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  • 1911
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“Saw it? Of course, we saw it. We’ve seen the last of it, I’m afraid. But what do you mean?”

“I–I thought maybe I was out of my head, and I only saw a vision,” answered Jack. “You know–a sort of mirage. It was real, then?”

“Altogether too real,” spoke Andy Sudds grimly. “They didn’t see us nor hear us. We’re left behind!”

“But can’t we do something?” demanded Mark. “Let’s start off and try to catch them. They were going slow.”

“The wonder to me is how they moved at all,” said Jack. “I thought the machinery wouldn’t work until we got back with the lost tool.”

“Probably the two professors found some way of patching up the motor,” was Mark’s opinion, and later they found that this was so.

For some time they remained staring in the direction in which the projectile had vanished, as if they might see it reappear, but the great steel shell did not poke its sharp nose in among the towering peaks which hid it from view. Probably it was many miles away now.

“Well,” remarked old Andy at length, “we’ve got to make the best of it. We won’t have many more days of light, and we must gather what food we can, put it where we can find it in the dark, and also bring in some water from the black pool. We can store that in some of the stone tables. By turning them upside down they will make good troughs, and it won’t freeze. We must work while we have light, for soon the long night will come.”

The sight of the projectile going away seemed to take the heart out of all of them, and they did not know what to do. For some time they remained there idly, until Andy roused the boys to a sense of their responsibility by urging upon them the necessity of getting together a store of meat and water.

As they had about exhausted the limited food supply in the ancient restaurant, they sought and found another and larger one. There they had the good fortune to come upon some whole sides of beef and lamb, which were petrified on the outside, but which, when they had blasted off the outer shell of stone, gave them good food.

They made several trips to the black pool, and brought in all the liquid they could, for they did not want to have to go outside the petrified city into the wild and desolate country beyond, after the dismal night had settled down. They feared they would become lost again.

Their lonely situation seemed to grow upon them. The appalling silence all about terrified them. The weird sight of the petrified men and women in the petrified city got on their nerves.

They had done all they could. A store of meat had been blasted out and put away. It would keep outside of the stone shell now, for the weather was getting colder with the advent of the long night.

This fact worried them. With the temperature at twenty-eight when the sun was shining, what might it not fall to in the darkness? The terrible cold of the arctic regions might be nothing compared to the frostiness of the dead moon in the shadow. Their fur garments, thick as they were, might be no more protection than so much paper. And they had no means of making a fire, nor anything to burn on one had they been capable of kindling it, for Andy had used the last of his cartridges to blast with, and where everything was petrified there was no wood.

Then, too, their life-torches were giving out. The emanations of oxygen were weaker, and they had to hold them almost under their noses to breathe the vital vapor.

One day, or rather what corresponded to a day, for they had lost all track of time, Andy Sudds arose from the stone bench on which their meager meal had been served. He started from the restaurant where they had taken up their abode.

“Where are you going?” asked Jack.

“I’m going to make one last attempt to find the projectile before it gets too dark,” answered the hunter. “We can go out, look around for several hours, and get back before darkness sets in. We might as well do it as sit here doing nothing. Then, too, we can bring in some more water. We’ll need all we can store away.”

“I’ll go with you,” volunteered Jack, and Mark, not wanting to be left alone in the dead city, followed. Carrying their life-torches and wrapping their fur garments closely about them, for it had grown much colder, they sallied forth.

They found a thin film of ice on the black pool, showing that it would probably freeze when it got cold enough, though the ordinary temperature of thirty-two degrees had not affected it. They filled their water bottles, and then Andy proposed that they take a new path– one they had not tried before.

They hardly knew where they were going, but ever as they tramped on they cast anxious looks upward to see if they might descry the projectile hovering over them. But they did not see it.

Jack had taken the lead, and was walking along, glancing idly about. He came to a place where two peaks were so close together that it was all he could do to squeeze through. But the moment he had passed the defile and looked out on a broad, level field, he came to a sudden stop. His companions, who pressed after him, saw him rub his eyes and shake his head, as if disbelieving the evidence of what lay before him. Then Jack murmured: “It can’t be true! It can’t be true!”

“What?” called Mark.

“There! Those,” answered his chum. “See, the field is covered with diamonds! We have found the diamonds of the moon–the field of Reonaris that the men of Mars discovered! There are the diamonds–millions of them!”

“Diamonds!” exclaimed Mark. He squeezed through the defile, and stood beside Jack. Before him in the fading light of the sun was a broad field, girt around with towering cliffs, and the surface of the field was covered with white stones.

Jack sprang forward and gathered up a double handful. He let them run through his fingers in a sparkling stream. Old Andy came up to the boys.

“They’re only glass or crystals,” he said.

“They are _not_ glass or crystals!” declared Mark, who had made a study of gems. “I should say they were diamonds, probably meteoric diamonds, very rare and valuable. Why, there is the ransom of a thousand kings spread out before us!”

He fell upon his knees and began to scoop up the gems. His chum was making a little heap of the stones.

“The ransom of a thousand kings!” murmured Jack. “More diamonds than in all the world–and I’d give my share for a good ham sandwich!”

CHAPTER XXX

BACK TO EARTH–CONCLUSION

At any other time the discovery of such a vast store of wealth would have set the wanderers half wild with joy. Now they only accepted the fact dully, for the perils of their situation overburdened them. As Jack had said, they needed food more than the gems, for at best the supply they had blasted out could not last long, and when that was gone where were they to get more, for there were no more cartridges, and the rending force of powder was needed to open the rocky meat.

“I knew we’d find the diamonds,” murmured Jack, as he began to fill the pockets of his fur coat. “I’m right, after all, Mark, you see.”

“Yes, but what good will it do us? What’s the good of even carrying any away. We can never use them.”

“That’s so,” agreed Jack, in a low voice. “I might as well leave them here.”

But somehow the desire to pick up gems which, when they were cut and polished, would rival many of the famous diamonds of history was too strong to be resisted. Though he was afraid he would never get back to earth to enjoy them, Jack could not help putting in his pockets a goodly supply of the largest of the precious stones. Andy did the same, and Mark, in spite of his gloomy feelings, stuffed his pockets. They worked with their torches held close to their faces, and in the search for the better stones they literally walked over millions of dollars’ worth of the gems.

For there, stretched out before them, was an actual field of diamonds. As Mark had said, they were of meteoric origin, that is, a meteor had burst over that particular portion of the moon, and the chemical action had created the diamonds, which had fallen in a shower in the field.

“If you boys have all you want, then let’s get back to the city,” suggested Andy. “No telling when it will be night now.”

They followed his advice, and soon were going back by way of the black pool. It seemed more lonesome than ever, after the excitement of discovering the field of diamonds, and even Jack, glad as he was to have his theory vindicated, got tired of referring to it. His triumph meant little to him now.

They were at the entrance to the petrified city. As they were about to go in, ready to hide themselves in the deepest part of the restaurant, away from the terrible cold and appalling darkness they felt would soon be upon them, Mark came to a sudden halt. He glanced quickly up into the air and cried out: “Hark!”

“What’s the matter?” asked Jack, as they stood in a listening attitude.

“I heard a noise,” whispered Mark. “It sounded–I’m sure it sounded– like the crackling of the wireless motor waves of the projectile. Listen!”

Faintly through the silence came a sound as if there was a discharge of an electric current. It increased in volume, and there was a faint roaring in the atmosphere.

“It’s her–it’s the _Annihilator!_” shouted Jack, leaping about.

“Wait,” counselled Andy, who dreaded the terrible disappointment should the boys be mistaken. The sound came nearer. The crackling could plainly be made out now. The sun was out of sight, but there was still the glow which follows sunset.

The boys were eagerly scanning the heavens, Their hearts beat high with hope. Suddenly, in the olive-tinted sky just above a range of rugged peaks, a black shape loomed. A black shape, as of a great cigar, pointed at both ends. It shot into full view.

“The projectile!” yelled Jack.

“The _Annihilator!_” gasped Mark.

“Thank Heaven, they have found us in time!” exclaimed Andy fervently, and the three stretched out their arms toward the craft from which they had been parted so long. It was as if they tried to pull it down to them.

“Do they see us?”

“Will they pass us by?”

“Make a noise so they’ll hear us!”

“Wave to them!”

“Oh, if they leave us now!”

Questions, ejaculations and entreaties came rapidly from the lips of the wanderers. They raised their voices in a shout. They leaped up and down. They wildly waved their hands and life-torches.

Then, to their inexpressible joy, they saw the course of the projectile change. It was headed toward them, and a few minutes later it settled slowly to the ground about half a mile away.

“Come on!” cried Jack! “We must hurry to them, or soon it will be too dark to see them, or for them to find us. It’s our last chance; don’t let’s lose it!”

He sprang forward, the others after him, and together they ran toward the projectile. They could see the two professors and Washington White emerging from the steel car, waving their hands.

On rushed the lost wanderers, over the rough stones, skirting the great cliffs, falling into small craters, crawling out again, just missing several times being precipitated into yawning caverns, and stumbling over petrified bodies that strewed the ground.

Ever did they hasten onward though, increasing their speed. They came to a great crater that lay between them and the projectile, but fortunately there was across the middle of it a natural bridge of stone. But it was narrow–scarcely wide enough for one at a time.

“We can never cross on that!” cried Mark, halting.

“We’ve got to!” shouted Jack, and he sprang fearlessly forward, fairly running over the narrow path, which had a sheer descent of thousands of feet on either side.

Mark, though fearful that he would become dizzy and fall, followed Andy. They were soon across the narrow bridge, and speeding on toward the _Annihilator_. Five minutes later they had reached it, and were being wildly welcomed by the two professors and Washington White, who had advanced to meet them.

“I ‘clar t’ goodness-gladness!” exclaimed the colored man, “I am suttinly constrained t’ espress my approbation ob de deleterous manner in which yo’ all has come back t’ dis continuous territory.”

“Do you mean you’re glad to see us, Wash?” asked Jack.

“Dat’s what I done said,” was the answer, with a cheerful grin, “an’ I might also remark dat dinner am serbed in de dinin’ car.”

“Hurrah!” cried Jack. “That’s the best news I’ve heard in a week. No more blasted beef for mine! Give me ham and eggs!”

“But what happened to you? Where have you been? We have searched all over for you, and were just giving you up for dead, and going back to the earth,” said Professor Henderson. “We caught sight of you at the last minute.”

“Oh, you mustn’t go back until you go to the field of diamonds!” cried Jack, and then by turns he and Mark and Andy told of their terrible adventures while they were lost on the moon.

On their part Professors Roumann and Henderson stated how they had waited in vain for the return of the wanderers, and had then, by strenuous work, managed to make the necessary repairs without the missing tool. Then they set out to discover the lost ones, but succeeded only just in time, for it was now quite dusk.

“An’ did yo’ all really discober dem sparklers?” asked Washington, as he served what the boys thought was the finest dinner they had ever tasted.

“We sure did,” replied Jack. “Here are a couple for that red necktie of yours,” and he passed over two big diamonds.

It did not take long to move the projectile to the field of the sparkling gems, and by means of a powerful search-light enough were soon gathered up to satisfy even Washington White, who declared that he would be the best decorated colored man in Bayside when they got back. The two professors made what observations they could in the petrified city in the fast-gathering darkness, and then, having taken a petrified man into the projectile with them to deposit in a scientific museum in which Professor Roumann was interested, the _Annihilator_ was sealed shut.

And it was only just in time, for with the suddenness of an eclipse intense darkness settled down, and the temperature, as indicated by a thermometer thrust outside, showed a drop of a hundred degrees.

“We never could have lived out there,” said Jack.

“Well, we’ll soon be back on earth,” observed Mark, and a little later the Cardite motor was out in operation, and the journey back to this world begun.

Little of moment happened on the return trip. The boys went more into detail about their wanderings, and told how they had managed to live during the time they were lost. The two professors and Washington spoke of their worry and anxiety, and their vain search for the wanderers.

As they were anxious to get back home, the motor was speeded to the limit, and in much less time than they had made the trip to the moon they had arrived in sight of the earth again. As they did not want to create too much excitement, they hovered about in the air over Bayside until dark, when they gently descended almost in the very spot from which they had started.

“Well,” remarked Jack, as he stepped out on the earth once more, “it was quite an experience to go to the moon, and I suppose being lost there wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to us, but all the same I’m glad to be back.”

“So am I,” declared Mark. “It was worth while going,” and he felt of his pocketful of diamonds.

“We certainly made some very valuable scientific observations,” asserted Mr. Henderson, “and we will be able to prove that the moon was once inhabited.”

Washington White was carefully lifting out his Shanghai rooster, which was uttering loud crows. As soon as he had set the fowl on the ground, the colored man started off.

“Where are you going?” asked Mark.

“I’m going t’ a jewelery shop t’ hab my diamonds made inter a stick-pin fo’ my red necktie,” was the answer.

“Oh, you’d better wait until morning,” suggested Professor Henderson.

They gathered about the table in the cozy dining room of their home, while Washington got a meal ready. Every one was talking about what a wonderful trip they had had.

“The only trouble is,” said Jack, “that we’ve been to about all the interesting places in this universe now. I wonder where we can go next?”

“I’m going to bed right after supper,” announced Mark. “Maybe I’ll discover a new land in my dreams.”

The moon voyagers had a great store of gems, and, as they did not wish to bring down values by disposing of them, they only sold a few, which, because of their great size and brilliancy, brought a large price. Several jewelers wanted to know where the diamonds came from, but the secret was well kept. Most of the gems were used for scientific purposes, but Mark and Jack gave some to certain of their friends.

The petrified man proved a great curiosity, and a history of it, in two large volumes, can be seen in the museum where the body is exhibited. Professor Henderson wrote the account, and also published quite an extensive history of the trip to the moon, which was considered by scientists and laymen to be a most remarkable journey.

But, though our friends had been to many strange places, it was reserved for them to have yet still more wonderful adventures, though for a time after returning from the moon they remained at home, the two professors busy over their scientific work, and the boys engaged with their studies, while Andy occasionally went hunting, and Washington got the meals and, between times, fed his rooster and admired the diamonds in his red necktie. And now we will bid our friends good-by.

THE END