Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Books, poems, drama…

A Columbus of Space by Garrett P. Serviss

Part 2 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

around us was amazing. When we were in the midst of it Edmund hesitated
for a moment, muttering that we had been too hasty and should have
remained longer to study the peculiarities of this wonderful world of
night; but finally he decided to keep on, and soon afterwards we saw the
last of the caverns. Then, as there appeared to be no obstructions of any
kind, the speed was worked up to a hundred miles an hour. Going straight
ahead as we did, there was no danger of the sleds being overturned.

Having, as Edmund had calculated, about five thousand miles to go before
reaching the edge of the sun-illuminated hemisphere, it was evident that,
at our present rate of progress, we should arrive there in a little over
two days by the calendar clock. We guided our course by the stars, and
for me one of the most interesting things was to see the earth sinking
toward the horizon, accompanied by the stars, as if the heavens were
revolving in a direction opposed to our line of travel. We smoked and
talked and ate and slept in the old way, while the marvelous mouths in
the wall resumed their strange deglutition. Thus the time passed, without
ennui, until, unexpectedly, a new phenomenon captured our attention.

Ahead, through the peephole, Edmund had descried again the flaming spires
which had so astonished us on our approach to Venus. But now their
appearance was splendid and imposing beyond words. Above them rose an arc
of pearly light which grew higher every hour. And with the arc of light
rose the flames also. At the same time they seemed to spread to the right
and the left, until they were simultaneously visible from both of the
side windows of the car. Their colors were wonderful--red, green, purple,
orange--all the hues of the prism.

"There is the old mystery again," exclaimed Edmund, "and I can no more
explain it now than I could when we first saw it on nearing the planet.
The arc of light above is natural enough; it's simply the dawn. The sun
never rises on this side of Venus, but it will rise for us because we are
approaching it, and the light is the first indication that we are getting
near enough to the border between day and night for some of the sun's
rays to be bent over the horizon by refraction. But those flames! See how
steady they are as a whole, and yet how they change color like a slowly
turning prism."

"Don't, for God's sake, run us into a conflagration," said Jack. "I'm
ready to believe anything of this topsy-turvy old planet, and I shouldn't
be surprised if the other side is all fire as this one is all frost. I
can stand these hairy beasts, but I'll be hanged if I want to be
introduced among salamanders."

"That's not real fire," said Edmund. "When we get a little nearer we can
see what it is. In the meantime I'll try to think it out."

The result of Edmund's meditations, when he announced it to us, an hour
later, awoke as much amazement in our minds as anything that had yet
occurred. He had been sitting silent in his corner, occasionally taking a
glimpse through the peephole, or one of the windows, when suddenly he
slapped his thigh, and springing to his feet, exclaimed:

"They're mountains of crystal!"

"Mountains of crystal!" we echoed.

"Nothing else in the world, and I am ashamed not to have foreseen the
thing. It's plain enough when you come to think about it. Remember that
Venus being a world lying half in the daylight and half in the night, is
necessarily as hot on one side as it is cold on the other. All of the
clouds and floating vapors are on the day side, where the sunbeams act.
The heated air charged with moisture rises over the sunward hemisphere,
and flows off above, on all sides, toward the night side, while from the
latter cold air flows in beneath to take its place. Along the junction of
the two hemispheres the clouds and moisture are condensed by the intense
cold, and fall in ceaseless snowstorms. This snow descending for ages has
piled up in mountainous masses whose height may be increased in some
places by real mountain ranges buried beneath. The atmospheric moisture
cannot pass very far into the night hemisphere without being condensed,
and so it is all arrested within a ring, or band, extending completely
around the planet, and marking the division between perpetual day and
perpetual night. The appearance of gigantic flames is produced by the
sunbeams striking these mountains of ice and snow from behind and
breaking into prismatic fire."

We listened to this explanation, so simple and yet so wonderful, with
mingled feelings of astonishment and admiration. And then we turned again
to regard the phenomenon, which now, with our nearer approach, had become
splendid and awful beyond description.

In a few minutes Edmund addressed us again. "I foresee now," he said,
"considerable trouble for us. There has been a warning of that, too, if I
had but heeded it. I've noticed for some time that a wind, getting
gradually stronger, has been following us, sometimes dying out and then
coming on again stronger than before. It is likely that this wind gets to
be a perfect hurricane in the neighborhood of those strange mountains. It
is the back suction, caused, as I have already told you, by the rising of
the heated air on the sunny side of the planet. It may play the deuce
with us when we get into the midst of it. I shall have to be cautious."

He immediately reduced the speed to not more than ten miles an hour, and
at once we noticed the wind of which he had spoken. It came now in great
gusts from behind, rapidly increasing in frequency and fury. Soon it was
strong enough to drive the sleds without any pull upon the cable, and
sometimes they were forced directly under the car, and even ahead of it,
the natives clinging to one another in the utmost terror. Edmund managed
to govern the motions of the car for a time, holding it back against the
storm, but as he confessed, this was a contingency he had made no
provision for, and eventually we became almost as helpless as a ship in a
typhoon.

"Of course I could cut loose from the sleds and run right out of this,"
said Edmund, "but that would never do. I've taken them into my service
and I'm bound to look out for them. If there was room for them in the car
it would be all right. Let's see. Yes! I've got it. I'll fetch up the
sleds and fasten them underneath the car, like baskets to a balloon, and
so carry the whole thing. There's plenty of power; it's only room that's
wanting."

No sooner said than done with Edmund. By this time we were getting into
the ice, huge hills of which surrounded us. Edmund dropped the car in the
lee of one of these strange hummocks. Here the force of the wind was
broken, and the sky directly over us was free from clouds, but a short
distance ahead we could see them whirling and tumbling in mighty masses
of tumultuous vapor. Lashing the two sleds together we attached them
about ten feet below the bottom of the car. Then the natives, who had
been unbound, and had stood looking on in utter bewilderment, were
securely fastened on the sleds. We entered the car and the power was
turned on.

"We'll rise straight up," said Edmund, "and as soon as we are out of the
wind current we will sail over the mountains and come down on the other
side as nice as you please. Strange that I didn't think of carrying the
sleds in this way to begin with."

It was a beautiful program that Edmund had outlined, and we had complete
confidence in our leader's ability to carry it through; but it didn't
work as expected. Even his genius had met its match this time.

No sooner had we risen out of the protection of the hill of ice than the
hurricane caught us. It was a blast of such power and ferocity that in an
instant it had the car spinning like a teetotum, and then it shot us
ahead, banging the sleds against the car as if they had been tassels. It
is a wonder of wonders that the poor creatures on them were not flung
off, but fortunately we had taken particular pains with their lashings,
and as for knocks, they could stand them like so many bears.

In the course of twenty minutes we must have traveled twice as many
miles, perfectly helpless to arrest our mad rush because, Edmund said,
the atomic reaction partly refused to work, and he could not rise as he
had expected to do. We were pitched hither and thither, and were
sprawling on the floor more than half the time. The noise was awful, and
nobody tried to speak after Edmund had shouted his single communication
about the power, which would have filled us with dismay if we had had
leisure to think.

The shutters were open, and suddenly I saw through one of the windows a
sight which I thought must surely be my last. The car had been sweeping
through a dense cloud of boiling vapors, and these had without warning
split open before my eyes--and there, almost in contact with the car, was
a glittering precipice of solid ice, gleaming with wicked blue flashes,
and we were rushing upon it as if shot out of a cannon!

The next instant came a terrific shock, which I thought must have crushed
the car like an eggshell, and down we fell--down and down!

CHAPTER VI

LOST IN THE CRYSTAL MOUNTAINS

If we had seen the danger earlier, and had not been so tumbled about by
the pitching of the car, it is possible that Edmund would have prevented
the collision, in spite of the partial disablement of his apparatus. The
blow against the precipice of ice was not as severe as it had seemed to
me, and the car was not smashed; but the fall was terrible! There was
only one thing which saved us from destruction. At the base of the mighty
cliff against which the wind had hurled the car an immense deposit of
snow had collected, and into this we plunged. We were all thrown together
in a heap, the car and the sleds being entangled with the wire ropes.

Fortunately the stout glass windows were not broken, and after we had
struggled to our feet Edmund managed to open the door. Before emerging he
bade us put on our furs, but even with them we found the cold outside all
but unendurable. Yet the natives paid no attention to it. Not one of them
was seriously hurt, although they were firmly attached to the sleds, and
unable to undo their fastenings. We set them loose, and then began
seriously to examine the situation.

Above us towered the vertical precipice disappearing in the whirling
clouds, and the wind drove square against it with the roar of Niagara.
The air was filled with snow and ice dust, and at intervals we could not
see objects three feet away from our noses. Our poor furry companions
huddled together, and being of no use to themselves or us, suffered more
from the noise, and from the terror inspired by the snow than from any
injuries that they had received.

"We've got to get out of this mighty quick," shouted Edward. "Hustle now
and repair ship."

We got to work at once, Juba aiding us a little under Edmund's direction,
and soon we had the sleds out of the tangle and properly attached. Then
we replaced the natives on their seats, and entered the car. Edmund began
to fumble with his apparatus. After some ten minutes' work he said, in an
evasive way, that the damage was not serious enough to prevent the
working of the car, but I thought I caught an expression of extreme
anxiety in his face. Still, his manner indicated that he considered
himself master of the situation.

"You notice," he said, "that this wind is variable, and there lies our
chance. When the blasts weaken, the air springs back from the face of the
cliff and then whirls round to the right. I've no doubt that there is a
passage in that direction through which the wind finds its way behind
this icy mountain, and if we can get there, too, we shall undoubtedly
find at least partial shelter. I'm going to take advantage of the first
lull."

It worked out just as he had predicted. As the wind surged back after a
particularly vicious rush against the great blue cliff, we cut loose and
went sailing up into it, rushing past the glittering wall so swiftly that
it made our heads swim. In two or three minutes we rounded a corner, and
then found ourselves in a kind of atmospheric eddy, where the car simply
spun round and round, with the sleds whirling below it.

"Now for it!" shouted Edmund. "Hang on!"

He touched a knob, and instantly we rose with immense speed. We must have
shot up a couple of thousand feet, when the wind, coming over the top of
the icy barrier we had just flanked, caught us again, and swept us off on
a horizontal course. Then, suddenly, the air cleared all round about, as
if a magic broom had swept away the clouds. The spectacle that was
revealed--but why try to describe it! No language could do it. Yet I must
tell you what we saw.

We were in the heart of the _Crystal Mountains!_ They towered round us on
every side, and stretched away in interminable ranges of shining
pinnacles. Such shapes! Such colors! Such flashing and blazing of
gigantic rainbows and prisms! There were mountains that looked to my
amazed eyes as lofty as Mont Blanc, and as massive, every solid mile of
which was composed of crystalline ice, refracting and reflecting the
sunbeams with iridescent splendor. For now we could begin to see a part
of the orb of the sun itself, prodigious in size, and poised on the edge
of the gem-glittering horizon, where the jeweled summits split its beams
into a thousand haloes.

There was one mighty peak, still ahead of us, but toward which we were
rushed sidewise by the wind, which surpassed all the others in
marvelousness. It towered majestically above our level--a superb,
stupendous, coruscating _Alp of Light_! On every side it darted blinding
rays of a hundred splendid hues, as if a worldful of emeralds, rubies,
sapphires, and diamonds had been heaped together in one gigantic pile and
transfused with a sunburst. Even Edmund was for a moment speechless with
astonishment at this wildly magnificent sight. But presently he spoke,
very calmly, though what he said changed our amazement to terror.

"The trouble with the apparatus is very serious. I am unable to make the
car rise higher. It will no longer react against an obstacle. We are
entirely at the mercy of the wind. If it carries us against that
glittering devil no power under heaven can save us."

If my hair had not whitened before it surely would have whitened now!

[Illustration: "We were in the heart of the _Crystal Mountains_!"]

When we were swept against the first icy precipice the danger had come
unexpectedly, out of a concealing cloud, and anticipation was swallowed
up in the event. But now we had to bear the fearful strain of
expectation, with the paralyzing knowledge that nothing that we could do
could aid us in the least. I thought that even Edmund's face paled with
fear.

On we rushed, still borne sidewise, so that the spectacle was burned into
our eyes, as, with the fascination of impending death, we gazed helpless
out of the window. Now we were upon it! Instinctively I threw myself
backward; but the blow did not come. Instead there was a wild rush of ice
crystals sweeping the thick glass.

"Look!" shouted Edmund. "We are safe! See how the particles of ice are
swept from the face of the peak by the tempest. They leap toward us, and
are then whirled round the mountain. The compacted air forms a buffer. We
may yet touch the precipice, but the wind, having free vent on both
sides, will carry us one way or the other without a serious shock."

He had hardly finished speaking, in a voice that had risen to a shriek
with the effort to make himself heard, when the crisis came. We did just
touch a projecting ridge, but the wind, howling past it, carried us in an
instant round the obstruction.

"Scared ourselves for nothing," said Edmund, in a quieter voice, as the
roar died down. "We were really as safe all the time as a boat in a deep
rapid. The velocity of the current sheered us off."

Our hearts beat more steadily again, but there was a greater danger, of
which he had warned us, but which we had not had time to contemplate. I,
at least, began to think of it with dismay when the scintillant peak was
left behind, and I saw Edmund again working away at his machinery.
Presently it was manifest that we were rapidly sinking.

"What's the matter?" I cried. "We seem to be going down."

"So we are," he replied quietly, "and I fear that we shall not go up
again very soon. The power is failing all the time. It will be pretty
hard to have to stop indefinitely in this frightful place, but I am
afraid that that is our destiny."

Lost and helpless in these mountains of ice and this world of gloom and
storm! The thought was too terrible to be entertained. Yet it was forced
into our minds even more by our leader's manner than by his words. Not
one of us failed to comprehend its meaning, and it was characteristic
that, while talkative Jack now said not a word, uncommunicative Henry
burst into a brief fury of denunciation. I was startled by the energy of
his words:

"Edmund Stonewall," he cried, agitating his arms, "you have brought me to
my death with your infernal invention! May you be--"

But he never finished the sentence. His face turned as white as a sheet,
and he sank in a heap upon the floor.

"Poor fellow," said Edmund, pityingly. "Would to God that he instead of
Church had remained at home. But I'll get him and all of us out of this
trouble; only give me a little time."

In a few minutes Jack and I had restored Henry to his senses, but he was
as weak as a child, and remained lying on one of the cushioned benches.
In the meantime the car descended until at last it rested upon the snow
in a deep valley, where we were protected from the wind. In this profound
depression a kind of twilight prevailed, for the sun, which we had
glimpsed when we were on the level of the peaks, was at least thirty
degrees below our present horizon. Henry having recovered his nerve, we
all got out of the car, unloosed the natives, and began to look about us.

The scene was more disheartening than ever. All about towered the crystal
mountains, their bases leaden-hued and formless in the ghostly gloom,
while their middle parts showed deep gleams of ultramarine, brightening
to purple higher up, and a few aspiring peaks behind us sparkled
brilliantly where the sunlight touched them. It was such a spectacle as
the imagination could not have conceived, and I have often tried in vain
to reproduce it satisfactorily in my own mind.

Was there ever such a situation as ours? Cast away in a place wild and
wonderful beyond description, millions of miles from all human aid and
sympathy, millions of miles from the world that had given us birth! I
could, in bitterness of spirit, have laughed at the suggestion that there
was any hope for us. And yet, at that very moment, not only was there
hope, but there was even the certainty of deliverance. But, unknown to
us, it lay in the brain of the incomparable man who had brought us
hither.

I have told you that it was twilight in the valley where we lay. But
when, as frequently happened, tempests of snow burst over the mountains,
and choked the air about us, the twilight turned to deepest night, and we
had to illumine the lamps in the car. By great good fortune, Edmund said,
enough power remained to furnish us with light and heat, and now I looked
upon those mysterious black-tusked muzzles in the car with a new
sentiment, praying that they would not turn to mouths of death.

The natives, being used to darkness, needed no artificial illumination.
In fact, we had observed that whenever the sunlight had streamed over
them their great eyes were almost blinded, and they suffered cruelly from
an affliction so completely outside of all their experience. Edmund now
began to speak to us of this, saying that he ought to have foreseen and
provided against it.

"I shall try to find some means of affording protection to their eyes
when we arrive in the sunlit hemisphere," he said. "It must be my first
duty."

We heard these words with a thrill of hope.

"Then you think that we shall escape?" I asked.

"Of course we shall escape," he replied cheerfully. "I give you my word
for it, but do not ask me for any particulars yet. The exact means I have
not yet found, but find them I will. We may have to stay where we are for
a considerable time, and our companions must be made comfortable. Even
under their furry skins they'll suffer from this kind of weather."

Following his directions we took a lot of extra furs from the car, and
constructed a kind of tent, under which the natives could huddle on the
sleds. There being but little wind in the valley, this was not so
difficult an undertaking as it may seem. And the poor fellows were very
glad of the shelter, for some of them were shivering, since, not knowing
what to do, they were less active than ourselves. No sooner were they
housed than they fell to eating ravenously. Both the car and the sleds
had been abundantly provisioned, so that there was no immediate fear of a
famine among us.

Inside the car we soon had things organized very much as they were during
our voyage from the earth. We read, talked, and smoked to our hearts'
content, almost forgetting the icy mountains that tottered over us, and
the howling tempest which, with hardly an intermission, tore through the
cloud-choked air a thousand or two thousand feet above our heads. We
talked of our adventure with the meteors, which seemed an event of long
ago, and then we talked of home--home twenty-six million miles away! In
fact, it may have been thirty millions by this time, for Edmund had told
us that Venus, having passed conjunction while we were at the caverns,
was now receding from the earth.

But while we thus strove to kill the time and banish thoughts of our
actual situation, Edmund sat apart much of the time absorbed in thought,
and we respected his privacy, knowing that our only chance of escape lay
in him. One day (I speak always of "days," because we religiously counted
the passage of time by our clock) he issued alone from the car and was
absent a long time, so that we began to be concerned, and, going outside
looked everywhere for signs of him. At length, to our infinite relief, he
appeared stumbling and crawling along the foot of an icy mountain. As he
drew nearer we saw that he was smiling, and as soon as he was within easy
earshot he called out:

"It's all right. I've found the solution."

Then upon joining us he continued:

"We'll get out all right, but we shall have to be patient for a while
longer."

"What is it?" we asked eagerly. "What have you found out?"

"Peter," he said, turning to me, "you know what libration means; well,
it's libration that is going to save us. As Venus travels round the sun
she turns just once on her axis in making a complete circuit, the
consequence being, as you already know, that she has one side on which
the sun never rises while the other half is in perpetual daylight. But,
since her orbit is not a perfect circle, she travels a little faster than
the average during about half of her year and a little slower during the
other half, but, at the same time, her steady rotation on her axis never
varies. This produces the phenomenon that is called libration, the result
of which is that, along the border between the day and night hemispheres
there is a narrow strip where the sun rises and sets once in each of her
years, which are about two hundred and twenty-five of our days in length.
Within this strip the sun shines continuously for about sixteen weeks,
gradually rising during eight weeks and sinking during the following
eight. Then, during the next sixteen weeks, the strip lies in unceasing
night.

"Now the kind fates have willed that we should fall just within this
lucky strip. By the utmost good fortune after we passed the blazing peak
which so nearly wrecked us, we were carried on by the wind so far, before
the ascensional power of the car gave out, that we descended on the
sunward side of the crest of the range. The sun is now just beginning to
rise on the part of the strip where we are, and it will get higher for
several weeks to come. The result will be that a great melting of ice and
snow will occur here, and in this deep valley a river will form, flowing
off toward the sunward hemisphere, exactly where we want to go. I shall
take advantage of the torrent that will flow here and float down with it
until we are out of the labyrinth. It's our only chance, for we couldn't
possibly clamber over the hummocky ice and drag the car with us."

"Why not leave the car here?" asked Henry.

Edmund looked at him and smiled.

"Do you want to stay on Venus all your life?" he asked. "I thought you
didn't like it well enough for that. How could we ever get back to the
earth without the car? I can repair the mechanism as soon as I can find
certain substances, which I am sure exist on this planet as well as on
the earth. But it is no use looking for them in this icy wilderness. No,
we can never abandon the car. We must take it with us, and the only
possible way to transport it is with the aid of the coming river."

"But how will you manage to float?" I asked.

"The car, being air-tight, will float like a buoy."

"But the natives, will you abandon them?"

"God forbid. I'll contrive a way for them."

The effects of libration on Venus were not new to me, but they were to
Jack and Henry, who had never studied such things, and they expressed
much doubt about Edmund's plan, but I had confidence in it from the
beginning, and it turned out just as he had predicted, as things always
did. Every twenty-four hours we saw, with thankful hearts, that the sun
had perceptibly risen, and as it rose, the sky gradually cleared, while
the sunbeams, falling uninterruptedly, grew hotter and hotter. Soon we no
longer had any use for furs, or for artificial heat. At the same time the
melting of the ice began. It formed, in fact, a new danger, by bringing
down avalanches into the valley, yet we watched the process joyously,
since it fell so entirely within Edmund's program. While we were awaiting
the flood, Edmund had prepared screens to protect the eyes of the
natives.

We were just at the bottom of the trough of the valley, near its head. It
wound away before us, turning out of sight beyond an icy bulwark. Streams
were soon pouring down from the heights all around, and uniting, they
formed a little torrent, which flowed swiftly over the smooth, hard ice.
Edmund now completed his plan.

"I'll take Juba in the car with us," he said. "There's just room for him.
As for the others, we'll fasten the sleds on each side of the car, which
will be buoyant enough to float them, and they'll have to take their
chances outside."

We made the final arrangements while the little torrent was swelling to a
river. Before it became too broad and deep we managed to place the car
across the center of its course, the sleds forming outriders. Then all
took their places and waited. Higher and higher rose the waters, while
avalanches, continually increasing in size and number, thundered down the
heights, and vast cataracts leaped and poured from the precipices. It was
a mercy that we were so situated that the avalanches could not reach the
car. But we received some pretty hard knocks before the stream became
deep and steady enough to float us off. Shall I ever forget that moment?

There came a sudden wave, forced onward by a great slide of ice, which
lifted car and sleds on its crest, and away we went! The car proved more
buoyant than I had believed possible. The sleds, fastened on each side,
tended to give it extra stability, and it did not sink deeper than the
middle of the windows. The latter, though formed of very thick glass,
might have been broken by the tossing ice if they had not been divided
into small panes separated by bars of steel, which projected a few inches
outside.

"I made that arrangement for meteors," said Edmund, "but I never thought
that they would have to be defended against ice."

The increasing force of the current sent us spinning down the valley with
accelerated speed. We swept round the nearest ice peak on the left, and
as we passed under its projecting buttresses a fearful roar above
informed us that an avalanche of unexampled magnitude had been unchained.
We could not withdraw our eyes from the window on that side of the car,
and almost instantly immense masses of ice appeared crashing into the
water, throwing it over us in floods and half drowning the unfortunate
wretches on the sleds. Still, they clung on, fastened together, and we
could do nothing to aid them. The uproar grew worse, and the ice came
plunging down faster and faster, accompanied with a deluge of water from
the heights above. The car pitched and rolled until we were all flung off
our feet. Poor Juba was a picture of abject terror. He hung moaning to a
bench, his huge eyes aglow with fright.

Suddenly the car seemed to be lifted clear from the water, and then it
fell back again and was submerged, so that we were buried in night.
Slowly we rose to the surface, and Edmund, springing to a window,
shouted:

"They're gone! Heaven have pity on them--and on me!"

In spite of their fastenings the water had swept every living soul from
the sled on the left. We rushed to the other window. It was the same
story there--the sled on that side was also empty. I saw a furry body
tossed in the torrent alongside, but in a second it disappeared beneath
the raging water. At the same time Edmund exclaimed:

"God forgive us for bringing those poor creatures here only to meet their
death!"

CHAPTER VII

THE CHILDREN OF THE SUN

But the situation was too critical to permit us to think of the
unfortunates whose death we had undoubtedly caused. There seemed less
than an even chance of our getting through with our own lives. As we
tossed and whirled onward the water rose yet higher, and blocks of ice
assailed us on all sides. First the sled on the left was torn loose; then
the other followed it, leaving the car to fight its battle alone. But the
loss of the sleds was a good thing now that their occupants were gone,
for it eased off the weight and the car rose much higher in the water.
Moreover, it gave way more readily when pressed by the ice. To be sure,
it rolled more than before, but still, being well ballasted, it did not
turn turtle, and most of the time we were able to keep on our feet by
holding fast to the inside window bars.

Once we took a terrible plunge, over a vertical fall of not less than
twenty or thirty feet. But the water below the fall was very deep, a
profound hole having been quickly scooped out in the unfathomable ice
beneath, so that we did not strike bottom, as I had feared, but came
bobbing to the top again like a cork. Below this fall there was a very
long series of rapids, extending, it seemed, for miles upon miles, and we
shot down them with the speed of an express train, lurching from side to
side, and colliding with hundreds of ice floes. It must not be supposed
that we went through this experience without suffering any injuries. On
the contrary, our hands were all bleeding, our faces cut, Henry had one
eye closed by a blow, and our clothing, for we were not wearing our
Arctic outfit, was badly used up. Yet none of our injuries was really
serious, although we looked as if we had just come out of the toughest
kind of a street brawl.

But there is no use in prolonging the story of this awful ride. It seemed
to us to last for days upon days, though, in fact, the worst of it was
over within twelve hours after we were lifted from our moorings in the
valley. The tumbling stream gradually broadened out as it left the region
of the high mountains, and then we found ourselves in a district covered
with icy hills of no great elevation. But we could still see, by glances,
as the stream curved this way and that, the glittering peaks behind. It
was an appalling thing to watch many of the nearer hills as they suddenly
sank, collapsed, and disappeared, like pinnacles of loaf sugar melting
and falling to pieces in a basin of water.

Edmund said that all of the ice-hills and mounds through which we were
passing no doubt owed their existence to pressure from behind, in the
belt where the sun never rose, and where the ice was piled up in actual
mountains. These foothills were, in fact, enormous glaciers thrust out
toward the sunward hemisphere.

After a long time the now broad river widened yet more until it became a
great lake, or bay. The surface of the planet around appeared nearly
level, and, as far as we could see, was mostly covered by the water. Here
vast fields of ice floated, and the water was not muddy, as it would have
been if it had passed over soil, but of crystal purity and wonderfully
blue in places where shafts of sunlight penetrated to great depths--for
now the sun was high above the horizon ahead, and shining in an almost
clear sky. Presently we began to notice the wind again. It came fitfully,
first from one quarter and then another, rapidly increasing until, at
times, it rose into a tempest. It lifted the water in huge combing waves,
but the car rode them like a lifeboat.

"There is peril for us in this," said Edmund, at last. "We are being
carried by the current into a region where the contending winds may play
havoc. It is the place where the hot air from the sunward side begins to
be chilled and to descend, meeting the colder air from the night side. It
must form a veritable belt of storms, which may be as difficult to pass,
circumstanced as we are, as the crystal mountains themselves."

"Suppose it should turn out that there is nothing but an ocean on this
side of the planet," I suggested.

"That I believe to be impossible," Edmund responded. "This hemisphere
must be, as a whole, broken up into highlands and depressions. The
geological formation of the other side, as far as I could make it out
from the appearance of the rocks in the caverns, indicates that Venus has
undergone the same experience of upheavals and fracturings of the crust
that the earth has been through. If that is true of one side it must be
true of the other also, for during a large part of these geological
changes she undoubtedly rotated rapidly on her axis like the earth."

"But we traveled five thousand miles on the other side without
encountering anything but a frozen prairie," I objected.

"True enough, and yet I would lay a wager that all of that side of the
planet is not equally level. Remember the vast plains of Russia and
Siberia."

"Well," put in Jack, whose spirits were beginning to revive, "if there's
a shore somewheres, let's find it. I want to see the other kind of
inhabitants. These that we've met don't accord with my ideas of Venus."

"We shall find them," responded Edmund, "and I think I can promise you
that they will not disappoint your expectations."

Yet there seemed to be nothing in our present situation to warrant the
confidence expressed by our leader's words and manner. The current that
had carried us out of the crystal mountains gradually disappeared in a
vast waste of waters, and we were driven hither and thither by the
tempestuous wind. Its force increased hour by hour, and at last the sky,
which at brief intervals had been clear and exquisitely blue, became
choked with black clouds, sweeping down upon the face of the waters, and
often whirled into great _trombes_ by the tornadic blasts. Several times
the car was deluged by waterspouts, and once it was actually lifted up
into the air by the mighty suction. An ordinary vessel would not have
lived five minutes in that hell of winds and waters. But the car, if it
had been built for this kind of navigation, could not have behaved
better.

I do not know how long all this lasted. It grew worse and worse.
Sometimes a flood of rain fell, and then would come a storm of lightning,
and a downpour of gigantic hailstones that rattled upon the steel shell
of the car like a rain of bullets from a battery of machine guns. Half
the time one window or the other was submerged by the waves, and when we
got an opportunity to glance out, we saw nothing but torn streamers of
cloud whipping the face of the waters. But when the change came at last,
it was as sudden as the dropping of a curtain. The clouds broke away, a
soft light filled the atmosphere, the waves ceased to break and rolled in
long undulations, and a marvelous dome appeared overhead.

That dome, at its first dramatic appearance, was one of the most
astonishing things that we saw in the whole course of our adventures. It
was not a cerulean vault like that which covers the earth in halcyon
weather, but an indescribably soft, pinkish-gray concavity that seemed
nearer than the sky and yet farther than the clouds. Here and there, far
beneath it, but still at a vast elevation, floated delicate gauzy
curtains, tinted like sheets of mother-of-pearl. The sun was no longer
visible, but the air was filled with a delicious luminousness, which
bathed the eyes as if it had been an ethereal liquid.

Below each window was a steel ledge, broad enough to stand on, with
convenient hold-fasts for the hands. These had evidently been prepared
for some such contingency, and Edmund, throwing open the windows, invited
us to go outside. We gladly accepted the invitation, and all, except
Juba, issued into the open air. The temperature was that of an early
spring day, and the air was splendidly fresh and stimulating. The rolling
of the car had now nearly ceased, and we had no difficulty in maintaining
our positions. For a long while we admired, and talked of, the great dome
overhead, which drew our attention, for the time, from the sea that had
so strangely brought us hither.

"There," said Edmund, pointing to the dome, "is the inside of the shell
of cloud whose exterior, gleaming in the sunshine, baffles our
astronomers in their efforts to see the surface of Venus. I believe that
we shall find the whole of this hemisphere covered by it. It is a shield
for the inhabitants against the fervors of an unsetting sun. Its presence
prevents their real world from being seen from outside."

"Well," said Jack, laughing, "I never heard before that Venus was fond of
a veil."

"Not only can they not be seen," continued Edmund, "but they cannot
themselves see beyond the screen that covers them."

"Worse and worse!" exclaimed Jack. "The astronomers have certainly made a
mistake in naming this bashful planet Venus."

We continued for a long time to gaze at the great dome, admiring the
magnificent play of iridescent colors over its vast surface, until
suddenly Jack, who had gone to the other side of the car, called out to
us:

"Come here and tell me what this is."

We hurried to his side and were astonished to see a number of glittering
objects which appeared to be floating in the atmosphere. They were
arranged in an almost straight row, at an elevation of perhaps two
thousand feet, and were apparently about three miles away. After a few
moments of silence, Edmund said, in his quiet way:

"Those are air ships."

"Air ships!"

"Yes, surely. An exploring expedition, I shouldn't wonder. I anticipated
something of that kind. You know already how dense the atmosphere of
Venus is. It follows that balloons, and all sorts of machines for aerial
navigation, can float much more easily here than over the earth. I was
prepared to find the inhabitants of Venus skilled in such things, and I'm
not surprised by what we see."

"Venus with wings!" cried Jack. "Now, Edmund, that sounds more like it. I
guess we've struck the right planet after all."

"But," I said, "you spoke of an exploring expedition. How in the world do
you make that out?"

"It seems perfectly natural to me," replied Edmund. "Remember the two
sides of the planet, so wonderfully different from one another. If we on
the earth are so curious about the poles of our planet, simply because
they are unlike other parts of the world, don't you think that the
inhabitants of Venus should be at least equally curious concerning a
whole hemisphere of their world, which differs _in toto_ from the half on
which they live?"

"That does seem reasonable," I assented.

"Of course it's reasonable, and I imagine that we, ourselves, are about
to be submitted to investigation."

"By Jo!" exclaimed Jack, running his hands through his hair, and
smoothing his torn and rumpled garments, "then we must make ready for
inspection. But I'm afraid we won't do much honor to old New York. Can I
get a shave aboard your craft, Edmund?"

"Oh, yes," Edmund replied, laughing. "I didn't forget soap and razors."

But Jack would have had no time to make his toilet even if he had
seriously thought of it. The strange objects in the air approached with
great rapidity, and we soon saw that Edmund had correctly divined their
nature. They were certainly air ships, and I was greatly interested in
the observation that they seemed to be constructed somewhat upon the
principles upon which our inventors were then working on the earth. But
they were neither aeroplanes nor balloons. They bore a resemblance to
mechanical birds, and seemed to be sustained and forced ahead by a
wing-like action.

This, of course, did not escape Edmund's notice.

"Look," he said admiringly, "how easily and gracefully they fly. Perhaps
with our relatively light atmosphere we shall never be able to do that
on the earth; but no matter," he added, with a flush, "for with the
inter-atomic energy at our command, we shall have no need to imitate the
birds."

"Perhaps they have made that discovery here, too," I suggested.

"No, it is evident that they have not, else they would not be employing
mechanical means of flight. Once let me get the car fixed up and we'll
give them a surprise."

"Yes, and if you had used common sense," growled Henry, nursing his
injured eye, "you would not be here fooling away your time and ours, and
risking our lives every minute, but you'd be making millions and
revolutionizing life at home."

"And where'd the Columbus of Space be then?" demanded Jack. "Hanged if
Edmund is not right! I'd rather be here meeting these doves of Venus than
grinding out dollars on the earth. And can't we go back and scoop in the
money when we get ready?"

The discussion went no further, for, by this time, two of the air ships
were close at hand. And now we perceived, for the first time, the beings
that they carried. Our surprise at the sight was even greater than that
which we had experienced upon meeting the inhabitants of the dark
hemisphere. The latter were extraordinary--but we were looking for
extraordinary things. Indeed they were, except for certain peculiarities,
much more like some members of our own race than we should have deemed
possible. How great, then, was our astonishment upon seeing the two air
ships apparently in charge of _real human beings_!

At least that was our first impression. In the midst of the strange
apparatus, which evidently fulfilled the function of wings for the air
ships, we saw decks, spacious enough to contain twenty persons, and
surmounted with deck houses, and along the railings inclosing the decks
were gathered the crews, among whom we believed that we could recognize
their officers. The two vessels had approached within a hundred yards
before being suddenly arrested. Then they settled gracefully down upon
the water, where they floated like swans.

At first, as I have said, the resemblance of their crews to inhabitants
of the earth seemed complete. One would have said that we had met a
yachting party, composed of tall, well-formed, light-complexioned,
yellow-haired Englishmen, the pick of their race. At a distance their
dress alone appeared strange, though it, too, might easily be imitated on
the earth. As well as I can describe it, it bore some resemblance, in
general effect, to the draperies of a Greek statue, and it was specially
remarkable for the harmonious blending of soft hues in its texture.

During a space of at least five minutes we gazed at them, and they at us.
Probably their surprise was greater than ours, because we had been on the
lookout for strange sights, being, of our own volition, in a foreign
world, while they could have had no expectation of such an encounter,
even if, as Edmund had conjectured, they were engaged in exploration. We
could read their astonishment in their gesticulations. Slowly the car and
the nearer of the two air ships drifted closer together. When we were
within less than fifty yards of one another, Jack suddenly called out:

"A woman! By Jo, it's Venus herself!"

His excited voice rang like a rattle of musketry in the heavy air, and
the beings on the air ship started back in alarm. But although, like the
inhabitants of the dark hemisphere, they were, evidently, unaccustomed
to hearing sounds of such forcefulness issue from a living creature no
larger than themselves, they were not faint-hearted, and the air ship did
not, as we half expected it would, take flight. The momentary commotion
was quickly quieted, and our visitors continued their inspection. All of
us immediately recognized the personage whom Jack had singled out as the
subject of his startling exclamation. It was clear that he had rightly
guessed her sex, and she appeared worthy of his admiring designation.
Even at the distance of a hundred feet we could see that she was very
beautiful. Her complexion was light, with a flame upon the cheeks; her
hair a chestnut blond; and her large, round eyes were sapphire blue, and
seemed to radiate a light of their own. This last statement (about the
eyes) must not be taken for a conventional exaggeration, such as writers
of fiction employ in describing heroines who never existed. On the
contrary, it expresses a literal fact; and moreover, as the reader will
see further on, this peculiarity of the eyes was shared, in varying
degrees, by all these people of Venus, and was connected with the most
amazing of all our discoveries on that planet. I should say here that,
while the eyes of the inhabitants of the day side were larger than ours,
they did not, in respect of size, resemble the extraordinary organs of
vision possessed by the compatriots of Juba.

In a few minutes we became aware that the beautiful creature we had been
admiring was not the only representative of the female sex on the air
ship. Several others surrounded her, and the fact quickly became manifest
that they recognized her as a superior. Still more surprising was the
discovery, which we were not long in making, that she was actually the
commander of the craft. We could see that the orders which determined its
movements emanated from her.

"Amazons!" exclaimed Jack, taking pains this time to moderate his voice.
"And what a queen they've got!"

During all this time the car and the air ship were slowly drifting nearer
to one another, drawn by that strange attraction which seems to affect
inanimate things when in close neighborhood, and when they were not more
than fifteen yards apart the personage we had been watching slowly lifted
her arm, revealing a glittering bracelet, and, with an ineffably winning
smile, made a gesture which said plainer than any words could have done:

"Welcome, strangers."

CHAPTER VIII

LANGUAGE WITHOUT SPEECH

"That breaks the ice," said the irrepressible Jack. "We're introduced! Now
for the conquest of Venus."

We had all instinctively returned the smile of our beautiful
interlocutor, with bows and gestures of amity, and it looked as though we
might soon be within touch of her hand, for the vessels continued to
drift nearer, when suddenly Juba clambered out of the window and stood
beside us, his moon eyes blinking in the unaccustomed light. The greatest
agitation was immediately manifest among the crowd on the deck of the air
ship. They seemed to be even more startled than they had been by the
sound of Jack's voice. They interchanged looks, and, apparently, a few
words, spoken in very low voices, and glanced from Juba to us in a way
which plainly showed that they were astonished at our being together.

Edmund, whose perspicacity never deserted him, immediately penetrated
their thoughts.

"It is clear," he said, "that these people recognize Juba as an
inhabitant of the dark hemisphere, while, as to us, they are puzzled, and
all the more so now that Juba has made his appearance. I think it certain
that they have never actually met any representative of Juba's race
before, but no doubt he bears, to their eyes, ethnological
characteristics which escape our discernment, and it is likely that
tradition has handed down to them facts about the inhabitants of the
other side of their planet which accord with his appearance."

"Then, they must conclude that we have come from the other side, and
brought Juba along as a captive," I said.

"Undoubtedly."

"And what must they think of us--that we are inhabitants of the dark
hemisphere also?"

"What else can they think?"

I do not know into what train of speculation this might have led us if a
new incident had not suddenly changed the current of our thoughts.
Unnoticed by us the second air ship had drawn near. Signals were
interchanged between it and the first, and we observed that she who
seemed to be the commander in chief gave orders that the second air ship
should lay us aboard. The order was no sooner given than executed, and we
found ourselves face to face with a dozen of the blond-haired natives,
led by one who was clearly their captain. The deck of the air ship
touched the side of the car, and, as if instinctively recognizing our
leader, the captain laid his hand on Edmund's arm, but with a smile which
gave assurance that no violence was intended.

"Come," said Edmund, in a low voice, "it is best that we should go aboard
their craft. We are in their hands, and luckily so, for they will take us
where we want to go."

Accordingly, all, including Juba, passed upon the deck of the air ship.
You will readily imagine the intensity of interest with which we studied
the faces and forms of those whom I will call our captors. Now that we
were in contact with them we could better observe their resemblances to,
and differences from, ourselves. In all the main features of body they
were human beings, but of a somewhat superior stature. Noses and mouths
were small and delicate; hair long, silken, and either light gold or rich
chestnut in color; skin white and smooth; ears small and peculiarly
formed, with a curious mobility; and eyes large, round, invariably light
blue, and possessing that strange luminousness of which I have already
spoken. One could not look directly into these eyes without a certain
shrinking, for some wonderful power seemed to radiate from them, and one
had the feeling that the intelligence behind them could dip to the bottom
of his mind. We were gently treated and could perceive no indication of
peril to ourselves. Nevertheless, we were glad to feel our pistols in our
pockets. There were seats on the deck to which we were civilly conducted,
but Edmund refused to sit.

"I must see the commander herself," he whispered. "These are only
subordinates, and I cannot deal with them. It will not do to leave the
car here at the mercy of the waves. I must find the means of making them
understand that it is to go with us."

Accordingly, he approached the captain, and we watched him with beating
hearts, not being able to divine what an attempt to dictate terms on our
part might lead to. Jack shook his head, and put his hand on his pistol,
which Edmund had restored to him while we were in the ice mountains.

"I'll drop the jackanapes in his tracks if he shows up ugly," he said.

"You'd better keep quiet," I whispered, "and don't let them see your
weapon. They appear to have no arms, and you should trust to Edmund to
manage the affair. When he gives the word it will be time enough to begin
shooting."

Jack grumbled, but kept the pistol in his pocket, although he did not
withdraw his hand from it.

I have already told you how, at the caverns, Edmund had discovered that
the inhabitants there possessed a means of converse which he likened to
telepathy, and from what I had seen of the people here I was convinced
that they had the same mysterious power, and probably in a higher degree.
To be sure, they used words occasionally, but for the most part they
communed together in some other way. I felt sure that Edmund was now
about to apply what he had learned, and his actions quickly demonstrated
that my conjecture was well founded. Just what he did, I do not know, but
the result of his conference was promptly apparent.

The first air ship had withdrawn a short distance when the other boarded
the car, but now the two mutually approached until it was possible to
step from one deck to the other. As soon as they touched, Edmund was
conducted by the captain, at whose side he had remained standing, to the
presence of the important personage whom Jack had begun to designate as
the queen. We remained where we were, watching with all eyes, while Jack
persisted in keeping his hand on the pistol in his pocket. A crowd
immediately surrounded Edmund and we were unable to see exactly what went
on, a fact that rendered Jack so much the more impatient. But it turned
out that there was no cause for alarm. In about ten minutes the crowd
opened and Edmund appeared. Uninterfered with, he came to the edge of the
deck, close by us, and said:

"It is all arranged. The car will be towed by one of the air ships. I am
to stay here and you will remain where you are until we reach our
destination."

"Have you had a talk with her?" asked Jack.

"Not in any language that you understand," Edmund responded, smiling.
"But I have made good use of what I learned in the caverns. These people
are intellectually vastly superior to the others, and, as I guessed, they
possess a more perfect command of the sort of telepathy that I told you
about. I have not found much difficulty in making my wish understood, and
your amazon is a very obliging person. It is only necessary to be
discreet and we shall have no trouble."

"But why are you to be separated from us?" asked Jack anxiously. "That
looks bad, for it is exactly what they would do if they meant to kill us
one at a time."

"Why should they kill us?" retorted Edmund.

"And why should we be separated?" persisted Jack. "I tell you, Edmund, I
don't like it."

"Very well, then," Edmund said, after a moment's thought; "if that's the
way you feel about it, I'll see what I can do. It will be another
exercise for me in this new kind of language. But, mark this, if I
succeed in persuading the chieftainess to keep us together, you will have
to acknowledge that your fears were groundless. Perhaps it's worth trying
on that very account."

He disappeared from our eyes again--for as soon as he approached their
leader the people of the air ship crowded close around as if to afford
her protection--and, after another ten minutes' conference, came back
smiling to the edge of the deck.

"Dismiss your fears, friend Jack," he said cheerfully. "You are all to
come aboard here with me. So you see there could have been no thought of
treachery; but I'm glad that we are not to be separated, and I thank you
for your solicitude on my account. I'm sure that the original
arrangement was made only because of lack of room aboard this craft, and
you'll see that that was the reason."

He was right, for immediately half a dozen of the crew of the principal
air ship were sent aboard ours while we were transferred to take their
place.

We now had an opportunity to study the countenance of the "amazon"
commander, and we found her to be an even more remarkable personage than
she had appeared at a distance. Of the beauty of her features and form I
shall say no more, but about her eyes I could write a chapter. The
pupils, widely expanded amidst their circles of sky-blue iris, seemed to
speak. I can describe the impression that they made in no other way. I no
longer wondered at Edmund's ability to converse with her, for I felt
that, with a little instruction, and more of our leader's mental
penetration, I could do it myself. At times I shrank from encountering
her gaze, for I verily believed that she read my inmost thoughts. And I
could see that _thought came out of her eyes_, but it escaped all my
efforts to grasp it; it was too evanescent, or I was too dull. Sometimes
I imagined that the meaning was at the threshold of comprehension, but
yet it evaded me, like forgotten words whose general sense dimly
irradiates the mind, while they refuse to take a definite shape, and keep
flitting just beyond the reach of memory. Still, charity and good will
shone out so plainly that anybody could read them, and I do not know how
to express the feeling that came over me at this evidence of friendliness
exhibited by an inhabitant of a world so far from our own. It was as if a
dim sense of ultimate fraternity bound her to us. Jack's enthusiasm, as
you may guess, was without bounds, and strangely enough it rendered him
almost speechless.

"By Jo!" he kept repeating to himself in an undertone, without venturing
upon any further expression of his feelings.

Henry, as usual, was silent, but I know that he felt the influence no
less than the rest of us. Edmund, too, said nothing, but it was plain
that he was continually studying the phenomenon, and I felt sure that his
analytic mind would find a more complete explanation than we yet
possessed. Of course you are not to suppose that the power that I have
been trying to describe was peculiar to this woman. On the contrary, as I
have already intimated, it was common to all of them; but with her it
seemed to have reached a higher development, and, what was of special
interest, she alone exhibited a marked benevolence toward us.

The car was attached by a cable to the air ship that we had just quitted,
and our voyage into a new unknown began. The other air ships, which had
been hovering about, moved up into line, and, with the exception of the
one which towed the car, all rose to an elevation of perhaps a thousand
feet, and moved rapidly away from a row of dark clouds which we could now
see low on the horizon behind. We found the air ship splendidly fitted
up, with everything that could contribute to the comfort of its inmates.
And what a voyage it was! "Yachting on Venus," as Jack called it. We sat
on the deck, with a pleasant breeze, produced by the swift, steady
motion, fanning our faces; the temperature was delightful; the air was
wonderfully stimulating; the light, softly and evenly diffused from the
great shell-like dome of the sky, seemed to bewitch the eyesight; and the
sea beneath us, reflecting the dome, was a marvel of refluent colors.

We had left the calendar clock in the car, but, with our watches, which
we had never ceased to wind up regularly, we were able to measure the
time. The voyage lasted about seventy-two hours, but could, perhaps, have
been performed in less time if we had not been somewhat delayed by the
towing of the car. They had on the air ship ingenious clocks, driven by
weights, and governed by pendulums, but the divisions of time were unlike
ours, and there was nothing corresponding to our days. This, of course,
arose from the fact that there was never any night, and, being unable to
see either sun or stars, they had no measure of the year. With them time
was simply endless duration, with no return in cycles.

"What interests me most," said Edmund, "is the fact that they should have
established any chronological measure at all. It would puzzle some of our
metaphysicians on the earth to account for the origin of their sense of
time. To me it seems evident that the consciousness of duration is
fundamental in all intelligent life, and does not necessarily demand
natural recurrences, like the succession of day and night, and the
passage of sun and stars across the meridian, to give it birth. Did you
ever read St. Augustine's reply to the question, 'What is time'--'I know
if you don't ask me'?"

"If they haven't any years," said Jack, "how do they know when they are
old enough to die?"

"They have the years, but no measure for them," replied Edmund, and then
added quizzically, "Perhaps they _don't_ die."

"Well, I shouldn't wonder," Jack returned, "for this seems to me to be
Paradise for sure."

When we felt sleepy, we imitated the natives themselves, and, just as we
had done during the voyage from the earth, created an artificial night by
shutting ourselves up in the cabins that had been assigned to us. Rest
was taken by all of them in this manner as regularly as it is taken at
night on the earth.

One subject which we frequently discussed during the voyage was the
astonishing resemblance of our hosts to the _genus homo_. Influenced by
speculations which I had read at home about the probable unlikeness to
one another of the inhabitants of different planets, I was particularly
insistent upon this point, and declared that the facts as we found them
were utterly inexplicable.

"Not at all," Edmund averred. "It is perfectly natural, and quite as I
expected. Venus resembles the earth in composition, in form, in physical
constitution, and in subordination to the sun, the great ruler of the
entire system. Here are the same chemical elements, and the same laws of
matter. The human type is manifestly the highest possible that could be
developed with such materials to work upon. Why, then, should you be
surprised to find that it prevails here as well as upon our planet?
Intelligent life could find no more suitable abode than in a human body.
The details are simply varied in accordance with the environment--a
principle that works on the earth also."

I was not altogether satisfied with the reasoning--but as to the facts,
we had to believe our eyes.

Palatable food was served to us, and during the waking time Edmund was
frequently engaged in his mysterious conversation with the "queen."
Within forty-eight hours after we had set out in the air ship, he came to
us, wearing one of his enigmatic smiles, and said:

"I've got another aphroditic word for you to remember. It is the name of
our hostess--Ala."

We were not so much surprised by this news as we should have been but for
what had occurred at the caverns, where he had discovered the patronymic
of Juba.

"Good!" cried Jack, "it's a fine name. I was going to call her Aphrodite,
myself, but this is better as well as shorter."

"But, Edmund," I said, "how does it happen that these people, if they
converse by 'telepathy' as you say, and as I fully believe, nevertheless
occasionally use sounds and words? I should think it would be all one
thing or all the other."

"Think a moment," he replied. "Is it so with us? Do we not use signs and
gestures as well as words? And what do we mean by 'silent converse,' when
mind speaks to mind and soul to soul without the intervention of spoken
language? We have the potentiality of telepathic intercommunication, but
we have not yet developed it into a kinetic form as these people have
done. Ah, when will men begin to appreciate _what mind means?_"

I made no reply, and after a moment's musing, he continued:

"I suspect that here, too, speech preceded the higher form of converse,
and that the spoken language remains only as a survival, presenting
certain advantages for particular cases. But we shall learn more as time
goes on."

There was no disputing Edmund's conclusions. He was the greatest accepter
and defender of facts as he found them that I have ever known.

It was written that before this voyage ended we should have another phase
of language without speech presented for our wonderment. It came about
near the end of the trip. We were standing apart in a group, greatly
interested and excited by the discovery, which had just been made, of
land ahead. Far in advance we could see a curving, yellow shore line,
and, dim in the distance behind it, a range of mountains. Edmund had just
called our attention to these, with the remark that now I must admit that
he had reasoned correctly about the existence of elevated regions on this
side of Venus, when Jack, always the first to note a new phenomenon,
exclaimed:

"Hurrah! Here they come! We're going to have a royal reception."

He pointed toward the land in a different direction from that in which we
had been gazing, and immediately we beheld an extraordinary assemblage of
air ships, perhaps ten miles off, but rapidly making toward us. More were
coming up from behind, as if rising out of the land, and soon they
resembled flocks of large birds all converging to a common center. In a
little while they became almost innumerable, but their number soon ceased
to be as great a cause of surprise to us as their peculiar appearance.
Viewed with our binoculars they showed an infinite variety of shapes and
sizes. Chinese kites could not, for a moment, be compared in
grotesqueness with the forms which many of them presented. Some soared in
vast circles at a great height, with the steady flight of eagles; others
spread out to right and left, as if to flank us on either hand; and in
the center, directly ahead, about a hundred advanced in column deployed
in a semicircle, each keeping its place with the precision of a soldier
in line of battle.

As we continued to gaze, fascinated by the splendor and strangeness of
the spectacle, suddenly the air was filled with fluttering colors. I do
not mean flags and streamers, but _colors in the air itself_! Colors the
most exquisite that ever the eye looked upon! They changed, flickered,
melted, brightened, flowed over one another in iridescent waves, mingled,
separated, turned the whole atmosphere into a spectral kaleidoscope. And
it was evident that, in some inexplicable way, the approaching squadrons
were the sources of this marvelous display. Presently from the craft that
carried us, answering colors flashed out, as if the air around us had
suddenly been changed to crystal with a thousand quivering rainbows shot
through it, their beautiful arches shifting and interchanging so rapidly
that the eye could not follow them.

Then I began to notice that all this incessant play of colors was based
upon an unmistakable rhythm. I can think of no better way to describe it
than to say that it was as if a great organ should send forth from its
keys harmonic vibrations consisting not of concordant sounds but of even
more perfectly related undulations of color. The permutations and
combinations of this truly chromatic scale were marvelous and magical in
their infinite variety. It thrilled us with awe and wonder. But none was
so rapt as Edmund himself. He gazed as if his soul were in his eyes, and
finally he turned to us, with a strange look, and said, almost under his
breath:

"This, too, is language, and more than that--it is music!"

"Impossible!" I exclaimed.

"No, not impossible, since it _is_. They are not only exchanging
intelligence in this way, but we are being greeted with a great anthem
played in the heaven itself!"

There was the force of enthusiastic conviction in Edmund's words, and we
could only look at him, and at one another, in silent astonishment.

"Oh, what a people! What a people!" he muttered. "And yet I am not
surprised. I dimly fore-read this in Ala's eyes."

Even Jack's levity was subdued for the time, but after a while he said to
me with a shrug, half in earnest, half in derision:

"Well, this Yankee-doodling in the air gets me! I'd prefer a little plain
English and the Old Folks at Home."

After about ten minutes the display ceased as suddenly as it had begun,
and the nearer of the approaching air craft began to circle around us.
Finally one of them ran so close alongside that an officer of high rank,
for such he seemed to be, leaped aboard us, and was quickly at Ala's
side. There was a rapid interchange of communications between them, and
then the newcomer was, I may say, presented. Ala led him to where we were
standing, and I could read in his eyes the astonishment that the sight of
such strangers produced in him.

CHAPTER IX

AN AMAZING METROPOLIS

If I should undertake to describe in detail all the events that now
followed in rapid succession, this history would take a lifetime to
write. I must choose only the more significant facts.

The newcomer, whose remarkable face had immediately impressed me, and not
altogether favorably, proved to be a personage of very great importance,
second only, as we could see, to Ala herself. And, what was particularly
important for us, he showed none of her friendly disposition. I do not
mean to suggest that he seemed inclined to any active hostility, but
evidently we were, in his eyes, no better than savages, and consequently
entitled to no special consideration, and especially to no favors. Jack,
who, with all his careless ways, had a penetrating mind for the
perception of character, whispered to me, within five minutes after the
fellow came aboard:

"If that galoot had his way, we'd make our entry in irons. Mark my words,
there's mischief in him. Hang him! I'm going to keep my pistol handy when
he's around."

Edmund, who happened to overhear Jack's remark, interposed:

"See here, Master Jack, this is no time to be talking of pistols. I trust
that we are done with shooting."

We were not done with it; but that comes later.

It was not long before Edmund had discovered a name for the newcomer
also; he called him Ingra. It was singular, he said, that all the names
seemed to be characterized by the prevalence of vowels sounds, but he
thought it likely that this arose from the greater ease with which they
could be enunciated. They were like Spanish words, which are the easiest
of all for foreigners, and probably also for natives, to pronounce.

After we reached the coast we descended to the ground, at Edmund's
request, I believe, because he wished to superintend the loading of the
car upon one of the largest air ships, and it was an unforgettable sight
to watch him managing the work as coolly and effectively as if he had
been in charge of a gang of workmen at home! And, while I looked, I found
myself again doubting if, after all, this was not a dream. The workers
hurrying about, Edmund following them, pointing, objecting, urging and
directing, with his derby hat, which had come through all our adventures
(though somewhat damaged), stuck on the back of his head--and all this on
the planet Venus! No! I could not be awake. But yet I was.

When we started again, we were escorted by a hundred air ships, forming a
complete circle about us. Now I noticed, what had escaped attention
during the extraordinary atmospheric display, viz., that these craft were
painted in colors that I should call gorgeous if they had not been so
perfectly harmonious and pleasing. Every one looked like the careful
creation of an artist, and the variety of tints exhibited was incredible.
Our own air ship, and its consorts, on the other hand, were very plain in
their decorations. I called Edmund's attention to this and immediately he
said:

"Remember what I told you--this has been an exploring expedition, and the
craft taking part in it have been fitted up for rough work. That reminds
me that I have not yet made the inquiries that I intended on that
subject. I shall go to Ala now and see what I can learn."

She was standing on the deck near the other end, with Ingra beside her.
As Edmund approached them, Jack nudged me:

"Look at that fellow," he said. "Wasn't I right?"

There was no doubt about it; Ingra scowled and showed every sign of
displeasure at Edmund's presence. But Ala greeted him graciously, and,
apparently, Ingra did not dare to interfere. I could see that Jack was
grasping his pistol again, but I did not anticipate that there would be
any occasion to use it. Nevertheless, I watched them closely for a time,
hoping to discover Edmund's method of reading her meaning; as to her
comprehension of his I had no question about that. But I got no light on
the subject, and, as it soon became evident, even to Jack, that there was
no danger this time, we fell to examining the land over which we were
passing.

We flew at a height of about two thousand feet, so that the range of
vision was very wide. The sea behind us curved into the land in three
great scallops, separated by acuminate promontories, whose terminal
bluffs of sand were as yellow as gold. Away ahead the line of mountains,
that we had noticed before, appeared as a dark sierra, and between it and
the sea the country seemed to be very little broken by hills. Large
forests were visible, but from our elevation it was impossible to tell
whether the trees composing them bore any resemblance to terrestrial
forms. The open land was about equally divided in area between bare
yellowish soil (or what we took to be soil) and bright green expanses
whose color suggested vegetation. Scattered here and there we saw what
appeared to be habitations, but we could not be sure of their nature;
and, upon the whole, the land seemed to us to be very thinly populated.

Many birds accompanied us in our flight, frequently alighting on the deck
and other parts of the air ship. They were remarkably tame, allowing us
to approach them closely, and we were delighted by their beautiful
plumage and their singular forms. This reminds me to say that the motion
of the craft was extremely curious--a kind of gentle rising and falling,
which was very agreeable when once we were accustomed to it, and which
resembled what one would suppose to be the movement of a bird in flight.
This, of course, arose from the structure of the air ship, which, as I
have before said, seemed to be modeled, as far as its motive parts were
concerned, upon the principle of wings rather than of simple aeroplanes.
But the mechanism was very complicated, and I never arrived at a full
comprehension of it.

Edmund remained a long time in conference with Ala, Ingra staying
constantly with them, and when he had apparently finished his
"conversation" we were surprised to see them begin a tour of inspection
of the air ship, finally descending into the interior. This greatly
excited Jack, who was for following them at once.

"I can't be easy," he declared. "Nobody can tell what may happen to him
if they get him alone."

But I succeeded in persuading him that there could be no danger, and that
we ought to trust to Edmund's discretion. They were gone so long,
however, that at last I became anxious myself, and was on the point of
suggesting to Jack that we try to find them, when they reappeared, and
Edmund at once came to us, his face irradiated with smiles.

"I have plenty of news for you," he said, as soon as he had joined us.
"Never in my life have I spent two hours more delightfully. In the first
place, I have found out practically all that I wished to know about this
expedition, and, second, I have thoroughly examined the mechanism of the
ship. Its complication is only apparent, and the management of it is so
simple that a single man can pilot it easily. I could do it myself."

We did not appreciate at the time what the knowledge that Edmund had thus
acquired meant for us.

"Well, what about the expedition?" asked Jack. "And where are we going?"

"From what I can make out," replied Edmund musingly, "Ala is really what
you called her, Jack, a queen. But such a queen! If we had some like her
on the earth, monarchy might not be such a bad thing after all. She is a
_savant_."

"Bluestocking," put in Jack. "This is a new kind of amazon."

Edmund did not smile.

"I am in earnest," he continued. "Of course you understand that most of
my conclusions are really based upon inference. I cannot grasp all that
she tries to tell me, but her gestures are so speaking, and her eyes so
full of a kind of meaning which seems to force its way into my mind, I
cannot tell how, that I am virtually sure of the correctness of my
interpretation. The expedition, which I am certain was planned by her,
was intended to explore the outskirts of the dark hemisphere. Perhaps
they meant to penetrate within it, but, if so, the stormy belt that we
crossed was too serious an obstacle for them to overcome. Our
encountering them was the greatest stroke of good fortune that we have
yet had. It places us right at the center of affairs."

"Where are they going now?"

"Evidently back to their starting point; which is likely to be a great
city--the capital and metropolis, most probably. The more I think of it
the stronger becomes my conviction that Ala is really, at least in power
and influence, a queen. And you can see for yourselves that it must be a
great and rich empire that she rules, for remember the extraordinary
reception with which she was greeted, the innumerable air ships, the
splendor of everything."

"But are we to be well treated? Is there no danger for us in accompanying
them?"

"If there were danger, it would be hard for us to escape from it now; but
why should there be danger? We did not kill the Esquimaux that our polar
explorers brought from the Arctic regions, and for these people, we are a
greater curiosity than ever the Esquimaux, or the Pygmies of Africa, were
for us. Instead of encountering any danger, I anticipate that we shall be
very well treated."

"Perhaps they'll put us in a cage," said Jack, with a ludicrous grimace,
"and tote us about as a great moral show for children. If there's a
Barnum on Venus, our fate is sealed."

Jack's humorous suggestion struck home, for there seemed to be
probability behind it, and Henry groaned, while, for my part, I confess
that I felt rather uncomfortable over the prospect. But Edmund did not
pursue the conversation, and soon we fell to regarding again the
landscape beneath and far around us. We were gradually nearing the
mountains, although they were still distant, and presently we caught
sight of what resembled, as much as anything, gigantic cobwebs glittering
with dew, and rising out of the plain between us and the mountains.

"There, Edmund," said Jack, "there's another chance to exercise your
genius for explaining mysteries. What are those things?"

Edmund watched the objects for several minutes before replying. At length
he said, with the decision characteristic of him:

"Palaces."

Jack burst out laughing.

"Castles in Spain, I reckon," he said. "But, really, Edmund, what do you
think they can be?"

"I have already told you, palaces, or castles, if you prefer."

"You are serious?" I asked.

"Perfectly so. They cannot be anything else."

Seeing our astonishment and incredulity, Edmund added:

"Since they retain their places, it is evident that they are edifices of
some kind, attached to the ground. But their great height and aerial
structure indicate that they are erected in the air--floating, I should
say, but firmly anchored at the bottom. Really, I cannot see anything
astonishing about it; it accords with everything else that we have seen.
Your minds are too hidebound to terrestrial analogies, and you do not
give your imaginations sufficient play with the new materials that are
here offered.

"This atmosphere," he continued, after a pause, "is exactly suited for
such things. It is a region of atmospheric calm. If we were not moving,
you would hardly feel a breeze, and I doubt if there is ever a high wind
here. To build their habitations in the air and make them float like
gossamers--could any idea be more beautiful than that, or more in harmony
with the nature of this planet, which is the favorite of the sun, for
first he inundates it with a splendor unknown to the earth, and then
generously covers it with a gorgeous screen of cloud which cuts off his
scorching beams but suffers the light to pass, filtered to opalescent
ether?"

When Edmund spoke like that, as he sometimes did, suffusing his words
with the fervor of his imagination, even Henry, I believe, felt his soul
lifted to unaccustomed heights. We hung upon his lips, and, without a
word, waited for him to continue. Presently he murmured, in an undertone:

"Yes, all this I foresaw in my dream. A world of crystal, houses that
seemed not made with hands, reaching toward heaven, and a people,
beautiful beyond compare, dwelling in the aerial home of birds"; and
then, addressing us, in his ordinary tones: "You will see that the
capital, which we are unquestionably approaching, is to a large extent
composed of this airy architecture."

And it turned out to be as he had said--when, indeed, was it ever
otherwise? As we drew nearer, the aerial structures which we had first
seen began to tower up to an amazing height, just perceptibly swaying and
undulating with the gentle currents of air that flowed through their
traceried lattices, while behind them began to loom an immense number of
floating towers, rising stage above stage, like the steel monsters of New
York before they have received their outer coverings, but incomparably
lighter in appearance, and more delicate and graceful; truly fairy
constructions, bespangled with countless brilliant points. Yet nearer,
and we could see cables attached to the higher structures, and running
downward as if anchored to the ground beneath, but the ground itself we
could not see, because now we had dropped lower in the air, and a long
hill rose between us and the fairy towers, whose slight sinuous motion,
affecting so many together, produced a trifling sense of dizziness as we
gazed. Still nearer, and we believed that we could see people in the
buoyant towers. A minute later there was no doubt about their presence,
for the _colors_ broke forth, and that marvelous interchange of chromatic
signals, which had so astonished us as we drew near the coast, was
resumed.

"It is my belief," said Edmund, "that, notwithstanding the buoyancy of
the heavy atmosphere, those structures cannot be maintained at such
elevations without mechanical aid. You will see when we get nearer that
every stage is furnished with some means of support, probably vertical
screws reacting upon the air."

Again he had guessed right, for in a little while we were near enough to
see the screws, working in a maze of motion, like the wings of a
multitude of insects. The resemblance was increased by their gauzy
structure, and, as they turned, they flashed and glittered as if
enameled. (The supernatant structures that they maintained were, as we
afterwards ascertained, framed of hollow beams and trusses--a kind of
bamboo, of great strength and lightness.)

Now we rose over the intervening hill, and as we did so a cry burst from
our lips. A vast city made its appearance as by magic, a magnified
counterpart of the aerial city above it. Put all the glories of
Constantinople, Damascus, Cairo, and Bombay, with all their spires,
towers, minarets, and domes together, and multiply their splendor a
thousand times, and yet your imagination will be unable to picture the
scene of enchantment on which our eyes rested.

"It is the capital of Venus," exclaimed Edmund. "There can be nothing
greater than this!"

It must, indeed, be the capital, for in the midst of it rose an edifice
of unparalleled splendor, which could only be the palace of a mighty
monarch. Above this magnificent building, which gleamed with metallic
reflections, although it was as light and airy in construction as
frostwork, rose the loftiest of the aerial towers, a hundred, two
hundred--I cannot tell you how many stories in height, for I never
succeeded in counting them.

The other air ships now dropped back, and ours alone approached this
stupendous tower, making apparently for its principal landing stage.
Along the sides of the tower a multitude of small air ships ran up and
down, stopping at various stages to discharge their living cargoes.

"Elevators," said Edmund.

Glancing round we saw that similar scenes were occurring at all the
towers. They were filling up with people, and the continual rising and
descending of the little craft that bore them, the holiday aspect of the
gay colors everywhere displayed, and the brilliancy of the whole
spectacle moved us beyond words. But the most astonishing scene still
awaited us.

Just before our vessel reached the landing stage, the enormous tower,
from foot to apex, broke out with all the hues of the rainbow, like an
enchanted rose tree covered with millions of brilliant flowers at the
touch of a wand. The effect was overwhelming. The air became tremulous
with rippling colors, whose vibrant waves, with quick succession of
concordant tints afforded to the eye an exquisite pleasure akin to that
which the ear receives from a carillon of bells. Our companions, and the
people crowded on the towers, seemed to be transported with ecstatic
delight.

"Again the music of the spectrum!" cried Edmund. "The diapason of color!
It is their national hymn, or the hymn of their race, written on a
prismatic, instead of a sonometric, staff. And, mark me, this has a
significance beyond your conjectures!"

I believe that our enjoyment of this astonishing spectacle was hardly
less than that of the natives themselves, but the pleasure was suddenly
broken off by a tragedy that struck cold to our hearts.

We had nearly touched the landing, when we observed that a discussion was
going on between Ala and Ingra, and it quickly became evident that we
were the subject of it. Before we could exchange a word, they approached
us, and Ingra, in a threatening manner, laid his hand on Edmund's
shoulder. In a second Jack had his pistol covering Ingra. Edmund saw the
motion, and struck Jack's arm aside, but the weapon exploded, and,
clutching her breast, Ala fell at our feet!

CHAPTER X

IMPRISONMENT AND A WONDERFUL ESCAPE

The shock of this terrible accident, the full import of which must have
flashed simultaneously through the mind of every one of us, drove the
blood from Edmund's face, while Jack staggered, uttering a pitiful moan,
Henry collapsed, and I stood trembling in every limb. The report of the
pistol produced upon the natives the effect that was to have been
expected. Ingra sprang backward with a cry like that of a startled beast,
and many upon the deck fell prostrate, either through terror or the
effect of collision with one another in their wild flight. What occurred
among the waiting crowd on the tower I do not precisely know, but a wind
of fear seemed to pass through the air--a weird, heart-quaking _shadow of
sound_.

For a few moments, I believe, no one but ourselves understood what had
happened to Ala. Ingra may have thought, if he thought at all in his
terror and surprise, that she had fallen as the result of nervous shock.
This moment of paralysis on the part of those whom we had now to regard
as our enemies, whatever they may have been before, afforded the
opportunity for escape--if there had been any way to escape. But we were
completely trapped; there was no direction in which we could flee. Yet I
doubt if the thought of flight occurred to any of us. Certainly it did
not to Edmund, who was the first to recover his self-command.

"_We have shot down our only friend!_" he said with terrible emphasis,
and, as he spoke, he lifted Ala in his arms and laid her on a seat. Her
breast was stained with blood.

At the sight of this, a flash of comprehension passed over the features
of Ingra; then, instantly, his face changed to a look of fury, and he
sprang upon Edmund. With trembling hand, I tried to draw my pistol, but
before I could get it from my pocket there was a rush, a hairy form
darted past me, and Ingra lay sprawling on his back. Over him, with foot
planted on his breast, stood the burly form of Juba, with his muscular
arms uplifted, and his enormous eyes blazing fire!

God only knows what would have happened next, but at this instant Ala--to
my amazement, for I had thought that the bullet had gone through her
heart--rose to an upright posture, and made a commanding gesture, which
arrested those who were now hurrying to take a part in the scene. All,
natives as well as ourselves, stood as motionless as stone. Her face was
pale and her eyes were wonderful to look upon. With a gasp of
thankfulness, I noticed that the blood on her breast was but a narrow
streak Juba, staring at her, slowly withdrew his foot from his prostrate
opponent, and Ingra first sat up, and then got upon his feet. Ala, who
had been seated, rose at the same moment, and looked Ingra straight in
the face. I saw Edmund glancing from one to the other, and I knew he was
trying to follow the communication that was taking place between them.

The general sense of it I could follow, myself. Ingra, metaphorically,
stormed and Ala commanded. That she was defending us was plain, and it
was but natural that my admiration for this wonderful woman should rise
to the highest pitch. I thanked God, in my heart, that her wound could be
no more than a scratch--and yet it was a wound, inflicted upon the person
of her who, there could be no doubt, was the ruler of a powerful empire.
It was less majesty, or worse, and she, herself, might not be able to
protect us against its consequences.

At last, it became evident that a decision had been made. Ala turned to
us with a smile, which we took for an assurance of encouragement, at
least, and started to leave the deck. Edmund instantly stepped in front
of her, and pointed to the stain of blood, with a gesture and a look
which meant, at the same time, an inquiry as to the nature of the wound
and an expression of the wish to do something to repair the injury. She
shook her head and smiled again, in a manner which clearly said that the
hurt was not serious and that she understood that it was an accident.
Then, surrounded by her female attendants, she passed out of our sight in
the crowd on the landing. Edmund turned to us:

"We shall probably get out of it all right," he said, "but not without
some difficulty. They will surely imprison us. Make no resistance. Leave
all to me. Jack's pistol will, no doubt, be seized, but if the rest of
you keep yours concealed, they may not search for them, as they know
nothing about the weapons."

Edmund had spoken hurriedly, and had hardly finished when a dozen stout
fellows, under Ingra's directions, took us in charge, Juba included, and
we were led from the deck, through the vast throng on the platform, who
made room for our passage, while devouring us with curious, though
frightened eyes. In a minute we embarked on one of the "elevators," and
made a thrillingly rapid descent. Arrived at the bottom, we were
conducted, through long, stone-walled passages, into a veritable dungeon.
And there they left us. I wondered if this had been done at Ala's order,
or in defiance of her wishes. After all, I reflected, what claim have we
upon her?

In the absolute darkness where we now found ourselves, we remained silent
for a minute or two, feeling about for one another, until the quiet voice
of Edmund said:

"Fortune still favors us."

As he spoke, a light dazzled our eyes. He had turned on a pocket electric
lamp. We looked about and found that we were in a square chamber, about
fifteen feet on a side, with walls of heavy stone.

"They make things solid enough down here," said Jack, with some return of
his usual spirits, "however airy and fairy they may be above."

"All the better for us," returned Edmund enigmatically.

Henry sank upon the floor, the picture of dejection and despair. I
expected another outbreak from him, but he spoke not a word. His heart
was too full for utterance, and I pitied him so much that I tried to
reanimate his spirits.

"Come, now," I said, "don't take it this way, man. Have confidence in
Edmund. He has never yet been beaten."

"I reckon he's got his hands full this time," put in Jack. "What do you
think, Edmund, can your atomic energy bore a hole through these walls?"

"If I had it here, you'd see," Edmund replied. "But there's no occasion
to worry, we'll come out all right."

It was his unfailing remark when in difficulties, and somehow it always
enheartened us. Juba, more accustomed to such situations, seemed the
least disturbed member of the party. He rolled his huge eyes around the
apartment once or twice, and then lay down on the floor, and seemed at
once to fall asleep.

"That's a good idea of Juba's," said Edmund, smiling; "it's a long time
since we have had a nap. Let's all try a little sleep. I may dream of
some way out of this."

It was a fact that we were all exhausted for want of sleep, and, in spite
of our situation, I soon fell into deep slumber, as peaceful as if I had
been in my bed at home. Edmund had turned out the lamp, and the silence
and darkness were equally profound.

I dreamt that I was at the Olympus Club on the point of trumping an ace,
when a flash of light in the eyes awoke me. I started up and found Edmund
standing over me. The others were all on their feet. Edmund immediately
whispered:

"Come quietly; I've found a way out."

"What have you found?"

"Something extremely simple. This is no prison cell, but a part of what
appears to be the engine rooms--probably it is an unused storeroom. They
have put us here for convenience, trusting more to the darkness than to
the lock, for the corridors outside are as black as Erebus and as crooked
as a labyrinth."

"How do you know?"

"Because, while you were all asleep, I made an exploration. The lock was
nothing; the merest tyro could pick it. Fortunately they never guessed
that I had a lamp. In this world of daylight, it is not likely that
pocket lamps have ever been thought of. Just around the corner, there is
another door opening into a passage that leads by a power house. That
passage gives access to a sort of garage of air craft, and when I stole
into it five minutes ago, there was not a soul in sight. We'll simply
slip in there, and if I can't run away with one of those fliers, then I'm
no engineer. To tell the truth, I'm not altogether sure that it is wise
for us to escape, for I have a feeling that Ala will help us; still, when
Providence throws one a rope, it's best, perhaps, to test its strength.
Come on, now, and make no noise."

Accompanied by Juba, we stepped noiselessly outside, extinguishing the
light, and, led by Edmund, passed what he had called the power house,
where we saw several fellows absorbed in their work, lighted somehow from
above. Then we slipped into the "garage." Here light entered from
without, through a large opening at the side. There may have been twenty
small air ships resting on cradles. Edmund selected one, which he
appeared to have examined in advance, and motioning us to step upon its
little deck, he began to manipulate the mechanism as confidently as if it
had been his own invention.

"You see that I did not waste my time in examining the air ship that
brought us," he whispered, and never before had I admired and trusted him
as I did now. In less than a minute after we had stepped aboard, we were
circling in the air outside. We rose with stunning rapidity, swooping
away in a curve like an eagle.

At this instant we were seen!

There was a quick flashing of signals, and two air craft shot into sight
above us.

"Now for a chase!" cried Edmund, actually laughing with exultation.

We darted upward, curving aside to avoid the pursuers. And then they
swooped after us. We rose so rapidly that within a couple of seconds we
were skirting the upper part of the great tower. Then others saw us, and
joined in the chase. Jack's spirits soared with the excitement:

"Sorry to take rogue's leave of these Venuses," he exclaimed. "But no
dungeons for us, if you please."

"We're not away, yet," said Edmund over his shoulder; and, indeed, we
were not!

The air ships swarmed out on every side like hornets; the atmosphere
seemed full of them. I gave up all hope of escape, but Edmund was like a
racer who hears the thud of hoofs behind him. He put on more and more
speed until we were compelled to hang on to anything within reach in
order to save ourselves from being blown off by the wind which we made,
or whirled overboard on sharp turns.

Crash! We had run straight into a huge craft that persisted in getting in
our way. She dipped and rolled like a floating log. I saw the fellows on
her tumble over one another, as we shot by, and I glanced anxiously to
see if any had gone overboard. We could afford to do no killing if we
could avoid it; for, in case of recapture, that would be another
indictment against us. I saw no one falling from the discomfited air
ship, and I felt reassured. Occupied as he was, dodging and turning,
Edmund did not cease to address a few words to us occasionally.

"There's just one chance to beat them," he said, "and only one. I'm going
to try it as soon as I can get out of this press."

I had no notion of what he meant, but a few minutes later I divined his
intention. I had observed that all the while he was working higher and
higher, and this, as you will presently see, was the key to his plan.

Up and up we shot, Edmund making the necessary circles as short as
possible, and so recklessly did he turn on the speed that it really began
to look as if we might get away after all. Two thirds of our pursuers
were now far below our level, but none showed a disposition to give up
the chase, and those which were yet above tried to cross our bow. While I
saw that Edmund's idea was to hold a skyward course, I was far from
guessing the particular reason he had for doing so, and, finally, Jack,
who comprehended it still less, exclaimed:

"See here, Edmund, if you keep on going up instead of running off in one
direction or another, they'll corner you in the middle of the sky. Don't
you see how they have circled out on all sides so as to surround us? Then
when we get as high as we can go, they'll simply close in, and we'll be
trapped."

"Oh, no, we won't," Edmund replied.

"I don't see why."

"Because they can't go as high as we can."

"The deuce they can't! I guess they understand these ships as well as you
do."

"Can a fish live out of water?" asked Edmund, laughing.

"What's that got to do with it?"

"Why, it's plain enough. These people are used to breathing an atmosphere
surcharged with oxygen and twice as dense as that of the earth. It
doesn't trouble our breathing, simply giving us more energy; but we can
live where they would gasp for breath. Air impossibly rare for them is
all right for us, and that's what I am in search of, and we shall find it
if we can get high enough."

The beauty and simplicity of this unexpected plan struck us all with
admiration, and Jack, his doubts instantly turning to enthusiasm, cried:

"By Jo, Edmund, you're a trump! I'd like to get a gaff into the gills of
that catfish, Ingra, when he begins to blow. By Jo, I'd pickle him and
make a present of him to the Museum of Natural History. '_Catfishia
Venusensis_, presented by Jack Ashton, Esq.'--how'd that look on a label,
hey?"

And Jack hugged himself with delight over his conceit.

In a short time the accuracy of Edmund's conjecture became apparent. Our
pursuers, one by one, dropped off. Their own strategy, to which Jack had
called attention, was simply a playing into our hands. They had really
thought to catch us in the center of a contracting circle, when, to their
amazement, we rose straight up into air so rare that they could not live
in it. Edmund roared with laughter when he saw the assured success of his
maneuver.

But there was one thing which even he had overlooked, and it struck to
our hearts when we became aware of it. Poor, faithful Juba, who had so
recently proved his devotion to us, could endure this rare air no better
than our pursuers. Already, unnoticed in the excitement, he had fallen
upon the deck, where he lay gasping.

"Good God, he's dying!" exclaimed Jack.

"He shall not die!" responded Edmund, setting his lips, and turning to
his machinery.

"But, you're not going back down there!"

"I'll run beyond the edge of the circle, and drop down far enough to
revive him. Then we can keep dodging up and down just out of their reach,
and so be out of danger both ways."

No sooner said than done. We ran rapidly on a horizontal course until we
had cleared the air ships below, and then dropped like a shot. Juba came
to his senses in a few moments after we entered the denser air. But now
our pursuers, thinking, no doubt, that we had found it impracticable to
remain where they knew they could not go, began to close in upon us. I
reflected that here was the only mistake that Edmund had made--I mean the
bringing along with us of the natives of the dark hemisphere. It was only
their presence that had prevented us from sailing triumphantly over the
crystal mountains; it was because of them that we had wrecked the car;
and now it was Juba who baffled our best chance of escape. And yet--and I
am glad to be able to say it--I could not regret his presence, for had he
not made himself one of us; had he not proved himself entitled to all the
privileges of comradeship?

But Henry (I am sorry to write it) did not share these feelings.

"Edmund," he said, "why do you insist upon endangering our lives for the
sake of this--this--animal here?"

Never have I beheld such a blaze of anger as that which burst from
Edmund's eyes as he turned upon Henry:

"You cowardly brute!" he shouted. "I ought to throw you overboard!"

He seemed about to execute his threat, dropping the controller from his
hand as he spoke, and Henry, with ashen face, ran from him like a madman.
I caught him in my arms, fearing that he would tumble overboard in his
fright, and Edmund, instantly recovering his composure, turned back to
his work.

Finding Juba sufficiently recovered, although yet weak and almost
helpless, he rose again, but more cautiously than before. And now our
pursuers, plainly believing that these maneuvers could have but one
ending, began to set their net, and I could not help admiring their plan,
which would surely have succeeded if they had not made a fundamental
error in their calculations, but one for which they were not to blame.
There was such a multitude of their craft, fresh ones coming up all the
while, that they were able to form themselves into the shape of a huge
bag net, the edge of which was carried as high as they dared to go, while
the sides and receding bottom were composed of air ships so numerous that
they were packed almost as closely as meshes. Edmund laughed again as he
looked down into this immense net.

"No, no," he shouted. "We're no gudgeons! You'll have to do better than
that!"

"See here, Edmund," Jack suddenly exclaimed, "why don't you make off and
leave them? By keeping just above their reach we could easily escape."

"_And leave the car?_" was the reply.

"By Jo," returned Jack, "I never thought of that. But, then, what did you
run away for at all?"

"Because," said Edmund quietly, "I thought it better to parley than to
lie in prison."

"Parley! How are you going to parley?"

"That remains to be seen; but I guess we'll manage it."

We were now, as far as I could estimate, five or six miles high. When we
were highest, the great cloud dome seemed to be but a little way above
our heads, and I thought, at first, that Edmund intended to run up into
it and thus conceal our movements. The highest of our pursuers were about
half a mile below us. They circled about, and were evidently parleying on
their own account, for waves of color flowed all about them, making a
spectacle so brilliant and beautiful that sometimes I almost forgot our
critical situation in watching it.

"I suppose you'll play them a prismatic symphony," said Henry mockingly.

I looked at him in surprise. Evidently his fear of Edmund had vanished;
no doubt because he knew in his heart the magnanimity of our great
leader.

"Who knows?" Edmund replied. "I've no doubt the materials are aboard, and
if I had been here a month, I'd probably try it. As things stand, we
shall have to resort to other methods."

While we were talking, Edmund did not relax his vigilance, and two or
three times, when he had dropped to a lesser elevation for Juba's sake,
he baffled a dash of the enemy. At last we noticed a movement in the
crowd which betokened something of importance, and in a moment we saw
what it was. A splendid air ship, by far the most beautiful that we had
yet seen, was swiftly approaching from below.

"It's the queen," said Edmund. "I thought she'd come."

The approaching ship made its way straight toward us, and, without the
slightest hesitation, Edmund dropped down to meet it. Those who had been
our pursuers now made no attempt to interfere with us; they recognized
the presence of a superior authority. Soon we were so near that we could
recognize Ala, who looked like Cleopatra in her barge on the charmed
waves of Cydnus. Beside her, to the intense disappointment of Jack and
myself, stood Ingra.

"Confound him!" growled Jack. "He's always got to have his oar in the
puddle. Blamed if I'm not sorry Edmund spoiled my aim. I'd have had his
scalp to hang up at the Olympus to be smoked at!"

Of what now occurred, I can give no detailed account, because it was all
beyond my comprehension. We approached almost within touch, and then
Edmund stood forth, fearless and splendid as Caesar, and conducted his
"parley." When it was over, there was a flashing of aerial colors between
Ala's ship and the others, and then all, including ours, set out to
return to the capital. After a while Edmund, who had been very
thoughtful, turned to us and said:

"You can make your minds easy. Of course you'll understand there is a
certain amount of guesswork in what I tell you, but you can depend upon
the correctness of my general conclusions. I believe that I have made it
perfectly clear that we intended no harm, and that we are not dangerous

Book of the day: