau announces a forecast of showers. There might be stretches of fifty miles square in which never a drop of rain fell, and people in a hundred towns would take their umbrellas needlessly. Yet, in six hundred other towns in that region, there would be showers.
"Naturally, the Weather Bureau could give a much more detailed, though not necessarily a more accurate report, if, instead of having 200 stations, we had two thousand, and if the appropriations of the Bureau were multiplied by ten, so that there might be a larger force to interpret and explain the observations that have been recorded. Still, we're all proud of the Weather Bureau and its work, and if you watch it closely, Mr. Tighe, you won't find us far out. Just as a test of it, keep your potatoes in your root-house until Tuesday and watch the thermometer for the next two days."
"I'll do that," said the farmer, "and I'm much obliged." He took his hat. "Any of you boys coming my way?" he asked.
This was an unheard-of geniality on the part of Jed Tighe, but two of the boys jumped at the offer. The last words that the Forecaster heard were in the farmer's voice, as he drove off:
"About that Weather Map, now—"
Mr. Levin nodded to the two boys and strolled across the sun-dial lawn to his own buggy, well satisfied that another convert to the Weather Bureau work had been made.
About ten days after this meeting, after supper, just as Anton was going to bed, his father came in with a grave face.
"I'm afraid Dan'l's in a peck of trouble," he said.
"Why, Father?" asked the crippled lad.
"He's accused of having shot Carl Lindstrom," was the startling reply.
"But he couldn't!" declared Anton, jumping at once to the defence of the darky.
"Well," his father said, "it looks a little black for him. I don't mean, of course, that there's anything purposed, but it looks as if Dan'l had been careless with his gun. Carl was shot in the leg this evening, just as we heard. Now it appears that, about the same time, Dan'l was seen walking with his gun and his two old hounds at his heels, coming from that direction along the levee."
"Oh, I'm sure it can't be Dan'l," said Anton. "Where is he?"
"In his cabin, under arrest," his father said. "The sheriff's there. Dan'l seems quite excited about it and he said he wouldn't move until he saw you."
"Sure," said Anton, reaching out for his crutch. "I know well enough he didn't do it, though."
He hurried across the sun-dial to the negro's quarters.
It was a poignant scene that Anton faced when he reached the hut. Dan'l was sitting on the bed, in shirt and trousers, evidently having just been awakened from sleep. The sheriff, tall and rangy, showed little interest in the affair. To him it was a clear case. The man had been shot. The negro had been seen in the neighborhood with a gun. What more proof could any one want? The brother of the man who had been shot, a nervous, excitable chap, was there and wanted to lynch Dan'l immediately. One of the sheriff's men, keen and watchful, stood beside his prisoner, his hand on the negro's shoulder.
"Ah never done it, Mistah Anton," said Dan'l, as the boy came in, "Ah never done nothin'!"
"I've brought Anton, Dan'l," said the father, quietly, "but it doesn't do you any good to say anything. They'll only make use of everything you say."
"Ah've got nothin' to say," the darky declared. "Ah jes' went after some rabbit an' come home. Ah've been in my bed since a little after sundown."
"You couldn't ha' been," declared the sheriff, "'cause the injured man wa'n't shot till it was nigh dark."
"What time was the shooting?" asked Anton.
"Between a quarter and a half after eight," the sheriff replied coolly, "we know that much fo' sure, any way. And Dan'l can't show an alibi. He says he was in bed. His bed can't give evidence in court. Yo' didn't see him, Anton?"
"No," the boy answered, "I haven't been out of the house since seven o'clock except just to my rain-gauge."
"Well," said the sheriff, yawning, "that's yo' last chance, Dan'l. If Anton had seen yo', there'd have been a witness. But yo' ain't got none and Ole Lindstrom, here, declares that he seen yo' jes' afore it got dark."
"Ah've done nothin'!" the darky declared.
The sheriff kicked the darky's tattered boots across the floor, not unkindly.
"Hyar," he said, "put yo' shoes on. Carl ain't goin' to die, and the jedge won't do much to yo'."
"Ah never done nothin'," the negro protested, but he leant down as he was told, and started to put on his shoes.
One of the shoes had slid close to Anton's feet, almost knocking the crutch out of his hand, and the lad's glance fell on it. He started.
"What time did you say the shooting was done, Mr. Abner?" he asked.
"Between a quarter and a half after eight," the sheriff replied.
With a sudden excitement in his voice, Anton turned to the negro.
"How many pairs of shoes have you got?" he asked.
Dan'l caught the tension in his voice.
"Two pair, Mistah Anton," he said.
"Which did you wear this afternoon?"
"And where are the others?"
"In yonder corner."
Anton limped across the room and brought out the second pair of shoes. The leather was all dry and wrinkled. They had evidently not been used for a long time.
"He's right, Mr. Abner," he said, "he wore those shoes."
The sheriff, divining by the excitement in the boy's voice that there was a hidden purpose in these remarks, took up the second pair of shoes and looked at them.
"Yes, that's sho'," he answered, "he didn't wear these hyar!"
"Then he wore those," said Anton.
"Well, what if he did?"
"Look at your shoes," said the boy.
"Well?" queried the sheriff, looking down at his boots.
"They're muddy, aren't they?" persisted the boy.
"Right muddy," the sheriff agreed.
"And Bill's shoes are muddy, too."
There was no doubt of that, either.
"Well?" said the sheriff, questioningly.
For answer Anton held out Dan'l's other shoe, the one he had been holding in his hand.
"This isn't muddy," he said. "What's more, it's got dust on it, dust in all the cracks. You can see it hasn't been cleaned for a long time, probably never since it was given him."
"Well?" repeated the sheriff, still uncomprehending.
"Lindstrom's place is more'n a mile from here," declared Anton, his heart beating hard.
"Jest a mile," said Ole Lindstrom.
"And you say the shooting was before half-past eight?"
"It sho' was," the sheriff answered, "it was jest a little after half-past eight that Carl was carried home."
"Then," declared Anton, in a quiet way that carried conviction, "Dan'l didn't do it, and I can prove it."
"Mistah Anton! Mistah Anton!" the darky cried.
"Quiet! You!" said the man who was holding the prisoner.
"What do you mean, Anton?" the boy's father asked him.
"It's quite easy," the boy declared. "If the shooting was done before half-past eight, it was done just about the time that the rain began. It would take Dan'l—if he'd done it—all of twenty minutes to walk from Lindstrom's place here. It rained heavily, if you like I can give you the amount of rain in tenths of an inch, and twenty minutes of walking in that rain would make him wet through. By the time it had rained five minutes, the ground would be muddy. But see, Mr. Abner, the soles of the shoes are quite dry. And, Dan'l's clothes are quite dry."
He picked up the gun that stood leaning in the corner.
"The gun's dry, it hasn't been cleaned and there's no rust on it. Dan'l hasn't got two sets of rough clothes and he sure hasn't got two guns. Doesn't that prove he couldn't have been out after the rain started?"
The sheriff looked a little dubious.
"Yo' sho' put up a good argument for yo' nigger," he said, "but yo' boys' foolin' about weather ain't evidence. That don't go in court, yo' know."
"You're a little wrong there, Mr. Abner," said Anton's father. "This is an official co-operative observer's station of the Weather Bureau. By a decision of the supreme court, our records have got to be accepted as evidence. There's a ruling to that effect."
"There is, eh?" said the sheriff. "First I ever knew of it. But if yo' say so, why, of course, it's so. But how can you-all tell when the rain began?"
"When rain comes down unusually hard," the boy answered, "the Weather Bureau likes to keep a record of the amount of precipitation in five minute intervals. My big record-book is in the house, but here are the notes I made," and he took a little note-book from the pocket of his shirt.
"'Rain began, 8.21,'" he read, "'first five minutes three-tenths of an inch, second five minutes four-tenths, third five minutes, three-tenths,'" he stopped and held the book open, "it began to get less, then, and I didn't need to keep the record any longer. But you can see, Mr. Abner, that it was impossible for Dan'l to have left the Lindstroms' and reached here before the rain came, and just as impossible for him to have come through the rain with dry clothes and dusty shoes."
"An' the courts have a ruling that weather records is evidence?"
"From an official station such as this, yes!" Anton's father declared. "Evidence as to weather is a factor in a great variety of cases. Civil cases are largely personal injury, damage to perishable goods by freezing or rain and loss by fire. The criminal cases are usually confined to murder trials.
"When accidents occur by reason of a street car running into somebody or something, the question arises as to whether the rails were so slippery that the car could not be stopped. This fact is, of course, important in an action for damages. A slippery rail can be caused by 'sweating' but it is generally due to recent rain. The relative humidity may be such as to prevent the drying up of the rail.
"An observer was called in a case where it was alleged that the plaintiff had been injured by being pitched through the open window of a car. It was claimed that she was trying to shut the window on account of the raw, cold weather and, as the car reached a curve, she was suddenly thrown headlong into the street. The weather record showed that it was a warm and sunny day.
"The question as to whether a sidewalk was sufficiently slippery to make it dangerous for travel frequently comes up in court. One such case, I remember, was that of a man who asked damages from a jitney driver for starting his bus before he had alighted. The driver declared that the passenger slipped and fell on the ice in the gutter, several feet away from the bus. The plaintiff declared that it was a warm day and that there was no ice. The weather record showed rain the day before, with a severe frost during the night, precisely the conditions to support the jitney-driver's story.
"Many accidents are alleged to have been due to fog. The weather expert is called upon to testify to the degree of visibility permitted by atmospheric conditions. One man who was accused of murder and who undoubtedly would have been convicted, was positively identified by the wife of the murdered man, the woman declaring that she saw him at a certain hour of the evening passing in front of the house. The Weather Records showed conclusively that, at that hour, owing to the excessive cloudiness of the atmosphere, it would have been impossible for the woman to identify the suspect, even at half the distance.
"Wind records are often very important. In April, 1902, a severe storm moved over the middle western states, and, at one place in Indiana, it developed such velocity as to start in motion an empty box car standing on a railway siding. It was carried on to the main track, the derailing switch not being turned, and ran for two miles before the wind, the grade being slightly up-hill. It finally collided with a passenger train and several persons were killed. The railroad company produced the weather records to show that a storm of such violence was outside the common run of events, seeking thereby to lessen the amounts awarded for damages.
"This direction of the wind often is called into requisition. A suit for many thousand dollars was brought by the owners of some property in Chicago, against a railroad company, the property-owners alleging that a fire which had destroyed some of the buildings had originated from sparks from a locomotive. The Weather Bureau records, however, showed that there was a brisk wind blowing directly from the property to the railroad. Of course, all damages incurred in storms of unusual severity, such as the St. Louis tornado or the Galveston Flood, would be ignored in a court of law, as they would come under the head of unavoidable happenings of 'the act of Providence,' a well-known legal phrase. In all matters connected with events in which the weather is a possible factor, the Weather Bureau observer has a place and a part, and the United States Supreme Court, as long as thirty-five years ago, ruled that weather records were competent evidence."