concluded his jest with a laugh, but the face of his friend did not brighten. "You bet that medical examination meant something serious," he said. "Pooh!" and the Englishman slapped his friend playfully on the shoulder. "Since I have seen that vast crowd of well-developed people, and remember what that medicine man said, I have made up my mind that we are going to be separated." Poor Johnston's lip was quivering. "Rubbish! but there comes the captain; put on a bold front; talk up New York; tell 'em about Chicago and the Fair, and ask to be allowed to ride in their Ferris Wheel--if they ain't got no wheel, ask 'em when the first train leaves town." "This is no time for jokes," growled Johnston, as Tradmos returned. Tradmos motioned to something that in the distance looked like a carriage, but which turned out to be a flying machine. It rose gracefully and glided over the ground and settled at their feet. It was large enough to seat a dozen people, and there was a little glass-windowed compartment at the end in which they could see "the driver," as he was termed by Tradmos. The mysterious machinery was hidden in the woodwork overhead and beneath. "Get in," said the captain, and the door flew open as if of its own accord. Thorndyke went in first and was followed by the moody American. "Let up on the ague," jested Thorndyke, nudging his friend with his elbow; "if you keep on quivering like that you may shake the thing loose from its moorings and we'd never know what became of us." Johnston scowled, and the officer, who had overheard the remark, smiled as he leaned toward the window and gave some directions to the man in the other compartment. "You both take it rather coolly," he remarked to Thorndyke. "I took a man and a woman over this route several years ago and both of them were in a dead faint; but, in fact, you have nothing to fear. We never have accidents." "It is as safe as a balloon, I suppose, and we are at home in them," said the Englishman, with just the hint of a swagger in his tone. "But your balloons are poor, primitive things at best," returned Tradmos in his soft voice. "They can't be compared to this mode of travel, though, of course, our machines would not operate in your atmosphere." "Why not?" impulsively asked the Englishman. "I thought----" But he did not conclude his remark, for they were rising, and both he and Johnston leaned apprehensively forward and looked out of one of the windows. Down below the long lines of people were silently waving their hats, scarfs and handkerchiefs as the machine swept along over their heads. As they rose higher the scene below widened like a great circular fan, and in the delicate roselight, the whole so appealed to Thorndyke's artistic sense that he ejaculated: "Glorious! Superb! Transcendent!" and he directed Johnston's attention to the wonderful pinkish haze which lay over the view toward the west like a vast diaphanous web of rosy sunbeams. "You ask why our air-ships would not operate in your atmosphere," said the captain, showing pleasure at Thorndyke's enthusiasm. "It is simple enough when you have studied the climatic differences between the two countries. You have much to contend with--the winds, for instance, the heat and cold, etc.; this is the only known country where the winds are subjugated. I have never been in your world, but from what I have heard of it I am not anxious to see it. Your atmosphere and climate are so changeable and so diverse in different localities that I have heard your people spend much of their time in seeking congenial climes. I think it was a man who came from London that claimed he once had a cold--'a bad cold,' I think he called it. It was a standing joke in the royal family for a long time, and he heard so much about it that he tried to deny what he had said!" Johnston glanced at the speaker non-plussed, but the captain was looking at Thorndyke. "Your climate is delightful here now," said the Englishman; "is it so long at a time?" "Perpetually; it is regulated every moment, and every year we perfect it in some way." "Perfect it?" "Yes, of course, why not? If it ever fails to be up to the usual high standard, it is owing to neglect of those in charge, and neglect is punished severely." Thorndyke's eyes sought those of the American incredulously. Seeing which Tradmos looked amused. "You doubt it," he smiled. "Well, wait till you have been here longer. The fact is, any one born in our climate could not live in yours. The king experimented on a man who claimed to have only one lung, but who had two sound ones when he was cut open. Well, the king sent him to China, or America, or some such place, and he wheezed himself to death in a week by your clocks. The weather was too fickle for him. Our system has been perfected to such an extent that we live four lives to your one, and our fruits and vegetables are a hundred per cent. better than those in other countries." "What is the name of your country?" asked Thorndyke, feeling that he was not losing anything by his boldness. "Alpha." "Where is it located?" "I don't know." Tradmos looked out at the window for a moment as if to ascertain that they were going in the right direction, then he fixed his dark eyes on Thorndyke and asked hesitatingly:-- "I never thought--I--but do you know where your country is located?" "Why, certainly." "Well, I don't know where this one is. We are taught everything, I think, except geography." Nothing more was said for several minutes, then an exclamation of admiration broke from the Englishman. The color of the sunlight was changing. From east to west within the entire arc of their observation rolled an endless billow of lavender light leaving a placid sea of the same color behind it. On it swept, slowly driving back the pink glow that had been over everything. "I see you like our sunlight?" said Tradmos, half interrogatively. "Never saw anything like it before." "Yours is, I think, the same color all day long." "Except on rainy days." "Must be a great bore, monotonous--too much sameness. It is white, is it not?" "Yes, rather--between white and yellow, I call it." "Something like our sixth hour, I suppose; this is the fourth hour of morning. Then come blue, yellow, green, and at noon red. The afternoon is divided up in the same way. The first hour is green, then follow yellow, blue, lavender, rose, gray and purple. Yes, I should think you would find yours somewhat tiresome." "We can rely on it," said Johnston speaking for the first time and in a wavering voice, "it is always there." "Doing business at the old stand," laughed Thorndyke, attempting an Americanism. "Well, that is a comfort, anyway," said the captain seriously. "In my time they have had no solar trouble, but some of the old people tell horrible tales of a period when our sun for several days did not shine at all." "Can it be possible?" said the Englishman dubiously. "Oh, yes; and the early settlers had a great deal of trouble in different ways; but I am not at liberty to give you information on that head. It is the king's special pleasure to have new-comers form their own impressions, and he is particularly fond of noting their surprise, and, above all, their approval. People usually come here of their own accord through the influence of our secret force of agents all over the earth, but you were brought because you happened to drop on our island and would have found out too much for our good, and that red light you kept burning night and day might have given us trouble. There is no telling how long you could have kept alive on those clams." "We meant no offence," apologized Thorndyke; "we----" "Oh, I know it, I was only explaining the situation," interrupted the officer. "What is that bright spot to the right?" asked Thorndyke, to change the subject. "The king's palace; that is the dome. We shall soon be there. Now, I must not talk to you any longer. Somebody may be watching us with glasses. I have taken a liking to you, and some time, when I get the opportunity, I shall give you some useful advice, but I must treat you very formally, at least till you have had audience with the king." "Thank you," said the Englishman, and Tradmos stood up in the car to watch their progress through the circular glass of a little cupola on top. Thorndyke smiled at Johnston, but the American was in no pleasant mood. The indifference with which Tradmos had treated him had nettled him. The machine was now slowly descending. A vast pile of white marble, with many golden domes and spires, rose between them and the earth below. "To the balcony on the central dome," ordered Tradmos through the window of the driver's compartment; and the adventurers felt the car sweep round in a curve that threw them against each other, and the next moment they had landed on a wide iron balcony encircling a great golden cone that towered hundreds of feet above them. Chapter V. "Follow me," said the captain stiffly, for there were several guards in white and gold uniforms pacing to and fro on the battlement-like walls. He led the two adventurers through a door in the base of the dome. At first they were dazed by a brilliant light from above, and looking up they beheld a marvel of kaleidoscopic colors formed by a myriad of electric-lighted prisms sloping gradually from the floor to the apex of the dome. Thorndyke could compare it to nothing but a stupendous diamond, the very heart of which the eye penetrated. "Don't look at it now," advised Tradmos, in an undertone; "it was constructed to be seen from below, and to light the great rotunda." Mutely the captives obeyed. At every turn they were greeted with a new wonder. The captain now led them round a narrow balcony on the inside of the vast dome, and, looking over the railing down below, they saw a vast tessellated pavement made of polished stones of various and brilliant colors and so artistically arranged that, from where they stood, lifelike pictures of landscapes seemed to rise to meet the vision wherever the eye rested. Statues of white marble, gold and bronze were placed here and there, and, in squares of living green, fountains threw up streams of crystal water. Tradmos paused for them to look down and smiled at their evident admiration. "How far is it down there?" Thorndyke ventured to ask. "Over a thousand feet," replied Tradmos. "Look across opposite and you will see that there are fifty floors beneath us, and each floor has a balcony like this overlooking the court." "What is the sound that comes up from below?" asked the Englishman. "It is the voices of the people and their footsteps on the stone." "What people?" "Don't you see them? Your eyes are dazzled by the light; I ought to have warned you against looking up into the dome. The people are down there; do the views in the pavement not look a little blurred?" "Yes." "Well, if you will look more closely you will see that it is a multitude of people." "Great heavens!" exclaimed the Englishman, and he became deeply absorbed in the contemplation of the rarest sight he had ever seen. As he looked closely he noticed a black spot growing larger and nearer, and he glanced inquiringly at the captain. "It is an elevator. There are a great many of them used in the palace, but none have happened to rise as high as this since we came. The one you see is coming for us." The next moment the strange vehicle was floating toward them. The captain opened the door and preceded the captives into the interior. "The royal audience chamber," he said, carelessly, to the driver behind the glass of the adjoining compartment, and down they floated as lightly as a bubble--down past balcony after balcony, laden with moving throngs, until they alighted in a great conservatory. Near them was a tall fountain the water of which was playing weird music on great bells of glass, some of which hung in the fountain's stream and others rose and fell, giving forth strange, submerged tones in the foaming basin. "It is a new invention recently placed here by the king's son who is a musical genius," explained Tradmos. "You will be astonished at some of his inventions." He led them, as if to avoid the great crowds that they could now hear on all sides, down a long vista of palms, the branches of which met over their heads, to the wide door of the audience chamber. A party of men dressed in uniforms of white silk with gold and silver ornaments bowed before the captain and made way for him. The captives now found themselves in the most splendid and spacious room they had ever seen, at the far end of which was a long dais and on it an elaborate throne. "I shall be obliged to leave you when the king comes," said Tradmos to Thorndyke, "but I shall hope to see you again. Don't forget my name and rank, for I may send you a message some time that may aid you." "Thank you," replied the Englishman, and then as a throng of beautiful young women came from a room on the side and gathered about the throne he added inquisitively: "Who are they?" "The wives and daughters of the king and the wives of the princes," was the cautious answer, "but don't look at any one of them closely." "I don't see how a fellow can help it; they are ravishingly beautiful, don't you think so, Johnston?" "Don't be a fool," snapped the American, "don't you know enough to hold your tongue." Tradmos smiled as if amused, and when he had shown them to seats near the great golden throne, he said: "Stay where you are till the king sends for you, and then go and kneel before the throne. Do not rise till he bids you." The captives thanked him and the captain turned away. The eyes of all the royal party now rested on the strangers, and it was hard for them to appear unconscious of it. A great crowd was slowly filling the room and an orchestra in a balcony on the left of the dais began to make delightful music on instruments the strangers had never before seen. After an entrancing prelude a sound of singing was heard, and far up in a grand dome, lighted like the one the captives had just admired over the central court of the palace, they saw a bevy of maidens, robed in white, moving about in mid-air, apparently unsupported by anything. "How on earth is that done?" asked Thorndyke. "I don't know," returned Johnston, speaking more freely now that the captain had gone. "I am not surprised at anything." "Their voices are exquisite, and that orchestra--a Boston symphony concert couldn't be compared to it." "There goes the sunlight again," cried Johnston, "by Jove, it is blue!" The transition was sublime. They seemed transported to some other scene. The great multitude, the elegantly-dressed attendants about the throne, the courtiers, the beautiful women, all seemed to change in appearance; on the view through the wide doors leading to the conservatory, and the great swarming court beyond, the soft blue light fell like a filmy veil of enchantment.
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