The Second Deluge
Garrett P. Serviss
Part 3 out of 6
side, while the rest of the passengers crowded as near as they could get.
The instant that Cosmo appeared the maniac redoubled his cries.
"Here they are," he yelled, shaking what remained of his papers. "A
billion--all gilt-edged! Let me in. But shut out the others. They're
only little fellows. They've got no means. They can't float an enterprise
like this. Ah, you're a bright one! You and me, Cosmo Versal--we'll
squeeze 'em all out. I'll give you the secrets. We'll own the earth! I'm
Cosmo Versal recognized the man in spite of the dreadful change that had
come over him. His face was white and drawn, his eyes staring, his head
bare, his hair matted with water, his clothing in shreds--but it was
unmistakably Amos Blank, a man whose features the newspapers had rendered
familiar to millions, a man who had for years stood before the public as
the unabashed representative of the system of remorseless repression of
competition, and shameless corruption of justice and legislation. After the
world, for nearly two generations, had enjoyed the blessings of the reforms
in business methods and social ideals that had been inaugurated by the
great uprising of the people in the first quarter of the twentieth
century, Amos Blank, and lesser men of his ilk, had swung back the
pendulum, and re-established more firmly than ever the reign of monopoly
and iniquitous privilege.
The water-logged little craft floated nearer until it almost touched the
side of the Ark directly below the gangway. The madman's eyes glowed with
eagerness, and he reached up his papers, continually yelling his refrain:
"A billion! Gilt-edged! Let me in! Don't give the rabble a show!"
Cosmo made no reply, but gazed down upon the man and his bedraggled
companions with impassive features, but thoughtful eyes. Any one who knew
him intimately, as Joseph Smith alone did, could have read his mind. He was
asking himself what he ought to do. Here was the whole fundamental question
to be gone over again. To what purpose had he taken so great pains to
select the flower of mankind? Here was the head and chief of the offense
that he had striven to eliminate appealing to him to be saved under
circumstances which went straight to the heart and awoke every sentiment of
Presently he said in as low a voice as could be made audible:
"Joseph, advise me. What should I do?"
"You were willing to take Professor Pludder," replied Smith evasively, but
with a plain leaning to the side of mercy.
"You know very well that that was different," Cosmo returned irritably.
"Pludder was not morally rotten. He was only mistaken. He had the
fundamental scientific quality, and I'm sorry he threw himself away in
his obstinacy. But this man--"
"Since he is _alone_," broke in Joseph Smith with a sudden illumination,
"he could do no harm."
Cosmo Versal's expression instantly brightened.
"You are right!" he exclaimed. "By himself he can do nothing. I am sure
there is no one aboard who would sympathize with his ideas. Alone, he is
innocuous. Besides, he's insane, and I can't leave him to drown in that
condition. And I must take the others, too. Let down a landing stage," he
continued in a louder voice, addressing some members of the crew.
In a few minutes all four of the unfortunates, seeming more dead than live,
were helped into the Ark.
Amos Blank immediately precipitated himself upon Cosmo Versal, and, seizing
him by the arm, tried to lead him apart, saying in his ear, as he glared
round upon the faces of the throng which crowded every available space.
"Hist! Overboard with 'em! What's all this trash? Shovel 'em out!
They'll want to get in with us; they'll queer the game!"
Then he turned furiously upon the persons nearest him, and began to push
them toward the open gangway. At a signal from Cosmo Versal, two men
seized him and pinioned his arms. At that his mood changed, and,
wrenching himself loose, he once more ran to Cosmo, waving his bedraggled
bundle, and shouting:
"A billion! Here's the certificates--gilt-edge! But," he continued, with
a cunning leer, and suddenly thrusting the sodden papers into his pocket,
"you'll make out the receipts first. I'll put in _five_ billions to make
it a sure go, if you won't let in another soul."
Cosmo shook off the man's grasp, and again calling the two members of the
crew who had before pinioned his arms, told them to lead him away, at the
same time saying to him:
"You go with these men into my room. I'll see you later."
Blank took it in the best part, and willingly accompanied his conductors,
only stopping a moment to wink over his shoulder at Cosmo, and then he
was led through the crowd, which regarded him with unconcealed
astonishment, and in many cases with no small degree of fear. As soon as
he was beyond earshot, Cosmo directed Joseph Smith to hurry ahead of the
party and conduct them to a particular apartment, which he designated at
the same time, saying to Smith:
"Turn the key on him as soon as he's inside."
Amos Blank, now an insane prisoner in Cosmo Versal's Ark, had been the
greatest financial power in the world's metropolis, a man of iron nerve and
the clearest of brains, who always kept his head and never uttered a
foolish word. It was he who had stood over the flight of steps in the
Municipal Building, coolly measuring with his eye the rise of the water,
exposing the terrible error that sent such a wave of unreasoning joy
through the hearts of the thousands of refugees crowded into the doomed
edifice, and receiving blows and curses for making the truth known.
He had himself taken refuge there, after visiting his office and filling
his pockets with his most precious papers. How, by a marvelous stroke of
fate, he became one of the four persons who alone escaped from New York
after the downpour began is already known.
The other men taken from the boat were treated like rescued mariners
snatched from a wreck at sea. Every attention was lavished upon them, and
Cosmo Versal did not appear to regret, as far as they were concerned, that
his ship's company had been so unexpectedly recruited.
THE SUBMERGENCE OF THE OLD WORLD
We now turn our attention for a time from the New World to the Old. What
did the thronging populations of Europe, Africa, and Asia do when the signs
of coming disaster chased one on another's heels, when the oceans began to
burst their bonds, and when the windows of the firmament were opened?
The picture that can be drawn must necessarily be very fragmentary,
because the number who escaped was small and the records that they left
The savants of the older nations were, in general, quite as incredulous
and as set in their opposition to Cosmo Versal's extraordinary out-
givings as those of America. They decried his science and denounced his
predictions as the work of a fool or a madman. The president of the Royal
Astronomical Society of Great Britain proved to the satisfaction of most
of his colleagues that a nebula could not possibly contain enough water
to drown an asteroid, let alone the earth.
"The nebulae," said this learned astronomer, amid the plaudits of his
hearers, "are infinitely rarer in composition than the rarest gas left
in the receiver of an exhausted air-pump. I would undertake to swallow
from a wineglass the entire substance of any nebula that could enter the
space between the earth and the sun, if it were condensed into the liquid
"It might be intoxicating," called out a facetious member.
"Will the chair permit me to point out," said another with great gravity,
"that such a proceeding would be eminently rash, for the nebulous fluid
might be highly poisonous." ["Hear! Hear!" and laughter.]
"What do you say of this strange darkness and these storms?" asked an
earnest-looking man. (This meeting was held after the terrors of the
_third sign_ had occurred.)
"I say," replied the president, "that that is the affair of the
Meteorological Society, and has nothing to do with astronomy. I dare say
that they can account for it."
"And I dare say they can't," cried a voice.
"Hear! Hear!" "Who are you?" "Put him out!" "I dare say he's right!" "Cosmo
Versal!" Everybody was talking at once.
"Will this gentleman identify himself?" asked the president. "Will he
please explain his words?"
"That I will," said a tall man with long whiskers, rising at the rear end
of the room. "I am pretty well known. I----"
"It's Jameson, the astrologer," cried a voice. "What's _he_ doing here?"
"Yes," said the whiskered man, "it's Jameson, the astrologer, and he has
come here to let you know that Cosmo Versal was born under the sign Cancer,
the first of the watery triplicity, and that Berosus, the Chaldean,
An uproar immediately ensued; half the members were on their feet at once;
there was a scuffle in the back part of the room, and Jameson, the
astrologer, was hustled out, shouting at the top of his voice:
"Berosus, the Chaldean, predicted that the world would be drowned when
all the planets should assemble in the sign Cancer--_and where are they
now?_ Blind and stupid dolts that you are--_where are they now?"_
It was some time before order could be restored, and a number of members
disappeared, having followed Jameson, the astrologer, possibly through
sympathy, or possibly with a desire to learn more about the prediction of
Berosus, the father of astrology.
When those who remained, and who constituted the great majority of the
membership, had quieted down, the president remarked that the interruption
which they had just experienced was quite in line with all the other
proceedings of the disturbers of public tranquillity who, under the lead
of a crazy American charlatan, were trying to deceive the ignorant
multitude. But they would find themselves seriously in error if they
imagined that their absurd ideas were going to be "taken over" in England.
"I dare say," he concluded, "that there is some _scheme_ behind it all."
"Another American 'trust'!" cried a voice.
The proceedings were finally brought to an end, but not before a modest
member had risen in his place and timidly remarked that there was one
question that he would like to put to the chair--one thing that did not
seem to have been made quite clear--"Where _were_ the planets now?"
A volley of hoots, mingled with a few "hears!" constituted the only
Scenes not altogether unlike this occurred in the other great learned
societies--astronomical, meteorological, and geological. The official
representatives of science were virtually unanimous in condemnation of
Cosmo Versal, and in persistent assertion that nothing that had occurred
was inexplicable by known laws. But in no instance did they make it clear
to anybody precisely what were the laws that they invoked, or how it
happened that Cosmo Versal had been able to predict so many strange things
which everybody knew really had come to pass, such as the sudden storms and
the great darkness.
We are still, it must not be forgotten, dealing with a time anterior to the
rising of the sea.
The Paris Academy of Sciences voted that the subject was unworthy of
serious investigation, and similar action was taken at Berlin, St.
Petersburg, Vienna, and elsewhere.
But among the people at large universal alarm prevailed, and nothing was
so eagerly read as the dispatches from New York, detailing the proceedings
of Cosmo Versal, and describing the progress of his great levium ark. In
England many procured copies of Cosmo's circulars, in which the proper
methods to be pursued in the construction of arks were carefully set forth.
Some set to work to build such vessels; but, following British methods of
construction, they doubled the weight of everything, with the result that,
if Cosmo had seen what they were about he would have told them that such
arks would go to the bottom faster than to the top.
In Germany the balloon idea took full possession of the public mind.
Germany had long before developed the greatest fleet of dirigible balloons
in existence, preferring them to every other type of flying apparatus. It
was reported that the Kaiser was of the opinion that if worst came to worst
the best manner of meeting the emergency would be by the multiplication of
dirigibles and the increase of their capacity.
The result was that a considerable number of wealthy Germans began the
construction of such vessels. But when interviewed they denied that they
were preparing for a flood. They said that they simply wished to enlarge
and increase the number of their pleasure craft, after the example of the
Kaiser. All this was in contemptuous defiance of the warning which Cosmo
Versal had been careful to insert in his circulars, that "balloons and
aeros of all kinds will be of no use whatever; the only safety will be
found in arks, and they must be provisioned for at least five years."
The most remarkable thing of all happened in France. It might naturally
have been expected that a Frenchman who thought it worth his while to take
any precautions against the extinction of the human race would, when it
became a question of a flood, have turned to the aero, for from the
commencement of aerial navigation French engineers had maintained an
unquestionable superiority in the construction and perfection of that kind
Their aeros could usually fly longer and carry more dead weight than those
of any other nation. In the transoceanic aero races which occasionally took
place the French furnished the most daring and the most frequently
But the French mind is masterly in appreciation of details, and Cosmo
Versal's reasons for condemning the aero and the balloon as means of
escaping the flood were promptly divined. In the first place it was seen
that no kind of airship could be successfully provisioned for a flight of
indefinite length, and in the second place the probable strength of the
winds, or the crushing weight of the descending water, in case, as Cosmo
predicted, a nebula should condense upon the earth, would either sweep an
aero or a balloon to swift destruction, or carry it down into the waves
like a water-soaked butterfly.
Accordingly, when a few Frenchmen began seriously to consider the
question of providing a way of escape from the flood--always supposing, for
the sake of argument, that there would be a flood--they got together, under
the leadership of an engineer officer named Yves de Beauxchamps, and
discussed the matter in all its aspects. They were not long in arriving at
the conclusion that the best and most logical thing that could possibly be
done would be to construct a _submarine_.
In fact, this was almost an inevitable conclusion for them, because before
the abandonment of submarines in war on account of their _too_ great
powers of destruction--a circumstance which had also led to the prohibition
of the use of explosive bombs in the aerial navies--the French had held
the lead in the construction and management of submersible vessels, even
more decisively than in the case of aeros.
"A large submarine," said De Beauxchamps, "into whose construction a
certain amount of levium entered, would possess manifest advantages over
Versal's Ark. It could be provisioned to any extent desired, it would
escape the discomforts of the waves, winds, and flooding rain, and it
could easily rise to the surface whenever that might be desirable for
change of air. It would have all the amphibious advantages of a whale."
The others were decidedly of De Beauxchamps's opinion, and it was
enthusiastically resolved that a vessel of this kind should be begun at
"If we don't need it for a flood," said De Beauxchamps, "we can employ it
for a pleasure vessel to visit the wonders of the deep. We will then make
a reality of that marvelous dream of our countryman of old, that prince of
dreamers, Jules Verne."
"Let's name it for him!" cried one.
"Admirable! Charming!" they all exclaimed. "_Vive le 'Jules Verne'!_"
Within two days, but without the knowledge of the public, the keel of the
submersible _Jules Verne_ was laid. But we shall hear of that remarkable
While animated, and in some cases violent, discussions were taking place
in the learned circles of Europe, and a few were making ready in such
manner as they deemed most effective for possible contingencies, waves of
panic swept over the remainder of the Old World. There were yet hundreds
of millions in Africa and Asia to whom the advantages of scientific
instruction had not extended, but who, while still more or less under the
dominion of ignorance and superstition, were in touch with the _news_ of
the whole planet.
The rumor that a wise man in America had discovered that the world was
to be drowned was not long in reaching the most remote recesses of the
African forests and of the boundless steppes of the greater continent,
and, however it might be ridiculed or received with skeptical smiles in
the strongholds of civilization, it met with ready belief in less
Then, the three "signs"--the first great heat, the onslaught of storm and
lightning, and the _Noche Triste_, the great darkness--had been world-wide
in their effects, and each had heightened the terror caused by its
predecessor. Moreover, in the less enlightened parts of the world the
reassurances of the astronomers and others did not penetrate at all, or,
if they did, had no effect, for not only does bad news run while good news
walks, but it talks faster.
It will be recalled that one of the most disquieting incidents in America,
immediately preceding the catastrophal rising of the oceans, was the
melting of the Arctic snows and ice-fields, with consequent inundations
in the north. This stage in the progress of the coming disaster was
accentuated in Europe by the existence of the vast glaciers of the Alps.
The Rocky Mountains, in their middle course, had relatively little snow and
almost no true glaciers, and consequently there were no scenes of this kind
in the United States comparable with those that occurred in the heart of
After the alarm caused by the great darkness in September had died out, and
the long spell of continuous clear skies began, the summer resorts of
Switzerland were crowded as they had seldom been. People were driven there
by the heat, for one thing; and then, owing to the early melting of the
winter's deposit of snow, the Alps presented themselves in a new aspect.
Mountain-climbers found it easy to make ascents upon peaks which had always
hitherto presented great difficulties on account of the vast snow-fields,
seamed with dangerous crevasses, which hung upon their flanks. These were
now so far removed that it was practicable for amateur climbers to go where
always before only trained Alpinists, accompanied by the most experienced
guides, dared to venture.
But as the autumn days ran on and new snows fell, the deep-seated glaciers
began to dissolve, and masses of ice that had lain for untold centuries in
the mighty laps of the mountains, projecting frozen noses into the valleys,
came tumbling down, partly in the form of torrents of water and partly in
The great Aletsch glacier was turned into a river that swept down into the
valley of the Rhone, carrying everything before it. The glaciers at the
head of the Rhone added their contribution. The whole of the Bernese
Oberland seemed to have suddenly been dissolved like a huge mass of sugar
candy, and on the north the valley of Interlaken was inundated, while the
lakes of Thun and Brientz were lost in an inland sea which rapidly spread
over all the lower lands between the Alps and the Swiss Jura.
Farther east the Rhine, swollen by the continual descent of the glacier
water, burst its banks, and broadened out until Strasburg lay under water
with the finger of its ancient cathedral helplessly pointing skyward out
of the midst of the flood. All the ancient cities of the great valley from
Basle to Mayence saw their streets inundated and the foundations of their
most precious architectural monuments undermined by the searching water.
The swollen river reared back at the narrow pass through the Taunus range,
and formed a huge eddy that swirled over the old city of Bingen. Then it
tore down between the castle-crowned heights, sweeping away the villages
on the river banks from Bingen to Coblentz, lashing the projecting rocks
of the Lorelei, and carrying off houses, churches, and old abbeys in a
rush of ruin.
It widened out as it approached Bonn and Cologne, but the water was still
deep enough to inundate those cities, and finally it spread over the plain
of Holland, finding a score of new mouths through which to pour into the
German Ocean, while the reclaimed area of the Zuyder Zee once more joined
the ocean, and Amsterdam and the other cities of the Netherlands were
buried, in many cases to the tops of the house doors.
West and south the situation was the same. The Mer de Glace at Chamonix,
and all the other glaciers of the Mont Blanc range, disappeared, sending
floods down to Geneva and over the Dauphiny and down into the plains of
Piedmont and Lombardy. The ruin was tremendous and the loss of life
incalculable. Geneva, Turin, Milan, and a hundred other cities, were
swept by torrents.
The rapidity of this melting of the vast snow-beds and glaciers of the
Alps was inconceivable, and the effect of the sudden denudation upon the
mountains themselves was ghastly. Their seamed and cavernous sides stood
forth, gaunt and naked, a revelation of Nature in her most fearful aspects
such as men had never looked upon. Mont Blanc, without its blanket of snow
and ice, towered like the blackened ruin of a fallen world, a sight that
made the beholders shudder.
But this flood ended as suddenly as it had begun. When the age-long
accumulations of snow had all melted the torrents ceased to pour down from
the mountains, and immediately the courageous and industrious inhabitants
of the Netherlands began to repair their broken dikes, while in Northern
Italy and the plains of Southeastern France every effort was made to
repair the terrible losses.
Of course similar scenes had been enacted, and on even a more fearful
scale, in the plains of India, flooded by the melting of the enormous icy
burden that covered the Himalayas, the "Abode of Snow." And all over the
world, wherever icy mountains reared themselves above inhabited lands,
the same story of destruction and death was told.
Then, after an interval, came the yet more awful invasion of the sea.
But few details can be given from lack of records. The Thames roared
backward on its course, and London and all central England were inundated.
A great bore of sea-water swept along the shores of the English Channel,
and bursting through the Skager Rack, covered the lower end of Sweden, and
rushed up the Gulf of Finland, burying St. Petersburg, and turning all
Western Russia, and the plains of Pomerania into a sea. The Netherlands
disappeared. The Atlantic poured through the narrow pass of the Strait of
Gibraltar, leaving only the Lion Rock visible above the waves.
At length the ocean found its way into the Desert of Sahara, large
areas of which had been reclaimed, and were inhabited by a considerable
population of prosperous farmers. Nowhere did the sudden coming of the
flood cause greater consternation than here--strange as that statement
may seem. The people had an undefined idea that they were protected by a
sort of barrier from any possible inundation.
It had taken so many years and such endless labor to introduce into the
Sahara sufficient water to transform its potentially rich soil into arable
land that the thought of any sudden superabundance of that element was far
from the minds of the industrious agriculturalists. They had heard of the
inundations caused by the melting of the mountain snows elsewhere, but
there were no snow-clad mountains near them to be feared.
Accordingly, when a great wave of water came rushing upon them, surmounted,
where it swept over yet unredeemed areas of the desert, by immense clouds
of whirling dust, that darkened the air and recalled the old days of the
simoom, they were taken completely by surprise. But as the water rose
higher they tried valiantly to escape. They were progressive people, and
many of them had aeros. Besides, two or three lines of aero expresses
crossed their country. All who could do so immediately embarked in
airships, some fleeing toward Europe, and others hovering about, gazing
in despair at the spreading waters beneath them.
As the invasion of the sea grew more and more serious, this flight by
airship became a common spectacle over all the lower-lying parts of Europe,
and in the British Isles. But, in the midst of it, the heavens opened their
flood-gates, as they had done in the New World, and then the aeros, flooded
with rain, and hurled about by contending blasts of wind, drooped,
fluttered, and fell by hundreds into the fast mounting waves. The nebula
was upon them!
In the meantime those who had provided arks of one kind or another, tried
desperately to get them safely afloat. All the vessels that succeeded in
leaving their wharves were packed with fugitives. Boats of every sort were
pressed into use, and the few that survived were soon floating over the
sites of the drowned homes of their occupants.
Before it was too late Yves de Beauxchamps and his friends launched their
submarine, and plunged into the bosom of the flood.
STRANGE FREAKS OF THE NEBULA
We return to follow the fortunes of Cosmo Versal's Ark.
After he had so providentially picked up the crazed billionaire, Amos
Blank, and his three companions, Cosmo ordered Captain Arms to bear away
southeastward, bidding farewell to the drowned shores of America, and
sailing directly over the lower part of Manhattan, and western Long
Island. The navigation was not easy, and if the Ark had not been a
marvelously buoyant vessel it would not long have survived. At the
beginning the heavy and continuous rain kept down the waves, and the
surface of the sea was comparatively smooth, but after a while a curious
phenomenon began to be noticed; immense billows would suddenly appear,
rushing upon the Ark now from one direction and now from another, canting
it over at a dangerous angle, and washing almost to the top of the huge
ellipsoid of the dome. At such times it was difficult for anybody to
maintain a footing, and there was great terror among the passengers. But
Cosmo, and stout Captain Arms, remained at their post, relieving one
another at frequent intervals, and never entrusting the sole charge of
the vessel to any of their lieutenants.
Cosmo Versal himself was puzzled to account for the origin of the mighty
billows, for it seemed impossible that they could be raised by the wind
notwithstanding the fact that it blew at times with hurricane force. But
at last the explanation came of itself.
Both Cosmo and the captain happened to be on the bridge together when they
saw ahead something that looked like an enormous column as black as ink,
standing upright on the surface of the water. A glance showed that it was
in swift motion, and, more than that, was approaching in a direct line
toward the Ark. In less than two minutes it was upon them.
The instant that it met the Ark a terrific roaring deafened them, and the
rounded front of the dome beneath their eyes disappeared under a deluge of
descending water so dense that the vision could not penetrate it. In
another half minute the great vessel seemed to have been driven to the
bottom of the sea. But for the peculiar construction of the shelter of the
bridge its occupants would have been drowned at their posts. As it was they
were soaked as if they had been plunged overboard. Impenetrable darkness
But the buoyant vessel shook itself, rolled from side to side, and rose
with a staggering motion until it seemed to be poised on the summit of a
watery mountain. Immediately the complete darkness passed, the awful
downpour ceased, although the rain still fell in torrents, and the Ark
began to glide downward with sickening velocity, as if it were sliding
down a liquid slope.
It was a considerable time before the two men, clinging to the supports of
the bridge, were able to maintain their equilibrium sufficiently to render
it possible to utter a few connected words. As soon as he could speak with
reasonable comfort Cosmo exclaimed:
"Now I see what it is that causes the billows, but it is a phenomenon that
I should never have anticipated. It is all due to the nebula. Evidently
there are irregularities of some kind in its constitution which cause the
formation of almost solid masses of water in the atmosphere--suspended
lakes, as it were--which then plunge down in a body as if a hundred
thousand Niagaras were pouring together from the sky.
"These sudden accessions of water raise stupendous waves which sweep off
in every direction, and that explains the billows that we have
"Well, this nebular navigation beats all my experience," said Captain Arms,
wiping the water out of his eyes. "I was struck by a waterspout once in
the Indian Ocean, and I thought that that capped the climax, but it was
only a catspaw to this. Give me a clear offing and I don't care how much
wind blows, but blow me if I want to get under any more lakes in the sky."
"We'll have to take whatever comes," returned Cosmo, "but I don't think
there is much danger of running directly into many of these downpours as
we did into this one. Now that we know what they are, we can, perhaps,
detect them long enough in advance to steer out of their way. Anyhow,
we've got a good vessel under our feet. Anything but an ark of levium
would have gone under for good, and if I had not covered the vessel with
the dome there would have been no chance for a soul in her."
As a matter of fact, the Ark did not encounter any more of the columns of
descending water, but the frequent billows that were met showed that they
were careering over the face of the swollen sea in every direction.
But there was another trouble of a different nature. The absence of sun
and stars deprived them of the ordinary means of discovering their place.
They could only make a rough guess as to the direction in which they were
going. The gyrostatic compasses gave them considerable assistance, and
they had perfect chronometers, but these latter could be of no use without
celestial observations of some kind.
At length Cosmo devised a means of obtaining observations that were of
sufficient value to partially serve their purpose. He found that while
the disk of the sun was completely hidden in the watery sky, yet it was
possible to determine its location by means of the varying intensity of
Where the sun was a concentrated glow appeared, shading gradually off on
all sides. With infinite pains Cosmo, assisted by the experience of the
captain, succeeded in determining the center of the maximum illumination,
and, assuming that to represent the true place of the sun, they got
something in the nature of observations for altitude and azimuth, and
Captain Arms even drew on his chart "Sumner lines" to determine the
position of the Ark, although he smiled at the thought of their absurd
inaccuracy. Still, it was the best they could do, and was better than
nothing at all.
They kept a log going also, although, as the captain pointed out, it was
not of much use to know how fast they were traveling, since they could not
know the precise direction, within a whole point of the compass, or perhaps
"Besides," he remarked, "what do we know of the currents? This is not the
old Atlantic. If I could feel the Gulf Stream I'd know whereabouts I was,
but these currents come from all directions, and a man might as well try
to navigate in a tub of boiling water."
"But we can, at least, keep working eastward," said Cosmo. "My idea is
first to make enough southing to get into the latitude of the Sahara
Desert, and then run directly east, so as to cross Africa where there are
no mountains, and where we shall be certain of having plenty of water under
"Then, having got somewhere in the neighborhood of Suez, we can steer
down into the region of the Indian Ocean, and circle round south of the
Himalayas. I want to keep an eye on those mountains, and stay around the
place where they disappear, because that will be the first part of the
earth to emerge from the flood and it is there that we shall ultimately
"Well, we're averaging eight knots," said the captain, "and at that rate
we ought to be in the longitude of the African coast in about twenty days.
How high will the water stand then?"
"My gages show," replied Cosmo, "that the regular fall amounts to exactly
the same thing as at the beginning--two inches a minute. Of course the
spouts increase the amount locally, but I don't think that they add
materially to the general rise of the flood. Two inches per minute means
4,800 feet in twenty days. That'll be sufficient to make safe navigation
for us all the way across northern Africa. We'll have to be careful in
getting out into the Indian Ocean area, for there are mountains on both
sides that might give us trouble, but the higher ones will still be in
sight, and they will serve to indicate the location of the lower ranges
already submerged, but not covered deeply enough to afford safe going over
"All right," said Captain Arms, "you're the commodore, but if we don't
hang our timbers on the Mountains of the Moon, or the Alps, or old Ararat,
I'm a porpoise. Why can't you keep circling round at a safe distance, in
the middle of the Atlantic, until all these reefs get a good depth of
water on 'em?"
"Because," Cosmo replied, "even if we keep right on now it will probably
take two months, allowing for delays in getting round dangerous places,
to come within sight of the Himalayas, and in two months the flood will
have risen nearly 15,000 feet, thus hiding many of the landmarks. If we
should hold off here a couple of months before starting eastward nothing
but the one highest peak on the globe would be left in sight by the time
we arrived there, and that wouldn't be anything more than a rock, so that
with the uncertainty of our navigation we might not be able to find it at
all. I must know the spot where Tibet sinks, and then manage to keep in
That ended the argument.
"Give me a safe port, with lights and bearings, and I'll undertake to hit
it anywhere in the two hemispheres, but blow me if I fancy steering for
the top of the world by dead reckoning, or no reckoning at all," grumbled
At night, of course, they had not even the slight advantage that their
observations of the probable place of the sun gave them when it was above
the horizon. Then they had to go solely by the indications of the compass.
Still, they forged steadily ahead, and when they got into what they deemed
the proper latitude, they ran for the site of the drowned Sahara.
After about a week the billowing motion caused by the descent of the "lakes
in the sky" ceased entirely, to their great delight, but the lawless nebula
was now preparing another surprise for them.
On the ninth night after their departure from their lodgment on the
Palisades Cosmo Versal was sleeping in his bunk close by the bridge, where
he could be called in an instant, dreaming perhaps of the glories of the
new world that was to emerge out of the deluge, when he was abruptly
awakened by the voice of Captain Arms, who appeared to be laboring under
"Tumble up quicker'n you ever did in your life!" he exclaimed, his big
brown beard wagging almost in Cosmo's face. "The flood's over!"
Cosmo sprang out of bed and pulled on his coat in a second.
"What do you mean?" he demanded.
"Look for yourself," said the captain, pointing overhead.
Cosmo Versal glanced up and saw the sky ablaze with stars! The rain had
entirely ceased. The surface of the sea was almost as smooth as glass,
though rising and falling slowly, with a long, rolling motion. The Ark
rode steadily, shivering, like an ocean liner, under the impulse of its
engines, and the sudden silence, succeeding the ceaseless roar of the
downpour, which had never been out of their ears from the start of the
voyage, seemed supernatural.
"When did this happen?" he demanded.
"It began not more than five minutes ago. I was just saying to myself that
we ought to be somewhere near the center of the old Atlantic as it used to
be, and wondering whether we had got our course laid right to go fairly
between the Canaries and the Cape de Verdes, for I didn't want to be
harpooned by Gogo or the Peak of Teneriffe, when all of a sudden there
came a lightening in the nor'east and the stars broke out there.
"I was so set aback that I didn't do anything for two or three minutes but
stare at the stars. Then the rain stopped and a curtain seemed to roll off
the sky, and in a minute more it was clear down to the horizon all around.
Then I got my wits together and ran to call you."
Cosmo glanced around and above, seeming to be as much astonished as the
captain had been. He rubbed his huge bald dome and looked all round again
before speaking. At last he said:
"It's the nebula again. There must be a hole in it."
"Its whole bottom's knocked out, I reckon," said the captain. "Maybe it's
run out of water--sort o' squeezed itself dry."
Cosmo shook his head.
"We are not yet in the heart of it," he said. "It is evident to me now that
what I took for the nucleus was only a close-coiled spiral, and we're run
out of that, but the worst is yet to come. When we strike the center, then
we'll catch it, and there'll be no more intermissions."
"How long will that be?" inquired Captain Arms.
"It may be a week, and it may be a month, though I hardly think it will be
so long as that. The earth is going about twelve miles a second--that's
more than a million miles a day--directly toward the center of the nebula.
It has taken ten days to go through the spiral that we have encountered,
making that about ten million miles thick. It's not likely that the gap
between this spiral and the nucleus of the nebula is more than thirty
million miles across, at the most; so you see we'll probably be in the
nucleus within a month, and possibly much less than a month."
Captain Arms took a chew of tobacco.
"We can get our bearings now," he remarked. "Look, there's the moon just
rising, and on my word, she is going to occult Aldebaran within an hour.
I'll get an observation for longitude, and another on Polaris for latitude.
No running on submerged mountains for us now."
The captain was as good as his word, and when his observations had been
made and the calculations completed he announced that the position of the
Ark was: Latitude, 16 degrees 10 minutes north; longitude, 42 degrees 28
"Lucky for us," he exclaimed, "that the sky cleared. If we'd kept on as
we were going we'd have struck the Cape de Verdes, and if that had
happened at night we'd probably have left our bones on a drowning volcano.
We ought to have been ten or twelve degrees farther north to make a safe
passage over the Sahara. What's the course now? Are you still for running
down the Himalaya mountains?"
"I'll decide later what to do," said Cosmo Versal. "Make your northing,
and then we'll cruise around a little and see what's best to be done."
When day came on, brilliant with sunshine, and the astonished passengers,
hurrying out of their bunks, crowded about the now opened gangways and the
portholes, which Cosmo had also ordered to be opened, and gazed with
delight upon the smooth blue sea, the utmost enthusiasm took possession of
The flood was over!
They were sure of it, and they shook hands with one another and
congratulated themselves and hurrahed, and gave cheers for the Ark and
cheers for Cosmo Versal. Then they began to think of their drowned homes
and of their lost friends, and sadness followed joy. Cosmo was mobbed by
eager inquiries wherever he made his appearance.
Was it all over for good? Would the flood dry up in a few days? How long
would it be before New York would be free of water? Were they going right
back there? Did he think there was a chance that many had escaped in boats
and ships? Couldn't they pick up the survivors if they hurried back?
Cosmo tried to check the enthusiasm.
"It's too early for rejoicing," he assured them. "It's only a break in
the nebula. We've got a respite for a short time, but there's worse
coming. The drowning of the world will proceed. We are the only
survivors, except perhaps some of those who inhabited the highlands.
Everything less than 2,400 feet above the former level of the sea is now
under water. When the flood begins again it will keep on until it is
six miles deep over the old sea margins."
"Why not go back and try to rescue those who you say may have found
safety on the highlands?" asked one.
"I have chosen my company," he said, "and I had good reasons for the
choice I made. I have already added to the number, because simple humanity
compelled me, but I can take no more. The quantity of provisions aboard
the Ark is not greater than will be needed by ourselves. If the rest of
the world is drowned it is not my fault. I did my best to warn them.
Besides, we could do nothing in the way of rescue even if we should go
back for that purpose. We could not approach the submerged plateaus. We
would be aground before we got within sight of them."
These words went far to change the current of feeling among the
passengers. When they learned that there would be danger for themselves
in the course that had been proposed their humanity proved to be less
strong than their desire for self-preservation. Nevertheless, as we shall
see, the Ark ultimately went back to America, though not for any reason
that had yet been suggested.
Meanwhile the unexpected respite furnished by the sudden cessation of the
downpour from the sky had other important results, to which we now turn.
THE ESCAPE OF THE PRESIDENT
When Professor Abiel Pludder indited his savage response to Cosmo
Versal's invitation to become one of the regenerators of mankind by
embarking in the Ark, he was expressing his professional prejudice rather
than his intellectual conviction. As Cosmo had remarked, Pludder had a
good brain and great scientific acuteness, and, although he did not
believe in the nebular theory of a flood, and was obstinately opposed to
everything that was not altogether regular and according to recognized
authority in science, yet he could not shut his eyes to the fact that
something was going wrong in the machinery of the heavens. But it annoyed
him to find that his own explanations were always falsified by the event,
while Cosmo Versal seemed to have a superhuman foreglimpse of whatever
His pride would not allow him to recede from the position that he had
taken, but he could not free himself from a certain anxiety about the
future. After he had refused Cosmo Versal's invitation, the course of
events strengthened this anxiety. He found that the official
meteorologists were totally unable to account for the marvelous vagaries
of the weather.
Finally, when the news came of tremendous floods in the north, and of the
overflowing of Hudson Bay, he secretly determined to make some
preparations of his own. He still rejected the idea of a watery nebula,
but he began to think it possible that all the lowlands of the earth might
be overflowed by the sea, and by the melting of mountain snows and
glaciers, together with deluging rainfall. After what had passed, he could
not think of making any public confession of his change of heart, but his
sense of humanity compelled him to give confidential warning to his friends
that it would be well to be prepared to get on high ground at a moment's
He was on the point of issuing, but without his signature, an official
statement cautioning the public against unprecedented inundations, when the
first tidal wave arrived on the Atlantic coast and rendered any utterance
of that kind unnecessary. People's eyes were opened, and now they would
look out for themselves.
Pludder's private preparations amounted to no more than the securing of a
large express aero, in which, if the necessity for suddenly leaving
Washington should arise, he intended to take flight, together with
President Samson, who was his personal friend, and a number of other close
friends, with their families. He did not think that it would be necessary,
in any event, to go farther than the mountains of Virginia.
The rising of the sea, mounting higher at each return, at length convinced
him that the time had come to get away. Hundreds of air craft had already
departed westward, not only from Washington, but from New York,
Philadelphia, Baltimore, Boston, and other seaboard cities, before
Professor Pludder assembled his friends by telephone on the Capitol
grounds, where his aero was waiting.
The lower streets of the city were under water from the overflow of the
Potomac, which was backed up by the influx of the Atlantic into Chesapeake
Bay, and the most distressing scenes were enacted there, people fleeing in
the utmost disorder toward higher ground, carrying their children and some
of their household goods, and uttering doleful cries. Many, thinking that
the best way to escape, embarked in frail boats on the river, which was
running up-stream with frightful velocity, and rising perceptibly higher
every second. Most of these boats were immediately overturned or swamped.
If the start had been delayed but a little longer, the aero would have been
mobbed by the excited people, who uttered yells of disappointment and rage
when they saw it rise from its tower and sail over the city. It was the
last airship that left Washington, and it carried the last persons who
escaped from the national capital before the downpour from the atmosphere
began which put an end to all possibility of getting away.
There were on board, in addition to a crew of three, twenty-two persons.
These included President Samson, with his wife and three children, seven
other men with their families, making, together, sixteen persons, and
Professor Pludder, who had no family.
More because they wished to escape from the painful scenes beneath them
than because they deemed that there was any occasion for particular haste,
they started off at high speed, and it was probably lucky for them that
this speed was maintained after they had left Washington out of sight.
They rapidly approached the Blue Ridge in the neighborhood of Luray, and
Pludder was about to order a landing there as night was approaching, when
with great suddenness the sky filled with dense clouds and a tremendous
downpour began. This was the same phenomenon which has already been
described as following closely the attack at New York on Cosmo Versal's
The aero, luckily, was one of the best type, and well covered, so that they
were protected from the terrible force of the rain, but in the tumult there
could be no more thought of descending. It would have been impossible to
make a landing in the midst of the storm and the pouring water, which
rushed in torrents down the mountainside. Professor Pludder was a brave man
and full of resources when driven into a corner. Being familiar with the
construction and management of aeros, for he had been educated as an
engineer, he now took charge of the airship.
Within twenty minutes after the sky had opened its batteries--for the rain
had almost the force of plunging shot--a mighty wind arose, and the aero,
pitching, tossing, and dipping like a mad thing, was driven with frightful
speed eastward. This wild rush continued for more than an hour. By this
time it was full night, and the pouring rain around them was as
impenetrable to the sight as a black wall.
They had their electric lamps inside, and their searchlights, but it was
impossible to tell where they were. Pludder turned the searchlight
downward, but he could not make out the features of the ground beneath
them. It is likely that they were driven at least as far as Chesapeake Bay,
and they may have passed directly over Washington.
At last, however, the wind slewed round, and began to blow with
undiminished violence from the northeast. Plunging and swerving, and
sometimes threatened with a complete somersault, the aero hurried away in
its crazy flight, while its unfortunate inmates clung to one another, and
held on by any object within reach, in the endeavor to keep from being
dashed against the metallic walls.
The crew of the aero were picked men, but no experience could have
prepared them for the work which they now had to do. Without the ready
brain of Professor Pludder to direct their efforts, and without his
personal exertions, their aerial ship would have been wrecked within a
quarter of an hour after the storm struck it. He seemed transformed into
another person. Hatless and coatless, and streaming with water, he worked
like a demon. He was ready at each emergency with some device which, under
his direction, had the effect of magic.
A hundred times the aero plunged for the ground, but was saved and turned
upward again just as it seemed on the point of striking. Up and down,
right and left, it ran and pitched and whirled, like a cork in a whirlpool.
Sometimes it actually skimmed the ground, plowing its way through a
torrent of rushing water, and yet it rose again and was saved from
This terrible contest lasted another hour after the turning of the wind,
and then the latter died out. Relieved from its pressure, the aero ran on
with comparative ease. Professor Pludder, suspecting that they might now
be getting into a mountainous district, made every effort to keep the
craft at a high elevation, and this, notwithstanding the depressing force
of the rain, they succeeded in doing. After the dying out of the wind they
kept on, by the aid of their propellers, in the same direction in which it
had been driving them, because, in the circumstances, one way was as good
The terrible discomfort of the President and his companions in the cabin
of the aero was greatly relieved by the cessation of the wind, but still
they were in a most unfortunate state. The rain, driven by the fierce
blasts, had penetrated through every crevice, and they were drenched to
the skin. No one tried to speak, for it would have been almost impossible
to make oneself heard amid the uproar. They simply looked at one another
in dismay and prayed for safety.
Professor Pludder, not now compelled to spend every moment in the
management of the craft, entered the cabin occasionally, pressed the hand
of the President, smiled encouragingly on the women and children, and did
all he could, in pantomime, to restore some degree of confidence. Inside,
the lights were aglow, but outside it was as dark as pitch, except where
the broad finger of the searchlight, plunging into the mass of tumbling
water, glittered and flashed.
The awful night seemed endless, but at last a pale illumination appeared
in the air, and they knew that day had come. The spectacle of the skyey
deluge was now so terrible that it struck cold even to their already
benumbed hearts. The atmosphere seemed to have been turned into a mighty
cataract thundering down upon the whole face of the earth. Now that they
could see as well as hear, the miracle of the preservation of the aero
As the light slowly brightened, Professor Pludder, constantly on the
outlook, caught a glimpse of a dark, misty object ahead. It loomed up so
suddenly, and was already so close, that before he could sufficiently
alter the course of the aero, it struck with such violence as to crush
the forward end of the craft and break one of the aeroplanes. Everybody
was pitched headforemost, those inside falling on the flooring, while
Pludder and the three men of the crew were thrown out upon a mass of
rocks. All were more or less seriously injured, but none was killed or
Pludder sprang to his feet, and, slipping and plunging amid the downpour,
managed to get back to the wreck and aid the President and the others to
get upon their feet.
"We're lodged on a mountain!" he yelled. "Stay inside, under the shelter
of the roof!"
The three men who, together with the professor, had been precipitated out
among the rocks, also scrambled in, and there they stood, or sat, the most
disconsolate and despairing group of human beings that ever the eye of an
overseeing Providence looked down upon.
The President presented the most pitiable sight of all. Like the rest,
his garments were sopping, his eyes were bloodshot, his face was ghastly,
and his tall silk hat, which he had jammed down upon his brow, had been
softened by the water and crushed by repeated blows into the form of a
closed accordion. Of the women and children it is needless to speak; no
description could convey an idea of their condition.
In these circumstances, the real strength of Professor Abiel Pludder's
mind was splendidly displayed. He did not lose his head, and he
comprehended the situation, and what it was necessary to do, in a flash.
He got out some provisions and distributed them to the company, in some
cases actually forcing them to eat. With his own hands he prepared coffee,
with the apparatus always carried by express aeros, and made them drink
When all had thus been refreshed he approached President Samson and
shouted in his ear:
"We shall have to stay here until the downpour ceases. To guard against the
effects of a tempest, if one should arise, we must secure the aero in its
place. For that I need the aid of every man in the party. We have,
fortunately, struck in a spot on the mountain where we are out of the way
of the torrents of water that are pouring down through the ravines on
either side. We can make our lodgment secure, but we must go to work
Stimulated by his example, the President and the others set to work, and
with great difficulty, for they had to guard their eyes and nostrils from
the driving rain, which, sometimes, in spite of their precautions, nearly
smothered them, they succeeded in fastening the aero to the rocks by means
of metallic cables taken from its stores. When this work was finished they
returned under the shelter of the cabin roof and lay down exhausted. So
worn out were they that all of them quickly fell into a troubled sleep.
It would be needless to relate in detail the sufferings, mental and
physical, that they underwent during the next ten days. While they were
hanging there on the mountain the seaboard cities of the world were
drowned, and Cosmo Versal's Ark departed on the remarkable voyage that has
been described in a former chapter. They had plenty of provisions, for the
aero had been well stored, but partly through precaution and partly because
of lack of appetite they ate sparingly. The electric generators of the aero
had not been injured in the wreck of the craft, and they were able to
supply themselves with sufficient heat, and with light inside the cabin at
Once they had a strange visitor--a half-drowned bear, which had
struggled up the mountain from its den somewhere below--but that was the
only living creature beside themselves that they saw. After gazing
wistfully at the aero from the top of a rock the poor bear, fighting the
choking rain with its soaked paws, stumbled into one of the torrents that
poured furiously down on each side, and was swept from their sight.
Fortunately, the wind that they had anticipated did not come, but
frequently they saw or heard the roaring downpours of solid watery
columns like those that had so much astonished Cosmo Versal and Captain
Arms in the midst of the Atlantic, but none came very near them.
Professor Pludder ventured out from time to time, clambering a little way
up and down the projecting ridge of the mountain on which they were lodged,
and at length was able to assure his companions that they were on the
northwestern face of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak of the Appalachian
range. With the aid of his pocket aneroid, making allowance for the
effect of the lifting of the whole atmosphere by the flood, and summoning
his knowledge of the locality--for he had explored, in former years, all
the mountains in this region--he arrived at the conclusion that their
place of refuge was elevated about four thousand feet above the former
level of the sea.
At first their range of vision did not allow them to see the condition of
the valleys below them, but as the water crept higher it gradually came
into view. It rose steadily up the slopes beneath, which had already been
stripped of their covering of trees and vegetation by the force of the
descending torrents, until on the tenth day it had arrived almost within
reach. Since, as has just been said, they were four thousand feet above
the former level of the sea, it will be observed that the water must
have been rising much more rapidly than the measurements of Cosmo Versal
indicated. Its average rate of rise had been three instead of two inches
per minute, and the world was buried deeper than Cosmo thought. The cause
of his error will be explained later.
The consternation of the little party when they thus beheld the rapid
drowning of the world below them, and saw no possibility of escape for
themselves if the water continued to advance, as it evidently would do,
cannot be depicted. Some of them were driven insane, and were with
difficulty prevented by those who retained their senses from throwing
themselves into the flood.
Pludder was the only one who maintained a command over his nerves,
although he now at last _believed in the nebula_. He recognized that there
was no other possible explanation of the flood than that which Cosmo Versal
had offered long before it began. In his secret heart he had no expectation
of ultimate escape, yet he was strong enough to continue to encourage his
companions with hopes which he could not himself entertain.
When, after nightfall on the tenth day, the water began to lap the lower
parts of the aero, he was on the point of persuading the party to clamber
up the rocks in search of the shelter above, but as he stepped out of the
door of the cabin to reconnoiter the way, with the aid of the searchlight
which he had turned up along the ridge, he was astonished to find the rain
rapidly diminishing in force; and a few minutes later it ceased entirely,
and the stars shone out.
The sudden cessation of the roar upon the roof brought everybody to their
feet, and before Professor Pludder could communicate the good news all
were out under the sky, rejoicing and offering thanks for their
deliverance. The women were especially affected. They wept in one
another's arms, or convulsively clasped their children to their breasts.
At length the President found his voice.
"What has happened?" he asked.
Professor Pludder, with the new light that had come to him, was as ready
with an explanation as Cosmo Versal himself had been under similar
"We must have run out of the nebula."
"The nebula!" returned Mr. Samson in surprise. "Has there been a nebula,
"Without question," was the professor's answer. "Nothing but an encounter
with a watery nebula could have had such a result."
"But you always said----" began the President.
"Yes," Pludder broke in, "but one may be in error sometimes."
"Then, Cosmo Versal----"
"Let us not discuss Cosmo Versal," exclaimed Professor Pludder, with a
return of his old dictatorial manner.
PROFESSOR PLUDDER'S DEVICE
Morning dawned brilliantly on Mount Mitchell and revealed to the
astonished eyes of the watchers an endless expanse of water, gleaming and
sparkling in the morning sunlight. It was a spectacle at once beautiful
and fearful, and calculated to make their hearts sink with pity no less
than with terror. But for a time they were distracted from the awful
thoughts which such a sight must inspire by anxiety concerning themselves.
They could not drive away the fear that, at any moment, the awful clouds
might return and the terrible downpour be resumed.
But Professor Pludder, whose comprehension of the cause of the deluge was
growing clearer the more he thought about it, did not share the anxiety
of the President and the others.
"The brightness of the sky," he said, "shows that there is no considerable
quantity of condensing vapor left in the atmosphere. If the earth has run
out of the nebula, that is likely to be the end of the thing. If there is
more of the nebulous matter in surrounding space we may miss it entirely,
or, if not, a long time would elapse before we came upon it.
"The gaps that exist in nebulae are millions of miles across, and the
earth would require days and weeks to go such distances, granting that it
were traveling in the proper direction. I think it altogether probable
that this nebula, which must be a small one as such things go, consists
of a single mass, and that, having traversed it, we are done with it. We
are out of our troubles."
"Well, hardly," said the President. "Here we are, prisoners on a mountain,
with no way of getting down, the whole land beneath being turned into a
sea. We can't stay here indefinitely. For how long a time are we
"We have compressed food enough to last this party a month," replied
Professor Pludder; "that is to say, if we are sparing of it. For water we
cannot lack, since this that surrounds us is not salt, and if it were we
could manage to distil it. But, of course, when I said we were out of our
troubles I meant only that there was no longer any danger of being
swallowed up by the flood. It is true that we cannot think of remaining
here. We must get off."
"But how? Where can we go?"
Professor Pludder thought a long time before he answered this question.
Finally he said, measuring his words:
"The water is four thousand feet above the former level of the sea. There
is no land sufficiently lofty to rise above it this side of the Colorado
"And how far is that?"
"Not less than eleven hundred miles in an air line."
The President shuddered.
"Then, all this vast country of ours from here to the feet of the Rocky
Mountains is now under water thousands of feet deep!"
"There can be no doubt of it. The Atlantic Coast States, the Southern
States, the Mississippi Valley, the region of the Great Lakes, and Canada
are now a part of the Atlantic Ocean."
"And all the great cities--gone! Merciful Father! What a thought!"
The President mused for a time, and gradually a frown came upon his brow.
He glanced at Professor Pludder with a singular look. Then his cheek
reddened, and an angry expression came into his eyes. Suddenly he turned
to the professor and said sternly:
"You said you did not wish to discuss Cosmo Versal. I should not think
you would! Who predicted this deluge? Did _you_?"
"I----" began Professor Pludder, taken aback by the President's manner.
"Oh, yes," interrupted the President, "I know what you would say. You
didn't predict it because you didn't see it coming. But _why_ didn't
you see it? What have we got observatories and scientific societies
for if they can't _see_ or _comprehend_ anything? Didn't Cosmo Versal
warn you? Didn't he tell you where to look, and what to look for? Didn't
he show you his proofs?"
"We thought they were fallacious," stammered Professor Pludder.
"You _thought_ they were fallacious--well, _were_ they fallacious? Does
this spectacle of a nation drowned look 'fallacious' to you? Why didn't
you study the matter until you understood it? Why did you issue
officially, and with my ignorant sanction--may God forgive me for my
blindness!--statement after statement, assuring the people that there was
no danger--statements that were even abusive toward him who alone should
have been heard?
"And yet, as now appears, you knew nothing about it. Millions upon millions
have perished through your obstinate opposition to the truth. They might
have saved themselves if they had been permitted to listen to the many
times reiterated warnings of Cosmo Versal.
"Oh, if _I_ had only listened to him, and issued a proclamation as he urged
me to do! But I followed _your_ advice--_you_, in whose learning and
pretended science I put blind faith! _Abiel Pludder, I would not have upon
my soul the weight that now rests on yours for all the wealth that the lost
world carried down into its watery grave!_"
As the President ceased speaking he turned away and sank upon a rock,
pressing his hands upon his throat to suppress the sobs that broke forth
despite his efforts. His form shook like an aspen.
The others crowded around excitedly, some of the women in hysterics, and
the men not knowing what to do or say. Professor Pludder, completely
overwhelmed by the suddenness and violence of the attack, went off by
himself and sat down with his head in his hands. After a while he arose
and approached the President, who had not moved from his place on the
"George," he said--they had known each other from boyhood--"I have made a
terrible mistake. And yet I was not alone in it. The majority of my
colleagues were of my opinion, as were all the learned societies of
Europe. No such thing as a watery nebula has ever been known to science.
It was inconceivable."
"Some of your colleagues did not think so," said the President, looking
"But they were not really convinced, and they were aware that they were
flying in the face of all known laws."
"I am afraid," said the President dryly, "that science does not know all
the laws of the universe yet."
"I repeat," resumed Professor Pludder, "that I made a fearful mistake. I
have recognized the truth too late. I accept the awful burden of blame
that rests upon me, and I now wish to do everything in my power to
retrieve the consequences of my terrible error."
The President arose and grasped the professor's hand.
"Forgive me, Abiel," he said, with emotion, "if I have spoken too much in
the manner of a judge pronouncing sentence. I was overwhelmed by the
thought of the inconceivable calamity that has come upon us. I believe
that you acted conscientiously and according to your best lights, and it
is not for any mortal to judge you for an error thus committed. Let us
think only of what _we_ must do now."
"To that thought," responded Professor Pludder, returning the pressure of
the President's hand, "I shall devote all my energy. If I can save only
this little party I shall have done something in the way of atonement."
It was a deep humiliation for a man of Professor Pludder's proud and
uncompromising nature to confess that he had committed an error more
fearful in its consequences than had ever been laid at the door of a human
being, but Cosmo Versal had rightly judged him when he assured Joseph
Smith that Pludder was morally sound, and, in a scientific sense, had
the root of the matter in him. When his mental vision was clear, and
unclouded by prejudice, no one was more capable of high achievements.
He quickly proved his capacity now, as he had already proved it during
the preceding, adventures of the President's party. It was perfectly plain
to him that their only chance was in getting to Colorado at the earliest
possible moment. The eastern part of the continent was hopelessly buried,
and even on the high plains of the Middle West the fury of the downpour
might have spread universal disaster and destroyed nearly all the
vegetation; but, in any event, it was there alone that the means of
prolonging life could be sought.
With the problem squarely before his mind, he was not long in finding a
solution. His first step was to make a thorough examination of the aero,
with the hope that the damage that it had suffered might be reparable. He
had all the tools that would be needed, as it was the custom for express
aeros to carry a complete equipment for repairs; but unfortunately one of
the planes of the aero was wrecked beyond the possibility of repair. He
knew upon what delicate adjustments the safety of the modern airship
depended, and he did not dare undertake a voyage with a lame craft.
Then the idea occurred to him of trying to escape by water. The aero was
a machine of the very latest type, and made of levium, consequently it
would float better than wood.
If the opposition of shipbuilders, incited and backed by selfish interests,
had not prevented the employment of levium in marine construction, millions
of lives might now have been saved; but, as we have before said, only a
few experimental boats of levium had been made.
Moreover, like all aeros intended for long trips, this one had what was
called a "boat-bottom," intended to enable it to remain afloat with its
burden in case of an accidental fall into a large body of water. Pludder
saw that this fact would enable him to turn the wreck into a raft.
It would only be necessary to reshape the craft a little, and this was the
easier because the aero was put together in such a manner with screw-bolts
and nuts that it could be articulated or disarticulated as readily as a
watch. He had entire confidence in his engineering skill, and in the
ability of the three experienced men of the crew to aid him. He decided to
employ the planes for outriders, which would serve to increase the
buoyancy and stability.
As soon as he had completed his plan in his mind he explained his
intentions to the President. The latter and the other members of the party
were at first as much startled as surprised by the idea of embarking on a
voyage of eleven hundred miles in so questionable a craft, but Professor
Pludder assured them that everything would go well.
"But how about the propulsion?" asked Mr. Samson. "You can't depend on the
wind, and we've got no sails."
"I have thought that all out," said Pludder. "I shall use the engine, and
rearrange one of the aerial screws so that it will serve for a propeller.
I do not expect to get up any great speed, but if we can make only as much
as two miles an hour we shall arrive on the borders of the Colorado upland,
five thousand feet above sea, within about twenty-three days. We may be
able to do better than that."
Nobody felt much confidence in this scheme except its inventor, but it
appeared to be the only thing that could be done, and so they all fell to
work, each aiding as best he could, and after four days of hard work the
remarkable craft was ready for its adventurous voyage.
Professor Pludder had succeeded even better than he anticipated in
transforming one of the aerial screws into a propeller. Its original
situation was such that it naturally, as it were, fell into the proper
place when the "hull" was partly submerged, and, the blades being made of
concentric rows of small plates, there was no difficulty in reducing them
to a manageable size. The position of the engine did not need to be
shifted at all.
The "outriders," made up of the discarded planes, promised to serve their
purpose well, and the cabin remained for a comfortable "deck-house." A
rudder had been contrived by an alteration of the one which had served for
guiding the aero in its flights.
The water was close to their feet, and there was no great difficulty in
pushing the affair off the rocks and getting it afloat. The women and
children were first put aboard, and then the men scrambled in, and Pludder
set the motors going. The improvised propeller churned and spluttered,
but it did its work after a fashion, and, under a blue sky, in dazzling
sunshine, with a soft southerly breeze fanning the strange sea that
spread around them, they soon saw the bared rocks and deeply scored
flanks of Mount Mitchell receding behind them.
They were delighted to find that they were making, at the very start, no
less than three miles an hour. Pludder clapped his hands and exclaimed:
"This is capital! In but little over two weeks we shall be safe on the
great plains. I have good hope that many have survived there, and that we
shall find a plenty of everything needed. With the instruments that were
aboard the aero I can make observations to determine our position, and I
shall steer for the Pike's Peak region."
When the party had become accustomed to their situation, and had gained
confidence in their craft by observing how buoyantly it bore them, they
became almost cheerful in their demeanor. The children gradually lost all
fear, and, with the thoughtless joy of childhood in the pleasures and
wonders of the present moment, amused themselves in the cabin, and about
the deck, which had been surrounded with guard lines made of wire cable.
The water was almost waveless, and, if no storm should arise, there
appeared to be no reason for anxiety concerning the outcome of their
adventure. But as they drove slowly on over the submerged range of the
Great Smokies, and across the valleys of Eastern Tennessee, and then over
the Cumberland range, and so out above the lowlands, they could not keep
their thoughts from turning to what lay beneath that fearful ocean. And
occasionally something floated to the surface that wrenched their heart-
strings and caused them to avert their faces.
Professor Pludder kept them informed of their location. Now they were over
central Tennessee; now Nashville lay more than three thousand feet beneath
their keel; now they were crossing the valley of the Tennessee River; now
the great Mississippi was under them, hidden deep beneath the universal
flood; now they were over the highlands of southern Missouri; and now over
those of Kansas.
"George," said Professor Pludder one day, addressing the President, with
more emotion than was often to be detected in his voice, "would you like
to know what is beneath us now?"
"What is it, Abiel?"
"Our boyhood home--Wichita."
The President bowed his head upon his hands and groaned.
"Yes," continued Professor Pludder musingly, "there it lies, three thousand
feet deep. There is the Arkansas, along whose banks we used to play, with
its golden waters now mingling feebly with the mighty flood that covers
them. There is the schoolhouse and the sandy road where we ran races
barefoot in the hot summer dust. There is your father's house, and mine,
and the homes of all our early friends--and where are _they?_ Would to God
that I had not been so blind!"
"But there was another not so blind," said the President, with something
of the condemnatory manner of his former speech.
"I know it--I know it too well now," returned the professor. "But do not
condemn me, George, for what I did not foresee and could not help."
"I am sorry," said the President sadly, "that you have awakened these old
memories. But I do not condemn you, though I condemn your science--or your
lack of science. But we can do nothing. Let us speak of it no more."
The weather was wonderful, considering what had so recently occurred. No
clouds formed in the sky, there was only a gentle breeze stirring, at
night the heavens glittered with starry gems, and by day the sun shone so
hotly that awnings were spread over those whose duties required them to be
employed outside the shelter of the cabin. The improvised propeller and
rudder worked to admiration, and some days they made as much as eighty
miles in the twenty-four hours.
At length, on the fourteenth day of their strange voyage, they caught
sight of a curiously shaped "pike" that projected above the horizon far to
the west. At the same time they saw, not far away toward the north and
toward the south, a low line, like a sea-beach.
"We are getting into shallow water now," said Professor Pludder. "I have
been following the course of the Arkansas in order to be sure of a
sufficient depth, but now we must be very careful. We are close to the
site of Las Animas, which is surrounded with land rising four thousand
feet above sea-level. If we should get aground there would be no hope for
us. That pike in the distance is Pike's Peak."
"And what is that long line of beach that stretches on the north and
south?" asked the President.
"It is the topographic line of four thousand feet," replied the
"And we shall encounter it ahead?"
"Yes, it makes a curve about Las Animas, and then the land lies at an
average elevation of four thousand feet, until it takes another rise
"But we cannot sail across this half-submerged area," said the President.
"There are depressions," Professor Pludder responded, "and I hope to be
able to follow their traces until we reach land that still lies well
above the water."
Near nightfall they got so close to the "beach" that they could hear the
surf, not a thundering sound, but a soft, rippling wash of the slight
waves. The water about them was ruddy with thick sediment. Professor
Pludder did not dare to venture farther in the coming darkness, and he
dropped overboard two of the aero's grapples, which he had heavily
weighted and attached to wire cables. They took the ground at a depth of
only ten feet. There was no wind and no perceptible current, and so they
rode all night at anchor off this strangest of coasts.
At daybreak they lifted their anchors, and went in search of the
depressions of which the professor had spoken. So accurate was his
topographic knowledge and so great his skill, that late in the afternoon
they saw a tall chimney projecting above the water a little ahead.
"There's all that remains of Pueblo," said Professor Pludder.
They anchored again that night, and the next day, cautiously approaching
a bluff that arose precipitously from the water, their hearts were
gladdened by the sight of three men, standing on a bluff, excitedly
beckoning to them, and shouting at the top of their voices.
MUTINY IN THE ARK
We left Cosmo Versal and his arkful of the flower of mankind in the midst
of what was formerly the Atlantic Ocean, but which had now expanded over
so many millions of square miles that had once been the seats of vast
empires that to an eye looking at it with a telescope from Mars it would
have been unrecognizable.
All of eastern North America, all of South America to the feet of the
Andes, all but the highest mountains of Europe, nearly all of Africa,
except some of the highlands of the south, all of northern and
southwestern Asia, as well as the peninsula of India, all of China and
the adjacent lands and islands except the lofty peaks, the whole of
Australia, and the archipelagoes of the Pacific, had become parts of the
floor of a mighty ocean which rolled unbroken from pole to pole.
The Great Deep had resumed its ancient reign, and what was left of the
habitable globe presented to view only far separated islands and the
serrated tops of such ranges as the Alps, the Caucasus, the Himalayas,
and the Andes. The astonished inhabitants of the ocean depths now swam
over the ruins of great cities, and brushed with their fins the chiseled
capitals of columns that had supported the proudest structures of human
We have seen how the unexpected arrest of the flood had left Cosmo
uncertain as to the course that he ought to pursue. But he did not long
remain in doubt. He was sure that the downpour would be resumed after an
interval which at the most could not exceed a few weeks, and he resolved
to continue his way toward the future land of promise in Asia.
But he thought that he would have time to turn his prow in the direction
of Europe, for he felt a great desire to know by actual inspection to what
height the water had attained. He was certain that it could not be less
than he had estimated--the indications of his rain-gage had been too
unvarying to admit of doubt on that point--but he had no means of direct
measurement since he could not sound the tremendous depths beneath the
After long meditation on the probable effects of the descending columns of
water which he had seen, he concluded that they might have added more
rapidly than he first supposed to the increase of the general level.
Besides, he reflected that there was no proof that the general downpour
might not have been greater over some parts of the earth than others. All
these doubts could be dissipated if he could get a good look at some lofty
mountain range, such as the Sierra Nevada of Spain, or the Pyrenees, or,
if he could venture within sight of them, the Alps.
So he said to Captain Arms:
"Steer for the coast of Europe."
The fine weather had produced a good effect upon the spirits of the
company. Not only were the ports and the gangways all open, but Cosmo
ordered the temporary removal of rows of adjustable plates on the sides of
the vessel, which transformed the broad outer gangways, running its whole
length, into delightful promenade decks. There, in cozy chairs, and
protected with rugs, the passengers sat, fanned by a refreshing breeze,
and dazzled by the splendor of the ocean.
They recalled, by their appearance, a shipload of summer tourists bound
for the wonders and pleasures of foreign parts. This likeness to a
pleasure cruise was heightened by the constant attentions of the crew,
under Cosmo's orders, who carried about refreshing drinks and lunches,
and conducted themselves like regular ocean "stewards."
It seemed impossible to believe that the world had been drowned, and some
almost persuaded themselves that the whole thing was a dream.
It must not be supposed that the thousand-odd persons who composed this
remarkable ship's company were so hard-hearted, so selfish, so forgetful,
so morally obtuse, that they never thought of the real horror of their
situation, and of the awful calamity that had overwhelmed so many millions
of their fellow-creatures. They thought of all that only too seriously
and in spite of themselves. The women especially were overwhelmed by it.
But they did not wish to dwell upon it, and Cosmo Versal did not wish that
At night he had musicians play in the grand saloon; he distributed books
among the passengers from a large library which he had selected; and at
last he had the stage set, and invited his friends, the players, to
entertain the company.
But he would have no plays but those of Shakespeare.
There were, probably, not half a dozen persons in the Ark who had ever
seen representations of these great dramas, and very few who had read them,
so that they had the advantage of complete novelty.
The play selected for the first representation was the tragedy of "King
Lear," a strange choice, it would, at first sight, seem, but Cosmo Versal
had a deep knowledge of human nature. He knew that only tragedy would be
endured there, and that it must be tragedy so profound and overmastering
that it would dominate the feelings of those who heard and beheld it. It
was the principle of immunizing therapeutics, where poison paralyzes
It came out as he anticipated. The audience, unused to such depth of
dramatic passion, for the plays to which they had been accustomed had been
far from the Shakespearian standard, was wholly absorbed in the
development of the tragedy. It was a complete revelation to them, and they
were carried out of themselves, and found in the sympathy awakened by this
heart-crushing spectacle of the acme of human woe an unconscious solace for
their own moral anguish.
Afterward Cosmo put upon the stage "Hamlet," and "Othello," and "Macbeth,"
and "Coriolanus," and "Julius Caesar," but he avoided, for the present, the
less tragic dramas. And all of them, being new to the hearers, produced an
On alternate nights he substituted music for the drama, and, as this was
confined to the most majestic productions of the great masters of the past,
many of whose works, like those of Shakespeare, had long been neglected if
not forgotten, their power over the spirits of the company was, perhaps,
even more pronounced.
Cosmo Versal was already beginning the education of his chosen band of
race regenerators, while he mused upon the wonders that the science of
eugenics would achieve after the world should have reemerged from the
One of the most singular effects of the music was that produced upon the
insane billionaire, Amos Blank. He had been confined in the room that
Cosmo had assigned to him, and was soothed, whenever Cosmo could find time
to visit him, with pretended acquiescence in his crazed notion that the
trip of the Ark was part of a scheme to "corner" the resources of the
Cosmo persuaded him that the secret was unknown except to themselves, and
that it was essential to success that he (Blank) should remain in
retirement, and accordingly the latter expressed no desire to leave his
place of imprisonment, which he regarded as the headquarters of the
combination, passing hours in covering sheets of paper with columns of
figures, which he fancied represented the future profits of the
One night when a symphony of Beethoven was to be played, Cosmo led Amos
Blank through the crowded saloon and placed him near the musicians. He
resisted at first, and when he saw the crowd he drew back, exclaiming:
"What? Not overboard yet?"
But Cosmo soothed him with some whispered promise, and he took his seat,
glancing covertly around him. Then the instruments struck up, and
immediately fixed his attention. As the musical theme developed his eyes
gradually lost their wild look, and a softened expression took its place.
He sank lower in his seat, and rested his head upon his hand. His whole
soul seemed, at last, to be absorbed in the music. When it was finished
Blank was a changed man.
Then Cosmo clearly explained to him all that had happened.
After the first overwhelming effect of his reawakening to the realities
of his situation had passed, the billionaire was fully restored to all
his faculties. Henceforth he mingled with the other passengers and, as if
the change that had come over his spirit had had greater results than the
simple restoration of sanity, he became one of the most popular and useful
members of Cosmo Versal's family of pilgrims.
Among the other intellectual diversions which Cosmo provided was something
quite unique, due to his own mental bias. This consisted of "conferences,"
held in the grand saloon, afternoons, in the presence of the entire
company, at which the principal speakers were his two "speculative
geniuses," Costake Theriade and Sir Wilfrid Athelstone. They did not care
very much for one another and each thought that the time allotted to the
other was wasted.
Theriade wished to talk continuously of the infinite energy stored up in
the atoms of matter, and of the illimitable power which the release of
that energy, by the system that he had all but completed, would place at
the disposition of man; and at the same time Sir Athelstone could with
difficulty be held in leash while he impatiently awaited an opportunity to
explain how excessively near he had arrived to the direct production of
protoplasm from inanimate matter, and the chemical control of living cells,
so that henceforth man could people or unpeople the earth as he liked.
One evening, when everybody not on duty was in bed, Captain Arms, with his
whiskers fairly bristling, entered Cosmo's cabin, where the latter was
dictating to Joseph Smith, and softly approaching his chief, with a furtive
glance round the room, stooped and whispered something in his ear. A
startled, though incredulous, expression appeared on Cosmo's face, and he
sprang to his feet, but before speaking he obeyed a sign from the captain
and told Smith to leave the room. Then he locked the door and returned to
his table, where he dropped into a chair, exclaiming in a guarded voice:
"Great Heaven, can this be possible! Have you not made a mistake?"
"No," returned the captain in a stridulous whisper, "I have made no
mistake. I'm absolutely sure. If something is not done instantly we are
"This is terrible!" returned Cosmo, taking his head in his hands. "You
say it is that fellow Campo? I never liked his looks."
"He is the ringleader," replied the captain. "The first suspicion of what
he was up to came to me through an old sailor who has been with me on many
a voyage. He overheard Campo talking with another man and he listened.
Trust an old sea dog to use his ears and keep himself out of notice."
"And what did they say?"
"Enough to freeze the marrow in your bones! Campo proposed to begin by
throwing 'old Versal' and me into the sea, and then he said, with us gone,
and nobody but a lot of muddle-headed scientists to deal with, it would be
easy to take the ship; seize all the treasure in her; make everybody who
would not join the mutiny walk the plank, except the women, and steer for
some place where they could land and lead a jolly life.
"'You see,' says Campo, 'this flood is a fake. There ain't going to be no
more flood; it's only a shore wash. But there's been enough of it to fix
things all right for us. We've got the world in our fist! There's millions
of money aboard this ship, and there's plenty of female beauty, and we've
only got to reach out and take it.'"
Cosmo Versal's brow darkened as he listened, and a look that would have
cowed the mutineers if they could have seen it came into his eyes. His
hand nervously clutched a paper-knife which broke in his grasp, as he said
in a voice trembling with passion:
"They don't _know_ me--_you_ don't know me. Show me the proofs of this
conspiracy. Who are the others? Campo and his friend can't be alone."
"Alone!" exclaimed the captain, unconsciously raising his voice. "There's
a dozen as black-handed rascals in it as ever went unswung."
"Do you know them?"
"Jim Waters does."
"Why haven't you told me sooner? How long has it been going on?"
"Almost ever since the deluge stopped, I think; but it was only last night
that Waters got on the track of it, and only now that he told me. This
fellow that Waters heard Campo talking to is plainly a new recruit. I say
there are a dozen, because Waters has found out that number; but I don't
know but that there may be a hundred."
"How did these wretches get aboard?" demanded Cosmo, fiercely opening and
shutting his fists.
"Excuse me," said the captain, "but that is up to you to say."
"So it is," replied Cosmo, with a grim look; "and it's 'up to me' to say
what'll become of them. I see how it is, they must have got in with the
last lot that I took--under assumed names, very likely. I've been more
than once on the point of calling that man Campo up and questioning him. I
was surprised by his hangdog look the first time I saw him. But I have
been so busy."
"You'll have to get busy in another sense if you mean to save this ship
and your life," said the captain earnestly.
"So I shall. Are you armed? No? Then take these--and use 'em when I give
He handed the captain two heavy automatic pistols, and put a pair in his
own side pockets.
"Now," he continued, "the first thing is to make sure that we've got the
right men--and _all of them_. Call in Joseph Smith."
The captain went to the door, and as he approached it there was a knock.
He turned the key and cautiously opened a crack to look out. The door was
instantly slammed in his face, and six men rushed in, with Campo, a burly,
black-browed fellow, at their head. Three of the men threw the captain on
his back, and pinioned his hands before he could draw a weapon, while
Campo and the others sprang toward Cosmo Versal, Campo pointing a pistol
at his head.
"It's all up, Mr. Versal!" cried Campo with a sneer. "I'll take command of
this ship, and you'll go fish for nebulas."
Cosmo had one advantage; he was behind his desk, and it was a broad and
long one, and placed almost against the wall. They could not get at him
without getting round the desk. Campo did not fire, though he might have
shot Cosmo in his tracks; but evidently he was nourishing the idea of
making him walk the plank. With a sign he commanded his co-conspirators
to flank the desk at each end, while he kept Cosmo covered with his
But with a lightning movement, Cosmo dropped under the desk, and, favored
by his slight form and his extreme agility, darted like a cat past Campo's
legs, and, almost before the latter could turn round, was out of the open
door. Campo fired at the retreating form, but the bullet went wide of the
mark. The pistol was practically noiseless, and the sound reached no ears
in the staterooms.
It happened that a switch controlling the lights in the gangway was on the
wall by Cosmo's door, and in passing he swiftly reached up and turned it
off. Thus he was in complete darkness, and when Campo darted out of the
door he could not see the fugitive. He could hear his footsteps, however,
and with two of his companions he rushed blindly after him, firing two or
three shots at random. But Cosmo had turned at the first cross passage,
and then at the next, this part of the Ark being a labyrinth of corridors,
and the pursuers quickly lost all trace of him.
Campo and his companions made their way back to Cosmo's cabin, where their
fellows were guarding Captain Arms. They found the switch in the passage
and turned on the light. They were almost immediately joined by several
other conspirators conducting Joseph Smith, bound and gagged. They held a
short consultation, and Campo, with many curses, declared that Cosmo
Versal must be caught at all hazards.
"The big-headed fiend!" he cried, gnashing his teeth. "Let me get my
grippers on him and I'll squelch him like a bug!"
They threw Joseph Smith into the room beside the helpless captain, after
taking the latter's pistols, locked the door from the outside, and
hurried off on their search. In the passages they encountered several
more of their friends. They now numbered fifteen, all armed. This may
seem a small number to undertake to capture the Ark; but it must be
remembered that among the thousand-odd inmates, exclusive of the crew,
only about one in three was a man, and the majority of these were
peaceable scientists who, it was to be presumed, had no fight in them.
At any rate, Campo, with the reckless courage of his kind, felt confident
that if he could get Cosmo Versal, with the captain and Joseph Smith, out
of the way, he could easily overmaster the others. He had not much fear
of the crew, for he knew that they were not armed, and he had succeeded
in winning over three of their number, the only ones he had thought
at all dangerous, because he had read their character. More than half
the crew were employed about the engines or on the animal deck, and most
of the others were simply stewards who would not stand before the pistols.
But, while the mutineers were hurriedly searching the corridors, Cosmo
had run straight to the bridge, where he found two of his men in charge,
and whence he sent an electric call to all the men employed in the
navigation of the vessel. They came running from various directions, but
a dozen of them were caught in the passages by the mutineers and bound
before they could comprehend what had happened. Seven, however, succeeded
in reaching the bridge, and among these was Jim Waters.
"There's a mutiny," said Cosmo. "We've got to fight for our lives. Have
you got arms?"
Not one had a weapon except Waters, who displayed a pistol half as long
as his arm.
"Here, Peterson, take this," said Cosmo, handing a pistol to one of the
two mariners who had been on the bridge. "They will be here in a minute.
If Campo had been a sailor, he'd have had possession here the first thing.
I'll turn off all lights."
With that he pressed a button which put out every lamp in the ark. But
there was a full moon, and they concealed themselves in the shadows.
Presently they heard the mutineers approaching, stumbling and cursing in
the darkness. Cosmo directed Peterson and Waters to place themselves at
his side, and told them to fire when he gave the word.
The next instant four men appeared crossing a moonlit place at the foot of
the steps on the outside of the dome.
"Wait," whispered Cosmo. "The pistols go at a pull. We can sweep down a
dozen in ten seconds. Let them all get in sight first."
Half a minute later there were twelve men climbing the steps and cautiously
"Fire!" cried Cosmo, setting the example, and three streams of blue flame
pulsated from the bridge. The sound of the bullets striking made more
noise than the explosions.
Five or six of the men below fell, knocking down their comrades, and a
loud curse burst from the lips of Campo, who had a bullet through his arm.
The mutineers tumbled in a heap at the bottom, and instantly Cosmo,
switching on all lights, led the way down upon them. His men, who had no
arms, seized anything they could get their hands on that would serve to
strike a blow, and followed him.
The conspirators were overwhelmed by the suddenness and fury of the attack.
Four of them were killed outright and five were wounded, one so severely
that he survived only a few hours.
Cosmo's quick and overwhelming victory was due to the fact that the
mutineers, in mounting the steps, could not see him and his men in the
shadows, and when the automatic weapons, which fired three shots per
second by repeated pressure of the trigger, from a chamber containing
twenty-one cartridges, once opened on them they could do nothing in the
hail of missiles, especially when crowded together on the steps.
Campo was the only one who had any fight left in him. He struck Cosmo a
blow on the head that felled him, and then darted out upon the forepart
of the dome, running on the cleats, and made his way to the top.
Cosmo was on his feet in a second and rushing in pursuit, closely followed
by Jim Waters. The fugitive ran for the ratlines leading to the lookout on
the central mast. He climbed them like a squirrel, and the man in the
cro'nest, amazed at the sight below him, stared at the approaching
mutineer, unable to utter a cry. Campo, who, as the moonbeams showed, now
had a knife in his teeth, rapidly approached, and the lookout shrank in
terror. But before Campo could reach the cro'nest, a blinding light
dazzled his eyes. Cosmo had shouted an order to Peterson to run back to
the bridge and turn a searchlight upon the mast. Then Campo heard a
thundering voice below him:
"Take another step and I'll blow you into the sea!"
He glanced below, and saw Cosmo and Waters covering him with their
"Not another step!" roared Cosmo again. "Come down, and I'll give you a
trial for your life."
Campo hesitated; but, seeing that he could be shot down, and finding a
gleam of hope in Cosmo's words, he turned and came slowly down. The
moment he touched the bottom he was seized by Waters and another man,
and, under Cosmo's directions, his hands were bound behind his back.
Ten minutes later the members of the crew who had been caught by the
mutineers in the gangways were all unbound, and then Cosmo broke open the
door of his cabin, the key having been lost or thrown away by Campo, and
the captain and Joseph Smith were released.
"Well, we've got 'em," said Cosmo grimly to the captain. "The mutiny is
at an end, and there'll never be another."
In the meantime many of the passengers had been aroused by the unaccustomed
noises, although the pistols had not made enough sound to be heard from
the place where they were fired. Nightcapped heads appeared on all sides,
and some, in scanty clothing, were wandering in the passageways, demanding
what the trouble was. Cosmo, the captain, and Joseph Smith reassured them,
saying that there was no danger, and that something had happened which
would be explained in the morning.
The prisoners--and the whole fifteen were finally captured--were locked up
in a strong room, and a surgeon was sent to dress their wounds. Cosmo
Versal and the captain resumed their accustomed places on the bridge,
where they talked over the affair, and Cosmo explained his plans for the
"I'll give him his trial, as I promised," Cosmo said in conclusion, "and
you'll see what it will be. _Mutiny aboard this Ark!_" And he struck the
rail a violent blow with his fist.
The next morning directly after breakfast Cosmo called all passengers and
crew into the grand saloon, where many wondering looks were exchanged and
many puzzling questions asked. When the mutineers, with hands tied behind
their backs and their many bandages on arms and legs, were led in,
exclamations of astonishment were heard, and some of the timid ones shrank
away in fear.
Cosmo lost no time with preliminaries.
"These men," he said, taking his stand upon the platform, "have mutinied
and tried to capture the Ark. This fellow"--pointing to Campo--"was the
concocter and leader of the plot. He intended to throw me and Captain
Arms, and all of you whom he did not wish to retain for his fiendish
purposes, into the sea. But Heaven has delivered them into our hands. I
have promised them a trial, and they shall have it. But it will be a
trial in which justice shall not be cheated. I find that a moral poison
has stolen into this selected company, and I will eliminate it for once
The expressions of amazement and alarm redoubled in intensity.
"Professor Abel Able, Professor Jeremiah Moses, Sir Wilfrid Athelstone,
Costake Theriade," Cosmo continued, "you will please come forward to act
as members of the jury, of which I name myself also a member. I shall be
both judge and juror here, but I will hear what the rest of you may have
The men named stepped forward with some evidences of embarrassment, and
Cosmo gravely gave them seats beside him. Then he commanded that the
prisoners should confront the jury, and, heavily guarded, they were led to
The brutishness of Campo's face had never struck the passengers who had
seen him before as it did now. He looked a veritable jailbird. At the same
time he was evidently in terror for his life. He muttered something which
Cosmo, who had informed himself of all the circumstances from Waters, and
by privately questioning the others, had satisfied himself that the entire
scheme of the mutiny was of Campo's contrivance, and that they had been led
into it solely by his persuasion and threats, ordered Waters to speak. The
seaman told a straight story of what he had heard and seen. Cosmo himself
then related the events of the night. When he had finished he turned to
Campo and demanded what he had to say.
Campo again muttered under his breath, but made no attempt to defend
himself, simply saying:
"You promised me a trial."
"And haven't I given you a trial?" demanded Cosmo with flashing eyes. "You
thought you held the world in your grasp. It is _I_ that hold it in _my_
grasp, and _you_, too! You were going to make us 'walk the plank.' It is
_you_ who are going to walk it! Is that the verdict?" (turning to the four
Some of them nodded, some simply stared at Cosmo, surprised by the
vehemence of his manner.
"Enough," he said. "As to you," addressing the other prisoners, "you have
had your lesson; see that you don't forget it! Release them, and lead Campo
to the promenade deck."
Nobody thought that Cosmo would literally execute his threat to make the
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