Part 1 out of 3
The Land of the Changing Sun
WILL. N. HARBEN
The balloon seemed scarcely to move, though it was slowly sinking
toward the ocean of white clouds which hung between it and the
The two inmates of the car were insensible; their faces were
bloodless, their cheeks sunken. They were both young and
handsome. Harry Johnston, an American, was as dark and sallow as
a Spaniard. Charles Thorndyke, an English gentleman, had yellow
hair and mustache, blue eyes and a fine intellectual face. Both
were tall, athletic in build and well-proportioned.
Johnston was the first to come to consciousness as the
balloon sank into less rarefied atmosphere. He opened his eyes
dreamily and looked curiously at the white face of his friend in
his lap. Then he shook him and tried to call his name, but his
lips made no sound. Drawing himself up a little with a hand on
the edge of the basket, he reached for a water-jug and sprinkled
Thorndyke's face. In a moment he was rewarded by seeing the eyes
of the latter slowly open.
"Where are we?" asked Thorndyke in a whisper.
"I don't know;" Johnston answered, "getting nearer to the earth,
for we can breathe more easily. I can't remember much after the
professor fell from the car. My God, old man! I shall never
forget the horror in the poor fellow's eyes as he clung to the
rope down there and begged us to save him. I tried to get you to
look, but you were dozing off. I attempted to draw him up, but
the rope on the edge of the basket was tipping it, and both you
and I came near following him. I tried to keep from seeing his
horrible face as the rope began to slip through his fingers. I
knew the instant he let go by our shooting upward."
"I came to myself and looked over when the basket tipped,"
replied the Englishman, "I thought I was going too, but I could
not stir a muscle to prevent it. He said something desperately,
but the wind blew it away and covered his face with his beard,
so that I could not see the movement of his lips."
"It may have been some instructions to us about the management
of the balloon."
"I think not--perhaps a good-bye, or a message to his wife and
child. Poor fellow!"
"How long have we been out of our heads?" and Johnston looked
over the side of the car.
"I have not the slightest idea. Days and nights may have passed
since he fell."
"That is true. I remember coming to myself for an instant, and it
seemed that we were being jerked along at the rate of a gunshot.
My God, it was awful! It was as black as condensed midnight. I
felt your warm body against me and was glad I was not alone.
Then I went off again, but into a sort of nightmare. I thought I
was in Hell, and that you were with me, and that Professor
Helmholtz was Satan."
"Where can we be?" asked Thorndyke.
"I don't know; I can't tell what is beneath those clouds. It may
be earth, sea or ocean; we were evidently whisked along in a
storm while we were out of our heads. If we are above the ocean
we are lost."
Thorndyke looked over the edge of the car long and attentively,
then he exclaimed suddenly:
"I believe it is the ocean."
"What makes you think so?"
"It reflects the sunlight. It is too bright for land. When we got
above the clouds at the start it looked darker below than it
does now; we may be over the middle of the Atlantic."
"We are going down," said Johnston gloomily.
"That we are, and it means something serious."
Johnston made no answer. Half-an-hour went by. Thorndyke looked
at the sun.
"If the professor had not dropped the compass, we could find our
bearings," he sighed.
Johnston pointed upward. Thin clouds were floating above them.
"We are almost down," he said, and as they looked over the sides
of the car they saw the reflection of the sun on the bosom of the
ocean, and, a moment later, they caught sight of the blue
billows rising and falling.
"I see something that looks like an island," observed Thorndyke,
looking in the direction toward which the balloon seemed to be
drifting. "It is dark and is surrounded by light. It is far
away, but we may reach it if we do not descend too rapidly."
"Throw out the last bag of sand," suggested the American, "we
need it as little now as we ever shall."
Thorndyke cut the bag with his knife and watched the sand filter
through the bottom of the basket and trail along in a graceful
stream behind the balloon. The great flabby bag overhead
steadied itself, rose slightly and drifted on toward the dark
spot on the vast expanse of sunlit water. They could now clearly
see that it was a small island, not more than a mile in
"How far is it?" asked Thorndyke.
"About two miles," answered the American laconically, "it is a
chance for us, but a slim one."
The balloon gradually sank. For twenty minutes the car glided
along not more than two hundred feet above the waves. The island
was now quite near. It was a barren mound of stone, worn into
gullies and sharp precipices by the action of the waves and
rain. Hardly a tree or a shrub was in sight.
"It looks like the rocky crown of a great stone mountain hidden
in the ocean," said the Englishman; "half a mile to the shore, a
hundred feet to the water; at this rate of speed the wind would
smash us against those rocks like a couple of bird's eggs
dropped from the clouds. We must fall into the water and swim
ashore. There is no use trying to save the balloon."
"We had better be about it, then," said Johnston, rising
stiffly and holding to the ropes. "If we should go down in the
water with the balloon we would get tangled in the ropes and get
asphyxiated with the gas. We had better hang down under the
basket and let go at exactly the same time."
The water was not more than forty feet beneath, and the island
was getting nearer every instant. The two aeronauts swung over
on opposite sides of the car and, face to face, hung by their
"I dread the plunge," muttered Thorndyke; "I feel as weak as a
sick kitten; I am not sure that I can swim that distance, but
the water looks still enough."
"I am played out too," grunted the American, red in the face;
"but it looks like our only chance. Ugh! she made a big dip then.
We'd better let go. I'll count three, and three is the signal.
Now ready. One, two, three!"
Down shot the balloonists and up bounded the great liberated bag
of gas; the basket and dangling ropes swung wildly from side to
side. The aeronauts touched the water feet foremost at the same
instant, and in half a minute they rose, not ten feet apart.
"Now for it," sputtered Johnston, shaking his bushy head like a
swimming dog. "Look, the shore is not very far." Thorndyke was
saving his wind, and said nothing, but accommodated his stroke
to that of his companion, and thus they breasted the gently-
rolling billows until finally, completely exhausted, they
climbed up the shelving rocks and lay down in the warm sunshine.
"Not a very encouraging outlook," said Johnston, rising when his
clothing was dry and climbing a slight elevation. "There is
nothing in sight except a waste of stone. Let's go up to that
point and look around."
The ascent was exceedingly trying, for the incline was steep and
it was at times difficult to get a firm footing. But they were
repaid for the exertion, for they had reached the highest point
of the island and could see all over it. As far as their vision
reached there was nothing beyond the little island except the
glistening waves that reached out till they met the sky in
all directions. High up in the clouds they saw the balloon, now
steadily drifting with the wind toward the south.
"We might as well be dead and done with it," grumbled
Thorndyke. "Ships are not apt to approach this isolated spot, and
even if they did, how could we give a signal of distress?"
Johnston stroked his dark beard thoughtfully, then he pointed
toward the shore.
"There are some driftwood and seaweed," he said; "with my sun-
glass I can soon have a bonfire." He took a piece of punk from a
waterproof box that he carried in his pocket and focussed the
sun's rays on it. "Run down and bring me an armful of dry seaweed
and wood," he added, intent on his work.
Thorndyke clambered down to the shore, and in a few minutes
returned with an armful of fuel. Johnston was blowing his punk
into a flame, and in a moment had a blazing fire.
"Good," approved the Englishman, rubbing his hands together over
the flames. "We'll keep it burning and it may do some good."
Then a smile of satisfaction came over his face as he began to
take some clams from his pockets. "Plenty of these fellows down
there, and they are as fat and juicy as can be. Hurry up and
let's bake them. I'm as hungry as a bear. There is a fine spring
of fresh water below, too, so we won't die of thirst."
They baked the clams and ate them heartily, and then went down
to the spring near the shore. The water was deliciously cool and
invigorating. The sun sank into the quiet ocean and night crept
on. The stars came out slowly, and the moon rose full and red
from the waves, adding its beams to the flickering light of the
fire on the hill-top.
"Suppose we take a walk all round on the beach," proposed the
Englishman; "there is no telling what we may find; we may run on
something that has drifted ashore from some wrecked ship."
Johnston consented. They had encompassed the entire island, which
was oval in shape, and were about to ascend to the rock to put
fresh fuel on the fire before lying down to sleep for the
night, when Thorndyke noticed a road that had evidently been
worn in the rock by human footsteps.
"Made by feet," he said, bending down and looking closely at the
rock and raking up a handful of white sand, "but whether the
feet of savage or civilized mortal I can't make out."
Johnston was a few yards ahead of him and stooped to pick up
something glittering in the moonlight. It was a tap from
the heel of a shoe and was of solid silver.
"Civilized," he said, holding it out to his companion; "and of
the very highest order of civilization. Whoever heard of people
rich enough to wear silver heel-taps."
"Are you sure it is silver?" asked the Englishman, examining it
"Pure and unalloyed; see how the stone has cut into it, and
feel its weight."
"You are right, I believe," returned Thorndyke, as Johnston put
the strange trophy into his pocket-book, and the two adventurers
paused a moment and looked mutely into each other's eyes.
"We haven't the faintest idea of where we are," said Johnston,
his tone showing that he was becoming more despondent. "We don't
know how long we were unconscious in the balloon, nor where we
were taken in the storm. We may now be in the very centre of the
North Polar sea--this knob may be the very pivot on which this
end of the earth revolves."
The Englishman laughed. "No danger; the sun is too natural.
>From the poles it would look different."
"I don't mean the old sun that you read so much about, and that
they make so much racket over at home, but another of which we
are the original discoverer--a sun that isn't in old Sol's beat
at all, but one that revolves round the earth from north to south
and dips in once a day at the north and the south poles. See?"
The Englishman laughed heartily and slapped his friend on the
"I think we are somewhere in the Atlantic; but your finding that
heel-tap does puzzle me."
"We are going to have an adventure, beside which all others of
our lives will pale into insignificance. I feel it in my bones.
See how evenly this road has been worn and it is leading toward
the centre of the island."
In a few minutes the two adventurers came to a point in the road
where tall cliffs on either side stood up perpendicularly. It
was dark and cold, and but a faint light from the moon shone
down to them.
"I don't like this," said Johnston, who was behind the
Englishman; "we may be walking into the ambush of an enemy."
"Pshaw!" and Thorndyke plunged on into the gloomy passage.
Presently the walls began to widen like a letter "Y" and in a
great open space they saw a placid lake on the bosom of which
the moon was shining. On all sides the towering walls rose for
hundreds of feet. Speechless with wonder and with quickly-
beating hearts they stumbled forward over the uneven road till
they reached the shore of the lake. The water was so clear and
still that the moon and stars were reflected in it as if in a
"Look at that!" exclaimed Thorndyke, pointing down into the
depths, "what can that be?"
Johnston followed Thorndyke's finger with his eyes. At first he
thought that it was a comet moving across the sky and reflected
in the water; but, on glancing above, he saw his mistake. It
looked, at first, like a great ball of fire rolling along the
bottom of the lake with a stream of flame in its wake.
The two men watched it for several minutes; all the time it
seemed to be growing larger and brighter till, after a while,
they saw that the light came from something shaped like a ship,
sharp at both ends, and covered with oval glass. As it slowly
rose to the surface they saw that it contained five or six men,
sitting in easy chairs and reclining on luxurious divans. One of
them sat at a sort of pilot-wheel and was directing the course
of the strange craft, which was moving as gracefully as a great
Then the young men saw the man at the pilot-wheel raise his hand,
and from the water came the musical notes of a great bell. The
vessel stopped, and one of the men sprang up and raised an
instrument that looked like a telescope to his eyes. With this he
seemed to be closely searching the lake shores, for he did not
move for several minutes. Then he lowered the instrument, and
when the bell had rung again, the vessel rose slowly and
perpendicularly to the surface and glided to the shore within
twenty yards of where the adventurers stood.
"Could they have seen us?" whispered Thorndyke, drawing Johnston
nearer the side of the cliff.
"I think so; at all events, they are between us and the outlet;
we may as well make the best of it."
The men, all except the pilot, landed, and a dazzling electric
search-light was turned on the spot where Thorndyke and Johnston
stood. For a moment they were so blinded that they could not
see, and then they heard footsteps, and, their eyes becoming
accustomed to the light, they found themselves surrounded by
several men, very strangely clad. They all wore long cloaks that
covered them from head to foot and every man was more than six
feet in height and finely proportioned. One of them, who seemed
to be an officer in command, bowed politely.
"I am Captain Tradmos, gentlemen, in the king's service. It is my
duty to make you my prisoners. I must escort you to the palace
of the king."
"That's cool," said Johnston, to conceal the discomfiture that he
felt, "we had no idea that you had a kingdom. We have tramped all
over this island, and you are the first signs of humanity we have
He would have recalled his words before he had finished speaking,
if he could have done so, for he saw by the manner of the captain
that he had been over bold.
"Follow me," answered the officer curtly, and with a motion of
his hand to his men he turned toward the odd-looking vessel.
The two adventurers obeyed, and the cloaked men fell in behind
them. Neither Johnston nor Thorndyke had ever seen anything like
the peculiar boat that was moored to the rocky shore. It was
about forty feet in length, had a hull shaped like a racing
yacht, but which was made of black rubber inflated with air. It
was covered with glass, save for a doorway about six feet high
and three feet wide in the side, and looked like a great oblong
bubble floating on the still dark water. As they approached the
searchlight was extinguished, and they were enabled to see the
boat to a better advantage by the aid of the electric lights that
illuminated the interior. It was with feelings of awe that the
two adventurers followed the captain across the gang-plank into
The electric light was brilliantly white, and in various places
pink, red and light-blue screens mellowed it into an artistic
effect that was very soothing to the eye. The ceiling was hung
with festoons of prisms as brilliant as the purest diamonds, and
in them, owing to the gently undulatory movement of the vessel,
colors more beautiful than those of a rainbow played
entrancingly. Rare pictures in frames of delicate gold were
interspersed among the clusters of prisms, and the floor was
covered with carpets that felt as soft beneath the foot as
pillows of eider-down.
As he entered the door the officer threw off his gray cloak, and
his men did likewise, disclosing to view the finest uniforms
the prisoners had ever seen. Captain Tradmos's legs were clothed
in tights of light-blue silk, and he wore a blue sack-coat of
silk plush and a belt of pliant gold, the buckles of which were
ornamented with brilliant gems. His eyes were dark and
penetrating, and his black hair lay in glossy masses on his
shoulders. He had the head of an Apollo and a brow indicative of
the highest intellect.
Leaving his men in the first room that they entered, he
gracefully conducted his prisoners through another room to a
small cabin in the stern of the boat, and told them to make
themselves comfortable on the luxurious couches that lined the
circular glass walls.
"Our journey will be of considerable length," he said, "and as
you are no doubt fatigued, you had better take all the rest
you can get. I see that you need food and have ordered a repast
which will refresh you." As he concluded he touched a button
in the wall and instantly a table, laden with substantial food,
rare delicacies and wines, rose through a trap-door in the floor.
He smiled at the expressions of surprise on their faces and
touched a green bottle of wine with his white tapering hand.
"The greater part of our journey will be under water, and our
wines are specially prepared to render us capable of
subsisting on a rather limited quantity of air during the voyage,
so I advise you to partake of them freely; you will find them
very agreeable to the taste."
"We are very grateful," bowed Thorndyke, from his seat on a
couch. "I am sure no prisoners were ever more graciously
or royally entertained. To be your prisoner is a pleasure to be
"Till our heads are cut off, anyway," put in the irrepressible
Tradmos smiled good-humoredly.
"I shall leave you now," he said, and with a bow he withdrew.
"This is an adventure in earnest," whispered Johnston; "my stars!
what can they intend to do with us?"
"One of the first things will be to take us down to the bottom of
this lake where we saw them awhile ago, and I don't fancy it at
all; what if this blasted glass-case should burst? We may have
dropped into a den of outlaws on a gigantic scale, and it may be
necessary to put us out of the way to keep our mouths closed."
"I am hungry, and am going to eat," said the American, drawing a
cushioned stool up to the table. "Here goes for some of the wine;
remember, it is a sort of breath-restorer. I am curious enough
not to want to collapse till I have seen this thing through. He
said something about a palace and a king. Where can we be going?"
"Down into the centre of the earth, possibly," and the handsome
Englishman moved a stool to the table and took the glass of
green-colored wine that Johnston pushed toward him. "Some
scientists hold that the earth is filled with water instead of
fire. Who knows where this blamed thing may not take us? Here is
to a safe return from the amphibious land!"
Both drank their wine simultaneously, lowered their glasses at
the same instant, and gazed into each other's eyes.
"Did you ever taste such liquor?" asked Thorndyke, "it seems to
run like streams of fire through every vein I have."
Johnston shook his head mutely, and held the sparkling
effervescing fluid between him and the light.
"Ugh! take it down," cried the Englishman, "it throws a green
color on your face that makes you look like a corpse."
Johnston clinked the glass against that of his companion and they
drained the glasses. "Hush, what was that?" asked Thorndyke.
There was a sound like boiling water outside and as if air were
being pumped out of some receptacle, and the vessel began to move
up and down in a lithe sort of fashion and to bend tortuously
from side to side like a great sluggish fish. Through the
partitions of glass they saw one of the men closing the door, and
in a moment the vessel glided away from the shore. The men all
sank into easy positions on the couches, and delightful music as
soft as an Aeolian lyre seemed to be breathed from the walls
and floor. Then the music seemed to die away and a bell down in
the vessel's hull rang.
"We are in the middle of the lake," said Thorndyke, looking
through the glass toward the black cliffy shore; "the next thing
will be our descent. I wonder----"
But he was unable to proceed, and Johnston noticed in alarm that
his eyes were slightly protruding from their sockets. The air
seemed suddenly to become more com- pact as if compressed, and
the water was set into such violent commotion that it was dashed
against the glass sides in billows as white as snow. Then
Johnston found that he could not breathe freely, and he
understood the trouble of the Englishman.
Captain Tradmos came suddenly to the door. He was smiling as he
motioned toward the wines on the table.
"You had better drink more of the wine," he advised sententiously.
Both of the captives rushed to the table. The instant they had
swallowed the wine they felt relieved, but were still weak.
The captain bowed and went away. Thorndyke's hand trembled as he
refilled his friend's glass. I thought I was gone up," he said,
"I never had such a choky sensation in my life; you are still
purple in the face."
"Eat of what is before you," said the captain, looking in at the
door; "you cannot stand the increasing pressure unless you do."
They needed no second invitation, for they were half-famished.
The fish and meat were delicious, and the bread was delightfully
"Look outside!" cried Johnston. The water was now still, but it
was gradually rising up the sides of the boat, and in a moment
it had closed over the crystal roof. Both of the captives were
conscious of a heavy sensation in the head and a dull roaring in
the ears. Down they went, at first slowly and then more rapidly,
till it seemed to them that they had descended over a thousand
feet. Great monsters like whales swam to the vessel, as if
attracted by the lights, and their massive bodies jarred against
the glass walls as they turned to swim away. They sank about five
hundred feet lower; and all at once the lights went out, and the
boat gradually stopped.
It was at once so dark that the two captives could not see each
other, though only the width of the table separated them.
Everything was profoundly still; not a sound came from the
men in the other rooms. Presently Thorndyke whispered, "Look, do
you see that red light overhead?"
"Yes," said Johnston, "it looks like a star."
"It is our bonfire," said Thorndyke, "that's what betrayed us."
Again the vessel began to sink, and more rapidly than ever;
indeed, as Thorndyke expressed it, he had the cool feeling
that nervous people experience in going down quickly in an
"If we go any lower," he added, as the great rubber hull seemed
to struggle like some living monster, "the sides of this thing
will collapse like an egg-shell and we will be as flat as
"You need not fear, we have much lower to go!" It was the
captain's voice, but they could not tell from whence it
came. Then they heard again the seductive music, and it was so
soothing that they soon fell asleep.
They had no idea how long they had slept, but they were awakened
by the ringing of a bell and felt the vessel was coming to a
stop. They were still far beneath the surface; indeed, the boat
was resting on the bottom, for in the light of two or three
powerful search-lights they saw a wide succession of submerged
hills, vales, and rugged cliffs. Before them was a great
mountain-side and in it they saw the mouth of a dark tunnel. They
had scarcely noticed it before the vessel rose a little and
glided toward the tunnel and entered it. Through the glass walls
they could see that it was narrow, and that the ragged sides and
roof were barely far enough apart to admit them.
Suddenly one of the men came in and drew a curtain down behind
them, and, with a vexed look on his face retired.
When he was gone Johnston put his lips close to Thorndyke's ear
"Did you see that?"
"Just as he drew the curtain down I saw what looked to me like a
cliff of solid gold. It had been dug out into a cavern in which I
saw a vessel like this, and men in diving suits digging and
This took the Englishman's breath away for a moment, then he
remarked: "That accounts for the heel-tap we found; who knows,
these people may be possessors of the richest gold and silver
mines on earth."
The bell rang again. "We are rising," said Johnston. "If this is
the only way of reaching the king's domain, we could never get
back to civilization unless they release us of their own accord,
"Heavens, isn't it still!" exclaimed the Englishman. "The
machinery of this thing moves as noiselessly as the backbone of
an eel. I wish I could understand its works."
"I am more concerned about where we are going. I tell you we are
being taken to some wonderful place. People who can construct
such marvels of mechanical skill as this boat will not be behind
in other things; then look at the physiques of those giants."
Just then the man who had drawn down the shade came in and raised
it. Both the captives pretended to be uninterested in
his movements, but when he had withdrawn they looked through the
"See," whispered Thorndyke, in the ear of his companion, "the
walls are close to us, and are as perpendicular as those of
the lake in which they found us."
Johnston said nothing. His attention was riveted to the walls of
rock; the vessel was rising rapidly. An hour passed. The soft
music had ceased, and the air seemed less dense and fresher.
Then the waters suddenly parted over the roof and ran in crystal
streams down the oval glass.
They were on the surface, and the vessel was slowly gliding
toward the shore which could not be seen owing to there now
being no light except that inside the boat. Captain Tradmos
entered, followed by two of his men holding black silken
"We must blindfold you," he said; "cap- tives are not allowed to
see the entrance to our kingdom."
Without a word they submitted.
"This way," said the captain kindly, and, holding to an arm of
each, he piloted them out of the vessel to the shore. Then he
led them through what they imagined to be a long stone corridor
or arcade from the ringing echoes of their feet on the stone
pavement. Presently they came to what seemed to be an elevator,
for when they had entered it and sat down, they heard a
metallic door slide back into its place, and they descended
They could form no idea as to the distance they went down; but
Thorndyke declared afterward that it was over ten thousand feet.
When the elevator stopped Captain Tradmos led them out, and both
of the captives were conscious of breathing the purest, most
invigorating air they had ever inhaled. Instantly their strength
returned, and they felt remarkably buoyant as they were led along
over another pavement of polished stone.
Tradmos laughed. "You like the atmosphere?"
"I never heard of anything like it," said Thorndyke. "It is so
delightful I can almost taste it."
"It was that which made Alpha what it is--the most wonderful
country in the universe," said the officer. "There is much in
store for you."
The ears of the two captives were greeted by a vague, indefinable
hum, like and yet unlike that of a busy city. It was like many
far-off sounds carefully muffled. Now and then they heard human
voices, laughter, and singing in the distance, and the twanging
of musical instruments.
Then they knew that they were entering a building of some sort,
for they heard a key turn in a lock and the humming sound in the
distance was cut off. They felt a soft carpet under their feet,
and the feet of their guards no longer clinked on the stones.
When the bandages were removed they found themselves in a
sumptuous chamber, alone with the captain. The brilliant
light from a quaintly-shaped candelabrum, in the centre of the
chamber, dazzled them, but in a few minutes their eyes had become
accustomed to it.
Tradmos seemed to be enjoying the looks of astonishment on their
faces as they glanced at the different objects in the room.
"It is night," he said smilingly. "You need rest after your
voyage. Lie down on the beds and sleep. To-morrow you will be
conducted to the palace of the king."
With a bow he withdrew, and they heard a massive bolt slide into
the socket of a door hidden behind a curtain. The two men gazed
at each other without speaking, for a moment, and then they began
to inspect the room.
In alcoves half-veiled with silken curtains stood statues in gold
and bronze. The walls and ceilings were decorated with pictures
unlike any they had ever seen. Before one, the picture of an
angel flying through a dark, star-filled sky, they both stood
"What is it?" asked Thorndyke, finding voice finally. "It is not
done with brush or pencil; the features seem alive and, by Jove,
you can actually see it breathe. Don't you see the clouds gliding
by, and the wings moving?"
"It is light--it is formed by light!" declared the other
enthusiastically, and he ran to the wall, about six feet from the
picture, and put his hand on a square metal box screwed to the
"I have it," he said quickly, "come here!"
The Englishman advanced curiously and examined the box.
"Don't you see that tiny speck of light in the side towards the
picture? Well, the view is thrown from this box on the wall, and
it is the motion of the powerful light that gives apparent life
to the angel. It is wonderful."
In a commodious alcove, in a glow of pink light from above, was a
life-sized group of musicians--statues in colored metal of
a Spanish girl playing a mandora, an Italian with a slender
calascione, a Russian playing his jorbon, and an African playing
a banjo. Luxurious couches hung by spiral springs from the
ceiling to a convenient height from the floor, and here and there
lay rugs of rare beauty and great ottomans of artistic designs
"We ought to go to bed," proposed Thorndyke; "we shall have
plenty of time to see this Aladdin's land before we get away from
There were two large downy beds on quaintly wrought bedsteads of
brass, but the two captives decided to sleep together.
Thorndyke was the first to awaken. The lights in the candelabrum
were out, but a gray light came in at the top and bottom of the
window. He rose and drew the heavy curtain of one of the windows
aside. He shrank back in astonishment.
"What is it, Thorndyke? What are you looking at?" And the
American slowly left the bed and approached his friend.
Thorndyke only held the curtain further back and watched
Johnston's face as he looked through the wide plate-glass window.
"My gracious!" ejaculated the latter as he drew nearer. It was a
wondrous scene. The building in which they were imprisoned stood
on a gentle hill clad in luxuriant, smoothly-cut grass and
ornamented with beautiful flowers and plants; and below lay a
splendid city--a city built on undulating ground with innumerable
grand structures of white marble, with turrets, domes and
pinnacles of gold. Wide streets paved in polished stone and
bordered with lush-green grass interspersed with statues and beds
and mounds of strange plants and flowers stretched away in front
of them till they were lost in the dim, misty distance. Parks
filled with pavilions, pleasure-lakes, fountains and tortuous
drives and walks, dotted the landscape in all directions.
Thorndyke's breath had clouded the glass of the window, and he
rubbed it with his handkerchief. As he did so the sash slowly,
and without a particle of sound, slid to one side, disclosing a
narrow balcony outside. It had a graceful balustrade, made of
carved red-and-white mottled marble, and on the end of the
balcony facing the city sat a great gold and silver jug, ten
feet high, of rare design. The spout was formed by the body of a
dragon with wings extended; the handle was a serpent with
the extremity of its tail coiled around the neck of the jug.
The air that came in at the window was fresh and dewy, and laden
with the most entrancing odors. Thorndyke led the way out,
treading very gently at first. Johnston followed him, too much
surprised to make any comment. From this position, their view to
the left round the corner of the building was widened, and new
wonders appeared on every hand.
Over the polished stone pavements strange vehicles ran
noiselessly, as if the wheels had cushioned tires, and the
streets were crowded with an active, strangely- clad populace.
"Look at that!" exclaimed the American, and from a street corner
they saw a queer-looking machine, carrying half-a-dozen
passengers,rise like a bird with wings outspread and fly away
toward the east. They watched it till it disappeared in the
"We are indeed in wonderland," said the Englishman; "I can't make
head nor tail of it. We were on an isolated island, the Lord only
knows where, and have suddenly been transported to a new world!"
"I can't feel at all as if we were in the world we were born in,"
returned Johnston. "I feel strange."
"The wine," suggested the Englishman, "you know it did wonders
for us in that subwater thing."
"No; the wine has nothing to do with it. My head never was
clearer. The very atmosphere is peculiar. The air is
invigorating, and I can't get enough of it."
"That is exactly the way I feel," was Thorndyke's answer.
"Look at the sunlight," went on Johnston; "it is gray like our
dawn, but see how transparent it is. You can look through it for
miles and miles. It is becoming pink in the east, the sun will
soon be up, and I am curious to see it."
"It must be up now, but we cannot see it for the hills and
buildings. My goodness, see that!" and the Englishman pointed
to the east. A flood of delicate pink light was now pouring into
the vast body of gray and was slowly driving the more sombre
color toward the west. The line of separation was marked--so
marked, indeed, that it seemed a vast, rose-colored billow
rolling, widening and sweeping onward like a swell of the ocean
shoreward. On it came rapidly, till the whole landscape was
magically changed. The flowers, the trees, the grass, the waters
of the lakes, the white buildings, the costumes of the people in
the streets, even the sky, changed in aspect. The white clouds
looked like fire-lit smoke, and far toward the west rolled the
long line of pink still struggling with the gray and driving
The sun now came into sight, a great bleeding ball of fire slowly
rising above the gilded roofs in the distance.
"By Jove, look at our shadows!" exclaimed Johnston, and both men
gazed at the balcony floor in amazement; their shadows were as
clearly defined and black as silhouettes. "How do you account
for that?" continued the American, "I am firmly convinced that
this sun is not the orb that shines over my native land."
Thorndyke laughed, but his laugh was forced. "How absurd! and
yet--" He extended his hand over the balustrade into the rosy
glow, and without concluding his remark held it back into the
shadow of the window-casement. "By Jove!" he exclaimed; "there is
not a particle of warmth in it. It is exactly the same
temperature in the shade as in the light." He moved back against
the wall. "No; there is no difference; the blamed thing doesn't
give out any warmth."
Johnston's hands were extended in the light. "I believe you are
right," he declared in awe, "something is wrong."
At that moment appeared from the room behind them a handsome
youth, attired in a suit of scarlet silk that fitted his
athletic figure perfectly. He rapped softly on the window-
casement and bowed when they turned.
"Your breakfast is waiting for you," he announced. They followed
him into a room adjoining the one they had occupied, and found a
table holding a sumptuous repast. The boy gave them seats and
handed them golden plates to eat upon. The fruits, wine and meats
were very appetizing, and they ate with relish.
"I believe we are to be conducted to the palace of your king to-
morrow," ventured the Englishman to the boy.
The boy shook his head, but made no reply, and busied himself
with removing the dishes. As they were rising from the table,
they heard footsteps in the hall outside. The door opened. It
was Captain Tradmos, and he was accompanied by a tall, bearded
man with a leather case under his arm.
"You must undergo a medical examination," the captain said
smilingly. "It is our invariable custom, but this is by a
special order from the king."
Johnston shuddered as he looked at the odd-looking instruments
the medical man was taking from the case, but Thorndyke watched
his movements with phlegmatic indifference. He stood erect; threw
back his shoulders; expanded his massive chest and struck it with
his clenched fist in pantomimic boastfulness.
Tradmos smiled genially; but there was something curt and
official in his tone when he next spoke that took the
Englishman slightly aback. "You must bare your breast over your
heart and lungs," he said; and while Thorndyke was unbuttoning
his shirt, he and the medical man went to the door and brought
into the room a great golden bell hanging in a metallic frame.
The bell was so thin and sensitive to the slightest jar or
movement that, although it had been handled with extreme care,
the captives could see that it was vibrating considerably, and
the room was filled with a low metallic sound that not only
affected the ear of the hearer but set every nerve to tingling.
The medical man stopped the sound by laying his hand upon the
bell. To a tube in the top of the bell he fastened one end of a
rubber pipe; the other end was finished with a silver device
shaped like the mouth-piece of a speaking tube. This he firmly
pressed over the Englishman's heart. Thorndyke winced and bit his
lip, for the strange thing took hold of his flesh with the
tenacity of a powerful suction-pump.
"Ouch!" he exclaimed playfully, but Johnston saw that he had
turned pale, and that his face was drawn as if from pain.
"Hold still!" ordered the medical man; "it will be over in a
minute; now, be perfectly quiet and listen to the bell!"
The Englishman stood motionless, the sinews of his neck drawn and
knotted, his eyes starting from their sockets. Thorndyke felt the
rubber tube quiver suddenly and writhe with the slow energy of a
dying snake, and then from the quivering bell came a low,
gurgling sound like a stream of water being forced backward and
Tradmos and the medical man stepped to the bell and inspected a
small dial on its top.
"What was that?" gasped the Englishman, purple in the face.
"The sound of your blood," answered Tradmos, as he removed the
instrument from Thorndyke's flesh; "it is as regular as mine; you
are very lucky; you are slightly fatigued, but you will be sound
in a day or two."
"Thank you," replied the Englishman, but he sank into a chair,
overcome with weakness.
"Now, I'll take you, please," said the medical man, motioning
Johnston to rise.
"I am slightly nervous," apologized the latter, as he stood up
and awkwardly fumbled the buttons of his coat.
"Nervousness is a mental disease," said the man, with
professional brusqueness; "it has nothing to do with the body
except to dominate it at times. If you pass your examination you
may live to overcome it."
The American looked furtively at Thorndyke, but the head of the
Englishman had sunk on his breast and he seemed to be asleep.
Johnston had never felt so lonely and forsaken in his life. From
his childhood he had entertained a secret fear that he had
inherited heart disease, and like Maupassant's "Coward," who
committed suicide rather than meet a man in a duel, he had tried
in vain to get away from the horrible, ever-present thought by
plunging into perilous adventures.
At that moment he felt that he would rather die than know the
worst from the uncanny instrument that had just tortured his
strong comrade till he was overcome with exhaustion.
"I never felt better in my life," he said falteringly, but it
seemed to him that every nerve and muscle in his frame was
withering through fear. His tongue felt clumsy and thick and his
knees were quivering as with ague.
"Stand still," ordered the physician sternly, and Johnston was
further humiliated by having Tradmos sympathetically catch hold
of his arm to steady him.
"Your people are far advanced in the sciences," went on the
physician coldly, "but there are only a few out of their number
who know that the mind governs the body and that fear is its
prime enemy. Five minutes ago you were eating heartily and had
your share of physical strength, and yet the mere thought that
you are now to know the actual condition of your most vital organ
has made you as weak as an infant. If you kept up this state of
mind for a month it would kill you.
"Now listen," he went on, as the instrument gripped Johnston's
flesh and the rubber tube began to twist and move as if
charged with electricity. The American held his breath. A sound
as of water being forced through channels that were choked,
mingled with a wheezing sound like wind escaping from a broken
bellows came from the bell.
"Your frame is all right," said the medical man, as he released
the trembling American, "but you have long believed in the
weakness of your heart and it has, on that account, become so.
You must banish all fear from your thoughts. You perhaps
know that we have a place specially prepared for those who are
not physically sound. I am sorry that you do not stand a
Tradmos regarded the American with a look of sympathy as he gave
him a chair and then rang a bell on the table. Thorndyke looked
up sleepily, as an attendant entered with a couple of parcels,
and glanced wonderingly at his friend's white face and bloodshot
"What's the matter?" he asked; but Johnston made no reply, for
the captain had opened the parcels and taken out two suits of
"Put them on," he said, giving a suit of gray to Johnston and one
of light blue to Thorndyke. "We shall leave you to change your
attire, and I shall soon come for you."
In a few minutes the captain returned and found his prisoners
ready to go with him. Thorndyke looked exceedingly handsome in
his glossy tights, close-fitting sack-coat, tinsel belt and low
shoes with buckles of gold. The natural color had come back into
his cheeks, and he was exhilarated over the prospect of further
It was not so, however, with poor Johnston; his spirits had been
so dampened by the physician's words that he could not rally from
his despondency. His suit fitted his figure as well as that of
the Englishman, but he could not wear it with the same hopeful
"Cheer up!" whispered Thorndyke, as they followed the captain
through a long corridor, "if we are on our way to the stake or
block we are at least going dressed like gentlemen."
Outside they found the streets lined with spectators eagerly
waiting to see them pass. The men all had suits like those which
had been given the captives, and the women wore flowing gowns
like those of ancient Greece.
"These are the common people," whispered Thorndyke to Johnston,
"but did you ever dream of such perfect features and physiques?
Every face is full of merriment and good cheer. I am curious to
see the royalty."
Johnston made no reply, for Captain Tradmos turned suddenly and
"Stand here till I return," he said, and he went back into the
"Where in the deuce do you think we are?" pursued Thorndyke with
a grim smile.
"Haven't the slightest idea," sighed Johnston, and he shuddered
as he looked down the long white street with its borders of human
Thorndyke was observant.
"There is not a breath of air stirring," he said; "and yet the
atmosphere is like impalpable delicacies to a hungry man's
stomach.Look at that big tree, not a leaf is moving, and yet
every breath I draw is as fresh as if it came from a mountain-
top. Did you ever see such flowers as those? Look at that ocean
"They think we are a regular monkey-show," grumbled the American.
"Look how the crowd is gaping and shoving and fighting for places
to see us."
"It's your legs they want to behold, old fellow. Do you know I
never knew you had such knotty knee-joints; did you ever have
rheumatism? I wish I had 'em; they wouldn't put me to death--they
would make me the chief attraction in the royal museum." Thorndyke
concluded his jest with a laugh, but the face of his
friend did not brighten.
"You bet that medical examination meant something serious," he
"Pooh!" and the Englishman slapped his friend playfully on the
"Since I have seen that vast crowd of well-developed people, and
remember what that medicine man said, I have made up my mind that
we are going to be separated." Poor Johnston's lip was quivering.
"Rubbish! but there comes the captain; put on a bold front; talk
up New York; tell 'em about Chicago and the Fair, and ask to be
allowed to ride in their Ferris Wheel--if they ain't got no
wheel, ask 'em when the first train leaves town."
"This is no time for jokes," growled Johnston, as Tradmos
returned. Tradmos motioned to something that in the
distance looked like a carriage, but which turned out to be a
flying machine. It rose gracefully and glided over the ground and
settled at their feet. It was large enough to seat a dozen
people, and there was a little glass-windowed compartment at the
end in which they could see "the driver," as he was termed by
Tradmos. The mysterious machinery was hidden in the woodwork
overhead and beneath.
"Get in," said the captain, and the door flew open as if of its
own accord. Thorndyke went in first and was followed by the moody
American. "Let up on the ague," jested Thorndyke, nudging his
friend with his elbow; "if you keep on quivering like that you
may shake the thing loose from its moorings and we'd never know
what became of us."
Johnston scowled, and the officer, who had overheard the remark,
smiled as he leaned toward the window and gave some directions to
the man in the other compartment.
"You both take it rather coolly," he remarked to Thorndyke. "I
took a man and a woman over this route several years ago and both
of them were in a dead faint; but, in fact, you have nothing to
fear. We never have accidents."
"It is as safe as a balloon, I suppose, and we are at home in
them," said the Englishman, with just the hint of a swagger in
"But your balloons are poor, primitive things at best," returned
Tradmos in his soft voice. "They can't be compared to this mode
of travel, though, of course, our machines would not operate in
"Why not?" impulsively asked the Englishman. "I thought----"
But he did not conclude his remark, for they were rising, and
both he and Johnston leaned apprehensively forward and looked out
of one of the windows. Down below the long lines of people were
silently waving their hats, scarfs and handkerchiefs as the
machine swept along over their heads. As they rose higher the
scene below widened like a great circular fan, and in the delicate
roselight, the whole so appealed to Thorndyke's artistic sense
that he ejaculated:
"Glorious! Superb! Transcendent!" and he directed Johnston's
attention to the wonderful pinkish haze which lay over the
view toward the west like a vast diaphanous web of rosy sunbeams.
"You ask why our air-ships would not operate in your atmosphere,"
said the captain, showing pleasure at Thorndyke's enthusiasm.
"It is simple enough when you have studied the climatic
differences between the two countries. You have much to contend
with--the winds, for instance, the heat and cold, etc.; this is
the only known country where the winds are subjugated. I have
never been in your world, but from what I have heard of it I am
not anxious to see it. Your atmosphere and climate are so
changeable and so diverse in different localities that I have
heard your people spend much of their time in seeking congenial
climes. I think it was a man who came from London that claimed he
once had a cold--'a bad cold,' I think he called it. It was a
standing joke in the royal family for a long time, and he heard
so much about it that he tried to deny what he had said!"
Johnston glanced at the speaker non-plussed, but the captain was
looking at Thorndyke.
"Your climate is delightful here now," said the Englishman; "is
it so long at a time?"
"Perpetually; it is regulated every moment, and every year we
perfect it in some way."
"Yes, of course, why not? If it ever fails to be up to the usual
high standard, it is owing to neglect of those in charge, and
neglect is punished severely."
Thorndyke's eyes sought those of the American incredulously.
Seeing which Tradmos looked amused.
"You doubt it," he smiled. "Well, wait till you have been here
longer. The fact is, any one born in our climate could not live
in yours. The king experimented on a man who claimed to have only
one lung, but who had two sound ones when he was cut open. Well,
the king sent him to China, or America, or some such place, and
he wheezed himself to death in a week by your clocks. The weather
was too fickle for him. Our system has been perfected to such an
extent that we live four lives to your one, and our fruits and
vegetables are a hundred per cent. better than those in other
"What is the name of your country?" asked Thorndyke, feeling that
he was not losing anything by his boldness.
"Where is it located?"
"I don't know." Tradmos looked out at the window for a moment as
if to ascertain that they were going in the right direction, then
he fixed his dark eyes on Thorndyke and asked hesitatingly:--
"I never thought--I--but do you know where your country is
"Well, I don't know where this one is. We are taught everything,
I think, except geography." Nothing more was said for several
minutes, then an exclamation of admiration broke from the
Englishman. The color of the sunlight was changing. From east to
west within the entire arc of their observation rolled an endless
billow of lavender light leaving a placid sea of the same color
behind it. On it swept, slowly driving back the pink glow that
had been over everything.
"I see you like our sunlight?" said Tradmos, half interrogatively.
"Never saw anything like it before."
"Yours is, I think, the same color all day long."
"Except on rainy days."
"Must be a great bore, monotonous--too much sameness. It is
white, is it not?"
"Yes, rather--between white and yellow, I call it."
"Something like our sixth hour, I suppose; this is the fourth
hour of morning. Then come blue, yellow, green, and at noon red.
The afternoon is divided up in the same way. The first hour is
green, then follow yellow, blue, lavender, rose, gray and purple.
Yes, I should think you would find yours somewhat tiresome."
"We can rely on it," said Johnston speaking for the first time
and in a wavering voice, "it is always there."
"Doing business at the old stand," laughed Thorndyke, attempting
"Well, that is a comfort, anyway," said the captain seriously.
"In my time they have had no solar trouble, but some of the old
people tell horrible tales of a period when our sun for several
days did not shine at all."
"Can it be possible?" said the Englishman dubiously.
"Oh, yes; and the early settlers had a great deal of trouble in
different ways; but I am not at liberty to give you information on
that head. It is the king's special pleasure to have new-comers
form their own impressions, and he is particularly fond of noting
their surprise, and, above all, their approval. People usually
come here of their own accord through the influence of our secret
force of agents all over the earth, but you were brought because
you happened to drop on our island and would have found out too
much for our good, and that red light you kept burning night and
day might have given us trouble. There is no telling how long you
could have kept alive on those clams."
"We meant no offence," apologized Thorndyke; "we----"
"Oh, I know it, I was only explaining the situation," interrupted
"What is that bright spot to the right?" asked Thorndyke, to
change the subject.
"The king's palace; that is the dome. We shall soon be there.
Now, I must not talk to you any longer. Somebody may be watching
us with glasses. I have taken a liking to you, and some time,
when I get the opportunity, I shall give you some useful advice,
but I must treat you very formally, at least till you have had
audience with the king."
"Thank you," said the Englishman, and Tradmos stood up in the car
to watch their progress through the circular glass of a little
cupola on top. Thorndyke smiled at Johnston, but the American was
in no pleasant mood. The indifference with which Tradmos had
treated him had nettled him.
The machine was now slowly descending. A vast pile of white
marble, with many golden domes and spires, rose between them and
the earth below.
"To the balcony on the central dome," ordered Tradmos through the
window of the driver's compartment; and the adventurers felt the
car sweep round in a curve that threw them against each other,
and the next moment they had landed on a wide iron balcony
encircling a great golden cone that towered hundreds of feet
"Follow me," said the captain stiffly, for there were several
guards in white and gold uniforms pacing to and fro on the
battlement-like walls. He led the two adventurers through a
door in the base of the dome. At first they were dazed by a
brilliant light from above, and looking up they beheld a marvel
of kaleidoscopic colors formed by a myriad of electric-lighted
prisms sloping gradually from the floor to the apex of the dome.
Thorndyke could compare it to nothing but a stupendous diamond,
the very heart of which the eye penetrated.
"Don't look at it now," advised Tradmos, in an undertone; "it was
constructed to be seen from below, and to light the great
Mutely the captives obeyed. At every turn they were greeted with
a new wonder. The captain now led them round a narrow balcony on
the inside of the vast dome, and, looking over the railing down
below, they saw a vast tessellated pavement made of polished
stones of various and brilliant colors and so artistically
arranged that, from where they stood, lifelike pictures of
landscapes seemed to rise to meet the vision wherever the eye
rested. Statues of white marble, gold and bronze were placed here
and there, and, in squares of living green, fountains threw up
streams of crystal water. Tradmos paused for them to look down
and smiled at their evident admiration.
"How far is it down there?" Thorndyke ventured to ask.
"Over a thousand feet," replied Tradmos. "Look across opposite
and you will see that there are fifty floors beneath us, and each
floor has a balcony like this overlooking the court."
"What is the sound that comes up from below?" asked the
"It is the voices of the people and their footsteps on the
"Don't you see them? Your eyes are dazzled by the light; I ought
to have warned you against looking up into the dome. The people
are down there; do the views in the pavement not look a little
"Well, if you will look more closely you will see that it is a
multitude of people."
"Great heavens!" exclaimed the Englishman, and he became deeply
absorbed in the contemplation of the rarest sight he had ever
seen. As he looked closely he noticed a black spot growing larger
and nearer, and he glanced inquiringly at the captain.
"It is an elevator. There are a great many of them used in the
palace, but none have happened to rise as high as this since we
came. The one you see is coming for us." The next moment the
strange vehicle was floating toward them. The captain opened the
door and preceded the captives into the interior.
"The royal audience chamber," he said, carelessly, to the driver
behind the glass of the adjoining compartment, and down
they floated as lightly as a bubble--down past balcony after
balcony, laden with moving throngs, until they alighted in a
Near them was a tall fountain the water of which was playing
weird music on great bells of glass, some of which hung in
the fountain's stream and others rose and fell, giving forth
strange, submerged tones in the foaming basin.
"It is a new invention recently placed here by the king's son who
is a musical genius," explained Tradmos. "You will be astonished
at some of his inventions."
He led them, as if to avoid the great crowds that they could now
hear on all sides, down a long vista of palms, the branches of
which met over their heads, to the wide door of the audience
chamber. A party of men dressed in uniforms of white silk with
gold and silver ornaments bowed before the captain and made way
The captives now found themselves in the most splendid and
spacious room they had ever seen, at the far end of which was
a long dais and on it an elaborate throne.
"I shall be obliged to leave you when the king comes," said
Tradmos to Thorndyke, "but I shall hope to see you again. Don't
forget my name and rank, for I may send you a message some time
that may aid you." "Thank you," replied the Englishman, and
then as a throng of beautiful young women came from a room on the
side and gathered about the throne he added inquisitively: "Who
"The wives and daughters of the king and the wives of the
princes," was the cautious answer, "but don't look at any one of
"I don't see how a fellow can help it; they are ravishingly
beautiful, don't you think so, Johnston?"
"Don't be a fool," snapped the American, "don't you know enough
to hold your tongue."
Tradmos smiled as if amused, and when he had shown them to seats
near the great golden throne, he said:
"Stay where you are till the king sends for you, and then go and
kneel before the throne. Do not rise till he bids you."
The captives thanked him and the captain turned away. The eyes of
all the royal party now rested on the strangers, and it was
hard for them to appear unconscious of it. A great crowd was
slowly filling the room and an orchestra in a balcony on the left
of the dais began to make delightful music on instruments the
strangers had never before seen. After an entrancing prelude a
sound of singing was heard, and far up in a grand dome, lighted
like the one the captives had just admired over the central court
of the palace, they saw a bevy of maidens, robed in white, moving
about in mid-air, apparently unsupported by anything.
"How on earth is that done?" asked Thorndyke.
"I don't know," returned Johnston, speaking more freely now that
the captain had gone. "I am not surprised at anything."
"Their voices are exquisite, and that orchestra--a Boston
symphony concert couldn't be compared to it."
"There goes the sunlight again," cried Johnston, "by Jove, it is
The transition was sublime. They seemed transported to some other
scene. The great multitude, the elegantly-dressed attendants about
the throne, the courtiers, the beautiful women, all seemed to
change in appearance; on the view through the wide doors leading
to the conservatory, and the great swarming court beyond, the soft
blue light fell like a filmy veil of enchantment.
"Wonderful!" exclaimed the American.
"It is ahead of our clocks, anyway," jested Thorndyke. "Any
child that can count on its fingers could tell that this is the
fifth hour of the day."
The music grew louder; there was a harmonious blare of mighty
trumpets, the clang of gongs and cymbals, and then the
music softened till it could scarcely be heard. There was
commotion about the throne.
The king was coming. Every person on the dais stood motionless,
expectant. A page drew aside the rich curtain from a door on the
right, and an old man, wearing a robe of scarlet ornamented with
jewels and a crown set with sparkling gems, entered and seated
himself on the throne. The music sank lower; so soft did it
become that the tinkling bells of the great fountain outside
could be heard throughout the room.
The king bowed to the throng on the dais and spoke a few words to
a courtier who advanced as he sat down. The courtier must have
spoken of them, for the king at once looked down at Johnston and
Thorn-dyke and nodded his head. The courtier spoke to a page,
and the youth left the dais and came toward the captives.
"We are in for it," cautioned Thorndyke, "now don't be afraid of
your shadow; we'll come out all right."
"The king has sent for you," said the page, the next instant. "Go
to the throne."
They were the cynosure of the entire room as they went up the
carpeted steps of the dais and knelt before the king.
"Rise!" commanded the king, in a deep, well-modulated voice, and
when they had arisen he inspected them critically, his eyes
lingering on Thorndyke.
"You look as if you take life easily; you have a jovial
countenance," he said cordially.
Thorndyke returned his smile and at once felt at ease.
"There is no use in taking it any other way," he said; "it
doesn't amount to much at best."
"You are wrong," returned the king, playing with the jewels on
his robe, "that is because you have been reared as you have--in
your unsystematic world. Here we make life a serious study. It
is our object to assist nature in all things. The efforts of your
people amount to nothing because they are not carried far enough.
Your scientists are dreaming idiots. They are continually groping
after the ideal and doing nothing with the positive. It was for
us to carry out everything to perfection. Show me where we can
make a single improvement and you shall become a prince."
"If my life depended on that, my head would be off this instant,"
was the quick-witted reply of the Englishman.
This so pleased the king that he laughed till he shook. "Well
said," he smiled; "so you like our country?"
"Absolutely charmed; my friend (Thorndyke was determined to
bring his companion into favor, if possible) and I have been in
raptures ever since we rose this morning."
A flush of pleasure crossed the face of the king. "You have not
seen half of our wonders yet. I confess that I am pleased with
you, sir. The majority of people who are brought here are so
frightened that they grow morbid and desirous to return to
their own countries as soon as they learn that such a thing is
out of the question."
Thorndyke's stout heart suffered a sudden pang at the words, but
he did not change countenance in the slightest, for the king was
closely watching the effect of his announcement.
"Of course," went on the ruler, gratified by the indifference of
the Englishman, "of course, it could not be done. No one,
outside of a few of the royal family and our trusted agents, has
ever left us."
"I can't see how any one could be so unappreciative as to want
to go," answered Thorndyke, with a coolness that surprised even
Johnston. "I have travelled in all countries under the sun--the
sun I was born under--and got so bored with them that my friend
and myself took to ballooning for diversion; but here, there is a
delightful surprise at every turn."
"I was told you were aeronauts," returned the ruler, deigning to
cast a glance at the silent Johnston, who stood with
eyes downcast, "and I confess that it interested me in you."
At that juncture a most beautiful girl glided through the
curtains at the back of the throne and came impulsively toward
the king. Her brown hair fell in rich masses on her bare
shoulders; her eyes were large, deep and brown, and her skin was
exquisitely fine in texture and color; her dress was artistic
and well suited to her lithe figure. She held an instrument
resembling a lute in her hands, and stopped suddenly when she
noticed that the king was engaged,
"It is my daughter, the Princess Bernardino," explained the
king, as he heard her light step and turned toward her;
"she shall sing for you, and, yes (nodding to her) you shall
As she took her position on a great rug in front of the throne,
she kept her eyes on the handsome Englishman as if fascinated
by his appearance. Thorndyke's heart beat quickly; the blood
mantled his face and he stood entranced as she touched the
resonant strings with her white fingers and began to play and
sing. An innocent, artless smile parted her lips from her
matchless teeth, and her face glowed with inspiration. Far above
in the nooks and crannies of the vast dome, with its divergent
corridors and arcades, the faint echoes of her voice seemed to
reply to her during the pauses in her song. Then she ceased
singing and to the far-away and yet distinct accompaniment of
some stringed instrument in the orchestra, she began to dance.
Holding her instrument in a graceful fashion against her shoulder
as one holds a violin, and with her flowing white gown caught in
the other hand, she bowed and smiled and instantly seemed
transformed. From the statuesque and dreamy singer she became a
marvel of graceful motion. To and fro she swept from end to end of
the great rug, her tiny feet and slim ankles tripping so lightly
that she seemed to move without support through the air.
Thorndyke stood as if spell-bound, for, at every turn, as if
seeking his approval, she glanced at him inquiringly. When
she finished she stood for a moment in the centre of the rug
panting, her beautiful bosom, beneath its filmy covering of
lace, gently rising and falling. Then, asking her father's
consent with a mute glance, she ran forward impulsively, and,
kneeling at Thorndyke's feet, she took his hand and pressed it
to her lips. And rising, suffused with blushes, she tripped from
the dais and disappeared behind the curtain.
The king frowned as he looked after her. "It is a mark of
preference," he said coldly. "It is one of our customs for a
dancer or singer to favor some one of her spectators in that way.
My daughter evidently mistook you for an ambassador from one of
my provinces, but it does not matter."
"She is wonderfully beautiful," replied the tactful Englishman,
pretending not to be flattered by the notice of the princess.
"Do you think our people fine looking as a rule?" asked the king,
to change the subject.
"Decidedly; I never imagined such a race existed."
Again the king was pleased. "That is one of the objects of our
system. Generation after generation we improve mentally
and physically. We are the only people who have ever attempted to
thoroughly study the science of living. Your medical men may be
numbered by the million; your remedies for your ills change
daily; what you say is good for the health to-day is to-
morrow believed to be poison; to-day you try to make blood to
give strength, and half a century ago you believed in taking it
from the weakest of your patients. With all this fuss over
health, you will think nothing of allowing the son of a man who
died with a loathsome hereditary disease to marry a woman whose
family has never had a taint of blood. Here no such thing is
thought of. To begin with, no person who is not thoroughly sound
can remain with us. Every heart-beat is heard by our medical men
and every vein is transparent. You see evidences of the benefit
of our system in the men and women around you. All our
conveniences, the excellence of our products, our great
inventions are the result."
"I have been wondering about the size of your country," ventured
The king smiled. "That will be one of the things for you to
discover later," he returned. "But this, the City of Moron,
is the capital; our provinces, farming lands, smaller cities,
towns and hamlets lie around us. Come with me and I will show
He waved his hand and dismissed a number of courtiers who were
waiting to be called, and rose from the throne and led the two
captives into a large apartment adjoining the throne-room. Here
they found six men in blue uniforms looking into a large circular
mirror on a table. They all bowed and moved aside as the king
"These men are the municipal police," explained the king, resting
his hand on the gold frame of the glass; "they are watching the
city." And when the strangers drew nearer they were surprised to
see reflected, in the deeply concave glass, the entire city in
miniature; its streets, parks, public buildings, and moving
populace. And what seemed to be the most remarkable feature of
the invention was, that the instant the eye rested on any
particular portion of the whole that part was at once magnified
so that every detail of it was clearly observable.
"This is an improvement on your police system," continued the
king. "No sooner does anything go wrong than a red signal is
given on the spot of the trouble and the attention of these
officers is immediately called to it. A flying machine is sent
out and the offender is brought to the police station; but
trouble of any nature rarely occurs, and the duties of our police
are merely nominal; my people live in thorough harmony. Now,
come with me and I will give you an idea of the surrounding
As the king spoke he led them into a circular room, the roof of
which was of white glass, and the walls were lined with
"This is our general observatory from which every part of Alpha
can be seen," said the king with a touch of pride in his tone.
"Look at the mirror in front of you."
They did as he requested, and at first saw nothing; but, as he
went to a stone table in the centre of the room and touched
an electric button, a grand view of green fields, forests,
streams, lakes and farm-houses flashed upon the mirror. The king
laughed at their surprise and touched another button. As he did
so the scene shifted gradually; the landscapes ran by like a
panorama. A pretty village came into sight, and passed; then a
larger town and still a larger; then fields, hills and valleys
and forests of giant trees.
"It is that way all over my kingdom," said the king; "in an hour
I can inspect it all."
"But how is it done?" asked Thorndyke, forgetting himself in
"Through a telescopic invention, aided by electricity and the
clearness of our atmosphere," replied the king. "It would
take too long to go into the details. The views, however, are
reflected to this point from various observatories throughout the
land. Such a system would be impossible in any other country on
account of the clouds and atmospheric changes; but here we
"I noticed," returned the Englishman, "that green fields lie
beside ripening ones and those in which the grain is being
"We have no change of seasons," answered the king. "Change of
seasons may be according to nature, but it is in the province of
man's intellect to improve on nature. But I must leave you now; I
shall summon you again when I have the leisure to continue our
"Well, what do you think of it?" asked Johnston, as the king
disappeared behind a curtain in the direction of the audience
"I give it up; I only know that the old fellow's daughter, the
Princess Bernardino is the most beautiful, the most bewitching
creature that ever breathed. Did you notice her eyes and form?
Great heavens! was there ever such a vision of human loveliness?
Her grace, her voice, her glances drove me wild with delight."
"You are dead gone," grumbled the American despondently; "we'll
never get away from here in the world. I can see that."
"I gave up all hope in that direction some time ago," said
Thorndyke; "and why should we care? We were awfully bored with
life before we came; for my part I'd as soon end mine up here as
anywhere else. Besides, didn't his majesty say that they live
longer under his system than we do?"
"I don't take stock in all he says," growled the American; "he
talks like a Chicago real estate agent who wants to sell a lot.
Why doesn't he chop off our heads and be done with it?"
Thorndyke burst into a jovial laugh. "You are coming round all
right; that is the first joke you have got off since we came
here; his royal Nibs may need a court-jester and give you a job."
"There goes that blamed sunlight again," exclaimed Johnston,
grasping his companion's arm, "don't you see it changing?"
"Yes, and this time it is white, like old Sol's natural smile;
but isn't it clear? It seems to me that I could see to the end
of the earth in that light. I want to know how he does it."
"How who does it?"
"Why, the king, of course, it is his work--some sort of
invention; but we must keep civil tongues in our heads when we
are dealing with a man who can color the very light of the sun."
They were walking back toward the great rotunda, and, as they
entered the conservatory, the crowds of men and women stared at
them curiously. They had paused to inspect the statue of a
massive stone dragon when a young officer in glittering
uniform approached and addressed Johnston.
"Follow me," he said simply; "it is the king's command."
The American started and looked at Thorndyke apprehensively.
"Go," said the latter; "don't hesitate an instant."
Poor Johnston had turned white. He held out his hand to
Thorndyke, "Shake," he said in a whisper, not intended for
the ears of the officer, "I don't believe that we shall meet
again. I felt that we were to be parted ever since that medical
Thorndyke's face had altered; an angry flush came in his face and
his eyes flashed, but with an effort he controlled himself.
"Tut, tut, don't be silly. I shall wait for you round here; if
there is any foul play I shall make some one suffer for it. You
can depend on me to the end; we are hand in hand in this
adventure, old man."
Johnston followed his guide to a flying machine outside. He
hesitated an instant, as the officer was holding the door
open, and looked back toward the conservatory; but he could not
"Where are you taking me?" he asked desperately. But the officer
did not seem to hear the question. He was motioning to a tall man
of athletic build who wore a dark blue uniform and who came
hastily forward and pushed the American into the machine. Through
the open door Johnston saw Thorndyke's anxious face as the
Englishman emerged from the conservatory and strode toward them.
The two officers entered and closed the glass door.
Then the machine rose and Johnston's spirits sank as they shot
upward and floated easily over the humming crowd into the
free white light above the smokeless city. The poor captive
leaned on the window-sill and looked out. There was no breeze,
and no current of air except that caused by their rapid passage
through the atmosphere.
Up, up, they went, till the city seemed a blur of mingled white
and gray, and then the color below changed to a vague blue
as they flew over the fields of the open country.
The first officer took a glass and a decanter from a receptacle
under a seat, and, pouring a little red fluid into the
glass, offered it to the American.
"Drink it," he said, "it will put you to sleep for a time."
"I don't want to be drugged."
"The journey will try your nerves. It is harmless."
"I don't want it; if I take it, you will have to pour it down my
The officer smiled as he put the glass and decanter away. Faster
and faster flew the machine. They had to put the window down, for
the current of air had become too strong and cool to be pleasant.
The color of the sunlight changed to green, and then at noon,
from the zenith, a glorious red light shimmered down and veiled
the earth with such a beautiful translucent haze that the poor
American for a moment almost forgot his trouble.
The afternoon came on. The sunlight became successively green,
white, blue, lavender, rose and gray. The sun was no longer in
sight and the gray in the west was darkening into purple, the
last hour of the day. Night was at hand. Johnston's limbs were
growing stiff from inaction, and he had a strong desire to speak
or to hear one of the officers say something, but they were
dozing in their respective corners. The moon had risen and hung
far out in space overhead, but they seemed to be leaving it
behind. Later he felt sure of this, for its light gradually
became dimmer and dimmer till at last they were in total
darkness--darkness pierced only by the powerful search-light
which threw its dazzling, trumpet-shaped rays far ahead. But,
search as he would in the direction they were going, the
unfortunate American could see nothing but the ever-receding wall
Suddenly they began to descend. The officers awoke and stretched
themselves and yawned. One of them opened the window and Johnston
heard a far-off, roaring sound like that of a multitude of
skaters on a vast sheet of ice.
Down, down, they dropped. Johnston's heart was in his mouth.
The machine suddenly slackened in its speed and then hung poised
in mid-air. The rays of the search-light were directed downward
and slowly shifted from point to point. Looking down, the American
caught glimpses of rugged rocks, sharp cliffs and yawning chasms.
"How is it?" asked the first officer, through a speaking-tube, of
"A good landing!" was the reply.
"Well, go down." And a moment later the machine settled on the
The same officer opened the door, and gently pushed Johnston out.
Johnston expected them to follow him, but the door of the machine
closed behind him.
"Stand out of the way," cried out the officer through the window;
"you may get struck as we rise."
Involuntarily Johnston obeyed. There was a sound of escaping air
from beneath the machine, a fierce commotion in the atmosphere
which sucked him toward the machine, and then the dazzling
search-light blinded him, as the air-ship bounded upward and
sailed back over the course it had come.
Johnston stood paralyzed with fear. "My God, this is awful!" he
exclaimed in terror, and his knees gave way beneath him and
he sank to the rock. "They have left me here to starve in this
hellish darkness!" He remained there for a moment, his face
covered with his hands, then he sprang up desperately, and
started to grope through the darkness, he knew not whither. He
stumbled at almost every step, and ran against boulders which
bruised his hands and face, and went on till his strength was
gone. Then he paused and looked back toward the direction from
which he had come. It seemed to him that he could see the
straight line of mighty black wall above which there was a faint
appearance of light. A lump rose in the throat of the poor
fellow, and tears sprang into his eyes.
But what was that? Surely it was a sound. It could not have been
the wind, for the air was perfectly still. The sound was
repeated. It was like the moaning of a human voice far away in
the dark. Could it be some one in distress, some poor
unfortunate, banished being, like himself? Again he heard the
sound, and this time, it was like the voice of some one talking.
"Hello!" shouted the American, and a cold shudder went over him
at the sound of his own husky voice. There was a dead silence,
then, like an echo of his own cry, faintly came the word, "Hello!"
Filled with superstitious fear, the American cautiously groped
toward the sound. "Hello, there, who are you?"
"Help, help!" said the voice, and it was now much nearer.
Johnston plunged forward precipitately. "Where are you?"
"Here," and a human form loomed up before him.
For a moment neither spoke, then the strange figure said: "I
thought at first that you were some one sent to rescue me, but I
see you are alone--damned like myself."
"It looks that way," replied Johnston.
"When did they bring you?"
"Only a moment ago."
"My God, it is awful! A week ago I did not dream of such a fate
as this. I had enemies. The medical men were bribed to vote
against me. Am I not strong? Am I not muscular? Feel my arms and
He held out an arm and Johnston felt of it. The muscles were like
"You are a giant."
"Ah! you are right; but they reported that there was a taint in
my blood. I was to marry Lallio, the most beautiful creature in
our village--Madryl, you know, the nearest hamlet to the home of
the Sun. I was rich, and the best farmer there. But Lyngale
wanted her. She hated him and spat at him when he spoke against
me. He proved by others that my lungs were weak, and showed them
the blood of a slain dog in my fields that they said had come
from my lungs. Ah, they were curs! My lungs weak! Strike my chest
with all your might. Does it not sound like the king's thunder?
Strike, I say!" and as the enfeebled American struck his bare
breast he cried:--Harder, harder! Pooh, you are a child, see
this, and this," and he emphasized his words with thunderous
blows on his resounding chest.
"But it has been so for a century," he panted; "hundreds have
been unjustly buried alive here. The king thinks it is not murder
because they die of starvation. I have stumbled over the bones of
giants here in the dark lands, and have met dying men that are
stronger than the king's athletes."
"What, are there others here?" gasped the American.
The Alphian was silent in astonishment.
"Why, where did you come from?" he asked, after a pause.
"From New York City."
"I don't know of it, and yet I thought I knew of all the places
inside the great endless wall."
Johnston was mystified in his turn. "It is not in your country--
your world, or whatever you call it. It is far away."
"Ah, under the white sun! In the 'Ocean Country,' and the world
of fierce winds and disease. And you are from there. I had heard
of it before they banished me; but two days since I came across a
dying man, away over there. He was huddled against the wall, and
had fallen and killed himself in his efforts to climb back to
food and light.
"I saw him die. He told me that he had come from your land when
he was a child. His trouble was the lungs and he had fallen off
to a skeleton. He talked to me of your wide ocean land. Is it,
indeed so great? And has it no walls about it?"
"No, it is surrounded by water."
"I cannot understand," and, after a pause, in which Johnston
could hear the great fellow's heart beating, he continued; "That
must be the Heaven the man spoke about. And beyond the water is
it always dark like this, and do they banish people there as the
king has us?"
"No; beyond are other countries. But is there no chance for us to
escape from here?"
The Alphian laughed bitterly. "None. What were you banished for?"
"I hardly know."
"Hold out your arm. There," as he grasped Johnston's arm in a
clasp of iron, "I see; you are undeveloped, unfit--none but
the healthy and strong are allowed to live in Alpha. It is right,
of course; but it is hard to bear. But I must lie down. I
am wearied with constant rambling. I am nervous too. I fell
asleep awhile ago and dreamt I heard all my friends in a
great clamoring body calling my name, 'Branasko!' and then I
awoke and cried for help."
As he spoke he sank with a sigh to the ground and rested his head
on his elbows and knees and seemed asleep. The American sat down
beside him, and, for a long time, neither spoke. Branasko broke
the silence; he awoke with a start and eyed his companion in
"Ugh, I dreamt again," he grunted, "are you asleep?"
"No," was Johnston's reply. "I am hungry and thirsty and cannot
"So am I, but we must wait till it is lighter, then we can go in
search of food. When I was a boy I learned to catch fish in pools
with my hands and it has prolonged my life here. When the light
comes again, I shall show you how I do it."
"Then the day does break? I thought it was eternally dark here."
"It does not get very light, because we are behind the sun; but
it is lighter than now, for we get the sun's reflection, enough
at least to keep us from falling into the chasms."
Branasko lowered his head to his knees and slept again, but the
American, though wearied, was wakeful. Several hours passed. The
Alphian was sleeping soundly, his breathing was very heavy and he
had rolled down on his side.
Far away in the east the darkness gradually faded into purple,
and then into gray, and slowly hints of pink appeared in
the skies. It was dawn. Johnston touched his companion. The man
awoke and looked at him from his great swollen eyes.
"It is day," he yawned, rising and stretching himself.
"But the sun is not in sight."
"No; it shows itself only in the middle of the day, and then but
for a few minutes. We must go now and search for food. I will
show you how to catch the eyeless fish in the black caverns over
there." And he led the American into the blackness behind them.
Every now and then, as they stumbled along, Johnston would look
longingly back toward the faint pink light that shone above the
high black wall. But Branasko hastened on.
Presently they came to the edge of a black chasm and the American
was filled with awe, for, from the seemingly fathomless depths,
came a great roaring sound like that of a mighty wind and the air
that came from it was hot, though pure and free from the odor of
"What is this?" he asked.
"They are everywhere," answered Branasko, "if it were not for
their hot breathing the Land of the Changing Sun would be cold
"Then the sun does not give out heat?"
"It is cold?"
"I believe so, I have never thought much about it."
The American was mystified, but he did not question farther, for
Branasko was carefully lowering himself into the hot gulf.
"Follow me," he said; "we must cross it to reach the caves. I
will guide you. I have been over this way before."
"But can we stand the heat?"