List Of Contents | Contents of The Land of the Changing Sun
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"Wonderful!" exclaimed the American.

"It is ahead of our clocks, anyway," jested Thorndyke. "Any
child that can count on its fingers could tell that this is the
fifth hour of the day."

The music grew louder; there was a harmonious blare of mighty
trumpets, the clang of gongs and cymbals, and then the
music softened till it could scarcely be heard. There was
commotion about the throne.

The king was coming. Every person on the dais stood motionless,
expectant. A page drew aside the rich curtain from a door on the
right, and an old man, wearing a robe of scarlet ornamented with
jewels and a crown set with sparkling gems, entered and seated
himself on the throne. The music sank lower; so soft did it
become that the tinkling bells of the great fountain outside
could be heard throughout the room.

The king bowed to the throng on the dais and spoke a few words to
a courtier who advanced as he sat down. The courtier must have
spoken of them, for the king at once looked down at Johnston and
Thorn-dyke and nodded his head. The courtier spoke to a page,
and the youth left the dais and came toward the captives.

"We are in for it," cautioned Thorndyke, "now don't be afraid of
your shadow; we'll come out all right."

"The king has sent for you," said the page, the next instant. "Go
to the throne."

They were the cynosure of the entire room as they went up the
carpeted steps of the dais and knelt before the king.

Chapter VI.

"Rise!" commanded the king, in a deep, well-modulated voice, and
when they had arisen he inspected them critically, his eyes
lingering on Thorndyke.

"You look as if you take life easily; you have a jovial
countenance," he said cordially.

Thorndyke returned his smile and at once felt at ease.

"There is no use in taking it any other way," he said; "it
doesn't amount to much at best."

"You are wrong," returned the king, playing with the jewels on
his robe, "that is because you have been reared as you have--in
your unsystematic world. Here we make life a serious study. It
is our object to assist nature in all things. The efforts of your
people amount to nothing because they are not carried far enough.
Your scientists are dreaming idiots. They are continually groping
after the ideal and doing nothing with the positive. It was for
us to carry out everything to perfection. Show me where we can
make a single improvement and you shall become a prince."

"If my life depended on that, my head would be off this instant,"
was the quick-witted reply of the Englishman.

This so pleased the king that he laughed till he shook. "Well
said," he smiled; "so you like our country?"

"Absolutely charmed; my friend (Thorndyke was determined to
bring his companion into favor, if possible) and I have been in
raptures ever since we rose this morning."

A flush of pleasure crossed the face of the king. "You have not
seen half of our wonders yet. I confess that I am pleased with
you, sir. The majority of people who are brought here are so
frightened that they grow morbid and desirous to return to
their own countries as soon as they learn that such a thing is
out of the question."

Thorndyke's stout heart suffered a sudden pang at the words, but
he did not change countenance in the slightest, for the king was
closely watching the effect of his announcement.

"Of course," went on the ruler, gratified by the indifference of
the Englishman, "of course, it could not be done. No one,
outside of a few of the royal family and our trusted agents, has
ever left us."

"I can't see how any one could be so unappreciative as to want
to go," answered Thorndyke, with a coolness that surprised even
Johnston. "I have travelled in all countries under the sun--the
sun I was born under--and got so bored with them that my friend
and myself took to ballooning for diversion; but here, there is a
delightful surprise at every turn."

"I was told you were aeronauts," returned the ruler, deigning to
cast a glance at the silent Johnston, who stood with
eyes downcast, "and I confess that it interested me in you."

At that juncture a most beautiful girl glided through the
curtains at the back of the throne and came impulsively toward
the king. Her brown hair fell in rich masses on her bare
shoulders; her eyes were large, deep and brown, and her skin was
exquisitely fine in texture and color; her dress was artistic
and well suited to her lithe figure. She held an instrument
resembling a lute in her hands, and stopped suddenly when she
noticed that the king was engaged,

"It is my daughter, the Princess Bernardino," explained the
king, as he heard her light step and turned toward her;
"she shall sing for you, and, yes (nodding to her) you shall
dance also."

As she took her position on a great rug in front of the throne,
she kept her eyes on the handsome Englishman as if fascinated
by his appearance. Thorndyke's heart beat quickly; the blood
mantled his face and he stood entranced as she touched the
resonant strings with her white fingers and began to play and
sing. An innocent, artless smile parted her lips from her
matchless teeth, and her face glowed with inspiration. Far above
in the nooks and crannies of the vast dome, with its divergent
corridors and arcades, the faint echoes of her voice seemed to
reply to her during the pauses in her song. Then she ceased
singing and to the far-away and yet distinct accompaniment of
some stringed instrument in the orchestra, she began to dance.
Holding her instrument in a graceful fashion against her shoulder
as one holds a violin, and with her flowing white gown caught in
the other hand, she bowed and smiled and instantly seemed
transformed. From the statuesque and dreamy singer she became a
marvel of graceful motion. To and fro she swept from end to end of
the great rug, her tiny feet and slim ankles tripping so lightly
that she seemed to move without support through the air.

Thorndyke stood as if spell-bound, for, at every turn, as if
seeking his approval, she glanced at him inquiringly. When
she finished she stood for a moment in the centre of the rug
panting, her beautiful bosom, beneath its filmy covering of
lace, gently rising and falling. Then, asking her father's
consent with a mute glance, she ran forward impulsively, and,
kneeling at Thorndyke's feet, she took his hand and pressed it
to her lips. And rising, suffused with blushes, she tripped from
the dais and disappeared behind the curtain.

The king frowned as he looked after her. "It is a mark of
preference," he said coldly. "It is one of our customs for a
dancer or singer to favor some one of her spectators in that way.
My daughter evidently mistook you for an ambassador from one of
my provinces, but it does not matter."

"She is wonderfully beautiful," replied the tactful Englishman,
pretending not to be flattered by the notice of the princess.

"Do you think our people fine looking as a rule?" asked the king,
to change the subject.

"Decidedly; I never imagined such a race existed."

Again the king was pleased. "That is one of the objects of our
system. Generation after generation we improve mentally
and physically. We are the only people who have ever attempted to
thoroughly study the science of living. Your medical men may be
numbered by the million; your remedies for your ills change
daily; what you say is good for the health to-day is to-
morrow believed to be poison; to-day you try to make blood to
give strength, and half a century ago you believed in taking it
from the weakest of your patients. With all this fuss over
health, you will think nothing of allowing the son of a man who
died with a loathsome hereditary disease to marry a woman whose
family has never had a taint of blood. Here no such thing is
thought of. To begin with, no person who is not thoroughly sound
can remain with us. Every heart-beat is heard by our medical men
and every vein is transparent. You see evidences of the benefit
of our system in the men and women around you. All our
conveniences, the excellence of our products, our great
inventions are the result."

"I have been wondering about the size of your country," ventured
Thorndyke cautiously.

The king smiled. "That will be one of the things for you to
discover later," he returned. "But this, the City of Moron,
is the capital; our provinces, farming lands, smaller cities,
towns and hamlets lie around us. Come with me and I will show
you something."

He waved his hand and dismissed a number of courtiers who were
waiting to be called, and rose from the throne and led the two
captives into a large apartment adjoining the throne-room. Here
they found six men in blue uniforms looking into a large circular
mirror on a table. They all bowed and moved aside as the king

"These men are the municipal police," explained the king, resting
his hand on the gold frame of the glass; "they are watching the
city." And when the strangers drew nearer they were surprised to
see reflected, in the deeply concave glass, the entire city in
miniature; its streets, parks, public buildings, and moving
populace. And what seemed to be the most remarkable feature of
the invention was, that the instant the eye rested on any
particular portion of the whole that part was at once magnified
so that every detail of it was clearly observable.

"This is an improvement on your police system," continued the
king. "No sooner does anything go wrong than a red signal is
given on the spot of the trouble and the attention of these
officers is immediately called to it. A flying machine is sent
out and the offender is brought to the police station; but
trouble of any nature rarely occurs, and the duties of our police
are merely nominal; my people live in thorough harmony. Now,
come with me and I will give you an idea of the surrounding

As the king spoke he led them into a circular room, the roof of
which was of white glass, and the walls were lined with
large mirrors.

"This is our general observatory from which every part of Alpha
can be seen," said the king with a touch of pride in his tone.
"Look at the mirror in front of you."

They did as he requested, and at first saw nothing; but, as he
went to a stone table in the centre of the room and touched
an electric button, a grand view of green fields, forests,
streams, lakes and farm-houses flashed upon the mirror. The king
laughed at their surprise and touched another button. As he did
so the scene shifted gradually; the landscapes ran by like a
panorama. A pretty village came into sight, and passed; then a
larger town and still a larger; then fields, hills and valleys
and forests of giant trees.

"It is that way all over my kingdom," said the king; "in an hour
I can inspect it all."

"But how is it done?" asked Thorndyke, forgetting himself in

"Through a telescopic invention, aided by electricity and the
clearness of our atmosphere," replied the king. "It would
take too long to go into the details. The views, however, are
reflected to this point from various observatories throughout the
land. Such a system would be impossible in any other country on
account of the clouds and atmospheric changes; but here we
control everything."

"I noticed," returned the Englishman, "that green fields lie
beside ripening ones and those in which the grain is being

"We have no change of seasons," answered the king. "Change of
seasons may be according to nature, but it is in the province of
man's intellect to improve on nature. But I must leave you now; I
shall summon you again when I have the leisure to continue our

"Well, what do you think of it?" asked Johnston, as the king
disappeared behind a curtain in the direction of the audience

"I give it up; I only know that the old fellow's daughter, the
Princess Bernardino is the most beautiful, the most bewitching
creature that ever breathed. Did you notice her eyes and form?
Great heavens! was there ever such a vision of human loveliness?
Her grace, her voice, her glances drove me wild with delight."

"You are dead gone," grumbled the American despondently; "we'll
never get away from here in the world. I can see that."

"I gave up all hope in that direction some time ago," said
Thorndyke; "and why should we care? We were awfully bored with
life before we came; for my part I'd as soon end mine up here as
anywhere else. Besides, didn't his majesty say that they live
longer under his system than we do?"

"I don't take stock in all he says," growled the American; "he
talks like a Chicago real estate agent who wants to sell a lot.
Why doesn't he chop off our heads and be done with it?"

Thorndyke burst into a jovial laugh. "You are coming round all
right; that is the first joke you have got off since we came
here; his royal Nibs may need a court-jester and give you a job."

"There goes that blamed sunlight again," exclaimed Johnston,
grasping his companion's arm, "don't you see it changing?"

"Yes, and this time it is white, like old Sol's natural smile;
but isn't it clear? It seems to me that I could see to the end
of the earth in that light. I want to know how he does it."

"How who does it?"

"Why, the king, of course, it is his work--some sort of
invention; but we must keep civil tongues in our heads when we
are dealing with a man who can color the very light of the sun."

They were walking back toward the great rotunda, and, as they
entered the conservatory, the crowds of men and women stared at
them curiously. They had paused to inspect the statue of a
massive stone dragon when a young officer in glittering
uniform approached and addressed Johnston.

"Follow me," he said simply; "it is the king's command."

The American started and looked at Thorndyke apprehensively.

"Go," said the latter; "don't hesitate an instant."

Poor Johnston had turned white. He held out his hand to
Thorndyke, "Shake," he said in a whisper, not intended for
the ears of the officer, "I don't believe that we shall meet
again. I felt that we were to be parted ever since that medical

Thorndyke's face had altered; an angry flush came in his face and
his eyes flashed, but with an effort he controlled himself.

"Tut, tut, don't be silly. I shall wait for you round here; if
there is any foul play I shall make some one suffer for it. You
can depend on me to the end; we are hand in hand in this
adventure, old man."

Chapter VII.

Johnston followed his guide to a flying machine outside. He
hesitated an instant, as the officer was holding the door
open, and looked back toward the conservatory; but he could not
see Thorndyke.

"Where are you taking me?" he asked desperately. But the officer
did not seem to hear the question. He was motioning to a tall man
of athletic build who wore a dark blue uniform and who came
hastily forward and pushed the American into the machine. Through
the open door Johnston saw Thorndyke's anxious face as the
Englishman emerged from the conservatory and strode toward them.
The two officers entered and closed the glass door.

Then the machine rose and Johnston's spirits sank as they shot

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