List Of Contents | Contents of The Land of the Changing Sun
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miles in diameter and almost circular in shape. But what elated
and surprised them most was the remarkable salubrity of the
atmosphere. In all parts of the cave it was exactly the same
temperature, and they found that they scarcely felt any fatigue
from their journey, and that they had little desire to eat the
provisions with which they were supplied. Indeed, the very air
seemed permeated with a subtle quality that gave them strength and
energy of mind and body.

"Finally, when, after a month had passed, and they returned to
their anxious friends, these people overwhelmed them with
exclamations of surprise over their appearance. And in the light
of day the explorers looked at one another in astonishment, for,
in the dim light of the lanterns they had carried, they had not
noticed the great change that had come over them. They had all
become the finest specimens of physical health that could be
imagined. Their bodies had filled out; they were remarkably
strong; their skins shone with healthful color and their eyes
sparkled with intellectual energy, and their minds, even to the
humblest burden-carrier, were astonishingly acute and active.

"My ancestor was a remarkable man, and he had hitherto shown much
inventive ability; but in that month in the cave he had developed
into an intellectual giant. After mature deliberation, he proposed
a prodigious scheme to his followers. He explained that, while
they might, by using the utmost discretion, hold the financial
world in their power by means of their inexhaustible wealth, that
the laws and restrictions of different countries prevented men of
vast wealth from really enjoying more privileges than men of
moderate means. He grew eloquent in speaking of the underground
atmosphere, and proposed that they light the great cavern from end
to end and make it an ideal place where they could live as it
suited them.

"I see that you guess the end. My ancestor was a great student of
the sciences and had already thought of putting electricity to
practical use. You are surprised? Yes, it has been applied to our
purposes for two hundred years, while your people have understood
its use such a short time."

"Great heavens!" exclaimed the Englishman. "I see it all; the sun
is an electric one!"


"And it runs mechanically over its great course as regularly as

"More accurately, I assure you, but there probably never was a
greater mathematical problem than they solved in deciding on the
size the sun should be and amount of light necessary to fill up
all the recesses of the great vacancy. It was all very crude at
the start; for years a great electric light was simply suspended
in the centre of the cavern's roof and the light did not vary in
color. A son of the first king suggested the plan of giving the
sun diurnal movement and the changing light. The moon and stars
were a later development. They found, too, that the light could
not be made to reach certain recesses in the cavern where the roof
approached the earth, so they finally built a great wall to keep
the inhabitants within proscribed boundaries, and to prevent them
from understanding the machinery of the heavens."

"Wonderful!" exclaimed Thorndyke. "But the temperature of the
atmosphere, how does that happen to be so delightful and

"I believe they do not themselves thoroughly comprehend that. The
heat comes from the internal fires, and the fresh air from without
in some mysterious way. At first, in a few places, the heat was
too severe, but the scientific men among the first settlers
obviated this difficulty by closing up the hottest of the fissures
and opening others in the cooler parts of the cavern."

"And the people, where did they come from?"

"From all parts of the earth. We had agents outside who selected
such men and women that were willing to come, and who filled all
the requirements, mentally and physically."

"But why do they desire to live here instead of out in the world,
when they have all the wealth that they need to assure every

"They dread death, and it is undoubtedly true that life is
prolonged here; our medical men declare that the longevity of
every generation is improved."

"Is it possible? But tell me about the sun, when it sets, what
becomes of it?"

"It goes back to its place of rising through a great tunnel
beneath us."

Thorndyke sat in deep thought for a moment; then he looked so
steadily and so admiringly into Bernardino's eyes that she grew
red with confusion. "But you, yourself, are you thoroughly
content here?"

"I know nothing else," she continued. "I have heard little about
your world except that your people are discontented, weak and
insane, and that your changeable weather and your careless laws
regarding marriage and heredity produce perpetual and innumerable
diseases; that your people are not well developed and beautiful;
that you war with one another, and that one tears down what
another builds. I have, too, always been happy, and since you came
I am happier still. I don't know what it means. I have never been
so much interested in any one before."

"It is love on the part of both of us," replied the Englishman
impulsively, taking her hand. "I never was content before. I went
roving over the earth trying to end my life at sea or in balloon
voyages, but now I only want to be with you. I have never dreamed
that I could be so happy or that I would meet any one so beautiful
as you are."

Bernardino's delight showed itself in blushes on her face, and
Thorndyke, unable to restrain himself, put his arm around her and
drew her to his breast and kissed her.

She sprang up quickly and he saw that she was trembling and that
all the color had fled from her face.

"What is the matter?" he asked, in alarm.

At first she did not answer, but only looked at him half-
frightened, and then covered her face with her hands. He drew them
from her face and compelled her to look at him.

"What is the matter?" he repeated, a strange fear at his heart.

"You have broken one of the most sacred laws of our country," she
faltered, in great embarrassment; "my father would punish me very
severely if he knew of it, and he would banish you; for, to treat
me in that manner, as his daughter, is regarded as an insult to

"I beg your pardon most humbly," said the contrite Englishman. "It
was all on account of my ignorance of your customs and my
impulsiveness. It shall never happen again, I promise you."

Her face brightened a little and the color came back slowly. She
sat down again, but not so near Thorndyke, and seemed desirous of
changing the subject.

"And do you love the man my father has transported?" she

"Yes, he is a good, faithful fellow, and it is hard to die so far
away from friends."

"We must try to save him, but I cannot now think of a safe plan.
The police are very vigilant."

"Where was he taken?"

"Into the darkness behind the sun--beyond the wall of which I

A flush of shame came into Thorndyke's face over the remembrance
that he had made no effort to aid poor Johnston, and was sitting
listening with delight to the conversation of Bernardino. He rose

"I must be doing something to aid him," he said. "I cannot sit
here inactive while he is in danger."

"Be patient," she advised, looking at him admiringly; "it is near
night; see, it is the gray light of dusk; the sun is out of sight.
To-night, if possible, I shall come to you. Perhaps I shall
approach you without disguise if you are in the throne-room and
my father does not object to my entertaining you, but for the
present we must separate. Adieu."

He bowed low as she turned away, and joined the throng that was
passing along outside. An officer approached him. It was Captain
Tradmos, who bowed and smiled pleasantly.

"I congratulate you," he said, with suave pleasantness.

"Upon what?" Thorndyke was on his guard at once.

"Upon having pleased the king so thoroughly. No stranger, in my
memory, has ever been treated so courteously. Every other new-
comer is put under surveillance, but you are left unwatched."

"He is easily pleased," said the Englishman, "for I have done
nothing to gratify him."

"I thought he would like you; and I felt that your friend would
have to suffer, but I could not help him."

"He shall not suffer if I can prevent it."

"Sh--be cautious. Those words, implying an inclination to treason,
if spoken to any other officer would place you under immediate
arrest. I like you, therefore I want to warn you against such
folly. You are wholly in the king's power. Another thing I would
specially warn you against----"

"And that is?"

"Not to allow the king to suspect your admiration for the Princess
Bernardino. It would displease the king. She is much taken with
you; I saw it in her eyes when she danced for your entertainment."

Thorndyke made no reply, but gazed searchingly into the eyes of
the officer. Tradmos laughed.

"You are afraid of me."

"No, I am not, I trust you wholly; I know that you are honorable;
I never make a mistake along that line."

Tradmos bowed, pleased by the compliment.

"I shall aid you all I can with my advice, for I know you will not
betray me; but at present I am powerless to give you material aid.
Every subject of this realm is bound to the autocratic will of the
king. It is impossible for any one to get from under his power."


"The only outlet to the upper world is carefully guarded by men
who would not be bribed."

"Is there any chance for my friend?"

"None that I can see, but I must walk on; there comes one of the
king's attendants."

"The king has asked to speak to you," announced the attendant to

"I will go with you," was his reply, and he followed the man
through the crowded corridors into the throne-room of the king.
Thorndyke forced a smile as he saw the king smiling at him as he
approached the throne.

"What do you think of my palace?" asked the king, after Thorndyke
had knelt before him.

"It is superb," answered the Englishman, recalling the advice of
Bernardino. "I am dazed by its splendor, its architecture, and its
art. I have seen nothing to equal it on earth."

The king rose and stood beside him. His manner was both pleasing
and sympathetic. "I am persuaded," said he, "that you will make a
good subject, and have the interest of Alpha always at heart, but
I have often been mistaken in the character of men and think it
best to give you a timely warning. An attendant will conduct you
to a chamber beneath the palace where it will be your privilege to
converse with a man who once planned to get up a rebellion among
my people."

There had come suddenly a stern harshness into the king's tone
that roused the fears of Thorndyke. He was about to reply, but the
king held up his hand. "Wait till you have visited the dungeon of
Nordeskyne, then I am sure that you will be convinced that strict
obedience in thought as well as deed is best for an inhabitant of
Alpha." Speaking thus, he signed to an attendant who came forward
and bowed.

"Conduct him to the dungeon of Nordeskyne, and return to me,"
ordered the king.

Thorndyke's heart was heavy, and he was filled with strange
forebodings, but he simply smiled and bowed, as the attendant led
him away. The attendant opened a door at the back of the throne-
room and they were confronted by darkness. They went along a
narrow corridor for some distance, the dark- ness thickening at
every step. There was no sound except the sound of the guide's
shoes on the smooth stone pavement. Presently the man released
Thorndyke's arm, saying:

"It is narrow here, follow close behind, and do not attempt to go

"I shall certainly stick to you," replied the Englishman drily.
They turned a sharp corner suddenly, and were going in another
direction when Thorndyke felt a soft warm hand steal into his from
behind, and knew intuitively that it was Bernardino. The guide was
a few feet in advance of them and she drew Thorndyke's head down
and whispered into his ear.

"Be brave--by all that you love--for your life, keep your presence
of mind, and----"

"What was that?" asked the guide, turning suddenly and catching
the Englishman's arm, "I thought I heard whispering."

"I was saying my prayers, that is all," and the Englishman pressed
the hand of the princess, who, pressed close against the wall, was
gliding cautiously away.

"Prayers, humph--you'll need them later,come on!" and he caught
the Englishman's arm and hastily drew him onward. Thorndyke's
spirits sank lower. The air of the narrow under-ground corridor
was cold and damp, and he quivered from head to foot.

Chapter IX.

Branasko paused again in his walk towards the mysterious light.

"It cannot be from the internal fires," said he, "for this light
is white, and the glow of the fires is red."

"Let's turn back," suggested Johnston, "it can do us no good to go
down there; it is only taking us further from the wall."

"I should like to understand it," returned the Alphian
thoughtfully; "and, besides, there can be no more danger there
than back among the hot crevices. We have got to perish anyway,
and we might as well spice the remainder of our lives with
whatever adventure we can. Who knows what we may not discover?
There are many things about the land of Alpha that the inhabitants
do not understand."

"I'll follow you anywhere," acquiesced Johnston; "you are right."

They stumbled on over the rocky surface in silence. At times, the
roof of the cavern sank so low that they had to stoop to pass
under it, and again it rose sharply like the roof of a cathedral,
and the rays of the far-away, but ever-increasing light, shone
upon glistening stalactites that hung from the darkness above them
like daggers of diamonds set in ebony.

"It is not so near as I supposed," said the Alphian wearily. "And
the light seemed to me to be shining on a cliff over which water
is pouring in places. Yes, you can see that it is water by the
ripples in the light."

"Yes, but where can the light itself be?"

"I cannot yet tell; wait till we get nearer."

In about an hour they came to a wide chasm on the other side of
which towered a vast cliff of white crystal. It was on this that
the trembling light was playing.

"Not a waterfall after all," said Branasko; "see, there is the
source of the reflection," and he pointed to the left through a
series of dark chambers of the cavern to a dazzling light. "Come,
let's go nearer it." He moved a few steps forward and then
happening to look over his shoulder he stopped abruptly, and
uttered an exclamation of surprise.

"What is it?" And Johnston followed the eyes of the Alphian.

"Our shadows on the crystal cliff," said Branasko in an awed
tone; "only the light from the changing sun could make them so."

Johnston shuddered superstitiously at the tone of Branasko's
quivering voice, and their giant shadows which stood out on
the smooth crystal like silhouettes. So clear-cut were they,
that, in his own shadow, the American could see his breast

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