A TRIP TO MARS
Author of "The Radium Seekers"
LONDON: 38 Soho Square, W.
W. & R. CHAMBERS, LIMITED
EDINBURGH: 339 High Street
Philadelphia: J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY
Printed by W. & R. Chambers, Limited.
In the case of my former book—my first written for
young readers—I inserted a preface stating at some length
my reasons for taking up the writing of stories of the kind.
In it I pointed out that I had endeavoured to combine
amusement with a little wholesome instruction; and that
what might at first sight appear to be mere irresponsible
flights of fanciful imagination had, in reality, in all cases
some quasi-scientific foundation.
Doubtless such a preface is unusual in a work of fiction,
and even more so in one intended chiefly for boys; but
the result proved that its intention was understood and
appreciated. I should show myself ungrateful indeed if I
omitted, at the first opportunity, to record my deep sense of
the kindly sympathy and approval with which that preface
and the whole book were received by those reviewers—and
they were many—who favoured my work with a notice.
In this, my second attempt in the same direction, I am
conscious that I have set myself a difficult task, for it is not
an easy matter to give verisimilitude to a story of a visit to
another planet about which we necessarily know so little.
Yet astronomy as a study is so fascinating, its mysteries and
possibilities are so wonderful, so boundless, its influences so
elevating and ennobling, that little apology is needed for
any effort to attract the attention of youthful readers to it
by making it the subject of a romance.
Amongst other difficulties the story-writer here meets
with, by no means the least confronts him when he is
called upon to decide which of various theories put forward
by different scientists he shall adopt as a starting-point.
Mars, for instance, may have an atmosphere which is like
ours, or one that is either thinner or denser, or it may
have no atmosphere at all. As to this nothing is known
with certainty, and the most learned authorities differ one
from another. In these circumstances, I have adopted the
supposition which seems best suited to my story—namely,
that the air there may be denser than it is on the surface of
our globe; but I do not wish to be understood as asserting it
as a fact. The same remark applies to the assumption that
diamonds or other precious stones do not exist naturally in
Mars. In regard to these two points, I have felt it may
be allowable, as children say, to 'make believe' a little in
forming a groundwork upon which to build up a story.
As to the rest, I have refrained, in deference to the
known prejudices of young people, from interjecting
constant scientific explanations in the course of the narrative.
Only sufficient has been introduced here and there to
justify the hope that none will sit down to its perusal
without getting up a little the wiser.
We are all of us, as Sir Isaac Newton so aptly yet
reverently expressed it, 'only as children picking up pebbles
on the seashore while the great ocean of knowledge lies
stretched out before us.'
I shall be well satisfied if, in addition to affording pleasure
to youthful readers, I enable them to pick up incidentally
even so much as a few grains of the sand which lies beside
the pebbles upon that wondrous, glorious shore.
OF THE GREAT METEORITE
WHAT GERALD SAW
GERALD CARRIED OFF
THE KING'S OFFER
OFF ON A TRIP TO MARS
A NARROW ESCAPE
CAPTURED BY A COMET
'WELCOME TO MARS!'
THE PALACE IN THE CLOUDS
TOM CLINCH'S STATEMENT
HUNTING THE GREAT MARS EAGLE
IN DIRE PERIL
LESSONS IN FLYING
A ROYAL PROGRESS
A DARING PLOT
THE DEATH POOL
A SECRET TREASURE-HOUSE
A FOUL DEN
AT THE PAVILION
AGRANDO THROWS OFF THE MASK
THE WIRELESS MESSAGE
A DESPERATE VENTURE
SAILING ON THE STORM-WIND
ATTACKED IN THE DARK
AT HOME IN A VOLCANO
IVANTA A FUGITIVE
A QUEER HUNT
A NIGHT EXPEDITION
HOW IVANTA GAINED A FLEET
THE OLD WELL
THE FIGHT FOR THE STRONGHOLD
A GREAT AERIAL BATTLE
THE END OF THE STRUGGLE
A TRIP TO MARS.
THE FALL OF THE GREAT METEORITE.
'What a magnificent night! What a scene!
Jack, old man, I think you will have
to go in to supper without me and
leave me to myself. It seems a sort of sacrilege
to go indoors—to exchange the moon's beautiful
light for the miserable glimmer of a little oil-lamp,
and this invigorating air off the sea for the smell
of paraffin oil. Ugh!'
'You're a queer chap, Gerald; as dreamy, at
times, as any girl, I declare! You amuse me
vastly when you take on these sudden sentimental
fits. When you are in this mood no stranger
would ever imagine you were the same go-ahead,
muscular young Christian you can prove yourself
to be at other times.'
'Yes, I suppose I'm a bit of a dreamer, Jack.
I 've been told it so many times that I fancy
there must be something in it. Yet "While you
sleep, then am I awake"——you know the
'Faith! I believe you there, Gerald. I believe
you were cut out for a night-bird!'
'No, no; now you 've got hold of the wrong
end of the stick. It isn't that I prefer the night
to the day; it is simply that by day one cannot
see the stars, and one loses touch with the
marvellous thoughts they inspire. Look at the
sky overhead now! Look at those little shining
points of light, and think how that they are all
worlds such as ours is, or was, or will be! Imagine
what it would be like if we could sail up amongst
them from this old earth of ours—if we could
roam at will through space, stopping here and
calling there upon those which are inhabited—as
I feel assured some must be. What sights we
should see! What wonders we should encounter!
Ah, think of it!'
'I'd rather think just now of having a bit
of supper,' remarked the practical-minded Jack, with
a yawn. 'And I'm going in to get it too; so,
are you coming with me, or are you not?'
This talk took place upon a headland of a
lonely island in the Southern Seas. A tropical
moon cast its wondrous radiance over everything
around, shimmering upon the water, and causing
the whole island to appear as though floating in
an ocean of molten silver. There was just wind
enough now and then to start the graceful palms
waving—cool, refreshing zephyrs that set millions
of sparkling ripples in motion on the sea, and
sent them dancing merrily shorewards to plash at
last upon the golden sands at the foot of the
Gerald Wilton and Jack Lawford were two
youths, orphans both, who, after having been
brought up and educated in England, found themselves,
through a curious series of chances, passing
their time upon this island under the guardianship
of a former friend of Gerald's father, named
Armeath. The latter was a scientist who had
chosen to make this out-of-the-way spot—absolutely
uninhabited save for himself and his
establishment—his home for a year or two, in
order the better to pursue certain abstruse studies
to which he was ardently devoted.
They were stalwart, well-grown, clean-limbed
British youths, these two, with good-looking faces
and well-knit frames, fond of hunting, shooting,
fishing, and all outdoor sports. At first, therefore,
it is needless to say, they had enjoyed the change
to this far-off island home, and entered with zest
into its free, open life. If limited as to space,
there were larger islands near, amongst which
they could take an occasional cruise, and where
they could go ashore for hunting expeditions.
But after nearly a year, even this pleasant life
had begun to grow a little monotonous. The two
high-spirited youngsters were getting somewhat
tired of it, and beginning to long—almost
unconsciously—for other and more exciting adventures.
Of the two, however, Gerald perhaps was more
troubled by these vague, restless feelings than his
chum. As his friend had said, Gerald was given
at times to fits of dreaming. In appearance he
was fairer and a little taller than his companion,
with gray eyes which often had in them an
abstracted, far-away look. Jack, on the other hand,
was almost swarthy of skin, with dark hair, firm
lips, and keen, alert eyes, which indicated an active,
determined character, and a practical, matter-of-fact
That, in effect, constituted the essential difference
between these two firm friends. Gerald was fond
of indulging in speculations concerning all kinds
of scientific research. The mysteries of the
unknown, and the as yet 'undiscovered;' the limitless
possibilities lying in the worlds surrounding our
globe—speculations concerning such themes as these
had for him an irresistible fascination. Jack, on
the other hand, kept his thoughts and interest fixed
upon the practical side of everything about him.
He was a skilful mechanic and a trained
mathematician, and had developed clever engineering
abilities; he might possibly some day become an
inventor. But speculative, dreamy fancies had little
attraction for him.
'Jack,' said Gerald impressively, 'I can't come
in just now—I really cannot! I can't exactly say
why, but to-night I seem to be unusually restless.
I could not sit down indoors, nor could I rest if
I went to bed. I don't know what it is; but I
have a feeling'——
'It's the electricity in the air. I suppose there
must be more lying about loose to-night than suits
your constitution,' remarked Jack prosaically. 'I
said a minute or two since that you were as
dreamy at times as any girl. I begin now to
think you are developing "nerves" as well.
However, do as you please! Stop here and enjoy
yourself with your "nervy," dreamy fancies if
you choose. For my part, I 'm going in to supper,
'What are you lads talking about?'
This question, which came from some one
behind them, caused the two friends to start
suddenly, and then glance at one another with
It was not that they had not recognised the
voice. They knew it at once to be that of Mr
Armeath, their guardian; the wonder was that he
should have come out to them. Usually he spent
the whole night shut up in his own rooms,
immersed in his studies, or gazing through his
telescope at the heavens above; for, amongst other
things, he was an enthusiastic astronomer.
'Faith!' exclaimed Jack, in an aside to Gerald,
'I begin to think you 're right after all. There
must be something unusual in the air to account
for this new move!'
The new-comer was a tall, fine-looking old man,
with an ascetic face and a kindly voice and
manner. His hair and beard were white, but his
deep-set eyes glowed with the liveliness and fire
of a vigorous young man.
With the self-absorbed, thoughtful air that so
often marks the devoted scientist or profound
student, Armeath, without waiting for any reply
to the question he had asked, stepped past the
two youngsters and walked almost to the edge of
the bluff. There he gazed first at the sandy shore
fifty feet or more below, then out over the glistening
sea to the distant horizon, and finally at the
deep-blue, star-spangled sky overhead.
Behind the three, at a distance of a few
hundred yards, was the building—or rather group
of buildings—which formed their home. These
were built bungalow-fashion, save as to one
part—the observatory—which rose above the rest,
with detached dwelling-places for their attendants
Inland, the ground fell away, and there was on
one side a winding road down to the shore. On
the other side, the ground rose again towards
higher ridges in the centre of the island.
The old man remained for some minutes gazing
fixedly upwards; the two young fellows, very
much surprised, and—if the truth be told—a
little awed by his demeanour, remained also
motionless, gazing alternately at him and at each
Suddenly the sage uttered a sort of cry—an
exclamation so strange, so thrilling, that his
companions were startled, and stared anxiously about,
seeking for an explanation.
Then they saw him raise an arm and point to
the sky, and, following the direction thus indicated,
they both started and stood and gazed fixedly as
'Look!' exclaimed Jack. 'It is a meteor!'
And that was all that was said—all, indeed,
there was time for. There was no time for
questions, for comments, for anything, in fact,
save a great gasp of astonishment, and scarcely
even for that.
Careering towards them through the upper air,
at what seemed lightning speed, was something
which left a long, luminous trail behind it. Rays
and flashes of light of different colours burst from
it in its course, darting out in all directions. A
low, rushing sound became audible, which quickly
increased in volume until it became a terrific,
deafening, overwhelming roar.
There was a sudden disturbance in the air, as
of the approach of a whirlwind, and a crackling
noise as of the discharge of fireworks.
Then something seemed to shoot past them into
the sea, the 'wind' from it almost brushing them
aside like that caused by a shell fired from some
From the sea came a mighty crash as of a loud
explosion, while columns of water and clouds of
vapour rose into the air. The water came right
over the top of the cliff, drenching the amazed
spectators, and almost sweeping one—it was
Jack—off his feet.
Hardly had the spray cleared away when there
was another commotion in the water. The sea,
boiling and chafing, seemed to rise up into a
pyramid, and from it a huge dark mass shot up
into the air, dropping back into the sea again
with a plunge only a little less violent than that
which had accompanied its first fall.
For a brief space it was lost to view, and then
it reappeared, shooting again high into the air, as
might a gigantic whale throwing itself out of the
sea in sport or an endeavour to escape some terrible
These mad leaps and plunges were repeated
again and again, becoming each time less in height
and violence, until at last they ceased.
It was some time, however, before the agitation
in the water came to an end. Great waves rushed
booming along the shore, dashing wildly up the
face of the cliffs, sending clouds of spray flying
over their summits far inland.
But after a while the commotion subsided, the
sea became smooth on the surface, and there
remained only a gentle heaving, as from a ground
And there, at a little distance from the shore,
the cause of all this disturbance was plainly to be
seen—an immense, egg-shaped mass many hundreds
of feet in length, floating as lightly and buoyantly
upon the still-heaving water as if it had been an
WHAT GERALD SAW.
Seldom, perhaps, have there been seen three
people more puzzled and amazed than the
little group who had witnessed the
tremendous advent of the wondrous 'meteorite'—for
such it appeared to be—and now stood gazing at
it in helpless astonishment as it floated quietly
in the sea only a short distance from the shore.
It was some time before either Jack or Gerald
spoke, and when they at last found speech, they
had little to say beyond vague, incoherent
Presently an impulse came upon them to run
down the path which led to the shore, thinking
that they might get a better view from there of
this extraordinary new arrival from the realms
above. Perhaps a closer look might yield some
clue as to the nature of the strange visitor.
But a nearer view did not help them much.
All that they could see, when they arrived on
the sandy margin, was what they had already
seen from above—and that was a huge mass
composed of some material not heavy enough to
sink, and—as a natural consequence—light enough
What could it be? It was, presumably, a
meteorite—so Armeath pronounced—but of what
kind? Who had ever heard of a meteorite of
such a size, and above all, of a material light
enough to float in water?
'Don't you wish you had gone in to your
supper, Jack?' Gerald asked mischievously. 'Had
you done so you would not have witnessed this
'It's all very well to pretend to joke about it,'
returned Jack, affecting to grumble; 'but it's
rather serious, you know. The giddy thing might
have hit one of us a nasty crack on the head, or
something worse. This all comes of your busying
yourself about what doesn't concern you, Gerald.
You've bothered about the stars above us so long
that, as you can't get up to them, one of 'em's
come down to pay a visit to you.'
'Well, it's likely to prove a grand find, anyhow.
It must be made of some substance unknown to
science, and its discovery may bring us all name
and fame; so its arrival is bound to be a gain
'It's been nearer bringing us pain than gain,
I guess,' was Jack's retort. 'But what on earth
are we going to do with the thing? How can
we hope to get a great, round affair like that
'Well, Tom, you seem to be pondering something
very weighty in your mind. Have you thought
of a likely plan for getting this pretty plaything
ashore in the morning?'
Gerald addressed these words to one of their
attendants, Tom Clinch by name, a grizzled, rough,
but worthy old sailor, who had known Gerald
all his days. He had been indoors when the
meteorite fell, and had not therefore witnessed its
arrival. As the sound of its fall reached his ears
he had rushed out, with others of the
attendants—chiefly natives—most of whom had gone off
shrieking and panic-stricken towards the interior
of the island. Only Tom and another sailor had
stood their ground.
'Humph! It's a rum sort o' visitin' star, this
'ere, Mr Gerald,' said the old mariner, with a wise
shake of the head. 'Got out of its coorse, I
reckon, the channel not being buoyed; onless,'
he added, a sudden thought striking him as he
noted how lightly the mass floated, 'onless this
be one of the buoys which 'as got loose from its
moorin's above, an' toppled over down 'ere, d'ye see?'
With comments and talk such as this, the
islanders passed the time while waiting for the
morning. They felt too restless and excited to
'turn in,' with the exception of Mr Armeath.
He, after a while, deeming that there was
nothing to be gained by waiting outside, went
back to his own rooms, leaving instructions that
he was to be called at once if anything fresh
His wards remained on the watch, however, and
with them their two sailor hands, Tom Clinch and
Bob Reid; and in due course the moon went down
and it became quite dark. Then, behold! there
was another wonder to be added to the rest—the
whole great mass became luminous! Not only
that, but queer shadows came and went upon it,
as though something were in motion upon the
surface or just beneath it.
The news of this being conveyed to Armeath
brought him out again; but he could not account
to his own satisfaction for this new phase.
'It may be that it is composed of some highly
phosphorescent mineral,' was the only explanation
he could suggest.
At last the morning dawned, and, immediately
it was light, Armeath and his two young companions,
without waiting for breakfast, put off in
a boat, with the two sailors, to examine the
meteorite more closely.
It was still there, but the slight wind had
drifted it up to a sandy ledge close inshore, and
it appeared to be now resting on the sand.
They rowed up to it and were not a little
surprised to find that the whole mass was
perfectly smooth like glass. Still more mystifying
was it to see that there were bands at regular
intervals extending 'from stem to starn,' as Tom
expressed it, 'jest for all the world like the hull
of a great boat.'
They rowed all round it, their wonderment and
astonishment growing all the time. They
computed that it must be considerably over a
thousand feet in length, by, perhaps, a hundred feet in
Suddenly Gerald uttered a loud exclamation.
Jack, glancing at him, saw that he was pointing
to a place in the side of the mass and staring
at it as though his eyes were about to start out
of his head.
'What on earth's up, old man?' he asked in
alarm. 'Have you got an attack of nerves again,
'Jack!' cried Gerald, seizing his chum's arm,
'd-didn't you see—didn't you see them?'
'Them—what—who?' asked Jack, bewildered.
'People—men—moving about! I declare that
I saw some men moving about inside the—the—thing!'
'You 're barmy, my good Gerald! This little
astronomical raree-show has been too much for
those imaginative nerves of yours. I see nothing.
Perhaps you saw shadows thrown by some birds
'No, oh no! A thousand times no! I tell you
I saw people—two or three—moving about inside
that smooth, slippery surface. They were very
dim and shadowy, it is true, but they were there.
I saw them just as one might see anything through
very thick, semi-opaque glass. What does it mean?
I tell you it's uncanny! There's some strange
mystery about it all. This thing is not what it
seems to be. What, in the name of all that is
wonderful, does it mean?'
Jack looked at the smooth, shining sides
which rose from the water and towered up high
in the air. But he could see nothing to account
for Gerald's wild words; and he then glanced
inquiringly, with real alarm and trouble in his eyes,
'I am afraid,' said the scientist, with a grave
smile, 'that Gerald is letting his exuberant
imagination run away with him this morning.
I confess I see nothing of the kind he described.
It must have been some strange effect of the
rays of the sun, which is not very high yet,
striking at an angle upon these remarkable,
Gerald shook his head impatiently, but made
no verbal reply; and they rowed round and round
the phenomenon, without finding anything to satisfy
their curiosity. Armeath examined the smooth
sides closely, sometimes through a magnifying glass.
He even tried to chip off a piece with a hammer
and a chisel; but it was so hard that he could
make no impression upon it, and so slippery that
his chisel glanced off and flew from his hand into
After a good deal of rowing to and fro, and a
considerable amount of critical examination, which
threw not the slightest light upon the puzzling
lump of mystery, it was decided to return to
shore for their breakfast.
Even over their meal, however, their talk
continued to run upon the all-engrossing subject.
Jack rallied his chum unmercifully upon the
extraordinary statement he had made; but Gerald
refused to admit that he might have been mistaken.
'I saw what I told you!' he persisted doggedly.
'I may be a bit of a dreamer at times, but I
don't "see visions" to that extent. No, there is
some awful, inscrutable, incredible mystery about
it all! Well, we 'll wait and see. We shall find
out, I suppose, in good time.'
With such discussions and speculations the day
passed, without bringing anything fresh in the way
When evening came, Jack declared his fixed
resolution not to allow the puzzle to deprive him
of another night's sleep. After supper, therefore,
he went off incontinently to bed; and as Armeath
shut himself up as usual, Gerald was left to
Still restless and perplexed, dissatisfied with the
explanations and theories which had been
propounded, Gerald felt no inclination to 'turn
in.' Something within him—some vague impulse he
could not analyse, above all, the recollection of
the mysterious, shadowy figures he believed he
had seen through the semi-transparent 'shell,'
as Jack now called it—urged him to remain on
'As Mr Armeath says,' he thought to himself,
'if a wind were to spring up it might be gone
by to-morrow. We may as well, therefore, keep
an eye on it while it is here, and watch its
departure when it goes.'
In order to carry out his idea, he required a
reliable assistant, and this he found in Tom
Clinch. Not only had Tom known Gerald all his
life, as already stated, but he had served his
father before him, and he had now transferred his
devotion to the son. When, therefore, the young
fellow sought him out and told him what he
required, Tom was ready enough to lend his aid.
'We 'll keep a watch, Mr Gerald,' he responded,
'turn and turn about, all night, an' have the boat
ready in case we wants it. Fur my part, I think
ye're only actin' cautious-like. Nobody can tell
what's goin' to happen next when things like this
once begin fallin' from the skies. I've 'eerd it said
as 'ow theer's supposed to be a great bear, an'
scorpions, an' crabs in the sky. An' after this,
who can say but they might come a-rainin' down
on us an' eat us all up in our sleep?'
Honest Tom had heard vaguely of the constellations
of stars called by those names, and had very
loose notions as to what they meant.
'Well, I hope it won't be as bad as that,'
Gerald answered with a smile. 'But I shall be
very glad of your company on my night-watch,
all the same.'
So it was arranged; and the two betook
themselves to a part of the shore where there was a
cave which had been utilised as a boathouse, and
here they began their watch.
The night turned out as fine as the previous
one, except that there were a few drifting clouds
which now and again obscured the light of the
moon. There was scarcely any breeze, however,
and the sea was, as Tom put it, 'as calm and
still as a pint of stale beer.'
For a long time nothing occurred, though they
kept up their watch till the moon had set, and
it had become quite dark. Then they saw again
the luminous appearance which they had noticed
'Now this is what I want to investigate, Tom,'
said Gerald. 'Get out the boat quickly, and let
us pull close up as silently as we can.'
The boat, which had been placed ready for
launching, was slipped into the water, Gerald
putting in the stern a dark lantern, which he
Like a gliding shadow, the boat and her two
occupants—the sailor rowing and Gerald
steering—approached the huge 'meteorite,' now all aglow
with a strange, dim light. The oars, well greased,
made no sound, and they passed silently along the
side nearest the shore, rounded the end, and were
making their way back upon the outer side, when
Gerald put a hand upon his companion as a signal
to stop rowing.
They were then about the centre of the great
mass, on the side which was away from the shore
and faced the sea. There the boat remained
stationary, Gerald staring intently at the curious
shimmering wall which towered up at a distance
of twenty or thirty feet.
'See, Tom! Look!' he suddenly whispered
excitedly. 'See! There are the shadows—the
forms of people! There! Now, who was right?'
'Heaven defend us!' breathed Tom fervently.
'Whatever do it mean? Be the thing bewitched?'
'Hush! Whatever you see, do not utter a word—not
a sound—on your life! I believe they're
Decidedly it was no trick of the imagination
this time, at any rate. There were actually
figures, as of men, moving about inside. They
could be dimly seen through the semi-opaque
outer wall or shell. What they were, how they
were dressed, or what they were doing, was not
clear; but actual, moving, living beings they
Something now seemed to be shifted inside, as
though a screen had been removed, and at once
the figures could be distinguished more plainly.
But ere Gerald could fix his attention upon one
or another among them, a sort of door had opened
in the smooth, shining side, a platform had been
run out, and now remained extended in a
Then a tall, noble-looking man appeared in
the doorway, stepped on to the platform, and
remained there, gazing out over the darkling
Gerald, resting almost spell-bound upon his
seat in the boat, with difficulty repressed a
gasp of astonished admiration as his gaze
fell upon the stranger, whom he could see very
clearly, even down to the smallest detail of his
dress, in the soft but intense light which issued
from the opening behind him.
Gerald saw before him a man, tall and
commanding in stature, yet so exactly proportioned
as scarcely to look his real height—muscular
without being stout, light and graceful in carriage
without being thin. His refined, clear-cut features,
which were free from any trace of beard or
moustache, were those of a man in the very
prime of life. The skin was smooth and clear,
and as light in hue as in the average English
type. The mouth was delicately chiselled, and
very expressive; and the high, massive brow
had a character all its own, conveying an idea of
lofty serenity. Beneath, as it were, were traces of
an irresistible will and a certain sense of latent
power, which were somehow felt by the spectator
rather than openly declared. The eyes were
large, dark, and luminous, and their gaze
searching and penetrating, appearing to be capable
either of winning gentleness or the most terrible
Altogether, Gerald decided, a man to be loved
and trusted, or hated and dreaded, according to
whether he were a friend or an enemy; a born
leader of men, a being of indescribable majesty
and dignity in general appearance, yet possessed of
a singular simplicity and charm of manner.
As to the dress of this attractive stranger, it is
more difficult to describe, for the reason that Gerald
perceived at once that the material was unlike
anything he had ever seen before. There was a long
tunic, with a belt of gold, and a very picturesque
head-dress not unlike that in vogue in England in
the days of Henry the Eighth; while the arms and
legs were encased in garments which fitted closely,
showing the figure clearly. That much was plainly
to be seen. But what the dress consisted of was
a puzzle, for it seemed to have a sheen of its own,
a sort of shimmer which did not appear to be
altogether reflected light. There were several little
ornaments here and there, such as buckles on the
shoes and another on the shoulder; but the chief
embellishment was a large star upon the breast,
which flashed and sparkled and seemed to be
worked in diamonds.
Behind this regal figure were three or four
others, who stood respectfully in the background,
evidently in attendance upon him. Suddenly, while
Gerald still gazed in ever-increasing wonder upon
the unexpected scene, the stranger reeled as though
suffering from an attack of faintness. He put his
hand to his breast, and appeared to be panting for
breath. Blood showed upon his face and ran off
on to his dress, and the next moment he staggered
and fell off the platform into the sea.
Gerald did not hesitate. He guessed that the
man must have fainted; he knew that the spot
where he had fallen in was outside the ledge on
which the supposed 'meteorite' was resting; that
it was of unfathomable depth, and that, therefore,
his danger was imminent and deadly. Throwing
off his jacket, therefore, Gerald dived into the
water, and that with such promptitude that the
second splash followed closely upon the first.
But the stranger had fallen from a height, and
the impetus carried him down faster than that
gained by Gerald's dive from the boat, so that he
failed to grasp the fainting stranger, and was
compelled to swim downwards in the hope of
Down, down, ever down, he went, clawing at
the water with fierce energy, and battling his
way with feverish determination, knowing that,
with those awful depths beneath him, the stranger's
one and only chance of life lay in
his—Gerald's—overtaking and gripping him.
It was a long and terrible struggle—long, that
is, comparatively—and the pressure of the water
became oppressive, when, at last, just as the plucky
diver felt he must give up and return to the
surface, his hand touched something. His fingers
closed at once upon it, and he felt that he had
secured his prize.
A few seconds later he had regained the surface,
and found himself, panting, and all but exhausted,
close to the boat, from which Clinch was watching
for him. The sailor was aiding his search upon
the waters around by throwing on them the rays
from the dark lantern, which had been lighted and
placed ready to hand in the stern.
A stroke or two brought the boat close enough
for Gerald to get a hold upon it with one arm,
while with the other he supported in the water
the stranger's insensible form.
'Wait, sir; wait an' get yer breath!' counselled
the old sailor. 'Take it easy, Mr Gerald! I 'll
hold on to t' other chap, never fear! You let go
on 'im, an' get yer breath!'
So Gerald loosed his hold upon the one he had
rescued, and a little later had recovered sufficiently
to be able to scramble into the boat. Then he
gave his aid to Clinch, and between them they
lifted the stranger in also.
'Where to now, Mr Gerald?' asked Tom, a little
dazedly. All these sudden happenings, as he
afterwards phrased it, had been 'a little trying to the
works of the upper story, an' had set 'em spinnin'.' In
other words, his brain was in a whirl.
Gerald looked round, and saw that a ladder had
been lowered from the platform; and seizing the
oars, he rowed the boat to the place. Two
strangers were waiting on the lower part of the
ladder. To Gerald's surprise they wore masks
upon their faces, and he noted that all the other
strangers were now masked also.
As the boat came alongside, and Tom raised the
inanimate form in his arms, the two on the ladder
seized it, and carried it up the ladder, across the
platform, and out of sight. A moment or two later
the ladder was drawn up in very sudden fashion,
the platform was run in, and then the doorway
closed up completely, leaving nothing to mark the
place where it had been.
The great mass lost its luminous appearance,
and the two in the boat found themselves in
'Well, I 'm sugared!' exclaimed Tom, or words
to that effect. 'If that don't take the cake!
Never so much as a "good-bye," or "thank yer
kindly," or—— Well!' He gave a great gasp,
words altogether failing to explain his feelings.
'You forget, Tom, that they probably don't
know our language, and we shouldn't understand
theirs,' said Gerald. 'You must remember that
they are foreigners—er—that is—h'm!—strangers,
you know, from another'——
He hesitated, and broke off. For what could he
say? Strangers these people certainly were; but
foreigners? Well, that depended upon the point
of view—travellers from where? Another world?
The suggestion seemed monstrous—preposterous!
Yet where else could they have come from? If it
seemed impossible—incredible—to think of them
as travellers from another sphere, it was certainly
no less impossible to regard them as inhabitants of
the Earth. No mortal upon our globe had yet
succeeded in manufacturing an affair like this
'meteorite,' and travelling about in it; that much
was certain. To conceive it possible was to imagine
a miracle quite as wonderful as to suppose that
this extraordinary flying-machine—for something of
that sort Gerald now felt certain it must be—had
come from another planet.
However, Gerald realised that he was not in a
state of mind to be able to think clearly or
logically about the matter at all. His brain, like
honest Tom's, was in a whirl; and he tried in
vain to collect and marshal his thoughts. The
whole affair was too puzzling, too extraordinary
for sober thought.
'Tom, row me ashore,' he said abruptly. 'This
is too much for me. I'm going to bed.'
'Ay, ay, sir; I can unnerstan',' said Clinch,
wagging his head helplessly. 'I feels jest the
same, Mr Gerald. Lawks! To think as I should
ever 'a lived to see this day!'
Gerald went ashore, but was far too excited in
mind to really go to bed. He passed the remaining
two or three hours of darkness in restless pacing
up and down between the dwelling-house and the
bluff, whence he could keep observation upon
the cause of his wonderment, as it lay placidly in
the water below.
Great was the astonishment of his friends when,
in the morning, he related to them the adventures
of the night. It is scarcely to be wondered at
that they were—Jack certainly was—disposed at
first to regard it all as an extraordinary
hallucination which had seized upon the relater. But
there was Clinch's confirmation; and in the end
they saw that there was no room left for doubt.
'Then it comes to this,' said Jack, 'we have to
face the fact that we have here, close by us, some
people who are paying us a visit from another
planet! Phew! What a wake-up for our scientists!
What a snub for those wiseacres who have declared
that the planets could not possibly be inhabited!
But why have our visitors shut themselves up
again? It's rather churlish after your saving that
johnny from drowning! What do they mean by
it? And what was the matter with him?'
'I read it this way,' said Armeath thoughtfully.
And it may as well be here stated that after-events
fully proved the correctness of his deductions.
'These people from another world either came
involuntarily—that is to say, by accident—or they
made some mistake which resulted in their being
landed upon the Earth in a fashion different from
that which they had intended. They narrowly
escaped destruction, which would certainly have
come to them had they struck the ground—this
island for instance, instead of the sea—or if they
had fallen in the sea at a place where it was
'Even as it was, I imagine, their method of
arrival came very near to being a disaster. In all
probability something has gone wrong with their
engines or machinery—whatever they may be—and
also, probably, some of the voyagers were injured
by the shock, and required time to recover from
it. This would explain how it is that they have
not shown themselves outside sooner.'
'It's a far-reaching sort of guess, sir,' said Jack
reflectively; 'but it seems to fit the situation. It
scarcely explains, however, why the beggars should
have gone off without signifying their thanks in
some way. It appears pretty certain that Gerald
saved that chap's life.'
'Yes,' said Armeath slowly; 'Gerald certainly
saved his life. Let us hope that the circumstance
is of good augury; that it may lead to their being
friendly when the sufferer has thoroughly recovered,
and they venture out again.'
GERALD CARRIED OFF.
Several days went by after the adventure
recorded in the last chapter without anything
further being seen of the strangers. The
friends kept a watch upon their curious-looking
abode from the shore, and sometimes from the
water; but the voyagers gave no sign. At times
a muffled hammering and clanging could be heard
from inside, 'which,' as Tom Clinch expressed it,
'confirmed Mr Armeath's 'pinion as there's summat
wrong with the works.'
To the impatient youngsters the time seemed to
drag by slowly, and even Mr Armeath himself
did not conceal the curiosity he felt.
'I confess,' said he, 'that I am waiting with the
most intense interest to see what developments
are in store for us. Before these people could
have constructed such a machine, they must have
made many wonderful discoveries in the sciences.
What marvels they will be able to show us!'
But Gerald's feelings in the matter went beyond
mere scientific curiosity. He had been most
strangely attracted by the face and general
appearance of the man whose life he had saved. The
recollection of his countenance, the expression of
lofty nobility, and wondrous, indefinable
graciousness which he had read there, had fascinated him,
and now seemed to haunt him. He looked forward
with eager expectation to meeting this wonderful
being again, and longed for an opportunity of
becoming friendly with him.
Under the influence of these feelings, Gerald
became more restless from day to day. He could
not sleep at night, and took to staying out upon
the beach instead. There he passed the time
marching to and fro opposite to the great dark
mass which, sphinx-like, remained silent and
inscrutable, and refused to divulge any more of its
One night, as he thus paced up and down in
the darkness, he suddenly saw one part of the
structure light up as though screens inside had
been removed. He heard voices, and dimly saw
a gangway open, after which something which
looked like a boat was pushed out quietly and
smoothly on to the water. Then shadowy figures
stepped into her, and began to row or paddle
towards the shore.
'At last! At last!' thought Gerald, highly
pleased. 'They are coming ashore at last! I will
go forward to greet them!'
Had he not been so taken up with the
expectation of meeting again the one who had so
attracted his interest, he would probably have felt
some distrust at the fact that these strangers
should be coming ashore thus stealthily in the
darkness instead of in the daylight. No suspicion,
however, entered his mind, and he ran forward to
welcome them just as the boat grounded on the
sand. From her stepped out three figures, who
came towards him.
What happened next he was never able to say
with certainty. He was conscious of a quick
movement on the part of one of the three, and
he felt a slight pricking sensation in one of his
hands, somewhat as though he had been touched
by a very sharp needle.
Then a giddiness seized him, his legs seemed to
give way under him, and he sank, rather than fell,
to the ground, and rolled over. When he tried
to rise he found that he had no sort of control
over his muscles; they refused to act, and he was
unable to move so much as a finger. Even his
voice refused to obey his will, for he vainly tried
to cry out; no sound issued from his lips.
Two of the dark figures who had just landed
came forward, picked him up, and carried him to
the waiting boat. There he was thrown down
very much as if he had been a deer which had
been captured. He next felt the craft moving
through the water, he heard the lap, lap of the
ripple against the sides, followed by a bump when
it reached the end of its short voyage.
Then he was hauled up through the air and
carried some distance through seemingly interminable
passages, which he knew were well-lighted;
for, though he could not move, he was quite
conscious, and could not only hear but could
see whatever came within the range of his eyes.
Presently he was cast down upon the floor of
a small chamber, where he was left to himself, his
captors closing the door with noisy accompaniments
which sounded like the turning of keys and the
shooting of bolts into their sockets.
And there he lay, utterly unable to move, in an
agony of mind which can be better conceived than
described. He was like one in a trance; and
wild, weird tales came into his mind of persons
who had fallen into a similar state, and had been
believed to be dead when they were really still
alive. Did the people who had brought him
there think he was dead, he wondered, or were
they aware of the true state of the case? The
question suggested terrible possibilities. These
strangers must be formidable beings indeed!
Seemingly, they possessed dread powers and
strange secrets. It looked as though they could
throw an enemy at will into this terrible
condition. But why they should regard him as an
enemy to be treated thus, more especially after what
he had been able to do for the one who had fallen
into the sea, poor Gerald was at a loss to guess.
In his helplessness and dread of what the end
might be, he prayed earnestly for help and
deliverance. It seemed as though no earthly
friends could aid him, but he did not lose faith
in the power of the one Great Friend above, and
to Him his prayers were many and fervent. And
after a while it seemed as though those supplications
were heard. Slowly, but surely, feeling crept
back into his useless muscles, and the power to
use them returned. Little by little the control
over his limbs returned, until at last, with a long
breath of relief and a grateful prayer of
thankfulness, he was able to stand up and move about
First he examined himself to see if there was
any wound which would account for what had
happened to him; but he could find nothing save
a slight mark on the right hand. He remembered
that he had felt a pricking sensation there just
before he had collapsed upon the beach; after which
there had been a tingling which had spread quickly
all over his body. And that was all he knew.
Ere, however, he could carry his memory and
his speculations further, the door of the chamber
was opened, and several persons entered abruptly
and stood for a while regarding him in silence.
Gerald, on his side, looked back at them
curiously, and he was not by any means favourably
impressed by his first survey of them. He
decided at once that they were soldiers, though
their dress and accoutrements were very different
from anything he had ever seen before. They all
wore beards, and were dark, both as to their hair
and their complexions.
Their costumes, which were a curious dull-gray
in tint, had that peculiar, shimmering sheen which
he had noted in the dress of the stranger who had
fallen into the sea. The fashion, too, was much
the same, the principal garment being the tunic,
with a belt, and the picturesque head-dress.
These people all bore shields, which, strange to
say, seemed to be of glass, for they were perfectly
transparent; and by way of arms each had an
odd-looking twisted pole or spear, which looked
like two rods of polished steel entwined together.
At the top was a flat, spear-shaped piece of
light-coloured silvery metal, with three points or prongs
instead of one. Stuck into the belt of each, as
people might stick pistols, were two or three
smaller articles. One of them looked like a
hunting-knife or dagger; but regarding the others,
Gerald could form no sort of idea as to their use
or meaning, and could only vaguely guess that
they were probably weapons of a kind unknown
to dwellers upon the Earth.
One of these men, who appeared to be their
officer, motioned to Gerald to follow him, and
turned and led the way. Outside there were
half a dozen more men in waiting, all similarly
dressed. The officer signed to Gerald to follow a
couple of these, while he himself, with the others,
fell in behind; and thus they all marched onwards
in double file, like a squad of soldiers.
They traversed many passages and galleries,
where Gerald saw plenty to attract attention and
excite wonder. They passed also people standing
about in small groups, and these looked as curiously
at the prisoner—for such he felt himself to
be—as did he at them. There was, however, no time
or opportunity for more than a fleeting glance; he
was hurried onwards, till suddenly there came a
Passing through an entrance, which in massiveness
and design seemed to the wondering captive
more like the gateway to a medieval castle than
a doorway one might expect to find in such a
place, they emerged into a large open space.
Gerald looked round, and as he did so, a gasp
of astonishment escaped him. He found himself
in what had all the appearance of a spacious, lofty
hall, with a domed roof, around which glittered
But his attention was at once drawn to the other
end of the room. Here was a dais, and upon it were
several persons. They were seated, for the most part,
on handsomely carved and upholstered armchairs;
but two of the latter were higher and larger than
the rest, so that they partook rather of the
character of thrones, and of these one again was larger
and more important-looking than the other. Very
strange affairs were these two high seats, ornamented
as they were with carvings representing heads of
the queerest-looking creatures that can well be
imagined. The high backs curled over above,
fashioned again in the shapes of heads of most
horrible, fantastic monsters; smaller heads, vying
with them in frightful ugliness, formed the ends
of the arms.
Behind this array of chairs hung a curtain on
which was worked weird pictures of the chase.
They depicted men hunting, and the creatures they
were in pursuit of were again strange beasts, such
as, Gerald thought, seemed rather the outcome of
a bad nightmare than the representation of
anything which had ever lived. Over all was a
canopy with more carved heads as corner-pieces.
Noting these details in two or three quick
glances, Gerald turned his attention to the occupants
of the chairs; and as he did so his spirits fell
He had hoped—expected indeed.—that he was
about to be ushered into the presence of the man
whom he had rescued from the sea. Gerald had
already made up his mind to like this man of the
noble countenance, and therefore, notwithstanding
that the treatment he had received had not been
over friendly, he had felt no great anxiety or
misgiving as to what was in store for him.
But now, as he looked round, he very quickly
perceived that the one he had hoped to meet was
not there. Instead, upon the large chairs or
thrones, he saw two dark, bearded men, who
returned his looks with anything but friendly gaze,
and whose general appearance filled him with
feelings of dislike and alarm. Looking round the
semicircle, he found it was much the same with
the others. There were no friendly glances at all;
they gazed at him in solemn, gloomy silence; and
the expression upon their faces was at the best
merely a sort of contemptuous curiosity.
As to one of them in the centre—the one who
sat upon the second highest seat—Gerald thought
he had never looked upon a more unprepossessing
being. His frame was large and muscular, his
head massive; but his dark, bearded face seemed
full of brooding evil. His eyes were crafty, and
lighted now and then with cruel, cunning gleams.
He reminded Gerald somehow of ancient tales of
horrible old ogres, whose principal amusement might
consist in planning new tortures for the
unfortunate victims who fell into their power.
Nor was his master—as Gerald judged him to
be, the one seated upon the principal seat—much
more attractive. His, too, was a huge figure, and
his countenance was dark and forbidding; but it
was relieved by a certain air of haughty authority
and natural ease, imparting to his bearing a
dignity which was lacking in the case of the other.
The more Gerald looked at the men before him
the more he wondered at the innocent, open-hearted
expectation with which he and his friends
on the island had welcomed the coming of this
wonderful 'chariot of the skies.' Had they
known—he now bitterly reflected—had they but known
the sort of beings it was peopled with, they would
certainly have regarded its advent with very
What evil fate, he vaguely and sadly wondered,
had they in store for him?
Gerald stood in the midst of his captors,
regarding them with steady eyes and
undaunted mien. Critical though his situation
might be, he was determined that these strangers
from another world should have no reason for
deeming him wanting in courage. He gazed round,
and took note of everything about him with an
outward appearance of calmness; though the more
he saw of the people in whose hands he was the
more he instinctively distrusted their intentions.
He noted that the man who was seated upon the
higher of the two chairs was treated with great
deference by all the rest, and was evidently a sort
of chief amongst them. The next in rank—the one
Gerald had privately dubbed the 'Ogre'—appeared
to be his principal councillor, while the others seated
on the dais were officers of lesser degree. The rest
of the people present were attired much as the
soldiers had been who had brought Gerald to the
place, save that their costumes were handsomer,
and bore many ornaments and special marks
denoting superior rank.
As regards their ornaments, it was noticeable
that only the chief and the 'Ogre' wore jewels. The
former had upon the breast of his robe a large,
curious figure worked in diamonds, and the latter a
similar ornamentation of a smaller kind. But Gerald,
who knew something about precious stones, was
surprised that these people, if they wore diamonds
at all, did not display something larger and finer.
In his own mind he appraised the value of those
he saw at a very moderate figure, and considered
that they were altogether paltry as compared with
what he would have expected such men to wear.
'Diamonds must be scarce where these people
come from!' was the idea which flashed through
his mind; and therein he had made, as it
afterwards turned out, a very shrewd guess.
And now the chief addressed some words to the
prisoner, which, being spoken in a strange language,
Gerald could not understand. Then the other
one—the Ogre—rose up, and stepping off the dais,
came close to him. Taking him by the shoulders,
he turned and twisted him round, now this way,
now that, as one might a fat bullock that was
offered for sale.
Under this treatment Gerald became indignant.
There was something in the man's manner so
contemptuous, so insulting, that the young fellow's
blood grew hot in his veins. He clenched his hands
and bit his lips, striving his best to keep down his
But the man's behaviour only became more
intolerable; and another now came up to join in the
amusement—for such it seemed to be considered.
Then Gerald, exasperated beyond all control,
struggled fiercely to get free, throwing one of his
persecutors off with so much force that he fell
backwards upon the floor. His head must have
struck against something, for there was a heavy
thump, which was followed at once by an angry
outcry from the man's friends.
Illustration: He fell backwards upon the floor.
The latter rushed upon the hapless captive, and
began to pommel him in cruel and brutal fashion.
How the scene might have ended if no interruption
had occurred it is impossible to say. As it
happened, however, it was brought to an end in
an unexpected manner.
A man came rushing in, calling out in tones of
warning. Evidently he was the bearer of news,
for every one turned to listen to what he said;
and it was curious to see the effect it produced
upon the assembly when they had gathered its
purport. They appeared not unlike a lot of unruly
schoolboys who had ventured to amuse themselves
in some forbidden manner in the absence of their
They looked at one another inquiringly, and
somewhat guiltily. Those who had been mixed up
in the fray busied themselves in hastily trying to
remove all traces of the struggle; while others
who felt themselves less compromised tried their
best to appear innocent and at their ease.
Then were heard the blare of trumpets, hoarse
calls, as of men in authority giving words of
command or ordering people to clear the way, and
the rattle and clatter of accoutrements. Great,
massive doors at the end opposite to the dais swung
apart, throwing open to the view another and
larger hall, and a brilliant and unexpected scene.
Gerald turned and stared in mute wonder. There,
before him, was a vista presenting one of the most
magnificent spectacles it is possible to imagine. He
had thought the hall he was in large and imposing
when he had been ushered into it; but it was
small and almost commonplace compared with the
great space into which he now gazed.
Ranged on either side were ranks of magnificently
dressed persons, who looked like courtiers attending
a levee. Above, from the ceiling, hung gorgeous
banners, and the walls were decorated with beautifully
coloured frescoes. Spiral columns of sparkling
lights rose here and there, ever turning and ever
ascending, and dazzling the eyes with their
splendour. Music clashed from some unseen band
of musicians; and, as the strains floated through
the air, they came mingled with the scent of subtle
and delicious perfumes. At the farthest end of
all was an empty throne, evidently awaiting its
Gazing in wonder at all these things, Gerald
shortly became aware that he was himself becoming
an object of curiosity to the whole of this brilliant
company. He had turned his back to the dais
upon which his persecutors had been seated, and he
was standing out alone in the open space in front,
his homely dress contrasting curiously with the
splendid costumes around.
The music ceased, there was another blare of
trumpets, and then a man entered near the throne.
He stood upon the steps for a few moments, his
keen eyes travelling round the whole assembled
throng as they all bowed their heads in respectful
salutation. He was about to seat himself, when his
eagle glance fell upon the wondering captive. At
the same moment Gerald recognised him—he was
the man whose life he had saved!
Evidently he was the real chief. He was
the king of these people; not the evil-looking,
cruel man whose prisoner he had been. Gerald's
heart gave a great bound of relief and thankfulness;
for he no longer felt fear or doubt. One look
at that stately figure, one glance in return from
those flashing eyes, told him all he wished to
know. He felt that he was saved! Such a being
as this was incapable of either cruelty or injustice!
The king—for such he was—ordered Gerald to
be brought up to him; and two of the principal
officers, whom he knew afterwards as Arelda and
Abralda, came down the long hall and conducted
him to the steps of the throne.
There Gerald stood, whilst he whom he afterwards
knew as King Ivanta made inquiries concerning
him. For as yet, though Gerald had recognised
him, he, on his side, had no idea that Gerald was
the one who had saved his life; having been, it
will be remembered, insensible when he had fallen
into the sea.
There followed much talking in a strange
language. The king was evidently making
inquiries; and the more questions he asked the
darker grew the lowering cloud upon his brow.
A tense silence fell upon the assembled company,
the hush that tells of coming trouble.
Then one of the officers suddenly recognised
Gerald. He was the officer who had been with
the king when he had fainted, and he was the
only one who had seen his rescuer's face. He now
informed his master, who turned and regarded the
young stranger with new interest, in which there
was a kindly and friendly welcome. Then his
brow grew darker than ever, his eyes seemed
literally to flash fire, and he looked truly terrible,
as, with outstretched arm, he thundered out some
What these were, or what was their effect,
Gerald could not learn. There was some stir near
the place where his captors had been seated, and
he guessed that they were being brought forward to
be dealt with. But he himself was led out through
a small side doorway into an antechamber, where
there were only a few officers in waiting; and
these in turn conducted him into another and
still smaller room, where they bade him be seated.
Then they went out and left him alone.
THE KING'S OFFER.
Gerald felt like one in a dream. His
adventure had been such a strange one,
events had followed one another so quickly,
the change from fear and almost despair to hope
and safety had come so unexpectedly, that he had
scarcely had time to realise all that was going
forward. And then the stately magnificence of
the scene at which he had been present, the sudden
revelation of the personality of the being he had
rescued—all these things, crowding into the short
space of a single night, made his brain reel.
For some time he remained alone, turning these
things over and over in his mind. He almost doubted
the evidence of his own senses, and began vaguely
to wonder whether it could all be real, or whether
he had fallen asleep and was dreaming some
extraordinary, fantastic dream.
After what seemed a long time, the door opened,
and some one entered behind him; some one who,
even before Gerald caught sight of him, was adding
to the confusion of his ideas by speaking to him
in English! Turning round sharply, he found
himself face to face with a tall, good-looking man with
a shrewd, intellectual face, who was regarding him
with a smile which seemed to be half-kindly,
half-amused. He was dressed like some of the principal
officers he had seen; but there was that in his
manner and general appearance which, apart from
his speech, seemed to tell Gerald that he was one
of his own race.
'Well, young sir, will you tell me your name?'
was the query which came to Gerald's consciousness
after a moment or two of bewilderment.
'My name is Gerald Wilton,' he said simply.
'And how did you come into these parts?
Parents live round here?'
Gerald shook his head. 'I have none,' he
answered sadly. 'I have a guardian, who is at
present living on the island, however. His name
is Armeath—Mr Marcus Armeath.'
The stranger uttered a long whistle, then he
exclaimed, 'So, so! Marcus Armeath living on
this island! I knew him some years ago. He
was then in England engaged in some experiments,
trying to discover—— But never mind that now.'
He broke off abruptly, and regarded Gerald
again with his enigmatic smile, which, however, now
seemed to have in it more of friendly interest.
Then he took to pacing up and down the room,
his hands behind him, as though lost in thought.
'Young sir,' said he presently, 'I don't know
what star you were born under, but it seems
perfectly clear that you are marked out for some
experiences such as scarcely any one else on this
Earth can boast of. You are in possession of a
great secret, which we wished to keep to ourselves;
and, further, it has been ordained that you should
save the life of—of—well, of one who is never
ungrateful to those who do him even the smallest
service. He is my most gracious master, and he
will talk with you himself later on; but,
meanwhile, he has deputed me to see you, and prepare
your mind for some tremendous facts which you
might otherwise find it difficult to grasp all at
once. I am instructed to tell you certain things
which must appear to you so incredible, so
impossible, that I doubt if you will believe them
without further proof.'
'I think I can give a good guess at one or two
of them, sir; or, rather, my guardian has done so.
This monster airship, or whatever you call it, has
found its way here from some other planet—probably
'My word, young gentleman, you've hit it!'
cried the other, in very evident surprise.
'And,' continued Gerald, 'you made some mistake in
arriving here, and very nearly came to awful grief.'
'Yes, yes! There, too, you guessed well,' returned
the other. 'It was but a slight miscalculation, but
it nearly smashed us up! It was a fearfully
narrow escape!' He drew out a handkerchief and
passed it over his forehead, as though the mere
recollection made him hot. 'I expect that was Mr
Armeath's guess too, wasn't it?'
'Ah well! there are certain other things,
however, which you do not know—cannot know—which
I will now explain. In the first place, you
do not know that my master is a great king in
Mars—a mighty ruler over nearly half the population
of that globe. His name is Ivanta; he reigns
over the empire of Ivenia—which, by-the-by, is
the name of this airship, as you called it. He
named her the Ivenia, after his own country.'
Gerald listened with growing wonder, and eyes that
lighted up more and more as the stranger continued:
'Very well! The next thing is that this is not
the first visit my master has paid to this Earth.
He came here some years ago.'
At this Gerald stared harder than ever. 'Is it
possible?' he exclaimed. 'I never heard of it!'
'Nobody—on the Earth—ever heard of it, save
myself and one or two others who were all sworn
to secrecy. My royal master came here for
purposes of his own, and did not wish—and does not
wish now—that his visits should be made known. If
they were, he would have a lot of people pestering
him with questions, and possibly some one might
imitate his inventions and build airships like this
one, and he might have explorers from here
coming over to Mars—which he does not wish.
Do you understand?'
'Very well! At his first visit he came to this
very island, and made it his headquarters. It was
'Yes; so it was when we came to it. We have
only been here a year or so.'
'I see. Well, my master hoped to find the
place still uninhabited, and that he would be able
to hide the Ivenia away here this time, as he did
before, when no one upon the Earth was ever the
wiser, save the one or two I have referred to. He
had brought with him a yacht of his own. She
made a bit of a stir, being unlike anything
previously seen, but no one suspected the truth. In
her he made a tour of the world, travelling about
for three years, during which time he and his chosen
companions picked up English, a little French, and
so on. They also picked me up, and I also saved
the king's life, even as you have done, though in
a different manner. He was so grateful for what I
did that he told me his secret, and offered to enrol
me in his service and take me back to Mars with
him. I had nothing particular to tie me here, and
I am fond of adventure, so I took him at his royal
word. Now you can begin to understand how it
is that I, an Englishman by birth, Kendal Monck
by name, engineer by profession, happen to be
here, in these days, in the suite of this great king
from another planet, and talking to you in your
'Yes, sir, I understand,' answered Gerald, his face
aglow with interest and excitement. 'It's very, very
wonderful! What strange, marvellous scenes and
adventures you must have passed through!'
'I have that, my lad! I have passed through
many grave dangers too; have had many hair-breadth
escapes in the service of my royal master,
who is of a very adventurous disposition. His
search after knowledge has led us into queer
places, I can assure you. But he is a wonderful
being! This marvellous airship was constructed
from his own inventions and designs. And then,
as a man—— Ah!' Here the stranger drew a
long breath. 'His is a character which makes
you feel you would go through fire and water for
'I 'm sure of it!' cried Gerald with enthusiasm.
'I felt it the first moment I set eyes upon him!
How I should like to do as you have done—go
with him to Mars and back! What an
'Ah!' exclaimed the engineer again, 'it would
do you good, my lad. It would do
anybody—everybody—good, physically, morally, in every
way. It gives you a different, a more glorious,
outlook on life when you realise that the mighty
works of the Creator are not confined to this
globe on which we live, but extend through
endless "universes" in space. Even comparatively near
us there are great planets compared with which
this Earth is scarcely more than a big football.
There is Saturn, for instance. When we were
'You have visited other planets, then, as well?'
Monck nodded. 'Yes, even great Jupiter, but we
could not get very near to him. Saturn, however,
we landed on, and spent some weeks there—awful,
terrible weeks they were. My young friend, even
to think of the things to be seen there is almost
too much for the ordinary human brain. But, as
I have said, it does one good. It instils into the
mind some faint conception of the vastness, the
greatness, the endless variety to be everywhere
found in what we call the creation!'
'Would that your king would make me the offer
he made to you!' cried Gerald, with glistening eyes.
'Perhaps he will. What if he has?' was the
Gerald started up from the chair he had been
sitting on. 'You cannot mean it!' he exclaimed.
'What would be your reply if he made you the
'I would accept only too gladly!'
'You see,' Monck explained, 'the service you
rendered is one that a man like my master would
never forget. I dare say you wonder how it
happened that he fell into the sea. It was because
the air here is so different from that which he is
used to upon Mars, and which we all had been
living in inside this airship. At his first visit to
the Earth, years ago, he was extremely careful,
and made the change gradually and cautiously.
This time he seems to have been rash, or to have
forgotten. Hence the air here—which is thinner
and lighter than that on Mars—served him as the
air on the top of a very high mountain would serve
you if you were suddenly transported there. He
was attacked with what you have doubtless heard
of as mountain-sickness. There is vertigo, bleeding
at the nose and ears, and fainting. However, his
danger was your opportunity; and I must say
you acted very promptly and pluckily.'
'I only did what I would have done for any
one,' said Gerald modestly.
'I am sure of that, my boy. But I won't keep
you in suspense any longer. To come to the point,
my master said I could make you the offer I
have hinted at if I found you were likely to
regard it with favour. I do not want your answer
now, of course. You can take time to consider—there
are lots of things we can talk over first.
Briefly, however, when we go back to Mars we
shall only be away a few months. At the end
of that time we shall return here again; and if
you are then tired of the adventure you will be
free to leave his service and remain here.'
'I do not need any time to make up my mind,'
Gerald burst out impetuously. 'All I should
hesitate about would be as to whether my
'Well, we can talk to him.'
'Who is Jack?'
'My chum! He must come too!'
'Oh—h'm! I don't know what to say about
that! You had better ask King Ivanta yourself
when you see him!'
'I will!' cried Gerald. And he did, with what
result will presently appear.
OFF ON A TRIP TO MARS.
'Our last morning upon the Earth, Jack, for
many a day to come! Think of it! It
scarcely seems possible, does it?'
'It's true enough, though, old chap! In a few
hours we shall "sail away," as the song says, and
shall be winging our way through space!'
'Fancy gazing down and taking our last look
at our own globe! The daring of the thing gives
me a bit of a shock, now that the event itself is so
near at hand! How is it with you?'
'Well, I confess, Gerald, that I have to brace
my mind up to it, as it were. But it's always the
same when you start upon a journey or a new
adventure. One never exactly likes saying
good-bye to the old familiar places.'
Many months had passed since the events
recorded in the last chapter. King Ivanta had been
to Europe and finished the business he had in
hand—for it was generally understood, amongst
those who knew of his presence on the Earth, that
he had come here on his second visit for some
definite purpose. What the purpose was remained
for the present a secret confined to the Martian
monarch himself and the few he chose to take into
Amongst those who shared the secret Mr
Armeath was probably one; for he had grown
high in favour with the illustrious traveller, and
had been invited to accompany him in the
forthcoming trip to Mars and back. He had also been
accorded the privilege of taking with him his two
wards Gerald and Jack, and his two servitors Tom
Clinch and Bob Reid; and the latter, loyal and
faithful followers that they were, had not shrunk
from the risks of the adventure.
There were some other passengers also—namely,
Amos Zuanstroom the multi-millionaire (the
well-known 'Diamond King'), his son Silas (who was
about the same age as Jack), and a much younger
lad, named Freddy Whitcomb, his nephew.
Why King Ivanta should choose these particular
persons from all the millions of inhabitants of the
Earth was another matter which was wrapped in
mystery, and which, for the time being, he kept
strictly to himself.
As the engineer Mr Monck had predicted, Gerald
had good reason to congratulate himself upon the
fortunate chance which had enabled him to render
so great a service to the Martian king. The latter
had shown himself extremely grateful, and had
conferred upon the young fellow many marks of
his favour. In particular, he had confirmed the
offer Mr Monck had made, and had graciously
extended it, as stated, to his guardian and his chum.
And now, behold them all, then, on board the
Ivenia, the colossal 'chariot of the skies,' awaiting
the moment when she should rise in the air and
commence her tremendous journey.
She lay in a sort of natural harbour in the
island, a spacious salt-water lake almost landlocked.
From this she presently rose easily and smoothly,
like a huge bird wending its way upwards in a
series of graceful circles. Like a bird, too, she
had at first enormous wings spread out to the
air. But after a time, as she gained the upper air,
these were folded away, the upper covering was
replaced, and she became once more the great,
egg-shaped mass she had appeared when she had
arrived beside the island. How, afterwards, she
continued to force her way upwards against the
attraction of the Earth, was King Ivanta's own
secret. It was believed that he had discovered a
means of using the sun's more powerful attractive
force, and so controlling it as to make it do
whatever he required; but that was probably only
a guess. What is certain is that the whole
structure continued to rise steadily and smoothly
upwards, till presently Gerald and Jack were
called by Mr Armeath and the engineer, Mr Monck,
to come to a sort of periscope, from which they
could take their last look at the Earth.
They stepped forward and stared through the
opening in startled wonder. There, they saw our
globe, looking like an enormous ball. The great
airship itself was perfectly steady, and appeared to
be absolutely motionless. Not a tremor was to be
felt, and it seemed as though it was the Earth
which was receding from them at a rapid rate, not
they from the Earth. No longer, however, could
they make out details upon its surface; the distance
was already too great. All they could distinguish
were the respective masses of land and water,
broadly mapped and marked out as they are upon
a school globe representing the Earth. The side they
were looking at showed the New World—the great
continents of North and South America and the
oceans surrounding them—and that was all.
Who shall attempt to describe their feelings, or
guess their thoughts, as they stood there gazing
at this strange appearance of the planet upon
which they had lived all their lives? Probably
they then for the first time fully realised the
actual nature of the risks they were running; and
it is more than likely that they were wondering
whether they were looking their last upon the
Earth, as they watched it sinking silently away
into the immeasurable distance!
A NARROW ESCAPE.
The first part of the time which followed
upon the departure from the Earth of the
Ivenia on her long journey through space
was one of great enjoyment to the two chums. The
marvels and mysteries of the great airship—or
aerostat, as Mr Armeath preferred to call
her—seemed to be inexhaustible. 'Every day' the
young people found something new and strange,
to puzzle over. Every time they moved about
they came upon some unexpected revelation of
the wondrous inventions and contrivances which
it had been necessary to bring to perfection before
the great machine could start upon the adventurous
journeys she had undertaken.
The above words, 'every day,' require an
explanation. Of course, once they were really out
in 'the realms of starry space,' there were really no
alternations of day and night, for the sun shone
upon them continuously. But within the aerostat
artificial nights, so to speak, were produced by
drawing huge screens across the semi-transparent
Mr Monck explained this to the young voyagers,
giving them, incidentally, a little lecture, as it
were, in astronomy and general science; and on
this occasion he had as his auditors all four of
the young passengers—including, that is to say,
the two cousins, Silas and Freddy.
'I expect you all know,' he said, 'that out in
what is called space, where there is no
atmosphere—no air—the sun's rays seem to have no
heat. The cold there is most intense—far greater
than anything ever experienced upon Earth. You
feel the sun's rays warm on your globe because
they pass through the Earth's atmosphere, which
acts like a lens or magnifying-glass. Here the
same effect is obtained by passing them through
the wonderful semi-transparent metal of which the
outer shell of the airship is composed. It is
harder than the hardest steel, yet almost
transparent like glass, without being brittle, while it
is far lighter than aluminium. It was discovered
by King Ivanta, and is called "ivantium" after
him. He found that when the sun's rays were
passed through it the result was exactly the same
as when they pass through the atmosphere of the
Earth or of Mars. That is how it is we are so
warm and comfortable on board here. But for
the discovery of that metal such a journey as
we are taking would be impossible. We should
be frozen to death.'
'Then there is no need to have day and night
unless you like,' Freddy observed, his blue eyes
opening in surprise. He was a fair, good-looking
youngster, and a great favourite with Monck and
'No, my lad. But King Ivanta considers it
best to keep up the same habits as those you
and his people are all accustomed to "at home;"
for Mars turns on its axis in about the same time
as the Earth—namely, twenty-four hours or
thereabouts. That is to say, the average day on Mars
is just about the same length as the average day
on the Earth.'
On many other occasions, when he had the
time and opportunity, the good-natured engineer
'trotted them round' and explained to the young
people, in similar fashion, the why and the
wherefore of many of the things that puzzled
them—so far, that is, as he himself understood
them. But as to a great many, and those some
of the most surprising, he was obliged to confess
his own entire ignorance.
'There are most essential secrets connected with
the structure and working of this remarkable
"chariot of the skies" which no one but my
master understands, and he takes good care to
keep them to himself,' he declared. 'When you
reach Mars, for instance, you will see there
numerous airships and flying-machines of many
kinds. It has, indeed, been much easier for
the Martians to learn to build such
contrivances than for the dwellers upon the Earth,
because, as I have before mentioned, the air upon
Mars is so much denser. But though you will
see many such things flying about, you will not
see one that can compare with this; not one
that can venture out into space, or, indeed, very
far above the surface of the planet.'
Often Mr Armeath accompanied the young
people, and listened with interest to the engineer's
explanations; for, scientist though he was, he
found he had almost as much to learn in their
new surroundings as they had.
Truly, the great airship was a wonder from
every point of view. It may assist readers to
understand the stupendous scale upon which she
had been designed if it is explained that she
was more than twice the size of Britain's great
warship the Dreadnought. But nothing less in
bulk would have been of any use if we consider
the tremendous strength required, and the
accommodation necessary for the number of people she
carried—of whom there were between two and three
thousand. In addition, room had to be provided for
enormous quantities of stores and other equipment.
Another feature which illustrates the gigantic
scale upon which everything was carried out was
to be found in the fact that a large space was
given up to ornamental gardens and conservatories.
In these were graceful, waving, palm-like trees,
wondrous flowers and shrubs, and trees growing
delicious fruits, interspersed amongst fountains and
pleasant walks, with what appeared to be a sunny
sky overhead. There was even a sort of 'Zoo'
or menagerie on board, in which were many very
curious animals which the new passengers had
never seen or heard of before. To these had now
been added quite a collection of more familiar
creatures which King Ivanta had acquired during
his stay upon Earth, and was taking back for
the edification of his subjects at home.
The chums were fond of wandering about in
this miniature zoological garden, looking at those
creatures which were new to them, and studying
their ways and habits. Some were natives of
Mars; these were mostly small, for—as they soon
learned from Monck—just as Mars was a smaller
globe than the Earth, so the animals generally
were smaller in proportion. But in this Zoo were
specimens brought, as it appeared, from the great
planet Saturn, some of which were large and
It was with one of these that Gerald met with
an unpleasant adventure one day when they had
been but a short time 'out.' He had strolled in
alone, in the early morning, as was now his
almost constant habit, and went towards the cage
of a creature called by the Martians an amalpi.
Gerald was especially interested in it on account
of its resemblance to an immense unicorn. It
was, indeed, something between that fabled
creature and a rhinoceros. It had a very long,
straight, sharp horn upon the frontal bone, and
a body very much like a heavily-built cart-horse,
covered with skin almost as thick as that
of an elephant. It was a most savage, dangerous
creature, and all attempts to tame it, even in the
smallest degree, had failed.
When Gerald walked up to its cage on this
particular occasion he met with a surprise, for
the cage was empty and the barred gate was
standing ajar. Ere he had time to consider what
this might mean he received a second surprise.
There was a loud, bellowing roar, and the next
he knew was that the creature itself was charging
down upon him with lowered head like a
bull, the terrible, long, sharp horn pointed straight
For an instant the young fellow stood as if
spell-bound; then, by a happy flash of thought,
he dashed into the empty cage and pulled the
gate to after him. It fastened, as he knew,
automatically, with a huge spring-catch. A moment
later there was a frightful crash as the ferocious
animal ran full tilt at the bars, its long horn
pushing between them, and just failing to reach
Gerald by some few inches.
For some time he had the novel experience of
being a prisoner in the great cage, while his
enemy, furious with disappointment, charged again
and again at the bars. Such was the strength
and determination of its rushes that it seemed
almost as if the bars must give way.
At last the noise of its bellowing brought some
of the keepers upon the scene. Then Gerald had
an opportunity of learning more of the weapons
the Martians were armed with, and how they
used them. Each keeper carried in his hand one
of the large wands or staves, with triple points at
the top, similar to those the soldiers had carried
who had marched Gerald as a prisoner before
the 'Ogre' and his chief. Gerald had seen similar
wands many times since, but had never seen how
they were used. Nor was he, indeed, much the
wiser now. All he saw was a slight flash of
very brilliant light which seemed to leap from
the tridents towards the great roaring animal, as
it stood for a moment tossing its head and
stamping its feet ere charging clown upon the
rescue-party. But it never started upon its rush,
for, lo! it suddenly sank upon its knees and
rolled helplessly over upon the ground, where it
lay quiet and still—a big, inert mass.
The keepers opened the gate, and Gerald walked
out, wondering greatly at what he had seen, but
unable to ask any questions, because he could
not speak their language.
Just then, however, Monck arrived upon the
scene. He looked very grave when informed
what had occurred, and examined the lock with
a perplexed air and many dubious shakes of the
'What will they do with the dead amalpi?'
Gerald asked, as he walked away with the
'Put it back again. It is not dead; it will
recover in a few hours, and to-morrow will be
as lively as ever,' was the answer. Then the
speaker went on to explain. 'Those tridents,' he
said, alluding to the three-pronged wands, 'are
really a kind of electric gun, if I may use the
term. This weapon also—like so many of the
Martians' greatest discoveries—is the invention of
our royal master, King Ivanta. He tried for
years to discover a weapon which would stun or
paralyse and not kill. He has a horror of
bloodshed, and he set himself to devise a weapon
which should do away with the horrors of war
by rendering killing and maiming unnecessary.
He found it at last in this weapon, which simply
paralyses the muscles for a certain time, without
killing or inflicting any permanent injury. People
or animals—even the largest and most ferocious
creatures, as you have here seen—struck in this
way are merely rendered quite helpless for a
time, so that you can bind them, or do what
you please with them.'
'Ah! like I was! I understand now!' cried
Gerald. 'All I felt was a slight prick, as if
some one had hurt me with a needle, and immediately
I collapsed and rolled over, utterly unable
to move, yet not unconscious.'
Monck nodded thoughtfully. 'Ay, I remember,'
'So do I,' said Gerald, in a tone which
indicated that the remembrance was a sore one.
'And that reminds me that you have never given
me any explanation as to why I was treated in
that fashion! I frequently see the chap I have
to thank for it—who, I have been given to
understand, is a sort of king in his own
country—and his confederate, the one I called the
Ogre. I know their names too—Agrando and
Kazzaro. Whenever they catch sight of me they
glare at me as though they would like to eat me!'
'Well, they got a precious good wigging from
King Ivanta over that affair before the whole
Court,' Monck declared with a smile. 'So it is
not surprising that they do not exactly fall upon
your neck and embrace you.'
'But what was their object?' Gerald persisted.
Monck seemed to be ruminating. 'I cannot say
with certainty; I can only guess,' he answered
thoughtfully. 'Agrando, you must know, is the
ruler of one of the last countries which Ivanta
conquered and brought under his sway. He
reigned over a numerous and powerful nation,
and there was a long and bitter struggle ere
Ivanta was completely successful. Agrando did
not like giving in, and I don't think he has
become quite reconciled to it even yet.'
'Was that why King Ivanta brought him with
him—so that he might be able to keep an eye
on him?' asked Gerald shrewdly.
Monck laughed. 'Perhaps,' he said.
'Well, my impression is—and always has been—that
the old ruffian intended to keep me there
as prisoner in secret, and carry me secretly to
his own country, and there exhibit me as a
raree-show, or keep me as a slave to wait on
him, or some infamy of that sort.'
Monck looked puzzled. 'I hardly know what
to say as to that,' he said musingly. 'But I feel
sure that you have no friend in him or his chief
councillor. I should keep clear of them if I were
you. Have you any other enemies, think you, on
Gerald started. 'Why do you ask?' he queried.
'Because this little business of the amalpi is
a rather strange affair. It looks to me as if it
had been done on purpose. That lock did not
open itself, nor did the animal burst it open. It
is not injured in any way. Now, you are in the
habit of going there regularly in the early morning,
are you not?'
'Yes, Mr Monck,' returned Gerald gravely. 'But
I don't like to think there is any one on board
who hates me enough to plan such a wicked
thing! I know, of course, that the Zuanstrooms
are anything but pleased at the fact that King
Ivanta invited us to come with you on this
trip; and Silas has behaved very strangely once
or twice, just as if he were jealous, or envious,
or something. But still—I could not imagine they
would carry their dislike as far as that!'
'Well, to me it looks very much as though
it had not been altogether an accident,' Monck
declared bluntly. 'So, take my advice, my lad,
and keep your eyes open; and if you get into
any trouble, or suspect any danger, do not hesitate
to let me know at once.'
The weeks passed on, and still the Ivenia
continued on her tremendous journey through
space to meet the advancing planet Mars.
She travelled at a rate which would make the
heads of young readers swim if it were set down
in figures. Yet she glided on so smoothly that
those on board might well have thought she was
all the time standing motionless in one place.
How this was accomplished was one of those secrets
which Monck confessed himself unable to explain.
And the same may here be said of some other
mysteries which puzzled Mr Armeath not a little.
One was, that there was a feeling of weight or
gravity on board much the same as upon the
Earth. Another puzzle was, how was the supply of
air kept always pure and wholesome? These were
among the things that Ivanta kept to himself.
The Earth sank away into the distance, gradually
diminishing in size till it became no larger to
the view than the moon when it is full. Then
came a time when it looked like a rather large
star of a pale-bluish tint.
On board, the time passed, for the most part,
pleasantly enough. There was plenty to
do—plenty of work and plenty of amusement. King
Ivanta was a ruler who believed in the policy
of keeping his people busy in one way or another.
Every person on board was compelled to give a
certain amount of time each day to work or
study of some kind; while a certain interval was
also set aside for recreations. The latter were of
many kinds. There were concerts—for the
Martians seemed to be all fond of music—games,
somewhat after the style of football, tennis, and
other athletic sports; and, not least, military
exercises, in which the soldiers took part and
contended for prizes. These—which the chums
always watched with the utmost interest—often
took the form of actual combats. Sometimes they
were between two champions, sometimes between
parties of fifty or a hundred; and amongst the
latter there were often many 'slain' on both sides;
but they always came to life a little later, none
the worse for the experience.
Then it was that the chums saw the use made
of the shields borne by the soldiers, which Gerald
had first noticed when he had been a prisoner.
They were, as stated, transparent, and it now
appeared that they were used as a protection
against the mysterious power of the 'tridents,' or
'electric guns.' Just as electricity will not pass
through glass, so the curious 'flash' from the
tridents could not pass through these shields.
The heads, feet, and legs of the combatants, and
some other parts of their bodies, were also
protected in similar fashion, so that they appeared
to be partly dressed in shining armour. They
wore helmets, breastplates, and leg and thigh
pieces, which looked like glass, yet were not
brittle, and which, like the shields, were proof
against the power of the tridents.
Thus, a duel between two antagonists equipped
in this manner resolved itself, to a great extent,
into a trial of skill in the use of the shield.
Through it each could see the other; and many
were the feints and stratagems resorted to by a
practised fighter to get at his foe behind his
Every night King Ivanta held a levee or other
Court function, which all who were off duty were
free to attend, and at which very curious
entertainments were sometimes provided.
Altogether there was no lack either of occupation
or amusement during the three months which
the voyage lasted.
Gerald and Jack applied themselves assiduously
to learn the Martian language, and in this they
were joined by Mr Armeath. Then, by way of
relaxation, they gained the king's permission to
learn the mysteries and use of the trident and
shield. Monck fitted them out in suits of the
shining armour, and they practised under the
instruction of one named Aveena, a young noble of
the Court. Thanks to his tuition, they became
so expert that they entered for contests before
the king, and came off victorious in more than
one bout with others of their own age. Silas
Zuanstroom was one of those they each vanquished
in turn; only with the result, however, of increasing
the coldness which had grown up between the two
parties of travellers from the Earth.
One day, Gerald met with yet another disagreeable
adventure in the Zoo, and again narrowly
escaped a terrible death. This time it was a
large venomous serpent of vicious and aggressive
disposition, which (again by some 'accident') had
got loose just about the time when Gerald,
unarmed and unsuspicious of danger, was taking
his stroll round the cages. Monck came upon
him, a little later, clinging to the upper branches
of a tall palm-like tree, which the serpent was
slowly climbing, bent on reaching him.
This time the engineer reported the matter to
the king, who sternly ordered a strict inquiry
with the object of finding out who was to blame.
But no evidence was forthcoming to show that
the occurrence had been other than an accident;
and the affair ended in the punishment of one
of the keepers in charge for negligence.
But more exciting events were steadily preparing,
and began to develop as the voyage went on.
One morning the two chums were called into
Armeath's private apartment, where he was
awaiting them with Monck. He explained that he had
received the king's permission to impart to them
an important piece of information. 'I am going
to entrust you with a bit of a secret,' said he,
'and I must ask you to regard it as confidential,
and say nothing about it to any one—particularly
to the Zuanstrooms; which, of course, includes
the two lads. Doubtless you have wondered what
it was which induced King Ivanta to pay a second
visit to our Earth. It is this, that what we call
precious stones do not exist naturally in Mars.
None were ever seen there until the king brought
back a quantity after his first visit.'
Gerald burst into an exclamation. 'Just what
I guessed, sir,' he cried. 'I have had that idea
in my mind for some time!'
'It was a shrewd guess, lad,' Monck observed.
'The fact is, that once the Martians had set eyes
on them they went almost mad over them, and
became clamorous for a larger supply to be
brought, in order that those who could afford it
might be able to purchase some.
'Our gracious master, who is continually
thinking what new thing he can do to please his
people, determined to pay a second visit to the
Earth specially to secure a large supply. Hence
his taking up with Zuanstroom, the "Diamond
King." But Zuanstroom was not easy to arrange
with. When he learned the actual state of the
case, he insisted, as a part of the bargain, that
my master should promise to bring him over to
Mars for a trip, and take him safely back.
Nothing less would satisfy him.'
'I see,' said Jack. 'And I suppose his
diamonds are on board too—a whole shipload of
them, so to speak?'
'Exactly. The greatest load of treasure, I
suppose, that has ever been carried on any ship of
the air or the sea.'
'But,' said Gerald, 'the Zuanstrooms know all
this. Why mustn't we speak to them about it?'
'Because, at this point, I come to my story,'
Armeath said, with a half-smile. 'For years I
have been experimenting, trying to manufacture
precious stones artificially. At last I succeeded in
getting diamonds from a certain mineral; only to
find, however, that the discovery was almost
valueless, because I could not get enough of the
particular mineral. I found out that there was some
in the island we have been living on, and that
was the reason I went there to stay for a time.
When, however, I understood what King Ivanta
wanted, I told him of my experiments, showed
him the results, and he was highly delighted. He
said it would be easier and cheaper to manufacture
diamonds than to buy them from the Diamond
King on his own terms.'
'But how can that be done, sir, if the necessary
material is so scarce?' asked practical Jack.
'You shall hear. King Ivanta recognised the
mineral, and declares that there is plenty of it
to be obtained from the planet Saturn. He saw
quantities of it when he was there!'
'Then we are to go to Saturn to obtain a
supply; I suppose?' cried Gerald, full of
enthusiasm at the prospect of this new and unexpected
addition to their programme of adventure.
'That I cannot yet say,' replied Armeath. 'We
must hear what the king says.'
'But, sir,' exclaimed Jack, 'you would not think
of leaving us alone—stranded—upon a strange
planet! Suppose you never came back!'
'It is not a pleasant place to visit; I can tell
you that much,' Monck put in. 'Saturn, at the
present time, is in the stage which the scientists
tell us the Earth was in, ages ago, when the great
antediluvian monsters existed. Those monsters—or
similar ones—are alive now on Saturn; and terrible
creatures they are, I can assure you! The amalpi—the
unicorn-like animal which hunted you, Master
Gerald—is one which we managed to capture and
bring back from Saturn. But it is small and
almost harmless compared with some of the animals
and reptiles we saw there! I do not think I
would go there again, Mr Armeath, of my own
choice, even for the sake of bushels of diamonds!'
'If I go, it will not be exactly for the reason you
suppose, my friend,' returned Armeath. He spoke
very gravely, and with a note of sadness in his
tone. 'Your king, in most things, has shown himself
a very wise monarch; but I think he has made a
mistake in introducing jewels at all amongst his
subjects. Upon our globe they have always been
the cause of heartburning, envy, jealousy, and
all kinds of evil passions. In too many cases
they have proved, as all of us know, a veritable
curse, and have led to crimes innumerable. But,
for good or for evil, your master has made certain
promises, and arranged certain things with the
Diamond King. King Ivanta's people are all agog,
waiting in clamorous impatience for the cargo of
jewels which we are taking to them. It is too late
now to alter that; but, look you! what if I prove to
them that jewels just as good can be made as cheaply
as bits of glass? What will be the consequence?'
'Nobody will want them,' Monck answered, laughing.
'Just so! And that, in my opinion, would be
for the future benefit of all the inhabitants of
Mars! It is for that—and with that idea
alone—that I am ready to risk the danger of a trip to
'If that be so, then I am with you,' exclaimed
the engineer. 'It is a worthy object, and I will
help you all I can! But to obtain the mineral
you want will be almost like undertaking over
again the fabled labours of Hercules, for the place
where it exists is guarded by creatures more
formidable than the fabled Hydra, and more terrible
than the worst of the ancient dragons!'
CAPTURED BY A COMET.
The Ivenia, the great Martian airship, sped
onwards upon its wonderful voyage for a
period of nearly two months without anything
occurring to interrupt its continuous progress.
Then, one night, there came a startling interruption
of its smooth, gliding flight through space—one
that nearly terminated it for good and all.
It so happened that the two chums were sitting
up that night with Mr Armeath in the conning-tower,
a privilege but seldom accorded to any one
not actually engaged in the navigation of the ship.
The officer in charge, however, was one named
Malanda, the one who had been in attendance on
the king when Gerald had saved his life. He
it was who had recognised the lad at the critical
moment when he had been a prisoner, and since
that time he had treated him with marked
The conning-tower was a roomy apartment, very
curiously constructed. It could be raised or
depressed by mechanical means, so that at some
times it projected above the outer surface of the
ship, while at others it was just level with it.
In the former case there was a clear view in
all directions except immediately beneath; in the
latter there was no direct view save upwards;
but the images of outside objects were then thrown
on to a screen, as in a camera-obscura.
Upon this eventful night the conning-tower had
been raised, and the two chums had been amusing
themselves by peering through powerful telescopes
at the heavenly bodies around them.
It was truly a wonderful, a fascinating sight,
and one which Gerald, especially, was never tired
of contemplating. The various constellations blazed
out with a vividness and beauty far exceeding
their appearance as seen through our atmosphere
from the surface of the Earth. Thanks to Malanda,
the two lads had learned to distinguish the planets
from the far-more distant fixed stars. They knew
that the latter were at such tremendous distances
that they 'didn't count,' as Jack put it; the only
ones they were likely to have anything to do
with being the planets, which, like our Earth, are
always revolving round our sun.
Of course, as they were going to visit Mars,
they watched that orb particularly; and they felt a
special interest in noting how its pinkish-red light
increased in size and intensity as they drew nearer.
Next in interest came our Earth, which they had so
recently left, whose bluish light waned exactly in
proportion as that of Mars waxed stronger. Then
there was beautiful Saturn, with its wondrous
rings of light; perhaps they were also to visit
that mysterious orb, and learn what those lustrous
bands were composed of!
Besides these, there were plenty of curious things
to watch and admire. The planets had their moons
in attendance upon them—some having two, some
as many as eight—all behaving as our own moon
does—each, that is to say, showing in turn as a
thin crescent, a half-moon, a full-moon, and so
on; and the voyagers had watched these changes
with interest which never flagged. It seemed such a
strange thing to think of: several moons round one
planet; one, perhaps, a new moon; and two or three
others near the full, all shining at the same time!
Now, it was while they were gazing at these
beautiful sights that Jack noticed a tiny speck of
light which struck him as unfamiliar. He
mentioned it in an undertone to Gerald, who, just
then, was half-watching what was to be seen of
Saturn, half-dreaming of what lay beyond. Gerald
pointed his telescope in the direction indicated,
and looked at the speck of light, but seeing nothing
particular in its appearance, turned his attention
again to other objects.
Jack, however, was more observant. His acute,
practical sense had told him that here was
something different from anything he had seen before.
He promptly recognised two or three very
important points in connection with it. One was
that its light was different in colour from that
of anything else he could see. Another was that
it was very unsteady, yet it did not 'twinkle' as
do the far-distant stars; and yet another was
that it was growing in intensity very quickly.
'Therefore,' said Jack to himself, 'I believe it
must be comparatively near, and coming towards
us at a most tremendous rate.' Finally, he drew
Mr Armeath's attention to the phenomenon.
Armeath in turn pointed it out to Malanda,
who had no sooner glanced at it than he rushed
across the floor of the chamber to some levers,
which he began to manipulate, at the same time
setting a number of bells ringing in various parts
of the great aerostat. One of these, as it
afterwards appeared, rang out its urgent message in
the sleeping-apartment of the king, who roused
at once from his slumber and hurried to the
Before his arrival, however, the alarm bells had
summoned others to the place, and from their
excited talk the chums quickly learnt the cause
of the excitement. For they had worked at the
study of the Martian language to such good
purpose that by this time they could understand
most of what was said.
There were many confused exclamations, and
much incoherent talk; but amidst it all they
heard again and again the cry, 'A comet! A comet!'
Just then Jack found the engineer Monck beside
him, and he asked for further information.
'I cannot tell you much about it now, my lad,'
was the reply; 'but I know that this is one of
the gravest dangers of our voyage. Comets have
well been called "the spectres of space." The
planets and their moons move in certain
well-defined orbits or tracks, and you know exactly
where you are likely to meet them and what
to do if you wish to avoid them. But comets
seem to be controlled by no known law, and
you never can tell where you may encounter them.
Compared with any of the planets, they are, of
course, small; but they are enormous compared
with our aerostat, and quite big enough to
accomplish our destruction if one of them ran against
us. So you can understand that great care is
necessary when one is sighted.'
'These people seem very excited; do you think
there is serious danger, sir?' Gerald asked.
'No, no—a—at least, I hope not. But when
a comet is anywhere near it is always a relief
when we are safely past it. You will see, however,
that all will quiet down when our royal master
is here. He is the only one, I believe, who really
knows how to meet the danger.'
The words were scarcely spoken when they were
verified by the king's arrival. As his stately form
strode into the chamber, a great hush fell upon
those assembled there, and, like magic, quiet and
orderly procedure took the place of what had
looked very much like unreasoning panic.
He stood for a few moments gazing around to
take in the situation, then he looked at the
advancing comet, which could now be plainly seen
without any telescope furiously rushing, at
tremendous speed, seemingly straight at the ship.
Flashes and bursts of light accompanied it like
explosions of mighty bombshells, lighting up the
interior of the conning-tower as might flashes of
terrible lightning. Already it had grown from a
tiny speck of light to a ball of fire as large as
our moon looks at the full; and it was rapidly
growing bigger and bigger.
Then Ivanta gave a series of orders in sharp,
commanding tones, and some of the crowd of
officers went off to execute them. The doors of
the chamber were closed, and a moment later the
conning-tower sank down, and all became dark save
for a fiery image which was now to be seen upon
a large screen. This gave a view of the comet
as it would have appeared if they had still been
looking direct at it. From the apparent size of
a moon it had now grown to twice as large as
our sun looks to us. Its shape was no longer
round, but was changing each second, the continual
explosions sending out irregular masses of fire upon
all sides in turn.
Even as seen upon the screen it was an awful
sight to look upon. It seemed like some gigantic,
fiery monster bent upon devouring them.
Armeath put a hand affectionately upon each
of his wards. He could see that the position of
the aerostat was critical, and that they were all
in terrible danger. It was not a moment for talk
or comment, but he bent down and whispered a
few words in the ears of the two lads. 'We are
in the hands of God, my boys,' he said devoutly.
'Such things as these are but some of the smallest
and most puny of His great works! If He so
wills it we shall pass the danger safely, and live
to remember it with admiration and wonder in
place of fear!'
The fiery shape grew in size till it covered the
whole screen, and in intensity till, even as thus
reflected, the light from it was almost blinding.
Then there came a close, stifling feeling, and the
chamber grew so hot as to become almost intolerable.
They were conscious of something which
whizzed past them with a frightful roar. In a
second it was gone, and the heat and light grew
'It has passed!' murmured Armeath; and he
breathed a prayer of thankfulness.
Monck, who had remained alongside them, gave
a gasp of relief.
'That's the nearest brush we've ever had since
I 've been on board!' he muttered.
'Has it really gone? Are we safe now, do
you think, sir?' Gerald asked in a whisper. Both
lads had held their breath at the critical moment.
Though they had shown no signs of panic, the
strain had been pretty severe, and they breathed
more freely now.
'Yes, it has gone—shot past us like a flash.
Suddenly the aerostat gave a lurch, and then
swerved from its course so abruptly as almost to
throw the voyagers off their feet. To them it felt
as if it had swung round in a great half-circle,
and was now flying along in the opposite direction
to that in which they had been going.
It was the first time since leaving the Earth
that the travellers had experienced anything that
could be called a jar or swerve; and they now
stared at one another in startled surprise.
What could it mean?
Ivanta's voice was heard issuing hurried orders,
and his officers hastened to execute them. Malanda
crossed the floor to handle a lever near to where
Monck was standing.
'What is it, friend Malanda?' asked the engineer,
in an anxious undertone.
'We are caught in the attractive power of the
comet,' was the answer, 'and it is pulling us along
after it. Unless we can manage to fight free, this
ship will follow the comet through space as long
as it may continue to rush about on its erratic
journey, which would probably mean at least a
'WELCOME TO MARS!'
The minutes which followed Malanda's startling
announcement were anxious ones indeed for
those of the voyagers who had heard it.
The great majority on board, however, were happily
ignorant of what had happened, and knew nothing
about it till subsequently.
Even Armeath and his companions could not
afterwards tell much more about it than has been
here set down, for the reason that Ivanta ordered
the conning-tower to be cleared of every one save
two or three of his officers. So they had to march
out with the others; and of what went on inside,
or whether the aerostat was likely ever to struggle
out of its fearful position, they in the meanwhile
knew nothing. For what seemed a long, weary
time they could only wait on in suspense while
the issue was being decided.
It was a good half-hour before the welcome
news was brought to them that the king had
succeeded in getting his ship free from the comet's
sinister influence; and then no further particulars
were vouchsafed. How it had been done was again
one of those secrets which Ivanta kept strictly to
himself. All that was made known was that the
aerostat had now resumed her voyage, and that,
as it happened, no harm had been done.
A few days later, Gerald was seated in one of
the large conservatories, reading a book which he
had borrowed. Both he and Jack could now read
the Martian language fairly well, and they found
in the library on board a new storehouse of
wonders of the most fascinating description.
Hearing footsteps, he glanced up, and saw that Tom
Clinch had come to seek him.
'Could I 'ave a wurd wi' you, Mr Gerald?'
'Certainly, Tom. What's the trouble?'
'Well, Mr Gerald, it be like this. I've 'eerd—it's
odd 'ow things do get about—as we was nearly
run down t'other night by a comet or some such
Gerald looked with surprise upon the weather-beaten
features of the faithful henchman, and with
difficulty repressed a smile as he noted their
'I don't know how you managed to learn so
much, Tom,' he answered quietly; 'but something
of the kind did occur, I believe. Still, there is
no occasion for you to take it so seriously. The
danger is past; and they tell me it's not likely
to happen again during the rest of our journey.'
But Tom Clinch was not so easily comforted.
He shook his head with a dissatisfied grunt.
''Ow does they know?' he asked dubiously.
'They doan't keep a proper lookout, Mr Gerald,
that's what's the matter, else they 'd 'a sighted
this reckless galoot afore she got so near. They'd
'a seen as she wurn't under proper control, an'
they should 'a sounded the siren. Why doan't they
'ave somebody perched on the top, outside, in a
little sort o' crow's-nest? They could 'ave a
speakin'-tube to shout through if ye like.'
'I 'm afraid it wouldn't answer; it would be
rather uncomfortable—and, um—well, a little cold
for the man outside,' replied Gerald gravely, though
his eyes were twinkling. 'But is that all you
wish to say?'
'Why, no, sir. Me an' Bob Reid, we've talked
it over, an' we's agreed t' offer t' run the
look-out for 'em, turn an' turn about, if ye likes.
We's old sailors, an' we knows the ropes, an' we 'd
keep a proper watch. Seems t' me as the people
aboord 'ere be mostly landlubbers, what ain't got
no nautical knollidge like.'
Gerald listened with a sympathetic air, for
though he was naturally vastly amused, Tom looked
so very much in earnest that he had not the heart
to seem to ridicule his well-meant suggestion.
Promising, therefore, that he would make the
generous offer known in the proper quarter, he
dismissed the old sailor, just as his chum Jack
came upon the scene.
Gerald did not notice at the moment that Jack
looked serious too, and proceeded to tell him, with
a laugh, what Clinch had been saying.
'Fancy the two honest old worthies talking this
over, and coming sedately to me with such an
offer!' said he. 'What an idea—that they should
have a lookout placed outside, where the temperature
runs far below that of liquid air! Jupiter!'
Then he noticed, for the first time, that his
chum was also looking troubled.
'Why, what's amiss?' he asked. 'You and Tom
Clinch seem alike to-day—you both remind me
of the Knight of the Troubled Countenance. You
look as if you wanted cheering up. You should
read this book I 've got hold of; it would make
'What is it about?'
'It's written by some old Martian crank of an
astronomer, and contains his speculations upon the
subject of the Earth. They call us, you know,
the evening star; for so our planet appears to
them, just as Venus does to us. Well, he is writing
and speculating about their evening star—that is,
about our world—and he declares his conviction
that it cannot be inhabited by human beings like
those living on Mars. He argues that because the
light from our Earth shines with a bluish tint,
therefore, if there are people on it, they must
have blue skins. He brings forward a lot of most
convincing arguments to support this theory, and
winds up by declaring that if our world is really
inhabited, it can only be by a race of ape-like
creatures, with blue skins and bodies partly covered
with green hair!'
'H'm! So much for some people's scientific
theories. However, I 've got something else to talk
to you about just now. While you 've been reading
and dreaming, and going about with your head in
'Above the clouds, Jack—far, far above the
clouds! Be practical, now. Consider! Are we not
far above the clouds?'
'Will you listen, you incorrigible dreamer?'
exclaimed Jack impatiently. 'I want to tell you
that I am afraid there is some fresh trouble
brewing in which those Zuanstrooms are mixed up.
Two or three times lately I have come upon their
youngster, Freddy, wandering about in melancholy
fashion, and when I asked him why he was alone,
he said, each time, that they had sent him out
because the "ugly old man" had come there to
talk, and he was in the way. Now, by "ugly
old man" Freddy means the one you called the
Ogre—Kazzaro. The question naturally suggests
itself, why should there be secret conferences
between that worthy and the Diamond King?'
'Seems funny, doesn't it? Have you mentioned
anything about it to our guardian or Mr Monck?'
'Not yet. You see, I haven't anything definite
to go upon. But I 'm going to keep my eyes open,
and I mean, if I can, to find out what it really
is that is going on between the Zuanstrooms and
the crowd they've become so thick with.'
'Well, I'll help you to keep an eye on them
too. Neither Kazzaro nor Mr Zuanstroom is any
friend of ours; that we know. I do believe
that if they could have their way they would
throw us off the ship, and leave us to go whizzing
about in space like a couple of little comets.'
However, time passed on without anything
further occurring to strengthen Jack's suspicions;
and soon they were almost forgotten in the interest
and excitement which sprang up and grew from
day to day as they neared the end of the voyage.
The apparent size of Mars was visibly increasing
each time they looked at it, till at last it seemed
to take up the whole of the firmament in front
of them. It was a wonderful, and in many ways
an awe-inspiring, sight. For, just as when they
had been leaving the Earth it seemed to be our
globe which was travelling away from them—not
they from the Earth—so now Mars appeared to
be coming towards them, and at a frightful pace.
Majestic, magnificent, inconceivably grand, it
certainly was; but there was something oppressive in
its very grandeur, something awful in its swift,
silent approach, something terrible in its
Seas and continents began to show upon its
surface, till the wondering spectators could see the
whole of one side laid out as on a gigantic map.
And there, plain to the eye, were the so-called
'canals,' those curious constructions or formations
which our earthly astronomers have viewed through
their telescopes and puzzled over for so many years,
and which are supposed to be artificial canals upon
a gigantic scale.
At last, the Ivenia entered the planet's
atmosphere, through which they had been viewing
everything as through a faint-pinkish haze. Then a
great change took place in the outward appearance
of the aerostat. The upper covering was removed,
the immense wings were spread, a beautifully
carved and decorated 'figurehead,' like the head
of a colossal bird, was run out at one end and
a tail-like addition at the other.
Monck led Mr Armeath and his companions out
on to the upper deck.
'You may now safely venture into the open
air,' he observed; 'for, unknown to you, the air
within the aerostat has been gradually changing,
and becoming denser. We are all, therefore, now
acclimatised, and you will feel no ill effects.'
As they looked through their glasses, the two
lads uttered exclamations of astonishment and
Below them could be seen an extensive city,
built beside an arm of the sea, which, instead of
being blue, was of an ethereal, rosy tint. There
were towering palaces and noble buildings, vast
embankments and terraces, surrounded by beautiful
gardens, amidst which could be distinguished stately
colonnades, winding streams, and glistening fountains
The Ivenia swept downwards with a swift, gliding
motion, in a series of wide circles, like some
giant bird poised on outstretched wings. There
was no vibration, no jar, no motion even of the
wide-spreading wings as she sank lightly and
gracefully through the air.
And as she descended, the air below became
filled with what at first had the appearance of
a great flight of birds.
Gerald asked what they were, and Monck bade
him look again through his glasses. Then he saw
that what he had mistaken for distant birds were
in reality numbers of flying-machines mounting
upwards to meet the Ivenia.
A little later these smaller air-craft were swarming
round the great aerostat, the occupants uttering
shouts and cries of joyous welcome to their returning
king. These flying-machines were of all shapes
and kinds, and they thronged round Ivanta's
superb 'chariot of the skies' as might a swarm
of steamers, yachts, and other craft round a mighty
warship bearing our own king back to England's
shores after a foreign trip.
Finally, the wondrous structure landed easily
and quietly upon the ground in the midst of a
vast crowd of people; and, as she came to rest,
King Ivanta stepped out from the conning-tower
and showed himself to the shouting throng.
Then, turning to Armeath and the others whom
he had brought with him as guests, he said, with
a charming mixture of royal dignity and kindly
condescension, 'Welcome, my friends! Welcome to
our world! Welcome to Mars!'
As King Ivanta spoke to his visitors the
words 'Welcome to Mars!' there came a
rustling sound, and a strange figure,
shining and glistening in the sunlight, suddenly
appeared on the deck beside him.
So rapidly had it arrived that the startled
spectators scarcely saw more than the sheen
from its resplendent body before it was amongst
them, alighting with the grace and ease of a
swallow close to the king, whom it addressed in
joyous, laughing accents, 'Welcome, father! welcome home!'
Even King Ivanta was evidently taken by surprise,
for at first he scarcely seemed to understand
this arrival any more than the strangers from
Earth did. The next moment, however, he had
clasped the radiant vision in his arms in a
close embrace. Then he drew back and regarded
the youth—for such the figure was—critically.
'Why, Alondra, my son,' said he, 'what is this
Alondra, as the visitors were soon to learn, was
Ivanta's son, his only child. He was about the
same age as Gerald, with an exceedingly handsome,
open, merry-looking countenance, lithe and graceful
in figure and in every movement. On this occasion
he was clad in a most bizarre costume, which
included two large wings, just now folded back
behind the shoulders, and trailing on the floor of
It was impossible to guess what these wings
could be made of. The surface was composed of
thin, feathery flakes in constant motion, which
glistened in the sunshine with iridescent brilliance,
something between the sheen of silver and the
sparkle of crystal. A tunic of the same marvellous
material covered the body to the knees, below
which were attachments like smaller wings, which
now fitted closely round the ankles.
Evidently this wondrous outfit was as new and
surprising to the king as it was to the strangers.
The youth seemed delighted at the impression he
had created. He walked to and fro, opening and
folding his wings, and turning this way and that
to show them off to advantage.
'Almost all my own invention, father,' he
laughed, as he moved about—'mine and Amaldo's!
We were afraid we should not get it finished and
in working order before your return. Indeed, I
only took my trial-flight in it yesterday! Is it
not a splendid creation'?'
He opened the wings and fluttered them in the
sunlight. Ripples of light and dancing colours ran
incessantly over the surface, producing effects so
exquisitely varied and beautiful as to be absolutely
'It is perfect, Alondra! Truly, as you say, a
splendid creation!' said Ivanta admiringly.
'These things, however, are a little too long when
folded, as you can see,' Alondra continued, looking
down at them with a critical air. 'I must have
them shortened. You can see that if you are not
careful you may catch your feet in them and get
In order the better to explain his meaning, he
stepped backwards towards Gerald, who was standing
near, watching everything with intense interest.
Scarcely had the young experimenter uttered the
words than he involuntarily illustrated them, in
the most practical fashion, by tripping on one of
the wings, and rolling over at Gerald's feet.
Gerald stepped quickly forward to help him up,
and in doing so was astonished at the youth's
seeming lightness. So light was he that Gerald,
in trying to raise him, lifted him clean off his
feet, almost as though he had been made of cork.
As a consequence, Alondra came near to losing
his balance and rolling over again. Then the two
stood staring and smiling at one another.
'Why, how strong you must be!' exclaimed the
'H—how light you must be!' was Gerald's
answer. And he looked so very puzzled and
perplexed that the other burst into a merry peal of
laughter. Then he turned to the king. 'Father,'
he began, but stopped and hesitated.
Ivanta interpreted the inquiring look. 'Your
surprising creation has made me forgetful of other
matters, my son,' said he. 'I owe an apology to
our friends here. These gentlemen, Alondra, are
visitors from Lokris, the planet I have been to
visit. They are our guests. I need not say more
than that to commend them to your attention and
care.—My guests, this is my son, Prince Alondra,
who, I am sure, is ready to add his welcome to
'That I am!' cried the young prince, his handsome
face alight with interest and surprise. 'A
warm welcome to you all! Welcome to Zotis!'
'Ah, they do not know our world by our
name!' Ivanta reminded him. 'They call it Mars.'
'Welcome, then, to Mars!' said Alondra.
He held out both hands at once; and, as it
happened, he caught hold of one each of Gerald
and Jack, and they returned his greeting as
heartily as it was given. Then he caught sight
of Monck, who was standing a little in the
background. At once he made a dart for him.
'Why, there is Monck Affelda!' he cried. 'You
have returned, then! Welcome, dear friend! I
was afraid that, perhaps, when you got back to
your own world you would stay there, and we
should never see you more!'
'Alondra, here are others waiting to know you!'
the king reminded him.
And the lad at once turned obediently, with a
look of quick apology at Monck for not saying
more at the moment.
All the rest of the strangers having been duly
presented, Ivanta gave his attention to his own
subjects, who were now streaming up the ladders
which had been let down the sides of the aerostat
and crowding the deck to pay their respects to
Alondra, meantime, stepped back to where the
two chums were standing with their guardian and
the engineer, and commenced a lively chat, asking
them a hundred questions concerning the world
they came from, the incidents of the voyage, and
Both Gerald and Jack took to him at once.
It was almost impossible, indeed, to do otherwise.
His frank, gay, smiling manner, his attractive face,
and easy, graceful air captivated them completely.
Never, they afterwards declared, had they met so
attractive a personality. 'A true son of the stars,'
Jack dubbed him. Glad were they then that they
had made such good use of their time and had
learned the language of their hosts in advance.
Even Silas, who presently joined the group,
became quite amiable under the young prince's genial
influence; and little Freddy fell in love with him
then and there.
Naturally, amongst these young people, there
was a lot to ask about on both sides. Question
followed question, inquiries and explanations were
interrupted with exclamations of surprise, wonder,
admiration, and delight.
Then Alondra caught sight of others who were
known to him, among them Aveena the young
noble, and went off to greet them on their return.
'He is a splendid youngster, the prince,' observed
Monck admiringly. 'Everybody loves him. Clever,
too—quite a young inventor, I can assure you.'
'What is this flying-dress affair?' asked Jack.
'Do people fly here, then? Or is this the first
time it has been done?'
'To the last question the reply would be both
yes and no,' Monck answered. 'If you had noticed,
as we came down, you would have seen many
aeronauts flying about singly amongst the various
airships and flying-machines.'
'I thought I saw something of the kind,' Jack
returned. 'But we circled about so rapidly, and
there were so many buzzing around, that I scarcely
had a chance to make them out.'
'As you now know, the air here is very dense.'
'To me it seems very light and exhilarating,'
Gerald put in. 'I expected, when you used to tell
us it was so dense, to find, when we arrived
here, that we should scarcely be able to breathe.'
'Ah, that is another matter which I will explain
directly. As I have told you before, the air here
is so dense that to make a flying-machine was
never a matter of any great difficulty. For the
same reason, with a properly constructed pair of
wings, you can, after a little practice under expert
tuition, very soon learn to soar into the air, and
fly about after a fashion. It has, however,
hither-to, it must be confessed, been a rather clumsy
fashion. Now, this is the first time I have seen
it really gracefully and easily done. I knew
before we went away that Prince Alondra and
his tutor—an old scientist named Amaldo, who
was also the king's tutor when he was a
boy—were at work upon some new device which was
understood to be the prince's own idea originally.
What it was I never knew exactly, for they kept
it a sort of half-secret. Here, however, it seems,
is the outcome of the idea; and a very successful
outcome too, so far as I can judge.'
'What is the invention?' asked practical Jack.
'Does it consist, I mean, in the dress, in the
material of which it is composed—wonderful stuff
it certainly seems to be—or in a new shape for
the wings, or what?'
'Ah, that is exactly what I do not yet know
any more than you. Doubtless, the prince will
enlighten us ere long—when he has enjoyed the
general mystification a little longer.
'Well, now, to turn to the other point. You say
the air here feels to you light and exhilarating
rather than dense and heavy. It is not exactly
the air which gives you this feeling; it is due
rather to the difference in what we call gravity.
On Mars, things weigh only half what they would
weigh on our Earth. It follows that our muscles
feel stronger in proportion. It requires less
strength, less exertion, to lift your leg or your
arm. Every action or movement, great or small,
is easier—even breathing. Therefore, you have a
sense of lightness, of ease, of unusual strength.'
A light broke upon Gerald. 'I see! That was
why the prince seemed so light to me when I
went to help him up just now!' he cried.
'Exactly. We who have come from Earth, and
who possess muscles used to the greater weight of
everything there, are all "strong men" here. You
will find this one of the first and one of the
most curious of your experiences here.'
Just then they saw King Ivanta approaching,
bringing Alondra with him. They had left the
crowd of richly arrayed courtiers and officers to
come across to Gerald.
'Alondra,' said the king, indicating Gerald as
they drew near, 'I wish to commend this brave
young gentleman to your especial care; and I
hope you two will become good friends. You
must teach him to fly. If he learns to fly as
well as he has learned to swim, then I can testify
that he should make a clever performer; for he
saved your father's life!'
THE PALACE IN THE CLOUDS.
Ivanta said a few more kindly words, and
then returned to the brilliant circle he had
left, this time beckoning the Diamond King
to accompany him.
'My father says I may conduct you to our
home,' said Alondra, as the king went away. 'So,
if you are agreeable, we will start at once. My
yacht is waiting close by.'
'We are ready, I think,' said Armeath. But in
his manner there was some hesitation.
Monck interposed. 'You are thinking of your
baggage,' he said, with a smile; 'but you need
not trouble. It will be looked after, and
whatever you want will be brought on afterwards.'
'Good! That being so, we are at your service,
Prince. Shall our attendants come with us?'
'I dare say they will feel a bit lost if you
leave them alone in a strange world,' laughed
Alondra. 'So, by all means bring them with you,
if it so pleases you.'
So Tom Clinch and Bob Reid, looking very
confused and wonderstruck at their new surroundings,
were sent for; and the whole party followed
Alondra—who had been joined by Aveena—to the
other end of the deck.
Here, to their surprise, they found a most
beautiful structure awaiting them, moored, so to
speak, to the Ivenia.
Compared with the great aerostat in which they
had made their memorable voyage, she was like
a tiny, graceful yacht beside one of our modern
warships; yet she was large and roomy enough
to accommodate a numerous party.
Alondra led his guests across a gangway on to
the deck, and then, begging them to excuse him,
he dived into a cabin. In a minute or two he
returned, having divested himself of his 'flying
dress,' and appearing now in a rich costume
similar to that usually worn by the king and his
He gave the signal, ropes were cast off, unseen
engines began to work with a quiet, smooth,
scarcely perceptible vibration, setting in motion
several curious spiral contrivances which revolved
round three masts.
The 'yacht' rose quietly through the air, and
when she was clear of the Ivenia, wings spread
out on each side. Then she sailed swiftly away
in a direction a little to the right of the city
they had seen.
'What a curious arrangement!' exclaimed Jack,
as he watched the revolving spirals.
'They take the place of fans,' Monck explained.
'They are far more handy and more powerful.'
'And far prettier too!' cried Gerald. 'What
lovely coloured devices they make as they twirl
round! They are like kaleidoscopes; and the wings,
too, seem to be spangled with gold.'
'She is a beautifully designed structure in every
way,' observed Monck. 'One of the latest and best,
and also one of the fastest of our pleasure yachts.'
Meanwhile, a little apart, Tom Clinch and Bob
Reid sat together, staring about, noticing
everything, and making their comments in low,
'Well, well! that ever I should live t' see the
likes o' this!' said Clinch. 'What d'ye think of
it all, Bob?'
'I 'm thinkin' what 'd happen if she was t' shift
'er ballast, Tom. I do 'ope it be well stowed.'
'Ay, ay, Bob. Theer be a lot in the way a
ship be ballasted. But 'ow do she manage t' keep
up? That 's what beats me! Them wings scarcely
moves at all.'
'Tom,' said Reid, leaning over to speak almost
in a whisper, 'don't ye notice what queer sort o'
air this be 'ere? 'Tain't a bit like ourn at 'ome.'
'No, it ain't. I notices that. What about it?'
'It must be some o' the liquid air I've read
of, as scientific chaps thinks a lot of in our world.
Depend on it, this is where it comes from!'
Tom slapped his thigh.
'Right ye are, mate! That explanations it.
That 's 'ow 'tis she floats like this 'ere. They be
all a-livin' 'ere in liquid air! An' them wings
bain't wings at all! They be fins!'
Just then Monck drew Armeath's attention to
a comparatively large, heavy-looking airship which
was just rising into the air from near where the
'That,' said he, 'is one of King Agrando's
war-vessels; or rather she was formerly a war-craft,
but now she serves the purpose of a private yacht.
She is just starting off to carry him and his people
back to their own country.'
'Is that far away, Mr Monck?' Gerald asked.
'Yes. A pretty good distance as distances are
reckoned on this globe.'
'The farther away the better, I should say,'
muttered Jack. 'Good riddance go with him!'
A little while afterwards they neared a
grand-looking mass of rock which rose abruptly from
the plains below. It was a precipitous mountain,
and upon its lofty summit, literally amongst the
clouds, rose the noble towers and domes of the
most stately building the strangers had ever seen.
They realised at once that none of our earthly
buildings could compare with this magnificent pile.
As the yacht rose in the air, and they obtained
a better view, their amazement increased, every
moment exhibiting more clearly its vast
proportions and revealing some fresh surprise. What
it might be built of was a puzzle; for it shone
through the rosy haze with a golden lustre, and
looked a veritable fairy palace of the upper air.
'Wh-what is that wonderful sight? Is it
another town—a real town—or an effect of
sunlight among the clouds?' gasped Gerald.
'That is King Ivanta's palace,' said Monck
quietly. 'It is Alondra's home—the place we are
going to stay at.'
'But how do you get to it?'
'The way we are getting to it now; there is
no other way. No person could climb up that
mountain. There is no road, no path to it. It
can only be approached by airship.'
Just then a hoarse shout was heard, and there
came a loud clanging of bells and gongs.
Amidst it all, Tom Clinch's voice was clearly
heard. 'Avast theer, ye galoots!' he cried. 'Port
yer helm, ye blunderin' lubbers! Can't ye see yer
runnin' inter us?'
So absorbed had the strangers been in gazing
at the palace on the mountain-top that they had
not noticed a flying-craft which had been
travelling behind them, and had almost overtaken them.
Alondra and his attendants, seeing the effect
produced upon his guests by the scene before
them, had reduced the speed, and allowed the
yacht to float upwards in leisurely fashion, omitting
to look out for what might be behind them.
There was now a sudden bustle on board as
the navigators rushed to the various levers, and
a moment later the yacht dropped suddenly with
a downward swoop, allowing the strange craft to
pass harmlessly overhead.
'Jupiter!' cried Gerald, 'that was a near
squeak! What careless people they must be! Is
that sort of thing common here?'
Monck scowled and shook his head. 'No,' he
said curtly. 'And there will be trouble about it
to-morrow. Some one will be called to account
for it, you may be sure!'
Alondra made no remark, but coolly resumed
the journey as though nothing out of the way had
Gradually they drew nearer to the mountain-top,
and all the while fresh beauties burst upon
their view. Down the rocky sides tumbled mighty
waterfalls, which gleamed like masses of molten
gold till they were lost in clouds of golden spray
below. Around the wondrous edifice itself were
now seen groves and terraces upon a tableland
broken by hills and dales extending far into the
The travellers from the distant Earth, reassured
by Alondra's coolness, gazed upon the scene of
grandeur and sublimity in wondering silence, and
seemed for a while scarcely to breathe. So
entranced were they that they scarcely noticed
when their yacht 'grounded' upon the summit of
the mountain, at a short distance from an
imposing gateway which formed the main entrance
to the palace.
A minute or two later they passed down a
gangway, and then followed their young host
towards the gateway, which seemed to loom up
larger and higher as they approached it.
Suddenly the massive gates were thrown open,
and a stream of attendants sallied forth and
ranged themselves in two rows, between which the
guests were ushered into the building. Through
wide galleries, open courtyards, where fountains
played among strange plants and flowers, and up
spacious staircases, they passed onwards to a
central hall, where they found another assembly
of nobles and officials, evidently waiting to receive
At one end, upon a dais, was a throne of ivory
and gold, and on each side of it a number of
richly upholstered seats.
Alondra signed to his chief guests to seat themselves
upon the latter, while he himself occupied
'Good friends,' said he, addressing the assembly,
'I bring you glorious news—the news of the
safe return of the king, my father! You have
doubtless already seen that his "chariot of the
skies" has arrived? To that I am rejoiced to be
able to add the welcome tidings that my royal
father, and all who accompanied him, have come
back safely and in good health.'
At this there was much shouting and clapping
of hands upon the part of the hitherto silent
crowd. Evidently they had been awaiting news
in some suspense, anxious as to whether, though
they knew the Ivenia had returned, some
untoward accident might have happened to any of
those on board.
'I am also the bearer, good friends, of commands
to you from the king,' continued Alondra, when
the shouting had died down. 'By his wish I
take my seat here in his absence, to welcome in
his name to his royal home some strangers he
has brought with him from a far-distant planet.
Good friends, that is all I need say to you! These
strangers are the king's friends and guests, and as
such he bids you receive and treat them until
he comes himself to attend to their pleasure and
Then such a clamour was heard as fairly took
the visitors by surprise. It seemed even to
surpass that which had greeted the announcement
of the kind's safe return. Hands, handkerchiefs,
banners, were waved, trumpets blared, cymbals
sounded. Finally, at a sign from the prince, there
was a general rush towards the dais, the friendly
crowd almost tumbling over one another, as each
seemed determined to be the first to shake hands
with these strangers from a distant world.
TOM CLINCH'S STATEMENT.
When the plaudits which greeted the
strangers had subsided, and the
strenuous handshaking had come to an end,
Monck, at a signal from Alondra, conducted them
from the great hall to a private suite of apartments.
'These are assigned to you for your own use
during your stay here,' he explained. 'I may
tell you, in confidence, that they have never been
occupied by any save guests of consequence. Therefore,
the fact that they have been allotted to you
is one more proof that my royal master desires
to pay you special honour in the eyes of his
'It is very kind of him,' murmured Armeath,
'but a little embarrassing. It is likely to cause
misapprehension. We are no royal visitors, you
'My master knows it also,' Monck reminded
him. 'But he is not like other monarchs. You
know by this time, for instance, that he never
allows any one to address him as "your Majesty." He
looks upon it as unnecessary, and resents it as
he does any kind of adulation or flattery. He
expects that we shall treat him with due respect
as the head of the State. If you go beyond that,
so far from pleasing him, you only offend him.'
'And if you do less,' observed Gerald, 'why
'I cannot tell you what would happen,' returned
Monck drily. 'So far as my experience extends,
I have never seen it attempted.'
'Truly, these are sumptuous quarters,' said
Armeath, gazing round at the richly furnished
'You will find your sleeping apartments equally
comfortable, with marble baths attached, where you
can have a swim before breakfast if it so please
you. Also, you will see there is an ample
wardrobe from which to select your Court dress'——
'Eh, what's that? Are we to put on Court
dress, sir?' Jack stared, and looked first at the
engineer and then at his guardian in serio-comic
distress. 'Must we do that? We've never been
used to that sort of thing, you know!'
'What does that matter?' said Gerald. 'When
one goes to Rome one must do as Rome does.'
A little while later the two chums were looking
over a collection of the most gorgeous raiment
they had ever set eyes upon. Gerald viewed the
dazzling costumes with enthusiastic admiration;
but Jack was inclined to regard them almost with
'Beautiful! Splendid!' exclaimed Gerald. 'Just
what I have seen in my sleep when I was a
child, and I used to gaze at the stars and dream
that I went up into the heavens to visit them!
In those dreams I went from one star to another,
and saw the most charming countries and places,
and all the good people in them were dressed in
clothes something like these.'
'And how were the bad ones dressed?' asked
'There weren't any,' Gerald declared stoutly.
'What! No ogres, or giants, or bad fairies?
However, it's odd, now, to think of those old
dreams of yours! I remember how you used to
recount them to us afterwards. It's curious to
think how, after all, they seem to be coming true,
'Yes,' answered Gerald slowly, as the dreamy,
far-away look came again into his eyes. 'But
this is only the beginning. If they are all coming
true, we have experiences before us more wonderful
even than anything that has happened yet! Perhaps
it will turn out so. Who can tell?'
'Well, I've got to that state of mind now that
I sha'n't be so very much surprised if they do;
and if they don't, I 'm quite content with what
we have in hand,' said practical-minded Jack.
Their two attendants were lodged in adjacent
rooms, so that they might be within call when
wanted. Presently, Gerald looked in upon them
to see how they were getting on, and was much
amused to see Reid staring blankly at a heap of
clothes, much as Jack had been doing but a little
while before. These costumes, it is true, were
much plainer and less pretentious; but they were,
nevertheless, far finer clothes than either of the two
worthies had ever yet worn, or ever expected to.
'Why, Bob, what's the matter?' Gerald asked.
'You look as dismal as if you were going to have
a tooth out!'
''E 's a poor sort o' creechure sometimes, be
Bob Reid,' said Clinch sententiously. Tom was
busy picking out the most showy dress he could
find, and attiring himself therein. ''E often doan't
seem to know when 'e's in luck. What's these
yer fine things sent for if we ain't t' wear 'em?
Take what Providence sends ye, an' be thankful!
Them's my sentiments.'
As he spoke he selected a coloured hat with a
very high crown and poised it on his head,
opposite a looking-glass.
'I never 'ad no 'igh 'at to wear afore, an' I
ain't a-goin' t' throw this chance away,' said
Tom.—'Look at that, Bob Reid,' he continued, as he
surveyed himself in the glass and strutted to and
fro. 'See 'ow it sets off yer figger, me lad!'
Gerald smiled, and was turning away, when
Tom suddenly threw the hat on one side, and,
looking very serious, said, 'Mr Gerald, I wants a
wurd wi' ye. Ye knows as we was nearly run
down a while since a-comin' up 'ere?'
'Yes, Tom. Well?'
'D' ye know who was in that blunderin' pirate
as tried t' send us rattlin' down on the rocks
'No, I saw no one. It was a strange-looking
craft, and seemed to have no one on board;
though, I suppose, the people were really boxed
up and out of sight.'
Tom looked cautiously round, as if doubtful
whether there were any hidden listeners. Then
he came close to Gerald, and said in a whisper,
'But I see one on 'em! 'E were a-peepin' out o'
a porthole! Nobody but me was lookin', an' as
soon as 'e see me 'e bobbed back.'
'Well, who was it?' Gerald asked, impressed by
Tom's manner. 'Any one we—you or I—know?'
Tom nodded portentously.
'Ay, ay, sir; one who ain't no frien' o' yourn—the
one ye call the Ogre—an' a jolly good name
for 'im too!'
'Are you sure—quite sure, Tom? This may be
a serious matter! You should not say such a
thing unless you are absolutely certain.'
'As sure as I am that me 'ead be on me
shoulders, sir. The ugly swab! As if anybody
could mistake 'is phizog!'
Gerald reflected a while, then said, 'Say nothing
to any one else about this, Tom. Keep your own
counsel. There may be nothing in it, and if you
talk it may get you into trouble.'
'Ay, ay, sir! I shall be dumb about it onless
ye tells me t' speak.'
Presently a loud flourish of trumpets and sounds
of shouting and a general commotion announced
that the king himself was approaching. Monck
led the visitors to a post of vantage outside the
palace, from which they could obtain a good view.
The sun was near to setting, and its beams
cast a lurid glow over the scene—redder than any
sunset they had ever seen on Earth.
Below them was a vast plain with a few low
hills, upon and round which was the great city
of Ivenia, looking vast and glorious, with magnificent
buildings extending in one direction pile upon
pile almost as far as the eye could see. On the
other side lay the sea, glistening like molten
The king's air-yacht—larger and more beautiful
even than the one they had come in—was seen
rising majestically towards them, surrounded by
hundreds of smaller air-craft, their decorations
glittering and sparkling in the sun's red beams.
There was no booming of cannon, as would be the
case with us, but a loud, musical, humming sound,
which was curiously agreeable to the ear.
When in due course Ivanta landed upon the
height, a few of the craft accompanying him
landed also, and from them poured out a stream
of people splendidly arrayed, who trooped after
him in procession to attend the reception in the
This was a repetition upon a larger scale, so to
speak, of the function at which Prince Alondra
had presided, Ivanta this time occupying the throne
himself, with the young prince beside him. As
before, places of honour were given to the strangers,
amongst whom the Zuanstrooms were now
included; and the proceedings were even more
enthusiastic and of longer duration, winding up
with a grand banquet. It would take too long
to describe all that followed. It must suffice to
say that the two chums voted it the most wonderful
entertainment that they had ever heard of or
that imagination could picture; and when at last
they lay down together for their night's rest they
were both about tired out.
Now, however, that the dazzling excitement of
this wonderful day was over, and they were once
more alone and quiet, the memory of their narrow
escape from death and of what Tom Clinch had
said came back to Gerald's mind like the
proverbial skeleton of the feast.
He had had a talk with Monck about it, and
had been rather snubbed for his pains. The
engineer said he had seen Kazzaro go with his
master on board the large ex-warship which he
had pointed out as serving now as Agrando's
private yacht. Therefore, the Ogre could not
possibly have been where Clinch said he was.
And Monck had ended the talk by rather curtly
advising Gerald not to hunt for mares' nests, and
warning him to be careful not to mention such
suspicions to any one else.
'We shall make inquiries and find out who the
people were who so nearly ran us down,' Monck
assured him; 'and they will be called to account
for their reckless navigation of the air. But I do
not myself believe that there was anything more
than carelessness, nor that Kazzaro could have
been on board.'
Gerald felt a little sore at the engineer's blunt
refusal to believe honest Tom Clinch; and Jack
sympathised with him, and tried to comfort him
by declaring that he agreed with his view.
'Depend upon it, Tom would not be likely to
make a mistake in such a matter,' Jack agreed.
'He is an old sailor, and is as sharp as a needle
in a case of emergency like that. My own
opinion—strictly, of course, between ourselves—is that
that imp of evil we call the Ogre was there, and
that he deliberately tried to run us down and to
kill us all, including the king's son. You will
remember my saying I believed that some understanding
existed between the Ogre and Zuanstroom.
I am still positive that I was right, and that
there is some sinister mischief brewing. Mr Monck
may disbelieve it and laugh at the idea if he
chooses to, but don't you feel sore, old chap. I
am afraid he will wish by-and-by that he had
treated our hints more seriously.'
Gerald shivered. 'I would rather it should turn
out that it is Monck who is right and we who
are wrong,' he returned. 'It's horrible to think
that we have come all this way, and incurred so
many risks, only to meet with plots and murderous
attempts. It used not to be so in my dreams,'
he added moodily. 'I wonder why it should be
so now? Mr Monck gave us to understand that
we were coming to a place where there were no
more wars, where King Ivanta reigned in peace
and security, beloved by all his subjects. Why
does it not seem to be as he led us to believe?
Are we the cause? Is it due simply to the fact
that the Zuanstrooms don't like us—that they are
angry because we came, or jealous because the king
shows more favour to you than he does to Silas?'
'No; I don't think it is our fault,' said Jack,
with decision. 'Zuanstroom has brought with him
the biggest cargo of diamonds ever seen; and, as
Mr Armeath said, trouble was sure to follow.
Now, dismiss it from your thoughts, old chap, and
go to sleep.'
'I will; and perhaps some of the old dreams
about the stars will come back to me,' Gerald
finished, with a sigh. 'I hope, if they do, there
will be no diamonds there!'
HUNTING THE GREAT MARS EAGLE.
The time that followed upon their arrival on Mars
was a period of great enjoyment for the two
chums. The gloomy feeling which had been
caused by their narrow escape upon that first day
quickly passed away and was now almost forgotten.
Agrando and the Ogre stayed at home in their
own country, and the chums saw and heard nothing
of them. Zuanstroom and his son went their own
way, for the most part making friends with the
nobles and the chief citizens, and seemingly bent only
upon the acquisition of useful knowledge concerning
the country they were in and its inhabitants.
Gerald and Jack, on the other hand, became
the daily companions of the young prince; and
the three grew more friendly and intimate as the
weeks passed by.
Alondra showed himself a charming host in his
behaviour towards his young guests, and did all
he could to make their stay pleasant. He took
them about, showing and explaining such things
as were new to them and likely to excite their
interest, and in particular initiating them into the
mysteries of the Martian sports and pastimes. In
some of these, as has been related, the two lads had
already made themselves proficient during the voyage;
but those had necessarily been only of such a kind as
were possible in a comparatively confined space.
To attempt to tell of the many strange things the
visitors met with, the novel and surprising sights they
saw, and all their curious experiences, would, however,
extend this narrative to too great a length. It is only
possible to relate some of the more noteworthy.
The one great marvel of the place—naturally,
the one which had first attracted their attention,
and which was always in evidence—was the fact
that everybody went about in the air. No one
ever thought of travelling far in any other manner;
no other kind of mechanical locomotion was to be
seen, except as regards the transport of heavy
goods. These were still carried to and fro on
railways of various kinds, or on other motor
vehicles—'slow, old-fashioned affairs,' as Alondra called
them—or still slower 'electric ships.' None of
these, Monck explained, could travel at a faster
rate than a hundred miles or so an hour—reckoning
miles as we do on Earth, and that was far too
slow to suit the Martians of to-day.
'Fancy any one travelling at such an absurdly
slow speed!' observed Alondra, laughing at the
idea. 'Yet, ages ago, in what some here call the
good, old-fashioned days, people, even upon the
longest journeys, had to be content with crawling
about our world no faster than that! We can travel
far more quickly now, in our racing air-yachts, and
I suppose that on your planet, which we know is
bigger than ours, you travel more swiftly still?'
Gerald thought of some of our old-fashioned,
slow-going railways, and blushed. 'I am sorry to
have to confess that we do not,' he returned, a
little shamefacedly. He did not like having to
admit at every turn how far his native Earth was
'behind the age,' as things were understood in
Mars. But it was constantly the case, nevertheless.
They sailed about almost daily in the young
prince's yacht—the one which had carried them
up to the king's palace the first day—and they
were astounded at the speed she attained in the
air. No doubt, as Jack remarked, the marvellous
Ivenia must have travelled immeasurably faster,
or they would have been years upon their journey
instead of months. But they had scarcely been aware
of her real speed, because they had passed no object
near enough to give any idea of the actual rate at
which they were being whirled through space.
It happened that the prince's air-yacht had been
named after our Earth. She was called Lokris,
which, as has been already made known, was the
name by which the Martians knew our planet.
'She was built shortly after my father's return
from his first visit to your world,' Alondra
explained; 'and I felt so interested in all he had to
tell me about it that I called her by that name.'
At times there were 'air-regattas,' at which
races were arranged for various classes of airships
and flying-machines. The prizes at these were
valuable and were eagerly competed for, and the
Lokris was frequently one of the competitors. In
these contests the young prince showed himself a
skilful and daring navigator of the air; and
sometimes, when the two chums accompanied him, they
had some exciting experiences, as the competing
yachts whirled along, often neck and neck, at
almost incredible speed. At such times it was
often the most venturesome—almost, one might
say, the most reckless—who came in winners.
Alondra was delighted to discover that in his
two visitors he had gained sailing companions after
his own heart. He took special pains to teach
them to assist him in the handling of the yacht,
and they soon grew expert. Then the two sailors
were instructed, and took the place of the former
crew; and the five became celebrated for their
skilful and fearless manoeuvring and for the
number of races they won.
Tom Clinch and Bob Reid entered into the
spirit of the thing with great gusto, and soon
proved themselves as clever in the air as ever
they had been in the handling of sailing-boats on
the water at home. And when the prizes began to
come in—half of which Alondra allotted to them,
the other half being distributed in charity—their
satisfaction and delight may well be imagined.
It should be explained that these Earth-born
assistants gained a considerable advantage from
the fact, which has already been noted, that their
muscles were stronger comparatively than those
of the natives. Thus the four on board the
Lokris could do the work of nearly double the
number of Martians—and as in this kind of racing
the work was often heavy, and required considerable
physical exertion, the saving in weight effected by
carrying a smaller crew made an important difference.
But the great sport of the Martians, it presently
appeared, was eagle-hunting. A species of eagle,
very much larger than any on Earth, had their
eyries amongst some mountain peaks in a wild
district some distance away. In regard to size,
the visitors found that birds were larger on the
average, while some animals were often smaller,
than those species on our earth which correspond
to them. Certainly these eagles—known by the
name of krondos—were gigantic birds, swift and
very high flyers, and terribly savage, powerful
creatures when attacked.
Doubtless they would have been exterminated
long ago but for the fact that they had been
expressly preserved for the purposes of sport, just
as foxes are in England.
Packs of smaller tame eagles, of a different
breed, were trained to hunt them. Assisted by
these, a party of Martian nobles would sally
forth in their air-yachts and chase the formidable
giant eagles from peak to peak, following them in
their circling flights into the upper air or their
dizzy downward swoops, until some expert
hunter-aeronaut contrived to throw a net over the quarry
and capture it alive.
That was, briefly, the general procedure, Monck
explained; but, as he further remarked, it did
not always come off as per programme. Sometimes
the krondos assumed the offensive against the
hunters; and cases had been even known of their
dragging men out of the airships and carrying
them off, or dashing them down upon the rocks
'The king has arranged for a grand krondo-hunt
to-morrow, in your honour!' Alondra one day
informed the chums. 'We must be astir early in
the morning. You are to come with me in my
yacht. Now you will see some truly royal sport.
Our air-yacht races are but as a children's game
compared with this!'
It came to pass, accordingly, that at dawn a
great procession of air-craft, headed by the king
in his own yacht—known as the Nelda—started
off in the beams of the rising sun for the district
which was the haunt of the great birds.
An hour's run brought them to the hunting-ground,
and the chums thought they had never
seen a more desolate tract. Great, rocky cliffs
and heights, and soaring mountain-peaks above,
with dark, gloomy ravines and valleys below, were
its chief features—truly a suitable region for the
ferocious winged monsters they were in search of.
Alondra was the first to sight one of the creatures;
and, following the rules of the hunt, turned his
yacht quickly and dashed away in pursuit. He
was wearing, as it happened, through a fancy of
his own, his new flying-dress. Why, exactly, the
chums who were with him did not know; though
he had hinted mysteriously at some new experiment
he was desirous of trying.
As the Lokris shot upwards, and then swerved
to round a towering peak, something went wrong
with one of the revolving spirals; and Gerald, as
he had done before in a similar case, climbed up
the mast to try to right it.
In the meantime, the speed was checked, and
the craft passed closer to the rock than had been
Other yachts, which had turned aside to follow,
were catching them up; and Alondra, who did
not like this, was shouting excited instructions to
Gerald, when there came a loud rushing of wings
as two immense dark forms rose unexpectedly from
off the rock and sailed upwards within a few yards
of him. One of the giant birds swung round in
a narrow circle, poised, and then swooped down
upon the busy worker on the top of the mast.
So sudden and unlocked for was the rush, so
powerful the clutch which gripped him, that Gerald
was forced from his hold; and a moment later
the bird, with its prey, was seen either flying or
falling headlong down towards the valley, thousands
of feet below.
A great shout of horror and dismay went up
from the spectators; but, even as the cries were
heard, a glistening, shining figure flashed from the
side of the yacht.
Alondra had dived through the air after his friend!
IN DIRE PERIL.
As Alondra disappeared over the side of
the Lokris, Jack made a dart at the
controlling-gear and began handling the
levers. They were placed on a raised platform
or bridge situated in the bow, in such a position
as to give the best all-round view for directing
and managing the craft. He had seen that Gerald
had cleared the spiral just before he had been
attacked by the giant eagle, and that everything,
therefore, was now again in working order. Just
before leaping off, Alondra had paused a second
to give him a look which said as plainly as
words could have done, 'I leave you in charge;'
and Jack acted promptly upon the unspoken wish.
'Hold tight, everybody!' he shouted, and a
moment later the airship plunged downward.
The Nelda, carrying King Ivanta and his party,
had turned and dived too; and the two airships
came close together, and raced for a while side
by side in their swift descent.
King Ivanta was directing his own craft, and
he made signs to Jack, indicating in dumb show
his line of action.
Below them, and, as yet, far ahead, could be seen
the feathered monster bearing off his prey, in what
was now a more gradual downward sweep. Alondra
could be seen, too, in close pursuit behind.
Jack understood Ivanta's meaning, and the two
airships parted company—one going off to the
right and the other to the left.
Then followed a most strange and terribly
The desolate valley at its farther end opened
out, and there, away in the distance, could be
seen a sheet of water forming an extensive lake.
It was the object of the pursuers to drive the
krondo in that direction.
This required very delicate and careful manoeuvring.
If, on the one hand, the bird were pressed
too closely, it might drop its prey upon the rocks
beneath, which would mean for Gerald certain death.
On the other hand, it was advisable to force it to
fly its hardest, so that it would have no leisure to
peck at its victim en route. Once it was over the
water, Alondra, who had armed himself with his
trident, would probably be able to deal with it.
All this King Ivanta had conveyed to Jack in
pantomime, for no words could be heard amidst
the rush through the air as the airships plunged
madly downwards. Jack had been quick to divine
what was intended, and now took his share in the
The krondo, however, also seemed to guess what
its pursuers were trying to do, and it exhibited
a desire to balk them by making for one or
other of the rocky precipices which rose like
colossal walls on either side of the valley. Every
time it tried to do this, the king on the one side,
or Jack on the other, immediately swept round to
head it off.
Behind them came a number of other airships,
which had formed now into more or less orderly
ranks, some above and some below. Their
occupants were watching all that took place with
breathless interest, and held themselves ready to
close up if the bird should elude the leading
pursuers and break back.
The position was rendered yet more difficult by
the appearance of four other krondos, which swooped
down with blood-curdling screams, and followed the
first one, quite ready and willing to fight it on their
own account for the possession of its prize.
In one respect this, perhaps, was an advantage,
as it had the effect of causing the robber to hold
on to its prey more obstinately, and rendered it
less likely to drop it. But there was also the
danger of the other krondos closing round and
pecking Gerald to death amongst them.
Suddenly a new factor was added. From the
king's yacht quite a flock of birds emerged and
began flying about with shrill cries and hoarse
calls. These were Ivanta's tame eagles—small
birds, comparatively speaking, but still, in actual
fact, strong creatures, which had been trained to
hunt their giant cousins.
At first they circled round and darted this way
and that in seeming confusion, no doubt dazzled
by the light, for they had thus far been kept
hooded. But they quickly became accustomed to
their surroundings, and then a close observer might
have seen that they were all watching their
master the king, as he stood plainly in view upon
the prow of his craft.
He waved his hands, and away they flew in a
compact cloud, heading straight for the four krondos,
just as they were beginning to 'mob' the one which
was carrying Gerald.
Then ensued a battle-royal in mid-air, the
sagacious, trained birds dashing at the bigger
ones and darting away again, harrying and worrying
them, as clever hounds will rush in at a wild
boar, snap at it, and dart away before the bigger
beast has time to turn and rend them.
This attack of the trained birds had the effect
of turning the pursuing krondos from their
intended purpose. They had now enough to do to
defend themselves; and clouds of feathers could
be seen falling through the air, testifying to the
severity of the combat.
During the melee the first robber, glad of the
opportunity of making its escape with its prize,
winged its way steadily onwards until at last it
was over the waters of the lake.
Here its speed grew perceptibly less, and it
began to dip in its flight—unmistakable signs that
it was tiring. For, large and powerful as the
creature was, the weight it was carrying was
bound to tell upon it sooner or later.
The pursuing airships now came up, and while
some forged on ahead, the others closed round in
such a manner as to hem the robber in.
Alondra, who had been following the heavily
burdened thief without any great effort, made a
sudden spurt, and, sweeping round, passed close
to it. There was a flash of light, and a sharp,
Illustration: There was a flash of light, and a sharp, crackling sound.
Then the spreading wings drooped, the gigantic
bird seemed to stagger and shrink, and finally it
collapsed. Robber and prey fell together into the
lake, and the waters closed over them.
There were a few moments of anxious suspense.
Was Gerald injured? Would he be able to swim?
These and similar questions were in the minds of
the spectators as they scanned the surface of the
Jack had turned his airship downwards as he
saw Alondra make his rush, and a moment or
two after the bird's fall the craft alighted on the
water and lay gently rocking within a few yards
of the spot.
Jack and Clinch both sprang to the side, and
there were two splashes as they dived almost
Just, however, as they disappeared from sight
beneath the water, two other forms emerged. One
was the krondo, which floated motionless; the
other was Gerald, who was swimming vigorously,
seemingly none the worse for what he had
A great cheer went up from the assembled
crowd, which was renewed again and again as
first Jack and then Clinch reappeared, and, catching
sight of their friend, hastened towards him to
offer their help.
Just then the king's yacht descended close to
the swimmers; a ladder was thrown from her side,
and Ivanta himself stepped down and assisted
them to climb on hoard.
He soon satisfied himself by actual examination
that no great harm had been done. Gerald had
some nasty scratches, and the muscles were bruised
in places; but otherwise he was unhurt, and was
inclined to make light of his adventure.
'It's an experience that no one on our own
planet can boast of,' he observed with a smile.
'No one since the days of Sindbad the Sailor has
ever been carried off by a bird.'
'I am thankful that it has been no worse, my
lad,' said Ivanta, and in his tone there was a note
of deep and kindly feeling. 'It is an unpleasant
variation of our usual sport.'
'I confess I was on tenterhooks the whole
time,' said Armeath, who was one of the king's
party, 'and I am more relieved than I can tell you.'
'Oh, it's all right, sir!' answered Gerald
cheerfully. 'I am none the worse, and I am quite
ready to go on with the hunt. Don't let me
spoil your day's sport. Besides, I want to get
a bit of my own back. Those feathered brutes
have hunted me; I want to hunt them before I 've
done with them!'
'So you shall!' returned the king. 'But you
must first put on some dry clothes. Go down to
my cabin, and Alondra will find you a change.'
'I haven't thanked him yet for following up
the beast so promptly,' cried Gerald, turning to
Alondra, who had just alighted on the deck and
grasped his hand. 'I saw all that went on! I
saw you, Alondra, leap down after me; and it
was that really which turned the bird in the
right direction, for he was heading the other way!'
'I noticed that,' said Alondra modestly. 'I
remembered that there was this lake ahead of
us, and it struck me in a flash that the
best—almost the only—chance of saving you was to
drive the krondo towards it. Of course, I could
have overtaken him and mastered him; but I
could not have supported you and battled with
him too—to say nothing of the others which
would have been after us.'
''Twas wisely thought out, my son,' Ivanta
declared. 'I caught your idea directly I noted
that you had purposely turned the bird from the
line it had first taken. Our young friend here
was prompt, too, in following it up and aiding
me to prevent it from breaking back,' he added,
indicating Jack. 'Now, go and change your
clothes; and we will give you your revenge upon
Half an hour later they were back again in
the valley which had been the scene of Gerald's
startling adventure. A desultory fight was still
going on between Ivanta's trained eagles and a
pair of their foes. Upon the rocky ground below
lay one dead krondo and several of the smaller
birds. Of the fourth krondo nothing was to be
seen; it had probably taken refuge in flight.
Ivanta looked at his dead birds with grave
concern and regret.
'This is my fault! I forgot to call them off!'
said he. 'I do not like to have my faithful
feathered friends treated like this.'
He put a whistle to his lips, and at the sound
of it his eagles obediently left the krondos they
were 'mobbing;' and the latter at once flew off.
Evidently they had had quite enough of the fray,
and were glad of the chance of making good their
retreat without further trouble.
'We will find some more to chase presently,'
observed Ivanta. 'First, let us see what can be
done for those of my eagles which are hurt but
Armeath and his wards looked on with wondering
approval as they saw the attention Ivanta
proceeded to bestow upon his wounded birds. It
was curiously characteristic of the man to delay
the proceedings and keep all his friends waiting
for such a cause.
Later on, the hunt was resumed, and the visitors
had some lively experiences among the
mountain-peaks, though none quite so startling as the first
They found it, as Alondra had said they would,
splendid sport. The krondos were hunted out and
pursued by the small eagles in all their turns, and
these were followed by the airships, just as the
huntsmen follow the hounds. There was the same
rivalry, too, amongst the latter to be 'in at the
Naturally, this necessitated some bold manoeuvring
on the part of the airships. At one time they
would be circling through the upper air to dizzy
heights far above the highest mountains; then
suddenly there would be a turn and a mad
plunge downwards for thousands of feet, as their
quarry swooped down almost to the level of the
ground below. There were many hairbreadth
escapes from collisions; and altogether the sport
was about as exciting as the most daring or the
most reckless could desire.
'It beats the switchback railway business and
all that sort of thing hollow!' exclaimed Gerald
that evening, when relating their experiences to
Freddy; for the Zuanstrooms had not joined the
'Looping the loop's nothing to it!' Jack declared.
Freddy looked wistful. 'How I wished I was
with you!' he sighed.
'H'm! I 'm afraid you are not old enough yet
for that sort of thing, youngster,' remarked Jack
loftily. 'What has Silas been doing to amuse
'He hasn't been amusing me at all,' was the
answer. 'It's been one of my "bad days" again.
The nasty, ugly old man has come back, and has
been with uncle and Silas all day; and whenever
he comes I am always sent off and left to amuse
myself as best I can!'
Gerald and Jack looked at each other. Jack
gave a long, low whistle; Gerald exclaimed under
his breath, 'The Ogre again!'
LESSONS IN FLYING.
'It bain't no sort o' use; I shall never l'arn
t' fly!' grumbled Bob Reid, as he stood
rubbing his bruises. He had just come 'a
nasty cropper,' and seemed, as he expressed it, to
have 'hurt meself all over at wanst.' One hand
was rubbing a leg, while the other was busy
with a shoulder. 'If I 'ad 'alf a dozen more
'ands I could find plenty for 'em t' do!' he
continued ruefully. 'I seem t' be bruised
everywhere. Let's give it up, Tom, afore we suicides
'Not I!' cried Tom Clinch, who was balancing
himself on a ladder. He flung his arms—to
which two great wings were attached—about
wildly, and leaped into the air, gasping as he
came floundering down. 'You see, Bob, I 'll
master it yet!'
The two sailors had had some 'flying-dresses'
lent them, and had been practising and striving
for all they were worth to learn the mystic art;
but somehow they could not, as Tom put it, 'fall
into the knack.'
'It be like swimmin',' Tom went on, between
leaps and jumps which would have done credit to
a Spring-heeled Jack. 'It takes a long time t'
fall inter the knack'——
'Ye'll fall inter the ditch d'reckly,' Bob tittered,
as Tom rolled over on the ground. 'It's no use,
Tom! Let's be sensible, an' give it up. It ain't
dignerfied like fur us two chaps at our time o'
'I be goin' t' try another jump from that
there ladder,' returned Tom obstinately. 'You
needn't try no more if ye funks it! But when
I starts out to do a thing I don't like t' be
beat! Other people 'ere does it, so why shouldn't we?'
'Ay, but they l'arns it in their young days,'
'Theer 's Mr Gerald—he's gettin' on fine! An'
Mr Jack, too, ain't doin' bad at it! He be
a-practisin' now just out yonder—t'other side
that fence! There he goes now—a-soarin' up in
grand style! I 'd give 'alf me month's wages t'
be able t' go like that!'
'It's that puff o' wind's took 'old o' 'im,' Bob
declared, as he watched Jack perform some rather
curious aerial evolutions. 'Strikes me the wind's
got 'old of 'im, an 'e can't 'elp 'isself! Yes!
Look out fur 'im t' stop 'im, Tom!'
Tom had just succeeded, at the moment this
urgent warning was uttered, in again climbing
laboriously up the ladder on to a narrow
platform which had been erected as a 'jumping-off
place' for fliers.
There were several of these platforms, of various
heights, placed at intervals in some spacious fields
laid out specially near the city of Ivenia, for the
use of those who were learning to fly, or
experimenting with small flying-machines. They might
be likened to the diving-platforms, with ladders
leading up to them, which are to be seen at some
bathing-places. They were open to all, and were
freely used by old and young—especially the latter.
It was no uncommon sight to see numbers of boys
and girls—some almost babies—fluttering about like
so many large butterflies.
This particular morning the two sailors were
practising on their own account in one part, while
Gerald and Jack were similarly engaged, not far
away, under Alondra's tuition.
It was a windy day, with violent squalls at
intervals, and lulls between. Just at the time
Tom climbed to the platform there had arisen a
very violent gust, which came sweeping across,
bearing with it the figure of Jack, with large
wings whirling about like the sails of a windmill.
Whether he was purposely heading for the
platform as a refuge to which he could cling, or
whether the unexpected violence of the wind
carried him there, it would be difficult to say.
All that is certain about it is that he cannoned
against Tom Clinch, and a moment later the two
were gyrating and spinning in the air like a
couple of gigantic bluebottles. Then, as though
poor Bob Reid had not already enough bruises to
attend to, the two descended like an avalanche
plump on top of him. Finally, Gerald, who had
followed Jack in his involuntary flight, sailed
straight into the struggling group. Fortunately, at
this point Alondra arrived. He had come after
the two chums to render them his assistance, and
was now able to help to disentangle them.
'One o' my wings is broke!' cried Tom, as he
sat up and surveyed the wreck.
'I'm afraid both mine are,' said Jack.
'You 've broke my back atween ye!' Bob
spluttered, as he rolled over. 'This settles it!
No more flyin' fur me!'
'I've had enough for to-day too!' Jack laughingly
owned, as he proceeded to divest himself of
his flying outfit. 'It's a mistake for beginners to
practise on a windy day.'
'I doan't practise no more—wind or no wind,'
Bob declared in a tone of conviction. 'All I
wants now be some limbrokation—an' plenty on it!'
'I think you only require a little more practice,'
Alondra afterwards assured the two chums, as
they were walking home towards his yacht,
leaving their outfits to be brought after them by
the two sailors.
'I don't know,' said Jack doubtfully. 'We've
been trying it for a good while now, and we
don't seem to make much progress. I begin to
doubt if we ever shall. It's different with you,
you see. Your people have learnt it more or
less for generations, and it's in the blood, I fancy.
I think we shall have to be content with motor-wings.'
Jack referred to the smallest form of flying-machine
in use. It consisted merely of a pair
of wings worked by a small motor, a balancing
tail, and a saddle-seat on which the aeronaut
perched himself. In many respects it might be
described as the aerial counterpart of our
From the incidents just related it will be
gathered that the visitors had not made much
progress in learning the use of artificial wings.
Whether there was something different in their
physical constitution, or whether it was, as Jack
was inclined to think, that the knack of flying
was becoming hereditary amongst the Martians,
it is certain that neither the youthful aspirants
nor the two elderly sailors had so far been able
to master the tantalising secret of soaring into the
air at will with artificial wings alone. They could
come down—from a height; but then, as Tom
Clinch remarked, 'Most people can do that wi'out
When, an hour or two later, Alondra's yacht
landed them again at Karendia, as the king's
palace was called (the name meant literally 'the
palace in the clouds'), they found Monck awaiting
'I have some news for you young people,' said
he. 'Our royal master has honoured me by
entrusting me with a special mission to Sedenia
(King Agrando's country); and he will let you
accompany me, so that you may see something of
another part of our world.'
'I 'm willing, if you others are going, of course,'
Gerald answered readily, but without enthusiasm.
He glanced at Alondra as he spoke.
'I shall like very much to go with you,' said
Alondra. 'It is a country well worth visiting.
There are many curious natural wonders to be
seen there. Moreover, we shall be able to visit
other countries on our way.'
That night, as the two chums were retiring to
rest, Gerald said, with a shiver, 'Do you know,
Jack, I would give a good deal if we could get
out of this trip. I've got a feeling—a sort of
'Nerves again!' murmured Jack sleepily. 'We
shall be all right! We go as the king's guests or
ambassadors, or whatever it is; and not even the
Ogre will dare to harm us. Ivanta has a long
arm, it strikes me.'
'Maybe he has, and maybe it will, as you say,
be all right,' was Gerald's reply. 'All the same,
something tells me we're in for trouble in some
way or another.'
A ROYAL PROGRESS.
'There are the famous canals—the great
waterways which the astronomers of the
Earth have seen through their telescopes
and puzzled over for so many years. The curious
thing is that the scientists of Mars have puzzled
over them almost as much, and can tell you
practically just as little about them.'
Thus spoke Monck, as the Lokris sailed through
the upper air on her way to the country of King
Below them the voyagers saw seas and
continents spread out as upon an enormous map.
And there, quite plain to the eye, were the strange
channels Monck had referred to. They looked like
great arms of the sea; but there was that in their
regular shape which proclaimed, even to the
unscientific eye, that they must have been
'Their origin is lost in the mists of past ages,'
Monck explained. 'Some mighty race in the past
must have made them at a time when to be able
to travel by water was all-important.'
Jack, who was looking through a powerful
telescope, exclaimed in surprise, 'I can see vessels
going about on them! The curious thing is that
in one channel they are all going one way, and
in the other channel they are all moving along in
the opposite direction.'
'Exactly!' Monck replied. 'And that, you
perceive, seems to suggest a reason for their
construction. There are strong currents running
through them just as you see the vessels going—that
is to say, in opposite directions. It is
supposed that the ancients, in the days before
mechanical propulsion was invented, saw in that
fact an easy way of getting about. At any rate,
that is the general supposition nowadays. Of
course, it is only a guess.'
The Lokris had been at this time two days and
nights on her journey. She was accompanied by
several airships, forming, in effect, a small squadron.
'Escorted' would be perhaps a more fitting term,
for several of them were war-vessels, while others
again were craft in attendance, carrying supplies.
The progress of the whole fleet was methodical,
and was conducted with a good deal of ceremony.
It was all ordered very much as would be the
case with the fleet of one of the Great Powers
on Earth escorting the yacht carrying the son of
a powerful monarch on a visit or tour to a distant
realm. One of the war-vessels carried the
Diamond King and his party; while Armeath and his
wards travelled with Prince Alondra in his yacht.
As they continued their journey they passed
over various cities and countries. Sometimes
strange war-vessels, seeing from a distance that
a small fleet was approaching, came soaring up
to inquire who and what they were. Continually,
all day long, other craft, of every size and kind,
passed them. Some were great liners, carrying
passengers, going swiftly to and fro like our
greyhounds of the Atlantic; some were private
yachts; and others again war-craft, alone, or in twos
and threes. All, as they went by, ran up signals;
and when they learnt from the answering signals
who the illustrious travellers were, saluted in token
Their progress was leisurely, and there were
many halts. There were certain places where their
coming was expected, and preparations had been
made to give them a brilliant reception. Airships,
splendidly decorated, came up to welcome them,
and beg them to descend to receive addresses.
Then it was that the strangers saw how much
diversity it was possible to introduce into the
decoration of the various air-craft, and how their
outward appearance could be varied and altered
according to the taste and ingenuity of the
owners. Every kind of bird was imitated upon
a large scale. There were gigantic swans, eagles,
swallows, and other birds such as are familiar
to us upon Earth, and a number of strange
bird-forms which exist only on Mars. There
were grotesque creatures, too, representations of
beasts and fish, and uncanny-looking monsters, some
of the latter resembling what we know as dragons,
griffins, wyverns, and so on.
At night there would be fêtes, when all these
creatures were lighted up in curious and
ingenious fashion, revealing to the astonished and
delighted travellers most weird and marvellous
effects, as they performed intricate evolutions and
manoeuvres in the air in the dark. Then there
were fireworks such as have probably never been
dreamed of by even our most skilful pyrotechnists.
Illuminated airships soared up into the heavens
and formed brilliant constellations of huge coloured
stars, or rained down showers of fire, like colossal,
inverted, fiery fountains. Chariots of fire sailed to
and fro and engaged in races, contests, or in
sham-fights upon a grand scale. Fiery monsters,
which left long, shining trails of light behind
them like the tails of comets, darted to and fro
with a roar which startled those who heard it
for the first time. Luminous clouds—red, yellow,
blue, or green—formed mysteriously, and aeronauts
played hide-and-seek amongst them with their
lighted cars, vanishing suddenly into them and
reappearing quite unexpectedly in a different place.
Such were some—only a few—of the spectacles
with which the travellers from our Earth were
entertained by the hospitable inhabitants of the
countries over which they passed in the course of
their journey to Sedenia. It would require too
much space to describe all the marvellous sights
they gazed upon, the novelties they met with,
the quaint costumes, manners, and customs of the
various nations they encountered, or the numerous
zoological curiosities which were brought under
their notice. Weeks were occupied in this manner,
and it may safely be said that each day brought
some fresh surprise, something which was new,
unexpected, or curiously interesting to the visitors.
Altogether, the two chums and their guardian
had a memorable journey—one to be remembered
with delight and wonder for the rest of their
lives, one which was in every sense a truly royal
progress. Not the least interesting part of it
consisted in the frank curiosity displayed by the
inhabitants in themselves as natives of another
world. Many showed great surprise at finding
that they were just human beings, very much the
same as the Martians were, neither more nor less.
'I suppose,' remarked Gerald, 'they expected that
we should turn out to be monsters like those
which that philosopher of theirs, whose book I
was reading on the way here, declared us to be:
"ape-like creatures, with blue skins covered with
But whatever the expectations of the Martians
had been, they soon demonstrated that they were
well pleased with the reality, for they
overwhelmed the visitors with the most lavish
hospitality, and accorded them places of great honour
at every public function.
One note there was, however, not exactly of
discord, but a jarring note—an undercurrent—of
disappointment and dissatisfaction, nevertheless.
In every place at which they arrived, one of
the first questions addressed to Monck was: 'Have
you brought the diamonds?' or 'When are the
diamonds to be offered for sale?' These, or some
similar inquiries concerning the great shipload of
gems which it was now known throughout the
Martian world had been brought by King Ivanta
from the 'evening star,' met them at every
It was evident that the answer which Monck,
as the king's messenger, was compelled to make
to these queries, caused considerable surprise and
disappointment. In certain extreme cases they
even threw a certain air of restraint into the
exhibitions of public rejoicings.
'What has been done with the diamonds, Mr
Monck?' asked Jack one day. 'What is going
to be done with them? If they were brought
here to be offered for sale to those who could
afford to buy them, why are they kept back?'
'At present they are under lock and key—that
is to say, they are deposited in the strong room
of the treasury in the city of Ivenia.'
'When are they going to be brought out again?'
'That is more than I can say, young sir. It
is at present a secret known only to my royal
'It's no business of mine, sir,' Jack went on
modestly, 'and perhaps you will think I have no
right to say anything; but I can't help seeing
that keeping them locked up is causing a great
deal of ill-feeling. I know that Mr Armeath
thinks—and I feel sure that he is right—that it
is a pity they were ever brought here at all. But
since they have been brought, it does seem a bit
funny that so much time should be allowed to
go by without any one being allowed even to see them.'
'It is the king's will, and that is all I can tell
you. I may just hint to you privately, however,
that I have an idea—it is only my own guess,
mind you—that the king wishes to defer taking
any decided step till after his return from his
visit to Kondris—that is, to the planet you know
Jack whistled. 'Oh, oh!' he cried, nodding his
head shrewdly. 'I see! Then he is really bent
on making that trip?'
'Undoubtedly. At least, I believe he is now
completing the necessary preparations.'
'Mr Zuanstroom—he won't like that, will he?'
'He will have to wait the king's pleasure.'
'I suppose he will; but he won't like it. And
you will find he will begin to kick if something
isn't done soon. I have heard hints to that effect.
Silas let it out in an indiscreet moment.'
'My royal master has a way of doing what
he chooses without regard to the opinions of
private individuals,' was Monck's answer; and it
was given in a tone which effectually closed the
A DARING PLOT.
In due course the travellers reached the country
of Sedenia. They were met upon—or rather
over—its borders by the ruler of the realm,
King Agrando. He was accompanied by his chief
councillor, Kazzaro—otherwise the Ogre—Gorondo
his chief General, and his principal officers of
State. He also had with him a number of
war-airships of various sizes.
Under his conduct the travellers passed on to
his capital, the city of Dyrania, a rambling town
of considerable size, built upon the slopes of a
high mountain and overlooking a large lake.
The visitors left their airships, and took up
their abode for the time being in suites of
apartments assigned to them for their use in the
Here King Agrando dispensed his hospitality
with a sort of semi-barbaric dignity. To Gerald,
in particular, as may be imagined, it seemed a
curious thing to find himself attending his Court
as a guest. It cannot be said that it was a
pleasant experience, and he entered into it with
very mixed feelings.
So far as the outward conduct of his host
went, however, he had nothing to complain of.
He had come there with Prince Alondra and
Monck, King Ivanta's special representative; and
he, Mr Armeath, and Jack, were treated upon
that footing with the strictest regard to
everything that courtesy and etiquette required. At
the same time, try as he would, he could not feel
exactly comfortable. Every time he attended any
function, and saw before him King Agrando and
his chief officers, there came back to him the
memory of that time when he had been brought
before those same men as a helpless prisoner, and
treated with contumely and insult. His cheeks
would flush, and the hot blood rush through his
veins even now, as he recalled how Kazzaro had
prodded and pommelled him as a farmer might a
bullock offered for sale, and remembered the sinister
and forbidding aspect of the whole crowd as they
gazed upon him.
Still, so far as they were concerned, all this
might have been a mere dream. Nothing in
their behaviour showed that they even recollected
it. The king, indeed, in a certain fashion of his
own, seemed to wish to convey to Gerald that
he desired the whole 'regrettable incident' to be
As King Agrando plays an important part in
this history, some further particulars concerning
him may be given here.
His had been one of the last countries to be
brought under the sway of the all-powerful,
all-conquering Ivanta. He now occupied a
semi-independent position, one somewhat similar to that
of some of the richest and most powerful of the
native princes of India. In his time he had
himself been a great fighter and conqueror, having
invaded and conquered several adjoining countries.
He had ruled over these—and over his own
subjects also—with an iron hand; and at times, it
was said, with tyrannical cruelty. There had been,
indeed, dark rumours afloat of terrible deeds carried
out by him with the aid of the band of councillors
he kept about him, of whom Kazzaro was the chief.
If these tales were anywhere near the truth, then
the title of Ogre, which the chums had bestowed
upon Kazzaro, might have been quite as suitably
given to his master.
But those days were past—or supposed to be
past. Agrando was now on his best behaviour.
Ivanta had insisted that there should be no more
fighting or quarrelling with his neighbours, and
no more cruelty and oppression within his realm.
Thus the tyrant's 'occupation was gone,' and he
had little left to him to do save to occupy himself
and his select circle with such more or less
harmless amusements as the circumstances permitted.
For one thing, he had become a great collector
of curios of all kinds, animate and inanimate.
That is to say, he had got together the finest
collection of curios and zoological and botanical
specimens of any upon the planet. Some of these
had been contributed by Ivanta—brought by him
from distant planets, Earth and Saturn—who
possibly thought it good policy to encourage his
restless vassal in so blameless a hobby. Thus the
gardens surrounding the palace formed a sort of
glorified Zoo and Kew Gardens rolled into one.
His palace, too, was filled to overflowing with the
most remarkable works of art that money could
buy and the countries of his globe could produce.
The fame of his collections had spread throughout
the world of Mars, and people travelled immense
distances and made long pilgrimages to see them.
It is scarcely a matter for surprise that such
a man should now be bitten with a craze for
diamonds, with a burning, overmastering desire—which
later on became a determination—to become
the possessor of the finest collection of jewels upon
Now, it so happened that while Agrando's
desires in this direction had been growing and
growing until they had almost reached the length
of becoming a sort of madness, Ivanta's thoughts
had been working in an exactly opposite direction.
By degrees he had come to wish he had never
troubled himself about precious stones at all.
Certainly, what he had done had been planned
with the best intentions; but his sagacious
instinct now began to lean to the idea that for
once in his life he had made a great mistake.
Therefore, he was casting about for some plausible
excuse for undoing what he had travelled all the
way to Earth specially to accomplish.
Already, during the voyage home to Mars, he
had noted many incidents which his keen insight
into human nature had told him were the little
seeds likely to grow into a big crop of future
trouble. He had seen, with sorrow and alarm,
that even his most trusted councillors and dearest
friends were beginning to give their chief thought
and attention to 'dividing up' the cargo of
diamonds they were carrying back. Already envy,
covetousness, and greed were raising their ugly
heads where before all had been amiability and
goodwill. And if this were so even before the
distribution took place, what was likely to be the
state of things afterwards?
This alteration in his views had been greatly
strengthened by his conversations with Armeath.
That honest sage, also deeply experienced in
human nature, fearlessly expressed his own
opinions on the subject. He gave Ivanta endless
illustrations and 'modern instances' of the crimes and
misery which a covetous greed for precious stones
might be expected to introduce into his world.
Ivanta—convinced, yet, as an honourable man,
hampered by his own promises and undertakings—gladly
jumped at Armeath's suggestion of making
artificial stones in such quantities as to render
them as 'common as pieces of glass.' Then, as
Armeath had argued in his talk with Monck,
nobody would bother himself to be the possessor
of any of the 'gems,' whether real or artificial.
For none could tell the former from the latter
when manufactured by Armeath's process.
The great difficulty now seemed to be to get
a sufficient quantity of the necessary mineral; and
to do this Ivanta would have to pay a visit to
Saturn, that being the only place he knew of
where it could be obtained.
Meantime, Ivanta had decided to keep the
cargo he had brought locked up; and to postpone
its distribution until his return from his projected
Unfortunately, however, the mischief had already
been done; the seeds of serious trouble had been
sown, and were now growing to a far larger extent
than King Ivanta knew of.
King Agrando, in particular, was hatching a
double plot, which, if it succeeded, was not only
to gratify his newly-born craze for a big collection
of jewels, but to restore him to his former
position of independent ruler. Even, perhaps—who
could tell?—it might raise him to the position
now occupied by Ivanta himself!
Into this conspiracy Zuanstroom had entered.
That, at first sight, may appear a little strange;
but the so-called Diamond King had newly
awakened ambitions of his own. He saw that,
as the owner of this great cargo of precious stones,
he was in a position which was absolutely unique
in the world of Mars. Upon Earth he had only
been the Diamond King in a relative sense; here
he was actually entitled to that name. But why
should he stop there? Why should he not use his
unique position to make himself a king in actual
fact? Upon Earth, even with the help of all his
diamonds, he could never aspire to such a height;
but here it was different. Ivanta, he knew, would
never fall in with such an idea; but Agrando, if
approached in the right way, might—and he did.
The result of the conferences between the two
plotters may be summed up thus: Agrando had
said, 'Let us use your diamonds to depose Ivanta
and put me in his shoes, and give me the biggest
share of the treasure; and I will then put you
into a position similar to that I now myself occupy.
You shall be king over a large tract of country,
subject only to me as your overlord.'
And Zuanstroom's ambition and unscrupulous
nature had determined him to seal the compact
and risk the consequences.
The visitors to Agrando found plenty to amuse
and interest them during their stay. The palace
gardens alone were a never-ending source of wonder
and delight to the two chums. Rumour had not
exaggerated when it had spread reports of the
marvels to be seen there. The friends spent a
good deal of their time exploring and investigating—for
the gardens were of very great extent—and
every day they came upon something fresh.
At the beginning, Monck had given them this
curious warning: 'Kazzaro has asked me to put you
on your guard,' said he. 'King Agrando remembers
the dangers which you, Gerald, so narrowly escaped
during our journey in the Ivenia; and he does
not wish that a similar unhappy occurrence should
cast a reflection upon any of his people here.
So he has instructed Kazzaro to remind me that
there are many specimens and scientific
curiosities in the gardens which may be dangerous to
strangers unacquainted with their characteristics—not
merely among the animals, and reptiles, and
so on, he says, but even amongst the trees and
plants. For King Agrando has devoted an
immense amount of money and trouble to collecting
and cultivating specimens of most out-of-the-way
kinds, some of them with qualities never known
or heard of before. Apart from this consideration,
you have the king's permission to go about freely
wherever you choose!'
Later on, Gerald asked Jack his private opinion
of this warning. 'What does it mean?' he asked
doubtfully. 'Is it genuine, do you think, or does
it conceal some crafty trick?'
'Sounds straightforward enough!' Jack declared.
'Where can the trick come in?'
'I don't know,' Gerald mused. 'I have no right,
perhaps, to suspect any trickery; yet, somehow, I
don't trust the Ogre!'
'No more do I, for that matter! We'll keep
our eyes open!' said Jack.
A few days later, Alondra, wandering alone in
the gardens, one morning, came upon an immense
round glass-house, the door of which, he noticed,
was standing open for the first time. He had
paused at the place two or three times before;
but the door had always been shut and locked.
Moreover, there was a label upon it, which read:
'Private. Contents Dangerous.'
Naturally, such a placard had aroused his
curiosity, and he had made attempts to see what
was inside; but everywhere the glass was screened
off within, and he could discover nothing. Here,
this morning, was an opportunity to see for
himself what the mysterious 'contents' were. He had
his trident with him—he had carried it every day
in consequence of the warning that had been
given—so what had he to fear?
He passed through the open door, and came to
a second door at one side. Opening this, he made
his way amongst a lot of thick shrubs, and came
out in an open space paved with white marble.
In the centre was a large marble pool, with steps
leading down into it. In the pool a fountain was
playing; the whole looking very cool and inviting.
It had the appearance of a plunge-bath; and
seemed to tempt the stranger to take a dive
into its bubbling waters.
Alondra looked round. Nothing was to be seen
on any side but flowering shrubs, the scent of
which filled the air. But the most beautiful blooms
of all, he noticed, were some large white lilies
growing amongst clusters of immense leaves in the pool.
Surprised and fascinated at the extreme beauty
of these blooms, the like of which he had never
seen before, he walked down the steps as far as
the edge of the water, and put his hand amongst
the green leaves to pluck a flower. Immediately
the leaf curled over upon his hand, and to his
astonishment and dismay he found he could not
withdraw it! Not only that, but the leaf was
exercising a distinct pulling power; it was steadily
dragging him towards the water! Then he put
the other hand down to try to free the first one,
when another leaf curled round it, and he found
himself held as though his hands had been tied
together with a strong rope. He struggled hard,
but he could not cast off that deadly grip; and,
little by little, the horrible leaves dragged him
forward until he was forced into the pool. Other
leaves then began to curl round his body, and
forced him down, down, step by step, until the
water encircled his neck!
THE DEATH POOL.
It was well for Alondra that Gerald and Jack
happened to be walking in the gardens that
particular morning. They had, in fact, strolled
out to look for him, and Providence must have
led them into the neighbourhood of the large
glass-house just at the critical moment. They also
noticed—as he had done—that the outer door
was standing open; and they were reading the
warning notice with great curiosity, and considering
whether, in despite of it, they should venture
on a peep inside, when a terrible cry rang out from
within, a cry as of some one in urgent need of help.
'It's Alondra's voice!' exclaimed Gerald. 'He's
inside there, and must be in some trouble! Come
The two pushed open the inner door and
rushed along the pathway amongst the shrubs.
A moment later they came in sight of the
pool with the fountain playing in the middle;
and there they saw Alondra—or, rather, his head,
for that was all there was above the water—with
a look of terrible, deadly horror upon his face.
'Help me quickly!' he gasped. 'Some awful
thing is clinging round me and is dragging me
down! Your knives! Get out your knives! But
be careful, or you may get drawn in yourselves—both
The two friends acted upon the hints thus
given; and, drawing their knives and joining
hands, Gerald went boldly down the steps and
seized hold of the young prince just as he was
being drawn completely under the water.
The task of setting him free, however, proved
a tougher one than they had expected. The
clinging leaves, as though directed by some
dreadful, sinister intelligence, closed upon Gerald's
extended arm, and, exercising a strength and tenacity
which had about it something almost superhuman,
endeavoured to drag him in too.
A terrible struggle for dear life ensued between
the three, on the one side, and the horrible, silent
power which they had to fight against, on the other.
Gerald managed to free one of Alondra's arms,
and gave him his own knife, taking Jack's in
place of it. The two then hacked and slashed at
the slimy, slippery, but wonderfully tough leaves.
As fast as they cut themselves free from some,
others laid hold of them; and it seemed at one
time as though all three would be dragged bodily
into the water.
Just then Jack caught sight of a coil of strong
rope lying upon the floor in a corner, and he
made a dart and possessed himself of it. In a
trice he had passed one end to Gerald, and secured
the other round one of the columns supporting
Gerald, in his turn, managed to slip the end
round Alondra and pass it back to Jack, who
caught hold of it, and, standing himself on the
steps out of reach, hauled with all his might.
This enabled the two who were struggling in the
water—for by this time Gerald had also been
drawn in—to use both hands. Little by little,
step by step, they struggled backwards, until at
last they reached the water's edge and were free.
Panting and exhausted, the three sat down on
a low marble balustrade, and looked first at the
pool, then at one another. Then they stared once
more at the treacherous pool, where all now was
silent and still, save for the bubbling and splashing
of the water as it fell from the fountain.
'Jupiter!' cried Jack at last. 'Of all the awful
death-traps I ever saw or heard of, commend me
to this! A horrible death pool! But what in the
name of all that is fiendish is that awful plant?'
'It's some kind of cannibal plant, I suppose,'
'Yes, that is right,' Alondra agreed. 'I have
heard there are such plants on our globe in some
remote corners, but I have never seen one before.'
'What does anybody want to keep such a monstrous,
uncanny affair for?' queried Jack indignantly.
'I never heard that they grew to such a size,'
Alondra added. 'This must have been growing
here many years to become so large, I should say.'
'A nice sort of pet to cultivate and pamper!'
Jack grumbled. 'What do they feed it on, I
wonder? Such a thing ought not to be allowed!
It's a public danger!'
'There's a warning on the door,' Gerald
reminded him. 'After all, it's our own fault, I 'm
afraid people will say, for coming here.'
'My fault, you mean—for I was the one who
yielded first to curiosity, and so drew you here,'
'Oh, we should have come in on our own, you
may be pretty sure of that,' Jack declared. 'We
were just discussing the point when we heard
you call out.'
'It's a very beautiful flower,' Gerald observed,
looking attentively at the large, handsome blossoms,
'and the scent is delicious. Who would imagine
that anything so lovely to look at could be so
He walked cautiously up near to it to get a
clear view, and Jack followed him—partly, as it
seemed, to satisfy his own curiosity, and partly
to see that his chum did not become too
venturesome and get unwittingly caught again.
Meantime, Alondra was evidently thinking deeply.
He began to look and search about, first in this
direction, then in that. Presently the others noticed
his proceedings, and, leaving the side of the pool,
went across and asked him what he was doing.
'Before I tell you,' was the reply, 'you must
promise that you will say nothing to any one else.
If what I am thinking of was mere fancy, I don't
wish to be laughed at; and if it turns out that
it was not fancy—well, then I still wish that
nothing should be said about it just now. Do
The two friends readily gave the required promise.
'Well, then, what is troubling me is this: Just
as I called out—when I was struggling up to
my neck in the water—when, as it seemed to
me, I was at my last gasp, and all hope had
gone—I saw, or imagined I saw, some one peering
at me from among those thick bushes!'
'My stars! That sounds funny!' was Jack's
comment. 'D'you mean to say that there was some
one in here, some one so cold-blooded as to stand
by and look on at you, and never offer to help?'
'That is my—er—impression; but'——
'Who was it, then? Anybody you know?'
Alondra hesitated. Then he said slowly, 'I
cannot say. I could hardly see more than the
eyes, if I saw any one. But, understand me, I
cannot declare positively that I saw any one at all.
I was in such a state of horror that I may have
imagined it. I was ready to imagine anything.'
Jack looked at him attentively.
'I don't think you are one to lose your wits
to that extent, my friend,' he declared, shaking
his head, 'though I admit it would be no
discredit to you if you did. I can't imagine a more
frightful predicament, or one better calculated to
try the nerves of the bravest man.'
'Let's all set to work and have a good hunt
round,' suggested Gerald. 'If any one was here,
he must be somewhere in hiding now, unless there
is another way out. If there is, let's find it!'
They searched the place in all directions, but
for some time could find nothing to reward their
trouble. They could see no trace of any person
other than themselves having been there.
They were about to give it up and go away,
when Jack suddenly uttered a cry. 'See! What
is that on the floor!' he exclaimed. 'Ah, I thought
so! A diamond—a small diamond!' He exhibited
upon the open palm of his hand a little sparkling
stone. While his companions were busy looking at
it, he went on to examine attentively a number of
slabs of carved marble which stood up from the
floor some four or five feet, forming a many-sided
enclosure. They made a ring, as it were, fifteen
feet in diameter or thereabouts, and upon each
slab were figures or scenes carved in bas-relief.
It was not unlike a huge, many-sided flower-pot;
and it appeared to be intended for a similar
purpose; for the space it enclosed was filled with
mould up to the level of the top of the slabs, and
this again was thickly planted with large shrubs.
Jack walked all round this affair, peering keenly
into the dense leafy screen. It was so thick that
nothing could be seen of what was in the middle.
Then he returned to the starting-point—that
opposite to the place where he had picked up the
diamond. He caught hold of the branches and
pulled them apart. Then he uttered a low whistle.
'Come and look at this!' he cried.
The other two ran up to the place and peered
in. There, upon the loose mould, could be seen
a footprint, and a little beyond it another.
Jack pointed to one of the bas-relief figures
on the slab. It was in a kneeling position, and
the head formed a convenient step to any one
wishing to mount to the top of the slab. 'Do
you see?' he cried. 'This has been used as a
step! You place a foot on it—thus, take hold
of these branches—so, pull them apart—so, and
you can spring up and through quite easily.
Then the branches close up after you and hide
all trace. But the last one who passed this way
was in a great hurry. He was in such haste
to get through that he snapped off a twig—here
it is—and another twig caught against his breast,
and tore off a little diamond, and cast it on to
the floor where I found it.'
While talking, Jack had suited actions to words,
and shown, by practical illustration, how easily
what he had suggested might happen.
'Where, then, is that person now, do you
suppose?' asked Gerald, in a low tone. 'Hiding in
the middle of those bushes?'
Jack shook his head. 'I should say not,' he
replied. 'I should say there must be a secret
passage leading to this curious place, and that
those bushes conceal the entrance to it. However,
that's a question we'll soon put to the test.
I 'm going in to see what's in the middle. You
fellows come after me!'
A SECRET TREASURE-HOUSE.
Jack's theory proved to be well founded. In
the middle of the clump of bushes they
discovered a portion of an old tree-trunk.
It was about three feet high by, perhaps, four
feet in diameter. A glance over the side showed
that it was hollow, and that inside it there were
some steps leading downwards.
Jack pointed to them in quiet triumph. 'Are
you going to explore farther?' he asked Alondra,
in a low tone scarcely above a whisper. 'Because, if
you are, I should suggest that we go very quietly.'
'Yes; I 'm going to find out what it all means,'
said Alondra firmly.
'What about arms?' queried Jack dubiously.
'I have my trident, or I had,' Alondra answered.
'I must have left it somewhere about on the floor.'
Jack went back to look for it, and Alondra
followed; but it was nowhere to be seen.
'It has disappeared!' exclaimed Alondra,
bewildered. 'What can have become of it? I
remember putting it down when I went, towards
the pool to pick one of those terrible flowers.
Are you sure you have not picked it up, either
'What should we do with it—put it in one of
our pockets?' laughed Jack. 'No; this is one
more proof that what you saw was reality and
not a vision of your fanciful brain. Some one
was here—some one who coolly looked on while
you were struggling for your life in the grasp
of the dreadful floral monster beside yonder
pretty-looking fountain. Some one who wears
diamonds on his breast, and was in too great a
hurry to notice that the bushes had scratched
one off in passing. Some one, finally, who has
walked off with your trident.'
'True. But why did he take that?'
'It seems to me that the reason is not difficult
to guess at. It tells a little tale to me by itself.
He considered that you were as good as dead,
and would have no further use for your trident.
So, as it is a very beautifully ornamented one,
he thought he might as well have it.'
'I 'm afraid you must be right!' Alondra
rejoined, with a slight shiver. 'Yet, I don't
understand it! However, let us see what we can find
out. As to arms, who would dare to lay a hand
openly on me?'
As Alondra asked this last question he drew
himself up proudly, and his eyes flashed.
'It's not for me to say,' Jack remarked, with
a philosophical air. 'Gerald and I have our own
arms—what we call revolvers when we are at
home. They're not like yours, though. They
hurt if they are used properly, as you know.'
The two went back to where they had left
Gerald, and a little later they were all three
creeping noiselessly down the steps inside the
hollow tree-trunk. At the bottom they found
themselves in another passage, which they
calculated must run under the floor of the glass-house,
and then under the garden. It was in darkness,
save for a little glimmer which came down the
steps they had descended.
'Now, I wonder where this goes to?' muttered
Jack. 'It doesn't seem to me to lead to the
palace. I fancy it runs in the opposite direction.'
Alondra produced from his pocket a little
electric lamp, and by its aid they followed the
passage for some distance. Then they came to
more steps, which went much farther down into
the ground. They also came to other side-passages,
which branched off in different directions. Soon
the passage became wider and higher, and finally
ended in a heavily barred door, which, however,
was standing ajar.
They listened cautiously, and, hearing no one
about, pushed it open, and suddenly found
themselves in a blaze of light. Yet it was certain
that they were not in the open air.
They stared around, and then up, in wondering
astonishment. They seemed to be in another
glass-house, for certainly there was some kind of
transparent or semi-transparent roof overhead.
But the light was not the light of the sky
exactly. It was a strange reflected light, such
as puzzled the three who gazed at it.
Then an idea flashed into Jack's mind. 'I
know what it is!' he whispered. 'We are looking
up through water! This place is built underneath
the large lake in the gardens.'
'Yes, you are right. It must be so,' Alondra
agreed. 'But why? This must be some place
constructed in this strange fashion on purpose
that its very existence should be kept a secret!
Now, why is that, I wonder? I do not believe
that my father even knows of its existence. But
why all this secrecy? There seems to be no one
about. Let us try to find out what it all means.'
One thing they found it undoubtedly was—a
treasure-house. They quickly saw enough to
convince them that Agrando had a great store of
treasure here. But there were also roomy
chambers, and a spacious central place, with a
great dome as large as a good-sized theatre, and
not unlike one, having banks of seats around,
one behind the other, arranged like semicircular
steps. The use of this building seemed very
doubtful, as did that of some small, dark
side-chambers—mere cells—of which there were quite
a number about.
While the explorers were wondering what it
all meant, they heard the sound of voices. Jack
pointed to one of the small cells high up in the
wall, and led the way up the banks of seats,
stepping from one to the other like going upstairs.
The cell had a strong door, the upper part of
which consisted of a grille, and when they were
well inside they pulled it to after them. Then,
peering through the grille, they could see nearly
all over the interior. The voices drew nearer, and
in a few moments there entered King Agrando,
Kazzaro, and Zuanstroom, with two attendants,
each of whom bore small sacks. Judging by
their manner, the sacks were pretty heavy.
'That will do. Put them down there!' ordered
Agrando. 'We can examine them better here
than in the other chambers. This has the best
light of any.' The centre was occupied by a
circular platform or staging of stonework, the
use or meaning of which the three hidden
spectators had not been able to guess at. Upon this
the attendants deposited their bags, and
When assured that their servitors were out of
sight and hearing, Zuanstroom opened the bags,
and turned out from one a sparkling collection
of jewellery of all kinds and designs, and from
the other a dazzling heap of unset stones, some
of them of great size and brilliancy.
It was curious to see the expressions of greed
and avarice which crept into the features of the
king and his favourite as they gazed upon this
'There!' cried Zuanstroom triumphantly, 'have
I not kept my word? Have I not done as I
promised? You doubted whether I could perform
what I said; but you see I've managed it, spite
of all Ivanta's edicts and precautions! He little
dreams that all these are now in your hands,
instead of reposing peacefully in his own treasure-house
until it suits his royal fancy to allow me
to deal as I please with my own. Ah, he is a
clever man, in many ways—a wonderful man;
but he does not know everything! He has yet
to learn the real power that lies in diamonds.
I learned it long ago! There is nothing too
difficult to attain, no living being you cannot
bribe, if you have only diamonds enough!'
Jack had put a hand on Alondra as a hint
to keep his feelings under control. And it was
well he had done so, for he felt him start, and
could tell that he was battling with his rising
indignation as he listened to this talk. Jack,
however, had quickly decided in his own mind
that it would be better to keep their presence
there a secret if possible, and the pressure of
his hand upon the young prince said so plainly.
Alondra, on his side, was forced to admit to
himself that Jack was right as to this; though
he did so all unwillingly.
There ensued a good deal of talk between
Agrando and the other two, the while that they
turned the scintillating heaps over and over, but
it was carried on for the most part in such low
tones that the listeners heard but little of what
was said. Now and then they heard exclamations,
or caught scraps of sentences, but these did not
convey much information.
At last the conspirators put the two heaps back
into their respective receptacles, which they
themselves then carried into another chamber.
Presumably, they there locked them up in some vault, and
went their way; and all once more became quiet.
'Now's our time!' said Jack. 'If you take
my advice, Prince, we shall slip back the way
we came, and get out—if we're lucky enough to
meet no one—through the glass-house where we
found you. I should keep what you have learned
to yourself till you are safely back home, and
then tell your royal father, who will know what
to do better than you or I, or Mr Monck.'
'I think you are right,' said Alondra musingly,
'I am sure Jack is right,' Gerald put in. 'Those
men, now that the fire of covetousness has been
lighted in their breasts, would stick at nothing.
They would murder you, and me, and all your
suite, as soon as look at us, rather than give
up their booty, or rather than risk our telling
King Ivanta. So we'd better be discreet and keep
still tongues in our heads.'
They left their hiding-place and made their
way down the rows of seats. When, however,
they reached the floor, Alondra looked round and
whispered, 'I should like very much to know
what this place is used for. It must have been
constructed for some distinct purpose, and whatever
the purpose it was a secret one. I see many
things about, the uses of which I confess I do
not understand, and yet I cannot help guessing;
but I hope I am not right in my guesses, for
they make me shudder.'
'I think I know what is in your mind,' returned
Jack gloomily. 'I fancy the same thoughts
came into mine; but I deemed it better not to
say anything about them at present.'
As he spoke they distinctly heard a door opened
and the sound of voices. There was nothing for
it but to regain their former place of concealment.
They had hardly entered it and closed the door,
when a number of people came bursting into the
place, looking about them as though in search of
In the shade of the cell in which they had
concealed themselves, the three friends talked
in whispers, while watching, through the grille,
the doings of the new-comers.
Who were these people, and whom were they
searching for? At first the watchers took it for
granted that they were themselves the objects of
their search; but a few moments later they had
doubts as to whether it was so. If it was,
Alondra was ready to 'take the bull by the
horns' and show himself, quite believing that they
would not dare to harm King Ivanta's son. Jack,
however, was for waiting a while to see what
'You can do that at any time—when it is
forced upon us,' he whispered. 'They may not be
looking for us at all; and we may learn
something if we keep quiet.'
The reasoning seemed good, and Alondra agreed,
though somewhat unwillingly. He was angry and
indignant at what had already occurred, and was
becoming impatient at being compelled to play
hide-and-seek in what he considered was an undignified
At the same time, he was curious, and, for one
thing, was wondering who these people could be
who were hunting about. He had never seen
them before. Not only were they strangers to
him, but their dress was quite different from
that usually worn by Agrando's followers. Their
costumes were a very dark purple, and they were
all big, powerful-looking men. Moreover, when
they called out to one another they spoke in a
strange language, one that even Alondra did not
And now a fresh development occurred. Into
the midst of these strangers strode three men in
masks—men even bigger and taller than the rest.
They seemed to speak angrily, as though rating
the others for something they had done wrongly.
Then they issued some sharp, short word of
command, and the first-comers turned and marched out
in perfect military order, the masked men walking
In a minute or two they had all disappeared.
Sounds followed as of the closing and fastening of
heavy doors, and the place was once more empty
'What does it all mean?' exclaimed Gerald
perplexedly, addressing Alondra. 'What are all
these strange comings and goings? Who were
those chaps who came in last, and why do they
wear masks? It is all very mysterious and
extraordinary! It seems to me there must be a good
deal more going on here than you have any idea of!'
'It seems so, indeed,' Alondra replied, in a tone
which showed that he was not less puzzled. 'I
confess it is a mystery to me at present. But
I mean to get to the bottom of it if the thing
'What do you think King Ivanta will say to
it all when you tell him?' asked Jack. 'What
do you suppose he will do? You will tell him,
will you not?'
'You may be sure I shall,' returned Alondra,
'and I think the sooner he knows the better. We
must find some excuse for cutting short our visit
here and getting back to Ivenia as quickly as
possible,' he added with decision.
'If you will take me with you to King Ivanta,'
said a strange voice behind them, 'I can tell him
many more things which he ought to know—which
he ought to have known long ago!'
The three friends started and looked round.
From somewhere in the darkness, at the back of
the cell, a figure now stepped forth, and stood
looking at them with as much interest as they
He was a young fellow of scarcely more than
twenty years of age perhaps, good-looking, well
set up, and muscular in build. He was dressed
like an official of Agrando's household; but Alondra
detected at once that he was not a native of the
'Who are you?' he asked, eying him curiously.
'And why have you been hiding and listening to
'Who I am doesn't matter just now,' returned
the stranger quietly. 'You need not be afraid of
me; you may trust me thoroughly. I am a friend,
and you need a friend just now if you want to
get out of this place without being captured by
'I am not afraid of them! You do not know
who I am!' returned Alondra proudly.
'It does not matter to me who you are, any
more than it matters to you who I am,' was the
cool answer. 'You would need to be some one
very wonderful, or very clever, to get out of this
place alive if Kazzaro knew you were here. If
I help you to escape, will you promise to take
me to King Ivanta? He will thank you for doing
so when he hears what I have to tell him, and
I have little doubt will reward you handsomely.'
At this the three looked at each other and
burst out laughing. Jack was about to tell the
stranger that he was talking to the son of Ivanta,
when a look from Alondra stopped him.
'I suppose you expect to be rewarded too,' said
the young prince shrewdly. 'Well, I promise to
take you to him; but if we do, and he gives
you the reward you expect, it is only fair that
we should share it.'
'That you cannot do,' answered the stranger
with a sigh. 'I know not whether he will be
able to give me what I am hoping for; but if
he should it is not anything that I can share,
or that you would care to have.'
'You are very mysterious, my friend!' Alondra
commented. 'Why are you hiding in here?'
'Well, I came here upon a little errand of my
own—one somewhat similar to that which brought
you, I fancy, judging by what I heard you
say—to look about and find out what I could. As to
who those people in purple were, I will tell you
that at another time. The fact is, my friends,
I have no reason to love King Agrando, though I
am an officer of his household. He brought me
here against my will from a distant country, and
has forced me to be a sort of slave to him and
to take part in things that I loathe and detest.
But that is not the worst; I have a deeper wrong
to set right. I have long hoped that King Ivanta
might pay us a visit here so that I might appeal
to him. But if you can take me to him it will
be better still. Will you swear to do so if I lead
you safely out of this den?'
'You have my promise,' returned Alondra a
little haughtily. 'There is no need for me to
repeat it or to swear.'
The other looked at the young prince keenly,
and then said, in a satisfied tone, 'Your face is
honest to look at, and I will trust to your promise.
Follow me and I will get you a disguise.'
'A disguise!' exclaimed Alondra. 'What next?'
'It is necessary. We cannot get out without
the chance of running against some one.'
'We can get out the way we came,' Alondra
asserted; but the stranger shook his head.
'No,' he said decidedly. 'I saw you come in,
and the door you came through is now locked and
barred, and neither you nor I can open it. You
must come my way, or I must give up the idea of
befriending you and leave you to your own devices.'
'Very well,' Alondra assented, somewhat
ungraciously. He was getting restive at the
masterful manner of this stranger, who, after all, was
only an under-official—or, as he himself had
admitted, a kind of slave. 'What is your name?'
he added as an afterthought.
The stranger hesitated for a brief space, then
said, 'You may call me Malto.'
With that he turned away, and began stepping
down from one row of seats to another, walking
as if plunged deep in thought, and seemingly
taking but little further notice of his companions.
As for Gerald and Jack, they glanced at one
another with perplexed and wondering looks. This
cool, self-possessed young fellow had somehow
impressed them favourably, and they were inclined to
like him. But they did not in the least understand
him; and, like Alondra, they were half-disposed to
resent his assumption of so authoritative a manner.
'My stars!' muttered Jack, under his breath, to
Gerald, 'I fancy he thinks we are some of the
hangers-on amongst Mr Monck's suite!'
Meantime, the stranger had reached the floor of
the place, and was now leading the way towards
one end of it, which was closed in by some huge,
massive-looking gates. There was something grand
yet repellent about these gates. Upon them were
carved two great heads as of some kind of giants,
which frowned down upon them in forbidding
Their leader turned to a small wicket gate at
one side, and, taking a key from his pocket, opened
it, waited for the three to pass inside, then closed
it and locked it behind him. They were then in
a dark lobby. A moment later he opened another
door, and they all passed through it.
Here the three looked round in wondering silence.
They were in what might have been either an
immense underground cavern or a large enclosure
roofed over. The light was dim, the air was
oppressive, and there was a foul odour, which to
the visitors seemed sickly and nauseating.
Before them, at some little distance, there was
a network of metal bars, which rose to a great
height like an immense cage. It attracted their
attention at once to the exclusion of all other
surroundings, for it seemed to be the source of the
evil smell which had assailed their nostrils.
Suddenly they were startled by a terrible scream.
It was followed by a cry as of some one in the
extreme of fear and dread. At the same moment
a face distorted by terror came into view behind
the bars. It was only visible for a moment, then
melted again into the gloom beyond.
A FOUL DEN.
For a few moments the three friends stared
without moving at the place where the
agonised face had appeared. They were
spellbound with horror of they knew not what;
for though they could not see anything of what
was going on in the den in front of them, they
could hear strange sounds and weird noises.
There was a rushing sound as of large bodies
darting to and fro through the air; they heard
the beat of powerful wings, low gasps and gurgles,
yet could make out nothing in the obscurity. Then
another terrible cry was heard—this time an
unmistakably human one: 'Malto! Malto! Is it you?
Save me! save me!'
This appeal startled their new friend into instant
action, and he dashed toward the bars, crying out
as he went, 'Have you arms, you three? If you
have, come and help me!'
In a moment Gerald and Jack gripped their
revolvers and raced after him.
He made for a small metal gate in the bars, and
after applying a key to the lock began feverishly to
work away at other fastenings which still held it.
The two chums stood beside him, gazing into the
cage, trying to make out what was going on within.
Suddenly something swished past them. It had
the general appearance of a monstrous bat—certainly
it had what looked like the body and
wings of a bat—but it also had a human face!
'Malto! Malto!' cried this apparition, as it flew
past—for it was certainly flying—'make haste or
it will be too late! I am tired out! I'——
The last words were lost as it disappeared again
into the darkness beyond. Hardly had it passed
when a huge shape came into view, beating the
air with great wings, evidently in hot pursuit of
the other. It was undoubtedly a monster bat—much
bigger than the strange apparition with the
Without waiting for instructions from Malto,
both the chums fired at the creature, but seemingly
with no result; for it continued on its way, and
a moment later was lost in the shadows.
Malto looked up in surprise at the sound of the
shots; then resumed his work at the fastenings,
in which he was now assisted by Alondra.
A moment later the gate was open. Malto
snatched up a long, heavy piece of wood which
was lying near, and, entering the cage, stood
boldly waiting for the expected return of the
'This way, Malandris! this way! The gate is
open!' he shouted, as he looked about, trying to
pierce the gloom.
There was a low answering cry, and the form
of the man-bat—as he seemed to be—came into
view, made a desperate attempt to keep up, but
fell exhausted at Malto's feet.
Then the great bat itself appeared, and made a
swoop to seize its prey. It was met with a blow
from the heavy wooden bar, whereupon it turned
viciously upon the rescuer.
The great wings closed round him, and the
immense claws with which they were armed
gripped him, striving to draw him within reach of
the head, with its open mouth and shining fangs.
The wooden bar, however, was jammed against
its breast, and prevented it for the moment from
coming to close quarters. Just then Gerald and
Jack, who had entered the cage behind Malto,
fired their pistols simultaneously.
As a result, one wing could be seen to be
hanging limply, broken by a bullet; and as the
creature gave utterance to another scream, Jack
rushed in and despatched it.
Gerald and Alondra assisted the plucky young
fellow to struggle out of the enfolding wings.
Directly he was clear he sprang up, and, seizing
upon the prostrate man, began to drag him towards
'Quick, quick!' he cried. 'That scream was to
call its mate to its aid, and it will be here in
The man they had saved was unconscious; but
the two chums laid hold of him, and, picking
him up with comparative ease, carried him out
of the cage.
Hardly had the gate been closed behind them
when there was heard a repetition of the scream.
A second monster came rushing out of the gloom and
hurled itself against the bars with a force which
shook them as though they had been but wire.
Malto, badly mauled as he was, hastily fastened
the gate, and then, turning to the others, said
hurriedly, 'There is no time to lose! If you can
carry my friend, who has fainted, bear him this
way. The noise will bring people here, and we
shall be captured ourselves if they see us!'
Between them they bore the one they had
rescued across the floor to a small door upon the
side opposite that by which they had entered.
Malto unlocked it, and when they were well inside
closed it quickly.
There were here, amongst other things, a number
of queer-looking dresses hung on pegs, and Malto
took some down and urged the three friends to
dress themselves in them.
'Make haste, while I attend to my friend!' he
urged; and though Alondra strongly disliked the
idea of dressing himself up in a disguise, there was
that in their new friend's tone and manner which
somehow silenced his objections. The stranger,
meantime, had obtained a bowl of water from
somewhere near, and sprinkled it in the face of
the unconscious man. Then he drew from his
pocket a flask, which he held to the man's lips,
and a minute later the sufferer opened his eyes,
gave a gasp, and sat up.
Presently he seemed to recollect what had
happened, and, realising the need for action himself,
he struggled to his feet. He looked a grotesque
figure indeed, and the three who had helped to
save him, busy though they were, trying to fit on
their strange garments, could not help staring at
him in wonder. He was evidently 'got up' in
imitation of a great bat—that much seemed certain—but
the reason of such an extraordinary get-up
was for the time being a riddle to which they
could find no answer.
Whatever the original intention in wearing the
dress may have been, however, it was clear that
Malto saw no use in its continuance, for he
proceeded to assist the wearer to discard it and
attire himself in some of the garments which were
hanging on the pegs. Then he rolled up the whole
affair into a bundle, and concealed it in a corner
beneath a pile of skins.
They were now all garbed in a quaint kind of
costume, the chief points of which consisted of a
high hat and a loose cloak, which hid the clothes
they were still wearing underneath. It was one
of the dresses worn by the attendants of the
palace, so Malto briefly explained, while peering
out through a grating in the door to see what
was going on in the place they had just left.
As he had expected would be the case, the
noise of the revolver shots had brought some
people upon the scene. He could see a group
gathered near the cage, staring at the dead monster,
while others were moving about in search of a clue
to the mystery of how it had come by its death.
'They will be in here directly,' Malto said in
a low tone, after a brief inspection. 'We had
better be off!—Do you think you can walk,
'Ay, ay, and run too, if needs be,' returned
the rescued man briskly. 'I am all right now.
I owe you my life'——
'Never mind that now. This is no time for
talk,' Malto interrupted. 'Just take a last look
round, to make sure we have left nothing to tell
that we have been here, and follow me!'
He unlocked a door on one side, and they passed
out in silence into a passage, which was almost
in darkness. A little farther on there were several
flights of steps, and, having ascended these, they
came out, after some careful reconnoitring through
another door, into the open air in a spacious
Malto locked the door behind him, and, enjoining
caution upon his companions, led the way to a
large gateway which they could see in front of
'If any one addresses you, say nothing, but leave
it to me,' he said to Alondra and his friends.
'Your speech would betray you at once.'
As they drew near the gates they were pushed
open, and a number of men in the purple dresses
they had seen inside marched in, with soldierly
bearing and military precision.
One, who seemed to be an officer, stopped and
spoke to Malto; and again Alondra heard the
strange tongue which he had noted before.
Malto remained a short time in talk, while his
companions walked on with as good an imitation
of carelessness as they could summon up on the
spur of the moment.
When Malto came up with them he was smiling
quietly to himself.
'It's lucky they did not see us come out of
that door,' he said to Malandris, 'or they would
have asked awkward questions as to how I came
to have a key.'
'Ah, that is what has been puzzling me all this
time,' observed Malandris.
'That is my secret for the present,' returned
Malto. 'It is a little secret which would interest
Kazzaro even more than it does you, if he
happened to be aware that I had such a key.'
'What has been puzzling me,' said Alondra,
addressing Malandris, 'is how you came to be in
that cage, and in such an extraordinary dress—if
one can call it a dress. I suppose some one
must have placed you there. Who could have
been guilty of such an atrocious act?'
Malandris, who was a tall, elderly man, with
grizzled hair and a worn, haggard-looking face,
shook his head with a sigh, as he answered, 'That
you should wonder, young sir, only shows that you
must be a stranger hereabouts—one who knows not
the master we serve, or what he is capable of.'
'Hark! what is that?' exclaimed Malto suddenly.
'I 'm afraid they 've got upon our track! Do you
see that tower yonder?'
Before them lay a wide, grassy expanse, at the
end of which was a sort of ornamental pavilion
or small tower.
'That is the place we have to make for,' he
went on. 'If we can reach it, we shall be safe—at
all events, for a time—till assistance comes. If
necessary, we must run for it.'
As he spoke, the low murmur which he had
noted behind them grew into a clamorous shouting,
and a moment later a crowd of pursuers came
running through the gateway they had so recently
AT THE PAVILION.
'You said a little while ago that you could
run if needs were,' said Malto, addressing
Malandris. 'You must try now, at any
rate. I will help you.'
'I am quite recovered,' was the answer. 'We
must look after these young people.'
'Oh, that I had my wings! Why did I leave
them behind this morning!' exclaimed Alondra.
'You may as well throw off those disguises,' Malto
advised. 'They are of no use now, and will only
As yet their pursuers were a long way off, for
after the reconnoitre at the gateway the fugitives
had stepped out briskly, and had covered nearly
half the distance to the pavilion before the alarm
had been given.
They now set off at a run, after discarding
their disguises, and at first it seemed as though
there would be no difficulty in reaching the tower
well ahead of their pursuers. Indeed, the latter
seemed, at one time, to have almost given up the
chase; for only a few were to be seen coming
towards them; the rest had halted.
A few moments later, however, the cause of the
delay became clear. Suddenly a man rose in the
air on motor-wings and began to sail rapidly
towards them. He was armed with a trident.
Convinced that he would easily effect the capture
of the fugitives, who had, as could be seen, neither
shields nor tridents, the remainder of the crowd
followed quietly in the rear. They would be in
plenty of time, they reckoned, to pick up the
unconscious bodies when the man with the trident
had dealt with them.
Malto muttered something between his set teeth.
'I 'm afraid it is no use,' said Malandris
despondently, as he ran along beside the others. 'He
is bound to overtake us, and we are all unarmed.'
'Not quite,' Jack answered. 'If they think we
are, so much the better; it may give us a chance
to get on equal terms with that flying chap. His
trident is no good at more than twenty yards. We
have something here which reaches farther than that.'
He and Gerald had drawn their revolvers, and
were looking to the hammers as they raced onwards,
to make quite sure that they were in working order.
Everything would depend upon making good
practice with their first shots.
'You aim at one wing, Gerald,' said Jack; 'I
will aim at the fellow's arm which carries the
trident. Take it easy! Don't run too fast; it
will make your hand shake.'
They continued on their way for some distance
farther. The pavilion was now not far off; so also,
unfortunately, was the flying man with his trident.
Jack gave a sign to Gerald, and they both turned
and faced him. Alondra stopped too; and the
others, although they did not exactly understand
what was likely to happen, immediately halted,
because they would not leave the three to their fate.
As it happened, this was the best thing they
could have done. The flying man interpreted
their action as an abject surrender. He slackened
speed and came on carelessly.
Then two shots rang out. Jack's aim was true;
his bullet struck the man's right arm, and the
trident flew from the hand which had grasped it.
Gerald's first shot missed, but his second struck
one wing and smashed the light framework. The
wing drooped, and the flier fell heavily to the
[Illustration: The wing drooped, and the flier
fell heavily to the ground
(missing from source book)]
'Good! Good! Capital!' Malto and Malandris
cried out, in surprised wonder and delight at this
turn of affairs, for neither of them understood
anything about pistols.
'Now, run for it, my friends! We shall get
there first yet!' Jack called out.
'Let me have his trident, though,' said Alondra,
as he picked up the fallen man's weapon. 'This
may come in useful, you know.'
There was a great outcry behind them as the
pursuers witnessed the discomfiture of the aeronaut.
The crowd at once took up the chase in a manner
which showed how confidently they had been
counting upon his ability to capture the fugitives
without their aid.
As has been stated, the men in the dark-purple
dresses were big, fine men, all of them. There was
that in their aspect, too, which betokened a fierce
nature, used to warfare.
They quickly made it evident that they were
good runners, and they started off now in earnest
and came on swiftly. But they had lost whatever
chance they might at first have had of overtaking
those they were chasing, by trusting too confidently
to the man with the wings.
By the time they reached the base of the tower
the fugitives had already dashed up the steps
leading to the entrance, had opened and passed
through some barred gates, fastened them behind
them, and gained the shelter of the doorway.
A minute or two afterwards they appeared upon
a balcony, of which there were several running
round the tower on the outside, one above the
other, and complacently smiled down upon their
'Well, we 've beaten 'em so far,' exclaimed Malto.
'I had almost given up hope. We should have
been done for if it hadn't been for those noisy
playthings of yours, young gentlemen. May I ask
what they are, and where they come from? I have
never met with that kind of weapon before.'
'They come from a far country, so far that your
head would scarcely carry the tale of the figures
if I were to attempt to give them to you,' Alondra
declared laughingly. 'Now, what is to be done
next? Our foes will be sending an airship against
us, I suppose; and if assistance doesn't reach us
pretty soon I am afraid they will have the best
of it, after all.'
'No, I don't think there is any fear of that.
They won't send an airship against us,' said Malto.
Malandris shook his head too. 'Not during the
day,' he assented. 'They might when it gets dark,
if we are still here.'
'Why not?' asked Jack, in surprise.
'It would attract attention. You see, our master
has visitors. Prince Alondra, the son of King
Ivanta, is staying here; and he, or some of his
people, might be cruising about in his air-yacht
or in some of the airships which came with him.
If they caught sight of an airship engaged in
fighting operations down here their curiosity might
be aroused, and they might come and ask
At this Gerald and Jack glanced at one another
and then at Alondra, and nearly burst out laughing;
but the latter made a sign, and they turned away
and said nothing. The young prince wished to
keep his identity a secret a little longer, in order
that he might have an opportunity of quietly
probing farther into the meaning of the
extraordinary events of that eventful morning.
'What, then, do you suppose they will do?'
Alondra went on.
'Oh, very likely nothing at all! Just loaf about
to make sure that we don't get away during the
day. They know they can't break into this pavilion;
it has been strongly built on purpose. Then at
night they will make sure of us. Our best hope
is that we may see some passing airship and
attract the attention of the people in her, and
that they may come and take us off.'
'That doesn't sound very hopeful. It might be
one of Agrando's airships,' Jack pointed out.
'On the other hand, it might be one belonging
to his visitors,' said Malto. 'Then, I imagine, we
should be all right. I suppose you belong to their
party, don't you? I have been thinking it over,
and can't guess who else you can be. You said
you could take me to King Ivanta, and I don't see
how you could make such a promise unless you
belonged to the prince's party.'
He looked searchingly at Alondra as he spoke,
and there was in his tone and look a suggestion
of reproach at their keeping him in the dark.
'You are quite right, my friend,' Alondra now
said gravely. 'We do belong to the party of
visitors you speak of. I expect they are already
wondering where we have got to, and will be coming
out to look for us before long. So I hope our
troubles are over, or soon will be. And now,
as we have time for a little talk, I want to hear
your stories—you two. Explain to me the meaning
of all that has happened.'
But Malto shook his head.
'I wish to tell it all to King Ivanta, and to no
one else,' he declared. 'You have promised to take
me to him, and I shall ask you to keep your
promise, and to refrain from questioning me
meantime. Cannot you understand that the king might
not be pleased if he found I had been talking
freely of things which he may wish had been kept
for his ear alone?'
Alondra was silent. He felt that Malto was
right, and could not but respect him for his
caution. At the same time, he was burning to
have some explanation of their adventures.
'But you said you wished for our testimony
to back up yours,' he reminded him. 'How can
we help in that way if you do not enlighten us
as to what it is we are to testify about?'
It was now Malto's turn to ponder, and he
remained for a space gazing out thoughtfully over
the expanse of ground which lay upon the other
side of the pavilion.
The three followed his glance, and noted that
the building formed part of the boundary wall of
an extensive enclosure, which just here consisted of
an extremely high and massive-looking stone fence,
adorned at the top with formidable metal spikes.
Farther round, to right and to left, the boundary
wall consisted of precipitous rocks, which shut the
place in, and made it a kind of a park.
Alondra noted this, and, breaking off from the
subject of his last question, asked why they could
not descend from the pavilion into this enclosure.
It seemed to him that it would be a difficult
matter for their enemies to scale the wall in
order to follow them.
Just as he had spoken there rose on the air
a strange, weird, booming sound. It was a sort
of bellowing roar, but far louder and more startling
than the bellow of a bull or the roar of the largest
lion ever seen or heard of. The sound seemed
to come from a distance; yet it was so loud that
it almost made the tower itself tremble. That it
was produced by some member of the animal
kingdom seemed pretty certain. But what horrible
monster could it be which could make such a
sound? There was something almost supernatural
in its awful depth and power; something appalling
in the menacing tones of the hoarse, ferocious growl
into which it changed as it gradually died away.
'What in the name of all that is horrible is
that?' cried the startled young prince.
'It is the answer to your question,' returned
Malto quietly. 'That is to say, it partly answers
both your questions. I may go so far as to explain
that my original object in coming here, before we
were found out and pursued, was that you might
perhaps hear that terrible roar, and possibly catch
sight of the creature which gave utterance to it.
But it is not at present in sight, and I imagine
that, after what you heard, you will scarcely care
to get out on the other side of the pavilion and
go to look for it?'
'I—I think not,' said Alondra. 'I will take
your word for it that we are probably safer even
here than we should be down there.'
'You are,' answered Malto drily. 'It is a creature
upon which neither your trident nor the strange
weapons of your young friends would make more
impression than upon yonder rocks! Now you
will be able, if we ever come before King Ivanta,
to confirm one part of what I wish him to know.
King Agrando has a name as a collector of all
kinds of curiosities and monstrosities. King Ivanta
has himself helped him to make his collection the
most comprehensive that has ever been seen'——
'Yes, yes, I know all that,' Alondra put in
'Ay, but what you do not know is this—that
Agrando's object in gathering these out-of-the-way
things about him is not altogether a mere
harmless love of the curious. He is a monster of
'A perfect fiend!' Malandris interjected.
'His craze—for such it is—is a sort of madness,'
Malto continued. 'It is to set men to fight for
their lives with the most terrible creatures he can
find to pit against them. That is the amusement
he and that demon Kazzaro delight in! That is
why they have constructed all these secret places,
which none know of save themselves and their
myrmidons. Little does the noble-minded Ivanta
dream of the proceedings of these two, or of the
way in which he has himself contributed to them.
If he but knew'——
'Eh, what? How dare—I mean, how can King
Ivanta have contributed to such horrible cruelties
as you are hinting at?' demanded Alondra hotly.
'I don't wonder that you are moved to indignation,
young sir. But I am not blaming King
Ivanta. He has been deceived. For instance, he,
it is said, paid a visit to another planet, and brought
back with him many strange and horrible monsters
never seen or heard of on our globe. Is it not so?'
'Many of them were the young of fearful
creatures. But, young or old, he presented Agrando
with specimens for his collection.'
'Very likely. What then? I see no harm
'No. For King Ivanta little guessed the use
which the tyrant's ingenious brain would put them
to. Agrando gave out that most of them died in
captivity, that the climate here did not suit them,
and so on. Was it not so?'
'Very likely. I have heard something of the
sort. What then?'
'It is untrue that they died—at least, as regards
most of them. The greater part—some of the
most ferocious, terrible creatures amongst
them—he nursed with perverted tenderness and care.
He has reared them and brought them to maturity.
Now his sole use for them is to pit them against
any one who happens to incur his anger; which
means, of course, simply dooming the hapless wretch
to a cruel and terrible death. You have just heard
the voice of one; you saw others—monster bats
which they call krudias—in the cage below; you
have also seen one of the intended victims, and
helped me to rescue him at the last moment.'
'Ay, he sent me there—sentenced me to that
awful fate merely in a fit of passing temper,'
Malandris declared. 'My crime was only that I
had mistaken an order he gave me!'
'Horrible! Incredible!' cried Alondra, his eyes
flashing with indignation and disgust.
'You may well say incredible,' muttered Malto.
'That is why I wished you to see some of the
creatures for yourselves, you three, so that King
Ivanta might have your testimony to confirm
mine. Otherwise, he might think my statements,
as you say, incredible. Little did I imagine then,
however, that you would witness such a convincing
proof or that I should find my friend Malandris
in that cage!'
'And why were you dressed up in that grotesque
fashion?' Alondra asked of Malandris.
'Oh, that is one of Kazzaro's little jokes! It is
a whim of his sometimes to dress his victims up
like the creatures they are doomed to fight against.'
'But he wasn't there to look on to-day,' Jack
'I suppose he happened to be particularly busy
over something else, or he would have been,' said
Malandris grimly. He shuddered, and looked around
half-apprehensively. 'Now you can understand how
much depends upon our being able to escape from
here, and what it will mean if we fall again into
Gerald and Jack stared at one another, almost
stupefied with horror.
'Did ever two such miscreants exist before, I
wonder?' said Jack. 'How right, Gerald, you
were when you called Kazzaro the Ogre!'
'I am in for it, too, now, of course,' Malto added.
'They know by this time what I have done; and
I shall find no mercy there if I am dragged back
into their clutches.'
'But you sha'n't be!' cried Alondra, impulsively.
'I will not allow it! And King Agrando, strong
as he may deem himself upon his own ground,
dares not attempt to take you against my will.'
Malto and Malandris looked at him in astonishment
at this unexpected outburst.
'Your feelings do you credit, young sir,' said
the elder man; 'but I fear your brave words
will not avail us much.' He smiled slightly and
'But who are you, then, to talk like that?'
exclaimed Malto incredulously.
'This is King Ivanta's son, Prince Alondra!'
AGRANDO THROWS OFF THE MASK.
King Agrando sat in his own particular
sanctum, watching, with absorbed attention,
the proceedings of the Diamond King, who
was engaged in fitting together, by way of trial,
the several parts of a new crown.
Upon the table before him were spread out
several heaps of lustrous, sparkling loose stones,
some of which must have been among the finest
of their kind in existence.
Agrando had made up his mind that this new
crown was to be the most magnificent that ever
adorned the head of mortal potentate. Had he
not here at hand to advise him the greatest living
authority upon such subjects—Zuanstroom to
wit—who claimed that he had seen, handled, examined,
and photographed the most splendid crowns which
graced the various royal heads upon our planet?
Zuanstroom picked up the gems one by one, and
placed them tentatively in the golden framework,
stepping back from time to time to observe the
effect, as does an artist with his picture. Then, if
the result did not commend itself to his sense of
the fitness of things, he would take some of them
out, and replace them with others of a different
size or colour.
Agrando looked on, a curious variety of expressions
flitting across his face. He could not but
admire the beauty of the work of art which was
slowly growing under his eyes. Yet he grudged
the worker the delight of handling the bewitching
To these two there entered Kazzaro. It was
easy to see that he was put out about something
or other, and that he was in a very bad humour
even for him, which is saying a good deal. It
should rather be said, perhaps, that it would have
been easy to perceive this if any one had looked
at him; as a matter of exact fact, no one did.
Agrando's gaze was fixed upon the table as though
he feared that if he removed it for a single
instant some one would snatch at an odd stone
and hide it away. He knew his henchman's voice,
and had no need to make use of his sight to
inform him who it was who had intruded upon
'All gone wrong—miscarried!' he heard Kazzaro
grumble. 'That young upstart Alondra has escaped
my snare after all!'
'So,' said Agrando, without taking his glance off
the table, 'you 've managed to blunder again, then?'
'Blunder, indeed!' growled the Ogre. 'I thought
he was safe. I as good as watched him drown!
I saw him in the deadly coils which no one has
ever escaped before, up to his very neck in water.
Then I came away in haste, for fear some one
might enter and find me there. Some one did
enter—must have done, I imagine—and just in
time to rescue him, after all!'
The king muttered something between his teeth.
Just then an officer came in and said something
to Kazzaro in a low tone. The latter started,
turned visibly pale, and then, without a word,
left the apartment with him.
He was gone about a quarter of an hour, and
when he returned he was almost choking with rage.
'It's all up!' he cried, throwing his hands into
the air. 'There is treachery—treason—at work!
Some strangers have made their way below and
rescued Malandris from the cage. He is missing,
and so is Malto; and there are signs that some
of your visitors from the evening star have been
there, for they have killed one of the krudias
with their fire-weapons. Did I not warn you
against ever allowing these people to come here
prying about? This is what has come of it!'
Agrando at last was roused, and he turned his
eyes from his beloved jewels. But when his gaze
fell upon Kazzaro there was in it a menace which
made even that hardened miscreant tremble.
'Miserable wretch!' thundered his master. 'You
dare to say this to me as an excuse for your own
clumsy blundering and lack of vigilance! By
What awful threat he was about to utter,
however, cannot be told, for he was interrupted by
the unceremonious entry of Zuanstroom's son Silas.
'Father, father!' he exclaimed, failing, in his
excitement, to notice the black looks cast at him
by Agrando. 'Gerald and Jack have been shooting
some of King Agrando's soldiers, who have got
them shut up in the pavilion tower! Alondra is
with them, and two of King Agrando's officers. I
know their names—they are Malto and Malandris!
I saw them shoot down a man sent to bring them
back when they were running away.' Out of
breath, first with running and then with this
speech, poured forth in a violent hurry, Silas
subsided, panting, into a chair.
'They are in the pavilion—that tower by the
side of the place where "the great beast," as you
call it, lives?' asked Agrando with deadly calmness.
'Yes, sir. They are defying all your people there,
hoping, I expect, to be taken off by Alondra's
Agrando and Kazzaro looked at each other, the
latter mutely asking for orders.
'We must have them out of that tower,' said
Agrando, in a hard, resolute tone, 'before they can
be taken off! Do you hear? We must have
them at any cost. Send out war-vessels! Knock
the tower down with the traitors in it! Crush
them at any cost!'
'But how if Alondra's yacht reaches him first?'
'Fight them! I 'm sick of this dissembling!
Everything is prepared! We will throw off the
mask, and show Ivanta that we have some teeth
beneath it to bite with!'
THE WIRELESS MESSAGE.
While Agrando was issuing the orders
which would precipitate his long-thought-of
revolt against his overlord King
Ivanta, Alondra and his four companions were
waiting, with what patience they could command,
for the hoped-for arrival of their friends.
For a while there was a pause in the hostilities.
Either their foes recognised that it was not possible
to attack them successfully with the means then
at their disposal, or they deemed it impolitic to
do so. After taking counsel together, they appeared
resolved to content themselves for the time with
laying siege to the pavilion.
The only incident worthy of note during this
interval was that a wind sprang up, bringing
with it heavy clouds. Rumblings were heard more
than once as of distant thunder, and there were
other indications of a coming storm.
Jack's abrupt announcement of Alondra's identity
had naturally produced a great effect upon the two
officers of Agrando with whom they had become
so strangely associated. So surprising had the
statement seemed that Malto had at first been
inclined to be incredulous. He half-suspected that
the statement might be a bit of rather ill-timed
levity on the part of the one who had made it.
But a little reflection altered this view.
'I have been foolish—blind—not to have guessed
it before!' he exclaimed. 'Prince, I have to ask
your pardon for several things I said which may
perhaps have displeased you, especially when I refused
point-blank to answer some of your questions.'
'Nay, I think you were right in the circumstances,'
said Alondra. 'It proves that one can
rely upon you to be close and discreet when you
deem it necessary.'
Malandris also had apologies to make; but Jack
and Gerald both noticed that his demeanour was
different from that of Malto. The former spoke
and behaved just in the way that any one might
be expected to do who is confused at finding he
has been all unknowingly talking rather freely in
the presence of a superior. Malto, on the other
hand, appeared in no wise embarrassed. He made
his apologies with perfect self-possession, and
carried himself as though he were in the habit
of associating with distinguished personages every
day of his life.
Alondra noticed this too, and at first was a
little inclined to resent it; but Malto's manner
was so entirely unconscious and free from offence
that, with his usual good nature, the young prince
quickly thrust the idea aside. 'Well, now,' he
said, when he had listened to their apologies and
given kindly and suitable replies, 'we are wasting
time. As my people don't seem to be coming to
look for me of their own accord, I must summon them.'
His companions stared at him with puzzled looks.
'I don't see how you are going to do that!'
'I will let you into a little secret, then. My
royal father lent me, just before we came away,
one of his pocket telegraph-boxes; and he lent
Monck Affelda another, so that we might be able
to communicate with one another if we were
separated. Perhaps he did not trust King Agrando
quite so much as he appeared to do. Anyway,
he lent us these. He usually keeps them for the
exclusive use of himself and his most confidential
officers, and very few people even know of their
existence. He invented and designed them himself,
and the working parts were made by workmen
he could trust, who were sworn to secrecy.'
The term 'Affelda,' applied to Monck, it may
be here explained, was a term of courtesy and
respect in use among the Martians. It signified
rather more than our 'Mr' and something less
As Alondra spoke he drew from a side-pocket
a small affair which looked at first sight like a
gold chronometer attached to a gold chain. Just
then there came another rumbling warning of the
'Come inside. We shall be quieter there,' he said.
They left the outside gallery, or balcony, and
went into an inner chamber, where were seats and
a plain wood table. Upon the latter he placed
the little 'watch.'
'The wood acts as a sounding-board, and we
shall hear better,' he explained.
He touched a spring and a lid flew open. Then
he touched other springs, and at once there was
heard the sound of little bells or gongs not unlike
those of a repeater watch. He repeated this performance
several times, waiting a little while between, as
though expecting some reply which did not come.
The others stood around, looking on with perplexed
curiosity and wondering what it was all about.
'It seems to me it is a repeater watch,' said
Jack presently. 'The gongs are beautiful and
silvery in tone; but how in the world they are
'Hush!' exclaimed Alondra, with a warning
gesture. He had placed the instrument on the
table and left it to itself; and now, lo! the little
gongs were ringing away on their own account.
Alondra bent over it and listened intently, holding
up his hand the while to enjoin strict silence on
his companions. Then, when the sounds ceased, he
manipulated the gongs himself in turn; immediately
he left them alone they again rung out by themselves.
It appeared to the onlookers as though a sort
of conversation were being carried on in some
mysterious fashion between Alondra and the curious
Then a thought flashed into Jack's mind. 'Wireless
telegraphy—or I 'm a Dutchman!' he breathed.
Still the curious performance went on, and the
longer it continued the graver grew Alondra's face.
His brow clouded over, and at last, when there came
a pause, and he drew himself up, it could be seen
that his face was flushed and his eyes flashing.
'Treason!' he cried. 'Foul treachery is at work!
Agrando has made an attempt to seize my whole
party! Some of them he has indeed already basely
captured; and he has now actually attacked some
of our airships. Monck is in difficulties himself,
he tells me; but he hopes to be able to send my
yacht to our aid soon, now that I have told him
where we are. Whether he can do more than
that, he says, he really does not yet know.'
There were exclamations of amazement at these
sinister tidings, and the friends stared at one
another in bewildered perplexity.
'I can scarcely, even now, believe it!' cried
'You are sure there is no mistake? Or may
it be that some one is playing a joke upon you?'
suggested Gerald rather vaguely.
'No one would dare to attempt such a thing!'
Alondra asserted haughtily.
'But—it sounds impossible,' said Jack helplessly.
'It wouldn't if you knew our master as well
as we do,' Malandris put in. 'I have had an idea
for some time past that something of the kind
'If it be as you say, Prince, our position is
critical indeed,' Malto declared. 'Agrando will not
hesitate now to send one of his airships against
us—the very thing I thought we were safe from
so long as daylight lasted. I am afraid we must
make up our minds to the inevitable—we shall all
be his prisoners before another hour is over. And
what that means you can now guess; although
what we have already told you is but a small
portion of the actual truth.'
'My father will rescue us; and they dare not
harm us meantime!' cried Alondra proudly.
'Agrando knows too well the terrible vengeance
that would be exacted.'
Malto shook his head.
'Do not count too much upon that, Prince,' he
said. 'It was partly the fear that some such plot
was brewing which made me wish to see King
Ivanta in order that I might warn him. I had
hoped that in return he would be willing to assist
me in another matter on which my heart is set—to
right a great wrong. But I fear it is useless
to dream of it now.' And he sighed.
'But is there no other way of escape open
to us?' Jack asked. 'Surely, if it be that our
friends cannot come to our aid, we should do
better to try some other plan rather than stay
on here to be tamely captured whenever it pleases
Agrando to send an airship to take us prisoners!'
'Yes, it might be better even to risk a run
across the enclosure where your monster lives,'
Gerald put in. 'It is only a choice of monsters—that
'Very likely both—Agrando will give us to him
later on,' said Malandris grimly.
'Well, then, what is this place that we are in?'
Jack went on. 'Is it empty? Is there nothing
in the place that might be useful to help us to
'This pavilion is a sort of grand stand—a place
of vantage from which the privileged spectators
obtain a good view—and a safe one—of what takes
place in the enclosure when there is anything
exciting going on,' Malandris explained. 'It is not used
for any other purpose, and is empty'——
'Wait a moment!' Malto interrupted, with a
sudden light in his eyes. 'I am not so sure that
it is quite empty. Is there not a store-place below,
where they keep'——
'You are right, Malto,' the other answered in
some excitement. 'I had forgotten it. There may
be some arms and things there which would be
useful indeed if we have to try to hold out for a
time till assistance can reach us. But I am afraid
the place is locked up'——
'Perhaps my key will fit; if not, we must break
Just then there came a great gust of wind and
another and louder growl of thunder; and a little
later there was heard an outburst of shouting
outside. Malto ran out on to the balcony to see
what it meant.
There was a good deal of excitement amongst
their enemies below. People were talking one to
another, and some were pointing up at the pavilion,
while a few were huddled together in a knot.
In the middle of these last were seen two men
who were doing something with some wings,
seemingly preparatory to taking a flight in the air.
'They have thrown off all thought of concealment,'
said Malto, coming inside again. 'You can
see that. So what you told us, Prince, must be
only too true! They are going to send a couple
of fliers up to attempt our capture.'
'But in that case, why does not Agrando send
an airship and settle the matter at once?' Gerald
'I expect just now all his airships are busy
fighting my friends,' said Alondra. 'They will
attend to us presently, I suppose, if the people
here don't succeed.'
'Well, we will make a fight of it, anyway!'
cried Malto sturdily. 'I believe we may find the
means down below, if you can keep them at bay
for a little time while we search'——
'We can manage that, I think,' Jack answered
him. 'Do you go below and see what you can
find to help us.'
Again there came a blustering gust of the
fast-rising wind. Then there was a blinding flash,
followed by a deafening crash of thunder which
shook the whole building to its foundations.
A DESPERATE VENTURE.
Malto and Malandris disappeared down a
stairway; and Alondra and the two chums
strolled on to the outside gallery to watch
The wind was now very high, and the darkening
sky grew blacker every minute. The swirling gusts
whistled and shrieked amongst the outer metal
framework, and moaned dismally through the
windows and doors.
On each floor of the pavilion there was one of
these galleries which ran the whole way round
on the outside, being partitioned off from the
interior by glass windows only. Hence there was
almost as good a view from the inside as from
without; except that one could not look over and
see what was going on immediately beneath.
'The storm seems likely to be a bit of luck
for us,' Jack observed, as he watched the
preparations which were going on below. 'They don't
seem to find it to their liking.'
So boisterous had the weather become that they
found wings almost unmanageable. The two men
were trying their best to manipulate some contrivances
of the kind, but with scant success. Every
time an attempt was made at a start, a blast
would come along, swishing and buffeting the
outspread wings, and dashing one or other of them
to the ground ere the aeronaut could rise high
enough to use them properly.
'Why, it doesn't seem much use to think of
attacking us in that way in such a wind!'
exclaimed Gerald. 'If they even succeed in making
a start, they will only run a risk of being either
dashed against the building or carried past it out
of sight. And they couldn't hope to fly back in
face of this wind, could they?'
'No, you are quite right,' Alondra returned. 'I
must say those two fellows must be either unusually
clever or uncommonly foolish, to think they can
attack us under such circumstances. Nevertheless,
we must be on our guard. One of them might,
by some chance, get blown against the framework
here, and cling to it. Then, with his trident, he
would make short work of us if he caught us
'And if we were idle meantime,' put in Jack,
between his teeth. 'There, look at that!'
One of the daring aeronauts had taken advantage,
as he thought, of a slight lull, and had sprung
up into the air. But a sudden gust caught one
of the wings and dashed it violently to the ground
again, causing him to fall heavily.
'If that's all they can do, we haven't much to
fear from them!' cried Gerald, rubbing his hands.
But his rejoicing came too soon, for even as
he spoke there came another lull; and the other
aeronaut rose into the air and came straight
Alondra laid a hand upon both of his companions
and dragged them promptly back through the door,
and closed it. Jack, who had been about to fire
at the assailant, looked not a little surprised.
'Another moment—before you could use your
weapon—he would have had the three of us!'
exclaimed the young prince. 'We had better watch
him from behind the glass, where we are safe,
and wait to see what happens next.'
The two chums could but recognise the wisdom
of this advice. They had not at first realised that
the man had risen high enough to bring them
within range. They had been in imminent danger,
therefore—supposing their foe had been able to
use his trident—of being assailed and rendered
helpless before their bullets could take effect.
Inside the glass they were safe, for the fateful
flash could not penetrate it.
The attacker seemed to be coming on gaily,
or, at least, without any great trouble, when
another blast caught him and spun him round like
a great top. Then, ere he could reach the gallery,
it carried him downwards with a sudden swoop,
and left him helpless, but unhurt, at the foot of
He picked himself up, and a crowd of his friends
seized upon him and half-carried, half-dragged him
back to a distance which they considered necessary
for another attempt.
'We had a narrow escape,' Alondra declared.
'He is a plucky fellow; and he was as cool and
unflustered just then as if there had been no
roaring wind playing around. I saw it in his eye.
It was lucky I did see it, and rushed you two
into shelter in time.'
'We have to thank you for being so prompt,
then,' Jack answered. 'We must be more careful
next time. He 'll have another try, I suppose?'
'I don't know. I almost doubt if he will risk
it, plucky as he evidently is. You can hear how
the wind is increasing.'
He opened the door a little way as he spoke,
and such a gust came in as almost forced it out
of his hand.
'It's a regular tempest!' cried Gerald. 'The
building itself seems to rock about with it and
almost feels as if it might blow over.'
'Yes, it will certainly stop any further attempts
of that kind,' Alondra decided. 'No man who is
not a fool or a madman would trust himself on
wings in such a storm. His life would not be
worth a minute's purchase. He would be likely
to be blown against the first thing that came in
his way, and have his brains dashed out. No
airship, even—unless it were the great Ivenia—could
make headway against such a wind.'
'What you say is true enough, Prince; yet I am
afraid we shall have to show ourselves mad enough
to risk it,' said Malto, who had re-entered the
apartment unperceived. 'If the chance were offered you
of trying to escape on wings, now, at this moment,
or waiting to be pounced upon by Agrando's people
later on, which would you choose?'
'What is the use of asking such a question?'
Alondra queried in return, somewhat impatiently.
'Surely we have something more urgent to think
of just now than'——
'Not at all,' answered Malto coolly. 'It happens
to be the most urgent question of the moment.
To cut the matter short, Prince, we have met with
a great find. We have discovered, besides the
tridents and things I had hoped for, several
complete flying-outfits. They are motor-wings, and
if you have the courage to try your luck with
them in this storm, there is no reason why we
should not bid Agrando's people a cheery "Good-bye,"
and flit off before his airships come buzzing
about our ears in real earnest.'
The friends stared at one another in blank
astonishment. Here was an unexpected turn indeed!
Truly, it was a most momentous decision which
they were called upon to make—to do that which
Alondra but a minute before had pronounced none
but a fool or madman would dare to risk, or stay
and take their chance of being rescued.
'Honestly, it seems to me our only plan,' Malto
declared. 'Malandris and I have been discussing
it downstairs, and we came to the conclusion that
your friends would have been here before this if
they were coming at all. I am sorry to say I
fear they must have got the worst of it; and
Agrando is only waiting till the wind drops to
come and seize us. He thinks he is sure of us;
and need not, therefore, risk one of his airships in
such a storm.'
'I fear you must be right, my friend,' said
Alondra sadly. 'In that case, your plan, wild as
it would otherwise be, is the only one open to us.
For my part, I will risk it.'
'And I!' exclaimed Gerald and Jack together.
'Then the sooner we act upon that decision the
better,' said Malto. 'At any moment the wind may
drop, and our chance will have gone. Everything
is ready. From the top outside gallery we can get
a better send-off than those chaps down there had.
We can slip out upon the farther side, and be
off and away before they have time to understand
what's afoot. Then we must trust to the very
force of the wind to carry us well beyond their
reach. There is one suggestion I have to make.
It is that we shall be all five roped together with
double ropes, so that we shall keep together; in
that way, if one is in trouble, the others may
be able to help him. Otherwise, we shall probably
be blown about like flies, and lose touch with one
another in the first ten minutes.'
No time was lost in further discussion. They
all set to work with a will, dragging the necessary
equipage up to the top floor. There they speedily
completed their arrangements, went out on to the
outside gallery, and, after some preliminary
manoeuvring, Malto gave the signal.
Being on the lee side, sheltered for the moment
from the gale, they managed to make a fairly
good start. They threw themselves fearlessly from
the gallery, and a great shout of rage and astonishment
which came to their ears from below told
them that their foes had just caught sight of them.
A moment more and the howling tempest had
caught them and was whirling them madly forward.
Upwards they sailed with poised wings, like
immense birds, while their bewildered enemies
below gazed after them with staring eyes and
There was another flash of lightning, followed
on the instant by a crash that seemed to shake
the very rocks around; and then there were cries
and shrieks from the crowd as stones and pieces
of metal-work came flying through the air.
The lightning had struck the pavilion and
SAILING ON THE STORM-WIND.
The five adventurous fliers were borne along
by the wind in a fashion which can be
better imagined than described.
To Gerald and Jack, at least, it was an absolutely
novel experience, whatever it may have been to
the others. Every time they glanced down it almost
made them giddy to see the rate at which the
various features of the landscape were racing, as
it were, past them.
Of the wrecking of the pavilion by lightning
they knew nothing. They had been dazzled by
the awful flash, and almost deafened by the terrible
crash which followed; but they were then already
two or three hundred yards from the scene. A
minute or two later, and they were a mile or
more away; and the place itself would have been
out of sight even if they could have looked
But they had no time to look round. They
scarcely seemed to have time to look ahead. No
sooner did they catch sight of something—a large
building, a group of trees, or what not—in the
distance, than, lo! it seemed to make a mad rush
towards them. One moment it was half a mile
away; the next it had vanished behind them.
But it was very difficult to distinguish any
The whole landscape beneath them was one vast
blur. Cities, villages, trees, fields, woods, streams,
lakes, hills, valleys—all seemed to be merged into
a vague mass, and there was no time to single out
details before they had slipped past.
Curiously enough—and contrary to all expectations
of the two visitors from Earth—their
progress, wild and mad as it seemed when they
looked down, was serene, easy, almost quiet, when
they looked up. So long as they made no effort
to stop or turn they scarcely felt any wind at all;
and so long as they could keep clear of possible
obstacles in their course by sailing over them
there appeared to be no immediate danger. Below
them all was a wild, mad race amid a continuous,
low, booming roar; above, everything looked quiet,
almost stationary, for the black clouds travelled
noiselessly and kept exact pace with them.
Whether they would be able to continue to
travel thus so long as the storm should last was
another matter—as also was the question of where
they were being carried. They had no control
over their course, no idea of what their ultimate
destination was likely to be, no possible means of
arresting their wild career. To have ventured on
a lower course, nearer the ground, in the hope of
stopping, would have meant certain death.
Nor could they so much as speak to one
another. They were all roped together, it is true,
and this proved a very wise precaution, for
without it they would undoubtedly have quickly
become separated and hopelessly lost to one
another. Malto had left plenty of rope between
each, and this was now extended to its utmost,
leaving too great an interval to permit even of
shouting. They all looked to Malto—who was in
the centre—for guidance; and he conveyed his
directions and advice by signs.
Of other fliers, or of airships of any kind, they
saw none. It was the custom to send warnings
ahead in such case, and for all air-craft to seek
shelter until the storm had passed.
The wings they had found and appropriated
were a sort of combination—that is to say, they
were supplied with electric motors, but could also
be used as ordinary wings when the supply of
electricity stored in the batteries ran out, just as
one can work a motor-cycle with one's feet. At
present the travellers were husbanding their power
carefully, using only just enough to keep them
at what seemed to be a safe height.
It had been Malto's hope, when they had
started, that the storm would not continue in such
fury for any length of time. But this expectation
proved to be delusive. Hour after hour passed,
and still they were carried along at a pace which
would have rendered any attempt at stopping sheer
madness. Cities and towns had long disappeared;
villages, even, now seemed to be no more. The
ground became hilly, and less and less cultivated
till they came upon a region which was little more
than a rocky desert. Here the hills were growing
into mountains; and some of these towered up to
such a height that possible collision with their
rocky peaks became a very ugly possibility.
Malto grew alarmed, and signalled to his
companions to ascend yet higher. Upwards they
mounted accordingly, and passed into the midst
of the swirling clouds. Here they were in a
thick mist, but presently, to Malto's relief, they
struck into an upper current free from cloud, and
there they entered a region of perfect calm.
They could now even talk, and look round, and
take rest of a sort. The sun was shining, and
everything was bright and cheerful. Beneath their
feet they could see nothing save great masses of
sombre, heavy-looking clouds scurrying furiously
'Whew!' Jack uttered a long whistle of relief.
'This is a change indeed! I began to wonder
where on Earth—h'm, I mean where on Mars—we
were rushing to! Where do you suppose we 've
got to? I mean, supposing we dropped straight
down, what part of your world should we be in?' He
asked the question in a general sort of way,
and Malto answered him as vaguely, by admitting
frankly that he had not the least idea.
'I confess I 've lost count of all landmarks,' he
declared. 'I am very much afraid we are now
near what is known as the Great Desert. It is a
more or less waterless tract which is uninhabited,
save by some roaming tribes of wanderers who do
not bear the best of characters.'
'Ha! You have deserts, then, as we have?' said
Malto looked at him in surprise.
'Why, of course; I thought everybody knew
that! Fully one-third of our globe is waterless
desert, and, what is worse, the tract is gradually
extending. Our scientific men prophesy that the
proportion will grow larger and larger until the
whole planet becomes a dried-up waste. That is
the cheerful sort of doom they predict for future
'Curious, isn't it?' murmured Jack, glancing at
Gerald. 'That is exactly what our earthly scientists
have prophesied as likely to happen to Mars in the
'And to our own planet also, some day, I
suppose,' Gerald rejoined. 'Only, here, I suppose,
the process has gone farther than it has with us.'
'Well, desert or no desert, it will be better than
Agrando's dungeons,' said Jack. 'We shall have
to go down into it, I suppose, when the storm
subsides? We can't stop up here indefinitely.
What are we to do meanwhile? Can't we try to
work back in this upper current?'
Malto shook his head.
'It would probably be of very little use, and
would certainly be unwise,' he counselled. 'We
have come hundreds of miles—much farther than
our whole store of electric force would carry us.
If we expend it all in trying to work back we
shall be in bad case if, when we come to the end
of our store, we still find ourselves where we do
not want to be. Now, to support ourselves up
here quietly will take but very little of our
reserve force, and we shall have a good stock left
for emergencies. That is my advice; in fact, that
is practically all we can do. We must wait here
till the storm below has blown itself out. Then
we will go down and try to find out what country
we have got into.'
'I think you are right,' Alondra agreed.
'It is already well on in the afternoon—judging
by the sun—and we have had nothing to eat.
I 'm getting hungry!' Jack grumbled. 'Don't you
have aerial inns up in the clouds here, where
storm-tossed travellers can get a meal?'
Needless to say, they were all hungry, but there
was nothing to be done but wait. So, to pass the
time, they began to compare notes, and Alondra
related his adventure of the early morning in the
pool in the glass-house. Malto and Malandris
nodded their heads significantly as they listened.
'Ah, there are strange tales afloat about that
glass-house and the deadly plant it shelters,' the
elder man declared. 'I have never seen it myself,
but I have heard quite enough concerning it.'
The talk went on, and an hour or two slipped
by; and then, just as the sun drew near the
horizon, Malto, looking down, suddenly ventured
an opinion that the wind below had subsided.
To test the point, they swept downwards, passed
through several strata of dense cloud, and found,
sure enough, that the guess had been correct.
Below the cloud all was now almost as calm as
above. There was scarcely breeze enough to carry
They finally descended, just before sunset, in a
gloomy, forbidding valley of rocks, where there
were no signs of Martian inhabitants to be seen
in any direction. They found, however, a small
stream—a fact which surprised Malto—and this
enabled them to quench their thirst. But how to
obtain the wherewithal to satisfy their hunger was
another and more hopeless matter.
ATTACKED IN THE DARK.
Presently Malto uttered an exclamation of
surprise. He walked a short distance up
the little watercourse and examined carefully
some bushes growing on its banks. They
seemed to excite both interest and pleasure.
'I know those plants,' he explained to his
companions. 'They will provide us with a very fair
and toothsome supper, and they also tell me a
story. You wished to know where we had drifted
to, and I can now tell you almost exactly.
'This is not the Great Desert—fortunately, we
have not travelled far enough to reach that—but
a tract lying upon its borders. We are in a
region situated between the desert and the country
of Iraynia, which,' he added slowly, and with some
sadness in his tone, 'is my native land.'
'Oh!' said Alondra; 'so you are a native of
Iraynia! I have heard a good deal about that
country, though I have never been there. Was
there not some great fuss or trouble there some
years ago, before my father'——
'Before King Ivanta allowed the tyrant Agrando
to annex it, would you say? Yes, Prince, there
was. And thereby hangs a tale. I will not tell it
to you now, however—it will keep for another time;
but I may say that it is a tale of terrible, almost
incredible wrong, and treachery, and wickedness.
It is that great wrong which I wished to induce
King Ivanta to inquire into, in order that the
memory of a good man's name may be cleared
from dishonour. That man was my father, Prince;
and that was the reward I was hoping to win
from King Ivanta. Now you will understand why
I said I could not share my reward, if I obtained
what I hoped for, with any one else!'
There were notes of deep feeling and sadness
in the young fellow's voice as he spoke in low,
incisive tones, turning his face away the while as
though afraid he might break down.
There was a pause; then Alondra said gently
and sympathetically, 'I am sorry, indeed, that you
have such a heavy trouble to bear. Later on you
shall give me fuller particulars, and I will myself
lay them before my father. He is just and
fearless in punishing where wrong has been done, and
if he finds, on investigation, that your story is true,
I am certain he will right you, and the memory of
your father, and punish the wrongdoers.'
'He will have to fight to maintain his own
position ere that can come about, I fear!' rejoined
Malto gravely. 'But I thank you, Prince, all the
same, for your sympathy and your promise.
Another day I will, as you say, give you the
details—when the time comes. Let me now explain
how we are situated here. We are in a desolate
territory known as Kubandia. It is nothing but a
maze of arid rocks and mountains, and wild,
gloomy gorges and valleys, almost waterless, but
not so bad, in that respect, as the Great Desert
which lies beyond. For the reasons I have
mentioned the tract has a bad name, and also for
another—that there are bands of reckless outlaws
who have made it their fastness. They are, I
believe, for the most part remnants or descendants
of men who were originally honest patriots—men
who were driven into exile by Agrando's
heavy hand when he took over the government
of the country. Now, I fear, they are,
most of them, no better than brigands and
unscrupulous adventurers. It is said that there are
many bands, under different heads, but all directed
by one leader—a clever, daring chief, of whom
wild tales are told. His name is Fumenta; and it
is a name held in terror by Agrando's followers.
But for this man's wonderful genius and bravery,
it is believed these brigands would all have been
exterminated before this. He has, somehow,
managed to evade capture for many years, and
carry on a guerilla warfare, holding his own in
these wild valleys and gorges in spite of all the
forces Agrando has sent against him. Such, at
least, is what we hear. I myself can say nothing
as to this part from my own knowledge, because
I have been brought up in Agrando's city and
forced to be one of his servitors.'
'Naturally, however, you cannot help feeling a
certain amount of sympathy for these outlaws,
who are your own countrymen, and who have
been driven, as you think, perhaps unjustly,
into exile, eh?' queried Alondra, eying the other
'It may be so—deep down in my mind,' was
the quiet answer. 'Certainly, however, I have no
sympathy with tales of robbery and murder such
as are related of these bands. But, of course, they
may not be true, or they may be very much
exaggerated. We only hear one side, that told by
Agrando's people; and from my own experience I
can tell you that it is not safe to believe all they
'But how do you know where we are, if, as you
say, you only know of all these things by
hearsay?' was Alondra's shrewd query.
'Oh, I have been in these parts before as a boy,
and I know that those plants yonder are peculiar
to this region. You do not find them anywhere
'I see. Well, if they are good to eat, let us
try them as soon as we can. For my part, I am
hungry enough to devour anything that is fairly
'We must have a fire. It is the root which is
good to eat; and it requires cooking,' Malto
returned. 'I have dug these roots up and cooked
them many times when picnicking out here with
other youngsters. If you others will get some wood
together, and start a fire, I will soon have a
first-rate supper ready for you.'
The young fellow proved as good as his word,
and some half-hour later, just as darkness fell,
they were all sitting round a cheerful fire,
discussing a very agreeable meal off something which
had a flavour not unlike baked potatoes.
'Humph! Not a bad thing to fall back upon in
a wilderness like this!' Jack declared. 'And what
are we going to do afterwards? How are we to
get back to our friends?'
'That is not easy to say,' Malto answered
soberly. 'We must have passed right over my
country to get here, and that alone means two or
three hundred miles. It is a land which is full of
Agrando's followers, and you may be sure that his
airships will, by this time, be cruising about in
search of us.'
'That sounds cheerful! Looks as if we shall
have to stay here and do a bit of outlaw business
on our own account!' cried Jack.
Malandris glanced at him with a very grave
expression in his eyes. 'Your remark exactly
describes the position, young sir, though spoken,
doubtless, half in jest. I am sorry to have to
say it, for it is not a trifling matter. For myself,
I accept it as preferable to the fate from which
you all so pluckily aided to rescue me. But it
grieves me that I should live to see the son of the
good and wise King Ivanta in the position of a
Alondra started and flushed up at these plain
words. But there was in the elder man's eyes a
look so thoroughly honest and kindly that it was
impossible to take offence.
'Perhaps such an experience will do me no
harm,' he answered, after a minute's thought.
'That is, provided it ends in the right way. It
is better than passing the time in Agrando's palace
as his captive. My father is sure to rescue us in
his own good time. He will follow us up and
find us out, wherever we are, and the punishment
he will inflict on his daring enemies will be
terrible. Does Agrando hug to himself the notion
that he can pit himself against his overlord?'
Alondra continued, with a proud curl of his lip.
'Why, where is his fleet? What means has he of
resisting my father's power?'
'He has been making secret preparations ever
since his return from his trip to the evening star.
I feel sure of that!' Malto declared.
'Why don't you try a wireless message?' Jack
asked of Alondra.
The young prince shook his head. 'It is useless.
The little instrument you saw does not carry far
enough,' he explained. 'Monck Affelda cannot hear
me unless he is within a hundred miles. But you
may be sure of one thing, the news of all that
has happened has before this been flashed
through to my father, and he is already on his
way to our assistance in the Ivenia. How can
Agrando think he can prevail in the end against
such a monster of the skies as the Ivenia?'
As he spoke these words there was a sudden
illumination of the spot where they were sitting
round their fire, and the sound of voices was
heard. Lights were flashed upon them from the
air above, dazzling their eyes and rendering it
impossible to make out what had happened or
who the speakers were. But the words were
unmistakable; some one had called out in harsh,
hoarse tones, 'Surrender! You are my prisoners!
If you make any attempt at resistance you are all
When the ominous summons to surrender
was heard, shouted down from some
invisible person in the air above them, it
was Malto who took upon himself to reply.
His brain had been working quickly. At first
he had feared that it was Agrando's people who
had thus found them out, but a moment's
reflection convinced him that such a thing was
extremely improbable. If it were indeed so, then,
such was his detestation of his late master, and
horror of again falling into his clutches, that he
would rather have died fighting than yield.
But Agrando's men would have acted first.
There would have been no preliminary summons;
they would simply have used their tridents to
render the fugitives powerless at once. The
inference was that these must be some other people
who were not armed with tridents. All the same,
resistance was probably useless, as they could not
even see their adversaries, and a fight could only
end in one way. So he called out, 'Who are
you? And why do you threaten us? We have
no quarrel with you, whoever you are. We are
'You will find out who we are in good time,'
was the answer, given with a grim laugh. 'Will
you surrender quietly, or shall we'——
The speaker did not finish the sentence, but
waited for an answer, as though he considered
it unnecessary to say more.
There were other sounds, however, which had
caught Malto's quick ear—sounds as of a number
of men moving about amongst the surrounding
rocks, and from these he drew the inference that
the threat that had been made was not likely to
prove an idle one.
'If we yield, what are you going to do with
us?' he asked again.
'That is for us to say. We cannot make any
bargain with you,' was the answer given roughly
'Will you guarantee us good treatment?
Remember, I have told you we are peaceable folk.
Have you no fear that King Agrando will call
you to account?'
At this there was a harsh laugh.
'We have no fear of Agrando or his ruffians,'
the voice declared jeeringly. 'You will gain nothing
by appealing to him here.'
'Then you ought to welcome us as friends
instead of treating us as enemies, for we have
no more bitter foe than that same Agrando.'
'Why,' cried another voice, 'the fellow is
mocking us! Is he not himself one of Agrando's
myrmidons? He is dressed in the tyrant's
uniform—ay, and so is another I can see beside him!'
'A man may wear another's uniform and yet
be no friend of'—— Malto began, when Malandris
interrupted him. It struck him that the second
speaker was not unknown to him.
'I ought to know that voice!' he exclaimed.
'I should recognise it among a thousand. Surely
it is Landris, who was once a friend of mine!'
'It is Malandris,' they heard the second man
then say; and there ensued a colloquy in a low
tone between the unseen speakers. Presently the
second man's voice was heard again.
'If you are Malandris, what are you doing
here? If you have come out at the tyrant's
bidding to join in hunting us down'——
'We are fugitives, Landris. We have run away
from him, as you yourself did once, and for the
same reason—because we could put up with his
treatment no longer. He condemned me to the
cage of the krudias—his great monstrous
bats—but by good chance these brave gentlemen, who
are my companions, rescued me, and we all had
to flee for our lives in consequence.'
Again there was a conference in low tones,
and what seemed to be an argument ensued.
At last the one called Landris said aloud, 'I tell
you I will have it so! I know this Malandris
to be an honest man, and once he saved my
life; and I insist that he and those with him
shall go before the chief and speak for themselves.'
'Oh, very well, if you insist!' the other replied.
'But, recollect, if there is trouble about it, it is
your doing, not mine.'
'You will have to be bound and blindfolded,
Malandris—all of you,' Landris now said. 'I will
conduct you to our leader, and you can tell your
story to him. If he believes that you speak the
truth he will not harm you—indeed, he may
welcome you if so be that you care to join
him and fight against Agrando, even as he did
'Lead us to him, friend Landris. That is all
I ask,' Malandris said.
A few moments later the fugitives found themselves
in the midst of a crowd of rough-looking
men, who climbed down from the adjoining rocks,
bringing with them lanterns and pieces of rope.
They were certainly not by any means of
attractive appearance, and their apparel was of the
coarsest. Their hair and beards, too, were
unkempt, and their manners gruff and surly. But
they had the appearance of alert, hardy veterans
of the wilds; and in their handling of their
prisoners there was nothing cruel or insulting.
The one named Landris greeted Malandris with
quiet friendliness, and his companion—the one
who had called upon them to surrender—also came
and conversed with the prisoners. His name, it
appeared, was Duralda. He was a fine, picturesque
figure of a man, with bearded face, shaggy hair,
and dressed in what had probably once been a
rich costume, but had evidently seen its best
days. This man examined and questioned each
prisoner in turn, but showed no resentment when,
acting upon a hint from Malandris, they told
him civilly that they preferred to tell what they
had to tell to his chief.
Their wings and other belongings were packed
up by the band—of whom it was now seen
there were fully a hundred—and in due time
the whole party commenced a march over very
difficult, rocky ground.
At the end of some two hours a halt was
called. They were then blindfolded, and the
march resumed in slow fashion, each captive
being led by two guards, one on each side.
This time, after ascending some steep, broken
ground, they came to steps, up which their guards
At length there was another halt, and a low,
tumultuous murmuring sound told them that they
must have arrived in the midst of a considerable
Then the bandages were removed from their
eyes, and they gazed round upon a marvellous
AT HOME IN A VOLCANO.
The prisoners found themselves in the middle
of what they took to be a vast round
building, with an immense domed roof,
open to the sky in the centre. As a matter of
fact, they afterwards knew it to be the interior
of the crater of an extinct volcano.
Into the open part, one of Mars' two moons
was peeping, throwing down a warm, mellow light,
very different from the pale silvery beams of our
But this soft radiance was lost in the bright
illumination given out by thousands of lights of
some kind which were placed about within the
great dome—some round the rocky walls, others
high up in the wide, lofty roof.
Round the sides, below, were seats, rising tier
upon tier, save at one place, where was a
platform or dais, upon which were raised seats with
a canopy over them. Just in front of the highest
seat stood a man of commanding appearance, who
gazed at the prisoners with a look of keen,
searching scrutiny. This man, as they afterwards
learned, was the chief of whom Malto had
spoken—the one who was known as Fumenta. He was
dressed as plainly as his followers—indeed, more
plainly than some of them; but there was that
in his face, in his manner, in his very pose,
which singled him out from all the rest, and
proclaimed the fact that he was their leader.
That he must be old was apparent from the
gray beard and the gray hair which showed
beneath his head-covering—a kind of helmet. His
face, too, was seamed and marked, and spoke
eloquently of a life of hardship and adventure.
But his tall figure was upright and stalwart, and
exhibited no sign of failing strength; while his
dark, piercing eyes were flashing with a fire
almost as of youth.
Duralda and Landris mounted, by means of
three or four steps, on to the platform, and, after a
respectful salutation, conferred in a low tone with
their leader. Meantime, those seated around—of
whom there must have been many hundreds—ceased
their talk, and gazed in silence at the
Presently, Fumenta turned from his henchmen,
and, fixing his eagle glance upon the captives,
began to question them. 'Who are you?' he
asked. 'And what are you doing in these parts?' His
voice was sonorous, and, though stern, not
unpleasing. He glanced from one to the other,
as if to mark the effect of his question upon
each in turn; but he evidently addressed
himself more particularly to Malandris, who had been
pointed out by Landris.
'We were storm-tossed travellers at the time
we were captured, my lord,' Malandris answered.
'We had lost our way. Apart from that, we were
fugitives fleeing from'——
Fumenta's eyes flashed and his brow grew dark.
'I want a plain answer,' he interrupted
warningly. 'You—you two—wear Agrando's hated
livery; you are evidently his servitors—some of
his myrmidons! Woe to you if you have come
here to play the part of spy for him!'
At the mention of the words 'livery' and
'servitors,' Malto had started and flushed. And
now at the word 'spy' he seemed to lose control
of himself. He laid a hand on Malandris, as
though asking that the answering of the questions
should be left to him. Then, drawing himself up,
he said haughtily, 'Though we are your prisoners,
sir, I fail to see why we should endure your
insults without protest! It is true, alas! that I
have for many years been one of Agrando's
servitors—ay, even his slave, I may almost say.
But I am not the first, nor the only one, of gentle
birth, who has been forced by the tyrant to serve
him thus. At last, however, I have escaped, and
I only await the opportunity of picking up some
other suit of clothes to throw off for ever
what you aptly call his hated livery. If you
are, indeed, as I suspect, the chief Fumenta of
whom I have heard, I have no reason for fear,
for I have been told of him that he is brave
and just, an upright, chivalrous gentleman, though
he has been sorely persecuted. I have never
heard, however, that he was given to insulting
his prisoners, and taunting them with having been
forced to serve a hateful tyrant.'
Alondra, who had been engaged in 'taking
stock,' so to speak, of everything and every one
around, turned and looked at Malto in surprise.
The young man had suddenly come out in a
new character. He was looking his questioner
squarely in the face, his eyes flashing back
glance for glance, his whole attitude full of
indignant protest. Yet was there in it nothing of
rudeness; on the contrary, even in his defiance,
there was a subtle suggestion of that deference
which a young man may always pay to age
without lowering his own dignity.
But what was even more noticeable was the
fact that Fumenta himself appeared to be just
as much taken aback as Alondra had been. To
the surprise of every one there—his own people
most of all—he showed no sign of anger, and the
look he cast at the speaker, shrewd, searching,
as it was, was free from all trace of irritation.
There was a pause, while he eyed the young
man from head to foot. He looked at him as
if trying to read his very soul. Then, for a
moment, a quick, eager expression came into his
face; but it faded again instantly, he passed his
hand over his forehead in a strange, dreamy
way, and finally shook his head.
When he spoke again his tone was gentler.
'You are bold, young sir,' he said. 'Few dare
to speak to me as you have done. Yet if you
tell the truth your boldness will be justified, for
it shall never be said that those who have
called me a just man spoke falsely. I confess I
like your spirit; you remind me of—— But
it's useless now to speak of that. What is
'I have been known as Malto. But it is not
my true name.'
'Agrando chose, for purposes of his own, that
I should be called Malto while I was yet but a
boy; and I had no choice but to submit.'
'Ha! But why, then, after serving him and
submitting to him for so many years, did you
suddenly wish to leave him?'
'Because, sir, something accidentally came to
my knowledge of which I had previously been
ignorant. It is rather a long story, but I may
say briefly that I wished to make a personal
appeal to King Ivanta. Instead, however, we had
to flee for our lives in the midst of the great
storm which has but just passed, and we were
carried here by the high wind.'
'With these companions?' asked Fumenta. For
the first time he seemed to notice the prince's rich
dress. Malto's personality had so attracted his
attention that for the time being he had troubled
little about the others. Now he seemed suddenly
interested in Alondra. 'And who, young sir, are
you?' he queried.
Alondra drew himself up, and proudly answered,
'My name is Alondra, son of King Ivanta!'
The words had a marvellous effect; they seemed
to electrify the assembly. Till then every one
had been silent, content to await quietly the
result of their chief's questioning, and anxious to
hear all that was said. Now there burst out a
great commotion. Every one present sprang up
in amazement. Some simply stood and stared
in helpless astonishment; some leaned forward
to gaze upon the youth as though scarcely able to
believe their ears; others, again, turned to their
nearest neighbours, and began talking and gesticulating
Exclamations were heard, some of which gave
a clue to the cause of this excitement: 'What a
piece of luck for us!' 'What a hostage!' 'Now
King Ivanta must listen to us; we can compel him!'
It was obvious that these outlaws regarded
the young prince as a great prize—one which
they meant to turn to account in negotiating
As to Fumenta, he, it was easy to perceive,
was nearly as much astonished by the statement
as were his followers. He seemed, indeed, almost
too surprised for speech, and for a few minutes
exhibited some signs of incredulity. Then,
suddenly making up his mind, he bent his head
courteously, and said, 'It is a pity we did not
know this sooner. Had you told my people at
first who you were, Prince, they would have
handled you a little more gently, I expect. They
are rough fellows; the life we lead has made
'I have not complained,' said Alondra, with
one of his good-natured smiles. 'But certainly
I wish now that I had spoken sooner, if it
would have been better for these friends of mine.
They are my royal father's guests, and are
supposed to be under his protection. But Agrando
has suddenly revolted. We went there on a
peaceful visit, and he made a treacherous attack upon
my whole party, and sought to take us prisoners.'
Fumenta started, while from the listening throng
came loud exclamations. Every one strained his
ears in eager excitement.
'What do you tell me?' exclaimed Fumenta,
evidently utterly amazed. 'Agrando in revolt!
Tried to seize you and your party! Is that,
then, the reason you are fleeing from him?'
'Truly, we had no other course open to us,
as we were situated. I myself and these
companions were cut off from my followers, and we
had to make our escape as and how we could.
It was a desperate venture, as you know, to
cast ourselves loose in the air in such a storm.
But it was our only chance. Had we not taken
the risk we should have been Agrando's prisoners.
I do not even now know how his traitorous attack
turned out. I don't know whether my followers
have got away or have been captured. But this
I do know,' he concluded, looking round proudly,
'there will be a heavy reckoning for all this.
My father King Ivanta will be already on his
way, by this time, to look for us, and to punish
Agrando and his treacherous crew.'
To the astonishment of Alondra and those with
him, this speech was received by the whole
assembly with a great burst of cheering. Again
and again, and yet again, did it ring out. And
the shouters, after cheering themselves hoarse,
pressed forward and crowded round the 'prisoners,'
seeking eagerly to kiss the prince's hand, or,
failing that, to shake hands with one or another
of his companions.
Gerald and Jack found themselves suddenly
treated with exuberant friendliness by those
whom they had regarded but a few minutes
before as dangerous enemies. They stared about
them, bewildered, not understanding such a sudden
change. Alondra was as perplexed as the rest,
and his face showed it.
Fumenta smiled, and proceeded to explain:
'These followers of mine, rough fellows though
they are, to whom Agrando and his tools have
given a bad name, are really honest patriots who
have been driven into exile to escape from the
tyrant,' he said. 'We have fought against him,
and against his bloodthirsty followers, it is true;
but otherwise we have harmed no man. And,
above all, we have no quarrel with King Ivanta,
save in so far as he had been led—by false
representations, doubtless—to espouse Agrando's cause
against us. Now, therefore, that you have told
us that Agrando has revolted, my friends are
delighted, because they know it must lead to the
tyrant's overthrow and to his just punishment.
As to the rest, you can command us all, Prince.
Every man here will join your standard and
fight for you against Agrando. We are ready to
offer our aid, our lives, to King Ivanta. We will
fight to the death for him against that cruel
'We will! We will!' cried the shouting crowd.
'Long live King Ivanta!' 'Long live Prince
Just then a messenger entered in breathless
haste, and saluting Fumenta, spoke to him aside.
There was a brief colloquy between the two,
after which Fumenta spoke aloud, so that all might
hear: 'Some airships have been sighted in the
distance, seemingly coming this way. All lights
must be extinguished.' Then, addressing Alondra
more particularly, he continued, 'There are two
squadrons, it seems; but our scouts could not tell
whose ships they are. They may carry your
enemies or your friends, or a party of each, one
in chase of the other. At the same time, a thick
mist is rising, as is often the case here after
such a storm as we have had, and most likely
the airships will disappear in the fog and we
shall see no more of them.'
'But that would be a bad thing if some of
them are my friends,' said Alondra. 'Your people
took charge of the motor-wings we brought with
us; let us go out in them to reconnoitre. If
we meet with friends we will all join together;
but if we discover that they are enemies, and
they do not look like going away, we will return
and warn you.'
Fumenta considered for a few minutes, then
answered, 'Very well; so be it.'
By this time all lights had been put out, and
the whole vast interior was in black darkness,
save for the opening in the centre, where some
rays of moonlight were still feebly struggling
through the thickening vapours.
Through this opening, a little later, Alondra
and his companions rose, flying like spectres on
silent wings, and disappearing into the mist.
IVANTA A FUGITIVE.
Alondria's companions in his scouting
expedition were Gerald and Jack, Malto and
the outlaw chief Fumenta, the latter having
taken the place of Malandris, who had been left
'You will want some one who knows this
region as a guide, or you will not be able to find
your way through the mist,' Fumenta had pointed
out. Alondra had been prompt to recognise the
wisdom of the suggestion, and gladly accepted it.
It seemed that these outlaws were without flying
apparatus of any kind except the roughest sort of
wings. They lived the life of hunted men, and
even if they had possessed airships or other flying
machines, they were without the necessary means
of utilising them.
All kinds of air-craft required electricity to
work them; which, in its turn, as with us,
required machinery to produce it. Throughout
Ivanta's dominions there were stations here and
there at which passing aeronauts could refill their
storage batteries on payment of certain specified
sums. At these stations gigantic engines of immense
power were ever at work, day and night, accumulating
the necessary force, and it was upon this
constant supply that all airships were dependent.
When they journeyed beyond the districts in
which these stations were situated, travellers were
compelled to be careful not to venture too far
afield—no farther, that is, than they could travel
back again with the storage power on board.
For the same reason, the outlaws had none of
the usual weapons—those tridents which wielded
such strange, mysterious power; or, if they possessed
any, they were useless to them for want of the
Throughout the inhabited portion of the planet
the same state of things prevailed. There were
no small weapons other than the tridents, save
swords, spears, and the like. Nor were there any
large weapons like our cannon and big guns.
Owing to their great weight, all such contrivances
had long ago been abandoned as too heavy to be
carried in the air, and as being no longer of any
use on the ground. An airship depended for its
means of offence either upon ramming an adversary,
or being able to get above it, and drop upon
it bombs, which, upon bursting, produced a similar
effect upon living beings around it to that of the
tridents—that is to say, they rendered them for
the time being unconscious. Thus, warfare in the
air resolved itself chiefly into a manoeuvring
contest, the one which could soar uppermost, and get
exactly over its adversary, usually—other things
being equal—gaining the advantage.
Having no machinery for the production of
electricity, and consequently no flying apparatus
save the clumsy, slow wings without motors,
Fumenta and the bands of which he was chief
were for the most part restricted in their
operations to nocturnal expeditions. They seldom
ventured abroad in the daytime, but remained
hidden in their underground retreats.
Fortunately for their purpose, their leader had
discovered, amid the arid wilderness of rocky
mountains into which he had been driven, an
extinct volcano with an ancient crater open to the
sky. Within was the immense cavity which they
had made their chief hiding-place, and running
into it from all points of the compass were endless
galleries and passages—a veritable labyrinth which
extended for miles in every direction. These led
to numerous underground grottos, large and lofty
caverns, which they had turned into dwelling-places.
The whole formed a sort of subterranean town.
Not the least remarkable thing about this
retreat was the ingenious ruse by which Fumenta
had kept its existence unknown to his enemies.
He had discovered, in some of the lower galleries,
considerable accumulations of sulphur, and
whenever, during the daytime, the approach of airships
was signalled by his scouts, he had sulphur fires
lighted in the crater just beneath the funnel-like
opening, sending up columns of smoke and sulphur
As a consequence, the report had gone forth
that the supposedly extinct volcano had become
active again, and its neighbourhood was shunned
as dangerous by all not in the secret. A few
venturesome inquirers, who had attempted to make
explorations, had been baffled by the sulphur
fumes, and had returned declaring that there were
evident signs of renewed volcanic activity.
Similarly, if, as sometimes happened, an occasional
airship, driven out of her course by high winds,
passed near the place at night, and saw a light
coming up through the opening, it was put down
to the same cause.
These notes are necessary to explain the events
The mist seemed to grow thicker as the
adventurers sailed cautiously onwards, and it soon
became obvious that they would quickly have lost
themselves if they had not had Fumenta to guide
them. He, however, seemed to know his way
about in it with as much certainty as if it
had been clear. He was aided, no doubt, by a
dim radiance which struggled down from the moon
He led off to the right, mounting always
upwards, till, after they had travelled perhaps a
mile, he brought them to a halt beside a towering
'Here,' he said, in low, guarded tones, 'you had
better rest for a little time, while I reconnoitre
from the top of the mountain, which rises yet
some hundreds of feet into the air. It is one of
the highest peaks about here, and these occasional
ground-mists scarcely ever reach its top. It may
be that we can get a view from its summit over
the top of the mist, but at the same time we shall
run some risk of being seen ourselves. Let me,
therefore, make the trial first, as I am more used
to this kind of thing than you are. I will return
in a short time and let you know the result. Do
not leave this spot, and, whatever you do, do not
talk loudly. Voices travel far in this mist; you
cannot tell how near our enemies may be.'
With that he started off, mounting silently
upwards, and the four he left behind began
discussing their recent adventures, and the possible
future, in low tones.
'So that's the great outlaw chief!' said Jack.
'What do you think of him? I suppose he
is to be trusted? I must say I am agreeably
surprised! I like his looks; yet one never knows!
He might betray you, Prince, to your enemies.
How if he could buy off Agrando's hostility that
way? It might be a great temptation!'
'I do not think he is one of that sort,' Alondra
'Nor do I,' Gerald put in.
Malto had remained silent. He had seemed to be
pondering deeply over something. At these words
from the others he suddenly woke up, as it were,
from his reverie, and spoke warmly. 'I would
stake my life on his loyalty!' he exclaimed
passionately. 'He is a good man—a great man—an
upright, brave, honourable man! I feel it, I
know it! But why do I know it? Why does he
rouse such a tumult of strange thoughts and ideas
in my breast? That is what has been puzzling
me ever since I set eyes on him! Have I seen
him before? It seems to me that I have—must
have done so! Yet when? Where? How could
it be? My head seems to go round puzzling it
out, and trying to seize upon some thought, some
memory, which I feel, but cannot put into words!'
The others looked in surprise at this outburst.
'Hush! We were warned to be quiet!' said
Alondra. 'Our opinions are really the same as
yours. What was said was only spoken in the
way of ordinary caution. You need not take it
to heart as though we were wronging a friend of
'A friend of mine!' Malto answered bitterly
and somewhat incoherently. 'Would that I could
call such a man my friend! I have no such friend
in the world! My life, since I was a boy, has
been passed among deadly enemies, who destroyed
my father and brought me up as a slave! I have
ever been a child of misfortune; and now, see how
ill-fortune dogs me! I come across you, and you
promise to take me to King Ivanta, to give me
the opportunity of pleading my cause with him
and asking for my rights; but what comes of it?
At once treachery steps in again, and instead of
your helping me, I only lead you into trouble and
'Nay, it was no doing of yours,' said Alondra
gently. 'Have patience, my friend, and all will
yet come right! I feel sure it will! My father is
not going to be beaten by people like Agrando
and his confederates. He will soon come to our
aid and rescue us, have no fear! Then you shall
tell him your story, and he will see that right is
done. Meantime, it seems to me, we have been
fortunate in meeting with Fumenta. If he and
his people are to be trusted—and I feel sure they
are—we have found useful and faithful allies,
and a secure hiding-place where we can await
As the young prince finished, he started. While
he had been speaking the last few words there
had been heard a tiny, muffled 'ting-ting,' and
now, in the surrounding stillness, it was heard still
'Ting—ting-ting—ting—ting!' it rang out.
'By Jove!' exclaimed Jack, 'that's your wireless
Alondra plunged a hand into his breast and
brought out the little instrument they had seen
when they had been in the pavilion.
He placed it on his outstretched palm, and again
were heard the clear, silvery notes of the little
Excitedly he opened it and began to manipulate
the miniature levers and pins.
'What did I tell you?' he breathed, in low
accents. 'Said I not that my father would be
soon on his way to our assistance?'
Just then Fumenta came gliding back like some
weird, mysterious shadow.
'Follow me,' he said, 'and I will show you a
First, however, they told him the news.
'My father King Ivanta has come to seek us,'
Alondra said joyously. 'He is not far away!'
To their surprise the outlaw chief nodded his
head and answered slowly, 'I know. But he
cannot help us. He is in hiding, as we are. He
cannot aid us at present. I may, however, help
him by offering him a temporary refuge, as I
have done to you.'
Alondra turned and faced him in amazement,
his eyes flashing, and his cheeks flushing with
'My father—in hiding? You—offering him a
refuge?' he gasped. 'Sir, have you suddenly'——
'Peace, my son! You speak too loudly,' rejoined
the old man quietly. 'However painful it may
be to you to hear it, what I have said is but the
exact truth, as I will prove to you presently.
Come with me, and I will show you something
that will surprise you.'
He commenced his upward flight as he spoke,
and the others wonderingly followed. His words
had, so to speak, struck them dumb; and no one
uttered another word.
After a few minutes' flight it grew lighter, and
they could tell that they were nearing the limits
of the mist above them. Then Fumenta stopped
upon a sloping rock, and, looking round at his
companions to enjoin caution, signed to them to
walk slowly up the incline.
They obeyed, and, behold! quite suddenly their
heads were above the mist. It was almost as if
they had put them up through a trap-door and
looked around. The vapours closed round them
below like a mantle. They could not see their
own hands, but they could see for miles around on
A large fleet of airships could be seen in the air
above, going restlessly backwards and forwards.
The moon which our astronomers call Phobos was
throwing a rather feeble light over what seemed
to be a pinkish-white sea, which was, in reality,
the surface of the mist.
The airships were assisting the moonlight by
throwing their searchlights around in all directions,
prowling to and fro, and making sudden dashes
here and there, exactly as might a swarm of huge
birds of prey on the wing seeking for food.
'Those,' said Fumenta, indicating the airships,
'are the war-vessels of Agrando and the allies who
have joined him. They know that King Ivanta, in
his yacht—not his great "chariot of the skies," the
mighty Ivenia, look you—is hiding somewhere in
the mist below. He must have come hither to
seek for you—why he should come in his yacht
instead of the Ivenia I know not—and they have
chased him here, and have lost him in the fog!'
A QUEER HUNT.
Even as Fumenta spoke, two dark shapes rose
quickly above the fleecy vapours as though
to take a cautious observation.
Alondra and the two chums instantly recognised
them as the two yachts the Nelda and the Lokris;
but ere they could breathe a word both craft
had dived back into the fog.
At once two or three of the hostile airships
made a dart at the place where they had
appeared, and so impetuous was their rush that
they narrowly missed ramming one another. But
for some reason they did not dive after the
fugitives. They were evidently averse to trusting
themselves in those foggy depths.
Fumenta nudged his companions, and they crept
down the rocky slope into the concealment of the
'It wouldn't do to stay up there,' he said, when
they had reached what he considered a safe
distance. 'Now, Prince, if you can send a message
to your friends, will you please ask them to
remain in one place till we find them? You
can explain to them that they have nothing to
fear at present; evidently their enemies do not
care to hunt for them down in the fog. They
prefer to wait till it clears off, as they know it
is pretty sure to do in an hour or two. In that
hour or two we must manage to find your friends
and conduct them to a place of safety.'
'How can you do that?' asked Alondra helplessly.
'I confess I feel bewildered. The world
seems turned upside down! I could not have
believed my father would'—— He hesitated to
finish the sentence.
'My son,' said the old chief kindly, 'you may
comfort yourself with the thought that your
august father is doing what he finds best in
the circumstances. Now the fox is going to aid
the eagle, and hide him in his burrow until the
hunters have gone away. Then we must offer
what assistance we can in finding and regaining
possession of the Ivenia, from which—as I read
it—King Ivanta has become separated, probably
through a trick or some fresh treachery. If we
can help him to do that, the eagle will then be
able to turn on his enemies as though they
were a host of small birds, and all will be well!'
Alondra looked fixedly for a moment at the
outlaw leader, and then impulsively seized his
hand and shook it, and there were tears in his
eyes as he exclaimed, 'I don't know who you are,
sir; but I know that you are a friend in need.
I shall leave it to the king my father to thank
you properly, later on; now I can only say your
kindly words have filled my heart with gratitude.'
'Let us say no more, Prince, but set to work,'
was the terse reply.
Alondra set to work accordingly, and after some
delay, succeeded in getting into communication
with his friends again.
My father has understood my message,' he
presently said, 'and agrees to your suggestion.
They are resting on a hill-top below, and will
stay there until we get to them.'
'Good!' observed Fumenta. 'Now, the thing is
to find out where that hill-top is.'
'Is there any way of telling by means of that
little instrument whether, as we move about, we
are getting nearer to them or farther away?'
asked Jack. 'In our world, when, as children, we
played at hide-and-seek, we used to say we were
getting "cold" when we were on the wrong track,
and "hot" when we were on the right one. Now,
is there any way of telling with the help of that
little contrivance whether, as we move about, we
are getting "hot" or "cold"?'
'Why, yes, to some extent,' Alondra returned,
but not without hesitation. 'I think I shall
be able to form an idea, as we go on, by
the sound it gives out. The nearer we are, the
stronger the current, and the louder the little bells
'Exactly! That's what I was hoping for,' said
Jack. 'With that to guide us, it ought not to be
such a very long business.'
And then there began the most extraordinary
hunt for the airships hidden in the mist that can
well be imagined.
It proved to be more difficult and perplexing
than the searchers had at first thought would be
the case. They went up and down, to and fro,
going too far in one direction, then turning, only
soon to find that they had travelled too far in
the opposite track. It was a veritable game of
blindman's-buff, and as time went on, and
Fumenta's prediction about the mist clearing
seemed likely to be realised, the seekers became
first anxious and then seriously alarmed. It was
true that the sounds given out by Alondra's
wondrous little instrument varied according to their
distance from those who were signalling to them;
but the differences were so slight as to be
extremely difficult to detect.
At last, however, their perseverance was
rewarded. Gerald was the first to catch sight of
what they sought. A half-smothered exclamation
from him drew the attention of the others to
what seemed no more than a dark shadow. They
were all actually passing it, and in another moment
or two would have lost sight of it. But when Gerald
pointed it out, Alondra made a dart towards it, and
quickly called to his companions to follow him.
A few minutes later they were standing on the
deck of the king's yacht, and Alondra was folded
in his father's arms.
'What has happened, father?' he asked. 'Where
is the Ivenia?'
'Ah, that is what I want to know!' Ivanta
confessed. 'Some strange, unforeseen occurrence—an
accident, or treachery, I know not what—has
hidden her away. Thanks to the machinations
of Agrando and Zuanstroom, the whole of
the people of my realm seem to have gone mad
and turned against me. For the time being,
Alondra, your father is an exile, a fugitive, with
scarce a friend in the world.'
'You have one friend, oh king!—one who has
some followers you may depend upon,' said
Fumenta, stepping forward. 'If you will accept
'Who are you?' the king asked, turning to him
Alondra explained, and Ivanta frowned.
'Fumenta! The one who is in rebellion against
me!' he exclaimed, eying the outlaw chief keenly
'Not so, oh king!' Fumenta answered, drawing
himself up proudly. 'No rebel against you have
I ever been! No one can say it! But against
your vassal Agrando, yes! I have been his sworn
enemy for many a year, and not without good
reason; but against you I have had no other
complaint to make than that you supported him
against me. Doubtless you were misled by false
and lying misrepresentations, and had you known
the truth—— But there is no time for the
discussion of such matters now. I offer you safe
asylum, not for yourself and your followers only,
but for your airships. You will find that I and
all my people are loyal to you, and will fight to
the death against Agrando and his allies.'
'But how can you hide my airships away?'
asked the king doubtfully.
'You shall soon see, oh king! Do not delay, I
pray you. The mist is already getting thinner. A
little longer, and our chance will be gone.'
Ivanta looked at Alondra, and the two conferred
apart for a brief space. Then Ivanta returned to
Fumenta, and, holding out his hand, said, 'I hear
you have been a good friend to my son and his
companions in the time of their need. That is
enough for me! Henceforth you are my friends—you
and all your followers.'
Fumenta thereupon took charge of the craft as
a pilot might, issuing instructions in low tones to
the officers. Under his guidance, the Nelda glided
slowly through the mist, closely followed by the
Lokris, which had been resting a few yards away.
Then, as they went along, Alondra asked for
tidings of their friends, and heard bad news
Many of the party who had accompanied
Alondra to Agrando's court had been treacherously
Monck, it seemed, had got away in the Lokris,
bringing with him the two sailors and—somewhat
curiously—Zuanstroom's nephew Freddy, who had
sought shelter with him and begged piteously not
to be left behind. These were all safe on board
the other yacht.
'But of others,' said the king, 'I am sorry
to say that they are now held as prisoners by
Agrando. Aveena and several of your friends,
Alondra, are amongst them, and,' he went on,
slowly and bitterly, 'most humiliating of all, for
me to have to confess it—for it seems as though
I had failed in a host's first duty—so, I am deeply
pained to tell you, is our friend Armeath.'
A NIGHT EXPEDITION.
It was getting near dawn, and the mist was
perceptibly clearing away, when the two
air-yachts approached the great funnel-shaped
opening leading down to the ancient volcano.
Ivanta, who had been wondering how Fumenta
was going to keep the promise he had made that
he would hide the airships away, looked with
great curiosity at the dark, uninviting cavity.
'Are we to try to squeeze in there, friend
Fumenta?' he asked. 'Is that your idea?'
For answer the outlaw asked what was the
length of the larger of the two vessels, and Ivanta
gave him the measurement upon the Martian scale.
'I thought so. Then there is room,' he declared.
And so it turned out. By means of a little
manoeuvring, the two vessels were induced to sink
slowly through the opening, without touching the
sides. And when once through the funnel there
was plenty of room for them in the great dome-like
space below to rest, all upstanding, on the
Then, upon some metal staging round the base
of the funnel, high up in the domed roof, fires
were lighted, and upon them, after a time, when
they had started a sufficient draught, quantities of
sulphur were thrown.
The draught was so great from the maze of
underground galleries that all the fumes were
carried up into the sky, while below the air was
fresh and pure.
'There!' said Fumenta, in well-satisfied tones,
when all was in working order, 'those sulphur
fumes are carried thousands of feet up into the
air. That I know to be the fact, because I have
been up to make sure. No airships will come
near us—they cannot do so without running the
risk of asphyxiating every soul on board!'
King Ivanta laughed good-humouredly. His was
just the nature to appreciate a clever scientific
stratagem such as he saw this was.
'Fumenta, you are a man after my own heart!'
he cried. 'I love a man who can use his brains
and bend adverse circumstances to his will! You
and I ought to have been acquainted before. I
can see you have the capacity for ruling, by the
way you have drilled and disciplined those ragged
followers of yours. By the stars, I would have
made you a king!'
'Perhaps I have been nearer to that than you
think, King Ivanta,' was the unexpected answer.
Ivanta started and eyed him searchingly. He
frowned and puckered his lips, and seemed to be
'It almost seems to me that we have met
before, and that I ought to know who you are,'
he mused. 'Yet I don't see how such a thing
'Let us speak of the present and the future,
oh king!' returned Fumenta, evidently desirous of
changing the subject. 'What are your plans, sir?'
'My friend, I have not yet formed any. Until
I know where my great airship is I am tied
down, I fear me, to playing a waiting game. It
is a strange experience for one like myself,
Fumenta,' he went on philosophically, 'to find
one's self a fugitive. I, who have solved the
great problem of navigating space itself, who
have visited distant planets, have been outwitted
by men of grovelling instincts like Agrando and
Zuanstroom; tricked, deceived, betrayed, and driven
to welcome the protection and hospitality of outlaws!'
'Of outlaws, truly, but not of criminals, King
Ivanta,' Fumenta answered firmly. 'All my
followers are honest men, patriots, honourable
fighters for their own and their country's rights,
though their manner of life has made them
rough and perhaps somewhat soured. Now, sir,
let me make a suggestion. In Iraynia I have
a much larger following than I have here. Let
us go and show ourselves together there, and I
warrant you the whole land will rise in your
favour, and you will find you have at least one
country loyal to you.'
Ivanta looked curiously at the old man, and
'But we have need of airships,' he said.
'They have them.'
'And—the sinews of war—money—gold, my
friend, gold! My treasure-house is by this time
in the hands of my foes. Not only that, but they
have in their control the fascination of diamonds
too. But that would not matter so much if I had
my own treasury. Without gold, even a king is
helpless, my friend. We can do nothing without
'That I can supply also,' was the startling reply,
made quite quietly, and without the least
resemblance of boastfulness.
Again Ivanta started, and this time his keen
eyes scrutinised the other's face as if doubtful
whether he were a madman or a magician. Suddenly
he inclined his head and said, 'That your statement
astonished me I need scarcely say. As, however,
you have performed all that you promised thus
far, I will not pay you so poor a compliment as
to doubt you in this. Well, now then, since you
say you have plenty of gold, there is only one
other thing necessary—machinery. Airships are of
no use without a supply-station.'
'We will seize one,' answered the outlaw chief,
with unexpected decision. 'Lend me your yacht
and your outfit, and I will undertake to seize one
of Agrando's chief power-stations. It is, as I
happen to know, weakly held just now. But when
we have captured it I will show you how you can
defend it against the whole strength of your
enemies. It is now daylight. The airships prowling
around above us will draw off during the day
when they find you have disappeared; and at
night I will guide you to the place I have told
you of, and we will seize it and hold it for you.'
'If you do that, Fumenta, you shall be made'——
But the old chief held up his hand. 'I am
asking for no reward, oh king—or, at least, none of
the kind you have in your mind. I have lived a
hard, adventurous life, and am now getting old.
Those I loved are dead, and I have none to care
for, and no ambition for myself. I may, however,
ask for some recognition in another form; one
which, when the time comes, it will give you no
trouble, cost you nothing, to grant. I crave your
permission to keep my own counsel, and say no
more in the meanwhile.'
'So be it, my friend,' said the king, simply and
kindly. 'I have no desire to inquire into your
secrets before you are ready to reveal them to me
freely and of your own accord.'
Thus was the compact made between these two,
who, but a few days before had seemed so far
apart—the great and powerful king, who had then
been a ruler over more than half the planet, and
the outlaw leader, who led the life of the hunted,
and lived in burrows 'like a fox.'
While this talk was taking place the chums and
Alondra were comparing notes with Monck and the
'We've seen some queer sort o' fightin', Mr
Gerald, since we lost sight o' you,' said Tom Clinch.
'The catamounts played every scurvy trick they
could think of against us! But me and Bob Reid
and Mr Monck, we give 'em as good as they
brought, and we scraped through and got away
'Yes, but without Mr Armeath,' said Gerald
sadly. 'I am not reproaching you,' he hastened to
add, 'but I am terribly anxious about him. Will
they harm him, do you think, Mr Monck? Why
should they? He has nothing to do with this
upset between King Ivanta and Agrando!'
'Well,' said Monck thoughtfully, 'Agrando and
Zuanstroom have gone off to Ivenia, taking Kazzaro
with them. They will have their hands pretty full
for the present, at any rate, with organising their
forces and establishing their position, not to
mention the question of seizing and dividing out
the diamonds. They have left Mr Armeath a
prisoner behind them, and I do not suppose he is
in any personal danger so long as they are absent.'
'That is some little comfort, though not much,'
muttered Jack. 'If we could but find some way to
get at him and rescue him from those brutes while
they are away!'
'Just what I was thinking of,' said Alondra.
'If my father would allow me to take out my
yacht, we might make a dash in the night, you
know, eh? She and the Nelda are the two fastest
fliers in the whole world, except the Ivenia. What
think you, Monck Affelda? There are others of
our friends, too, you know—Aveena, and nearly a
dozen besides, I hear.'
'We will see, Prince. I will speak to the king
about it, and if his consent can be gained I am
quite ready to join in a forlorn hope of the sort
on the chance of rescuing our friends.'
When, however, Ivanta was asked to sanction the
'forlorn hope,' he said they must wait first to see
the result of the expedition Fumenta had planned,
for which the services of both yachts would be
required. So, for the moment, the one enterprise
had to give place to the other.
The day was passed in telling one another their
adventures on both sides. Scouts came in at
intervals and reported the movement of the hostile
airships. Some of the latter hovered about for
some hours after daylight had come and the mist
had cleared, as though half-suspicious that some
trick had been played upon them. They even made
a half-hearted attempt to approach the column of
smoke which ascended steadily from the mouth of
the 'volcano.' But the smell of suffocating sulphur
fumes was so strong that they came to the conclusion
it would be safer to give the place a wide berth.
Soon afterwards they divided into two parties,
one returning by the way they had come, while
the other went off in the direction of the waterless
desert, to which they finally concluded the fugitives
must somehow have managed to flee.
Towards evening the fires were extinguished in
readiness for the departure of the yachts, and the
interior of the old crater was filled with Fumenta's
followers, who were paraded in honour of Ivanta.
'I need not call for volunteers, King Ivanta,'
said their chief. 'Every man is ready and willing
to serve you! Select what men you have room
for, and the rest will remain here awaiting your
commands. All are ready to fight for you to the
death.—Say, my men, is it not so?'
The great vaulted roof rang with the cheers and
shouts which went up in response to this appeal.
'Long live King Ivanta!' 'Long live Prince
Alondra!' was heard on all sides.
King Ivanta could not listen to their greetings
given so heartily in his present circumstances
without emotion. 'My children,' he said, 'your
proffered devotion has touched my heart! That
you are trustworthy and brave I feel assured; and
I cannot quarrel with Destiny when, in my greatest
need, it sends me such sturdy supporters.'
As soon as it was quite dark the party of hardy
adventurers set out in the two yachts, Fumenta
acting again as pilot on board the Nelda. Alondra
was in charge of his own craft; and he had with
him Gerald and Jack, Monck, the two sailors, and
Malto and Malandris. Their young charge Freddy
was left behind, with a couple of attendants to
look after him.
During the day Alondra had presented Malto to
Ivanta, and explained that he had some request
to prefer; but Malto discreetly asked permission to
defer it to a more suitable season, and so the
matter had dropped.
The two craft glided swiftly onwards for some
hours over a country which showed no signs of
being inhabited. Then a few lights were seen here
and there, telling of scattered villages, and at
last a cluster of lights indicated that they were
approaching a large town.
While yet some distance away, Fumenta called
a halt, and at his request the king ordered a small
airship to be got out which acted the part which
a steam pinnace fulfils in regard to one of our
Ivanta, with Arelda and Abralda, two of his
officers, entered this with Fumenta, and they
dropped gently and silently down through the air,
and landed on the ground near a large building
which stood alone on the outskirts of the town.
From the town itself came the hum and low
murmur of many people.
Fumenta gave a curious signal, which sounded
like the cry of some bird of the night. At first
there was no response, but after it had been twice
repeated, a door in the building opened, and a
figure came out, closed it, and advanced cautiously
There were further signs and countersigns given
and received on both sides, and then the stranger
spoke. 'Is it the Chief?' he asked.
'It is the Chief,' Fumenta replied. 'You have
heard the news, and know that the hour has come?
Is all prepared?'
'All is prepared, Chief,' answered the man,
saluting. 'We have had everything ready and
waiting for you since the news came; for we
thought that you might be here to-night. Do you
wish to speak to the men before we start?'
'Yes. I have with me some one they will be
very surprised to see. Lead the way.'
With another salute, the man turned and led the
way towards the door from which he had just
HOW IVANTA GAINED A FLEET.
Fumenta and those with him passed through
the doorway into a spacious, well-lighted
vestibule, in which other doors could be
seen leading to the interior of the building. In
particular, there were two large ones in the centre
immediately opposite to that by which they had
entered. These were evidently very jealously
guarded, for at the entrance of the strangers some
armed men, who had been standing in front of
them, advanced in a rather threatening manner.
The one who had gone out to meet Fumenta
and had brought him in, spoke to the officer in
charge of these guards.
'Throw open the doors, friend Medro. It is the
'The Chief! And who besides, good Lymento?'
asked the officer cautiously.
'One for whom I will be answerable,' answered
Fumenta brusquely. 'Waste not time in idle talk.
This will be a critical night for us; and we have
no time to lose.'
Without other reply than a salute, the officer turned
on his heel and ordered his men to throw open the
doors. And as they fell back he advanced and cried
in sonorous tones, 'Friends all, the Chief!'
Fumenta stepped past him, conducting Ivanta,
and called out in ringing accents, 'And with him
the King! Friends, I bring into your midst King
Ivanta. He has been deserted by those he trusted.
He is, indeed, actually now being hunted by those
upon whom he has conferred benefits, and stands
at the present moment in sore need of trustworthy
friends I assured him he would find them here.
Tell me, have I promised aright?'
Before them was a great hall filled with people
in varied dresses, as though they had been brought
together from many different parts. There were
ragged, rough, but stalwart men, very much of
the style of Fumenta's followers; and there were
others, both soldiers and civilians, of different
grades, some plainly, some richly dressed.
It was, in fact, a meeting gathered from far and
near of those of the inhabitants of Iraynia who
had secretly sympathised with Fumenta and his
outlaws, and who had been hoping for, almost
expecting, some such 'burst up' as had now taken
place between Agrando and Ivanta. And they had
been secretly planning to rise, when that time
arrived, against Agrando themselves, and endeavour
to throw off his yoke once and for all.
But they had not exactly expected what had
actually happened. King Ivanta had always wielded
such power, and had shown himself so strong, that
the possibility of his ever being in his present
position had never entered into their calculations.
Consequently, Fumenta's words fell upon the
assembly almost as a bombshell might have done—that
is to say, with a temporarily stunning effect.
For a space there was silence—a dead silence,
which seemed at first to be chilling, irresponsive.
Then suddenly some one in the body of the hall
jumped up and shouted, 'We have no quarrel with
King Ivanta. We are ready to help him against
Agrando! Fumenta, you have done well to tell
the king that in his present difficulty he will find
At once others seized the cue, and hastened to
declare their approval of the words spoken. A
few moments more, and the scene at Fumenta's
stronghold was being repeated here.
'Long live King Ivanta!' was the cry which was
taken up on all sides, and repeated till the roof
Fumenta turned to Ivanta with a slight smile
upon his usually hard-grained visage. 'You hear,
oh king! These are the men of Iraynia! You see
that I did not act without reason in bringing you
here. All these will be henceforth your followers,
and they, again, have more—a thousand times
more—at their backs, who will flock to us as soon
as the news spreads.'
Ivanta was visibly affected. Never in his life
till this day had he known what it meant to
stand in need of a few true friends. He who
had led conquering armies, and had listened to the
acclamations of vast multitudes representing nearly
half the nations of the planet, and received the
homage of their rulers as his vassals—he was now
listening with gladness and gratitude to the kindly
welcome of those whom he had—unknowingly, it
is true—treated with injustice, and allowed Agrando
to tyrannise over!
He now addressed them, telling them in
simple but dignified language how he thanked them
all for their welcome; and after a brief conference
with their chiefs he gladly agreed to their request
that he should become their leader himself, and
for the future take the direction of the operations
they had planned.
Then they conducted him to a large enclosure
where a number of airships were lying.
'These we seized immediately we heard the news
of Agrando's revolt,' Lymento explained. 'Their
crews we made prisoners, and they are under lock
and key. What we now need is a storage station
to keep these craft supplied with electricity. They
have enough reserve power to last a day or two,
but not longer.'
'That station we can seize this very night,'
Fumenta again declared. 'It is at a place called
Crudia, some two hours' journey from here, and, as
I have already said, I happen to know that it is
at the present moment weakly held. But we have
no time to lose, for one of the first things Agrando
will do will doubtless be to reinforce the garrison
as a precaution. Extra men and airships may
even now be on their way there, so if we
desire to get there first we must hasten. Which
of these airships will you choose, sir, to sail in
Rapidly Fumenta ran over the list of their sizes
and special characteristics. At the end of it, Ivanta
decided that he would keep to his own yacht.
'My two yachts,' he reminded his new friends,
'are, with the exception of my great vessel, the
Ivenia, the fastest craft in the world. When they
cannot fight they can always run away,' he went
on meaningly. 'It may sound strange, perhaps,
to some of you to hear me talk thus of running
away; but there are others doubtless among you
who will understand my meaning. Of late years
you have not seen much fighting in the air, but
you may nevertheless be aware that in such
warfare swiftness and quick manoeuvring often count
for as much as size and numbers.'
The cheers which greeted this speech showed
that his words were understood and their meaning
appreciated; and the few remaining preparations
were quickly completed.
Half an hour later Ivanta and Alondra, in their
respective yachts, sailed off at the head of a strong
squadron of airships, all filled with crews of
THE OLD WELL.
Like weird, gigantic night-birds the fleet of
flying craft sailed onwards through the
night. The two moons of Mars—to which
our astronomers have given the names of Deimos
and Phobos—were just then in sight at the same
time. The former was near to setting, while the
latter had but just risen. Together they were
throwing a faint, mellow light over the landscape,
dimly illuminating hill and dale, rocky height and
sombre valley, slumbering villages and isolated
dwellings, as they seemed to slip away beneath
the swift, silent airships.
Alondra was busy on board his yacht serving out
tridents and shields and other necessary articles.
'You are forgetting me, Prince,' Jack presently
observed, after patiently waiting some time, and
finding that he had been left out in the
'And me,' Gerald put in. 'What have we done,
friend Alondra, that we should be left out?'
Alondra looked perplexed.
'Well, you see,' he said hesitatingly, 'you are
our guests. It is not fair to you to call upon you
to take part in our quarrels, or help in fighting
'Pooh, what nonsense!' exclaimed Jack. 'Why,
what new idea is this? You did not talk like it
in the pavilion, when we had to defend ourselves.'
'Because there was no help for it. My followers
were far away, and we had to do the best we
could. Here it is we who are going out to make
an attack, and'——
'And we are going to join and help all we
can,' Jack declared stoutly. 'Your quarrel is ours.
Please say no more, but give us our share of your
arms—or would you prefer that we should trust to
'Better have our usual weapons, if you are
determined, and keep your own as a reserve,'
And so it was settled; and not only the two
chums, but Clinch and Reid—who had, during their
visit, learned the use of the Martian weapons—were
duly fitted out after the fashion of the rest
of Ivanta's following.
As they proceeded, the exact direction and other
necessary instructions were signalled from the
leading yacht by means of curious devices in
coloured points of light, which appeared from time
to time like tiny coloured fireworks upon the masts.
After a run of a couple of hours, a halt was
called, and Alondra was signalled to come alongside
the king's yacht.
One moon had set, and the other had become
obscured by clouds. The landscape was now in
shadow, and the squadron was almost invisible
from below; for, save the occasional twinkling of
the signals, the flying craft showed no lights.
'The place we are going to attack,' Ivanta
explained, when the leaders had been assembled in
his cabin, 'may be, as our friend Fumenta declares,
weakly held so far as the number of the garrison
is concerned, but in other respects it is a most
difficult place to assail. No one should know this
better than I,' he continued, a little bitterly, 'because
I myself designed the fortress and its defences. I
knew that it lay in a very exposed region, where
it would be difficult to keep a large garrison, and
where a surprise might at any time be attempted.
So I did everything that my ingenuity could devise
to render it practically impregnable.'
'I know all that to be true, sir,' observed
'It is neither more nor less than a great cavern—or,
rather, series of caverns—in the side of a
precipitous mountain,' Ivanta went on. 'One can
neither approach it nor leave it except by
flying-machine. There is no path, no ledge, which
anything but a fly could cling to. There is only one
defensive wall—that which closes the outer side
of the caverns—and this has been so built in as
to resemble a continuation of the precipice. One
cannot tell by looking which is the natural rock
and which is the artificial stone wall. There are
gates, or rather iron doors, and these are specially
defended by being connected with the electric
storage batteries. When the current is turned
on—as is supposed always to be the case at night,
or when the doors are not in actual use—it is
death to any one who touches them.'
'All that I know, oh king!' said Fumenta. 'There
is also an underground waterfall—an immense body
of water ever tumbling through the great caverns.'
'Yes. It works the engines which collect and
store the electric power.'
'Exactly; and it cannot be used for any other
purpose. It is of no use, for instance, for drinking
purposes, because the water has a disagreeable,
brackish taste. Therefore, there is a well of fresh
water. Is it not so, sir?'
'True,' returned Ivanta, eying him keenly. 'But
what of that?'
'That well was made by boring downwards till
a stream of pure water was found. When this
was met with it rushed into the bottom of the well
and found its own way out, thus affording an ample
supply for the garrison without further trouble.
So no one bothered himself further about it as to
whence the stream came or whither it went. But all
that was many years ago. Since then, however, this
fresh-water stream has been gradually drying up;
and now there is not enough to supply the people
on guard there. That is one reason why the garrison
is now so small. Then another well was bored in
another part, which gave a sufficient supply for
the reduced garrison, and the very existence of
the first well was almost forgotten. But where
the stream once ran there is now an underground
passage or tunnel, which starts from a grotto high
up in another part of the mountain.'
'Say you so? Are you sure?' he exclaimed.
'Certain am I of what I say, oh king! No one
seems to have noted that the drying up of this
stream has opened a back way, so to speak, into
the stronghold, which renders it possible to attack
it by a surprise visit. No one seems to have
troubled about it, or to have made it his business
to report that so simple a fact has rendered useless
all the work and time and trouble expended upon
your elaborate defences.'
At this Ivanta frowned a little; then a smile
passed over his countenance, and he cried, 'Said
I not that you were a man after my own heart,
friend Fumenta? Of a truth, the next time I
design a fortress I shall ask you to look at my
plan, and tell me of all its weak points before I
carry it out. But this seems to happen most
fortunately for us. Do you mean to say we can
make our way in by the channel of that dried-up
watercourse? Can you guide us to it?'
'That is my plan. It is a very simple one,
after all,' returned the outlaw chief modestly; 'but
I think you will find that it will suffice for our
purpose. I suggest that you send out two parties,
one to attack the place in front, while I will
guide the rest, so that they can creep in by the
route I have indicated. The other party must
show no sign till we have gained the interior and
manipulated the levers which cut off the electric
current from the doorways. Then they can make
a dash and help us to overpower the garrison.'
'And thus easily,' murmured Ivanta, with, a sigh—'thus
simply are all my elaborate and complicated
defences to be set at nought and overcome—laughed
at, in fact! However, so be it! 'Tis a
good plan; and if it succeeds, the possession of such
a stronghold, with its machinery and underground
waterfall, will be a piece of good fortune indeed.'
'And we will take good care,' said Alondra,
laughing, 'to have that back entrance well guarded
in future. Now, I want to be one of your party,
friend Fumenta. That will suit me better than
waiting about with the rest till some one else,
having done all the fighting, opens the door to us.'
At this Gerald and Jack and their party asked
to be allowed to go with Alondra, and pressed
their claims so eagerly that at last Ivanta acceded.
'I shall myself make one,' he said. 'And since
you so much desire it, you shall all join.'
Later on, the fleet of airships divided into two
bodies, and one, the smaller portion, made direct
for the heights of the mountain in which the
stronghold was situated. The rest were to wait
about till the time should come for making their
presence known by a direct frontal attack.
Fumenta led his section into a small cave,
which opened out, first into a gallery, and then
into a spacious grotto. All were provided with
small glow-lamps, ropes, metal staples for
climbing, and other requisites, in addition to their arms,
which consisted of tridents, shields, and the usual
swords or spears.
The grotto had several galleries running out of
it, and selecting one of these, Fumenta followed
its windings for some distance, till he came to a
small stream running into a deep cutting. A little
farther on, this little watercourse took a sudden
turn and disappeared into a hole on the left.
'That,' said the outlaw chief, 'is all that is left
of the stream which formerly completely filled the
tunnel it here plunges into. Nowadays you can
walk along its bed and the water will not in any
place reach to your knees.'
'How do you know?' Ivanta asked.
'I have traversed the whole distance,' was the
answer. 'I even climbed up the sides of the well
to see whether it was fenced off in any way, and
I found it quite open. Moreover, the place where
I emerged was empty and deserted. One could
see it is never used now.'
Fumenta then directed that some of the tridents
and shields should be tied into bundles, and these
were given to bearers to carry on their shoulders
clear of the water. By this means the leading
adventurers were left free to climb the sides of
the well and attach ropes, which could then be
utilised, first to pull up the bundles, and
afterwards to assist the ascent of the rest of the
These details having been duly arranged, they
entered the waterway in twos and threes, wading
in the water, which at first reached nearly to
their knees, but became much more shallow as
Presently those in front arrived at the well
and halted, the others crowding up as closely as
they could get, some passing into the waterway
on the farther side, where they stood awaiting
Fumenta and his lieutenants, Duralda and Landris,
began the ascent, pushing iron staples into the
chalk sides to assist those who came after them.
Behind them followed Malto, Malandris, and others.
Upon another side of the well Ivanta and Alondra,
with the two chums and the sailors, imitated this
operation. All worked in perfect silence, and
almost in darkness, only the carefully screened
gleams from their glow-lamps being visible.
The leaders reached the top in safety, and found
themselves in a roomy cavern, which was in complete
darkness. No sound was to be heard; and, satisfied
that their presence was unsuspected, they secured
one of the ropes they had brought with them and
threw the end down, that the bearers below might
attach their bundles to it.
Not until they had hauled up these indispensable
weapons, and had them in their hands, could
they hope, should they be discovered and attacked,
to hold the mouth of the well long enough for the
body of followers behind to climb up to their
assistance. Every one lent a hand, for it was
necessary that their plan should be carried out as
expeditiously as possible.
Tom Clinch and Bob Reid were hauling up the
first bundles, when the former, in his zeal, leaned
over too far, lost his balance, and fell headlong
into the well. About half-way down, coming into
collision with one of the bundles, he managed to
grip the rope, and thus saved himself from going
farther. His weight, however, broke away the
cord by which it was fastened, and sent the whole
lot of tridents clattering to the bottom, where they
created a panic by falling upon the heads of the
crowd waiting there. A chorus of cries and
shouts, mingled with groans and shrieks of pain,
followed, which sounds were magnified as they
came up the well as though it had been an
immense speaking-trumpet, and were echoed back
from the rocky roof of the cavern.
There followed a brief silence—deep, tense, and
anxious. Then a high, wide door swung open, the
place was flooded with light, and a number of
armed men burst in and made a rush at the
group gathered round the mouth of the well.
THE FIGHT FOR THE STRONGHOLD.
It was a critical moment for those of the
adventurers who had gained the top of the
well. Being without tridents and shields,
they were absolutely at the mercy of any enemy
who carried them. They were armed only with
swords, spears, or daggers, which were useless
against the other weapons. It seemed as though
they must all inevitably, within a few minutes, be
lying at the mercy of their foes.
A second glance, however, revealed an unexpected
piece of good fortune. Their enemies were no
better armed than themselves! The members of
the garrison had dwelt in the place so long in
peace and security that it had become their habit
to stack away their tridents in their stores, as
articles for which they had no use from day to
day. Moreover, they knew that their stronghold
was reputed to be impregnable, and they never
dreamed of its being thus suddenly attacked.
Hence, when the outcry arose in the cavern in
which was the old disused well, they had rushed
in on the spur of the moment, wondering what the
noise could be, and armed only with those weapons
which formed part of their everyday equipment.
Swords flashed from their scabbards on both
sides, and a moment later the two parties were
engaged in a fierce hand-to-hand fight. A number
of Fumenta's people had followed him up his side
of the well, while those on the other side were
hauling at their rope. Thus, for the time being,
the adversaries were about equally matched in
point of numbers as well as weapons. It was
pretty certain, however, that the defenders would
be reinforced at a much greater rate than the
assailants could be, to say nothing of the fact
that at any moment some of the former might
arrive on the scene bringing with them the dreaded
Ivanta turned to Jack and Gerald, and whispered
a few words at the moment of drawing his sword.
'You have your pistols! Try to close the door
and hold it fast. That will give us time!'
The hint was sufficient. The two acted upon it
at once, and calling to Bob Reid to follow, they
made a circuit, and avoiding the rush of the
defenders, got round to their rear. The first group
passed without noticing them, and there was no
one else inside the door. But upon the other side
of it they could see another group, who were
running to the support of their friends, and two
of them, who were in advance, were carrying
It was doubtful which would reach the door
first; but two shots rang out, and the
trident-bearers dropped their weapons. They had each
been wounded in the arm. Their comrades,
wondering what was wrong, and, startled by the
reports of the firearms—added to by a hundred
echoes from the rocky vault overhead—paused in
their advance, and crowded round the wounded men.
The three near the door on the inside took
advantage of their halt to bang it to, and hastily
shoot some bolts which they found upon it.
Then they turned to ascertain how it fared with
their friends, and see what they could do to help
Ivanta and Fumenta had apparently been singled
out for special attack, and each was defending
himself against two or three adversaries. Both
were fighting like heroes of old, and for a brief
space the two chums paused to watch them,
spellbound by the fascination of the combat.
Fumenta was fighting as such an old war-dog
might be expected to fight. Grim, hard-visaged,
and stalwart, his grizzled locks shaking at every
turn of his head, he rained blows so quickly upon
his foes that two had already fallen under them;
and the others now seemed more anxious to keep
at arm's length than to trust themselves near
enough to strike.
Ivanta, on his side, was fighting not less valiantly,
but in somewhat different fashion. As Gerald
subsequently expressed it, he fought 'like the king
that he was.' In his flashing glance there was
nothing of the cold gleam of hatred, bred of long
experience as a hunted outcast, which showed in
the eyes of the outlaw chief. Rather was there
dignified disdain, and even something of pity for
those with whom circumstances forced him into
conflict. In his whole appearance there was that
which reminded the spectators of a lion defending
himself in contemptuous fashion against the attacks
of a number of curs; while Fumenta might be
likened rather to an old wolf driven to bay.
Suddenly one of those opposed to Ivanta lowered
his sword, and stepped backward, as if in surprise,
crying out loudly, 'It is the king! Down with
your swords! It is the king!'
At this there was a general pause. The man's
comrades imitated his action, and the rest of the
defending force desisted also in surprise. Thus,
for a space, there was a cessation of hostilities
'What said you, Sedla?' cried one near the
speaker. 'The king! What king? We serve
Agrando! He is not here!'
'This is Agrando's overlord, King Ivanta,' the
first one answered. 'We must not fight against
'How do you know?' 'What does it mean?'
'How can we tell?' 'How can such a thing have
come about?' such were the questions which were
called out, first from one and then from another.
Evidently the garrison of this isolated post knew
nothing as yet of Agrando's revolt. No news of
it had reached them, nor had any messengers come
from Agrando instructing them that he was now
at war with his overlord, and expected them to
espouse his cause. Neither, as it seemed, were
they—with one or two exceptions—acquainted with
Ivanta's person. Of those then present, only the
one who had first spoken knew him by sight.
Ivanta was quick to take advantage of this
'It is well that you spoke,' he haughtily said.
'It explains, I suppose, why you and your
friends have attacked me. Otherwise, you would
be guilty of treason! Down with your weapons,
all of you!'
'But,' objected one who was evidently an officer,
'if you are King Ivanta—I ask, sir, with all
respect—why have you forced an entrance in this
'And,' said another dubiously, 'how comes it
that the great King Ivanta is here attacking us
hand and glove with the outlaw Fumenta and his
band—the sworn enemies of our master Agrando?'
'I can understand your perplexity, my friends.
Strange things have happened outside these walls
of which I see you have as yet heard nothing.
Let your chief officers confer with me, and I will
give them the information which I see you are in
There ensued some discussion, carried on in a
low tone amongst three or four who were the
leaders of the garrison. Evidently there were
differences of opinion among them. Some were for
submitting to Ivanta; while the others, doubtful
of his identity, and fearing some trick, were for
continuing the combat.
Suddenly one of the little council broke away
from the others and looked angrily at Fumenta.
'You may do as you please with those others!'
he cried. 'That gentleman may be King Ivanta
or he may not! What is certain is that yonder
old villain is Fumenta, the leader of the outlaw
bands, and I for one have an old-standing grudge
against him, which I mean to take this chance of
With sudden fury and upraised hand, in which
gleamed a naked dagger, he made a rush at the
one he had denounced. Fumenta had been quietly
talking to some of his people, and just then had
his back to his assailant.
Another moment and the weapon would have
been buried in his breast, when Malto, who had
been standing near, threw himself between the
two. There was a smothered exclamation, a blow,
then Malto reeled back and was caught by
Malandris; while, with a cry like an enraged tiger,
Fumenta darted upon the would-be assassin.
One hand closed upon the man's throat, and the
other upon his wrist. There was a brief, fierce
struggle; then the assailant was lifted high in the
air and flung down with terrible force upon the
rocky floor, where he lay prone without a sign
Fumenta glanced round as though to challenge
the man's friends to try conclusions with him; but
as no one seemed inclined to take the quarrel upon
himself, he turned to where he now saw Malto
lying, supported by a group of anxious friends.
The young fellow was evidently badly wounded,
for he had fainted, and Malandris was engaged in
trying to stanch the blood which flowed from a
wound in the breast.
'Let me come to him! Leave him to me!' cried
Fumenta. 'He offered his life to save mine; it is
my place to care for him!'
They made way for him, and formed a circle
around to guard the two from any more treacherous
attacks; while Ivanta, seeing that these events had
roused bad blood on both sides, applied himself to
preventing the threatened renewal of the fighting.
Sedla, however, the one who had recognised
Ivanta, was, fortunately, firm in his refusal to
take sides against him; and his particular friends
were content to follow his lead. Those who were
for continuing the strife thus found themselves in
a minority; and, recognising this, they sullenly
All this time there had been much knocking
and banging at the closed door on the one side;
while, on the other, men had come scrambling up
the well, adding, every moment, to the numbers
of Ivanta's supporters, and bringing with them
this time the tridents which had been left below.
Very soon Ivanta was in a position to dictate
his own terms to those present; but there was
still the rest of the garrison to be considered.
After some talk, Sedla undertook to act as
negotiator with these, and presently the door was
thrown open, and he and his friends stood in the
It was a curious scene, that which followed.
Behind Sedla, at a little distance, was Ivanta, at
the head of rank after rank of men, all armed
with their tridents and shields. On the other
side of the doorway there were again to be seen
rank upon rank of the garrison, similarly armed,
and evidently ready for the fray, yet wondering
what had been going on behind the closed door,
and doubtless curious to know, before they began,
who it was they were to fight, and what it was
Sedla cleverly took advantage of this natural
curiosity to gain a hearing for what he had to
say, and followed it up so tactfully that he
eventually gained over the whole garrison.
Thus was the place captured with but little
actual fighting; and Ivanta gained thereby a
valuable base for the supply of his aerial fleet, as
well as a stronghold in which he and his following
could find secure refuge in case of necessity.
A GREAT AERIAL BATTLE.
Having made his dispositions within and
without—taking note of the resources now
at his disposal, sending out airships as
scouts, &c.—Ivanta turned his attention to the
wounded. He found Fumenta in close attendance
upon Malto, who was still lying in an almost
unconscious state; and Ivanta, who was himself well
skilled in such matters, made an examination of
'I think he will pull round,' was his verdict. 'I
shall hope yet to see him, with you, and others of
my new friends, around me at my Court at
Karendia—my "palace in the clouds."'
Fumenta shook his head. 'I am too old—ay,
and too rough and rugged now—for Court life,
sir,' he answered. 'Time was—but we must wait
and see what happens. I shall help you with
might and main so long as you need a trusty
ally; after that, when you have succeeded in
getting back your own, I shall make the request
which I have already prepared you for. Then I
shall ask but one favour more—the permission to
withdraw into obscurity, and pass the rest of my
days in peace. But I am meanwhile sorely
concerned about this brave young fellow. I was
strangely taken with him when I first saw him,
and I need not say how that feeling has been
intensified by his heroic act of bravery and
self-sacrifice. But for his devoted action I should now
be lying in his place, or more likely I should be
'It was truly, as you say, an act of heroism,'
Ivanta declared with emotion. 'It is passing
strange that you two should be joined, as it were,
by such a link; the more so that I have
understood that you each had some special request to
make to me. I shall be curious to see, when the
time comes, whether the two requests have any
'I do not see how that could possibly be,'
returned Fumenta, with another shake of his head.
'I have never heard of him before, and he knows
no more about me. But his future, if he lives,
shall be my care. I can make him rich, wealthy—ay,
I can make him one of the wealthiest men
on our globe—and I will do so out of gratitude
for what he did. For know, oh king, that I
made but recently a great discovery! In one of
the passages beneath the ancient volcano I came
across a gold-mine—a veritable cave of gold! It
was to that I referred when I said I could supply
you with gold to carry on your warfare with
Agrando. What you do not require I shall divide
between this young man and those who have been
my faithful followers.'
'You shall tell me more about it at another
time,' rejoined Ivanta kindly. 'As to what I shall
myself require, it will, all being well, be paid back
later on; for I have no wish to make your friends'
share less than it would otherwise have been.
Send me word if you notice any change in the
young man's condition,' he added, as he left to
continue his round of inspection.
Meanwhile, the two chums and Alondra were
constantly in and out asking for news of Malto.
To them the unexpected success, thus far, of their
expedition was cruelly saddened and overshadowed
so long as his life was in danger.
'We owe him much,' Alondra declared. 'But
for him we should now be Agrando's prisoners, to
'There is no doubt as to that,' Gerald agreed.
'But apart from any such consideration, I like him
immensely on his own account. I wonder who he
is? There is some mystery about him, I feel sure.
Some sad event, I fancy, must have happened to
him which has thrown a blight over his whole life.'
'For the matter of that, to be a sort of slave
to Agrando is enough to blight anybody's life!'
cried Jack warmly. 'Anyway, whoever he is, I
feel sure he is well-born. His whole manner and
bearing—ay, and his instincts, so to speak—tell
you that much.'
Thus, in low and sorrowful tones, did they
speak of their wounded friend while they waited
about, anxious for bulletins. It was curious to
see what a good impression the young fellow had
made upon all those who had been his companions,
even for so short a time.
But their talk was suddenly ended, and their
thoughts turned into other channels, by news that
was just then brought in that a large fleet of
airships had been descried by their aerial scouts.
'Those who think they know,' Monck announced
to Ivanta, 'declare that Agrando himself is probably
with them. They recognised the Alsperro, which,
as you know, sir, is the former warship which he
has been using as a yacht. She is now, I suppose,
to act the part of a war-vessel once more.'
Fumenta, on hearing the news, hurried from the
couch of the wounded youth to confer with Ivanta.
'The fleet which is approaching is far stronger
than yours,' Ivanta explained to him. 'You
cannot hide your vessels here in the fortress, so they
must either fight or make their escape—if they
can, which, as you know, is doubtful. As they are
manned by and belong to your friends, it is fitting
that I should ask you which course they will
prefer to adopt.'
'I am for fighting at all hazards; and so will
they be, I know,' returned Fumenta, with grim
determination. 'You need not put the question to
'I am glad to hear that, since it accords with
my own wishes,' was Ivanta's answer. 'I shall
take my measures at once in accordance with your
decision. But you must take charge of your fleet,
and, for the time being, do the best you can at
first, as though my yachts were out of it. They
are not fitted to bear the brunt of the first attack
from heavier craft, but you will find we shall be
able to render you help in another way. We can
rise higher and manoeuvre better than any airship
belonging either to you or to Agrando.'
'So be it,' said Fumenta simply. 'We will do
our best, sir, rest assured, apart from your yachts;
and if you can help us so much the better.'
It was the Nelda, the king's yacht, from which
Monck had observed the approach of the hostile
squadron. She could soar so high that, by the
aid of powerful glasses, the strangers had been
sighted at an immense distance. Then, thanks to
her swiftness of flight, she had carried the news
to the fortress before the foe had appeared above
When, an hour later, therefore, those in charge
of Agrando's powerful fleet drew near, they found
a smaller squadron waiting to give them battle.
The oncoming fleet halted, and for a while the
hostile forces remained watching each other. Then
amongst Agrando's airships there was seen the
flutter of a white flag, which on Mars, as on our
own globe, is the generally recognised sign of a
desire for a parley.
Presently a small pinnace, bearing the white
emblem, came flying towards the vessel which
Fumenta had made what we should term his
'flagship'—a large-sized craft called by the Martian
equivalent for Crescent.
As the pinnace approached, it was seen that the
officer in charge of her was Gorondo, Agrando's
generalissimo. A little later he was within
speaking distance, and delivered his message, which
conveyed to Fumenta two or three pieces of
information. The first was that Agrando himself
was in command of his fleet; the second, that he
had somehow heard of the outlaw's chief feat—the
seizure of the Iraynian squadron; the third,
that he was still ignorant of the capture of the
The message itself was a haughty and peremptory
demand for immediate and unconditional
surrender, the bearer taking the trouble to point
out that resistance would be useless, as not only
were Agrando's ships larger and far more numerous
than those opposed to him, but another fleet was
on its way to join him. Between the two, Fumenta's
position would be hopeless, more especially as he
had no power-station to look to to renew his
supply of electricity. This last assertion it was
which showed that Agrando was unaware of the
capture of the fortress.
Fumenta did not enlighten him as to this, but
contented himself with a refusal to surrender,
couched in terms as curt and peremptory as those
of the summons.
With a shrug of the shoulders and a sarcastic
expression of pity for the forthcoming fate of the
'rebels,' the ambassador returned to his master.
Both fleets then began their aerial war manoeuvres.
Agrando formed his force into two divisions—not
lines, but two planes or tiers, one above the other.
Fumenta replied by forming his vessels into three
similar divisions; whereupon Agrando altered his
formation to four tiers.
Each side sent out a number of smaller craft—a
kind of mosquito fleet, consisting of different
kinds of 'fliers.' Many of these were parties of
boarders, whose duty it would be to watch their
opportunities and then swarm round any of the
opposing vessels which met with a mishap or got
Upon both sides the men had been already
provided with 'parachute costumes,' which would
enable them to float in the air for a while in case
of disaster to their vessel, and aid them in
making a safe descent to the ground. Then a
certain number were fitted out with motor-wings,
while others again had wings without motors, and
all these different classes were organised into
separate groupings, just as we divide fighting-men
into various classes—such as infantry, cavalry, &c., on
land, and sailors, marines, and so on, upon the sea.
Agrando sent up first one, then others of his
craft, soaring high into the air, with the object
of getting above the enemy and dropping down
missiles upon them. But even as they mounted
above their companion vessels, similar craft were
seen rising from the other side to oppose them,
and it was between these 'soarers' that the actual
All the larger vessels on each side were provided
with movable turtle-decks or shields as a protection
against missiles hurled from above. The real
danger from these, however, lay in the injury
which might be done to the upright spirals or
the extended wings, thereby crippling the manoeuvring
power of the craft, or causing her to fall
headlong to the ground.
On this account war-vessels did not depend upon
one pair of wings alone, but all were fitted with
at least two pairs, and some—the biggest—with
even three or four pairs. Spare wings were also
held in readiness to be run out at any moment
to take the place of those which might suffer.
The soarers, as stated, began the actual fighting
with the efforts of those on one side to get above
the vessels opposed to them, and of the other to
prevent them from doing so.
While these craft were darting to and fro,
chasing each other round, now shooting upwards,
now diving to avoid a threatened collision, suddenly
a shock was heard, as two of them met in
mid-air, with consequences mutually disastrous.
A moment or two later both vessels were falling
towards the ground, though the course followed
was in each case most erratic. Just previously
they had met and remained for a brief space as
though glued together; then they flew apart, and
began whirling and whizzing round in seemingly
mad fashion, like gigantic bluebottles which have
singed their wings.
As they pursued their eccentric, irresponsible
flight, darting this way and that, now spinning
round like humming-tops, now rushing through the
air like stray rockets, dangerous alike to friends
and foes, each left behind it a sort of 'trail,'
which wound round and about, marking its exact
This 'trail' consisted of the members of the
crews who had jumped or been thrown off, and
were now floating downwards in their parachute
Occasionally there were conflicts in mid-air, as
individual castaways from the two airships
happened to be thrown one against another in their
But such incidents as these were but trifles in an
aerial battle; and, since they exercised practically
no effect in deciding its ultimate issue, attracted
little general notice. The main struggle would
have to be fought out between the larger craft
when they came to close quarters—a state of
things which Agrando was manoeuvring to bring
Fumenta, however, by previous arrangement with
Ivanta, was equally anxious to avoid close fighting
just then. Accordingly, he was exercising every
stratagem his lengthened experience could devise
which might tempt his enemies to alter their close
formation and draw them on to attack him in
Agrando, moving slowly forward, sent out yet
more boarders, armed with tridents and shields, in
readiness for the attack, and these formed another
curious feature in this strange battle-scene.
They were towed through the air in long
strings, holding on to ropes made fast to their
respective vessels, their parachute dress serving for
the most part to maintain their position, with the
aid of the ropes, and small motor-machines here
As the great array advanced, Fumenta retired—at
first as though with reluctance, then more
hurriedly, till at last the retreat began to look
like the beginning of a panic-stricken flight.
Then Agrando sent his swiftest vessels ahead,
towing with them their strings of boarders. In
the excitement of pursuit some went faster than
the rest, whilst others swerved off to right or to
left to outflank the fugitives and head them back,
thus creating gaps and spaces in their own ranks.
Meantime, where were Ivanta and his two
yachts? That was the question that was being
asked by Fumenta and his trusted lieutenants, and
they asked it more anxiously as the minutes went by.
The outlaw chief had—sorely, it must be confessed,
against his own feelings—consented to carry
out a plan which involved the appearance of
ignominious flight. The old fighter did not like
the role he was thus playing; but he had promised,
and he was carrying out his part. The question
was, would Ivanta arrive soon enough to carry out
his part? If he was to do so it was time he put
in an appearance.
Fumenta looked upwards and scanned the sky
anxiously. Nothing was to be seen but some
rather heavy-looking clouds, which were floating
with the wind, and would shortly be overhead.
Suddenly, in the midst of one of these clouds,
two dark shadows showed. A moment later they
had taken form and burst out into the open, and
then the two yachts came swooping wildly down,
with closed wings, like huge birds stooping to
strike their prey.
THE END OF THE STRUGGLE.
When Ivanta, with the two yachts, had
gone off, leaving Fumenta with his fleet
to face Agrando's powerful force, he had
not, in reality, gone very far.
At first he had travelled swiftly to windward,
till he met with a bank of cloud drifting with the
breeze. Then he had been content to penetrate
into it just far enough to conceal his two vessels
and remain there, floating slowly back with the
cloud in the direction from which he had come.
Well versed in the movements of the varying
currents of air and the clouds they bore with
them, he calculated that by remaining thus inactive
he would be carried back to the scene of the coming
conflict without any one suspecting his whereabouts,
and that he would arrive just about the time when
he would be able to act with the best effect.
Gerald and Jack, on board Alondra's yacht,
watched from afar the beginning of the battle.
The yachts took up a station near the edge of the
cloud, just far enough from its fringe for
concealment, yet not so deep in the mist as to prevent
them from watching, through powerful glasses, all
that was taking place.
Both yachts were supplied with turtle deck-shields,
and these had been duly fitted in their
places. The framework of the vessels was
constructed of ivantium, the light but marvellously
hard metal which formed the outer shell of the
great aerostat, the Ivenia. Moreover, the ornamental
prows were solid pieces of the same metal, and
thus formed formidable rams of enormous strength.
These constituted advantages which Ivanta's fertile
brain had planned to turn to good account.
'The practice you have had when preparing for
our racing competitions,' he pointed out to his son
and the two chums, when unfolding his scheme,
'will now come in useful. What we have to do is
to take the enemy by surprise as soon as they
are sufficiently scattered. You must be ready to
execute some of those daring aerial dives with
which you have many times excited the wonder
and admiration of the crowds of spectators assembled
at our aerial regattas. Then they were executed
merely as feats of manoeuvring and aerial
craftsmanship; now they may decide the fate of the
battle. I am going to show you youngsters my
reliance upon your nerve and steadiness by trusting
you to follow my lead. It will be a risky card to
play, but if we keep our heads, and carry it
through successfully, it may mean the defeat of
the whole hostile fleet and the capture of Agrando
himself—if he is there, as I believe he is!'
'We 're ready, father!' cried Alondra. 'And you
can trust Gerald and Jack. They know how to
manage the Lokris now as well as I do.'
'We'll do our best, sir!' said Gerald modestly.
'And thank you for giving us the chance! If we
can do anything towards defeating Agrando we
shall feel we are aiding in the deliverance of Mr
Armeath—especially if, as you suggest may be the
case, we can capture the tyrant himself.'
Preliminaries having been thus settled, the yachts
drew apart and took up positions in readiness for
the work before them.
Meantime, they were as yet far from the
contending forces, and there was nothing to be done,
while they were drifting slowly towards them, but
observe what went on through their glasses with
such patience as they could muster.
The two sailors were watching, too, not less
eagerly than their leaders, and their remarks and
comments upon what they saw were both quaint
'What a queer way o' fightin'!' sniffed Tom
Clinch scornfully. 'No smell o' powder, no noise
o' big guns! An' look at their formation—one lot
above another, an' another above them agen an'
agen! A reg'lar four-decker business!'
'Ay, it do seem stoopid like,' Bob Reid agreed.
'S'pose some o' the top uns dropped, they 'd go
bang on top o' them below! Did ye ever 'ear o'
sich a way o' settin' out in battle array?'
'By Jingo, Bob, look at them there strings o'
chaps bein' towed inter battle hangin' on ter
hawsers, an' swingin' an' swayin' about in the air!
Did ye ever 'ear o' the likes o' that, now?'
Presently a signal came from the king to be in
readiness, and all talk ceased. For a while there
was tense expectation, and those on board Alondra's
yacht kept their eyes upon the Nelda.
Suddenly the king's yacht lurched forward with
poised wings, and then dived headlong, the wings
closing as it descended.
The spirals, working at high pressure, the flat
bottom, which in itself formed an aeroplane, aided
by the fanlike stern or tail, were sufficient, at the
tremendous speed, to hold her up long enough to
effect the intended purpose, which was to force
her way through the outstretched wings of a line
of the enemy's ships.
In the line or row selected there were six vessels,
one behind the other, and the Nelda passed along
close to them like a whirlwind, crashing through
the wings, snapping them off like twigs, and
effectually disabling the whole line.
Alondra followed suit, selecting for his attack
other six craft in line, and managing the operation
not less adroitly.
Both evolutions were effected with lightning-like
rapidity. It seemed but an instant before they
had passed, their wings had opened, and they had
shot upwards upon the other side so quickly that
they appeared only as specks in the upper air.
Then they turned in long, graceful curves, and
came down in another deadly plunge, selecting this
time other vessels, which they served as they had
They left behind them a trail of wrecked craft,
some of which fell at once headlong to the ground,
while others spun helplessly round and round, their
remaining wings assisting to break their fall,
though unable to prevent it.
Vainly those on board made desperate efforts to
replace the broken wings by the spare ones held
in readiness. One they could have quickly
replaced; but where all on the same side had gone
the task was difficult, almost hopeless. But they
were not allowed the time even to attempt it, for
Fumenta's flying airships had turned, and were
now rushing back, heading straight for their
crippled enemies. They crashed in amongst them,
effectually finishing what the swifter-flying yachts
With Fumenta's larger craft came smaller ones,
which dashed about amongst the strings of 'boarders,'
breaking them up, and hurling whole batches to
And still the yachts continued their deadly
raids, flying to and fro like thunderbolts, leaving
everywhere in their track scenes of indescribable
confusion and panic.
It is but fair to Agrando to say that throughout
he kept his head, and struggled hard to avert the
complete defeat which threatened him. As far as
he could he huddled his vessels together for
mutual support, thus reducing the yachts' power
for mischief, since they could only work on the
Finally, Agrando retreated in the direction of
the fortress, which he imagined was still held by
his own people. There, close to the towering
precipice, his remaining warships would be safer
from the yachts' mad rushes; and he and his chief
officers, he reckoned, could in the last resort, take
refuge within and await the arrival of his second
Great was his dismay when, on his approach
to the place, he met with a hostile reception, and
realised that it had been already captured by his
On all sides there was for him, now, nothing
but disaster and defeat. Fumenta's vessels were
cruising up and down almost unopposed, capturing
here, destroying there, triumphant everywhere,
save as regards the few remaining ships with
which Agrando had surrounded himself. He had
formed these into a circle, each one facing
outwards, and in this way managed for a while to
keep their assailants at bay.
Then a great shout went up from them—a
loud chorus of exultation and defiance. In the
distance they had sighted the expected second
But their rejoicings were short-lived! Far away,
behind the oncoming ships, there was visible a
great mass, which it required but a second glance
to tell them was the Ivenia. It was evident that
she was in chase of the longed-for reinforcements,
which, in fact, were in headlong flight. They were
making for the fortress, where they hoped they
might find a refuge.
Agrando next saw the two yachts signalling to
the Ivenia, and watched them sail off to meet
her. Then, somewhat to his surprise, the whole of
Fumenta's forces followed. But this only meant
that Ivanta had called them off in the midst of
their half-finished work, contemptuously giving his
enemy an opportunity to rally his demoralised
followers, if he thought it worth while to do so.
But Agrando knew it was not worth while.
He knew that nothing could withstand the Ivenia.
He realised too well that he was hopelessly beaten;
that the great coup which he and the Diamond
King had played for had failed, and come to an
It was now evident that, somehow or other, a
few of Ivanta's devoted followers must have
regained possession of the Ivenia, after Agrando's
myrmidons had treacherously seized her, and had
hastened to the aid of their liege lord. For the
defeated tyrant and his aiders and abetters there
was therefore nothing now left but to throw
themselves upon the mercy of the conqueror.
This fact was, however, recognised by Agrando's
followers as quickly as by himself. With the
great Ivenia looming overhead, they too realised
that further fighting, or escape, would be alike
impossible. They were wise in their generation,
and perceived that their best hope lay in forcing
their leader to make surrender; and this they
They surrounded him in a body, and under their
coercion Agrando sullenly sent out another
messenger bearing the white flag. The result was
that, less than an hour later, he and his principal
officers were prisoners on board the Ivenia.
Then an unpleasant discovery was made.
Kazzaro was not among the captives, and inquiry
elicited the fact that, when he had perceived the
day was lost, he had slipped off in one of the
fastest of Agrando's airships. Further, it appeared
that he had declared his intention of returning
to Agrando's palace.
Thereupon, Ivanta decided to leave the completion
of the arrangements on the spot to Fumenta and
his lieutenants, in whose charge he also left the
yachts. Taking Alondra and his companions on
board the Ivenia, he started at once in pursuit of
the runaway—the cunning, cruel, crafty old 'Ogre.'
Fortunately, the airship in which Kazzaro had
gone off broke down before she reached her
destination, and thus the chase did not prove a very
long one. Doubtless, the 'Ogre,' in his fear of
pursuit, and his impatience to wreak a last vengeance
upon the hapless prisoners Agrando had left behind,
had overstrained the machinery.
But the chase, if short, was certainly an exciting
one, and afforded the visitors from Earth an
experience they had not had before—that of seeing
the Ivenia put to her utmost speed through the
air. Ivanta, in his righteous anger and his
determination to rescue the prisoners, sent her rushing
along almost like a comet. Had it been night,
indeed, she would certainly have seemed to leave
a fiery, comet-like tail behind her, for the
tremendous, almost appalling, rate at which she tore
through the dense air caused an amount of
friction which sent forth showers of electric
sparks. To a structure built of any other metal
than the marvellous ivantium it would have meant
Before night the prisoners—including Mr Armeath,
Aveena, and others of Alondra's friends—had been
rescued; and the 'Ogre' was safely locked up in
one of his own dungeons.
With the defeat and capture of Agrando
and his chief confederates, the rebellion
which they had fomented ignominiously
collapsed. None of their allies in other parts of
King Ivanta's empire made any serious attempt
to continue the struggle. The mere appearance
of the great Ivenia was sufficient to enforce
submission, as she visited in turn each disaffected
country or district.
With characteristic energy, the victor set to
work to restore complete order, and to efface the
after-effects of the general disturbance. Thanks
to the wonderful tact and discernment he brought
to bear upon this delicate task, affairs settled
down far more quickly than had at first seemed
possible. It was but a few weeks ere King
Ivanta returned in triumph to his 'palace in the
clouds,' again the undisputed ruler of his vast
realm, his supremacy once more unchallenged
throughout his dominions.
Then commenced the further task of judging
and punishing his vanquished foes. This was a
longer and more tedious business, involving much
journeying to and fro, and the holding of
numerous local inquiries and state trials.
Here again King Ivanta surprised even his
own friends, and heaped coals of fire upon the
heads of his enemies, by the nature of the
treatment he meted out. Firm and determined in
arriving at exact facts, discriminating in
apportioning blame, he showed himself generous and
magnanimous almost to a fault in regard to
punishment. Only those who, like Agrando and
Kazzaro, had been guilty of acts of deliberate
cruelty or injustice were severely dealt with; all
others were let off far more lightly than they
had any right to expect.
'I feel, my friend,' said Ivanta to Armeath, at
the very beginning of the inquiries, 'that I myself
have been much to blame in ever introducing
among my people the costly toys you call
diamonds and other precious stones. In the future
they shall be unknown here, even as they were
before I first visited your planet. They have
been the means of fostering greed and avarice,
increasing vanity and envy, exciting evil passions,
and creating discord where peace and goodwill
reigned before. Every one—every stone, large or
small—shall be collected. I will compel my
subjects to give up those they have, and I will
return them, including all that Zuanstroom
brought—with Zuanstroom himself—to the world whence
they came. Henceforth I will have none of
them; my subjects—our globe—shall know them
This reference to the Diamond King is sufficient
to indicate the extreme leniency exhibited towards
even the most blameworthy of those who had
rebelled against the Martian monarch. Zuanstroom
was, indeed, imprisoned for the remainder of his
visit; but no suggestion of any severer
punishment seemed to have entered King Ivanta's
thoughts. And even the imprisonment was more
nominal than real; the captive's son and nephew
were allowed free access to him, and they were
allowed to make occasional excursions together,
under the escort of his jailers.
'He's being treated a jolly sight better than
he deserves, and so are many others,' observed
practical-minded Jack. 'They intended to kill
him, and us too, if they had succeeded in their
plans. I doubt if such leniency will turn out to
be altogether the wisest course for King Ivanta's
own security in the future.'
'I don't agree with you, Jack. You are taking
a wrong view of it. To my mind, the king is
only acting just as I should have expected him
to do,' cried Gerald enthusiastically. 'What did
I always say of him, from the very first time
I set eyes upon him? I knew—yes, knew—something
seemed to tell me—how high-minded,
how truly noble he was! I always declared it!
But at that time it was only a feeling in my
mind, a sort of instinct. Now we have before us
proofs such as every one can see for
himself.— What do you think, sir?' he added, addressing
'Truly, my son, your instinct in this case led
you aright,' returned Armeath, nodding his head
and smiling. 'It is a goodly lesson for all of
us; a grand example, one worthy to be
remembered and pondered for the rest of our lives!'
It was a great time for the two chums and
their guardian, that which followed. As the
honoured guests of the king, and the special
friends and companions of the amiable prince
his son, they travelled about continually.
Sometimes in the Ivenia, at others in the prince's
splendid air-yacht, they made numerous journeys;
and everywhere they met with cordial receptions
from the rulers and nobles of the various nations,
visited everything that was worth seeing, and
enjoyed to the full all the varied entertainments
provided for their amusement.
One day there was a great assembly of nobles
and dignitaries at the 'palace in the clouds,' the
special occasion being—so it had been given
out—to do honour to some of those whom King
Ivanta wished to reward. Foremost amongst
these he placed the outlaw-chief Fumenta, and
the young stranger Malto, who had now quite
recovered from his wound.
Then it was that King Ivanta made an
announcement which came as a surprise indeed.
He began by calling upon Malto to declare the
nature of the request he wished to prefer. 'My
dear son Prince Alondra,' the king said, 'has
never ceased to remind me again and again of
the promise he made to you, Malto. Not, indeed,
that I required any such reminders; I am far
too sensible of the great service you rendered
him and his two companions, our guests, when
you enabled them to escape from Agrando's
power. No, I had not forgotten! So far from
forgetting, I may tell you that I have been
busily making inquiries of my own in anticipation
of what your request was likely to be. At
last my vague guesses have been completely
confirmed by certain confessions made to me by
those two traitors Agrando and his creature
Kazzaro. So, Malto, my friend, speak out, and
ask without fear.'
'It concerns my father, sir—my father who
died many years ago in exile, an outcast, driven
from his country at your orders, owing to the
machinations of his enemies, of whom that same
Kazzaro was the chief.'
King Ivanta nodded, and his fine features
lighted up with one of his kindliest smiles as
he looked across at Fumenta. 'And you, the
Fox, as you called yourself, who befriended the
fugitive Eagle, and hid him from his enemies in
your burrow; what is your request?'
'Mine, oh king, is less unselfish than that of
this persecuted young gentleman, since it concerns
myself alone. Once upon a time'——
'Once upon a time,' interrupted the king, 'you
were known as Lufendis, King of Iraynia.'
Here Malto started and turned pale. He seemed
to be trembling, and stared first at the king and
then at Fumenta—or Lufendis—with eyes that
were almost starting out of his head. Ivanta
paused and held his hand out towards him.
'And you, Malto, are the son of the king
whom I displaced and sent into exile because of
accusations which both Agrando and Kazzaro have
now admitted were false!'—'Lufendis! formerly
King of Iraynia, henceforth you are king not
only of Iraynia but also of Sedenia, for I give
to you the position forfeited by the traitor
Agrando! There, oh king, is your son, Prince
Yumalda, whom you thought to be dead; but who
was really stolen by Kazzaro and brought up to
be the slave of the tyrant he served.—Malto! or
rather, Prince Yumalda! this is your father whom
you have so long mourned as dead!'
Who shall describe the scene that followed?
Who can worthily depict the wondering delight
of the father, the amazement of the son, or the
sympathetic emotions of those who stood around?
Congratulations, eager, tumultuous, poured in on
all sides, Prince Alondra, Gerald, and Jack being
among the first to offer them. Then the father
and son, thus strangely reunited, retired together
to talk to one another alone.
At a later date the chums accompanied Prince
Alondra and Monck on another visit to Sedenia.
This time they went as the guests of the newly
appointed King Lufendis. And there they visited
again, with Prince Yumalda and Malandris, all
those places where the former, as Malto, had so
adroitly aided them in their fortunate escape
from Agrando's dungeons. There, too, they saw
the wrecked pavilion, and learned for the first
time how narrowly they had avoided being buried
in its ruins.
Of Agrando, or the 'Ogre,' they saw nothing.
They had already gone to their lifelong
doom—exile and imprisonment in that same dismal
wilderness in which their victim, King Lufendis,
had passed so many years as the famous outlaw-chief.
* * * * *
And so it came to pass that when, in due
time, the wondrous aerostat Ivenia set out upon
her return to Earth, she brought back with her
a larger load of treasure even than she had
carried to Mars. What had belonged to the
Diamond King, Ivanta, with royal scrupulousness,
restored to him. The rest of the jewels he
presented to Armeath and his two wards, who in
turn made over a share to their faithful servitors,
all thus becoming rich beyond their wildest
At the last moment, before leaving Mars, the
chums experienced a great disappointment. They
had quite expected that Prince Alondra would
accompany them; but King Ivanta firmly refused
his permission. For the present, at any rate, he
said, his son must remain to represent him, and
to take his place in looking after his people.
At some future time, perhaps, things might be
'That means,' Alondra whispered to Gerald and
Jack, 'that he has it in his mind to bring me
to see you later on. He is thinking of going
upon a voyage of discovery to another planet,
and I think I may be able to induce him to call
for you to go with us.'
'Then,' said Gerald, 'it is not "Good-bye," but
"Au revoir;" which, being freely interpreted, means
"Perhaps Jack and I will see you again before
And perhaps they will. Who can say? The
two chums, at least, firmly believe that it will
come to pass; and that they are destined to take
their part in yet other journeys through space in
the company of the genial King Ivanta and his
vivacious son Alondra.