The Lost City
Joseph E. Badger, Jr.
Part 1 out of 4
THE LOST CITY BY JOSEPH E. BADGER, JR.
I. NATURE IN TRAVAIL
II. PROFESSOR FEATHERWIT TAKING NOTES
III. RIDING THE TORNADO
IV. THE PROFESSOR'S LITTLE EXPERIMENT
V. THE PROFESSOR'S UNKNOWN LAND
VI. A BRACE OF UNWELCOME VISITORS
VII. THE PROFESSOR'S GREAT ANTICIPATIONS
VIII. A DUEL TO THE DEATH
IX. GRAPPLING A QUEER FISH
X. RESCUED AND RESCUERS
XI. ANOTHER SURPRISE FOR THE PROFESSOR
XII. THE STORY OF A BROKEN LIFE
XIII. THE LOST CITY OF THE AZTECS
XIV. A MARVELLOUS VISION
XV. ASTOUNDING, YET TRUE
XVI. CAN IT BE TRUE?
XVII. AN ENIGMA FOR THE BROTHERS
XVIII. SOMETHING LIKE A WHITE ELEPHANT
XIX. THE CHILDREN OF THE SUN GOD
XX. THE PROFESSOR AND THE AZTEC
XXI. DISCUSSING WAYS AND MEANS
XXII. A DARING UNDERTAKING
XXIII. A FLIGHT UNDERGROUND
XXIV. THE SUN CHILDREN'S PERIL
XXV. WALDO GOES FISHING
XXVI. DOWN AMONG THE DEAD
XXVII. PENETRATING GRIM SECRETS
XXVIII. BROUGHT BEFORE THE GODS
XXIX. BENEATH THE SACRIFICIAL STONE
XXX. AGAINST OVERWHELMING ODDS
XXXI. DEFENDING THE SUN CHILDREN
XXXII. ADIEU TO THE LOST CITY
THE LOST CITY.
NATURE IN TRAVAIL.
"I say, professor?"
"Very well, Waldo; proceed."
"Wonder if this isn't a portion of the glorious climate, broken
loose from its native California, and drifting up this way on a
"If so, said lark must be roasted to a turn," declared the third
(and last) member of that little party, drawing a curved
forefinger across his forehead, then flirting aside sundry drops
of moisture. "I can't recall such another muggy afternoon, and
if we were only back in what the scientists term the cyclone
"We would be all at sea," quickly interposed the professor, the
fingers of one hand vigorously stirring his gray pompadour, while
the other was lifted in a deprecatory manner. "At sea, literally
as well as metaphorically, my dear Bruno; for, correctly
speaking, the ocean alone can give birth to the cyclone."
"Why can't you remember anything, boy?" sternly cut in the
roguish-eyed youngster, with admonitory forefinger, coming to the
front. "How many times have I told you never to say blue when
you mean green? Why don't you say Kansas zephyr? Or
windy-auger? Or twister? Or whirly-gust on a corkscrew
wiggle-waggle? Or--well, almost any other old thing that you
can't think of at the right time? W-h-e-w! Who mentioned
sitting on a snowdrift, and sucking at an icicle? Hot? Well,
now, if this isn't a genuine old cyclone breeder, then I wouldn't
ask a cent!"
Waldo Gillespie let his feet slip from beneath him, sitting down
with greater force than grace, back supported against a gnarled
juniper, loosening the clothes at his neck while using his other
hand to ply his crumpled hat as a fan.
Bruno laughed outright at this characteristic anticlimax, while
Professor Featherwit was obliged to smile, even while compelled
"Tornado, please, nephew; not cyclone."
"Well, uncle Phaeton, have it your own way. Under either name, I
fancy the thing-a-ma-jig would kick up a high old bobbery with a
man's political economy should it chance to go bu'st right there!
And, besides, when I was a weenty little fellow I was taught
never to call a man a fool or a liar--"
"Waldo!" sharply warned his brother, turning again.
"So long as I knew myself to be in the wrong," coolly finished
the youngster, face grave, but eyes twinkling, as they turned
towards his mistaken mentor. "What is it, my dear Bruno?"
"There is one thing neither cyclone nor tornado could ever
deprive you of, Kid, and that is--"
"My beauty, wit, and good sense,--thanks, awfully! Nor you, my
dear Bruno, although my inbred politeness forbids my explaining
There was a queer-sounding chuckle as Professor Featherwit turned
away, busying himself about that rude-built shed and shanty which
sheltered the pride of his brain and the pet of his heart, while
Bruno smiled indulgently as he took a few steps away from those
stunted trees in order to gain a fairer view of the stormy
Far away towards the northeast, rising above the distant hill,
now showed an ugly-looking cloud-bank which almost certainly
portended a storm of no ordinary dimensions.
Had it first appeared in the opposite quarter of the horizon,
Bruno would have felt a stronger interest in the clouds, knowing
as he did that the miscalled "cyclone" almost invariably finds
birth in the southwest. Then, too, nearly all the other symptoms
were noticeable,--the close, "muggy" atmosphere; the deathlike
stillness; the lack of oxygen in the air, causing one to breathe
more rapidly, yet with far less satisfying results than usual.
Even as Bruno gazed, those heavy cloud-banks changed, both in
shape and in colour, taking on a peculiar greenish lustre which
only too accurately forebodes hail of no ordinary force.
His cry to this effect brought the professor forth from the
shed-like shanty, while Waldo roused up sufficiently to speak:
"To say nothing of yonder formation way out over the salty drink,
my worthy friends, who intimated that a cyclone was born at sea?"
Professor Featherwit frowned a bit as his keen little rat-like
eyes turned towards that quarter of the heavens; but the frown
was not for Waldo, nor for his slightly irreverent speech.
Where but a few minutes before there had been only a few light
clouds in sight, was now a heavy bank of remarkable shape, its
crest a straight line as though marked by an enormous ruler,
while the lower edge was broken into sharp points and irregular
sections, the whole seeming to float upon a low sea of grayish
"Well, well, that looks ugly, decidedly ugly, I must confess,"
the wiry little professor spoke, after that keen scrutiny.
"Really, now?" drawled Waldo, who was nothing if not contrary on
the surface. "Barring a certain little topsy-turvyness which is
something out of the ordinary, I'd call that a charming bit
of--Great guns and little cannon-balls!"
For just then there came a shrieking blast of wind from out the
northeast, bringing upon its wings a brief shower of hail,
intermingled with great drops of rain which pelted all things
with scarcely less force than did those frozen particles.
"Hurrah!" shrilly screamed Waldo, as he dashed out into the
storm, fairly revelling in the sudden change. "Who says this
isn't 'way up in G?' Who says--out of the way, Bruno! Shut that
trap-door in your face, so another fellow may get at least a
share of the good things coming straight down from--ow--wow!"
Through the now driving rain came flashing larger particles, and
one of more than ordinary size rebounded from that curly pate,
sending its owner hurriedly to shelter beneath the scrubby trees,
one hand ruefully rubbing the injured part.
Faster fell the drops, both of rain and of ice, clattering
against the shanty and its adjoining shed with an uproar audible
even above the sullenly rolling peals of heavy thunder.
The rain descended in perfect sheets for a few minutes, while the
hailstones fell thicker and faster, growing in size as the storm
raged, already beginning to lend those red sands a pearly tinge
with their dancing particles. Now and then an aerial monster
would fall, to draw a wondering cry from the brothers, and on
more than one occasion Waldo risked a cracked crown by dashing
forth from shelter to snatch up a remarkable specimen.
"Talk about your California fruit! what's the matter with good
old Washington Territory?" he cried, tightly clenching one fist
and holding a hailstone alongside by way of comparison. "Look at
that, will you? Isn't it a beauty? See the different shaded
rings of white and clear ice. See--brother, it is as large as my
But for once Professor Phaeton Featherwit was fairly deaf to the
claims of this, in some respects his favourite nephew, having
scuttled back beneath the shed, where he was busily stowing away
sundry articles of importance into a queerly shaped machine which
those rough planks fairly shielded from the driving storm.
Having performed this duty to his own satisfaction, the professor
came back to where the brothers were standing, viewing with them
such of the storm as could be itemised. That was but little,
thanks to the driving rain, which cut one's vision short at but a
few rods, while the deafening peals of thunder prevented any
connected conversation during those first few minutes.
"Good thing we've got a shelter!" cried Waldo, involuntarily
shrinking as the plank roof was hammered by several mammoth
stones of ice. "One of those chunks of ice would crack a
fellow's skull just as easy!"
Yet the next instant he was out in the driving storm, eagerly
snatching at a brace of those frozen marvels, heedless of his own
risk or of the warning shouts sent after him by those
Thunder crashed in wildest unison with almost blinding sheets of
lightning, the rain and hail falling thicker and heavier than
ever for a few moments; but then, as suddenly as it had come, the
storm passed on, leaving but a few scattered drops to fetch up
"Isn't that pretty nearly what people call a cloudburst, uncle
Phaeton?" asked Bruno, curiously watching that receding mass of
what from their present standpoint looked like vapour.
"Those wholly ignorant of meteorological phenomena might so
pronounce, perhaps, but never one who has given the matter either
thought or study," promptly responded the professor, in no wise
loth to give a free lecture, no matter how brief it might be,
perforce. "It is merely nature seeking to restore a disturbed
equilibrium; a current of colder air, in search of a temporary
vacuum, caused by--"
"But isn't that just what produces cy--tornadoes, though?"
interrupted Waldo, with scant politeness.
"Precisely, my dear boy," blandly agreed their mentor, rubbing
his hands briskly, while peering through rain-dampened glasses,
after that departing storm. "And I have scarcely a doubt but
that a tornado of no ordinary magnitude will be the final outcome
of this remarkable display. For, as the record will amply prove,
the most destructive windstorms are invariably heralded by a fall
of hail, heavy in proportion to the--"
"Then I'd rather be excused, thank you, sir!" again interrupted
the younger of the brothers, shrugging his shoulders as he
stepped forth from shelter to win a fairer view of the space
stretching away towards the south and the west. "I always
laughed at tales of hailstones large as hen's eggs, but now I
know better. If I was a hen, and had to match such a pattern as
these, I'd petition the legislature to change my name to that of
ostrich,--I just would, now!"
Bruno proved to be a little more amenable to the law of
politeness, and to him Professor Featherwit confined his sapient
remarks for the time being, giving no slight amount of valuable
information anent these strange phenomena of nature in travail.
He spoke of the different varieties of land-storms, showing how a
tornado varied from a hurricane or a gale, then again brought to
the front the vital difference between a cyclone, as such, and
the miscalled "twister," which has wrought such dire destruction
throughout a large portion of our own land during more recent
While that little lecture would make interesting reading for
those who take an interest in such matters, it need scarcely be
reproduced in this connection, more particularly as, just when
the professor was getting fairly warmed up to his work, an
interruption came in the shape of a sharp, eager shout from the
lips of Waldo Gillespie.
"Look--look yonder! What a funny looking cloud that is!"
A small clump of trees growing upon a rising bit of ground
interfered with the view of his brother and uncle, for Waldo was
pointing almost due southeast; yet his excitement was so
pronounced that both the professor and Bruno hastened in that
direction, stopping short as they caught a fair sight of the
A mighty mass of wildly disturbed clouds, black and green and
white and yellow all blending together and constantly shifting
positions, out of which was suddenly formed a still more ominous
A mass of lurid vapour shot downwards, taking on the general
semblance of a balloon, as it swayed madly back and forth, an
elongating trunk or tongue reaching still nearer the earth, with
fierce gyrations, as though seeking to fasten upon some support.
Not one of that trio had ever before gazed upon just such another
creation, yet one and all recognised the truth,--this was a
veritable tornado, just such as they had read in awed wonder
about, time and time again.
Neither one of the brothers Gillespie were cravens, in any sense
of the word, but now their cheeks grew paler, and they seemed to
shrink from yonder airy monster, even while watching it grow into
shape and awful power.
Professor Featherwit was no less absorbed in this wondrous
spectacle, but his was the interest of a scientist, and his pulse
beat as ordinary, his brain remaining as clear and calm as ever.
"I hardly believe we have anything to fear from this tornado, my
lads," he said, taking note of their uneasiness. "According to
both rule and precedent, yonder tornado will pass to the east of
our present position, and we will be as safe right here as though
we were a thousand miles away."
"But,--do they always move towards the northeast, uncle Phaeton?"
"As a rule, yes; but there are exceptions, of course. And unless
this should prove to be one of those rare ex--er--"
"Look!" cried Waldo, with swift gesticulation. "It's coming this
way, or I never--ISN'T it coming this way?"
"Unless this should prove to be one of those rare exceptions, my
dear boy, I can promise you that--Upon my soul!" with an abrupt
change of both tone and manner, "I really believe it IS coming
"It is--it is coming! Get a move on, or we'll never know--hunt a
hole and pull it in after you!" fairly screamed Waldo, turning in
PROFESSOR FEATHERWIT TAKING NOTES.
"To the house!" cried the professor, raising his voice to
overcome yonder sullen roar, which was now beginning to come
their way. "Trust all to the aeromotor, and 'twill be well with
The wiry little man of science himself fell to work with an
energy which told how serious he regarded the emergency, and,
acting under his lead, the brothers manfully played their part.
Just as had been done many times before this day, a queer-looking
machine was shoved out from the shed, gliding along the wooden
ways prepared for that express purpose, while Professor
Featherwit hurried aboard a few articles which past experience
warned him might prove of service in the hours to come, then
sharply cried to his nephews:
"Get aboard, lads! Time enough, yet none to spare in idle
motions. See! The storm is drifting our way in deadly earnest!"
And so it seemed, in good sooth.
Now fairly at its dread work of destruction, tearing up the rain
dampened dirt and playing with mighty boulders, tossing them here
and there, as a giant of olden tales might play with jackstones,
snapping off sturdy trees and whipping them to splinters even
while hurling them as a farmer sows his grain.
Just the one brief look at that aerial monster, then both lads
hung fast to the hand-rail of rope, while the professor put that
cunning machinery in motion, causing the air-ship to rise from
its ways with a sudden swooping movement, then soaring upward and
onward, in a fair curve, as graceful and steady as a bird on
All this took some little time, even while the trio were working
as men only can when dear life is at stake; but the
flying-machine was afloat and fairly off upon the most marvellous
journey mortals ever accomplished, and that ere yonder
death-balloon could cover half the distance between.
"Grand! Glorious! Magnificent!" fairly exploded the professor,
when he could risk a more comprehensive look, right hand tightly
gripping the polished lever through which he controlled that
admirable mechanism. "I have longed for just such an
opportunity, and now--the camera, Bruno! We must never neglect
to improve such a marvellous chance for--get out the camera,
"Get out of the road, rather!" bluntly shouted Waldo, face
unusually pale, as he stared at yonder awful force in action. "Of
course I'm not scared, or anything like that, uncle Phaeton,
but--I want to rack out o' this just about the quickest the law
allows! Yes, I DO, now!"
"Wonderful! Marvellous! Incredible! That rara avis, an
exception to all exceptions!" declared the professor, more deeply
stirred than either of his nephews had ever seen him before. "A
genuine tornado which has no eastern drift; which heads as
directly as possible towards the northwest, and at the same
Only ears of his own caught these sentences in their entirety,
for now the storm was fairly bellowing in its might, formed of a
variety of sounds which baffles all description, but which, in
itself, was more than sufficient to chill the blood of even a
brave man. Yet, almost as though magnetised by that frightful
force, the professor was holding his air-ship steady, loitering
there in its direct path, rather than fleeing from what surely
would prove utter destruction to man and machine alike.
For a few moments Bruno withstood the temptation, but then leaned
far enough to grasp both hand and tiller, forcing them in the
requisite direction, causing the aeromotor to swing easily around
and dart away almost at right angles to the track of the tornado.
That roar was now as of a thousand heavily laden trains rumbling
over hollow bridges, and the professor could only nod his
approval when thus aroused from the dangerous fascination.
Another minute, and the air-ship was floating towards the rear of
the balloon-shaped cloud itself, each second granting the
passengers a varying view of the wonder.
True to the firm hand which set its machinery in motion, the
flying-machine maintained that gentle curve until it swung around
well to the rear of the cloud, where again Professor Featherwit
broke out in ecstatic praises of their marvellous good fortune.
" 'Tis worth a life's ransom, for never until now hath mortal
being been blessed with such a magnificent opportunity for taking
notes and drawing deductions which--"
The professor nimbly ducked his head to dodge a ragged splinter
of freshly torn wood which came whistling past, cast far away
from the tornado proper by those erratic winds. And at the same
instant the machine itself recoiled, shivering and creaking in
all its cunning joints under a gust of wind which seemed composed
of both ice and fire.
"Oh, I say!" gasped Waldo, when he could rally from the sudden
blow. "Turn the old thing the other way, uncle Phaeton, and
let's go look for--well, almost anything's better than this old
"Tornado, lad," swiftly corrected the man of precision, leaning
far forward, and gazing enthralled upon the vision which fairly
thrilled his heart to its very centre. "Never again may we have
such another opportunity for making--"
They were now directly in the rear of the storm, and as the
air-ship headed across that track of destruction, it gave a
drunken stagger, casting down its inmates, from whose parching
lips burst cries of varying import.
"Air! I'm choking!" gasped Bruno, tearing open his shirt-collar
with a spasmodic motion.
"Hold me fast!" echoed Waldo, clinging desperately to the
life-line. "It's drawing me--into the--ah!"
Even the professor gave certain symptoms of alarm for that
moment, but then the danger seemed past as the ship darted fairly
across the storm-trail, hovering to the east of that aerial
There was no difficulty in filling their lungs now, and once more
Professor Featherwit headed the flying-machine directly for the
balloon-shaped cloud, modulating its pace so as to maintain their
relative position fairly well.
"Take note how it progresses,--by fits and starts, as it were,"
observed Featherwit, now in his glory, eyes asparkle and muscles
aquiver, hair bristling as though full of electricity, face
glowing with almost painful interest, as those shifting scenes
were for ever imprinted upon his brain.
"Sort of a hop, step, and jump, and that's a fact," agreed Waldo,
now a bit more at his ease since that awful sense of suffocation
was lacking. "I thought all cyclones--"
"Tornado, my DEAR boy!" expostulated the professor.
"I thought they all went in holy hurry, like they were sent for
and had mighty little time in which to get there. But this
one,--see how it stops to dance a jig and bore holes in the
"Another exception to the general rule, which is as you say,"
admitted the professor. "Different tornadoes have been timed as
moving from twelve to seventy miles an hour, one passing a given
point in half a score of seconds, at another time being
registered as fully half an hour in clearing a single section.
"Take the destructive storm at Mount Carmel, Illinois, in June of
'77. That made progress at the rate of thirty-four miles an
hour, yet its force was so mighty that it tore away the spire,
vane, and heavy gilded ball of the Methodist church, and kept it
in air over a distance of fifteen miles.
"Still later was the Texas tornado, doing its awful work at the
rate of more than sixty miles an hour; while that which swept
through Frankfort, Kansas, on May 17, 1896, was fully a half-hour
in crossing a half-mile stretch of bottom-land adjoining the
Vermillion River, pausing in its dizzy waltz upon a single spot
for long minutes at a time."
"Couldn't have been much left when it got through dancing, if
that storm was anything like this one," declared Waldo, shivering
a bit as he watched the awful destruction being wrought right
before their fascinated eyes.
Trees were twisted off and doubled up like blades of dry grass.
Mighty rocks were torn apart from the rugged hills, and huge
boulders were tossed into air as though composed of paper. And
over all ascended the horrid roar of ruin beyond description,
while from that misshapen balloon-cloud, with its flattened top,
the electric fluid shone and flashed, now in great sheets as of
flame, then in vicious spurts and darts as though innumerable
snakes of fire had been turned loose by the winds.
Still the aerial demon bored its almost sluggish course straight
towards the northwest, in this, as in all else, seemingly bent on
proving itself the exception to all exceptions as Professor
The savant himself was now in his glory, holding the tiller
between arm and side, the better to manipulate his hand-camera,
with which he was taking repeated snap-shots for future
development and reference.
Truly, as he more than once declared, mortal man never had, nor
mortal man ever would have, such a glorious opportunity for
recording the varying phases of nature in travail as was now
"Just think of it, lads!" he cried, almost beside himself with
enthusiasm. "This alone will be sufficient to carry our names
ringing through all time down the corridors of undying fame! This
alone would be more than enough to--Look pleasant, please!"
In spite of that awful vision so perilously close before them,
and the natural uncertainty which attended such a reckless
venture, Waldo could not repress a chuckle at that comical
conclusion, so frequently used towards himself when their uncle
was coaxing them to pose before his pet camera.
"Is it--surely this is not safe, uncle Phaeton?" ventured Bruno,
as another retrograde gust of air smote their apparently frail
conveyance with sudden force.
"Let's call it a day's work, and knock off," chimed in Waldo. "If
the blamed thing should take a notion to balk, and rear back
on its haunches, where'd we come out at?"
Professor Featherwit made an impatient gesture by way of answer.
Speech just then would have been worse than useless, for that
tremendous roaring, crashing, thundering of all sounds, seemed to
fall back and envelop the air-ship as with a pall.
A shower of sand and fine debris poured over and around them,
filling ears and mouths, and blinding eyes for the moment,
forcing the brothers closer to the floor of the aerostat, and
even compelling the eager professor to remit his taking of notes
for future generations.
Then, thin and reed-like, yet serving to pierce that temporary
obscurity and horrible jangle of outer sounds, came the voice of
"Fear not, my children! The Lord is our shield, and so long as
he willeth, just so long shall we--Ha! didn't I tell ye so?"
For the blinding veil was torn away, and once again the trio of
adventurers might watch yonder grandly awesome march of
"Heading direct for the Olympics!" declared Professor Featherwit,
digging the sand out of his eyes and striving to clean his
glasses without removing them, clinging to tiller and camera
through all. "What a grand and glorious guide 'twould be for
"If we could only hitch on--like a tin can to the tail of a dog!"
suggested Waldo, with boyish sarcasm. "Not any of that in mine,
thank you! I can wait. No such mighty rush. No,--SIR!"
There came no answer to his words, for just then that swooping
air-demon turned to vivid fire, lightning playing back and forth,
from side to side, in every conceivable direction, until in spite
of the broad daylight its glory pained those watching eyes.
"Did you ever witness the like!" awesomely cried Bruno, gazing
like one fascinated. "Who could or would ever believe all that,
even if tongue were able to portray its wondrous beauty?"
"What a place that would be for popping corn!" contributed Waldo,
practical or nothing, even under such peculiar circumstances. "If
I had to play poppy, though, I'd want a precious long handle
to the concern!"
More intensely interested than ever, Professor Featherwit plied
his shutter, taking shot after shot at yonder aerial phenomena,
feeling that future generations would surely rise up to call him
blessed when the results of his experiments were once fairly
spread before the world.
And hence it came to pass that still more thrilling experiences
came unto these daring navigators of space, and that almost
before one or the other of them could fairly realise that greater
danger really menaced both their air-ship and their lives.
Another whirly-gust of sand and other debris assailed the
flying-machine, and while sight was thus rendered almost useless
for the time being, the aerostat began to sway and reel from side
to side, shivering as though caught by an irresistible power, yet
against which it battled as though instinct with life and
Once again the adventurers found it difficult to breathe, while
an unseen power seemed pressing them to that floor as
Just as before, that cloud was swept away, and again air came to
fill those painfully oppressed lungs. Once again the trio
cleared their eyes and stared about, only to utter simultaneous
cries of alarm.
For, brief though that period of blindness had been, 'twas amply
sufficient to carry the aeromotor perilously near yonder
storm-centre, and though Professor Featherwit gripped hard his
tiller, trying all he knew to turn the air-ship for a safer
quarter,-'twas all in vain!
"Haste,--make haste, uncle Phaeton!" hoarsely panted Bruno,
leaning to aid the professor. "We will be sucked in and--hasten,
"I can't,--we're already--in the--suction!"
RIDING THE TORNADO.
Whether it was that the air-ship itself had increased its speed
during those few moments of dense obscurity, or whether the madly
whirling winds had taken a retrograde movement at that precise
time, could only be a matter of conjecture; but the ominous fact
The aerostat was fairly over the danger-line, and, despite all
efforts being made to the contrary, was being drawn directly
towards that howling, crashing, thundering mass of destructive
Already the inmates felt themselves being sucked from the
flying-machine, and instinctively tightened their grip upon
hand-rail and floor, gasping and oppressed, breath failing, and
ribs apparently being crushed in by that horrible pressure.
"Hold fast--for life!" pantingly screamed Professor Featherwit,
as he strove in vain to check or change the course of his
aeromotor, now for the first time beyond control of that
A few seconds of soul-trying suspense, during which the
flying-machine shivered from stem to stern, almost like a human
creature in its death-agony, creaking and groaning, with shrill
sounds coming from those expanded, curved wings, as the suction
A merciful darkness fell over those sorely imperilled beings, and
the vessel itself seemed about to be overwhelmed by an avalanche
of sand and dirt and mixed debris. Then came a dizzy, rocking
lurch, followed by a shock which nearly cast uncle and nephews
from their frantic holds, and the air-ship appeared to be whirled
end for end, cast hither and yon, wrenched and twisted as though
all must go to ruin together.
A blast as of superheated air smote upon them one moment, while
in the next they were whirled through an icy atmosphere, then
tossed dizzily to and fro, as their too-frail vehicle spun upward
as though on a journey to the far-away stars.
A shrieking blast of wind served to briefly clear away the
choking dust, affording the trio a fleeting glimpse of their
immediate surroundings: hurtling sticks and stones, splintered
tops of trees, shrubs with wildly lashing roots freshly torn from
the bed of years, all madly spinning through a blinding,
scorching, freezing mass of crazily battling winds, the different
currents twining and weaving in and out, as so many hideous
serpents at play.
A moment thus, then that horrid uproar grew still more deafening,
and the air-ship was whirled high and higher, in a dizzy dance,
those luckless creatures clinging fast to whatever their frenzied
hands might clutch, feeling that this was the end of all.
Further sight was denied them. They were powerless to move a
limb, save as jerked painfully by those shrieking currents.
Breath was taken away, and an enormous weight bore down upon
them, threatening to produce a fatal collapse through their ribs
Upward whirled the flying-machine, powerless now as those
wretched beings within its cunning shape, smitten sharply here
and there by some of those ascending missiles, yet without
receiving material injury; until a last shivering lurch came,
ending in a sudden fall.
A dizzying swoop downward, but not to death and destruction, for
the aerostat alighted easily upon what appeared to be a sort of
air-cushion, and, though unsteady for a brief space, then settled
upon an even keel.
"Cling fast--for life!" huskily gasped the professor, unwittingly
repeating the caution which had last crossed his lips, which he
had ever since been striving to enunciate, faithful to his
guardianship over these, his sole surviving relatives.
"I don't--where are we?"
Waldo lifted his head to peer with half-blind eyes about them, in
which action he was imitated by both brother and uncle; but, for
a brief space, they were none the wiser.
All around the aeromotor rose a wall of whirling winds, seemingly
impenetrable, apparently within reach of an extended arm,
changing colour with each fraction of a second, hideously
beautiful, yet never twice the same in blend or mixture.
A hollow, strangely sounding roar was perceptible; one instant
coming as from the far distance, then from nigh at hand, causing
the air-ship to quiver and tremble, as a sentient being might in
the presence of a torturing death.
"Look--upward!" panted Bruno, a few seconds later, his face as
pale as that of a corpse, in spite of the dirt and blotches of
sticky mud with which he had been peppered during that dizzy
Mechanically his companions in peril obeyed, catching breath
sharply, as they saw a clear sky and yellow sunshine far
above,--so awfully far they were, that it seemed like looking
upward from the bottom of an enormously deep well.
And then the marvellous truth flashed upon the brain of Phaeton
Featherwit, almost robbing him of all power of speech. Still he
managed to jerkily ejaculate:
"We're inside,--riding the--tornado--itself!"
Then those whirling winds closed quickly above them, shutting out
the sunlight, hiding the heavens from their view, enclosing that
vehicle and its occupants, as they were borne away into unknown
regions, within the very heart of the tornado itself!
Yet, incredible as it surely seems, no actual harm came to the
trio or to their flying-machine as it swayed gently upon its airy
cushion, although from every side came the horrid roar of
destruction, while ever and anon they could glimpse a wrestling
tree or torn mass of shrubbery whizzing upward and outward, to be
flung far away beyond the vortex of electrical winds.
Once more came that awful sense of suffocation. That painted
pall closed down upon them, robbing their lungs of air, one
instant fairly crisping their hair with a touch of fire, only to
send an icy chill to their veins a moment later.
In vain they struggled, fighting for breath, as a fish gasps when
swung from its native element. While that horrid pressure
endured, man, youth, and boy alike were powerless.
Again the pall lifted, folding back and blending with those madly
circling currents, once again affording a glimpse of yonder
far-away heavens, so marvellously clear, and bright, and peaceful
Weakened by those terrible moments, Bruno and Waldo lay gasping,
trembling, faint of heart and ill of body, yet filling their
lungs with comparatively pure air,--pity there was so little of
it to win!
Professor Featherwit still had thought and care for his nephews
rather than himself alone, and pantingly spoke, as he dragged
himself to the snug locker, where many important articles had
been stowed away:
"Here--suck life--compressed air!"
With husky cries the brothers caught at the tubes offered, the
method of working which had so often been explained by their
Once more the tube became a chamber, and that horrid force
threatened to flatten their bodies; but the worst had passed, for
that precious cylinder now gave them air to inhale, and they were
enabled to wait for the lifting of the cloud once more.
Thanks to this important agency, strength and energy both of body
and of mind now came back to the air-voyagers, and after a little
they could lift their heads to peer around them with growing
wonder and curiosity.
There was little room left for doubting the wondrous truth, and
yet belief was past their powers during those first few minutes.
All around them whirled and sped those maddened winds, curling
and twisting, rising and falling, mixing in and out as though
some unknown power might be weaving the web of destiny.
Now dull, now brilliant, never twice the same, but ever changing
in colour as in shape, while stripes and zigzags of lightning
played here and there with terrifying menace, those walls of wind
held an awfully fascinating power for uncle and nephews.
From every side came deadened sounds which could bear but a
single interpretation: the tornado was still in rapid motion,
was still tearing and rending, crushing and battering, leaving
dire destruction and ruin to mark its advance, and these were the
sounds that recorded its ugly work.
In goodly measure revived by the compressed air, which was
regulated in flow to suit his requirements by a device of his
own, Professor Featherwit now looked around with something of his
wonted animation, heedless of his own peril for the moment, so
great was his interest in this marvellous happening.
So utterly incredible was it all that, during those first few
minutes of rallying powers, he dared not express the belief which
was shaping itself, gazing around in quest of still further
He took note of the windy walls about their vessel, rising upward
for many yards, irregular in shape and curvature here and there,
but retaining the general semblance of a tube with flaring top.
He peered over the edge of the basket, to draw back dizzily as he
saw naught but yeasty, boiling, seething clouds below,--a
veritable air-cushion which had served to save the pet of his
brain from utter destruction at the time of falling within--
Yes, there was no longer room for doubt,--they were actually
inside the distorted balloon, so dreaded by all residents of the
"What is it, uncle?" huskily asked Bruno, likewise rallying under
that beneficial influence. "Where are we now?"
"Where I'm wishing mighty hard we wasn't, anyhow!" contributed
Waldo, with something of his usual energy, although, judging from
his face and eyes, the youngster had suffered more severely than
either of his comrades in peril.
Professor Featherwit broke into a queerly sounding laugh, as he
waved his free hand in exultation before speaking:
"Where no living being ever was before us, my lads,--riding the
tornado like a--ugh!"
The air-ship gave an awkward lurch just then, and down went the
little professor to thump his head heavily against one corner of
the locker. Swaying drunkenly from side to side, then tossing up
and down, turning in unison with those fiercely whirling clouds,
the aeromotor seemed at the point of wreck and ruin.
Desperately the trio clung to the life-lines, clenching teeth
upon the life-giving tubes as that terrible pressure increased so
much that it seemed impossible for the human frame to longer
Fortunately that ordeal did not long endure, and again relief
came to those so sorely oppressed. A brief gasping, sighing,
stretching as the aerostat resumed its level position, merely
rocking easily within that partial vacuum, and then Waldo huskily
"Looks like the blame thing was sick at the stomach!"
No doubt this was meant for a feeble attempt at joking, but
Professor Featherwit took it for earnest, and made quick reply:
"That is precisely the case, my dear lad, and I am greatly joyed
to find that you are not so badly frightened but that you can
assist me in taking notes of this wondrous happening. To think
that we are the ones selected for--"
"I say, uncle Phaeton."
"Well, my lad?"
"If this thing is really sick at the stomach, when will it erupt?
I'd give a dollar and a half to just get out o' this, science or
no science, notes or no notes at all!"
"Patience, my dear boy," gravely spoke the little man of science,
busily studying those eddying currents like one seeking a fairly
safe method of extrication from peril. "It may come far sooner
than you think, and with results more disastrous than feeble
words can tell. We surely are a burden such as a tornado must be
wholly unaccustomed to, and I really believe these alternations
are spasmodic efforts of the cloud itself to vomit us forth;
hence you were nearer right than you thought in making use of
Just then came a rush of icy air, and Bruno pantingly cried:
"I'm swelling up--like Aesop's--bullfrog!"
THE PROFESSOR'S LITTLE EXPERIMENT.
Again those involuntary riders of the tornado were tossed
violently to and fro in their seemingly frail ship, while the
balloon itself appeared threatened with instant dissolution,
those eddying currents growing broken and far less regular in
action, while the fierce tumult grew in sound and volume a
All around the air-ship now showed ugly debris, limbs and boughs
and even whole trunks of giant trees being whirled upward and
outward, each moment menacing the vessel with total destruction,
yet as frequently vanishing without infringing seriously upon
their curious prison.
Sand and dirt and fragments of shattered rock whistled by in an
apparently unending shower, only with reversed motion, flying
upward in place of shooting downward to earth itself.
Speech was utterly impossible under the circumstances, and the
fate-tossed voyagers could only cling fast to the hand-rail, and
hold those precious air-tubes in readiness for the worst.
Never before had either of the trio heard such a deafening crash
and uproar, and little wonder if they thought this surely must
herald the crack of doom!
The tornado seemed to reel backward, as though repulsed by an
immovable obstacle, and then, while the din was a bit less
deafening, Professor Featherwit contrived to make himself heard,
through screaming at the top of his voice:
"The mountain range, I fancy! It's a battle to the--"
That sentence was perforce left incomplete, since the storm-demon
gave another mad plunge to renew the battle, bringing on a
repetition of that drunken swaying so upsetting to both mind and
A few seconds thus, then the tornado conquered, or else rose
higher in partial defeat, for their progress was resumed, and
comparative quiet reigned again.
The higher clouds curved backward, affording a wider view of the
heavens far above, and, as all eyes turned instinctively in that
direction, Bruno involuntarily exclaimed:
"Still daylight! I thought--how long has this lasted?"
"It's the middle o' next week; no less!" positively affirmed his
brother. "Don't tell me! We've been in here a solid month, by
Instead of making reply such as might have been expected from one
of his mathematical exactness, Professor Featherwit gave a cry of
dismay, while hurriedly moving to and fro in their contracted
quarters, for the time being forgetful of all other than this,
his great loss.
"What is it, uncle Phaeton?" asked Bruno, rising to his knees in
natural anxiety. "Surely nothing worse than has already happened
"Worse? What could be worse than losing for ever--the camera,
boys; where is the camera, I ask you?"
Certainly not where the professor was looking, and even as he
roared forth that query, his heart told him the sad truth; past
doubting, the instrument upon whose aid he relied to place upon
record these marvellous facts, so that all mankind might see and
have full faith, was lost,--thrown from the aerostat, to meet
with certain destruction, when the vessel first came within the
tornado's terrible clutch.
"Gone,--lost,--and now who will believe that we ever--oh, this is
enough to crush one's very soul!" mourned the professor, throwing
up his hands, and sinking back to the floor of the flying-machine
in a limp and disheartened heap for the time being.
Neither Bruno nor Waldo could fully appreciate that grief, since
thoughts and care for self were still the ruling passion with
both; but once more they were called upon to do battle with the
swaying of the winds, and once again were they saved only through
that life-giving cylinder of compressed air.
Presently, the heart-broken professor rallied, as was his nature,
and, with a visible effort putting his great loss behind him,
endeavoured to cheer up his comrades in peril.
"So far we have passed through all danger without receiving
material injury,--to ourselves, I mean,--and surely it is not too
much to hope for eventual escape?" he said, earnestly, pressing
the hands of his nephews, by way of additional encouragement.
"Yes," hesitated Bruno, with an involuntary shiver, as he glanced
around them upon those furiously boiling clouds, then cast an eye
upward, towards yonder clear sky. "Yes, but--in what manner?"
"What'll we do when the cyclone goes bu'st?" cut in Waldo, with
disagreeable bluntness. "It can't go on for ever, and when it
splits up,--where will we be then?"
"I wish it lay within my power to give you full assurance on all
points, my dear boys," the professor made reply. "I only wish I
could ensure your perfect safety by giving my own poor remnant of
"No, no, uncle Phaeton!" cried the brothers, in a single breath.
"How cheerfully, if I only might!" insisted the professor, his
homely face wearing an expression of blended regret and unbounded
affection. "But for me you would never have encountered these
perils, nor ever--"
Again he was interrupted by the brothers, and forced to leave
that regret unspoken to the end.
"Only for you, uncle Phaeton, what would have become of us when
we were left without parents, home, fortune? Only for you,
taking us in and treating us as though of your own flesh and
"As you are, my good lads! Let it pass, then, but I must say
that I do wish--well, well, let it pass, then!"
A brief silence, which was spent in gripping hands and with eyes
giving pledges of love and undying confidence; then Professor
Featherwit spoke again, in an entirely different vein.
"If nothing else, we have exploded one fallacy which has never
met with contradiction, so far as my poor knowledge goes."
"And that is--what, uncle Phaeton?"
"Observe, my lads," with a wave of his hand towards those
whirling walls, and then making a downward motion. "You see that
we are floating in a partial vacuum, yet where there is air
sufficient to preserve life under difficulties. And by looking
downward--careful that you don't fall overboard through
"Looks as though we were floating just above a bed of ugly wind!"
declared Waldo, after taking a look below.
"Precisely; the aerostat rests upon an air-cushion amply solid
enough to sustain far more than our combined weight. But what is
the generally accepted view, my dear boys?"
"You tell, for we don't know how," frankly acknowledged Waldo.
"Thanks. Yet you are now far wiser than all of the scientists
who have written and published whole libraries concerning these
storm formations, but whose fallacies we are now fully prepared
to explode, once for all, through knowledge won by personal
Strange though it may appear, the professor forgot the mutual
danger by which they were surrounded, and trotted off on his
hobby-horse in blissful pride, paying no attention to the hideous
uproar going on, only raising his voice higher to make it heard
by his youthful auditors.
"The common belief is that, while these tornadoes are hollow,
even through the trunk or tongue down to its contact with the
earth, that hollow is caused by a constant suction, through which
a steady stream of debris is flowing, to be sown broadcast for
miles around after emerging from the open top of the so-called
"But it isn't at all like that," eagerly cried Waldo, pointing to
where the fragments were flowing upward through those walls
themselves, yet far enough from that hollow interior to be but
indistinctly seen save on rare occasions. "Look at 'em scoot,
will ye? Oh, if we could only climb up like that!"
Professor Featherwit was keenly watching and closely studying
that very phenomena through all, and now he gave a queer little
chuckle, as he nodded his head with vigour, before dryly
"Well, it might be done; yes, it might be done, and that with no
very serious difficulty, my lad."
"How? Why not try it on, then?"
"To meet with instant death outside?" sharply queried Bruno. "It
would be suicidal to make the attempt, even if we could; which I
Waldo gave a sudden cry, pointing upward where, far above that
destructive storm, could be seen a brace of buzzards floating on
motionless wings, wholly undisturbed by the tumult below.
"If we were only like that!" the lad cried, longingly. "If a
flying-machine could be built like those turkey-buzzards! I
wish--well, I do suppose they're about the nastiest varmints ever
hatched, but just now I'd be willing to swap, and wouldn't ask
any boot, either!"
Apparently the professor paid no attention to this boyish plaint,
for he was fumbling in the locker, then withdrew his hand and
uncoiled an ordinary fish-line, with painted float attached.
Before either brother could ask a question, or even give a guess
at his purpose, Professor Phaeton flung hook and cork into those
circling currents, only to have the whole jerked violently out of
his grip, the line flying upward, to vanish from the sight of
That jerk was powerful enough to cut through the skin of his
hand, but the professor chuckled like one delighted, as he sucked
away the few drops of blood before adding:
"I knew it! It CAN be done, and if the worst should come to
pass, why should it not be done?"
Before an answer could be vouchsafed by either of the brothers,
the pall swooped down upon them once more, and again the supply
of natural air was shut off, while their vessel was rocked and
swayed crazily, just as though the delayed end was at last upon
For several minutes this torture endured, each second of which
appeared to be an hour to those imperilled beings, who surely
must have perished, as they lay pinned fast to the floor of the
aerostat by that pitiless weight, only for the precious air-tubes
in connection with that cylinder of compressed air.
After a seeming age of torment the awful pressure was relaxed,
leaving the trio gasping and shivering, as they lay side by side,
barely conscious that life lingered, for the moment unable to
lift hand or head to aid either self or another.
In spite of his far greater age, Professor Featherwit was first
to rally, and his voice was about the first thing distinguished
by the brothers, as their powers began to rally.
"Shall we take our chances, dear boys?" the professor was saying,
in earnest tones. "I believe there is a method of escaping from
this hell-chamber, although of what may lie beyond--"
"It can't well be worse than this!" huskily gasped Bruno.
"Anything--everything--just to get out o' here!" supplemented
Waldo, for once all spirits subdued.
"It may be death for us all, even if we do get outside," gravely
warned the professor. "Bear that in mind, dear boys. It may be
that not one of us will escape with life, after--"
"How much better to remain here?" interrupted Bruno. "I felt
death would be a mercy--then! And I'd risk anything, everything,
rather than go through such another ordeal! I say,--escape!"
"Me too, all over!" vigorously decided Waldo, lifting himself to
both knees as he added: "Tell us what to do, and here I am, on
Even now Professor Phaeton hesitated, his eyes growing dimmer
than usual as they rested upon one face after the other, for
right well he knew how deadly would be the peril thus invited.
But, as the brothers repeated their cry, he turned away to
swiftly knot a strong trail-rope to a heavy iron grapnel, leaving
the other end firmly attached to a stanchion built for that
"Hold fast, if you value life at all, dear boys!" he warned, then
added: "Heaven be kind to you, even if my life pays the forfeit!
Without further delay, he cast the heavy grapnel into that mass
of boiling vapour, then fell flat, as an awful jerk was given the
THE PROFESSOR'S UNKNOWN LAND.
There was neither time nor opportunity for taking notes, for that
long rope straightened out in the fraction of a second, throwing
all prostrate as the flying-machine was jerked upward with awful
All around them raged and roared the mighty winds, while missiles
of almost every description pelted and pounded both machine and
inmates during those few seconds of extraordinary peril.
Fortunately neither the professor nor his nephews could fairly
realise just what was taking place, else their brains would
hardly have stood the test; and fortunately, too, that ordeal was
A hideous experience while it lasted, those vicious currents
dragging the aerostat upward out of the air-chamber by means of
grapnel and rope, then casting all far away in company with
wrecked trees and bushes, and even solider materials, all
shrouded for a time in dust and debris, which hindered the
eyesight of both uncle and nephews.
Through it all the brothers were dimly aware of one fact uncle
Phaeton was shrilly bidding them cling fast and have courage.
All at once they felt as though vomited forth from a volcano
which alternately breathed fire and ice, the clear light of
evening bursting upon their aching, smarting eyes with actual
pain, while that horrid roar of warring elements seemed to pass
away in the distance, leaving them--where, and how?
"We're falling to--merciful heavens! Hold fast, all!" screamed
the professor, desperately striving to regain full command of
their air-ship. "The tiller is jammed, but--"
To all seeming, the aerostat had sustained some fatal damage
during that brief eruption caused by the professor's little
experiment, for it was pitching drunkenly end for end, refusing
to obey the hand of its builder, bearing all to certain death
upon the earth far below.
Half stupefied with fear, the brothers clung fast to the
life-line and glared downward, noting, in spite of themselves,
how swiftly yonder dark tree-tops and gray crags were shooting
heavenward to meet them and claim the sacrifice.
With fierce energy Professor Featherwit jerked and wrenched at
the steering-gear, uttering words such as had long been foreign
to his lips, but then--just when destruction appeared
inevitable--a wild cry burst from his lungs, as a broken bit of
native wood came away in his left hand, leaving the lever free as
And then, with a dizzying swoop and rapid recovery, the gallant
air-ship came back to an even keel, sailing along with old-time
grace and ease, barely in time to avoid worse mishap as the crest
of a tall tree was brushed in their passage.
"Saved,--saved, my lads!" screamed the professor, as his
heart-pet soared upward once more until well past the
danger-line. "Safe and sound through all,--praises be unto the
Lord, our Father!"
Neither brother spoke just then, for they lay there in half
stupor, barely able to realise the wondrous truth: that their
lives had surely been spared them, even as by a miracle!
That swooping turn now brought their faces towards the tornado,
which was at least a couple of miles distant, rapidly making that
distance greater even while continuing its work of destruction.
"And we--were in it!" huskily muttered Bruno, his lids closing
with a shiver, as he averted his face, unwilling to see more.
"Heap sight worse than being in the soup, too, if anybody asks
you," declared Waldo, beginning to rally both in strength and in
spirit. "But--what's the matter with the old ship, uncle
For the aerostat was indulging itself in sundry distressing
gyrations, pretty much as a boy's kite swoops from side to side,
when lacking in tail-ballast, while the professor seemed unable
to keep the machine under complete control.
"Nothing serious, only--hold fast, all! I believe 'twould be as
well to make our descent, for fear something--steady!"
Just ahead there appeared a more than usually open space in the
forest, and, quite as much by good luck as through actual skill,
Professor Featherwit succeeded in making a landing with no more
serious mishap than sundry bruises and a little extra
As quickly as possible, both Bruno and Waldo pitched themselves
out of the partially disabled aeromotor, the elder brother
grasping the grapnel and taking a couple of turns of the strong
rope around a convenient tree-trunk, lest the ship escape them
"No need, my gallant boy!" assured the professor, an instant
later. "All is well,--all IS well, thanks to an over-ruling
In spite of this expressed confidence, he hurriedly looked over
his pet machine, taking note of such injuries as had been
received during that remarkable journey, only giving over when
fairly satisfied that all damage might be readily made good,
after which the aerostat would be as trustworthy as upon its
first voyage on high.
Then, grasping the brothers each by a hand, he smiled genially,
then lifted eyes heavenward, to a moment later sink upon his
knees with bowed head and hands folded across his bosom.
Bruno and Waldo imitated his action, and, though no audible words
were spoken, never were more heartfelt prayers sent upward, never
more grateful thanks given unto the Most High.
Boy, youth, and man alike seemed fairly awed into silence for the
next few minutes, unable to so soon cast off the spell which had
fallen upon them, one and each, when realising how mercifully
their lives had been spared, even after all earthly hope had been
As usual, however, Waldo was first to rally, and, after silently
moving around the aerostat, upon which the professor was already
busily at work by the last gleams of the vanished sun, he paused,
legs separated, and hands thrust deep into pockets, head perking
on one side as he spoke, drawlingly:
"I say, uncle Phaeton?"
"What is it, Waldo?"
"It'll never do to breathe even a hint of all this, will it?"
"Why so, pray?"
"Whoever heard it would swear we were bald-headed liars right
from Storytown! And yet,--did it really happen, or have I been
dreaming all the way through?"
Professor Featherwit gave a brief, dry chuckle at this, rising
erect to cast a deliberate glance around their present location,
"Without I am greatly mistaken, my dear boy, you will have still
other marvellous happenings to relate ere we return to what is,
rightfully or wrongfully, called civilisation."
"Is that so? Then you really reckon--"
"For one thing, my lad, we are now fairly entered upon a terra
incognita, so far as our own race is concerned. In other
words,--behold, the Olympics!"
Both Bruno and Waldo cast their eyes around, but only a
circumscribed view was theirs. The shades of evening were
settling fast, and on all sides they could see but mighty trees,
rugged rocks, a mountain stream from whose pebbly bed came a
"Nothing so mighty much to brag of, anyway," irreverently quoth
Waldo, after that short-lived scrutiny. "It wouldn't fetch a
dollar an acre at auction, and for my part,--wonder when the gong
will sound for supper?"
That blunt hint was effective, and, letting the subject drop for
the time being, even the professor joined in the hurry for an
evening meal, to which one and all felt able to do full justice.
Although some rain had fallen at this point as well, no serious
difficulty was experienced in kindling a fire, while Waldo had
little trouble in heaping up a bounteous supply of fuel.
Through countless ages the forest monarchs had been shedding
their superfluous boughs, while here and there lay an entire
tree, overthrown by some unknown power, and upon which the
brothers made heavy requisition.
Professor Featherwit took from the locker a supply of tinned
goods, together with a patent coffee-pot and frying-pan, so
convenient where space is scarce and stowage-room precious.
With water from the little river, it took but a few minutes more
to scent the evening with grateful fumes, after which the
adventurous trio squatted there in the ruddy glow, eating,
sipping, chatting, now and again forced to give thanks for their
really miraculous preservation after all human hopes had been
Although Professor Featherwit was but little less thankful for
the wondrous leniency shown them, he could not altogether refrain
from mourning the loss of his camera, with its many snap-shots at
the tornado itself, to say nothing of what he might have secured
in addition, while riding the storm so marvellously.
More to take his thoughts away from that loss than through actual
curiosity in the subject offered by way of substitute, Bruno
asked for further light upon the so-called terra incognita.
"Of course it isn't really an unknown land, though, uncle
Phaeton?" he added, almost apologetically. "In this age, and
upon our own continent, such a thing is among the
"Indeed? And, pray, how long since has it been that you would,
with at least equal positivity, have declared it impossible to
enter a tornado while in wildest career, yet emerge from it with
life and limb intact?"
"Yes, uncle, but--this is different, by far."
"In one sense, yes; in another, no," affirmed the professor, with
emphatic nod, brushing the tips of his fingers together, as he
moved back to assume a more comfortable position inside the
air-ship, then quickly preparing a pipe and tobacco for his
regular after-meal smoke.
A brief silence, then the professor spoke, clearly, distinctly:
"Washington has her great unknown land, quite as much as has the
interior of Darkest Africa, my boys, besides enjoying this
peculiar advantage: while adventurous white men have traversed
those benighted regions in every direction, even though little
permanent good may have been accomplished, this terra incognita
remains virgin in that particular sense of the word."
"You mean, uncle?"
"That here in the Olympic region you see what is literally an
unknown, unexplored scope of country, as foreign to the foot of
mankind as it was countless ages gone by. So far as history
reads, neither white man nor red has ever ventured fairly within
these limits; a mountainous waste which rises from the level
country, within ten or fifteen miles of the Straits of San Juan
de Fuca, in the north, the Pacific Ocean in the west, Hood's
Canal in the east, and the barren sand-hills lying to the far
"This irregular range is known upon the map as the Olympics, and,
rising to the height of from six to eight thousand feet, shut in
a vast unexplored area.
"The Indians have never penetrated it, so far as can be
ascertained, for their traditions say that it is inhabited by a
very fierce tribe of warriors, before whose might and strange
weapons not one of the coast tribes can stand."
"One of the Lost Tribes of Israel, shouldn't wonder," drawlingly
volunteered Waldo, stifling a yawn, and forced to rub his
inflamed eyes with a surreptitious paw.
Professor Featherwit, though plainly absorbed in his curious
theory, was yet quick to detect this evidence of weariness, and
laughed a bit, with change of both tone and manner, as he spoke
"That forms but a partial introductory to my lecture, dear lads,
but perhaps it might be as well to postpone the rest for a more
propitious occasion. You have undergone sore trials, both
Some sound came to his keen ears, which the brothers failed to
catch, but as they bent their heads in listening, another noise
came, which proved startling enough, in all conscience,--a
shrill, maniacal screech, which sent cold chills running races up
A BRACE OF UNWELCOME VISITORS.
Instinctively the brothers drew nearer each other, as though for
mutual protection, each one letting hand drop to belt where a
revolver was habitually carried, but which was lacking now,
thanks to the great haste with which they had taken wing at the
approach of the tornado.
"What is it? What can it mean?" asked Bruno and Waldo, almost in
the same breath, as those fierce echoes died away in the
Professor Featherwit made no immediate reply, but by the glow of
yonder camp-fire he fumbled inside the magic locker, fetching
forth firearms, then speaking in hushed tones:
"Wait. Listen for--I knew it!"
From the opposite quarter came what might easily have been an
echo of that first wild screech, only louder, longer, more
savage, if such a thing be possible.
Prepared though they now were, neither brother could refrain from
shrinking and shuddering, so hideously that cry sounded in their
ears. But their uncle spoke in cool, clear tones:
"There is nothing supernatural about that, my lads. A panther or
mountain lion, I dare say, scenting the fumes of our cookery, and
coming to claim a share."
"Then it isn't--Nothing spookish, uncle Phaeton?" ventured Waldo,
in slightly unsteady tones.
The professor gave swift assurance upon that point, and, rallying
as few youngsters would have done under like circumstances, the
brothers grasped the weapons supplied their hands, waiting and
watching for what was to come.
Once, twice, thrice those savage calls echoed far and wide, but
with each repetition losing a portion of their terrors; and
knowing now that prowling beasts surely were drawing nigh the
camp-fire, the flying machine was abandoned by the trio, all
drawing closer to the fire, which might prove no slight
protection against attack.
Then followed a period of utter silence, during which their eyes
roved restlessly around, striving to sight the four-footed enemy
ere an actual attack could be made.
Professor Featherwit was first to glimpse a pair of greenish eyes
in silent motion, and, giving a low hiss of warning to his
nephews, that same sound serving to check further progress on the
part of the wild beast, his short rifle came to a level, then
emitted a peculiar sound.
Only the keenest of ears could have noted that, for only the
fraction of an instant later followed a sharp explosion, the
darkness beyond being briefly lit up by a yellowish glare.
"That's enough,--beware its mate!" cried the professor, keenly
alert for whatever might ensue; but the words were barely across
his lips when, with a vicious snarl, a furry shape came flying
through the air, knocking Featherwit over as he instinctively
ducked his head with arm flying up as additional guard.
Both man and beast came very near falling into the fire itself,
and there ensued a wild, confused scramble, out of which the
brothers singled their enemy, Waldo opening fire with a revolver,
at close range, each shot causing the lion to yell and snarl most
A cat-like recovery, then the fatal leap might have followed, for
the confused professor was rising to his feet again, fairly in
front of the enraged brute; but ere worse came, Waldo and Bruno
were to the rescue, one firing as rapidly as possible, his
brother driving a keen-bladed knife to the very hilt just back of
that quivering forearm.
One mad wrestle, in which both lads were overthrown, then the
gaunt and muscular brute stretched its length in a shivering
throe, dead even while it strove to slay.
Just as the professor hurried to the front, beseeching his boys
to keep out of peril if they loved him; at which Waldo laughed
outright, although never had he felt a warmer love for the same
odd-speaking, queer-acting personage than right at that moment.
"I'm all right; how's it with you, sir? And--Bruno?"
"Without a scratch to remember it by," promptly asserted the
elder brother, likewise regaining his feet and taking hasty
account of stock. "No fault of his, though!" giving that carcass
a kick as he spoke. "My gracious! I caught just one glimpse of
them, and I was ready to make affidavit that each fang would
measure a foot, while his claws--"
"Would pass through an elephant and clinch on the other side,"
declared Waldo, stooping far enough to lift one of those armed
paws. "But, I say, Bruno, how awfully they have shrunk, since
Whether so intended or not, this characteristic break caused a
mutual laugh, and, as there was neither sound nor sign of further
danger from like source, one and all satisfied their curiosity by
minutely inspecting the huge brute, stirring up the fire for that
"An ugly customer, indeed, if we had given him anything like a
fair show," gravely uttered the professor. "Only for your prompt
assistance, my dear boys, what would have become of poor me?"
"We acted on our own account, as well, please remember, uncle.
And even so, after all you have done for us since--"
"What was it you shot at, uncle Phaeton?" interrupted Waldo, who
was constitutionally averse to aught which savoured of sentiment.
"Another one of these--little squirrels, was it?"
Snatching up a blazing brand, the lad moved off in that
direction, whirling the torch around his head until it burst into
clear flame, then lowering it closer to a bloody heap of fur and
powerful limbs, to give a short ejaculation of wondering awe.
It was a headless body upon which he gazed, ragged fragments of
skin and a few splinters of bone alone remaining to tell that a
solid skull had so recently been thereon.
Professor Phaeton gave another of his peculiar little chuckles,
as he drew near, then patted the compact little rifle with which
he had wrought such extraordinary work: a weapon of his own
invention, as were the dynamite-filled shells to match.
"Although I am rather puny myself, boys, with this neat little
contrivance I could fairly well hold my own against man or
beast," he modestly averred.
"A modern David," gravely added Bruno, while Waldo chimed in
"What a dandy Jack the Giant-killer you would have been, uncle
Phaeton, if you had only lived in the good old days! I wish--and
yet I don't, either! Of course, it might have been jolly old
sport right then, but now,--where'd I be, to-day?"
"A day on which has happened a miracle far more marvellous than
all that has been set down in fairyland romance, my dear son,"
earnestly spoke the professor. "And when the astounding truth
shall have been published, broadcast, throughout all Christendom,
"How thoroughly we shall be branded liars, and falsificationers
from 'way up the crick'!" exploded the youngster, making a wry
grimace and moving on to view the headless lion from a different
"He means well, uncle Phaeton," assured Bruno, in lowered tones.
"He would not knowingly hurt your feelings, sir, but--may I speak
"Why not?" quickly. "Surely I am not one to stand in awe of,
"One to be loved and reverenced, rather," with poorly hidden
emotion; then rallying, to add, "But when one finds it impossible
to realise all that has happened this afternoon, when one feels
afraid to even make an effort at such belief, how can the boy be
blamed for feeling that all others would pronounce us mad
Professor Phaeton saw the point, and made a wry grimace while
roughing up his pompadour and brushing his closely trimmed beard
with doubtful hand. After all, was the whole truth to be ever
"Well, well, we can determine more clearly after fully weighing
the subject," he said, turning back towards the flying-machine.
"And, after all, what has happened to us thus far may not seem so
utterly incredible after our explorations are completed."
"Of this region, do you mean, sir?"
"Of the Olympic mountains, and all their mountainous chain may
encompass,--yes," curtly spoke the man of hopes, stepping inside
the aerostat to perfect his arrangements for the night.
Waldo took greater pleasure in viewing the mountain lion towards
whose destruction he had so liberally contributed, but when he
spoke of removing the skin, Bruno objected.
"Why take so much trouble for nothing, Waldo? Even if we could
stow the pelts away on board, they would make a far from
agreeable burden. And if what I fancy lies before us is to come
true, the more lightly we are weighted, the more likely we are to
come safely to--well, call it civilisation, just for a change."
"Then you believe that uncle Phaeton is really in earnest about
exploring this region, Bruno?"
"He most assuredly is. Did you ever know him to speak idly, or
to be otherwise than in earnest, Waldo?"
"Well, of course uncle is all right, but--sometimes--"
A friendly palm slipped over those lips, cutting short the speech
which might perchance have left a sting behind. And yet the
worthy professor had no more enthusiastic acolyte than this same
reckless speaking youngster, when the truth was all told.
Leaving the animals where they had fallen, for the time being,
the brothers passed over to where rested the aeromotor, finding
the professor busily engaged in rigging up a series of fine
wires, completely surrounding the flying-machine, save for one
narrow, gate-like arrangement.
"Beginning to feel as though you could turn in for all night, eh,
my boys?" came his cheery greeting.
"Well, somehow I do feel as though 'the sandman' had been making
his rounds rather earlier than customary," dryly said Waldo,
winking rapidly. "I believe there must have been a bit more wind
astir to-day than common, although neither of you may have
noticed the fact."
Professor Featherwit chuckled softly while at work, but neither
he nor Bruno made reply in words. And then, his arrangements
perfected save for closing the circuit, which could only be done
after all hands had entered the air-ship, he spoke to the point:
"Come, boys. You've had a rough bit of experience this day, and
there may be still further trouble in store, here in this unknown
land. Better make sure of a full night's rest, and thus have a
reserve fund to draw upon in case of need."
There was plenty of sound common sense in this adjuration, and,
only taking time to procure a can of fresh water from yonder
stream, the two youngsters stepped within that charmed circle,
permitting their uncle to close the circuit, and then test the
queer contrivance to make sure all was working nicely.
A confused sound broke forth, resembling the faraway tooting of
tin horns, which blended inharmoniously with the ringing of
nearer bells, all producing a noise which was warranted to arouse
the heaviest sleeper from his soundest slumber.
"That will give fair warning in case any intruder drifts this
way," declared the professor, chucklingly, then sinking down and
wrapping himself up in a close-woven blanket, similar to those
employed by the boys.
"Even a ghost, or a goblin, do you reckon, uncle Phaeton?"
"Should such attempt to intrude, yes. Go to sleep, you young
But that proved to be far more readily spoken than lived up to.
Not but that the brothers were weary, jaded, and sore of muscle
enough to make even the thought of slumber agreeable; but their
recent experience had been so thrilling, so nerve-straining, so
far apart from the ordinary routine of life, that hours passed
ere either lad could fairly lose himself in sleep.
Still, when unconsciousness did steal over their weary brains, it
proved to be all the more complete, and after that neither Bruno
nor Waldo stirred hand or foot until, well after the dawn of a
new day, Professor Featherwit shook first one and then the other,
"Turn out, youngsters! A new day, and plenty of work to be
THE PROFESSOR'S GREAT ANTICIPATIONS.
A stretch and a yawn, which in Waldo's case ended in a prolonged
howl, which would not have disgraced either of their four-footed
visitors of the past evening, then the brothers Gillespie sprung
forth from the flying-machine, entering upon a race for the
brawling mountain stream, "shedding" their garments as they ran.
"First man in!" cried Bruno, whose clothes seemed to slip off the
more readily; but Waldo was not to be outdone so easily, and,
reckless of the consequences, he plunged into the eddying pool,
with fully half of his daylight rig still in place.
The water proved to be considerably deeper than either brother
had anticipated, and Waldo vanished from sight for a few seconds,
then reappearing with lusty puff and splutter, shaking the pearly
drops from his close-clipped curls, while ranting:
"Another vile fabrication nailed to the standard of truth, and
clinched by the hammer of--ouch!"
A wild flounder, then the youngster fairly doubled himself up,
acting so strangely that Bruno gave a little cry of alarm; but
ere the elder brother could take further action, Waldo swung his
right arm upward and outward, sending a goodly sized trout
flashing through the air to the shore, crying in boyish
"Glory in great chunks! I want to camp right here for a year to
come! Will ye look at that now?"
Bruno had to dodge that writhing missile, and, before he could
fairly recover himself, Waldo had floundered ashore, leaving a
yeasty turmoil in his wake, but then throwing up a dripping hand,
and speaking in an exaggerated whisper:
"Whist, boy! On your life, not so much as the ghost of a
whimper! The hole's ramjammed chuck full of trout, and we'll
have a meal fit for the gods if--where's my fishing tackle?"
Bruno picked up the trout, so queerly brought to light, really
surprised, but feigning still further, as he made his
"It really IS a trout, and--how long have you carried this about
in your clothes, Waldo Gillespie?"
"Not long enough for you to build a decent joke over it, brother
mine. Just happened so. Tried to ram its nose in one of my
pockets, and of course I had to take him in out of the wet.
Pool's just full of them, too, and I wouldn't wonder if--oh, quit
your talking, and do something, can't you, boy?"
Vigorously though he spoke, Waldo wound up with a shiver and
sharp chatter of teeth as the fresh morning air struck through
his dripping garments. He gave a coltish prance, as he turned to
seek his fishing tackle; but, unfortunately for his hopes of
speedy sport, the professor was nigh enough to both see and hear,
and at once took charge of the reckless youngster.
"Wet to the hide, and upon an empty stomach, too! You foolish
child! Come, strip to the buff, and put on some of these
garments until--here by the fire, Waldo."
And thus taken in tow, the lad was forced to slowly but
thoroughly toast his person beside the freshly started fire,
ruefully watching his brother deftly handle rod and line, in a
remarkably short space of time killing trout enough to furnish
all with a bounteous meal.
"And I was the discoverer, while you reap all the credit, have
all the fun!" dolefully lamented Waldo, when the catch was
displayed with an ostentation which may have covered just a tiny
bit of malice. "I'll put a tin ear on you, Amerigo Vespucius!"
"All right; we'll have a merry go together, after you've cleaned
the trout for cooking, lad," laughed his elder.
Waldo gazed reproachfully into that bright face for a brief
space, then bowed head in joined hands, to sob in heartfelt
fashion, his sturdy frame shaking with poorly suppressed
Bruno passed an arm caressingly over those shoulders, murmuring
words of comfort, earnestly promising to never sin again in like
manner, provided he could find forgiveness now. And then, with
deft touch, that same hand held his garment far enough for its
mate to let slip a wriggling trout adown his brother's back.
Waldo howled and jumped wildly, as the cold morsel slipped along
his spine, and ducking out of reach, the elder jester called
"Land him, boy, and you've caught another fish!"
Although laughing heartily himself, Professor Featherwit deemed
it a part of wisdom to interfere now, and, ere long, matters
quieted down, all hands engaged in preparing the morning meal,
for which all teeth were now fairly on edge.
If good nature had been at all disturbed, long before that
breakfast was despatched it was fully restored, and of the trio,
Waldo appeared to be the most enthusiastic over present
"Why, just think of it, will you?" he declaimed, as well as might
be with mouth full of crisply fried mountain trout. "where the
game comes begging for you to bowl it over, and the very fish try
to jump into your pockets--"
"Or down your back, Amerigo," interjected Bruno, with a grin.
"Button up, or you'll turn to be a Sorry-cus--tomer, old man,"
came the swift retort, with a portentous frown. "But, joking
aside, why not? With such hunting and fishing, I'd be willing to
sign a contract for a round year in this region."
"To say nothing of exploration, and such discoveries as naturally
"Then you really mean it all, uncle Phaeton?"
Leaning back far enough to pluck a handful of green leaves, which
fairly well served the purpose of a napkin, Professor Featherwit
brought forth pipe and pouch, maintaining silence until the
fragrant tobacco was well alight. Then he gave a vigorous nod of
his head, to utter:
"It has been the dearest dream of my life for more years gone by
than you would readily credit, my lads; or, in fact, than I would
be wholly willing to confess. And it was with an eye single to
this very adventure that I laboured to devise and perfect yonder
"A marvel in itself, uncle Phaeton. Only for that, where would
we have been, yesterday?" seriously spoke the elder Gillespie.
"I know where we wouldn't have been: inside that blessed
"Nor here, where you can catch brook trout in your clothes
without the trouble of taking them off, youngster."
"And where you'll catch a precious hiding, without you let up
harping on that old string; it's way out of tune already, old
"Tit for tat. Excuse us, please, uncle Phaeton. We're like
colts in fresh pasture, this morning," brightly apologised Bruno,
Apparently the professor paid no attention to that bit of
sparring between his nephews, staring into the glowing camp-fire
with eyes which surely saw more than yellow coals or ruddy flames
could picture; eyes which burned and sparkled with all the fires
of distant youth.
"The dearest dream of all my life!" he repeated, in half dreamy
tones, only to rouse himself, with a a start and shoulder shake,
an instant later, forcing a bright smile as he glanced from face
to face. "And why not? How better could my last years be
employed than in piercing the clouds of mystery, and doubt, and
superstition, with which this vast tract has been enveloped for
"Is it really so unknown, then, uncle Phaeton?" hesitatingly
asked Bruno, touched, in spite of himself, by that intensely
earnest tone and expression. "Of course, I know what the Indians
say; they are full of a rude sort of superstitious awe, which--"
"Which is one of the surest proofs that truth forms a foundation
for that very superstition," quickly interjected the professor.
"It is an undisputed fact that there are hundreds upon hundreds
of square miles of terra incognita, lying in this corner of
Washington Territory. No white man ever fairly penetrated these
wilds, even so far as we may have been carried while riding the
tornado. Or, if so, he assuredly has never returned, or made
known his discoveries."
"Provided there was anything beyond the ordinary to see or
experience, shouldn't we add, uncle?" suggested Waldo, modestly.
"There is,--there must be! No matter how wildly improbable their
traditions may seem in our judgment, it only takes calm
investigation to bring a fair foundation to light. In regard to
this vast scope of country, go where you will among the natives,
question whom you see fit, as to its secrets, and you will meet
with the same results: a deep-seated awe, a belief which cannot
be shaken, that here strange monsters breed and flourish, matched
in magnitude and power by an armed race of human beings, before
whose awful might other tribes are but as ants in the pathway of
Waldo let escape a low, prolonged whistle of mingled wonder and
incredulity, but Bruno gave him a covert kick, himself too deeply
interested to bear with a careless interruption just then.
"Of course there may be something of exaggeration in all this,"
admitted the enthusiastic professor. "Undoubtedly, there is at
least a fair spice of that; but, even so, enough remains to both
waken and hold our keenest interest. Listen, and take heed, my
"You have often enough, of late days, noticed these mountains,
and if you remark their altitude, the vast scope of country they
dominate, the position they fill, you must likewise realise one
other fact: that an immense quantity of snow in winter, rain in
spring and autumn, surely must fall throughout the Olympics.
"Certainly; why not, uncle Phaeton?"
"Then tell me this: where does all the moisture go to? What
becomes of the surplus waters? For it is an acknowledged fact
that, though rivers and brooks surely exist in the Olympics, not
one of either flows away from this wide tract of country!"
The professor paused for a minute, to let his words take full
effect, then even more positively proceeded:
"You may say, what I have had others offer by way of solution,
that all is drained into a mighty inland sea or enormous lake.
Granting so much, which I really believe to be the truth as far
as it goes, why does that lake never overflow? Of all that
surely must drain into its basin, be that enormously wide and
deep as it may, how much could ordinary evaporation dispose of?
Only an infinitesimal portion; scarcely worth mentioning in such
connection. Then,--what becomes of the surplusage?"
Another pause, during which neither Gillespie ventured a
solution; then the professor offered his own suggestion:
"It must flow off in some manner, and what other manner can that
be than--through a subterranean connection with the Pacific
Bruno gave a short ejaculation at this, while Waldo broke forth
in words, after his own particular fashion:
"Jules Verne redivivus! Why can't WE take a trip through the
centre of the earth, or--or--any other little old thing like
"With the tank of compressed air as a life-preserver?" laughed
Bruno, in turn. "That might serve, but; unfortunately, we have
only the one, and we are three in number, boy."
"Only two, now; I'm squelched!" sighed the jester, faintly.
If the professor heard, he heeded not. Still staring with vacant
gaze into the fire, his face bearing a rapt expression curious to
see, he broke into almost unconscious speech:
"An enormous inland sea! Where float the mighty ichthyosaurus,
the megalosaurus, in company with the gigantic plesiosaurus! Upon
whose sloping shores disport the enormous mastodon, the
stately megatherium, the tremendous--eh?"
For Waldo was now afoot, brandishing a great branch broken from a
dead tree, uttering valiant war-whoops, and dealing tremendous
blows upon an imaginary enemy, spouting at the top of his voice a
frenzied jargon, which neither his auditors nor himself could
possibly make sense out of.
Back to Full Books