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pter I.

The balloon seemed scarcely to move, though it was slowly sinking
toward the ocean of white clouds which hung between it and the

The two inmates of the car were insensible; their faces were
bloodless, their cheeks sunken. They were both young and
handsome. Harry Johnston, an American, was as dark and sallow as
a Spaniard. Charles Thorndyke, an English gentleman, had yellow
hair and mustache, blue eyes and a fine intellectual face. Both
were tall, athletic in build and well-proportioned.

Johnston was the first to come to consciousness as the
balloon sank into less rarefied atmosphere. He opened his eyes
dreamily and looked curiously at the white face of his friend in
his lap. Then he shook him and tried to call his name, but his
lips made no sound. Drawing himself up a little with a hand on
the edge of the basket, he reached for a water-jug and sprinkled
Thorndyke's face. In a moment he was rewarded by seeing the eyes
of the latter slowly open.

"Where are we?" asked Thorndyke in a whisper.

"I don't know;" Johnston answered, "getting nearer to the earth,
for we can breathe more easily. I can't remember much after the
professor fell from the car. My God, old man! I shall never
forget the horror in the poor fellow's eyes as he clung to the
rope down there and begged us to save him. I tried to get you to
look, but you were dozing off. I attempted to draw him up, but
the rope on the edge of the basket was tipping it, and both you
and I came near following him. I tried to keep from seeing his
horrible face as the rope began to slip through his fingers. I
knew the instant he let go by our shooting upward."

"I came to myself and looked over when the basket tipped,"
replied the Englishman, "I thought I was going too, but I could
not stir a muscle to prevent it. He said something desperately,
but the wind blew it away and covered his face with his beard,
so that I could not see the movement of his lips."

"It may have been some instructions to us about the management
of the balloon."

"I think not--perhaps a good-bye, or a message to his wife and
child. Poor fellow!"

"How long have we been out of our heads?" and Johnston looked
over the side of the car.

"I have not the slightest idea. Days and nights may have passed
since he fell."

"That is true. I remember coming to myself for an instant, and it
seemed that we were being jerked along at the rate of a gunshot.
My God, it was awful! It was as black as condensed midnight. I
felt your warm body against me and was glad I was not alone.
Then I went off again, but into a sort of nightmare. I thought I
was in Hell, and that you were with me, and that Professor
Helmholtz was Satan."

"Where can we be?" asked Thorndyke.

"I don't know; I can't tell what is beneath those clouds. It may
be earth, sea or ocean; we were evidently whisked along in a
storm while we were out of our heads. If we are above the ocean
we are lost."

Thorndyke looked over the edge of the car long and attentively,
then he exclaimed suddenly:

"I believe it is the ocean."

"What makes you think so?"

"It reflects the sunlight. It is too bright for land. When we got
above the clouds at the start it looked darker below than it
does now; we may be over the middle of the Atlantic."

"We are going down," said Johnston gloomily.

"That we are, and it means something serious."

Johnston made no answer. Half-an-hour went by. Thorndyke looked
at the sun.

"If the professor had not dropped the compass, we could find our
bearings," he sighed.

Johnston pointed upward. Thin clouds were floating above them.
"We are almost down," he said, and as they looked over the sides
of the car they saw the reflection of the sun on the bosom of the
ocean, and, a moment later, they caught sight of the blue
billows rising and falling.

"I see something that looks like an island," observed Thorndyke,
looking in the direction toward which the balloon seemed to be
drifting. "It is dark and is surrounded by light. It is far
away, but we may reach it if we do not descend too rapidly."

"Throw out the last bag of sand," suggested the American, "we
need it as little now as we ever shall."

Thorndyke cut the bag with his knife and watched the sand filter
through the bottom of the basket and trail along in a graceful
stream behind the balloon. The great flabby bag overhead
steadied itself, rose slightly and drifted on toward the dark
spot on the vast expanse of sunlit water. They could now clearly
see that it was a small island, not more than a mile in

"How far is it?" asked Thorndyke.

"About two miles," answered the American laconically, "it is a
chance for us, but a slim one."

The balloon gradually sank. For twenty minutes the car glided
along not more than two hundred feet above the waves. The island
was now quite near. It was a barren mound of stone, worn into
gullies and sharp precipices by the action of the waves and
rain. Hardly a tree or a shrub was in sight.

"It looks like the rocky crown of a great stone mountain hidden
in the ocean," said the Englishman; "half a mile to the shore, a
hundred feet to the water; at this rate of speed the wind would
smash us against those rocks like a couple of bird's eggs
dropped from the clouds. We must fall into the water and swim
ashore. There is no use trying to save the balloon."

"We had better be about it, then," said Johnston, rising
stiffly and holding to the ropes. "If we should go down in the
water with the balloon we would get tangled in the ropes and get
asphyxiated with the gas. We had better hang down under the
basket and let go at exactly the same time."

The water was not more than forty feet beneath, and the island
was getting nearer every instant. The two aeronauts swung over
on opposite sides of the car and, face to face, hung by their
hands beneath.

"I dread the plunge," muttered Thorndyke; "I feel as weak as a
sick kitten; I am not sure that I can swim that distance, but
the water looks still enough."

"I am played out too," grunted the American, red in the face;
"but it looks like our only chance. Ugh! she made a big dip then.
We'd better let go. I'll count three, and three is the signal.
Now ready. One, two, three!"

Down shot the balloonists and up bounded the great liberated bag
of gas; the basket and dangling ropes swung wildly from side to
side. The aeronauts touched the water feet foremost at the same
instant, and in half a minute they rose, not ten feet apart.

"Now for it," sputtered Johnston, shaking his bushy head like a
swimming dog. "Look, the shore is not very far." Thorndyke was
saving his wind, and said nothing, but accommodated his stroke
to that of his companion, and thus they breasted the gently-
rolling billows until finally, completely exhausted, they
climbed up the shelving rocks and lay down in the warm sunshine.

"Not a very encouraging outlook," said Johnston, rising when his
clothing was dry and climbing a slight elevation. "There is
nothing in sight except a waste of stone. Let's go up to that
point and look around."

The ascent was exceedingly trying, for the incline was steep and
it was at times difficult to get a firm footing. But they were
repaid for the exertion, for they had reached the highest point
of the island and could see all over it. As far as their vision
reached there was nothing beyond the little island except the
glistening waves that reached out till they met the sky in
all directions. High up in the clouds they saw the balloon, now
steadily drifting with the wind toward the south.

"We might as well be dead and done with it," grumbled
Thorndyke. "Ships are not apt to approach this isolated spot, and
even if they did, how could we give a signal of distress?"

Johnston stroked his dark beard thoughtfully, then he pointed
toward the shore.

"There are some driftwood and seaweed," he said; "with my sun-
glass I can soon have a bonfire." He took a piece of punk from a
waterproof box that he carried in his pocket and focussed the
sun's rays on it. "Run down and bring me an armful of dry seaweed
and wood," he added, intent on his work.

Thorndyke clambered down to the shore, and in a few minutes
returned with an armful of fuel. Johnston was blowing his punk
into a flame, and in a moment had a blazing fire.

"Good," approved the Englishman, rubbing his hands together over
the flames. "We'll keep it burning and it may do some good."
Then a smile of satisfaction came over his face as he began to
take some clams from his pockets. "Plenty of these fellows down
there, and they are as fat and juicy as can be. Hurry up and
let's bake them. I'm as hungry as a bear. There is a fine spring
of fresh water below, too, so we won't die of thirst."

They baked the clams and ate them heartily, and then went down
to the spring near the shore. The water was deliciously cool and
invigorating. The sun sank into the quiet ocean and night crept
on. The stars came out slowly, and the moon rose full and red
from the waves, adding its beams to the flickering light of the
fire on the hill-top.

"Suppose we take a walk all round on the beach," proposed the
Englishman; "there is no telling what we may find; we may run on
something that has drifted ashore from some wrecked ship."

Johnston consented. They had encompassed the entire island, which
was oval in shape, and were about to ascend to the rock to put
fresh fuel on the fire before lying down to sleep for the
night, when Thorndyke noticed a road that had evidently been
worn in the rock by human footsteps.

"Made by feet," he said, bending down and looking closely at the
rock and raking up a handful of white sand, "but whether the
feet of savage or civilized mortal I can't make out."

Johnston was a few yards ahead of him and stooped to pick up
something glittering in the moonlight. It was a tap from
the heel of a shoe and was of solid silver.

"Civilized," he said, holding it out to his companion; "and of
the very highest order of civilization. Whoever heard of people
rich enough to wear silver heel-taps."

"Are you sure it is silver?" asked the Englishman, examining it

"Pure and unalloyed; see how the stone has cut into it, and
feel its weight."

"You are right, I believe," returned Thorndyke, as Johnston put
the strange trophy into his pocket-book, and the two adventurers
paused a moment and looked mutely into each other's eyes.

"We haven't the faintest idea of where we are," said Johnston,
his tone showing that he was becoming more despondent. "We don't
know how long we were unconscious in the balloon, nor where we
were taken in the storm. We may now be in the very centre of the
North Polar sea--this knob may be the very pivot on which this
end of the earth revolves."

The Englishman laughed. "No danger; the sun is too natural.
>From the poles it would look different."

"I don't mean the old sun that you read so much about, and that
they make so much racket over at home, but another of which we
are the original discoverer--a sun that isn't in old Sol's beat
at all, but one that revolves round the earth from north to south
and dips in once a day at the north and the south poles. See?"

The Englishman laughed heartily and slapped his friend on the

"I think we are somewhere in the Atlantic; but your finding that
heel-tap does puzzle me."

"We are going to have an adventure, beside which all others of
our lives will pale into insignificance. I feel it in my bones.
See how evenly this road has been worn and it is leading toward
the centre of the island."

In a few minutes the two adventurers came to a point in the road
where tall cliffs on either side stood up perpendicularly. It
was dark and cold, and but a faint light from the moon shone
down to them.

"I don't like this," said Johnston, who was behind the
Englishman; "we may be walking into the ambush of an enemy."

"Pshaw!" and Thorndyke plunged on into the gloomy passage.
Presently the walls began to widen like a letter "Y" and in a
great open space they saw a placid lake on the bosom of which
the moon was shining. On all sides the towering walls rose for
hundreds of feet. Speechless with wonder and with quickly-
beating hearts they stumbled forward over the uneven road till
they reached the shore of the lake. The water was so clear and
still that the moon and stars were reflected in it as if in a
great mirror.

"Look at that!" exclaimed Thorndyke, pointing down into the
depths, "what can that be?"

Johnston followed Thorndyke's finger with his eyes. At first he
thought that it was a comet moving across the sky and reflected
in the water; but, on glancing above, he saw his mistake. It
looked, at first, like a great ball of fire rolling along the
bottom of the lake with a stream of flame in its wake.

Chapter II.

The two men watched it for several minutes; all the time it
seemed to be growing larger and brighter till, after a while,
they saw that the light came from something shaped like a ship,
sharp at both ends, and covered with oval glass. As it slowly
rose to the surface they saw that it contained five or six men,
sitting in easy chairs and reclining on luxurious divans. One of
them sat at a sort of pilot-wheel and was directing the course
of the strange craft, which was moving as gracefully as a great

Then the young men saw the man at the pilot-wheel raise his hand,
and from the water came the musical notes of a great bell. The
vessel stopped, and one of the men sprang up and raised an
instrument that looked like a telescope to his eyes. With this he
seemed to be closely searching the lake shores, for he did not
move for several minutes. Then he lowered the instrument, and
when the bell had rung again, the vessel rose slowly and
perpendicularly to the surface and glided to the shore within
twenty yards of where the adventurers stood.

"Could they have seen us?" whispered Thorndyke, drawing Johnston
nearer the side of the cliff.

"I think so; at all events, they are between us and the outlet;
we may as well make the best of it."

The men, all except the pilot, landed, and a dazzling electric
search-light was turned on the spot where Thorndyke and Johnston
stood. For a moment they were so blinded that they could not
see, and then they heard footsteps, and, their eyes becoming
accustomed to the light, they found themselves surrounded by
several men, very strangely clad. They all wore long cloaks that
covered them from head to foot and every man was more than six
feet in height and finely proportioned. One of them, who seemed
to be an officer in command, bowed politely.

"I am Captain Tradmos, gentlemen, in the king's service. It is my
duty to make you my prisoners. I must escort you to the palace
of the king."

"That's cool," said Johnston, to conceal the discomfiture that he
felt, "we had no idea that you had a kingdom. We have tramped all
over this island, and you are the first signs of humanity we have

He would have recalled his words before he had finished speaking,
if he could have done so, for he saw by the manner of the captain

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