The Aerial Encounter of Judge Reardon and Monsieur Rambaud
By McCready Sykes in Appleton’s
JUST then the automobile stopped. There was no doubt about it. The machine stopped ; the whirling landscape stopped and Judge Reardon stopped in the middle of his sentence. The sentence had begun like this : “And what pleases me most is that we have made our trip of three hundred miles without a single accident or involuntary—” and he would have said “stop,” but to his great chagrin he did it instead of saying it.
The judge’s machine was a big forty-horse-power touring car ; we
were bowling along at a moderate rate, and were coming among the suburbs of Paris ; pedestrians and teams were not infrequent, so we were negotiating the road cautiously.
The sensation of stopping was peculiar ; we felt nothing snap ; we heard none of the painful inarticulate grunts or puffs that so frequently herald mechanical accidents ; but there was a peculiar and very sudden tug that seemed to come from nowhere in particular. The judge lean-
ed forward, saw nothing, and then looked over the side. The wheels were actually moving, but for some mysterious reason the machine stood still.
“Devilish funny !” exclaimed the judge. “Here’s a fine, hard road, and the wheels slip as if they were on packed snow.”
We both jumped out and ran around in front of the car. Then a very curious thing happened.
While the wheels were turning, the machine actually began to move away from us. With a sudden accession of speed it shot back mockingly almost, and the judge called out “Jump in quick !”
We made a flying leap and climbed into the front seat, where the judge cast a quick, instinctive glance at the reversing lever. It had not been moved. The judge whistled softly.
“Beats me!" he exclaimed. Then an angry cry burst from his lips. “Look at that, will you?”
I followed his eyes, backward and upward, and saw what had happened. A huge guy-rope, drawn taut at the projection of the rear seat, rose into the sky above our heads, running into the ether like the rope, of a Hindu fakir ; and the eye, following its course, came to a huge oblong flat shape in the sky, which we both instantly recognized.
“It’s one of these d—d aeroplanes,” shouted the irate judge, “and they've anchored their grappling rope in our car. For cool, downright impertinence give me one of these Frenchmen.”
It was true. We were caught by one of the dirigible aeroplanes about which Paris was all agog last summer. The aeroplane’s course was not our course, and we were being dragged ignominiously backward. Fortunately, our speed was not great;
the aeroplane, big and powerful as it was, had to overcome the resistance of our own opposed power, which of itself would have driven us twenty miles an hour in the opposite direction.
“See if you can unhook the thing,” said the judge; and I climbed over the back of the seat. Alas! the anchor was firmly imbedded under the tonneau and would not budge; at least, it was impossible to get the slightest purchase with the huge guy-rope stretched tight as a ship’s cable by the terrific pull of the airship.
“Can you. cut the rope ?” called the Judge.
I had thought of that; but saw in an instant that the infernal contrivance was re-enforced with light steel strands. I was still looking for some means of extricating the anchor when the judge called out cheerily, “I’ll stop the car.”
“For heaven’s sake, don’t!” I cried, but I was altogether too late. It was all very well for me to groan inwardly at this blunder of the judge’s, but he was so excited that I really should not have blamed him for doing what under ordinary circumstances would have been precisely the right thing to do. Our own forward impulse had been the only thing there was to counteract the opposing pull of the airship, and when the judge shut off the power, and to my horror set the reverse lever, our backward speed was accelerated not only by our former twenty-mile energy, but by a like additional amount afforded by our new backward motion; so that instead of leisurely jogging backward at some twenty miles an hour we were now swashing along, unguided and blind, at considerably more than a fortymile rate. Our situation had become one of extreme danger; not only that, but we were a menace to life along the road. The judge turned pale when he saw what had happened, and I confess that I was not a little frightened.
“Turn on all the power and go back—go forward, I mean !” I cried.
“I can’t,” gasped the judge hoarsely. “I can’t do it without smashing the gear and ripping her to pieces.”
The landscape was flying past at an alarming rate. We kept the horn going constantly, and made almost incessant use of the megaphone which we always carried in the car. Peas-ants hurled curses at us as they dodged, and light-hearted, laughing groups parted suddenly as we backed upon them in our mad course. A motor car going backward at forty miles an hour was a novelty even for the Frenchmen. I had no doubt they took it for the eccentricity of an American millionaire or Parisian flaneur.
“It’s all right so long as the airship pulls straight and the road doesn’t turn,” said the judge. “But suppose the darn thing wabbles, or the road takes a bend. Ten feet one side or the other will bring us against those stone walls.”
“Arretez-vous !” called an angry voice behind us. The road police around Paris are mounted on motor bicycles on which when necessary they can make terrific speed, and the irate officer yelled to us that we were exceeding the speed limit and were under arrest.
He rode alongside, speeding furiously to keep pace. We were now going more than fifty miles an hour. Conversation was difficult. The officer paid little heed to our explanation that we were not willingly violating the law. He said we could explain that in court. His only duty was to make the arrest.
“Go to blazes!” yelled the judge in the teeth of the furious gale caused by our motion. “ Arrest that impudent cross-eyed son of a sea-cook of an aeronaut up there in air ! Why don’t you stop him from dragging us along in this way?”
The French policeman was polite, even though he was tearing along at the rate of fifty miles an hour. “Monsieur, that is the distinguished explorer, M. Jules Rambaud. He is adorned with a license to navigate the air.”
“Navigate the infernal regions!” yelled the judge, giving a despairing honk-honk and narrowly escaping collision with a fat cow that lumbered
out of our way and looked after us with frightened eyes as we tore along the highway. “If there’s law in France, I’ll have it on that infernal murderous air-flying villain. Stop him, officer! What are you police for, anyway?”
“I have said, monsieur,” called back the polite officer, as we tore madly on, “that he is adorned to navigate. Sapristi, you must not do that! It needs that you demonstrate your license before to ascend, gentlemen.”
This last exclamation of the officer was called forth by a sudden and unexpected change in our trajectory. It was something that I had been
dreading for a long time, and I fancy the judge had, too. That possibility had been hammering at our brains through all our terrible ride. We might have said of the motor car what Gloster in the play sarcastically remarks of the aspiring blood of Lancaster, “I thought it would have mounted.”
And now, to our terror, it did mount. Whether under the impulse of an uplift of a current of air or by the act of the aeronaut, the aerial monster slowly forged upward. Simul-
taneously the rear of the motor car left the ground; the car trailed along for perhaps a hundred feet, tilted at an angle of forty-five degrees, and the judge and myself both bent hurriedly down to give another wrench to the anchor and learn if by this slight shift of position it had become possible to dislodge it. We worked and tugged at this for some little time, so excited and absorbed in our work that we forgot for the moment to observe what was happening to the car. We could do nothing; the anchor was firmly lodged in the chassis itself, and nothing but an ax could extricate it.
“We might as well get out of the car,” I said. “There’s liable to be a smash, and if the aeroplane lifts the car up there’ll be the devil to pay when she drops. Besides, we’d have hard work to stick in.”
“What!” cried the judge (we were talking with our heads under the seat, where we were working on the anchor), “get out here and be nabbed by that fool of a policeman ! We shouldn’t be able to follow the car. Besides, the guy-rope can’t break. You see, it has to be made strong enough to hold the aeroplane, and to do that it must be able to support the car. No; j’y suis; j’y reste.”
But it seemed that our discussion was merely academic, after all, for while we had been talking, the aeroplane, still ascending, had lifted us gently and easily from the earth. The automobile had swung on the pivot of the anchor till it now hung at a very slight angle from the perpedicular, probably less than fifteen degrees ; in consequence, using the seats in normal fashion was out of the question, but we found that by sitting on the back of the back itself of the front seat we could be very comfortable and fairly secure. The seats were of the Novoni type, so much in vogue in France, with broad, flat backs. The slight tilt of the machine, due to the fact that the anchor was imbedded behind the centre of gravity, aided by the lean of the back itself, rendered it fairly easy to sit securely even on the polished seat-back.
As the car rose to a vertical position, the fugs and paraphernalia in the front seat had, of course, spilled out ; but luckily we had an abundant supply of rugs in the back ; there was a basket of provisions strapped behind ; and we had at our feet the megaphone. With the rugs and our automobile coats (fortunately heavy) we felt that we should be fairly protected even in the colder upper strata of the atmosphere. In the hamper were food, whisky, and cigars, As the judge had pointed out, there was really not much danger of the rope breaking, and except for the hazard of the landing, the outlook was hardly more dangerous than in ordinary travel. It was by long odds preferable to our highly perilous situation of five minutes before, where we had been tearing madly at the rate of fifty miles an hour along a road within twenty kilometers of Paris, drawn by an uncontrollable power, and seated in a car that had become nondirigible ; a situation, too, where in addition to these very serious physical dangers we were exposed to the personal mortification of arrest.
Our minds were recalled to this last danger so happily escaped by the plaintive voice of the French policeman, calling after us as we mounted majestically :
“Gentlemen, gentlemen ! it is not permitted to ascend without a small license. And it is that you have exceeded the speed limit ; that it is twice that you have violated the ordinance. Gentlemen, I pray that you honor me with your names and addresses.”
We were congratulating ourselves on our escape from this danger when one of a very different sort presented itself. Just as the front wheels of the car left the earth, it happened that we rose quite rapidly, but we felt in an uncomfortable way that we were in a composition of forces, somewhat as one feels the pull of the gyroscope in its tendency to maintain its plane of rotation as against the motion imparted by lifting the spinning top. The guy-rope rose toward the aeroplane at an angle of about forty-five degrees with the earth ; although, of course,
this angle had been somewhat less while we were being pulled along the road. As we were lifted from thé earth we were pulled in much the same direction, or rather even more toward the vertical, as the aeroplane was, as I have said, rising rapidly; but the moment we were in the air, the motor car plunged with a violent angular motion necessarily imparted in its fall to a position directly beneath the aeroplane ; in fact, had it not been for the extreme suddenness of our lift, the car would have scraped and bumped along as it described the arc whose lowermost verge was the extremity of a radius drawn from the aeroplane directly in the line of gravitation ; but owing to our very sudden pull upward, the motor car now swung through this arc with a velocity that was inconceivably frightful, swinging, in fact, far beyond the vertical line, then back again on the other side, like a mighty pendulum swinging over the earth. The length of this pendulum was, as nearly as we could judge, at least four hundred feet; and I shall never forget the horrible seasick sensation, as the great automobile swung slowly back and forth over the earth, the feeling of hanging over an abyss as we paused on the upward swing, then falling dizzily back and rushing up the ghastly slope of the opposite swing. I may add that during our entire journey equilibrium was never quite established, as every quick shift or turn of the aeroplane started the oscillations in greater or less degree ; but we soon grew accustomed to this libration of movement, and, in fact, found it. rather stimulating and enjoyable.
I think I have said that we had with us in the car some excellent whisky and an abundant supply of cigars. Fortified with these, we surveyed with much interest the panorama beneath us.
We observed the features of the terrestrial aspect familiar to aerial observation—the distorted perspective, the peripheral illusion, the depressed middle distance, and the dominant tonality of secondary colorings. Presently the Eiffel tower came
into view on our north, over the smoke and occasional mists of the city; we saw the dear old Bois in all its cool umbrageous stretch; the white river, and the bridges, and the square towers of Notre Dame. Our course was taking us off to the south and east of the city.
‘Tm relieved at that,” remarked Judge Reardon, between the puffs of his cigar. “The octroi might bother us if we had landed in the Champs Elysees or at the Tuileries; we have quite a little in the way of whisky and cigars and Lord knows how many matches.”
“Monsieur Rambaud will have a pretty bill to pay you if anything happens to the motor,” I observed. “You have no doubt, have you, that the owner of the aeroplane is liable?” “Of course he’s liable,” said the judge. “I’ve been thinking about that very thing in the last few minutes. In the first place, it’s an undoubted trespass. In the second place, it comes about as close to an assault and battery as it’s safe to come ; and I suppose we have a good cause of action for false imprisonment.”
“How about the ordinary case for negligence?” I inquired.
The judge lit a fresh cigar, and tucked the rug under him.
“Yes, of course, that’s the obvious remedy. It’s clearly negligence to cast an anchor four hundred feet down out of the sky and let it go dragging all over France. It’s a plain case of res ipsa loquitur. I don’t think the court will make us give proof of any other specific act of negligence.”
“And, of course, there’s no contributory negligence on our part,” I added.
“Oh, no ; not at all. There’s only one question that has occurred to my mind; and that is whether, traversing the air as we are, a medium available to all the world, like the ocean, those infernal French courts may not hold infernal French courts is applicable.” “In that case,” I said, “all we have to do is to libel the aeroplane.”
“Yes. I suppose there’s nothing in France like the Harter Act in the United States. Under that act, you will
remember, the owners of a vessel may limit their liability for maritime torts to the value of the hull at the termination of the voyage. By the end of his voyage that fool of an aeronaut up there will probably have smashed his blessed car. You may recall that all that the victims of the Slocum disaster in New York could get out of the owners was the value of the burnt hull.”
“I wonder,” I observed, thinking aloud, “if jurisdiction will be given to the admiralty courts in cases of aerial navigation?”
“Possibly not,” returned the judge, “but I think that in any such event, many of the principles of admiralty law, so peculiarly adapted to the questions arising in connection with vessels navigating a fluid medium, will doubtless be applied. You probably remember the famous case of the airship Pioneer, decided last year in the United States Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York.”
I remember reading an editorial comment on this case in the Bench and Bar, but the facts had slipped my memory.
“The Pioneer,” resumed the judge, “was a powerful and luxuriously furnished twelve-cylinder aeroplane built for a Pittsburg millionaire for use in establishing quick residences whenever he needed them for purpose of divorce. You remember that it was held by the United States Supreme Court (four judges dissenting), in Morey v. Morey, that a person whose legal residence was in an airship and who had his washing done on board, was not subject to local statutory requirements of the States as to residence, and that until Congress should legislate on the subject there was no national law covering the case, so that such a person might acquire a residence at once. Well, Morey, like some of our other multimillionaires, got quite into the remarrying habit. The great case of Flannagan v. Morey grew out of one of his aerial trips.
“You know that in many of the tall flat and tenement houses in New York, where there is little yard space,
it is customary to hang out the family wash on lines stretched from building to building. Each floor has its own series of lines, so that by eleven o’clock on any Monday morning the interior of the block looks like a glorified bargain day at a White Sale.
“Well, Morey’s big airship was passing across Seventh Avenue a little north of 116th Street, when it was thought necessary to descend suddenly. They threw out a grappling rope and then changed their minds. When the anchor rose in the air, they were horrified to find that they had taken with them the week’s wash of forty families—ten floors and four families to the floor.”
“I suppose that caused no end of
a row,” I ventured, throwing an extra wrap about my shoulders. The air had become perceptibly cooler.
“I should think so,” the judge went on. “Morey refused to compromise, and the suits were all tried and in most cases substantial damages recovered.”
“How did they get hold of Morey?” I asked.
“Indicted him for larcency and had him brought back from New Jersey,” said Judge Reardon. “It was a serious question in the courts whether he could be said to have fled the jurisdiction, as he had not set foot in New York. The United States
Supreme Court held in Morey v. Sheriff of Hudson County, by a vote of six to three, that a person who had sailed across a State boundary in an airship had fled in the strictest etymological and constitutional sense. Some of the Harlem people went over to New Jersey and sued Morey there for trespass de bonis asportatis. One man got twenty dollars for the loss of his pajamas; but the judgment was by a divided court.”
Judge Reardon is well known as a man who has brought to his chosen profession the thoughtful research of the earnest student. He is never in more charming mood than when philosophically reminiscent, and I was pleased to have him talk away.
“One of the most interesting cases,” he went on, “was the great case of United Gas Co. v. Board of Trustees of Village of Morris, decided by the New York Supreme Court in Saratoga County. A balloon landed in a wheat field and the gas bag bounded along for a quarter of a mile or so. An enterprising plumber rigged up a pipe line and sold gas to the inhabitants for two weeks at cut rates. The gas company that held an exclusive franchise to furnish gas in the village sued the authorities for damages and recovered judgment.
“In Rastioli v. Schermerhorn, a suit brought by an eminent professor in the University of Wisconsin, it was sought to recover damages for dropping a grain of sand in the plaintiff’s eye, the local justice of the peace gave judgment for the plaintiff on the principle, as he said, of respondent superior, but the judgment was affirmed on other grounds.
“In the famous case of McWhirter v. Perkins, the Supreme Court of California laid down the principle that the rule of the road is applicable to airships, and that they must meet on the right and overtake and pass on the left. Twenty States have passed statutes amplifying the rule of the road and allowing one of two vessels meeting in the air to pass above the other on giving the proper signal.
“In Moriarty v. Vanderbilt, the Rhode Island state courts allowed
forty per cent, salvage to a farmer whose barn was lifted up and carried into the next county by a grappling iron from a turbine aeroplane.”
And so the judge continued, explaining how the wise and just system of the common law was nicely adapted to the new problems arising out of the invasion of the air, and how the statute law was amplified and expanded to meet these fresh problems ; the judge said that it was the glory of the law that it contained within itself this very principle of growth.
We were riding easily. The air was still growing cooler, and the afternoon sunshine was not unpleasant. We were keeping well to the south and east of Paris. My attention was attracted to a group of floating objects some eight or ten miles ahead of us. I took them to be airships of various patterns.
“All the French aeronauts seem to be out to-day,” I remarked, calling the judge’s attention to the level sky before us.
“Yes,” replied the judge; “it’s a holiday, and the Société des Panorames Celectes is doing a landoffice business with its ‘Seeing Paris’ airships. They have them now so that they go straight up and down, like elevators. For twenty francs you can be taken up in a luxurious car, five hundred feet straight up in the air, where you can look all over Paris. The first-class compartments cost seven francs extra; they are fitted up like cafes, and you can have absinthe and cigars and Le Temps or Le Rire. They are much frequented by the boulevardiers.”
I had turned our field glass on the nearest.
“There’s a man with a megaphone !” I exclaimed; “he’s evidently talking to the people in the car. He moves his hands and shrugs his shoulders and seems quite excited.”
“No,” said the judge, without looking up. “He’s just pointing out the different objects of interest. They got that idea from the New York automobiles. Eh, what’s that? Lend me the megaphone, will you ?”
The judge put the megaphone to
his ear, turning it toward the sky. “Our captor is talking to us.”
In watching the “Seeing Paris” airships and listening to the judge, I had forgotten all about our own conductor. I glanced quickly up, and with the aid of the field glass saw that he was talking to us. He had an enormous electric megaphone. These contrivances were used experimentally in the Russian-Japanese war, but I remembered reading in the Revue des Deux Mondes that on account of the ever-present terrestrial atmospheric disturbances they had been found of little practical use. But in these silent strata of the upper air the aerial waves transmitted the auditory vibrations with a scarcely perceptible diminution of intensity; and indeed, we found that with our own ordinary megaphone we could make ourselves heard very well indeed.
“Pardon, messieurs,” came a voice from the silent ether of heaven. The tones were low and distinct and we recognized the Gascon quality of voice ; “Pardon, messieurs. I regret exceedingly to have taken you out of your way. I am Jules Rambaud, now of Paris, and I trust that both you gentlemen will dine with me this evening at the Trois Freres. Come at seven o’clock, and let me present my apologies at the nearer view. I entreat that you will not do yourselves the fatigue of to dress.”
Carefully aiming the megaphone, I called:
“We are greatly honored, and we accept your invitation with much pleasure. Allow me to present my intrepid comrade and host, Judge Theophilus Reardon, of Schenectady, Etats-Unis.”
The judge reached for the megaphone, and as soon as our friend Rambaud had acknowledged the introduction the judge called out:
“I am delighted to meet you, Monsieur Rambaud. I’ve read your work on the Congo with great interest. I didn’t quite agree with you in your views on the origin of the Pygmies, but I must say that Flammard’s expedition bore out your conclusions.”
“Ah !” cried the aeronaut ; “then it
is that you are familiar with the researches of Flammard.” And here a lively conversation ensued on anthropological topics, in which in truth I took little interest.
We were rapidly approaching the “Seeing Paris” airships ; three of these were in operation. These machines are constructed on the familiar Marfleur type, and are admirably adapted for vertical ascents ; several of them are in use by the French Government along the German frontier.
I was particularly attracted by a small aeroplane which circulated about the heavier Marfleur machines. As we approached I observed that it contained three men in uniform, two of them adorned with the Cross of the Legion of Honor. The men were examining M. Rambaud’s car minutely. Presently one of them called through a megaphone :
“It is defended that one advance himself. One is within the proprietary air of the société des Panorames Celestes !”
“What’s that?” cried Judge Reardon sharply, turning his megaphone in the direction of our genial host. “What’s this nonsense about proprietary air?”
“Alas ! he has right,” responded Rambaud from the celestial height. “The ground over which we are about to fly is indeed of the Society whereof he speaks.”
“Suppose it is!” roared the judge. “This isn’t the Society’s air.”
“You forget, M. le juge,” called down Rambaud, with great urbanity. “You forget that under all systems of law the ownership of the proprietor of the soil extends downward to the centre of the earth and upward to the zenith. Is it not that you have in your law a maxim to that effect ?”
“Confound it, the fellow’s right !” exclaimed the judge, turning to me. “Cujus est solum, ejus est ad coelum.”
There was no help for it. We had to go around. “It results, messieurs,” called down our conductor, “that I must ask if you will dine at half after seven of the clock instead of at the seven. We must respect the law.”
We were now so far to the south that the only thing we could do to avoid sailing across the Society’s air was to make a long detour to the east. This was most unfortunate, for it took us at least eight miles out of our course and we thought regretfully of the delayed dinner at the Trois Freres. The automobile swayed frightfully as the aeroplane made a swift turn, and I again experienced that sensation of aerial seasickness of which I have already spoken. Fairly familiar with the literature of aerial navigation, I could remember no mention of a similar phenomenon, and had been at first a little alarmed; but the judge had reassured me by pointing out that the oscillation of our trajectory, due inevitably to the pendulum-like nature of our support, was an element not present in ordinary ascents, and that it was therefore not surprising that no mention of its supervening physical nausea was to be found in the usual literature of aerial navigation.
For a while my interest in the dinner at the Trois Frereá was subdued, and as the swaying motion persisted in a modified degree, I was not altogether sorry when M. Rambaud called down that he feared that he should have to make a descent. It seemed that one of the valves of the aeroplane was leaking, and he feared that he could not develop sufficient power to complete the journey to Paris, which in our course around the Society’s proprietary air was, as he informed us, at least a good ten miles journey away.
The descent was a delicate matter ; for Rambaud had no apparatus for taking up the slack of his anchor rope. In fact, it is well known that the work on this particular feature of aerial navigation is still in an experimental stage ; the great weight necessary in the windless, tackle and machinery precluding the use of the devices familiar on aquatic craft.
M. Rambaud announced that he would endeavor to land us on the road, and that by sailing under reduced power and steering very carefully he might manage to make a landing for the aeroplane so soon thereafter that
the automobile would not be dragged across the stone walls that are such a conspicuous feature of the landscape in the immediate vicinity of the French capital.
Unfortunately, we landed in a greenhouse. The aeronaut was profuse in his apologies, and called down from his lofty height as we neared the roof of the unfortunate gardnerer’s premises, explaining that a sudden pull of wind had proved too much for his already weakened engine, so that his car was no longer entirely dirigible. The radiator of the automobile was the first to strike ; it went crashing through the glass, sash,
,frame and all, and had hardly reached the support of the upper timbers of the greenhouse when, the front being thus again supported, the machine quickly righted itself ; the chassis crashed through the frail supports, and amid the most indescribable confusion of breaking glass, crashing frames and flowerpots ground to pieces, we found ourselves, disheveled and astonished, sitting bolt upright in the car, and gazing in amazement at the forest of ferns, ruins of geraniums, roses and a multitude of exotics whose broken stems and dismantled branches bore all too painful witness to the ruin we had caused.
We had descended so rapidly from the cool upper strata of the atmos-
phere that the sudden high temperature of the conservatory was, as I remember, very distressing! But in a moment we had forgotten all about the heat. The aeroplane was still sailing bravely on ; and the automobile had scarcely righted itself, when, obeying the pull of the airship, it lunged viciously along the floor of the greenhouse, dealing destruction as it went and ruthlessly tearing through high-piled banks of the most exquisite flowers, overturning a bench of Spanish roses and ripping down one of the most gorgeous collections of orchids it has ever been my fortune to behold.
“In God’s name, gentlemen, what is this that you are doing?” A horrorstricken face appeared at the farther door ; a short, well-built man of about fifty years thus greeted us, speaking in excellent French; in his countenance rage and despair at the destruction of his property mingled with open-mouthed astonishment at the apparition of our motor car suddenly descending from nowhere and plunging madly about in his most respectable greenhouse.
There now ensued a scene of indescribable confusion. The airship, sailing as she was under reduced power, was practically anchored by the motor car, and yet retained sufficient motion to gyrate wildly about on her rope, with the result that the automobile, obeying every move of the aeroplane, was lunging back and forth in the greenhouse, hither and yon, this way and that, extending the path of destruction with every move, to the gruesome accompaniment of the crashing of broken glass, the falling of sashes and flowerpots, and the heartbroken cries of the unfortunate greenhouse-keeper as he saw the work of his life shattered and dissipated before his eyes.
“D—n it, man ! we’re anchored to an airship,” roared the judge. “We can’t stop the thing.”
The maddened floriculturist ran out beating his breast and giving forth fresh ejaculations of despair. When he located the aeroplane he shook his fists at it in the ecstasy of rage, and
then with a sudden cry he ran toward the little barn that stood some twenty paces from the greenhouse. He emerged quickly with an ax, and rushing furiously toward us he sprang into the car and began hurling welldirected blows at the anchor rope.
“Don’t do that!” the judge cried angrily; “that man and his infernal airship are going to pay us damages for this. They’ve ruined our car. And they’re going to pay you, too.”
The judge had forgotten his friendly acquaintanceship of the afternoon ; it was not strange that his wrath returned with this fresh calamity. But the owner of the greenhouse was too furiously bent on getting the motor car clear of the aeroplane to stop for the judge’s warning; and I confess that I felt somewhat relieved when after repeated blows of the ax the anchor rope parted. The aeroplane gave a sudden lunge upward, shot off to the north and was lost to sight.
“And now, gentlemen,” said the proprietor of the greenhouse, “perhaps you will have the goodness ào give me an explanation of this most remarkable invasion of my premises, and to arrange for the payment for my property thus wantonly destroyed. This greenhouse and its contents represent an investment of sixty thousand francs ; and the loss of my business, which you will readily comprehend, gentlemen, is ruined by this little pleasure jaunt of yours—God knows how I am to measure it.” And the honest fellow burst into tears, as he looked about.
The remaining episodes in our automobile trip that summer are of interest to the thoughtful jurist chiefly, and there is little in them to detain the attention of the general reader. Judge Reardon was well content to give up the remainder of his tour in order to make an exhaustive study, in collaboration with his French lawyers, of the numerous and important legal questions involved in the litigation that grew out of our afternoon trip. I forgot to mention that we did not keep our dinner appointment ; in fact, we did not reach Paris till the next afternoon. Profuse apologies
were tendered M. Rambaud on this score without prejudice to our right to bring an action against him for damages on account of the fouling of the anchor in the car. It seemed, however, that the judge’s absence from the dinner imposed upon him the necessity of fighting a duel with M. Rambaud; and as Judge Reardon and myself had been kindly put up at one of the best Paris clubs, the judge felt that he could hardly decline the challenge; especially as our lawyers informed us that a declination might injure our standing in the French courts. The duel was a brilliant affair, and in a way compensated us for the loss of the dinner at the Trois Freres; Judge Reardon’s epigrarns were favorably commented upon by the leading Paris journals, and a new cafe in the Boulevard Haussmann was visited by the dueling party on their return from the combat, where an excellent dinner, tendered by the seconds to the principals, was awaiting us. In recognition of Judge Reardon’s gallant conduct on the dueling ground, and afterwards at the dinner, the cafe was named the Cafe Reardon, and is, I believe, much frequented by American jurists visiting the French capital.
The litigation was protracted and expensive. The ancient and wellestablished principle of law that the dominion of the owner of the soil extends indefinitely in a vertical direction, was laid down in a careful and well-reasoned opinion of the learned court; and although the decision was against him, it was a source of no little pride to Judge Reardon, as an American jurist, that numerous American authorities, both State and federal, were cited in support of the ruling of the court. I believe that a bill is pending in the French Chambers, designed to relax in reasonable measure the rigor of this rule, in view of the demands of modern traffic and the increase of aerial navigation. But in the United States it is evident that no such relaxation can be permitted. It is a well-established doctrine of the law of real property that the owner of the land owns up to the zenith ;
and if the landowner’s exclusive proprietary rights in the air above his land have not heretofore been asserted except in relation to trespasses of a fixed nature, this is because the science of aerial navigation is yet in its infancy. The time will doubtless come when the air, which in its character of space is unquestionably the subject of private ownership, will be parceled out just as the land is ; and the unfortunate majority who own neither land nor a portion of the sky will be entitled to the use of the air only by the sufferance of its owners, and on making just compensation. The only free air will be that overlying public roads, parks, the public domain, etc. No such relaxation as is proposed in France
will, as I have remarked, be possible in the United States ; for the air, being appurtenant to the land, is property in the strictest sense, and its ownership is protected by the constitutional limitations imposed upon both the State and Federal governments, that no person shall be deprived of property without due process of law.
I regret to say that Judge Reardon was ultimately forced to pay a very large sum of money. For the benefit of students of jurisprudence, I present herewith a summary of the fines and recoveries awarded by the French courts : no damages were allowed against M. Rambaud or his airship, our suit being dismissed on the
ground that we were guilty of contributory negligence in riding in an automobile so constructed that grappling anchors from airships could not be removed while the car was in motion.
This is what Judge Reardon was called upon to pay:
Damages to M. Rambaud for loss
of time................................. 100
Damages to M. Rambaud for one
anchor rope............................ 20
Damages to the Société des Panorames Celestes for trespass
Government fine, for trespass on
Society’s air........................... 50
Fine for exceeding speed limit while going backward in automobile.................................. 100
Fine for navigating the air without a license........................... 200
Fine for making an aeronautic descent without a license............... 100
Damages to greenhouse.................40,000
Damages to proprietor of greenhouse for loss of business.........20,000
Fine for trespass on greenhouse
Fine for exceeding speed limit in
automobile while in greenhouse 100 Fine for running automobile into greenhouse, the same not being
a public road......................... 100
Fine for fighting a duel without obtaining permission of Prefect of Police and paying license fee
License fee for duel, paid nunc pro
My friend was particularly pleased that the fine and license fee for the duel were, as the reader will observe, limited to amounts practically nomin* al : and on his remarking this to out leading counsel, we learned that both the license fee for duels and the fine for duels fought without license had been reduced to nominal figures by an act introduced by the French Government only two years before, in response to the urgent denunciations of the party of the Extreme Left, who complained that the former legal exactions were so onerous as to make the cost of duels practically prohibitive except to the wealthier classes. On the passage of the measure the premier announced, in a voice thrilled
with emotion, that a wisely paternal government had now brought dueling “within the reach of all.”
But the remainder of the judgment was an obligation which Judge Reardon felt hardly able to meet, and on the advice of counsel he took an appeal. Elaborate arugments were had before a full bench.
Upon this appeal, in view of the very important legal questions involved, there was engaged as special counsel against Judge Reardon, the renowned Maitre Dautelle, one of the ablest and most learned advocates of Paris, and indeed of Europe. On the afternoon of his final argument, the Chamber of Deputies adjourned and the members of the cabinet attended court in a body. The scene was impressive in the extreme. Tall in stature and ardent of aspect, the form of Dautelle was endued with a majesty worthy of the weight of his great argument. Opposed to him though we were, we could not but admire his eloquence.
“Let not the goddess of justice,” cried the eloquent advocate, his tall form swaying with emotion and his voice ringing like a clarion, “let not the goddess of justice turn from the problems that press before her eyes. So venerable, so majestic, is this everliving fabric of beauty and of truth, this mighty system of law in the civilized world, that hers be our homage forever. So plastic, yet so sure ; so kind, yet so firm her mandates, that we may not doubt that as new fields arise for their application, new and adequate laws will be found for their solution. Was it not a great English jurist who said, ‘The perfection of the common law is the perfection of common sense ?’ Ah ! my masters, these words are as true of that great system of the civil law to which continental nations bow. As new needs arise, so does the law extend. Step by step the law follows science, invention, and the arts. The
railroad came, and the law of common carriers speedily adapted itself to the change. Behold the civilized world united, a network of telegraphs, cables, telephones, wireless messengers of thought ! Does not the law meet these changed conditions and adapt itself to them? Automobiles come, and the law is ready. By statute, by decision, by the labors of the jurist, does the mighty system of modern law adapt itself to these powerful vehicles.
“And now, O judges, we are become masters of the air. Air is invaded, and trepassed upon. Monsters from the empyrean blue descend upon the dwelling place of men. New duties arise ; new contracts ; new rights ; new wrongs. How splendid is the law ! How nobly she adapts herself ! Let us follow her!”
The band struck up the Marseillaise. The President of the Court wept copiously. Maitre Dautelle himself, in a state of profound agitation, embraced Judge Reardon. The ministers shed tears of joy, and in the rear of the room a new wing of the Opposition was hurriedly formed, choosing Maitre Dautelle as its leader. The triumphant advocate, marching amid the huzzas of the court room to the judges’ bench, waved aloft his manuscript and shouted, “Liberte, Egalité, Freternite!”
It was a thrilling moment!
After four months’ deliberation the court wrote an exhaustive opinion, covering all the points in the case. The judgment was modified by striking therefrom the ioo francs fine for exceeding the speed limit while going backward in the automobile, and as so modified was affirmed with 600 francs extra cost of appeal. When the decision was rendered and the remission of the fine pronounced, our advocate burst into tears ; he said that they were tears of joy, for never more could it be said that a foreigner could not obtain justice in a French court of appeal.