List Of Contents | Contents of The Land of the Changing Sun
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the cool, damp air of the corridor, and some one raised him to his
feet and led him back to the throne-room.

In the bright light which burst on him as the door opened, the
beautiful women and handsome men moving about the throne were to
him like a glimpse of Paradise. The attendant left him at the door
and he walked in, so dazed and weak that he hardly knew what to
do. No one seemed to notice him and the king was engaged in an
animated conversation with several ladies who were sitting at his

In a bevy of women Thorndyke noticed Bernardino. She gave him a
quick, sympathetic glance of recognition and then looked down
discreetly. Presently she left the others and moved on till she
had disappeared behind a great carved wine-cistern which stood on
the backs of four crouching golden leopards in a retired part of
the room. Something in her sudden movement made the Englishman
think she wanted to speak to him, and he went to her. He was not
mistaken, for she smiled as he approached.

"I am glad," she whispered, touching his arm impulsively, and then
quickly removing her hand as if afraid of detection.

"Glad of what?" he asked.

"Glad that you stood that--that torture so well; several men have
died in that chair and some went mad."

"I remembered your advice; that saved me."

"I have a plan for us to try to rescue your friend."

"Ah, I had forgotten him! what is it?"

"Captain Tradmos likes you and has consented to aid us. We shall
need an air-ship and he has one at his disposal which is used only
for governmental purposes."

"What do you want with the air-ship?"

"To go beyond and over the great wall."

"But can we get away from here without being seen?"

"Under ordinary circumstances, neither by day nor night, but
tomorrow the king has planned to let his people witness a 'War of
the Elements.'"

"A War of the Elements?"

"Yes, the grandest fete of Alpha. There will be a frightful storm
in the sky; no light for hours; the thunder will be musical and
the lightning will seem to set the world on fire. That will be our
chance. When it is darkest we shall try to get away unseen. We may
fail. Such a daring thing has never been attempted by any one. If
we are detected we shall suffer death as the penalty, the king
could never pardon such a bold violation of law."

Chapter XI.

Johnston clung tenaciously to the rock. He tried to look down to
see if the barge had passed beneath him, but the intense strain on
his arm now drew his head back, so that he could not do so. Once
more he made an effort to regain his position on the rock, but he
was not able to raise himself an inch.

He felt certain that the fall would kill him, and he groaned in
agony. His fingers were benumbed and beginning to slip. Then he
fell. The air whizzed in his ears. He tried to keep his feet
downward, but it was no use. He was whirled heels over head many
times, and his senses were leaving him when he was restored by a
plunge into the cold water.

Down he sank. It seemed to him that he never would lose his
momentum and that he would strangle before he could rise to the
surface. Finally, however, he came up more dead than alive. He had
narrowly missed the flat-boat, for he saw it receding from him
only a few yards away. On the shore stood Branasko motioning to
him; and, slowly, for his strength was almost gone, Johnston swam
toward him.

The latter waded out into the shallow water and drew him ashore.

"You had a narrow escape," he said, with a dry laugh. "I saw the
boat come from under the cliff just as you hung down from the
ledge. At first I hoped that you would get back on the rock, but
when I saw you try and do it and fail I thought that you were

The American could not speak for exhaustion; but, as he looked at
the departing craft with concern, Branasko laughed again: "Oh, you
thought it had a crew; so did I at first, but it has no one
aboard. It is drawn by a cable, and seems to be laden with coal."

"Did they notice our fall up there?" panted Johnston, nodding
toward the lights in the distance.

"No, they are farther away than I thought."

"Well, what ought we to do?"
"Hide here among the rocks till our clothing dries and then look
about us. We have nearly twenty-four hours to wait for the sun to
return through the tunnel."

"Where is the tunnel?"

"Over on the other side of that black hill. There, you can see the
mouth of the tunnel through which the sun comes."

"We need sleep," said the Alphian, when their clothing was dry,
"and it may be a long time before we get a chance to get it. Let
us lie down in the shadow of that rock and rest."

Johnston consented, and, lying down together, they soon dropped
asleep. They slept soundly.

Johnston was the first to awake. He felt so refreshed that he knew
he must have been unconscious several hours. He touched Branasko
and the latter sat up and rubbed his eyes and looked about him

"I had a horrible dream," he said shuddering. "I thought that we
were in the sun and over the capital city when it fell down. I
thought the fall was awful, and that all Alpha was aflame. Then
the fires went out. Everything was black, and the whole world rang
with cries of terrified people. Ugh! I don't want to dream so
again; I'd rather not sleep at all. But hush! what is that?"

Far away, as if in the centre of the earth, they heard a low
monotonous rumbling. They listened breathlessly. Every moment the
sound increased. They could feel the ground trembling as if shaken
by an earthquake.

"It is the coming sun," said Branasko. "We must get nearer the
tunnel and see what can be done. It would be useless to try to go
back now."

Stealing along in the shadow of the cliffs to keep from being
seen by the workmen on the plateau above, they climbed over a
rocky incline and saw in the side of a towering cliff, a great
black hole. It was the mouth of the tunnel. Into it ran eight
wide tracks of railway and six mammoth cables each twenty or
thirty feet in diameter.

"The sun cannot be far away now," remarked the Alphian.

"Is it not lighted?"

"I presume not; I think it comes through in darkness. The light is
saved for its passage over Alpha."

"Would it not be as safe for us to attempt to walk through the
tunnel to the palace of the king?"

"Never; it would be over fifty miles in utter darkness. There may
be a thousand trestles and bridges over frightful chasms: for the
most part, I have heard the tunnel is a natural channel or a
succession of caverns united by tunnels. The other is the safer
way, though it certainly is risky enough."

Louder and nearer grew the rumbling noise, and a faint light began
to shine from the tunnel and flash on the cliff opposite.

"It is the sun's headlight," explained Branasko.

Johnston was thrilled to the centre of his being as he saw the
light playing over the polished tracks and cables and illuminating
the walls of the great tunnel.

Suddenly there was a deep, mellow-toned stroke of a bell in the
sun, and, as the two men shrank involuntarily into the deeper
shade of the cliff, the great globe, a stupendous ball of crystal,
five hundred feet in height, slowly emerged from the mouth of the
tunnel and came to a stop under the opening in the rock which led
to the space above.

"What had we better do now?" said Johnston.

"Wait," cautioned Branasko, and he drew the American to a great
boulder nearer the sun, from behind which they could, without
being seen, watch the action of the crowd of workmen that was
hurriedly approaching. They placed ladders of steel against the
sides of the sun and swarmed over it like bees.

"They are cleaning the glass and adjusting the lights," said the
Alphian; "wait till they go round to the other side. Don't you see
that square opening near the ground?"

The American nodded.

"It is the door," said Branasko, "and we must try to enter it
while they are on the other side. Let us slip nearer; there is
another rock ahead that we can hide behind." Suiting the action to
the word, Branasko led the way, stooping near to the ground until
both were safely ensconced behind the boulder in question. They
were now so near that they could hear the electricians rubbing the

One who seemed to be superintending the work opened the door and
went into the sun and lighted a bright light. From where they
were crouched Johnston and Branasko caught a view of a little
hall, a flight of stairs, and some pictures on the walls.

Presently the man extinguished the light and came out.

"They are removing their ladders from this side," said Branasko in
a whisper. "Be ready; we must act quickly and without a particle
of sound. Run straight for that door and climb up the steps

The men had all gone round to the other side, and no one was in

"Quick! Follow me," and bending low to the earth the Alphian
darted across the intervening space and into the doorway. Johnston
was quite as successful. As he entered the door he saw Branasko
crawling up the carpeted stairs ahead of him, and, on his all-
fours, he followed. The first landing was large, and there in the
wall they found a closet. It would have been dark but for a dim
light that streamed down from above. Branasko opened the closet
door. "We must hide here for the present," he whispered.

They had barely got seated on the floor and closed the door when a
bright light broke round them and they heard somebody ascending
the stairs. The person passed by and went on further up. The two
adventurers dared not exchange a word. They could hear the
footsteps above and the sound of the electricians outside as
they polished the lights and moved their ladders from place to

"If he should stay, what could we do?" asked Johnston, after a
long pause, and when the footsteps sounded farther away.

"There are two of us and one of him," grimly replied the brawny

Johnston shuddered. "Let's not commit murder in any emergency," he

"It would not be murder; every man has a right to save his own

Nothing more was said just then, for the footsteps were growing
nearer. The man was descending. He crossed the landing they were
on and went down the last flight of stairs and out of the door.

Branasko rubbed his rough hands together. "We are going alone," he
said with satisfaction.

There was a sound of sliding ladders on the walls outside. The
workmen had finished their task. A moment later a great bell
overhead rang mellowly; the colossal sphere trembled and rocked
and then rose and swung easily forward like the car of a balloon.

"We are rising," said the Alphian, in a tone of superstitious awe.
Johnston said nothing. There was a cool, sinking sensation in
his stomach and his head was swimming. Branasko, however, was in
possession of all his faculties.

"We shall soon be through the shaft we first discovered and throw
our light over Alpha." As he spoke the space about them broke into
blinding brightness and for a few moments they could only open
their eyes for an instant at a time. After a while Branasko opened
the closet door and they went up the stairs.

The first apartment they entered was most luxuriously
furnished. Sofas, couches and reclining-chairs were scattered
here and there over the elegant carpet, and statues of gold and
marble stood in alcoves and niches and strange stereopticon
lanterns, hanging from the ceiling threw ever-changing and
life-like pictures on the walls. The light streamed in from
without through small circular windows. After they had walked
about the room for some minutes, the Alphian pointed to a half-
open door and a staircase at one side of the room.

"I think it leads to some sort of observatory on top," he said. "I
have heard that when the royal family makes this voyage they are
fond of looking out from it. Suppose we see."
Johnston acquiesced, and Branasko opened the door. From the
increased brightness that came in they were assured that the
stairs led outward.

Ascending many flights of stairs and traversing a narrow winding
gallery which seemed to be gradually sloping upward, they finally
reached the outside, and found themselves on a platform about
forty feet square surrounded by iron balustrades. Above hung
impenetrable blackness, below curved a majestic sphere of white

Chapter XII.

The sunlight was fading into gray when the princess turned to
leave Thorndyke. Night was drawing near.

"Have they assigned you a chamber yet?" she paused to ask.


"Then they have overlooked it; I shall remind the king."

Her beautiful, lithe form was clearly outlined against the red
glow of the massive swinging lamp as she moved gracefully away,
and Thorndyke's heart bounded with admiration and hope as he
thought of her growing regard for him. He resumed his seat among
the flowers, listening, as if in a delightful dream, to the
seductive music from bands in different parts of the palace and
the never-ceasing sound in the air which seemed to him to be the
concentrated echo of all the sounds in the strange country
rebounding from the vast cavern roof.

It grew darker. The gray outside had changed to purple. In the
palace the brilliant electric lights in prismatic globes refused
to allow the day to die. He was thinking of returning to the
throne-room when a page in silken attire approached from the
direction of the king's quarters.

"To your chambers, master," he announced, bowing respectfully.

Thorndyke arose and followed him to an elevator near by. They
ascended to the highest balcony of the great rotunda. Here they
alighted and turned to the right, the page leading the way, a key
in his hand. Presently the page stopped at a door and unlocked it
and preceded the Englishman into the room. As they entered an
electric light in a chandelier flashed up automatically.

It was a sumptuous apartment, and adjoining it were several
connecting rooms all elegantly furnished. The page crossed
the room and opened a door to a little stairway.

"It leads to the roof," he said. "The princess told me to call
your attention to it, that you might go out and view the

When the page had retired, Thorndyke, feeling lonely, ascended the
stairs to the roof. It was perfectly flat save for the great dome
which stood in the centre and the numerous pinnacles and cupolas
on every hand, and was very spacious. The Englishman's loneliness
increased, for no matter in what direction he looked, there was
not a living soul in sight. Far in front of him he saw a stone
parapet. He went to this and looked down on the city. The electric
lights were vari-colored, and arranged so that when seen from a
distance or from a great height they assumed artistic designs that
were beautiful to behold.

The regular streets and rows of buildings stretched away till the
light in the farthest distance seemed an ocean of blending
colors. Overhead the vault was black, and only here and there
shone a star; but as he looked upward they began to flash into
being, and so rapidly that the sky seemed a vast battlefield of

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