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that he had been over bold.

"Follow me," answered the officer curtly, and with a motion of
his hand to his men he turned toward the odd-looking vessel.

The two adventurers obeyed, and the cloaked men fell in behind
them. Neither Johnston nor Thorndyke had ever seen anything like
the peculiar boat that was moored to the rocky shore. It was
about forty feet in length, had a hull shaped like a racing
yacht, but which was made of black rubber inflated with air. It
was covered with glass, save for a doorway about six feet high
and three feet wide in the side, and looked like a great oblong
bubble floating on the still dark water. As they approached the
searchlight was extinguished, and they were enabled to see the
boat to a better advantage by the aid of the electric lights that
illuminated the interior. It was with feelings of awe that the
two adventurers followed the captain across the gang-plank into
the vessel.

The electric light was brilliantly white, and in various places
pink, red and light-blue screens mellowed it into an artistic
effect that was very soothing to the eye. The ceiling was hung
with festoons of prisms as brilliant as the purest diamonds, and
in them, owing to the gently undulatory movement of the vessel,
colors more beautiful than those of a rainbow played
entrancingly. Rare pictures in frames of delicate gold were
interspersed among the clusters of prisms, and the floor was
covered with carpets that felt as soft beneath the foot as
pillows of eider-down.

As he entered the door the officer threw off his gray cloak, and
his men did likewise, disclosing to view the finest uniforms
the prisoners had ever seen. Captain Tradmos's legs were clothed
in tights of light-blue silk, and he wore a blue sack-coat of
silk plush and a belt of pliant gold, the buckles of which were
ornamented with brilliant gems. His eyes were dark and
penetrating, and his black hair lay in glossy masses on his
shoulders. He had the head of an Apollo and a brow indicative of
the highest intellect.

Leaving his men in the first room that they entered, he
gracefully conducted his prisoners through another room to a
small cabin in the stern of the boat, and told them to make
themselves comfortable on the luxurious couches that lined the
circular glass walls.

"Our journey will be of considerable length," he said, "and as
you are no doubt fatigued, you had better take all the rest
you can get. I see that you need food and have ordered a repast
which will refresh you." As he concluded he touched a button
in the wall and instantly a table, laden with substantial food,
rare delicacies and wines, rose through a trap-door in the floor.
He smiled at the expressions of surprise on their faces and
touched a green bottle of wine with his white tapering hand.

"The greater part of our journey will be under water, and our
wines are specially prepared to render us capable of
subsisting on a rather limited quantity of air during the voyage,
so I advise you to partake of them freely; you will find them
very agreeable to the taste."

"We are very grateful," bowed Thorndyke, from his seat on a
couch. "I am sure no prisoners were ever more graciously
or royally entertained. To be your prisoner is a pleasure to be

"Till our heads are cut off, anyway," put in the irrepressible

Tradmos smiled good-humoredly.

"I shall leave you now," he said, and with a bow he withdrew.

"This is an adventure in earnest," whispered Johnston; "my stars!
what can they intend to do with us?"

"One of the first things will be to take us down to the bottom of
this lake where we saw them awhile ago, and I don't fancy it at
all; what if this blasted glass-case should burst? We may have
dropped into a den of outlaws on a gigantic scale, and it may be
necessary to put us out of the way to keep our mouths closed."

"I am hungry, and am going to eat," said the American, drawing a
cushioned stool up to the table. "Here goes for some of the wine;
remember, it is a sort of breath-restorer. I am curious enough
not to want to collapse till I have seen this thing through. He
said something about a palace and a king. Where can we be going?"

"Down into the centre of the earth, possibly," and the handsome
Englishman moved a stool to the table and took the glass of
green-colored wine that Johnston pushed toward him. "Some
scientists hold that the earth is filled with water instead of
fire. Who knows where this blamed thing may not take us? Here is
to a safe return from the amphibious land!"

Both drank their wine simultaneously, lowered their glasses at
the same instant, and gazed into each other's eyes.

"Did you ever taste such liquor?" asked Thorndyke, "it seems to
run like streams of fire through every vein I have."

Johnston shook his head mutely, and held the sparkling
effervescing fluid between him and the light.

"Ugh! take it down," cried the Englishman, "it throws a green
color on your face that makes you look like a corpse."
Johnston clinked the glass against that of his companion and they
drained the glasses. "Hush, what was that?" asked Thorndyke.

There was a sound like boiling water outside and as if air were
being pumped out of some receptacle, and the vessel began to move
up and down in a lithe sort of fashion and to bend tortuously
from side to side like a great sluggish fish. Through the
partitions of glass they saw one of the men closing the door, and
in a moment the vessel glided away from the shore. The men all
sank into easy positions on the couches, and delightful music as
soft as an Aeolian lyre seemed to be breathed from the walls
and floor. Then the music seemed to die away and a bell down in
the vessel's hull rang.

"We are in the middle of the lake," said Thorndyke, looking
through the glass toward the black cliffy shore; "the next thing
will be our descent. I wonder----"

But he was unable to proceed, and Johnston noticed in alarm that
his eyes were slightly protruding from their sockets. The air
seemed suddenly to become more com- pact as if compressed, and
the water was set into such violent commotion that it was dashed
against the glass sides in billows as white as snow. Then
Johnston found that he could not breathe freely, and he
understood the trouble of the Englishman.

Captain Tradmos came suddenly to the door. He was smiling as he
motioned toward the wines on the table.

"You had better drink more of the wine," he advised sententiously.

Both of the captives rushed to the table. The instant they had
swallowed the wine they felt relieved, but were still weak.
The captain bowed and went away. Thorndyke's hand trembled as he
refilled his friend's glass. I thought I was gone up," he said,
"I never had such a choky sensation in my life; you are still
purple in the face."

"Eat of what is before you," said the captain, looking in at the
door; "you cannot stand the increasing pressure unless you do."

They needed no second invitation, for they were half-famished.
The fish and meat were delicious, and the bread was delightfully

"Look outside!" cried Johnston. The water was now still, but it
was gradually rising up the sides of the boat, and in a moment
it had closed over the crystal roof. Both of the captives were
conscious of a heavy sensation in the head and a dull roaring in
the ears. Down they went, at first slowly and then more rapidly,
till it seemed to them that they had descended over a thousand
feet. Great monsters like whales swam to the vessel, as if
attracted by the lights, and their massive bodies jarred against
the glass walls as they turned to swim away. They sank about five
hundred feet lower; and all at once the lights went out, and the
boat gradually stopped.

It was at once so dark that the two captives could not see each
other, though only the width of the table separated them.
Everything was profoundly still; not a sound came from the
men in the other rooms. Presently Thorndyke whispered, "Look, do
you see that red light overhead?"

"Yes," said Johnston, "it looks like a star."

"It is our bonfire," said Thorndyke, "that's what betrayed us."

Again the vessel began to sink, and more rapidly than ever;
indeed, as Thorndyke expressed it, he had the cool feeling
that nervous people experience in going down quickly in an

"If we go any lower," he added, as the great rubber hull seemed
to struggle like some living monster, "the sides of this thing
will collapse like an egg-shell and we will be as flat as

"You need not fear, we have much lower to go!" It was the
captain's voice, but they could not tell from whence it
came. Then they heard again the seductive music, and it was so
soothing that they soon fell asleep.

They had no idea how long they had slept, but they were awakened
by the ringing of a bell and felt the vessel was coming to a
stop. They were still far beneath the surface; indeed, the boat
was resting on the bottom, for in the light of two or three
powerful search-lights they saw a wide succession of submerged
hills, vales, and rugged cliffs. Before them was a great
mountain-side and in it they saw the mouth of a dark tunnel. They
had scarcely noticed it before the vessel rose a little and
glided toward the tunnel and entered it. Through the glass walls
they could see that it was narrow, and that the ragged sides and
roof were barely far enough apart to admit them.

Suddenly one of the men came in and drew a curtain down behind
them, and, with a vexed look on his face retired.

When he was gone Johnston put his lips close to Thorndyke's ear
and whispered:

"Did you see that?"

"See what?"

"Just as he drew the curtain down I saw what looked to me like a
cliff of solid gold. It had been dug out into a cavern in which I
saw a vessel like this, and men in diving suits digging and
loading it."

This took the Englishman's breath away for a moment, then he
remarked: "That accounts for the heel-tap we found; who knows,
these people may be possessors of the richest gold and silver
mines on earth."

The bell rang again. "We are rising," said Johnston. "If this is
the only way of reaching the king's domain, we could never get
back to civilization unless they release us of their own accord,
that's certain!"

"Heavens, isn't it still!" exclaimed the Englishman. "The
machinery of this thing moves as noiselessly as the backbone of
an eel. I wish I could understand its works."

"I am more concerned about where we are going. I tell you we are
being taken to some wonderful place. People who can construct
such marvels of mechanical skill as this boat will not be behind
in other things; then look at the physiques of those giants."

Just then the man who had drawn down the shade came in and raised
it. Both the captives pretended to be uninterested in
his movements, but when he had withdrawn they looked through the
glass eagerly.

"See," whispered Thorndyke, in the ear of his companion, "the
walls are close to us, and are as perpendicular as those of
the lake in which they found us."

Johnston said nothing. His attention was riveted to the walls of
rock; the vessel was rising rapidly. An hour passed. The soft
music had ceased, and the air seemed less dense and fresher.
Then the waters suddenly parted over the roof and ran in crystal
streams down the oval glass.

They were on the surface, and the vessel was slowly gliding
toward the shore which could not be seen owing to there now
being no light except that inside the boat. Captain Tradmos
entered, followed by two of his men holding black silken

"We must blindfold you," he said; "cap- tives are not allowed to
see the entrance to our kingdom."

Without a word they submitted.

"This way," said the captain kindly, and, holding to an arm of
each, he piloted them out of the vessel to the shore. Then he
led them through what they imagined to be a long stone corridor
or arcade from the ringing echoes of their feet on the stone
pavement. Presently they came to what seemed to be an elevator,
for when they had entered it and sat down, they heard a
metallic door slide back into its place, and they descended

They could form no idea as to the distance they went down; but
Thorndyke declared afterward that it was over ten thousand feet.
When the elevator stopped Captain Tradmos led them out, and both
of the captives were conscious of breathing the purest, most
invigorating air they had ever inhaled. Instantly their strength
returned, and they felt remarkably buoyant as they were led along
over another pavement of polished stone.

Tradmos laughed. "You like the atmosphere?"

"I never heard of anything like it," said Thorndyke. "It is so
delightful I can almost taste it."

"It was that which made Alpha what it is--the most wonderful
country in the universe," said the officer. "There is much in
store for you."

The ears of the two captives were greeted by a vague, indefinable
hum, like and yet unlike that of a busy city. It was like many
far-off sounds carefully muffled. Now and then they heard human
voices, laughter, and singing in the distance, and the twanging
of musical instruments.

Then they knew that they were entering a building of some sort,
for they heard a key turn in a lock and the humming sound in the
distance was cut off. They felt a soft carpet under their feet,
and the feet of their guards no longer clinked on the stones.

When the bandages were removed they found themselves in a
sumptuous chamber, alone with the captain. The brilliant
light from a quaintly-shaped candelabrum, in the centre of the
chamber, dazzled them, but in a few minutes their eyes had become
accustomed to it.

Tradmos seemed to be enjoying the looks of astonishment on their
faces as they glanced at the different objects in the room.

"It is night," he said smilingly. "You need rest after your
voyage. Lie down on the beds and sleep. To-morrow you will be
conducted to the palace of the king."

With a bow he withdrew, and they heard a massive bolt slide into
the socket of a door hidden behind a curtain. The two men gazed
at each other without speaking, for a moment, and then they began
to inspect the room.

In alcoves half-veiled with silken curtains stood statues in gold
and bronze. The walls and ceilings were decorated with pictures
unlike any they had ever seen. Before one, the picture of an
angel flying through a dark, star-filled sky, they both stood

"What is it?" asked Thorndyke, finding voice finally. "It is not
done with brush or pencil; the features seem alive and, by Jove,
you can actually see it breathe. Don't you see the clouds gliding
by, and the wings moving?"

"It is light--it is formed by light!" declared the other
enthusiastically, and he ran to the wall, about six feet from the
picture, and put his hand on a square metal box screwed to the

"I have it," he said quickly, "come here!"

The Englishman advanced curiously and examined the box.

"Don't you see that tiny speck of light in the side towards the
picture? Well, the view is thrown from this box on the wall, and

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