The Lost City
Joseph E. Badger, Jr.
Part 3 out of 4
genial Prescott, and, now that his memory was freshened in part,
was able to closely follow the course of that little lecture,
noting each strong point made by the professor in bolstering up
his delightful theory.
That monologue, however, was abruptly broken in upon by Waldo,
who gave an eager exclamation, as he reached forth a pointing
"Look! There's a white woman yonder,--two of 'em, in fact!"
CAN IT BE TRUE?
That announcement came with all the force of a bolt from the
blue, and even the professor dropped his glasses with a gasp of
amazement, while Bruno would have leaped to his feet, only for
the hasty grab which his brother made at the tail of his coat.
"White--where? Surely it cannot be that--Edgecombe--"
"Augh, take a tumble, boy!" ejaculated Waldo, giving a jerk that
rendered compliance nearly literal, though scarcely full of
grace. "Want to have the whole gang make a howling break this
way? Want to--They're white all right, though!"
"Where? Which direction? Point them out, and--I fail to see
anything which would bear out your--"
The professor was sweeping yonder field with his glass, searching
for the primal cause of that latest excitement, but without
success. No sign of a white face, male or female, rewarded his
efforts, and he turned an inquiring gaze upon the youngster.
Waldo was peering from beneath the shade of his hand, but now
drew back with a long breath, to slowly shake his head.
"They've gone now, but I did see them, and they were white, just
as white as--as anything!"
Bruno frowned a bit at that unsatisfactory conclusion, but the
professor was of more equable temper, for a wonder. He smilingly
shook his head, while gazing kindly, then spoke:
"I myself might have made the same error, Waldo, but you surely
were in error, for once."
"What! You mean I never saw those white women, uncle Phaeton?"
"No, no, I am not so seriously faulting your eyesight, my dear
boy," came the swift assurance. "But even the best of us are
open to errors, and there were in olden times not a few Aztecs
with fair skins; not exactly white, yet comparatively fair when
their race was considered. And, no doubt, Waldo, you saw just
such another a bit ago."
But the youngster was not so easily shaken in his own opinion.
"There were a couple of 'em, not just such another, uncle. And
they were white,--pure white as ever the Lord made a woman!
And--why, didn't I see their hair, long and floating loose? And
wasn't that yellow as--as gold, or the sunshine itself?"
"Yes, indeedy! Yellow hair, white skins,--faces, anyway.
Blondes, the couple of 'em; and to that I'll make my davy!"
And so the youngster maintained with even more than usual
sturdiness, when questioned more closely, pointing out the very
spot upon which the strange beings were standing, the top of a
large, tall building, clearly one of the series of temples.
In vain the field-glass was fixed upon that particular point.
The partly roofed azotea was wholly devoid of human life, and
though watch was maintained in that direction for many minutes
thereafter, by one or other of the air-voyagers, naught was seen
to confirm the assertion made by the younger Gillespie.
For the moment that fact or fancy dominated all other interests,
for, granting that Waldo had not been misled by a naturally fair
Indian face, there was room for a truly startling inference.
"Could it actually be they?" muttered Bruno, face pale and eyes
glittering with intense interest. "Could they have escaped with
life from the balloon, and been here ever since?"
"The wife and child of Cooper Edgecombe,--yes! Who else could
they be, unless--I'd give a pretty penny for one fair squint at
them, right now! If there was only some method of--It would
hardly do to venture down yonder, uncle Phaeton?"
The professor gave a stern gesture of denial, frowning as though
he anticipated an actual break for yonder town, in spite of the
odds against them.
"That would be madness, Bruno! Worse than madness, by far! Look
at yonder warriors, all thoroughly armed, and eager to drink
blood as ever they were in centuries gone by! They are hundreds,
if not thousands, while we are but three! Madness, my boy!"
"Four, with Mr. Edgecombe, uncle."
"And that means a complete host so long as we are backed up by
the air-ship," declared Waldo, in his turn. "Those fellows!"
with a sniff of true boyish scorn for aught that was not fully up
to date. "What could they do, if we were to open fire on them
"Prove our equals, man for man, armed as they assuredly are,"
just as vigorously affirmed the professor, inclined rather to
magnify than diminish the importance of these, his so recently
discovered people. "You forget how the Aztecans fought Cortez
and his mailed hosts. Yet these are one and identical, so far as
valour and training and blood can go."
"Huh! Scared of a runty horse so badly that they prayed to 'em
as they did to their own gods!" sniffed Waldo, betraying a lore
for which he did not ordinarily receive fair credit. "Why, uncle
Phaeton, let you just slam one o' those dynamite shells inside a
"Nay, Waldo, must I repeat, we are not here for the purpose of
conquest, unless by purely amicable methods. There must be no
fighting, for or against. Savages though most people would be
inclined to pronounce yonder race, they are human, with souls
"But I always thought they were heathens, uncle Phaeton?"
The professor subsided at that, giving over as worse than useless
the attempt to enlighten the irrepressible youngster, at least
for the time being.
Silence ruled for some little time, during which each one of the
trio kept keen watch over the valley, the field-glass changing
hands at intervals in order to put all upon an equal footing.
One thing was clear enough unto all: the Indians had been
greatly wrought up by the brief appearance of some queerly shaped
monster of the air, and while a goodly number of their best
warriors had hastened out of the valley and up the difficult
passes, in hopes of learning more, still others were astir,
weapons in hand, evidently determined to defend their lives or
their property from any assault, should such be made, whether by
known or foreign adversaries.
This busy stir and bustle, combined with the novel architecture
and so many varying points of interest, would have been a mental
and visual feast for the trio of air-voyagers, only for that one
doubt: were white captives actually in yonder temple? And, if
white, were they the long-lost relatives of the aeronaut, Cooper
Quite naturally the interest displayed by the Indians centred in
the quarter of the heavens where that air-demon had been sighted,
hence our friends saw very little cause for apprehension on their
Thus they were given a better opportunity for thinking of and
then discussing the new marvel.
Again did Waldo vow that his eyes had not befooled him. Again he
positively asserted that he had seen two white women, wearing
blonde hair in loose waves far adown their backs. And once again
Bruno, in half-awed tones, wondered whether or no they were the
mother and child borne away upon the wings of a mighty storm,
fifteen long years gone by.
"It is possible, though scarcely credible," admitted uncle
Phaeton, in grave tones, as he wrinkled his brows after his
peculiar fashion when ill at ease in his mind. "Edgecombe lived
through just such another experience; though, to be sure, he was
a man of iron constitution, while they were far more delicate, as
a matter of course."
"Still, it may have happened so?" persisted Bruno, taking a
strong interest in the matter. "You would not call it too
"No. It may have happened. I would rather call it marvellous,
yet still possible. And if so--"
"There is but a single answer to that supposition, uncle; they
must be rescued from captivity!" forcibly declared Bruno.
"That's right," confirmed Waldo. "Of course all women and
girls--I mean other people's kin--are a tremendous sight of
bother and worry, and all that; but we're white, and so are
"We must rescue them; there's nothing else to do," again
emphasised the elder Gillespie.
"That is no doubt the proper caper, speaking from your boyish
point of view, my generous-hearted nephews; but--just how?" dryly
queried the professor. "Have you arranged all that, as well,
"You surely would not abandon them, uncle Phaeton?" asked the
young man, something abashed by that veiled reproof. "To such a
horrible fate, too?"
"A fate which they must have endured for fifteen years, provided
your theory is correct, Bruno," with a fleeting smile. "Don't
mistake me, lads. I am ready and willing to do all that a man of
my powers may, provided I see just and sufficient cause for
taking decisive action. That is yet lacking. We are not certain
that there are white women yonder. Or, if white women, that they
are captives. Or, if captives, that they would thank us for
aiding them to escape."
"Why, uncle Phaeton! Think of Mr. Edgecombe, and how--"
"I am thinking of him, and I wish to think yet a little longer,"
quietly spoke the professor. "keep a lookout, lads, and if you
see aught of Waldo's fair women, pray notify me."
For the better part of an hour comparative silence reigned, the
boys feasting eyes upon yonder spectacle, their uncle deeply in
reverie; but then he roused up, his final decision arrived at.
"I will do it!" were his first words. "Yes, I will do it!"
"Do what, uncle Phaeton?" asked Waldo, with poorly suppressed
eagerness, as he turned towards his relative.
"Go after Cooper Edgecombe,--bringing him here in order that he
may, sooner or later, solve this perplexing enigma. Come, boys,
we may as well start back towards the aerostat."
But both youngsters objected in a decided manner, Waldo saying:
"No, no, uncle Phaeton! Why should we go along? You'll be
coming right back, and will be less crowded in the ship if we
"And we can better wait right here; don't you see, uncle?"
"To keep the Lost City safely found, don't you know? What if it
should take a sudden notion to lose itself again?" added Waldo,
AN ENIGMA FOR THE BROTHERS.
In place of the indulgent smile for which he was playing, Waldo
received a frown, and directly thereafter the professor spoke in
tones which could by no possibility be mistaken.
"Come with me, both of you. I am going back to the aerostat, and
I dare not leave you boys behind. Come!"
Kind of heart and generally complaisant though uncle Phaeton was,
neither Bruno nor Waldo cared to cross his will when made known
in such tones, and without further remonstrance they followed his
lead, slipping away from the snug little observatory without
drawing attention to themselves from any of yonder busy horde.
Not until the trio was fairly within the gulch did the professor
speak again, and then but a brief sentence or two.
"Give me time to weigh the matter, lads. Possibly I may agree,
but don't try to hurry my cooler judgment, please."
Waldo gave his brother an eager nudge at this, gestures and
grimaces being made to supply the lack of words. But when, the
better to express his confidence that all was coming their way,
the youngster attempted a caper of delight, his foot slipped from
a leaf-hidden stone, and he took an awkward tumble at full
"Never touched me!" he cried, scrambling to his feet ere a hand
could come to his aid. "Who says I don't know how to stand on
both ends at the same time?"
Barring this little caper, naught took place on their way to the
air-ship; and once there, the professor heaved a mighty sigh,
wiping his heated face as one might who has just won a worthy
race. But he betrayed no especial haste in setting the
flying-machine afloat and Waldo finally ventured:
"Can we help you off, uncle Phaeton?"
But he was assured there existed no necessity for such great
"In fact, it might be dangerous to start while so many of the
Aztecs are upon the lookout," came the unexpected addition. "I
believe it would be vastly better not to leave here until shortly
before dawn, to-morrow."
It took but a few words further to convince the brothers that
this idea was wisest, and while the young fellows felt sorry to
have their view cut so short, neither ventured to actually rebel.
After all, the day was well-nigh spent, and, besides preparing
their evening meal, it was essential that their plans for the
immediate future should be shaped as thoroughly as possible.
Professor Featherwit had resolved to fetch Cooper Edgecombe to
the scene of interest, in order to give him at least a fair
chance to solve the enigma which was perplexing them all. Even
so, he felt that no small degree of physical danger would attend
that presence, particularly if it should really prove, as they
could but suspect, that both wife and daughter of the involuntary
exile were yonder, among the Aztecans.
Much of this the professor made known to his nephews during that
evening, the trio thoroughly discussing the matter in all its
bearings, but before the air-ship was prepared for the night's
rest, uncle Phaeton made the youngsters happy by consenting to
their remaining behind as guardians to the Lost City, while he
went in quest of the balloonist.
"But bear ever in mind the conditions, lads," was his earnest
conclusion. "I place you upon your honour to take all possible
precautions against being discovered, or even running the least
unnecessary risk during my absence."
"Don't let that bother you, uncle Phaeton," Waldo hastened to
give assurance. "We'll be wise as pigeons, and cautious as any
old snake you ever caught up a tree; eh, Bruno, old man?"
"We promise all you ask, uncle, but does that mean we must stay
right here, without even stealing a weenty peep at the Lost
Professor Featherwit felt sorely tempted to say yes, but then,
knowing boyish nature (although Bruno had just passed his
majority, while Waldo was "turned seventeen") so well, he feared
to draw the reins too tightly lest they give way entirely.
"No; I do not expect quite that much, my lads; but I do count on
your taking no unnecessary risks, and in case of discovery that
you rather trust to flight, and my finding you later on, than to
So it was decided, and at a fairly early hour the trio lay down
to sleep. Although so unusually excited by the marvellous
discoveries of the day just spent, their open-air life tended to
calm their brains, and, far sooner than might have been expected,
sleep crept over them, one and all, lasting until nearly dawn.
Perhaps it was just as well that the wakening was not more early,
for the professor was beginning to regret his weakness of the
past evening, and had there been more time for drawing lugubrious
pictures of probable mishaps, he might even yet have insisted on
taking the youngsters with him.
Knowing that it was rather more than probable some of the Indians
would be stationed upon the hills to watch for the queerly shaped
air-demon, the professor felt obliged to lose no further time,
and so the separation was effected, just as the eastern sky was
beginning to show streaks and veins of a new day.
"Touch and go!" cried Waldo, with a vast inhalation as he watched
the aeromotor sail away with the swiftness of a bird on wing.
"And for a weenty bit I reckoned 'twas you and me as part of the
In company the lads enjoyed a more leisurely meal than their
relative had dared wait for, knowing that, at the very least,
they would have the whole of that day to themselves, so far as
uncle Phaeton was concerned. As a matter of course, he would not
attempt to return except under cover of night, or in the early
dawn of another day.
All that had been thoroughly discussed and provided for the
evening before, and was barely touched upon by the brothers now.
Their first and most natural thought was of yonder Lost City,
with its inhabitants, red, white, and yellow, as Waldo put it;
but being still under the foreboding fears of the professor, they
finally agreed to remain where he left them until after the sun
crossed its meridian.
It was a rather early meal which the brothers prepared, if the
whole truth must be told; and the last fragments were bolted
rather than chewed, feet keeping time with jaws, as they hastened
towards the observatory.
There was pretty much the same sort of view as on the day before,
the main difference being that many of the Indians were labouring
in the fields, instead of watching for the air-demon.
Using the glass by turns, the lads kept eager watch for the white
women whom Waldo stubbornly persisted were within the town; but
hour after hour passed without the desired reward, and Bruno
began to doubt whether there was any such vision to be won.
"The sun was in your eyes, and you let mad fancy run away with
your better judgment, boy," he decided, at length. "If not,
For Waldo gave a low, eager exclamation, gripping the field-glass
as though he would crush in the reinforced leather case. A few
moments thus, then he laughed in almost fierce glee, thrusting
the glass towards his brother, speaking excitedly:
"A crazy fool lunatic, am I? Well, now, you just take a squint
at the old house for yourself and see if--biting you, now, is
For Bruno showed even more intense interest as he caught the
right line, there taking note of--yes, they surely were white
women! Faces, hair, all went to proclaim that fact. And more
than that, even.
"Fair--lovely as a painter's dream!" almost painfully breathed
the elder Gillespie. "I never saw such a lovely--"
"Injun squaw, of course. Couple of 'em. Nobody but a fool would
ever think different. The idea of finding white women--"
"They are ladies, Waldo! I never saw such--and I feel that they
must be the ones lost by poor Edgecombe when that storm--"
"That's all right enough, old fellow," interrupted Waldo,
claiming the glass once more. "No need of your playing the
porker on legs, though, as I see. Give another fellow a chance
to squint. But aren't they regular jo-dandies, though, for a
The two women in question, clad in flowing robes of white, lit up
here and there by a dash of colour, were slowly pacing to and fro
upon the temple where first discovered by the keen-eyed
youngster. Thanks to the excellent glass, it was possible to view
them clearly in spite of the distance, and there could be no
dispute upon that one point: both mother and daughter (granting
that such was their relationship) were more than ordinarily fair
and comely of both face and person.
For the better part of an hour that slow promenade lasted, and
until the women finally passed beyond their range of vision, the
brothers took eager and copious notes. Then, in spite of the
fact that scores of other figures still came within their field
of vision, curiosity lagged.
"It's like watching a street medicine show, after hearing Patti
or seeing Irving," muttered Bruno, drawing back and stretching
his wearied limbs beyond possible discovery.
"Or the A B C class playing two-old-cat, after a league game of
extra innings; right you are, my hearty!" coincided Waldo,
feeling pretty much the same way, "only with a difference."
Shortly after this, Bruno suggested a retreat to the rendezvous,
and for a wonder his brother agreed without amendment.
The brothers passed down to the gulch, which formed the easiest
route to their refuge, saying very little, and that in lowered
tones. The confirmation so recently won served to stir their
hearts deeply, and neither boy could as yet see a way out of the
labyrinth that discovery most assuredly opened up before them.
"Of course we can't leave them there to drag on such a wretched
existence," declared Bruno. "We couldn't do that, even though we
learned they held no relationship to Mr. Edgecombe. But--how?"
"I reckon it's--what?" abruptly spoke Waldo, gripping an arm and
stopping short for a few seconds, but then impulsively springing
onward again as wild sounds arose from no great distance.
A score of seconds later they caught sight of a huge grizzly bear
in the act of falling upon a slender stripling, whose bronze hue
as surely proclaimed one of the Aztec children from yonder Lost
What was to be done? Disobey their uncle, or leave this lad to
SOMETHING LIKE A WHITE ELEPHANT.
Only a lad, slight-limbed and slenderly framed to the eye, yet
for all that gifted with a gallant heart, else he surely must
have been cowed to terror by the huge bulk of such a dire
adversary at close quarters.
Instead of trying to find safety in headlong flight, the Indian
stood at bay, with both hands firmly gripping the shaft of his
copper-bladed spear, at far too close quarters for employing bow
and arrows, while the copper knife in his sash was held in
reserve for still closer work.
Snarling, growling, displaying its great teeth while clumsily
waving enormous paws which bore talons of more than a
finger-length, the bear was balanced upon its hindquarters,
evidently just ready to lurch forward with striking paws and
Its enormous weight would prove more than sufficient to end the
contest ere it fairly began, while a slight stroke from those
taloned paws would both slay and mutilate.
No one was better aware of all this than the Indian lad himself,
yet he took the initiative, swiftly darting his spear forward,
lending to its keen point all the power of both arms and body. A
suicidal act it certainly appeared, yet one which could scarcely
make his position more perilous.
An awful roar burst from bruin as he felt that thrust, the blade
sinking deep and biting shrewdly; but then he plunged forward,
striking savagely as he dropped.
The Indian strove to leap backward an instant after delivering
his stroke, but still clung to the spear-shaft. This hampered
his action to a certain degree, yet in all probability that stout
ashen shaft preserved his life, which that wound would otherwise
The stroke but brushed a shoulder, nor did a claw take fair
effect, yet the stripling was felled to earth as though smitten
by a thunderbolt.
All this before the brothers could solve the enigma thus offered
them so unexpectedly; but that fall, and the awful rage displayed
by the wounded grizzly as he briefly reared erect to grind
asunder the spearshaft, decided the white lads, and, temporarily
forgetting how dangerously nigh were yonder Aztecan hosts, both
Bruno and Waldo opened fire with their Winchester rifles, sending
shot after shot in swift succession into the bulky brute, fairly
beating him backward under their storm of lead.
Victory came right speedily, but its finale was thrilling, if not
fatal, the huge beast toppling forward to drop heavily upon the
young savage, just as he was recovering sufficiently from shock
and surprise to begin a struggle for his footing.
Firing another couple of shots while rifle-muzzle almost touched
an ear, the brothers quickly turned attention towards the fallen
Indian, more than half believing him a corpse, crushed out of
shape upon the underlying rocks by that enormous carcass.
Fortunately for all concerned, the young Aztec was lying in a
natural depression between two firm rocks, and while his
extrication proved to be a matter of both time and difficulty,
saying nothing of main strength, success finally rewarded the
efforts of our young Samaritans.
The grizzly was stone-dead. The Indian seemed but a trifle
better, though that came through compression rather than any
actual wounds from tooth or talon. And the brothers themselves
were fairly dismayed.
Not until that rescue was finally accomplished did either lad
give thought to what might follow; but now they drew back a bit,
interchanging looks of puzzled doubt and worry.
"Right in it, up to our necks, old man! And we can't very well
kill the critter, can we?"
"Of course not; but it may cause us sore trouble if--"
Just then the young Aztec rallied sufficiently to move, drawing a
step nearer the brothers, right hand coming out in greeting,
while left palm was pressed close above his heart. And--still
"Much obliged--me, you, brother!"
If yonder bleeding grizzly had risen erect and made just such a
salutation as this, it could scarcely have caused greater
surprise to either Bruno or Waldo, looking upon this being, as
they quite naturally did, in the light of a genuine "heathen,"
hence incapable of speaking any known tongue, much less the
True, there was a certain odd accent, a curious dwelling upon
each syllable, but the words themselves were distinctly
pronounced and beyond misapprehension.
"Why, I took you for a howling Injun!" fairly exploded Waldo,
then stepping forward to clasp the proffered member, giving it a
regular "pump-handle shake" by way of emphasis. "And here you
are, slinging the pure United States around just as though it
didn't cost a cent, and you held a mortgage on the whole
dictionary! Why, I can't--well, well, now!"
For once in a way the glib-tongued lad was at a loss just what to
say and how to say it. For, after all, this surely was a
redskin, and the professor had explicitly warned them
Was it all a dizzy dream? For the Aztec drew back, speaking
rapidly in an unknown tongue, then sinking to earth like one
overpowered by sudden physical weakness.
Bruno Gillespie, too, was recalling his uncle's earnest cautions,
and now took prompt action. He quickly secured the weapons which
had been scattered as the Indian fell before the grizzly's paw,
then the brothers drew a little apart to consult together.
"What'll we do about it?" whisperingly demanded Waldo, keeping a
wary eye upon yonder redskin. "You tell, for blamed if I know
"We daren't let him go free, else he might fetch the whole tribe
upon our track," said Bruno, in the same low tones, no whit less
sorely perplexed as to their wisest course.
"No, and yet we can't very well kill him, either! If we hadn't
come along just as we did, or if--but he's a man, after all! Who
could stand by and see that ugly brute make a meal off even an
Bruno cast an uneasy look around, at the same time deftly
refilling the partly exhausted magazine of his Winchester.
"Load up, Waldo. Burning powder reaches mighty far, even here in
the hills; and who knows,--the whole tribe may come
helter-skelter this way, to see what has broken loose! And we
can't fight 'em all!"
"Not unless we just have to," agreed the younger Gillespie,
placing a few shells where they would be handiest in case of
another emergency. "But what's the use of running, if we're to
leave this fellow behind to blaze our trail? If he is our
"No en'my; Ixtli friend,--heart-brother," eagerly vowed the young
Aztec, once again startling the lads by his strange command of a
He rose to his feet, though plainly suffering in some slight
degree from that brief collision with the huge beast, and smiling
frankly into first one face, then the other, took Bruno's hand,
touched it with his lips, then bowed his head and placed the
whiter palm upon his now uncovered crown.
In like manner he saluted Waldo, after which he drew back a bit,
still smiling genially, to add, in slowly spoken words:
"You save Ixtli. Bear kill--no; you kill--yes! Ixtli glad. Sun
Children great--big heart full of love. So--Ixtli never do hurt,
never do wrong; die for white brother--so!"
More through gesticulation than by speech, the young Indian brave
made his sentiments clearly understood, and if they could have
placed full dependence in that pledge, the brothers would have
felt vastly relieved in mind.
But they only too clearly recalled numerous instances of cunning
ill-faith, and, in despite of all, they could not well avoid
thinking that this was really something like a white elephant
thrown upon their hands.
"All right. Play we swallow it all, but keep your best eye
peeled, old man," guardedly whispered Waldo. "Fetch him along,
yes or no, for it may be growing worse than dangerous right here,
after so much shooting."
"You mean for us to--"
"Take the fellow along, and keep him with us, until uncle Phaeton
comes back to finally decide upon his case," promptly explained
Waldo. "Of course we ought to've let him die; ought, but didn't!
We couldn't then, wouldn't now, if it was all to do over. So
watch him so closely that he can't play tricks even if he
There was nothing better to propose, and though the job promised
to be an awkward one to manage, Ixtli himself rendered it more
Past all doubt he could understand, as well as speak, the English
language, for he took a step in evident submission, speaking
"Ixtli ready; heart-brother say where go, now."
Again the brothers felt startled by that quaintly correct accent,
and almost involuntarily Bruno spoke in turn:
"You can talk English? When did you learn? And from whom?"
A still brighter smile irradiated the Aztec's face, and turning
his eyes towards the secluded valley, he bowed his head as though
in deep reverence, then softly, lovingly, almost adoringly,
"SHE tell me how. Victo,--Glady, too. Ixtli know little, not
much; his heart feel big for Sun Children, all time. So YOU,
too, for kill bear,--like dat!"
Bruno turned a bit paler than usual, catching his breath sharply,
as he repeated those names:
"Victo,--Glady,--Wasn't it by those names, Victoria, Gladys, that
Mr. Edgecombe called his lost ones, Waldo?"
"I can't remember; but get a move on, old man. The sooner we're
back where uncle Phaeton left us, where we can see a bit more of
what may be coming, the safer my precious scalp will feel. This
"No scalp," quickly interposed the Aztec, with a deprecatory
gesture to match his words. "You save Ixtli. Ixtli say no hurt
white brothers. Dat so,--dat sure for truth!"
Only partially satisfied by this earnest disclaimer of evil
intentions, Waldo gripped an arm and hurried the Aztec along,
leaving the bear where it had fallen, intent solely upon reaching
a comparatively safe outlook ere worse could follow upon the
heels of their latest adventure.
And Bruno brought up the rear as guard, eyes and rifle ready.
THE CHILDREN OF THE SUN GOD.
No difficulty whatever was experienced in reaching that retreat,
and milder prisoner never knew a guard than Ixtli proved himself
to be, silently yielding to each impulse lent his arm by Waldo,
smiling when, as sometimes happened, he was brought more nearly
face to face with that armed rear-guard.
Nor were the Gillespie brothers worried by sound, sign, or token
of more serious trouble from others of that strangely surviving
race. And it was not long after reaching the rendezvous from
which the professor had sailed in the early dawn, that the
youngsters agreed the echoes of their Winchesters could not have
reached the ears of the Lost City inhabitants.
"That's plenty good luck for one soup-bunch," quoth Waldo, yet
adding a dubious shake of the head as he gazed upon their bronzed
companion. "And if it wasn't for this gentleman in masquerade
"Ixtli friend. Ixtli feel like heart-brother," came in low,
mellow accents from those smiling lips.
There certainly was naught of guile or of evil craft to be read
in either eyes or visage, just then; but the brothers could not
feel entirely at ease, even yet. How many times had warriors of
his colour played a cunning part, only to end all by blow of
tomahawk, thrust of knife, or bolt from the bended bow?
At a barely perceptible sign from Bruno, his brother drew apart,
leaving their "white elephant" by himself, yet none the less
under a vigilant guard.
"He seems all right, in his way," muttered the elder Gillespie,
"but how far ought we to trust him, after what we promised uncle
"Not quite as far as we can see him, anyway. Still, a fellow
can't find the stomach to bowl him over like a hare,--without a
weenty bit of excuse, at least."
"That's it! If he'd try to bolt, or would even jump on one of
us, it would come far more easy. Look at him smile, now! And I
hate to think of clapping such a bright-seeming lad in bonds!"
"Time enough for all that when he shows us cause," quickly
decided Waldo, with a vigorous nod of his curly pow. "Pity if a
couple of us can't keep him out of mischief without going that
far. And we want to pump the kid dry before uncle Phaeton gets
Bruno gave a slight start at these words, but his eye-glow and
face-flush bore witness that the idea thus suggested had not been
unthought of in his own case.
"Then you really think--"
"That there's more ways than one of skinning a cat," oracularly
observed Waldo. "Without showing it too mighty plainly, one or
the other of us can always be ready and prepared to dump the
laddy-buck, in case he tries to come any of his didoes. And, at
the same time, we can be hugging up to him just as sweetly as
though we knew he was on the dead level. Understand?"
Possibly the programme might have been a little more elegantly
expressed, but Waldo, as a rule, cared more for substance than
form, and his speech possessed one merit, that of perspicuity.
Having reached this fair understanding, the brothers dropped
their aside, and moved nearer the young Aztec.
Ixtli gazed keenly into first one face, then the other, plainly
enough endeavouring to read the truth as might be expressed
therein, as related to himself. What he saw must have proved
fairly satisfactory, since he gave another bright smile, then
spoke in really musical tones:
"Good,--brother, now! That more good, too!"
In spite of the suspicions, which seem inborn where people of the
red race are concerned, both Bruno and Waldo felt more and more
drawn towards this remarkable specimen of a still more remarkable
tribe; and not many more minutes had sped by ere the younger
couple were chatting together in amicable fashion, although
finding some little difficulty in Ixtli's rather limited
Not a little to his elder brother's impatience, Waldo apparently
took a deeper interest in the recent adventure than in the
subject which claimed his own busiest thoughts, but he hardly
cared to crowd the youngster, lest he make matters even worse.
Aided by the sort of freemasonry which naturally exists between
lads of an adventurous nature, Waldo readily succeeded in picking
up considerable information from the Aztec, even before broaching
that all-important matter.
Ixtli was the only son of a famed warrior and chieftain of the
Aztecan clans, by name Aztotl, or the Red Heron. He, in common
with so many of his people, had witnessed the approach and abrupt
departure of the strange bird in the air, and had hastened forth
in quest of the monster.
He failed to see aught more of the strange creature, but,
disliking to return home without something to show for the trip,
remained out over night, then chanced to fairly stumble into the
way of a mighty grizzly.
There were a few moments during which he might possibly have
escaped through headlong flight, but he was too proud for that,
and but for the timely arrival and prompt action on the part of
his white brothers would almost certainly have paid the penalty
with his life.
Then followed more thanks and broken expressions of gratitude,
all of which Waldo magnanimously waved aside as wholly
"Don't work up a sweat for a little thing like that, old man. Of
course we saw you were an Injun and--ahem! I mean, how in time
did you happen to catch hold of our lingo so mighty pat,
"My brother means to ask who taught you to speak as we do,
Ixtli?" amended Bruno, catching at the wished-for opportunity now
"And who was that nice little gal with the yellow hair? Is
she--what did you call her? Gladys--And the rest of it
Waldo was eager enough now that the ice was fairly broken, but
his very volubility served to complicate matters rather than to
hasten the desired information.
Ixtli apparently thought in English pretty much as he spoke
it,--slowly, and with care. When hurried, his brain and tongue
naturally fell back upon his native language.
Sounds issued through his lips, but, despite all their animation,
these proved to be but empty sounds to the eager brothers. And,
divining the truth, Bruno checked his brother, himself acting as
questioner, pretty soon striking the right chord, after which
Ixtli fared very well.
Still, thanks to his difficulty in finding the right words with
which to express his full meaning, it took both time and patience
for even Bruno to learn all he desired; and even if such a course
would be desirable, lack of space forbids giving a literal record
of questions and answers, since the general result of that
cross-examination may be put so much more compactly before the
The first point made clear was that the young Aztec owed his
imperfect knowledge of the English language to certain Children
of the Sun, whom he named as if christened Victo and Glady. With
this as starting-point, the rest formed a mere question of time
Growing in animation as he proceeded, Ixtli told of the coming to
their city of those glorious children; riding upon the wings of
an awful storm, yet issuing unharmed, unawed, bright of face, as
the mighty orb the sons of Anahuac worshipped.
He told how an envious few held to the contrary: that these
fair-skins had come as evil emissaries from the still more evil
Mictlanteuctli, mighty Lord of Death-land, who had laden them
with pestilence and brain-sorrow and eye-darkness, with orders to
devastate this, the last fair city of the ancient race.
With low, sternly suppressed tones, the young warrior went on to
tell of what followed: of the wicked attempt made by those
malcontents to punish the bearers of death and misery; then, his
voice rising and growing more clear, he told how, from a
clearing-sky, there came a single shaft flung by the mighty hand
of the great god, Quetzalcoatl, before which the impious dog went
down in everlasting death.
"Struck by lightning, eh?" interpreted Waldo, who seemed born
without the influence of poetry. "Served him mighty right, too!"
Bowing submissively, although it could be seen he scarcely
comprehended just what those blunt words were meant to convey,
Ixtli spoke on, seemingly with perfect willingness, so long as
the adored "Sun Children" formed the subject-matter.
From his laboured statement, Bruno gathered that the sudden death
of one who had dared to lift an armed hand against the woman so
mysteriously placed there in their very midst awed all opposition
to the general belief in the divine origin of mother and child;
and ere long Victo was installed as a sort of high priestess of
the temple more especially devoted to the Sun God.
That was long ago, and when Ixtli was but a child. As he grew
older, and his father, Red Heron, was appointed as chief of
guards to the Sun Children, Victo took more notice of the lad,
and ended in teaching him both the English tongue and its
Christian creed, so far as lay in his power to comprehend.
Then came less pleasing information concerning the Children of
the Sun, which went far to prove that the death of one
evil-minded dog had not entirely purged the Lost City, and it was
with harsher tones and frowning brows that Ixtli spoke of the
head priest, or paba, Tlacopa the evil-minded, who had built up a
powerful and dangerous sentiment against both Victo and Glady,
even going so far as to declare before the holy stone of
sacrifice that the Mother of Gods demanded these falsely titled
Children of the Sun.
"The fair-faced God must come soon, or too late!" sighed the
Aztec, bowing his head in joined palms the better to conceal his
evident grief. "He has promised to come, but hurry! They
This was hardly an acceptable stopping-point, but questioning was
of little avail just then. Satisfied of so much, the brothers
drew apart a short distance, yet keeping where they could guard
their more or less dangerous charge, conversing in low tones over
the information so far gleaned from the Aztec's talk.
"Well, we'll hold a tight grip on him, anyway, until uncle
Phaeton gets back," finally decided Waldo, speaking for his
brother as well.
THE PROFESSOR AND THE AZTEC.
Fortunately for all concerned, there proved to be no serious
difficulty attached to that same holding. So far as outward
semblance went, Ixtli was very well content with both present
quarters and present companionship.
He likewise enjoyed the supper that, aided by a small fire
kindled in a depression so low that the light could by no means
attract any unfriendly eye, Bruno prepared for them all. And
just prior to taking his first taste, the young warrior bowed his
head to murmur a few sentences which, past all doubt, had first
come to his mind through the wonderful Victo: a simple little
blessing, which certainly did not add to the dislike or
uneasiness with which the brothers regarded their guest.
"He's white, even if he is red!" confidentially declared Waldo,
at his first opportunity. "More danger of our spoiling him than
his doing us dirt; and that's an honest fact for a quarter, old
Bruno felt pretty much the same, yet his added years gave him
greater discretion, and, in spite of that growing liking, he kept
a fairly keen watch and ward over the Aztec.
After supper there came further questioning and answers, Waldo as
a rule playing inquisitor, eager to learn more anent the strange
existence which these people must live, so completely hemmed in
from all the rest of the world as they surely were in yonder
Without at all betraying the exile, Gillespie spoke of the lake
and its mighty whirlpool, then learned that the Indians really
made semi-annual trips thither for the purpose of laying in a
supply of dried fish for the winter's consumption.
As the night waned, preparations were made for sleeping, although
it was agreed between the brothers that one or the other should
stand guard in regular order.
"Not that I really believe the fellow would play us dirt, even
with every chance laid open," Waldo admitted. "Still, it's what
uncle Phaeton would advise, and we can't well do less than follow
his will, Bruno."
"Since we broke it so completely by tackling the grizzly," with a
"That's all right, too. Of course we'd ought to've skulked away
like a couple of egg-sucking curs, but we didn't, and I'm
mightily glad of it, too. For Ixtli--what a name that is to go
to bed with every night, though!--for Ixtli is just about as
white as they make 'em, nowadays; you hear me blow my bazoo?"
And so the long night wore its length along, the brothers taking
turns at keeping watch and ward, but the Aztec slumbering
peacefully through all, looking the least dangerous of all
possible captives. And after this light even the cautious Bruno
began to regard him ere the first stroke of coming dawn could be
seen above the eastern hills.
Not being positive just where the air-ship would put in an
appearance, since Professor Featherwit had, perforce, left that
question open, to be decided by circumstances over which he might
have no control, each guard in turn devoted considerable
attention to the upper regions, hoping to glimpse the aerostat,
and holding matches in readiness to raise a flare by way of
alighting signal. But it was not until the early dawn that Bruno
caught sight of the air-ship, just skimming the tree-tops, the
better to escape observation by any Indian lookout.
After that the rest came easily enough. A couple of blazing
matches held aloft proved sufficient cue to the professor, and
soon thereafter the flying-machine was safely brought to land, so
gently that the slumbers of the young Aztec were undisturbed.
Bruno gave a hasty word of warning and explanation combined, even
before he extended a welcoming hand towards Mr. Edgecombe, who
certainly appeared all the better for his encounter with people
of his own race.
Professor Featherwit took a keen, eager look at the slumbering
redskin, then drew silently back, to whisper in Bruno's ear:
"Guard well your tongue, lad. I have told him nothing, as yet,
and we must consult together before breaking the news. For now
we have had no rest, so I believe we would better lie down for an
hour or two."
Mr. Edgecombe appeared to be perfectly willing to do this, and
soon the wearied men were wrapped in blankets and sleeping
Long before their lids unclosed, Bruno had an appetising meal in
readiness, although the others had broken fast long before, and
Ixtli, his hands tightly clasped behind his back, as a child is
wont to resist temptation, was inspecting the air-ship in awed
Taking advantage of this preoccupation, Bruno quickly yet clearly
explained to his uncle all that had happened, showing that by
playing a more prudent part the young warrior must inevitably
Then, making sure Cooper Edgecombe was not near enough to catch
his words, Bruno told in brief the information gleaned from Ixtli
concerning the Children of the Sun, whom he and Waldo more than
suspected must be the long-lost wife and daughter of the exiled
As might have been expected, Professor Featherwit was deeply
stirred by all this, fidgeting nervously while keeping alert
ears, with difficulty smothering the ejaculations which fought
for exit through his lips.
After satisfying his craving for food, the professor led the
young Aztec apart from the rest of the party, speaking kindly and
sympathetically until he had won a fair share of liking for his
own, then broaching the subject of the Sun Children.
After this it was by no means a difficult matter to get at the
seat of trouble, and little by little Featherwit satisfied
himself that Ixtli would do all, dare all, for the sake of
benefiting the woman and maiden who had treated him so kindly.
At a covert sign from the professor, Bruno came to join in the
talk, and his sympathy made the young Aztec even more
communicative. And Ixtli spoke more at length concerning
Tlacopa, the paba, and another enemy whom the Children of the Sun
had nearly equal cause to fear, one Huatzin, or Prince Hua,
chiefest among the mighty warriors of the Aztecan clans.
This evil prince had for years past sought Victo for his bride,
while his son, Iocetl, tried in vain to win the heart-smiles of
the fair Glady, Victo's daughter. And, through revenge for
having their suit frowned upon, these wicked knaves had joined
hands with the priest in trying to drag the Sun Children down
from their lofty pedestal.
It did not take long questioning, or shrewd, to convince the
professor that in Ixtli they could count upon a true and daring
supporter in case they should conclude to interfere in behalf of
his patroness and teacher, adored Victo.
The professor led the way over to the air-ship, there producing
the clothing and arms once worn by another Aztec warrior, which
he had carefully stowed away in the locker, loath to lose sight
of such valuable relics; truly unique, as he assured himself at
Bruno gave a little exclamation at sight of the articles, then in
eager tones he made known the daring idea which then flashed
across his busy brain.
"We ought to make sure before taking action, uncle Phaeton. Then
why not let me don these clothes and steal down into the valley,
under cover of darkness, to see the ladies and--"
"No, no, my lad," quickly interrupted the professor, gripping an
arm as though fearful of an instant runaway. "That would be too
risky; that would be almost suicidal! And--no use talking," with
an obstinate shake of his head, as Bruno attempted to edge in an
expostulation. "I will never give my consent; never!"
"Or hardly ever," supplied Waldo, coming that way like one who
feels the proprieties have been more than sufficiently outraged.
"Give some other person a chance to wag his chin a bit, can't ye,
gentlemen? Not that _I_ care to chatter merely for sake of
hearing my own voice; but--eh?"
"We were considering whether or no 'twould be advisable to take a
walk over to the observatory," coolly explained the professor.
"Of course, if you would rather remain here to watch the
"Let Bruno do that, uncle. He grew thoroughly disgusted with
what he saw over yonder, yesterday," placidly observed the
"Waldo, you villain!"
"Well, didn't you vow and declare that you could recognise grace
and beauty and all other varieties of attractiveness only
in--dark brunettes, old man?"
Professor Featherwit hastily interposed, lest words be let fall
through which Mr. Edgecombe might catch a premature idea of the
possible surprise held in store; and shortly afterwards the start
was made for the snug covert from whence the Lost City had been
viewed on prior occasions.
Naturally their route led them directly past the scene of the
bear fight, where the huge carcass lay as yet undisturbed, and
calling forth sundry words of wonder and even admiration, through
its very ponderosity and now harmless ferocity.
Professor Featherwit deemed it his duty to gravely reprove his
wards for their rash conduct, yet something in his twinkling eyes
and in the kindly touch of his bony hand told a far different
tale. His anger took the shape of pride and of heart-love.
In due course of time the lookout was won, and without delay the
savant turned his field-glass upon the temple which appeared to
appertain to the so-called Sun Children; but, not a little to his
chagrin, the azotea was utterly devoid of human life.
But that disappointment was of brief existence, for, almost as
though his action was the signal for which they had been waiting,
mother and daughter came slowly into view, arm in arm, clad in
robes of snowy white, with their luxuriant locks flowing loose as
upon former occasions.
Both lads--three of them, to be more exact--gave low exclamations
of eager interest as those shapes came in sight, while even
Cooper Edgecombe gazed with growing interest upon the scene,
wholly unsuspecting though he was as yet.
A slight nod from the professor warned the brothers to stand
ready in case of need, then he offered the exile the glass,
begging him to inspect yonder fair women upon the teocalli.
The glass was levelled and held firmly for a half minute, then
the exile gave a choking cry, gasping, ere he fell as one smitten
"Merciful heavens! My wife--my child!"
DISCUSSING WAYS AND MEANS.
In good measure prepared for some such result, in case their
expectations should prove true, friendly hands at once closed
upon the exile, hurrying him back, and still more completely
under cover, as quickly as might be.
Cooper Edgecombe seemed as wax in their hands, not utterly
deprived of consciousness, but rather like one dazed by some
totally unexpected blow. He made not the slightest resistance,
yielding to each impulse given, shivering and weak as one just
rallying from an almost mortal illness.
Yet there came an occasional flash to his eyes which warned the
wary professor of impending trouble, and as quickly as might be
the stunned aeronaut was removed from the point of observation,
taken by short stages back to the spot where rested the
Ixtli seemed something awed by this (to him) inexplicable conduct
on the part of the gaunt-limbed stranger, but gave his new-found
friends neither trouble nor cause for worry, bearing them company
and even lending a hand whenever he thought it might be needed.
The Gillespie brothers were far more deeply stirred, as was
natural, but even Waldo contrived to keep a fair guard over his
at times unruly member, speaking but little during that retreat.
With each minute that elapsed Cooper Edgecombe gained in bodily
powers, and while his mental strength was slower to respond, that
proved to be a blessing rather than otherwise.
The rendezvous was barely gained ere he gave a hoarse cry of
reviving memory, then strove to break away from that friendly
care, calling wildly for his wife, his daughter, fancying them in
some dire peril from which alone his arms could preserve them.
It was a painful scene as well as a trying one, that which
followed closely, and respite only came after bonds had been
applied to the limbs of the madman,--for such Cooper Edgecombe
assuredly was, just then.
There were tears in the professor's eyes, as he strove hardest to
soothe the sufferer, assuring him that his loved ones should be
restored to his arms, yet repeatedly reminding him that any rash
action taken then must almost certainly work against their better
The exile grew less violent, but that was more through physical
exhaustion than aught else, and what had, from the very first,
appeared a difficult enigma, now looked far worse.
Only when fairly well assured that the sufferer would not attract
unwelcome attention their way through too boisterous shouting,
did the professor draw far enough away for quiet consultation
with his nephews.
Mr. Edgecombe was deposited within the air-ship, secured in such
a manner that it would be well-nigh impossible for him to do
either himself or the machine material injury, no matter how
violent he might become; and hence, in case of threatened trouble
from the inmates of the Lost City, flight would not be seriously
hindered through caring for him.
Professor Featherwit now gleaned from his nephews pretty much all
they could tell him concerning sights and events since his
departure in quest of the exile. That proved to be very little
more than he had already learned, and contained still less which
seemed of especial benefit to that particular enigma awaiting
True, Waldo suggested that Ixtli be employed as a medium of
communication between the Sun Children and themselves; but,
possibly because, as a rule, this irrepressible youngster's ideas
were generally the wildest and most far-fetched imaginable, uncle
Phaeton frowned upon the plan.
No; the young Aztec might prove true at heart, even as
indications went, but the risk of so trusting him would prove far
"That's just because you haven't known and slept with him, like
we have," declared Waldo. "He's red on the outside, but he's got
just as white a soul as the best of us,--bar none."
Bruno likewise appeared to think well of the young brave, and
suggested an amendment to Waldo's motion,--that he accompany
Ixtli into the sunken valley, covered by the friendly shades of
night, there to open communication with the Sun Children.
"By so doing, we could make certain of their identity," the young
man argued, earnestly. "That, it appears to me, is the first
step to be taken. For, in spite of the apparent recognition by
Mr. Edgecombe, it is possible that no actual relationship
"What of that?" bluntly cut in the younger Gillespie. "Don't you
reckon strangers'd like to take a little walk, just as well as
any other people?"
"Patience, my lad," interposed the professor. "While we seem in
duty bound to lend aid and assistance to women in actual
distress, we can only serve them with their own free will and
accord. Granting that the women we saw upon the teocalli were
other than those believed by our afflicted friend--"
"But, uncle, look at their names! And don't Ixtli say--tell 'em
all over again, pardner, won't ye?" urged Waldo, taking a burning
interest in the matter, as was his custom when fairly involved.
The young Aztec complied as well as lay within his power, giving
it as his fixed opinion that sore trouble, if not actual peril,
awaited the Children of the Sun, unless assisted by powerful
friends. He spoke of the mighty chieftain, Prince Hua, and of
the high priest, Tlacopa, who was, to all seeming, playing
directly into the hands of the 'Tzin.
"He say Mother of Gods call--loud! He say sacrifice, and
dat--no, no! Quetzal' send--Quetzal' save--MUST save Victo,
Further questioning resulted in but little more information,
though, as Ixtli grew calmer, he emphasised such statements as he
had already made, elaborating them a trifle. And, by this, his
questioners learned that, humanly speaking, the fate of the Sun
God's Children depended almost entirely upon the whim or fancy of
the chief paba of the teocalli.
Through Tlacopa issued the awesome oracles, and when his voice
thundered forth the dread fiat, who dared to openly rebel?
Further questioning brought forth one more important fact,--that
there was absolutely no hope of either Victo or Glady coming
forth from the valley, either by night or by day. While
ostensibly free of will as they were of limb, neither woman was
permitted to leave yonder temple, save under armed escort; and
guards were on duty each hour of the day and night.
"But we could get to see and speak with them, Ixtli?" asked
Bruno, eager to reach some fair understanding as to the future
course of action.
"Yes, white brother, go with Ixtli," came the hesitating reply;
but then the Aztec caught one of Gillespie's hands, holding it in
close contrast to his own brown paw, shaking his head doubtingly.
"No like. Keen eye, dem people. Watch close. Find 'nother
"You hear that, Bruno?" asked the professor, really relieved at
such positive evidence in conflict with the rash proposition made
by the young man.
"Of course I thought of going under cover of the night, uncle,
and surely it would not be such a difficult matter to darken my
face and hands? With dirt, if nothing better can be found. And
if I wore the clothes you brought from the cavern, uncle
"That's the ticket!" broke in Waldo, eagerly. "Why, in a rig
like that, I could turn the trick my own self!"
The consultation was broken off at this juncture by a faint
summons from Cooper Edgecombe, and Professor Featherwit was only
too glad of the excuse, hurrying over to the flying-machine,
finding to his great joy that the exile was now far more like his
Still, great caution was used in revealing all, and it was not
until considerably later in the day that Mr. Edgecombe felt
capable of taking part in the discussion of ways and means.
He declared that his recognition had been complete, in spite of
the long years which had elapsed since losing sight of his dear
ones; and he earnestly vowed to never give over until their
rescue was effected, or he had lost his life while making the
While the two air-voyagers were thus engaged in talk, Bruno
silently stole away with Ixtli, taking a bundle along, and
leaving Waldo to throw their uncle off the track in case his
suspicions should be prematurely awakened. Then, side by side,
two Indian braves silently approached the aerostat, causing
Professor Featherwit to make a hasty dive for his dynamite gun to
repel a fancied onslaught.
"Sold again, and who comes next?" merrily exploded Waldo, dancing
about in high glee as the supposed redskin slowly turned around
for inspection before speaking, in familiar tones:
"Would there be such an enormous risk of discovery, uncle
Phaeton, provided I put lock and seal upon my lips, save for the
That experiment proved to be a complete success, and after Cooper
Edgecombe added his pathetic pleadings to the young man's own
arguments, Professor Featherwit gradually gave way, though still
"I could never find forgiveness should harm come to your mother's
son, boy," he huskily murmured, his arm stealing about Bruno's
middle. "I'd far rather venture myself, and--why not, pray?" as
Waldo burst into an involuntary laugh.
Then he turned upon Ixtli, a hand resting upon each shoulder
while he gazed keenly into those lustrous dark orbs for a full
minute in perfect silence. Then he spoke, slowly, gravely:
"Can we trust you, friend? Would you sell the boy to whose arm
you owe your own life, unto his enemies? Would you lead him
blindly to his death, Ixtli, son of Aztotl?"
A wondering gaze, then the Indian appeared to flush hotly. He
shook off those far from steady hands, drawing his knife and with
free fingers tearing open his dress above the heart. Thrusting
the weapon into Bruno's hand, he spoke in clear, distinct
"Strike hard, white brother! Open heart; see if all black!"
Eye to eye the two youths stood for a brief space in silence,
then the weapon was let fall, and Bruno gripped the Indian's hand
and shook it most cordially.
"Strike you, Ixtli? I'd just as soon smite my brother by birth!"
"And that's mighty right, too!" cried Waldo, impetuously.
"I really begin to believe that you are all in the right, while I
alone am left in the wrong," frankly admitted the professor.
A DARING UNDERTAKING.
Still, that point was of too vital importance to justify hasty
decision, and the professor did not make his surrender complete
until the shades of another night were beginning to gather over
Meantime, partly for the purpose of keeping the youngsters
employed and thus out of the way of less harmless things, the
professor suggested that the huge grizzly be flayed. If the
proposed scheme should really be undertaken, that mighty pelt, if
uncomfortable to convey, would serve as a fair excuse for the
young brave's as yet unexplained absence from the Lost City.
As a matter of course, Cooper Edgecombe felt intense anxiety
through all, but he contrived to keep fair mastery over his
emotions, readily admitting that he himself could do naught
towards visiting the Lost City.
"I know that my loved ones are yonder. I would joyfully suffer
ten thousand deaths by torture for the chance to speak one word
to--to them. And yet I know any such attempt would prove fatal
to us all. The mere sight of--I would go crazy with joy!"
There is no necessity for repeating the various arguments used,
pro and con, before the final agreement was reached. Enough has
already been put upon record, and the result must suffice:
Professor Featherwit yielded the vital point, and, having once
fairly expressed his fears and doubts, flung his whole heart into
perfecting the disguise which was now counted upon to carry Bruno
safely into and out of yonder city.
He was carefully trigged out in the warlike uniform secured by
Cooper Edgecombe at the cost of a human life, and, with fresh
stain applied to his face and hands, the slight moustache he wore
was not dangerously perceptible.
" 'Twould take a strong light and mighty keen eyes to see it at
all, and even if a body should happen to notice it, he'd reckon
'twas a bit of smut, or the like," generously declared Waldo.
Under less trying circumstances, Bruno might have answered in
kind, but now he merely smiled at the jester, then turned again
to receive the earnest cautions let fall for his benefit by the
Above all else, he was to steer clear of fighting, and, without
he saw a fair chance of winning speech with the white women, he
was to keep in such hiding as Ixtli might furnish, trusting the
young Aztec to post the Children of the Sun as to what was in the
Tremulous, almost incapable of coherent speech, so intense was
his agitation, Cooper Edgecombe sent many messages to his loved
ones, begging for one word in return. And if nothing less would
His voice choked, and only his feverishly burning eyes could say
It was well past sunset ere the youngsters set forth from the
rendezvous, accompanied a short distance by both Waldo and the
professor; but the parting came in good time. It would be worse
than folly to add to the existent perils that of possible
discovery by some prowling Aztec who might work serious injury to
them one and all.
That great bear-hide proved a tax upon their strength, even
though the bullet-riddled head-piece had been carefully cut off
and buried, lest those queer holes tell a risky tale on close
examination; but Ixtli, as well as Bruno, was upborne by an
exaltation such as neither had known before this hour.
There was nothing worse than the natural obstacles in the way to
be overcome, and, knowing every square yard of ground so
thoroughly, Ixtli chose the most practicable route to that
The stony pass was followed to the lower level, and the young
adventurers had drawn fairly near the first buildings ere
encountering a living being; and then ample time was given them
for meeting the danger.
A low-voiced call sounded upon the night air, and Ixtli responded
in much the same tone. Bruno, of course, was utterly in the dark
as to what was being said, but he still held perfect faith in his
copper-hued guide, and left all to the son of Aztotl.
The Aztec brave appeared to be explaining his unusually
protracted absence, for he proudly displayed the great grizzly
pelt, then exhibited the spear-head from which protruded the
Like one who was already familiar with the details, Bruno slowly
lounged forward a pace or two, then in silence awaited the
pleasure of his companion on that night jaunt.
Ixtli was not many minutes in shaking off the Indian, and, almost
staggering beneath his shaggy burden, moved away as though in
haste to rejoin his family circle.
Fortunately for the venture, the Aztecans appeared to believe in
the maxim of going to bed early, for there were very few
individuals astir at that hour, young though the evening still
was. And by the clear moonlight which fell athwart the valley,
it was no difficult task to catch sight before being seen, where
eyes so busy as those of the two young men were concerned.
Only once were they forced to make a brief detour in order to
escape meeting another redskin, and then a guarded whisper from
the lips of the Aztec warned Bruno that they were almost at the
teocalli wherein the Children of the Sun made their home and
Leaving the grizzly pelt at a corner, for the time being, Ixtli
led his white friend up and into the Temple of the Sun, pressing
a hand by way of added caution.
Although he had declared that an armed guard was kept night and
day over the Sun Children, and that he hoped to pass Bruno as
well as himself without any serious difficulty, since he had long
been a favoured visitor, and ever welcomed by Victo and Glady,
the temple was seemingly without such protection upon the present
Ixtli expressed great surprise when this fact became evident, and
he showed uneasiness as to the welfare of his beloved patroness
and kindly teacher.
Surely something evil was impending! His father, Aztotl, was
chieftain of the guards, and wholly devoted to the Sun Children,
ready at all times to risk life in their behalf. Now, if the
usual guards were lacking, surely it portended evil,--treachery,
no doubt, at the bottom of which the paba and the 'Tzin almost
All this Ixtli contrived to convey to Bruno, who fairly well
shared that anxiety, but who was more for going ahead with a bold
rush, to learn the worst as quickly as might be.
Still, unfamiliar with the construction of the temple as he was,
Bruno felt helpless without his guide, and so timed his progress
by that of Ixtli, right hand tightly gripping the handle of his
"hand-wood," or maquahuitl, resolved to give a good account of
either of those rascally varlets in case trouble lay ahead.
The unwonted desolation which appeared to reign on all sides was
plainly troubling the Aztec brave, and he seemed to suspect a
cunning ambuscade, judging from his slow advance, pausing at
nearly every step to bend ear in keen listening.
Still, nothing was actually seen or heard until after the young
men reached the upper elevation, upon a portion of which the Sun
Children had been first sighted by the air-voyagers.
Here the first sound of human voices was heard, and Bruno stopped
short in obedience to the almost fierce grip which Ixtli closed
upon his nearest arm, listening for a brief space, then
"We see, first. Dat good! Him see first, dat bad! Eye, ear,
two both. You know, brother?"
"You mean that we are to listen and play spy, first, Ixtli?"
asked Bruno, scarcely catching the real meaning of those hurried
"Yes. Dat best. Come; step like snow falls, brother."
"Who is it, first?"
"Victo, she one. Odder man, not know sure, but think Huatzin.
He bad; all bad! Kill him, some day. Dat good; plenty good all
This grim vow appeared to do the Aztec good from a mental point
of view, and then he led his white friend silently towards the
covered part of the teocalli, from whence those sounds emanated.
Curtains of thick stuff served to shut in the light and to partly
smother the sound of voices, but Ixtli cautiously formed a couple
of peepholes of which they quickly made good use.
A portion of the sacred fire was burning upon its special altar,
while a large lamp, formed of baked clay, was suspended from the
roof, shedding a fair light around, as well as perfuming the
enclosure quite agreeably.
Almost directly beneath this hanging-lamp stood the two Children
of the Sun, one tall, stately, almost queenly of stature, and now
looking unusually impressive, as she seemed to act as shield for
her daughter, slighter, more yielding, but ah, how lovely of face
and comely of person!
Even then Bruno could not help realising those facts, although
his ears were tingling sharply with the harsh accents falling
from a far different pair of lips, those of a tall, muscular
warrior whose form was gorgeously arrayed in featherwork and
cunning weaving, rich-hued dyes having been called to aid the
other arts as well.
If this was actually the Prince Hua, then he was a most brutal
sample of Aztecan aristocracy, and at first sight Gillespie felt
a fierce hatred for the harsh-toned chieftain.
As a matter of course, Bruno was unable to comprehend just what
was being said, thanks to his complete ignorance of the language
employed; but he felt morally certain that ugly threats were
passing through those thin lips, and even so soon his hands began
to itch and his blood to glow, both urging him to the rescue.
Swiftly fell the reply made by Victo, and her words must have
stung the prince to the quick, since he uttered a savage cry,
drawing back an arm as though to smite that proudly beautiful
face with his hard-clenched fist.
That proved to be the cap-sheaf, for Bruno could stand no more.
He dashed aside the heavy curtain as he leaped forward, giving a
stern cry as he came, swinging the war club over his shoulder to
strike with all vengeance at the startled and recoiling Aztecan.
Only the young man's unfamiliarity with the weapon preserved
Prince Hua from certain death. As it was, he reeled, to fall in
a nerveless heap upon the floor, while, with a startled cry,
another Aztec broke away in flight.
A FLIGHT UNDERGROUND.
That sudden appearance and flight of another man took Ixtli even
more by surprise than it did Bruno, for he never even suspected
such a possibility, knowing Prince Hua so well. Still, the young
brave was swift to rally, swift to pursue, sending a menace of
certain death in case the fleeing cur should not yield himself.
Just then Bruno had eyes and thoughts for the Sun Children alone,
who quite naturally shrunk back in mingled surprise and alarm at
his unceremonious entrance. He forgot his disguise, forgot
everything save that before him stood the fair beings whom he had
vowed to save at all hazards from what appeared to him worse by
far than actual death.
Gillespie never knew just what words crossed his lips during
those first few seconds, but he saw that the women, in place of
eagerly accepting his aid, were visibly shrinking, apparently
more alarmed than delighted with the opportunity thus offered.
Doubtless this was caused mainly by that odd blending of Aztec
and paleface, the colour and garb of the one joined to the tongue
of the other; but the result might have been even worse, had not
Ixtli hastened back to clear up more matters than one.
In spite of his utmost efforts, the second Indian had escaped
with life, although he received a glancing wound from an arrow,
as he plunged down towards the lower level; and nothing seemed
more certain than that an alarm would right speedily spread
throughout the town, if only for the purpose of hurrying succour
to the Lord Hua.
All this rolled in swift words over Ixtli's lips, his warning
finding completion before either of the women could fairly
interrupt the young brave. But then the one whom Ixtli termed
Victo spoke rapidly in his musical tongue, one strong white hand
waving towards the now somewhat embarrassed Gillespie.
"He friend; come save you, like save Ixtli," the Aztec hurriedly
made reply, with generous tact speaking so that Bruno could
comprehend as well as the women. "He good; all good! Paba bad;
'Tzin more bad; be worse bad if stay here, Victo--Glady."
Thus given the proper cue, Bruno took fresh courage and, in as
few words as might be, explained his mission. He spoke the name
of Cooper Edgecombe, and for the first time that queenly woman
showed signs of weakness, staggering back with a faint, choking
gasp, one hand clasped spasmodically above her madly throbbing
heart, the other rising to her temples as though in fear of
"He is well; he is safe and longing for his loved ones," Bruno
swiftly added, producing the brief note which the exiled aeronaut
had pressed into his hand at almost the last moment. "He wrote
you that--here it is, and--"
"Make hurry, quick!" sharply interposed Ixtli, as ominous sounds
began to arise without the Temple of the Sun God. "Dog git 'way,
howl for more. Come here--kill like gods be glad."
With an evident effort Victo rallied, tones far from steady as
she begged both young men to save themselves without thought of
"I thank you; heaven alone knows how overjoyed I am to hear from
my dear husband,--my poor child's own father! And he is near,
to--But go, go! Guide and protect him, Ixtli, for--Go, I implore
"But how--we haven't arranged how you are to be rescued, and I
"Later, then; another time, through Ixtli," interrupted Mrs.
Edgecombe, since there could no longer be a doubt as to her
identity. "If found here 'twill be our ruin as well as your own.
Go, and at once I fear that Lord Hua may--"
"He 'live yet," pronounced Ixtli, rising from a hasty examination
o f the fallen chieftain. "Dat bad; much more worse bad! He
dog; all over dog!"
"And I greatly fear he must have recognised you as one of a
foreign race, in spite of your disguise," added the elder woman,
trouble in her face even as it showed in her voice. "He will be
wild for revenge, and I fear--Go, and directly, Ixtli!"
Bruno Gillespie was only too well assured that this latest fear
had foundation on truth. Swiftly though he had wielded the
awkward (to him) hand-wood, Huatzin had sufficient time to sight
his assailant, and almost certainly had divined at least a
portion of the truth.
Doubtless it would have been the more prudent course to repeat
that blow with greater precision; but Bruno could not bring
himself to do just that, even though the ugly cries were growing
in volume on the ground level; and he felt that capture would be
but the initial step to death, in all likelihood upon the great
stone of sacrifice.
Imminent though their peril surely was, Bruno could not betake
himself to flight without at least partially performing the duty
for which he had volunteered; and so he took time to hurriedly
"Watch from the top of the tower for the air-ship, and be ready
to leave at any moment, I implore you--both!"
For even now his admiring gaze could with difficulty be torn away
from yonder younger, even more lovely, visage; although as yet
the maiden had spoken no word, even shrinking away from this
strangely speaking Aztec as though in affright.
"Come, brother, or too late," urged Ixtli, almost sternly. "Save
you, or Glass-eyes call Ixtli dog-liar. Come; must run, no
fight; too big many for that."
And so it seemed, when the young men rushed away from the lighted
interior and gained the uncovered space beyond. Loud cries came
soaring through the night from different directions, and dim,
phantom-like shapes could be glimpsed in hurrying confusion.
Apparently the majority only knew that trouble of some
description was brewing, and that the centre of interest was
either in or near the Temple of the Sun God; yet that was more
than sufficient to place the white intruder in great peril,
despite the elaborate disguise he wore.
Then with awful abruptness there came a sound which could only be
likened to rolling thunder by one uninitiated, but which caused
Ixtli to shrink and almost cower, ere gasping:
"The great war-drum! Now MUST go! Sacrifice if caught; come,
white brother! See, dat more bad now!"
Those mighty throbs rolled and reverberated from the hills,
filling the night air with waves of thunder, none the less
awe-inspiring now that their true import was realised.
The entire population was aroused, and each building seemed to
cast forth an armed host, while, as through some magic touch, a
circle of fires sprung up on all sides, beginning to illumine
both valley and barrier.
Bruno stood like one appalled, really fascinated by this
transformation scene for which he had been so poorly prepared;
but Ixtli better comprehended their situation, and gripping an
arm he muttered, hastily:
"Come, brother; stop more, make too late. Must hide, now. Dat
stop go back way came. Come!"
Bruno roused himself with an effort, then yielded to the Aztec's
guidance, crouching low as the brief bit of clear moonlight had
to be traversed.
Instead of making for the steps which, as customary, reached from
terrace to terrace at each corner, Ixtli crept to the centre,
where the temple-side was cast into deepest shadow, then lowered
himself by his arms, to drop silently to the broad path below.
A whispered word urged Bruno to imitate this action, and those
friendly hands caught and steadied Gillespie as he took the drop.
And so, one after another, the mighty steps were passed, both
young men reaching the ground at the same instant, having
succeeded in leaving the Temple of the Sun God without being
glimpsed by an Indian of all those whom the sonorous drum-throbs
had brought forth In arms.
"Whither now?" asked Bruno, in guarded tones, as he looked forth
from shadow into moonlight, seeing scores upon scores of armed
shapes flitting to and fro, all looking for the enemy, yet none
able to precisely locate the trouble.
Just then a savage yell broke from the top of the temple,
followed by a few fierce-sounding sentences, which Ixtli declared
came from the Lord Hua, then adding:
"He say kill if catch, but dat--no! Come, white brother. Ixtli
show how play fool dat dog; yes!"
"All right, my hearty. Is it a break for the hills? I reckon I
can break through. If not--well, I'll leave some marks behind
"No, no, dat bad! Can't go to hills; must hide," positively
declared the young Aztec. "Come, now. Me show good place; all
dead but we."
Evidently trusting to pass undetected where so many others were
rushing back and forth in seeming confusion, Ixtli broke away
from the shadow of the temple, closely followed by Gillespie,
heading as directly as might be for the strange refuge which he
now had in mind.
That proved to be a low, unpretending structure which was of no
great extent, so far as Bruno's hasty look could ascertain.
Still, that was not the time for doubting the wisdom of his
guide, nor a moment in which to discuss either methods or means;
and as Ixtli passed through a massive entrance, the paleface
followed, giving a little shiver as the barrier swung to behind
"What sort of a place is it, anyway, Ixtli?" he demanded, but the
Aztec was too hurried for words, just then, save enough to warn
his companion in peril that they must descend deeper into the
It was more of a scramble than a deliberate descent, for the
gloom was complete, and Bruno had no time in which to feel for
steps or stairs. Only for the aiding touch of his guide, he must
have taken more than one awkward tumble ere that lower level was
Then a breathing-spell was granted him, and, while Ixtli bent ear
in listening to discover if pursuit was being made, Bruno drew a
match from the liberal supply he had taken the precaution to
fetch along, and, striking it, held aloft the tiny torch to view
their present surroundings.
Only to give an involuntary start and cry as he caught indistinct
glimpses of fleshless bones and grinning skulls, those grim
relics of mortality showing upon every side as his wild eyes
Then a hand struck down the match, and a swift voice breathed:
"Dey come dis way. See us hide--come hunt, now, to kill!"
THE SUN CHILDREN'S PERIL.
Not until the two young men passed beneath those heavy curtains
did either one of the Sun Children really give thought to their
own possible peril, but stood close together, arm of mother about
daughter as they listened to the ominous sounds without, so
rapidly growing in force and number.
Then, just as the deep tones of the war-drum boomed forth upon
the night air, the fallen Aztec betrayed signs of rallying wits,
giving a low sound which might have been groan of pain or curse
of baffled rage. Be that as it may, the sound served one
purpose: Victoria Edgecombe (to append her correct name for the
first time) drew her child farther away, her right hand reaching
forth to pluck a light yet effective spear from where it lay
against the wall.
"Mother, mother!" faintly panted the maiden, plainly at a loss to
comprehend all that had so recently transpired. "What is it?
What does it all mean? Surely that was Ixtli; and--the other?"
"A messenger from your father, child, and--"
"My father? I thought--he is not--not dead?"
"Thanks be to heaven, not dead!" with hysterical joy in face as
in voice. "Alive, and seeking us, Gladys! Coming to rescue us
from this death in life, and now--to your knees, my daughter; to
thy knees, and lift thanks unto the good Father who has at last
listened to my moans!"
Again the war-drum boomed forth in an awesome roll, but all
unheeding that ominous sound, paying no attention to the stirring
of yonder savage, whose lacerated scalp was painting his face a
deeper red than even nature intended, mother and daughter sank to
their knees, lifting hands and hearts towards the All-Powerful,
even as their gratitude floated towards the Throne of Grace.
Then arose the hoarse tones of Huatzin, bidding his allies find
and slay without mercy; cursing the treacherous Aztec who had
thus guided one of a strange tribe into the very heart of their
With a short, fierce ejaculation, Victo sprang to her feet, right
hand once again grasping shaft of javelin, its copper point
gleaming ruddily in the rays of lamp as though already moistened
by the heart-blood of yonder villain.
Far differently acted the maiden, her figure trembling with fear
and wonder commingled, her lips slightly blanched as she clung
closer to her mother. Yet through all ran a touch of girlish
curiosity which helped shape the words now crossing her lips.
"Who was it, mother? Who could the stranger be? And whither has
"With Ixtli, my child, and may the good God of our own people
grant them both life and liberty! If I thought--your father,
Gladys! Alive and looking for his beloved ones! See! from his
own dear hand, and he says--Hold! who comes there?"
But the alarm appeared to be without actual foundation, for the
sounds came no closer, remaining beyond the drapery past which
Lord Hua had staggered only a few brief seconds before.
Gladys rallied more speedily than one might have expected, and
she spoke with even greater interest than at first.
"My dear father, and alive? Oh, mother, why is he not here
to--why should he send another? And that one--he spoke our dear
language, mother; surely he is not--not as Ixtli?"
"No; he was of our own people, child, and I can hardly conceive
how he came hither, save that Ixtli must have acted as guide."
"And those awful warriors!" shivering as the war-cries followed
the muffled roar of the great drum. "If found, he will be slain!
Do you think there is any hope for him, mother? And he seemed
"He is gone with Ixtli, and Ixtli is true to the very core,"
Victo hastened to give assurance. "I would rather trust him than
many another of thrice his years and warlike experience. Ixtli
is true; ay, as true and tried as his father, Aztotl!"
"Who loves you, mother, and would win--"
"Hush, child!" just a bit sharply interposed the elder woman, yet
at the same time tightening that loving clasp. "Merely as the
daughter of his Sun God, Quetzalcoatl, and--ha!"
Once again there came the echoes of rapid foot-falls beyond the
heavy draperies, and again this Amazonian mother drew her superb
form in front of her shrinking child, poising the javelin in
readiness for stroke or casting, as might serve best.
A strong arm brushed the curtains aside sufficiently to admit its
owner's passage, but the armed warrior stopped short at sighting
the Sun Children, his proud head lowering, hands crossing over
his broad bosom in token of adoration,--for it surely was more
than mere submission to one held his superior.
With a low cry, Victo drew back a bit, weapon lowering as she
recognised friend in place of enemy.
"It is you, Aztotl?" she spoke, in mellow tones. "I thought--did
you remove the usual guards, this evening?"
"The blame falls to my share, Sun Child," the Red Heron made
answer, with a meekness strange in one of his build and general
appearance, that of a king among ordinary warriors.
"Not justly, nor through fault of your own, my good and true
friend," the elder woman made haste to give assurance. "Not even
thy lips shall speak slander of Aztotl the True-heart, my
With a swift advance the Red Heron caught the unarmed hand, to
bend over it until his lips barely brushed the soft, perfumed
skin. Then he sank to one knee, bowing his head until his brow
touched the floor beneath her sandalled feet.
Swiftly, gracefully, these movements were made, and where they
would have appeared fulsome or degraded in some, with this
warrior the effect was far from disagreeable to see or to
Victo flushed warmly and drew back a little farther, for the
memory of those words let fall by Gladys came back with
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