The Runaway Skyscraper
by Murray Leinster
The whole thing started when the clock on the Metropolitan Tower
began to run backward. It was not a graceful proceeding. The
hands had been moving onward in their customary deliberate
fashion, slowly and thoughtfully, but suddenly the people in
the offices near the clock's face heard an ominous creaking
and groaning. There was a slight, hardly discernible shiver
through the tower, and then something gave with a crash. The
big hands on the clock began to move backward.
Immediately after the crash all the creaking and groaning
ceased, and instead, the usual quiet again hung over everything.
One or two of the occupants of the upper offices put their
heads out into the halls, but the elevators were running
as usual, the lights were burning, and all seemed calm and
peaceful. The clerks and stenographers went back to their
ledgers and typewriters, the business callers returned to
the discussion of their errands, and the ordinary course of
business was resumed.
Arthur Chamberlain was dictating a letter to Estelle Woodward,
his sole stenographer. When the crash came he paused, listened,
and then resumed his task.
It was not a difficult one. Talking to Estelle Woodward was at
no time an onerous duty, but it must be admitted that Arthur
Chamberlain found it difficult to keep his conversation strictly
upon his business.
He was at this time engaged in dictating a letter to his
principal creditors, the Gary & Milton Company, explaining that
their demand for the immediate payment of the installment then
due upon his office furniture was untimely and unjust. A young
and budding engineer in New York never has too much money,
and when he is young as Arthur Chamberlain was, and as fond
of pleasant company, and not too fond of economizing, he is
liable to find all demands for payment untimely and he usually
considers them unjust as well. Arthur finished dictating the
letter and sighed.
"Miss Woodward," he said regretfully, "I am afraid I shall
never make a successful man."
Miss Woodward shook her head vaguely. She did not seem to
take his remark very seriously, but then, she had learned never
to take any of his remarks seriously. She had been puzzled at
first by his manner of treating everything with a half-joking
pessimism, but now ignored it.
She was interested in her own problems. She had suddenly
decided that she was going to be an old maid, and it bothered
her. She had discovered that she did not like any one well
enough to marry, and she was in her twenty-second year.
She was not a native of New York, and the few young men she had
met there she did not care for. She had regretfully decided
she was too finicky, too fastidious, but could not seem to
help herself. She could not understand their absorption in
boxing and baseball and she did not like the way they danced.
She had considered the matter and decided that she would
have to reconsider her former opinion of women who did not
marry. Heretofore she had thought there must be something the
matter with them. Now she believed that she would come to
their own estate, and probably for the same reason. She could
not fall in love and she wanted to.
She read all the popular novels and thrilled at the love-scenes
contained in them, but when any of the young men she knew became
in the slightest degree sentimental she found herself bored,
and disgusted with herself for being bored. Still, she could
not help it, and was struggling to reconcile herself to a life
She was far too pretty for that, of course, and Arthur
Chamberlain often longed to tell her how pretty she really was,
but her abstracted air held him at arms' length.
He lay back at ease in his swivel-chair and considered,
looking at her with unfeigned pleasure. She did not notice
it, for she was so much absorbed in her own thoughts that she
rarely noticed anything he said or did when they were not in
the line of her duties.
"Miss Woodward," he repeated, "I said I think I'll never make
a successful man. Do you know what that means?"
She looked at him mutely, polite inquiry in her eyes.
"It means," he said gravely, "that I'm going broke. Unless
something turns up in the next three weeks, or a month at the
latest, I'll have to get a job."
"And that means—" she asked.
"All this will go to pot," he explained with a sweeping
gesture. "I thought I'd better tell you as much in advance as
"You mean you're going to give up your office—and me?" she
asked, a little alarmed.
"Giving up you will be the harder of the two," he said with
a smile, "but that's what it means. You'll have no difficulty
finding a new place, with three weeks in which to look for one,
but I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry, too, Mr. Chamberlain," she said, her brow puckered.
She was not really frightened, because she knew she could get
another position, but she became aware of rather more regret
than she had expected.
There was silence for a moment.
"Jove!" said Arthur, suddenly. "It's getting dark, isn't it?"
It was. It was growing dark with unusual rapidity. Arthur went
to his window, and looked out.
"Funny," he remarked in a moment or two. "Things don't look just
right, down there, somehow. There are very few people about."
He watched in growing amazement. Lights came on in the streets
below, but none of the buildings lighted up. It grew darker
"It shouldn't be dark at this hour!" Arthur exclaimed.
Estelle went to the window by his side.
"It looks awfully queer," she agreed. "It must be an eclipse
They heard doors open in the hall outside, and Arthur ran
out. The halls were beginning to fill with excited people.
"What on earth's the matter?" asked a worried stenographer.
"Probably an eclipse," replied Arthur. "Only it's odd we
didn't read about it in the papers."
He glanced along the corridor. No one else seemed better
informed than he, and he went back into his office.
Estelle turned from the window as he appeared.
"The streets are deserted," she said in a puzzled tone. "What's
the matter? Did you hear?"
Arthur shook his head and reached for the telephone.
"I'll call up and find out," he said confidently. He held
the receiver to his ear. "What the—" he exclaimed. "Listen
A small-sized roar was coming from the receiver. Arthur hung
up and turned a blank face upon Estelle.
"Look!" she said suddenly, and pointed out of the window.
All the city was now lighted up, and such of the signs as they
could see were brilliantly illumined. They watched in silence.
The streets once more seemed filled with vehicles. They darted
along, their headlamps lighting up the roadway brilliantly.
There was, however, something strange even about their
motion. Arthur and Estelle watched in growing amazement and
"Are—are you seeing what I am seeing?" asked Estelle
breathlessly. "I see them going backward!"
Arthur watched, and collapsed into a chair.
"For the love of Mike!" he exclaimed softly.
He was roused by another exclamation from Estelle.
"It's getting light again," she said.
Arthur rose and went eagerly to the window. The darkness was
becoming less intense, but in a way Arthur could hardly credit.
Far to the west, over beyond the Jersey hills—easily visible
from the height at which Arthur's office was located—a faint
light appeared in the sky, grew stronger and then took on a
reddish tint. That, in turn, grew deeper, and at last the sun
appeared, rising unconcernedly in the west.
Arthur gasped. The streets below continued to be thronged
with people and motor-cars. The sun was traveling with
extraordinary rapidity. It rose overhead, and as if by magic
the streets were thronged with people. Every one seemed to
be running at top-speed. The few teams they saw moved at a
breakneck pace—backward! In spite of the suddenly topsyturvy
state of affairs there seemed to be no accidents.
Arthur put his hands to his head.
"Miss Woodward," he said pathetically, "I'm afraid I've gone
crazy. Do you see the same things I do?"
Estelle nodded. Her eyes wide open.
"What is the matter?" she asked helplessly.
She turned again to the window. The square was almost empty
once more. The motor-cars still traveling about the streets
were going so swiftly they were hardly visible. Their speed
seemed to increase steadily. Soon it was almost impossible to
distinguish them, and only a grayish blur marked their paths
along Fifth Avenue and Twenty-Third Street.
It grew dusk, and then rapidly dark. As their office was on
the western side of the building they could not see that the
sun had sunk in the east, but subconsciously they realized
that this must be the case.
In silence they watched the panorama grow black except for
the street-lamps, remain thus for a time, and then suddenly
spring into brilliantly illuminated activity.
Again this lasted for a little while, and the west once more
began to glow. The sun rose somewhat more hastily from the
Jersey hills and began to soar overhead, but very soon darkness
fell again. With hardly an interval the city became illuminated,
and then the west grew red once more.
"Apparently," said Arthur, steadying his voice with a conscious
effort, "there's been a cataclysm somewhere, the direction
of the earth's rotation has been reversed, and its speed
immensely increased. It seems to take only about five minutes
for a rotation now."
As he spoke darkness fell for the third time. Estelle turned
from the window with a white face.
"What's going to happen?" she cried.
"I don't know," answered Arthur. "The scientist fellows tell
us if the earth were to spin fast enough the centrifugal force
would throw us all off into space. Perhaps that's what's going
Estelle sank into a chair and stared at him, appalled. There
was a sudden explosion behind them. With a start, Estelle
jumped to her feet and turned. A little gilt clock over her
typewriter-desk lay in fragments. Arthur hastily glanced at
his own watch.
"Great bombs and little cannon-balls!" he shouted. "Look
His watch trembled and quivered in his hand. The hands
were going around so swiftly it was impossible to watch the
minute-hand, and the hour-hand traveled like the wind.
While they looked, it made two complete revolutions. In one
of them the glory of daylight had waxed, waned, and vanished.
In the other, darkness reigned except for the glow from the
electric light overhead.
There was a sudden tension and catch in the watch. Arthur
dropped it instantly. It flew to pieces before it reached
"If you've got a watch," Arthur ordered swiftly, "stop it
Estelle fumbled at her wrist. Arthur tore the watch from her
hand and threw open the case. The machinery inside was going
so swiftly it was hardly visible; Relentlessly, Arthur jabbed
a penholder in the works. There was a sharp click, and the
watch was still.
Arthur ran to the window. As he reached it the sun rushed up,
day lasted a moment, there was darkness, and then the sun
"Miss Woodward!" Arthur ordered suddenly, "look at the ground!"
Estelle glanced down. The next time the sun flashed into view
The ground was white with snow!
"What has happened?" she demanded, terrified. "Oh,
what has happened?"
Arthur fumbled at his chin awkwardly, watching the astonishing
panorama outside. There was hardly any distinguishing between
the times the sun was up and the times it was below now, as the
darkness and light followed each other so swiftly the effect
was the same as one of the old flickering motion-pictures.
As Arthur watched, this effect became more pronounced. The tall
Fifth Avenue Building across the way began to disintegrate.
In a moment, it seemed, there was only a skeleton there. Then
that vanished, story by story. A great cavity in the earth
appeared, and then another building became visible, a smaller,
brown-stone, unimpressive structure.
With bulging eyes Arthur stared across the city. Except for
the flickering, he could see almost clearly now.
He no longer saw the sun rise and set. There was merely a
streak of unpleasantly brilliant light across the sky. Bit by
bit, building by building, the city began to disintegrate and
become replaced by smaller, dingier buildings. In a little while
those began to disappear and leave gaps where they vanished.
Arthur strained his eyes and looked far down-town. He saw a
forest of masts and spars along the waterfront for a moment
and when he turned his eyes again to the scenery near him it
was almost barren of houses, and what few showed were mean,
small residences, apparently set in the midst of farms and
Estelle was sobbing.
"Oh, Mr. Chamberlain," she cried. "What is the matter? What
Arthur had lost his fear of what their fate would be in his
absorbing interest in what he saw. He was staring out of the
window, wide-eyed, lost in the sight before him. At Estelle's
cry, however, he reluctantly left the window and patted her
"I don't know how to explain it," he said uncomfortably,
"but it's obvious that my first surmise was all wrong. The
speed of the earth's rotation can't have been increased,
because if it had to the extent we see, we'd have been thrown
off into space long ago. But—have you read anything about
the Fourth Dimension?"
Estelle shook her head hopelessly.
"Well, then, have you ever read anything by Wells? The 'Time
Machine,' for instance?"
Again she shook her head.
"I don't know how I'm going to say it so you'll understand,
but time is just as much a dimension as length and breadth.
From what I can judge, I'd say there has been an earthquake,
and the ground has settled a little with our building on it,
only instead of settling down toward the center of the earth,
or side-wise, it's settled in this fourth dimension."
"But what does that mean?" asked Estelle uncomprehendingly.
"If the earth had settled down, we'd have been lower. If it had
settled to one side, we'd have been moved one way or another,
but as it's settled back in the Fourth Dimension, we're going
back in time."
"We're in a runaway skyscraper, bound for some time back before
the discovery of America!"
It was very still in the office. Except for the flickering
outside everything seemed very much as usual. The electric
light burned steadily, but Estelle was sobbing with fright
and Arthur was trying vainly to console her.
"Have I gone crazy?" she demanded between her sobs.
"Not unless I've gone mad, too," said Arthur soothingly. The
excitement had quite a soothing effect upon him. He had
ceased to feel afraid, but was simply waiting to see what had
happened. "We're way back before the founding of New York now,
and still going strong."
"Are you sure that's what has happened?"
"If you'll look outside," he suggested, "you'll see the seasons
following each other in reverse order. One moment the snow
covers all the ground, then you catch a glimpse of autumn
foliage, then summer follows, and next spring."
Estelle glanced out of the window and covered her eyes.
"Not a house," she said despairingly. "Not a building. Nothing,
Arthur slipped, his arm about her and patted hers comfortingly.
"It's all right," he reassured her. "We'll bring up presently,
and there we'll be. There's nothing to be afraid of."
She rested her head on his shoulder and sobbed hopelessly for
a little while longer, but presently quieted. Then, suddenly,
realizing that Arthur's arm was about her and that she was
crying on his shoulder, she sprang away, blushing crimson.
Arthur walked to the window.
"Look there!" he exclaimed, but it was too late. "I'll swear to
it I saw the Half Moon, Hudson's ship," he declared excitedly.
"We're way back now, and don't seem to be slacking up, either."
Estelle came to the window by his side. The rapidly changing
scene before her made her gasp. It was no longer possible to
distinguish night from day.
A wavering streak, moving first to the right and then to the
left, showed where the sun flashed across the sky.
"What makes the sun wabble so?" she asked.
"Moving north and south of the equator," Arthur explained
casually. "When it's farthest south—to the left—there's always
snow on the ground. When it's farthest right it's summer. See
how green it is?"
A few moments' observation corroborated his statement.
"I'd say," Arthur remarked reflectively, "that it takes
about fifteen seconds for the sun to make the round trip
from farthest north to farthest south." He felt his pulse.
"Do you know the normal rate of the heart-beat? We can judge
time that way. A clock will go all to pieces, of course."
"Why did your watch explode—and the clock?"
"Running forward in time unwinds a clock, doesn't it?" asked
Arthur. "It follows, of course, that when you move it backward
in time it winds up. When you move it too far back, you wind
it so tightly that the spring just breaks to pieces."
He paused a moment, his fingers on his pulse.
"Yes, it takes about fifteen seconds for all the four seasons
to pass. That means we're going backward in time about four
years a minute. If we go on at this rate another hour we'll
be back in the time of the Northmen, and will be able to tell
if they did discover America, after all."
"Funny we don't hear any noises," Estelle observed. She had
caught some of Arthur's calmness.
"It passes so quickly that though our ears hear it, we don't
separate the sounds. If you'll notice, you do hear a sort
of humming. It's very high-pitched, though."
Estelle listened, but could hear nothing.
"No matter," said Arthur. "It's probably a little higher than
your ears will catch. Lots of people can't hear a bat squeak."
"I never could," said Estelle. "Out in the country, where I
come from, other people could hear them, but I couldn't."
They stood a while in silence, watching.
"When are we going to stop?" asked Estelle uneasily. "It seems
as if we're going to keep on indefinitely."
"I guess we'll stop all right," Arthur reassured her. "It's
obvious that whatever it was, only affected our own building,
or we'd see some other one with us. It looks like a fault or
a flaw in the rock the building rests on. And that can only
give so far."
Estelle was silent for a moment.
"Oh, I can't be sane!" she burst out semihysterically. "This
can't be happening!"
"You aren't crazy," said Arthur sharply. "You're sane as
I am. Just something queer is happening. Buck up. Say your
multiplication tables. Say anything you know. Say something
sensible and you'll know you're all right. But don't get
frightened now. There'll be plenty to get frightened about
The grimness in his tone alarmed Estelle.
"What are you afraid of?" she asked quickly.
"Time enough to worry when it happens," Arthur retorted briefly.
"You—you aren't afraid we'll go back before the beginning of
the world, are you?" asked Estelle in sudden access of fright.
Arthur shook his head.
"Tell me," said Estelle more quietly, getting a grip on
herself. "I won't mind. But please tell me."
Arthur glanced at her. Her face was pale, but there was more
resolution in it than he had expected to find.
"I'll tell you, then," he said reluctantly. "We're going back
a little faster than we were, and the flaw seems to be a deeper
one than I thought. At the roughest kind of an estimate, we're
all of a thousand years before the discovery of America now, and
I think nearer three or four. And we're gaining speed all the
time. So, though I am as sure as I can be sure of anything that
we'll stop this cave-in eventually, I don't know where. It's
like a crevasse in the earth opened by an earthquake which
may be only a few feet deep, or it may be hundreds of yards,
or even a mile or two. We started off smoothly. We're going
at a terrific rate. What will happen when we stop?"
Estelle caught her breath.
"What?" she asked quietly.
"I don't know," said Arthur in an irritated tone, to cover
his apprehension. "How could I know?"
Estelle turned from him to the window again.
"Look!" she said, pointing.
The flickering had begun again. While they stared, hope
springing up once more in their hearts, it became more
pronounced. Soon they could distinctly see the difference
between day and night.
They were slowing up! The white snow on the ground remained
there for an appreciable time, autumn lasted quite a while.
They could catch the flashes of the sun as it made its
revolutions now, instead of its seeming like a ribbon of
fire. At last day lasted all of fifteen or twenty minutes.
It grew longer and longer. Then half an hour, then an hour. The
sun wavered in midheaven and was still.
Far below them, the watchers in the tower of the skyscraper
saw trees swaying and bending in the wind. Though there was not
a house or a habitation to be seen and a dense forest covered
all of Manhattan Island, such of the world as they could see
looked normal. Wherever or rather in whatever epoch of time
they were, they had arrived.
Arthur caught at Estelle's arm and the two made a dash for the
elevators. Fortunately one was standing still, the door open,
on their floor. The elevator-boy had deserted his post and was
looking with all the rest of the occupants of the building at
the strange landscape that surrounded them.
No sooner had the pair reached the car, however, than the boy
came hurrying along the corridor, three or four other people
following him also at a run. Without a word the boy rushed
inside, the others crowded after him, and the car shot downward,
all of the newcomers panting from their sprint.
Theirs was the first car to reach the bottom. They rushed
out and to the western door.
Here, where they had been accustomed to see Madison Square
spread out before them, a clearing of perhaps half an acre in
extent showed itself. Where their eyes instinctively looked
for the dark bronze fountain, near which soap-box orators
aforetime held sway, they saw a tent, a wigwam of hides and
bark gaily painted. And before the wigwam were two or three
brown-skinned Indians, utterly petrified with astonishment.
Behind the first wigwam were others, painted like the first
with daubs of brightly colored clay. From them, too, Indians
issued, and stared in incredulous amazement, their eyes growing
wider and wider. When the group of white people confronted
the Indians there was a moment's deathlike silence. Then,
with a wild yell, the redskins broke and ran, not stopping
to gather together their belongings, nor pausing for even a
second glance at the weird strangers who invaded their domain.
Arthur took two or three deep breaths of the fresh air and
found himself even then comparing its quality with that of
the city. Estelle stared about her with unbelieving eyes. She
turned and saw the great bulk of the office building behind
her, then faced this small clearing with a virgin forest on
its farther side.
She found herself trembling from some undefined cause. Arthur
glanced at her. He saw the trembling and knew she would have a
fit of nerves in a moment if something did not come up demanding
"We'd better take a look at this village," he said in an
off-hand voice. "We can probably find out how long ago it is
from the weapons and so on."
He grasped her arm firmly and led her in the direction of the
tents. The other people, left behind, displayed their emotions
in different ways. Two or three of them—women—sat frankly
down on the steps and indulged in tears of bewilderment, fright
and relief in a peculiar combination defying analysis. Two or
three of the men swore, in shaken voices.
Meantime, the elevators inside the building were rushing
and clanging, and the hall filled with a white-faced mob,
desperately anxious to find out what had happened and why. The
people poured out of the door and stared about blankly. There
was a peculiar expression of doubt on every one of their
faces. Each one was asking himself if he were awake, and having
proved that by pinches, openly administered, the next query
was whether they had gone mad.
Arthur led Estelle cautiously among the tents.
The village contained about a dozen wigwams. Most of them
were made of strips of birch-bark, cleverly overlapping each
other, the seams cemented with gum. All had hide flaps for
doors, and one or two were built almost entirely of hides,
sewed together with strips of sinew.
Arthur made only a cursory examination of the village. His
principal motive in taking Estelle there was to give her some
mental occupation to ward off the reaction from the excitement
of the cataclysm.
He looked into one or two of the tents and found merely couches
of hides, with minor domestic utensils scattered about.
He brought from one tent a bow and quiver of arrows. The
workmanship was good, but very evidently the maker had no
knowledge of metal tools.
Arthur's acquaintance with archeological subjects was very
slight, but he observed that the arrow-heads were chipped,
and not rubbed smooth. They were attached to the shafts with
strips of gut or tendon.
Arthur was still pursuing his investigation when a sob from
Estelle made him stop and look at her.
"Oh, what are we going to do?" she asked tearfully. "What
are we going to do? Where are we?"
"You mean, when are we," Arthur corrected with a grim
smile. "I don't know. Way back before the discovery of America,
though. You can see in everything in the village that there
isn't a trace of European civilization. I suspect that we
are several thousand years back. I can't tell, of course,
but this pottery makes me think so. See this bowl?"
He pointed to a bowl of red clay lying on the ground before
one of the wigwams.
"If you'll look, you'll see that it isn't really pottery at
all. It's a basket that was woven of reeds and then smeared with
clay to make it fire-resisting. The people who made that didn't
know about baking clay to make it stay put. When America was
discovered nearly all the tribes knew something about pottery."
"But what are we going to do?" Estelle tearfully insisted.
"We're going to muddle along as well as we can," answered Arthur
cheerfully, "until we can get back to where we started from.
Maybe the people back in the twentieth century can send a
relief party after us. When the skyscraper vanished it must
have left a hole of some sort, and it may be possible for them
to follow us down."
"If that's so," said Estelle quickly, "why can't we climb up
it without waiting for them to come after us?"
Arthur scratched his head. He looked across the clearing at
the skyscraper. It seemed to rest very solidly on the ground.
He looked up. The sky seemed normal.
"To tell the truth," he admitted, "there doesn't seem to be
any hole. I said that more to cheer you up than anything else."
Estelle clenched her hands tightly and took a grip on herself.
"Just tell me the truth," she said quietly. "I was rather
foolish, but tell me what you honestly think."
Arthur eyed her keenly.
"In that case," he said reluctantly, "I'll admit we're in
a pretty bad fix. I don't know what has happened, how it
happened, or anything about it. I'm just going to keep on
going until I see a way clear to get out of this mess. There
are two thousand of us people, more or less, and among all of
us we must be able to find a way out."
Estelle had turned very pale.
"We're in no great danger from Indians," went on Arthur
thoughtfully, "or from anything else that I know of—except
"What is that?" asked Estelle quickly.
Arthur shook his head and led her back toward the skyscraper,
which was now thronged with the people from all the floors
who had come down to the ground and were standing excitedly
about the concourse asking each other what had happened.
Arthur led Estelle to one of the corners.
"Wait for me here," he ordered. "I'm going to talk to this
He pushed his way through until he could reach the confectionery
and news-stand in the main hallway. Here he climbed up on the
counter and shouted:
"People, listen to me! I'm going to tell you what's happened!"
In an instant there was dead silence. He found himself the
center of a sea of white faces, every one contorted with fear
"To begin with," he said confidently, "there's nothing to
be afraid of. We're going to get back to where we started
from! I don't know how, yet, but we'll do it. Don't get
frightened. Now I'll tell you what's happened."
He rapidly sketched out for them, in words as simple as he
could make them, his theory that a flaw in the rock on which
the foundations rested had developed and let the skyscraper
sink, not downward, but into the Fourth Dimension.
"I'm an engineer," he finished. "What nature can do, we can
imitate. Nature let us into this hole. We'll climb out. In
the mean time, matters are serious. We needn't be afraid
of not getting back. We'll do that. What we've got to fight
"We've got to fight starvation, and we've got to beat it,"
Arthur continued doggedly. "I'm telling you this right at the
outset, because I want you to begin right at the beginning
and pitch in to help. We have very little food and a lot of
us to eat it. First, I want some volunteers to help with
rationing. Next, I want every ounce of food, in this place put
under guard where it can be served to those who need it most.
Who will help out with this?"
The swift succession of shocks had paralyzed the faculties of
most of the people there, but half a dozen moved forward.
Among them was a single gray-haired man with an air of
accustomed authority. Arthur recognized him as the president
of the bank on the ground floor.
"I don't know who you are or if you're right in saying what has
happened," said the gray-haired man. "But I see something's
got to be done, and—well, for the time being I'll take your
word for what that is. Later on we'll thrash this matter out."
Arthur nodded. He bent over and spoke in a low voice to the
gray-haired man, who moved away.
"Grayson, Walters, Terhune, Simpson, and Forsythe come here,"
the gray-haired man called at a doorway.
A number of men began to press dazedly toward him. Arthur
resumed his harangue.
"You people—those of you who aren't too dazed to think—are remembering
there's a restaurant in the building and no need to starve. You're wrong. There
are nearly two thousand of us here. That means six thousand meals a day. We've
got to have nearly ten tons of food a day, and we've got to have it at once."
"Hunt?" some one suggested.
"I saw Indians," some one else shouted. "Can we trade with
"We can hunt and we can trade with the Indians," Arthur
admitted, "but we need food by the ton—by the ton, people!
The Indians don't store up supplies, and, besides, they're
much too scattered to have a surplus for us. But we've got to
have food. Now, how many of you know anything about hunting,
fishing, trapping, or any possible way of getting food?"
There were a few hands raised—pitifully few. Arthur saw
Estelle's hand up.
"Very well," he said. "Those of you who raised your hands then
come with me up on the second floor and we'll talk it over.
The rest of you try to conquer your fright, and don't go outside
for a while. We've got some things to attend to before it will
be quite safe for you to venture out. And keep away from the
restaurant. There are armed guards over that food. Before we
pass it out indiscriminately, we'll see to it there's more
for to-morrow and the next day."
He stepped down from the counter and moved toward the
stairway. It was not worth while to use the elevator for the
ride of only one floor. Estelle managed to join him, and they
mounted the steps together.
"Do you think we'll pull through all right?" she asked quietly.
"We've got to!" Arthur told her, setting his chin firmly. "We've
simply got to."
The gray-haired president of the bank was waiting for them at
the top of the stairs.
"My name is Van Deventer," he said, shaking hands with Arthur,
who gave his own name.
"Where shall our emergency council sit?" he asked.
"The bank has a board room right over the safety vault. I
dare say we can accommodate everybody there—everybody in the
Arthur followed into the board-room, and the others trooped
in after him.
"I'm just assuming temporary leadership," Arthur explained,
"because it's imperative some things be done at once. Later
on we can talk about electing officials to direct our
activities. Right now we need food. How many of you can shoot?"
About a quarter of the hands were raised. Estelle's was among
"And how many are fishermen?"
A few more went up.
"What do the rest of you do?"
There was a chorus of "gardener," "I have a garden in my yard,"
"I grow peaches in New Jersey," and three men confessed that
they raised chickens as a hobby.
"We'll want you gardeners in a little while. Don't go yet. But
the most important are huntsmen and fishermen. Have any of
you weapons in your offices?"
A number had revolvers, but only one man had a shotgun and
"I was going on my vacation this afternoon straight from the
office," he explained, "and have all my vacation tackle."
"Good man!" Arthur exclaimed. "You'll go after the heavy game."
"With a shotgun?" the sportsman asked, aghast.
"If you get close to them a shotgun will do as well as anything,
and we can't waste a shell on every bird or rabbit. Those shells
of yours are precious. You other fellows will have to turn
fishermen for a while. Your pistols are no good for hunting."
"The watchmen at the bank have riot guns," said Van Deventer,
"and there are one or two repeating-rifles there. I don't know
"Good! I don't mean about the ammunition, but about the
guns. We'll hope for the ammunition. You fishermen get to work
to improvise tackle out of anything you can get hold of. Will
you do that?"
A series of nods answered his question.
"Now for the gardeners. You people will have to roam through
the woods in company with the hunters and locate anything in
the way of edibles that grows. Do all of you know what wild
plants look like? I mean wild fruits and vegetables that are
good to eat."
A few of them nodded, but the majority looked dubious. The
consensus of opinion seemed to be that they would try. Arthur
seemed a little discouraged.
"I guess you're the man to tell about the restaurant," Van
Deventer said quietly. "And as this is the food commission,
or something of that sort, everybody here will be better for
hearing it. Anyway, everybody will have to know it before
night. I took over the restaurant as you suggested, and posted
some of the men from the bank that I knew I could trust about
the doors. But there was hardly any use in doing it."
"The restaurant stocks up in the afternoon, as most of its
business is in the morning and at noon. It only carries a day's
stock of foodstuffs, and the—the cataclysm, or whatever it
was, came at three o'clock. There is practically nothing in
the place. We couldn't make sandwiches for half the women
that are caught with us, let alone the men. Everybody will
go hungry to-night. There will be no breakfast to-morrow,
nor anything to eat until we either make arrangements with
the Indians for some supplies or else get food for ourselves."
Arthur leaned his jaw on his hand and considered. A slow flush
crept over his cheek. He was getting his fighting blood up.
At school, when he began to flush slowly his schoolmates had
known the symptom and avoided his wrath. Now he was growing
angry with mere circumstances, but it would be none the less
unfortunate for those circumstances.
"Well," he said at last deliberately, "we've got to— What's that?"
There was a great creaking and groaning. Suddenly a sort of
vibration was felt under foot. The floor began to take on a
"Great Heaven!" some one cried. "The building's turning over
and we'll be buried in the ruins!"
The tilt of the floor became more pronounced. An empty chair
slid to one end of the room. There was a crash.
Arthur woke to find some one tugging at his shoulders, trying
to drag him from beneath the heavy table, which had wedged
itself across his feet and pinned him fast, while a flying
chair had struck him on the head and knocked him unconscious.
"Oh, come and help," Estelle's voice was calling
deliberately. "Somebody come and help! He's caught in here!"
She was sobbing in a combination of panic and some unknown
"Help me, please!" she gasped, then her voice broke
despondently, but she never ceased to tug ineffectually at
Chamberlain, trying to drag him out of the mass of wreckage.
Arthur moved a little, dazedly.
"Are you alive?" she called anxiously. "Are you alive? Hurry,
oh, hurry and wriggle out. The building's falling to pieces!"
"I'm all right," Arthur said weakly. "You get out before it
all comes down."
"I won't leave you," she declared "Where are you caught? Are
you badly hurt? Hurry, please hurry!"
Arthur stirred, but could not loosen his feet. He half-rolled
over, and the table moved as if it had been precariously
balanced, and slid heavily to one side. With Estelle still
tugging at him, he managed to get to his feet on the slanting
floor and stared about him.
Arthur continued to stare about.
"No danger," he said weakly. "Just the floor of the one room
gave way. The aftermath of the rock-flaw."
He made his way across the splintered flooring and piled-up
"We're on top of the safe-deposit vault," he said. "That's
why we didn't fall all the way to the floor below. I wonder
how we're going to get down?"
Estelle followed him, still frightened for fear of the building
falling upon them. Some of the long floor-boards stretched
over the edge of the vault and rested on a tall, bronze grating
that protected the approach to the massive strong-box. Arthur
tested them with his foot.
"They seem to be pretty solid," he said tentatively.
His strength was coming back to him every moment. He had been
no more than stunned. He walked out on the planking to the
bronze grating and turned.
"If you don't get dizzy, you might come on," he said. "We can
swing down the grille here to the floor."
Estelle followed gingerly and in a moment they were safely
below. The corridor was quite empty.
"When the crash came," Estelle explained, her voice shaking
with the reaction from her fear of a moment ago, "every one
thought the building was coming to pieces, and ran out. I'm
afraid they've all run away."
"They'll be back in a little while," Arthur said quietly.
They went along the big marble corridor to the same western
door, out of which they had first gone to see the Indian
village. As they emerged into the sunlight they met a few
of the people who had already recovered from their panic and
A crowd of respectable size gathered in a few moments, all
still pale and shaken, but coming back to the building which was
their refuge. Arthur leaned wearily against the cold stone. It
seemed to vibrate under his touch. He turned quickly to Estelle.
"Feel this," he exclaimed.
She did so.
"I've been wondering what that rumble was," she said. "I've
been hearing it ever since we landed here, but didn't understand
where it came from."
"You hear a rumble?" Arthur asked, puzzled. "I can't hear
"It isn't as loud as it was, but I hear it," Estelle
insisted. "It's very deep, like the lowest possible bass note
of an organ."
"You couldn't hear the shrill whistle when we were coming
here," Arthur exclaimed suddenly, "and you can't hear the
squeak of a bat. Of course your ears are pitched lower than
usual, and you can hear sounds that are lower than I can hear.
Listen carefully. Does it sound in the least like a liquid
rushing through somewhere?"
"Y-yes," said Estelle hesitatingly. "Somehow, I don't quite
understand how, it gives me the impression of a tidal flow or
something of that sort."
Arthur rushed indoors. When Estelle followed him she found
him excitedly examining the marble floor about the base of
"It's cracked," he said excitedly. "It's cracked! The vault
rose all of an inch!"
Estelle looked and saw the cracks.
"What does that mean?"
"It means we're going to get back where we belong," Arthur cried
jubilantly. "It means I'm on the track of the whole trouble.
It means everything's going to be all right."
He prowled about the vault exultantly, noting exactly how the
cracks in the flooring ran and seeing in each a corroboration
of his theory.
"I'll have to make some inspections in the cellar," he went
on happily, "but I'm nearly sure I'm on the right track and
can figure out a corrective."
"How soon can we hope to start back?" asked Estelle eagerly.
Arthur hesitated, then a great deal of the excitement ebbed
from his face, leaving it rather worried and stern.
"It may be a month, or two months, or a year," he answered
gravely. "I don't know. If the first thing I try will work,
it won't be long. If we have to experiment, I daren't guess
how long we may be. But"—his chin set firmly—"we're going
to get back."
Estelle looked at him speculatively. Her own expression grew
a little worried, too.
"But in a month," she said dubiously, "we—there is hardly any
hope of our finding food for two thousand people for a month,
"We've got to," Arthur declared. "We can't hope to get that much
food from the Indians. It will be days before they'll dare to
come back to their village, if they ever come. It will be weeks
before we can hope to have them earnestly at work to feed us,
and that's leaving aside the question of how we'll communicate
with them, and how we'll manage to trade with them. Frankly,
I think everybody is going to have to draw his belt tight before
we get through—if we do. Some of us will get along, anyway."
Estelle's eyes opened wide as the meaning of his last sentence
penetrated her mind.
"You mean—that all of us won't—"
"I'm going to take care of you," Arthur said gravely, "but there
are liable to be lively doings around here when people begin to
realize they're really in a tight fix for food. I'm going to
get Van Deventer to help me organize a police band to enforce
martial law. We mustn't have any disorder, that's certain,
and I don't trust a city-bred man in a pinch unless I know him."
He stooped and picked up a revolver from the floor, left there
by one of the bank watchmen when he fled, in the belief that
the building was falling.
Arthur stood at the window of his office and stared out toward
the west. The sun was setting, but upon what a scene!
Where, from this same window Arthur had seen the sun setting
behind the Jersey hills, all edged with the angular roofs of
factories, with their chimneys emitting columns of smoke, he
now saw the same sun sinking redly behind a mass of luxuriant
foliage. And where he was accustomed to look upon the tops of
high buildings—each entitled to the name of "skyscraper"—he
now saw miles and miles of waving green branches.
The wide Hudson flowed on placidly, all unruffled by the
arrival of this strange monument upon its shores—the same
Hudson Arthur knew as a busy thoroughfare of puffing steamers
and chugging launches. Two or three small streams wandered
unconcernedly across the land that Arthur had known as the
most closely built-up territory on earth. And far, far below
him—Arthur had to lean well out of his window to see it—stood
a collection of tiny wigwams. Those small bark structures
represented the original metropolis of New York.
His telephone rang. Van Deventer was on the wire. The exchange
in the building was still working. Van Deventer wanted Arthur
to come down to his private office. There were still a great
many things to be settled—the arrangements for commandeering
offices for sleeping quarters for the women, and numberless
other details. The men who seemed to have best kept their
heads were gathering there to settle upon a course of action.
Arthur glanced out of the window again before going to the
elevator. He saw a curiously compact dark cloud moving swiftly
across the sky to the west.
"Miss Woodward," he said sharply, "What is that?"
Estelle came to the window and looked.
"They are birds," she told him. "Birds flying in a group. I've
often seen them in the country, though never as many as that."
"How do you catch birds?" Arthur asked her. "I know about
shooting them, and so on, but we haven't guns enough to
count. Could we catch them in traps, do you think?"
"I wouldn't be surprised," said Estelle thoughtfully. "But it
would be hard to catch many."
"Come down-stairs," directed Arthur. "You know as much as any
of the men here, and more than most, apparently. We're going
to make you show us how to catch things."
Estelle smiled, a trifle wanly. Arthur led the way to the
elevator. In the car he noticed that she looked distressed.
"What's the matter?" he asked. "You aren't really frightened,
"No," she answered shakily, "but—I'm rather upset about this
thing. It's so—so terrible, somehow, to be back here, thousands
of miles, or years, away from all one's friends and everybody."
"Please"—Arthur smiled encouragingly at her—"please count
me your friend, won't you?"
She nodded, but blinked back some tears. Arthur would have
tried to hearten her further, but the elevator stopped at
their floor. They walked into the room where the meeting of
cool heads was to take place.
No more than a dozen men were in there talking earnestly but
dispiritedly. When Arthur and Estelle entered Van Deventer
came over to greet them.
"We've got to do something," he said in a low voice. "A wave
of homesickness has swept over the whole place. Look at those
men. Every one is thinking about his family and contrasting
his cozy fireside with all that wilderness outside."
"You don't seem to be worried," Arthur observed with a smile.
Van Deventer's eyes twinkled.
"I'm a bachelor," he said cheerfully, "and I live in a
hotel. I've been longing for a chance to see some real
excitement for thirty years. Business has kept me from it up
to now, but I'm enjoying myself hugely."
Estelle looked at the group of dispirited men.
"We'll simply have to do something," she said with a shaky
smile. "I feel just as they do. This morning I hated the
thought of having to go back to my boarding-house to-night,
but right now I feel as if the odor of cabbage in the hallway
would seem like heaven."
Arthur led the way to the flat-topped desk in the middle of
"Let's settle a few of the more important matters," he said in
a businesslike tone. "None of us has any authority to act for
the rest of the people in the tower, but so many of us are in
a state of blue funk that those who are here must have charge
for a while. Anybody any suggestions?"
"Housing," answered Van Deventer promptly. "I suggest that we
draft a gang of men to haul all the upholstered settees and rugs
that are to be found to one floor, for the women to sleep on."
"M—m. Yes. That's a good idea. Anybody a better plan?"
No one spoke. They all still looked much too homesick to take
any great interest in anything, but they began to listen more
or less half-heartedly.
"I've been thinking about coal," said Arthur. "There's
undoubtedly a supply in the basement, but I wonder if it
wouldn't be well to cut the lights off most of the floors,
only lighting up the ones we're using."
"That might be a good idea later," Estelle said quietly,
"but light is cheering, somehow, and every one feels so blue
that I wouldn't do it to-night. To-morrow they'll begin to get
up their resolution again, and you can ask them to do things."
"If we're going to starve to death," one of the other men said
gloomily, "we might as well have plenty of light to do it by."
"We aren't going to starve to death," retorted Arthur
sharply. "Just before I came down I saw a great cloud of
birds, greater than I had ever seen before. When we get at
"When," echoed the gloomy one.
"They were pigeons," Estelle explained. "They shouldn't be
hard to snare or trap."
"I usually have my dinner before now," the gloomy one protested,
"and I'm told I won't get anything to-night."
The other men began to straighten their shoulders. The
peevishness of one of their number seemed to bring out their
"Well, we've got to stand it for the present," one of them
said almost philosophically. "What I'm most anxious about is
getting back. Have we any chance?"
Arthur nodded emphatically.
"I think so. I have a sort of idea as to the cause of our
sinking into the Fourth Dimension, and when that is verified,
a corrective can be looked for and applied."
"How long will that take?"
"Can't say," Arthur replied frankly. "I don't know what tools,
what materials, or what workmen we have, and what's rather
more to the point, I don't even know what work will have to
be done. The pressing problem is food."
"Oh, bother the food," some one protested impatiently. "I
don't care about myself. I can go hungry to-night. I want to
get back to my family."
"That's all that really matters," a chorus of voices echoed.
"We'd better not bother about anything else unless we find we
can't get back. Concentrate on getting back," one man stated
"Look here," said Arthur incisively. "You've a family, and so
have a great many of the others in the tower, but your family
and everybody else's family has got to wait. As an inside
limit, we can hope to begin to work on the problem of getting
back when we're sure there's nothing else going to happen. I
tell you quite honestly that I think I know what is the direct
cause of this catastrophe. And I'll tell you even more honestly
that I think I'm the only man among us who can put this tower
back where it started from. And I'll tell you most honestly
of all that any attempt to meddle at this present time with
the forces that let us down here will result in a catastrophe
considerably greater than the one that happened to-day."
"Well, if you're sure—" some one began reluctantly.
"I am so sure that I'm going to keep to myself the knowledge
of what will start those forces to work again," Arthur said
quietly. "I don't want any impatient meddling. If we start
them too soon God only knows what will happen."
Van Deventer was eying Arthur Chamberlain keenly.
"It isn't a question of your wanting pay in exchange for your
services in putting us back, is it?" he asked coolly.
Arthur turned and faced him. His face began to flush slowly. Van
Deventer put up one hand.
"I beg your pardon. I see."
"We aren't settling the things we came here for," Estelle
She had noted the threat of friction and hastened to put in
a diversion. Arthur relaxed.
"I think that as a beginning," he suggested, "we'd better get
sleeping arrangements completed. We can get everybody together
somewhere, I dare say, and then secure volunteers for the work."
"Right." Van Deventer was anxious to make amends for his blunder
of a moment before. "Shall I send the bank watchmen to go on
each floor in turn and ask everybody to come down-stairs?"
"You might start them," Arthur said. "It will take a long
time for every one to assemble."
Van Deventer spoke into the telephone on his desk. In a moment
he hung up the receiver.
"They're on their way," he said.
Arthur was frowning to himself and scribbling in a note-book.
"Of course," he announced abstractedly, "the pressing problem
is food. We've quite a number of fishermen, and a few hunters.
We've got to have a lot of food at once, and everything
considered, I think we'd better count on the fishermen. At
sunrise we'd better have some people begin to dig bait and
wake our anglers. They'd better make their tackle to-night,
don't you think?"
There was a general nod.
"We'll announce that, then. The fishermen will go to the river
under guard of the men we have who can shoot. I think what
Indians there are will be much too frightened to try to ambush
any of us, but we'd better be on the safe side. They'll keep
together and fish at nearly the same spot, with our hunters
patrolling the woods behind them, taking pot-shots at game,
if they see any. The fishermen should make more or less of a
success, I think. The Indians weren't extensive fishers that
I ever heard of, and the river ought fairly to swarm with fish."
He closed his note-book.
"How many weapons can we count on altogether?" Arthur asked
"In the bank, about a dozen riot-guns and half a dozen repeating
rifles. Elsewhere I don't know. Forty or fifty men said they
had revolvers, though."
"We'll give revolvers to the men who go with the fishermen. The
Indians haven't heard firearms and will run at the report,
even if they dare attack our men."
"We can send out the gun-armed men as hunters," some one
suggested, "and send gardeners with them to look for vegetables
and such things."
"We'll have to take a sort of census, really," Arthur suggested,
"finding what every one can do and getting him to do it."
"I never planned anything like this before," Van Deventer
remarked, "and I never thought I should, but this is much more
fun than running a bank."
"Let's go and have our meeting," he said cheerfully.
But the meeting was a gloomy and despairing affair. Nearly
every one had watched the sun set upon a strange, wild
landscape. Hardly an individual among the whole two thousand of
them had ever been out of sight of a house before in his or her
life. To look out at a vast, untouched wilderness where hitherto
they had seen the most highly civilized city on the globe would
have been startling and depressing enough in itself, but to
know that they were alone in a whole continent of savages and
that there was not, indeed, in all the world a single community
of people they could greet as brothers was terrifying.
Few of them thought so far, but there was actually—if Arthur's
estimate of several thousand years' drop back through time was
correct—there was actually no other group of English-speaking
people in the world. The English language was yet to be
invented. Even Rome, the synonym for antiquity of culture,
might still be an obscure village inhabited by a band of
tatterdemalions under the leadership of an upstart Romulus.
Soft in body as these people were, city-bred and unaccustomed to
face other than the most conventionalized emergencies of life,
they were terrified. Hardly one of them had even gone without
a meal in all his life. To have the prospect of having to earn
their food, not by the manipulation of figures in a book,
or by expert juggling of profits and prices, but by literal
wresting of that food from its source in the earth or stream
was a really terrifying thing for them.
In addition, every one of them was bound to the life of modern
times by a hundred ties. Many of them had families, a thousand
years away. All had interests, engrossing interests, in modern
One young man felt an anxiety that was really ludicrous because
he had promised to take his sweetheart to the theater that
night, and if he did not come she would be very angry. Another
was to have been married in a week. Some of the people were,
like Van Deventer and Arthur, so situated that they could
view the episode as an adventure, or, like Estelle, who had
no immediate fear because all her family was provided for
without her help and lived far from New York, so they would
not learn of the catastrophe for some time. Many, however, felt
instant and pressing fear for the families whose expenses ran
always so close to their incomes that the disappearance of the
breadwinner for a week would mean actual want or debt. There
are very many such families in New York.
The people, therefore, that gathered hopelessly at the call
of Van Deventer's watchmen were dazed and spiritless. Their
excitement after Arthur's first attempt to explain the situation
to them had evaporated. They were no longer keyed up to a
high pitch by the startling thing that had happened to them.
Nevertheless, although only half comprehending what had actually
occurred, they began to realize what that occurrence meant.
No matter where they might go over the whole face of the
globe, they would always be aliens and strangers. If they
had been carried away to some unknown shore, some wilderness
far from their own land, they might have thought of building
ships to return to their homes. They had seen New York vanish
before their eyes, however. They had seen their civilization
disappear while they watched.
They were in a barbarous world. There was not, for example,
a single sulfur match on the whole earth except those in the
Arthur and Van Deventer, in turn with the others of the cooler
heads, thundered at the apathetic people, trying to waken them
to the necessity for work. They showered promises of inevitable
return to modern times, they pledged their honor to the belief
that a way would ultimately be found by which they would all
yet find themselves safely back home again.
The people, however, had seen New York disintegrate, and
Arthur's explanation sounded like some wild dream of an
imaginative novelist. Not one person in all the gathering could
actually realize that his home might yet be waiting for him,
though at the same time he felt a pathetic anxiety for the
welfare of its inmates.
Every one was in a turmoil of contradictory beliefs. On the
one hand they knew that all of New York could not be actually
destroyed and replaced by a splendid forest in the space of a
few hours, so the accident or catastrophe must have occurred to
those in the tower, and on the other hand, they had seen all
of New York vanish by bits and fragments, to be replaced by
a smaller and dingier town, had beheld that replaced in turn,
and at last had landed in the midst of this forest.
Every one, too, began to feel am unusual and uncomfortable
sensation of hunger. It was a mild discomfort as yet, but few
of them had experienced it before without an immediate prospect
of assuaging the craving, and the knowledge that there was no
food to be had somehow increased the desire for it. They were
really in a pitiful state.
Van Deventer spoke encouragingly, and then asked for volunteers
for immediate work. There was hardly any response. Every one
seemed sunk in despondency. Arthur then began to talk straight
from the shoulder and succeeded in rousing them a little,
but every one was still rather too frightened to realize that
work could help at all.
In desperation the dozen or so men who had gathered in Van
Deventer's office went about among the gathering and simply
selected men at random, ordering them to follow and begin
work. This began to awaken the crowd, but they wakened to fear
rather than resolution. They were city-bred, and unaccustomed
to face the unusual or the alarming.
Arthur noted the new restlessness, but attributed it to growing
uneasiness rather than selfish panic. He was rather pleased
that they were outgrowing their apathy. When the meeting had
come to an end he felt satisfied that by morning the latent
resolution among the people would have crystallized and they
would be ready to work earnestly and intelligently on whatever
tasks they were directed to undertake.
He returned to the ground floor of the building feeling much
more hopeful than before. Two thousand people all earnestly
working for one end are hard to down even when faced with such
a task as confronted the inhabitants of the runaway skyscraper.
Even if they were never able to return to modern times they
would still be able to form a community that might do much
to hasten the development of civilization in other parts of
His hope received a rude shock when he reached the great hallway
on the lower floor. There was a fruit and confectionery stand
here, and as Arthur arrived at the spot, he saw a surging mass
of men about it. The keeper of the stand looked frightened,
but was selling off his stock as fast as he could make
change. Arthur forced his way to the counter.
"Here," he said sharply to the keeper of the stand, "stop
selling this stuff. It's got to be held until we can dole it
out where it's needed."
"I—I can't help myself," the keeper said. "They're takin'
"Get back there," Arthur cried to the crowd. "Do you call
this decent, trying to get more than your share of this stuff?
You'll get your portion to-morrow. It is going to be divided
"Go to hell!" some one panted. "You c'n starve if you want to,
but I'm goin' to look out f'r myself."
The men were not really starving, but had been put into
a panic by the plain speeches of Arthur and his helpers,
and were seizing what edibles they could lay hands upon in
preparation for the hunger they had been warned to expect.
Arthur pushed against the mob, trying to thrust them away from
the counter, but his very effort intensified their panic. There
was a quick surge and a crash. The glass front of the showcase
In a flash of rage Arthur struck out viciously. The crowd paid
not the slightest attention to him, however. Every man was
too panic-stricken, and too intent on getting some of this
food before it was all gone to bother with him.
Arthur was simply crushed back by the bodies of the forty
or fifty men. In a moment he found himself alone amid the
wreckage of the stand, with the keeper wringing his hands over
the remnants of his goods.
Van Deventer ran down the stairs.
"What's the matter?" he demanded as he saw Arthur nursing a
bleeding hand cut on the broken glass of the showcase.
"Bolsheviki!" answered Arthur with a grim smile. "We woke up
some of the crowd too successfully. They got panic-stricken
and started to buy out this stuff here. I tried to stop them,
and you see what happened. We'd better look to the restaurant,
though I doubt if they'll try anything else just now."
He followed Van Deventer up to the restaurant floor. There
were picked men before the door, but just as Arthur and the
bank president appeared two or three white-faced men went up
to the guards and started low-voiced conversations.
Arthur reached the spot in time to forestall bribery.
Arthur collared one man, Van Deventer another, and in a moment
the two were sent reeling down the hallway.
"Some fools have got panic-stricken!" Van Deventer explained
to the men before the doors in a casual voice, though he was
breathing heavily from the unaccustomed exertion. "They've
smashed up the fruit-stand on the ground floor and stolen
the contents. It's nothing but blue funk! Only, if any of
them start to gather around here, hit them first and talk it
over afterward. You'll do that?"
"We will!" the men said heartily.
"Shall we use our guns?" asked another hopefully.
Van Deventer grinned.
"No," he replied, "we haven't any excuse for that yet. But
you might shoot at the ceiling, if they get excited. They're
He took Arthur's arm, and the two walked toward the stairway
"Chamberlain," he said happily, "tell me why I've never had
as much fun as this before!"
Arthur smiled a bit wearily.
"I'm glad you're enjoying yourself!" he said. "I'm not. I'm
going outside and walk around. I want to see if any cracks have
appeared in the earth anywhere. It's dark, and I'll borrow a
lantern down in the fire-room, but I want to find out if there
are any more developments in the condition of the building."
Despite his preoccupation with his errand, which was to find if
there were other signs of the continued activity of the strange
forces that had lowered the tower through the Fourth Dimension
into the dim and unrecorded years of aboriginal America,
Arthur could not escape the fascination of the sight that met
his eyes. A bright moon shone overhead and silvered the white
sides of the tower, while the brightly-lighted windows of the
offices within glittered like jewels set into the shining shaft.
From his position on the ground he looked into the dimness of
the forest on all sides. Black obscurity had gathered beneath
the dark masses of moonlit foliage. The tiny birch-bark
teepees of the now deserted Indian village glowed palely.
Above, the stars looked calmly down at the accusing finger
of the tower pointing upward, as if in reproach at their
indifference to the savagery that reigned over the whole earth.
Like a fairy tower of jewels the building rose. Alone among a
wilderness of trees and streams it towered in a strange beauty:
moonlit to silver, lighted from within to a mass of brilliant
gems, it stood serenely still.
Arthur, carrying his futile lantern about its base, felt his own
insignificance as never before. He wondered what the Indians
must think. He knew there must be hundreds of eyes fixed upon
the strange sight—fixed in awe-stricken terror or superstitious
reverence upon this unearthly visitor to their hunting grounds.
A tiny figure, dwarfed by the building whose base he skirted,
Arthur moved slowly about the vast pile. The earth seemed not
to have been affected by the vast weight of the tower.
Arthur knew, however, that long concrete piles reached far
down to bedrock. It was these piles that had sunk into the
Fourth Dimension, carrying the building with them.
Arthur had followed the plans with great interest when the
Metropolitan was constructed. It was an engineering feat,
and in the engineering periodicals, whose study was a part of
Arthur's business, great space had been given to the building
and the methods of its construction.
While examining the earth carefully he went over his theory of
the cause for the catastrophe. The whole structure must have
sunk at the same time, or it, too, would have disintegrated,
as the other buildings had appeared to disintegrate. Mentally,
Arthur likened the submergence of the tower in the oceans of
time to an elevator sinking past the different floors of an
office building. All about the building the other sky-scrapers
of New York had seemed to vanish. In an elevator, the floors
one passes seem to rise upward.
Carrying out the analogy to its logical end, Arthur reasoned
that the building itself had no more cause to disintegrate,
as the buildings it passed seemed to disintegrate, than the
elevator in the office building would have cause to rise
because its surroundings seemed to rise.
Within the building, he knew, there were strange stirrings of
emotions. Queer currents of panic were running about, throwing
the people to and fro as leaves are thrown about by a current
of wind. Yet, underneath all those undercurrents of fear, was
a rapidly growing resolution, strengthened by an increasing
knowledge of the need to work.
Men were busy even then shifting all possible comfortable
furniture to a single story for the women in the building to
occupy. The men would sleep on the floor for the present. Beds
of boughs could be improvised on the morrow. At sunrise on the
following morning many men would go to the streams to fish,
guarded by other men. All would be frightened, no doubt, but
there would be a grim resolution underneath the fear. Other
men would wander about to hunt.
There was little likelihood of Indians approaching for some
days, at least, but when they did come Arthur meant to avoid
hostilities by all possible means. The Indians would be fearful
of their strange visitors, and it should not be difficult
to convince them that friendliness was safest, even if they
displayed unfriendly desires.
The pressing problem was food. There were two thousand people in
the building, soft-bodied and city-bred. They were unaccustomed
to hardship, and could not endure what more primitive people
would hardly have noticed.
They must be fed, but first they must be taught to feed
themselves. The fishermen would help, but Arthur could only
hope that they would prove equal to the occasion. He did not
know what to expect from them. From the hunters he expected
but little. The Indians were wary hunters, and game would be
shy if not scarce.
The great cloud of birds he had seen at sunset was a hopeful
sign. Arthur vaguely remembered stories of great flocks of
wood-pigeons which had been exterminated, as the buffalo
was exterminated. As he considered the remembrance became
They had flown in huge flocks which nearly darkened the sky. As
late as the forties of the nineteenth century they had been
an important article of food, and had glutted the market at
certain seasons of the year.
Estelle had said the birds he had seen at sunset were
pigeons. Perhaps this was one of the great flocks. If it were
really so, the food problem would be much lessened, provided
a way could be found to secure them. The ammunition in the
tower was very limited, and a shell could not be found for every
bird that was needed, nor even for every three or four. Great
traps must be devised, or bird-lime might possibly be produced.
Arthur made a mental note to ask Estelle if she knew anything
A vague, humming roar, altering in pitch, came to his ears. He
listened for some time before he identified it as the sound of
the wind playing upon the irregular surfaces of the tower. In
the city the sound was drowned by the multitude of other noises,
but here Arthur could hear it plainly.
He listened a moment, and became surprised at the number of
night noises he could hear. In New York he had closed his ears
to incidental sounds from sheer self-protection. Somewhere he
heard the ripple of a little spring. As the idea of a spring
came into his mind, he remembered Estelle's description of
the deep-toned roar she had heard.
He put his hand on the cold stone of the building. There was
still a vibrant quivering of the rock. It was weaker than
before, but was still noticeable.
He drew back from the rock and looked up into the sky. It
seemed to blaze with stars, far more stars than Arthur had
ever seen in the city, and more than he had dreamed existed.
As he looked, however, a cloud seemed to film a portion of the
heavens. The stars still showed through it, but they twinkled
in a peculiar fashion that Arthur could not understand.
He watched in growing perplexity. The cloud moved very
swiftly. Thin as it seemed to be, it should have been silvery
from the moonlight, but the sky was noticeably darker where
it moved. It advanced toward the tower and seemed to obscure
the upper portion. A confused motion became visible among its
parts. Wisps of it whirled away from the brilliantly lighted
tower, and then returned swiftly toward it.
Arthur heard a faint tinkle, then a musical scraping, which
became louder. A faint scream sounded, then another. The
tinkle developed into the sound made by breaking glass, and
the scraping sound became that of the broken fragments as they
rubbed against the sides of the tower in their fall.
The scream came again. It was the frightened cry of a woman. A
soft body struck the earth not ten feet from where Arthur stood,
then another, and another.
Arthur urged the elevator boy to greater speed. They were
speeding up the shaft as rapidly as possible, but it was not
fast enough. When they at last reached the height at which the
excitement seemed to be centered, the car was stopped with a
jerk and Arthur dashed down the hall.
Half a dozen frightened stenographers stood there, huddled
"What's the matter?" Arthur demanded. Men were running,
from the other floors to see what the trouble was.
"The—the windows broke, and—and something flew in at us!" one
of them gasped. There was a crash inside the nearest office
and the women screamed again.
Arthur drew a revolver from his pocket and advanced to the
door. He quickly threw it open, entered, and closed it behind
him. Those left out in the hall waited tensely.
There was no sound. The women began to look even more
frightened. The men shuffled their feet uneasily, and looked
uncomfortably at one another. Van Deventer appeared on the
scene, puffing a little from his haste.
The door opened again and Arthur came out. He was carrying
something in his hands. He had put his revolver aside and
looked somewhat foolish but very much delighted.
"The food question is settled," he said happily. "Look!"
He held out the object he carried. It was a bird, apparently
a pigeon of some sort. It seemed to have been stunned, but as
Arthur held it out it stirred, then struggled, and in a moment
was flapping wildly in an attempt to escape.
"It's a wood-pigeon," said Arthur. "They must fly after dark
sometimes. A big flock of them ran afoul of the tower and
were dazed by the lights. They've broken a lot of windows,
I dare say, but a great many of them ran into the stonework
and were stunned. I was outside the tower, and when I came in
they were dropping to the ground by hundreds. I didn't know
what they were then, but if we wait twenty minutes or so I
think we can go out and gather up our supper and breakfast
and several other meals, all at once."
Estelle had appeared and now reached out her hands for the bird.
"I'll take care of this one," she said. "Wouldn't it be a
good idea to see if there aren't some more stunned in the
In half an hour the electric stoves of the restaurant were
going at their full capacity. Men, cheerfully excited men
now, were bringing in pigeons by armfuls, and other men were
skinning them. There was no time to pluck them, though a great
many of the women were busily engaged in that occupation.
As fast as the birds could be cooked they were served out
to the impatient but much cheered castaways, and in a little
while nearly every person in the place was walking casually
about the halls with a roasted, broiled, or fried pigeon in
his hands. The ovens were roasting pigeons, the frying-pans
were frying them, and the broilers were loaded down with the
small but tender birds.
The unexpected solution of the most pressing question cheered
every one amazingly. Many people were still frightened, but
less frightened than before. Worry for their families still
oppressed a great many, but the removal of the fear of immediate
hunger led them to believe that the other problems before them
would be solved, too, and in as satisfactory a manner.
Arthur had returned to his office with four broiled pigeons
in a sheet of wrapping-paper. As he somehow expected, Estelle
was waiting there.
"Thought I'd bring lunch up," he announced. "Are you hungry?"
"Starving!" Estelle replied, and laughed.
The whole catastrophe began to become an adventure. She bit
eagerly into a bird. Arthur began as hungrily on another. For
some time neither spoke a word. At last, however, Arthur waved
the leg of his second pigeon toward his desk.
"Look what we've got here!" he said.
Estelle nodded. The stunned pigeon Arthur had first picked up
was tied by one foot to a paper-weight.
"I thought we might keep him for a souvenir," she suggested.
"You seem pretty confident we'll get back, all right," Arthur
observed. "It was surely lucky those blessed birds came along.
They've heartened up the people wonderfully!"
"Oh, I knew you'd manage somehow!" said Estelle confidently.
"I manage?" Arthur repeated, smiling. "What have I done?"
"Why, you've done everything," affirmed Estelle stoutly. "You've
told the people what to do from the very first, and you're
going to get us back."
Arthur grinned, then suddenly his face grew a little more
"I wish I were as sure as you are," he said. "I think we'll
be all right, though, sooner or later."
"I'm sure of it," Estelle declared with conviction. "Why, you—"
"Why I?" asked Arthur again. He bent forward in his chair
and fixed his eyes on Estelle's. She looked up, met his gaze,
"You—you do things," she finished lamely.
"I'm tempted to do something now," Arthur said. "Look here,
Miss Woodward, you've been in my employ for three or four
months. In all that time I've never had anything but the most
impersonal comments from you. Why the sudden change?"
The twinkle in his eyes robbed his words of any impertinence.
"Why, I really—I really suppose I never noticed you before,"
"Please notice me hereafter," said Arthur. "I have been noticing
you. I've been doing practically nothing else."
Estelle flushed again. She tried to meet Arthur's eyes and
failed. She bit desperately into her pigeon drumstick, trying
to think of something to say.
"When we get back," went on Arthur meditatively, "I'll have
nothing to do—no work or anything. I'll be broke and out of
Estelle shook her head emphatically. Arthur paid no attention.
"Estelle," he said, smiling, "would you like to be out of a
job with me?"
Estelle turned crimson.
"I'm not very successful," Arthur went on soberly. "I'm afraid
I wouldn't make a very good husband, I'm rather worthless
"You aren't," broke in Estelle; "you're—you're—"
Arthur reached over and took her by the shoulders.
"What?" he demanded.
She would not look at him, but she did not draw away. He held
her from him for a moment.
"What am I?" he demanded again. Somehow he found himself
kissing the tips of her ears. Her face was buried against
"What am I?" he repeated sternly.
Her voice was muffled by his coat.
"You're—you're dear!" she said.
There was an interlude of about a minute and a half, then she
pushed him away from her.
"Don't!" she said breathlessly. "Please don't!"
"Aren't you going to marry me?" he demanded.
Still crimson, she nodded shyly. He kissed her again.
"Please don't!" she protested.
She fondled the lapels of his coat, quite content to have his
arms about her.
"Why mayn't I kiss you if you're going to marry me?" Arthur
She looked up at him with an air of demure primness.
"You—you've been eating pigeon," she told him in mock gravity,
"and—and your mouth is greasy!"
It was two weeks later. Estelle looked out over the now familiar
wild landscape. It was much the same when she looked far away,
but near by there were great changes.
A cleared trail led through the woods to the waterfront, and a
raft of logs extended out into the river for hundreds of feet.
Both sides of the raft were lined with busy fishermen—men and
women, too. A little to the north of the base of the building a
huge mound of earth smoked sullenly. The coal in the cellar had
given out and charcoal had been found to be the best substitute
they could improvise. The mound was where the charcoal was made.
It was heart-breaking work to keep the fires going with
charcoal, because it burned so rapidly in the powerful draft of
the furnaces, but the original fire-room gang had been recruited
to several times its original number from among the towerites,
and the work was divided until it did not seem hard.
As Estelle looked down two tiny figures sauntered across the
clearing from the woods with a heavy animal slung between
them. One of them was using a gun as a walking-stick. Estelle
saw the flash of the sun on its polished metal barrel.
There were a number of Indians in the clearing, watching
with wide-open eyes the activities of the whites. Dozens of
birch-bark canoes dotted the Hudson, each with its load of
fishermen, industriously working for the white people. It had
been hard to overcome the fear in the Indians, and they still
paid superstitious reverence to the whites, but fair dealings,
coupled with a constant readiness to defend themselves, had
enabled Arthur to institute a system of trading for food that
had so far proved satisfactory.
The whites had found spare electric-light bulbs valuable
currency in dealing with the redmen. Picture-wire, too, was
highly prized. There was not a picture left hanging in any
of the offices. Metal paper-knives bought huge quantities
of provisions from the eager Indian traders, and the story
was current in the tower that Arthur had received eight
canoe-loads of corn and vegetables in exchange for a broken-down
typewriter. No one could guess what the savages wanted with
the typewriter, but they had carted it away triumphantly.
Estelle smiled tenderly to herself as she remembered how Arthur
had been the leading spirit in all the numberless enterprises in
which the castaways had been forced to engage. He would come
to her in a spare ten minutes, and tell her how everything
was going. He seemed curiously boylike in those moments.
Sometimes he would come straight from the fire-room—he insisted
on taking part in all the more arduous duties—having hastily
cleaned himself for her inspection, snatch a hurried kiss,
and then go off, laughing, to help chop down trees for the
long fishing-raft. He had told them how to make charcoal, had
taken a leading part in establishing and maintaining friendly
relations with the Indians, and was now down in the deepest
sub-basement, working with a gang of volunteers to try to put
the building back where it belonged.
Estelle had said, after the collapse of the flooring in the board-room, that
she heard a sound like the rushing of waters. Arthur, on examining the floor
where the safe-deposit vault stood, found it had risen an inch. On these facts
he had built up his theory. The building, like all modern sky-scrapers, rested
on concrete piles extending down to bedrock. In the center of one of those piles
there was a hollow tube originally intended to serve as an artesian well. The
flow had been insufficient and the well had been stopped up.
Arthur, of course, as an engineer, had studied the construction
of the building with great care, and happened to remember that
this partly hollow pile was the one nearest the safe-deposit
vault. The collapse of the board-room floor had suggested that
some change had happened in the building itself, and that was
found when he saw that the deposit-vault had actually risen
He at once connected the rise in the flooring above the hollow
pile with the pipe in the pile. Estelle had heard liquid sounds.
Evidently water had been forced into the hollow artesian pipe
under an unthinkable pressure when the catastrophe occurred.
From the rumbling and the suddenness of the whole catastrophe
a volcanic or seismic disturbance was evident. The connection
of volcanic or seismic action with a flow of water suggested a
geyser or a hot spring of some sort, probably a spring which
had broken through its normal confines some time before, but
whose pressure had been sufficient to prevent the accident
until the failure of its flow.
When the flow ceased the building sank rapidly. For the fact
that this "sinking" was in the fourth direction—the Fourth
Dimension—Arthur had no explanation. He simply knew that in
some mysterious way an outlet for the pressure had developed
in that fashion, and that the tower had followed the spring
in its fall through time.
The sole apparent change in the building had occurred above
the one hollow concrete pile, which seemed to indicate that if
access were to be had to the mysterious, and so far only assumed
spring, it must be through that pile. While the vault retained
its abnormal elevation, Arthur believed that there was still
water at an immense and incalculable pressure in the pipe. He
dared not attempt to tap the pipe until the pressure had abated.
At the end of a week he found the vault slowly settling back
into place. When its return to the normal was complete he
dared begin boring a hole to reach the hollow tube in the
As he suspected, he found water in the pile—water whose
sulfurous and mineral nature confirmed his belief that a geyser
reaching deep into the bosom of the earth, as well as far back
in the realms of time, was at the bottom of the extraordinary
jaunt of the tower.
Geysers were still far from satisfactory things to
explain. There are many of their vagaries which we cannot
understand at all. We do know a few things which affect them,
and one thing is that "soaping" them will stimulate their flow
in an extraordinary manner.
Arthur proposed to "soap" this mysterious geyser when the
renewal of its flow should lift the runaway sky-scraper back
to the epoch from which the failure of the flow had caused it
He made his preparations with great care. He confidently
expected his plan to work, and to see the sky-scraper once
more towering over mid-town New York as was its wont, but
he did not allow the fishermen and hunters to relax their
efforts on that account. They labored as before, while deep
down in the sub-basement of the colossal building Arthur and
his volunteers toiled mightily.
They had to bore through the concrete pile until they reached
the hollow within it. Then, when the evidence gained from
the water in the pipe had confirmed his surmises, they had to
prepare their "charge" of soapy liquids by which the geyser
was to be stirred to renewed activity.
Great quantities of the soap used by the scrubwomen in scrubbing
down the floors was boiled with water until a sirupy mess was
evolved. Means had then to be provided by which this could
be quickly introduced into the hollow pile, the hole then
closed, and then braced to withstand a pressure unparalleled
in hydraulic science. Arthur believed that from the hollow
pile the soapy liquid would find its way to the geyser proper,
where it would take effect in stimulating the lessened flow
to its former proportions. When that took place he believed
that the building would return as swiftly and as surely as it
had left them to normal, modern times.
The telephone rang in his office, and Estelle answered
it. Arthur was on the wire. A signal was being hung out for
all the castaway to return to the building from their several
occupations. They were about to soap the geyser.
Did Estelle want to come down and watch? She did! She
stood in the main hallway as the excited and hopeful people
trooped in. When the last was inside the doors were firmly
closed. The few friendly Indians outside stared perplexedly
at the mysterious white strangers.
The whites, laughing excitedly, began to wave to the
Indians. Their leave-taking was premature.
Estelle took her way down into the cellar. Arthur was awaiting
her arrival. Van Deventer stood near, with the grinning, grimy
members of Arthur's volunteer work gang. The massive concrete
pile stood in the center of the cellar. A big steam-boiler was
coupled to a tiny pipe that led into the heart of the mass of
concrete. Arthur was going to force the soapy liquid into the
hollow pile by steam.
At a signal steam began to hiss in the boiler. Live steam
from the fire-room forced the soapy sirup out of the boiler,
through the small iron pipe, into the hollow that led to the
geyser far underground. Six thousand gallons in all were forced
into the opening in a space of three minutes.
Arthur's grimy gang began to work with desperate haste. Quickly
they withdrew the iron pipe and inserted a long steel plug,
painfully beaten from a bar of solid metal. Then, girding the
colossal concrete pile, ring after ring of metal was slipped
on, to hold the plug in place.
The last of the safeguards was hardly fastened firmly when
Estelle listened intently.
"I hear a rumbling!" she said quietly.
Arthur reached forward and put his hand on the mass of concrete.
"It is quivering!" he reported as quietly. "I think we'll be
on our way in a very little while."
The group broke for the stairs, to watch the panorama as the
runaway sky-scraper made its way back through the thousands
of years to the times that had built it for a monument to
Arthur and Estelle went high up in the tower. From the window
of Arthur's office they looked eagerly, and felt the slight
quiver as the tower got under way. Estelle looked up at the sun,
and saw it mend its pace toward the west.
Night fell. The evening sounds became high-pitched and shrill,
then seemed to cease altogether.
In a very little while there was light again, and the sun was speeding across
the sky. It sank hastily, and returned almost immediately, via the east.
Its pace became a breakneck rush. Down behind the hills and up in the east.
Down in the west, up in the east. Down and up— The flickering began. The
race back toward modern times had started.
Arthur and Estelle stood at the window and looked out as the
sun rushed more and more rapidly across the sky until it became
but a streak of light, shifting first to the right and then
to the left as the seasons passed in their turn.
With Arthur's arms about her shoulders, Estelle stared out
across the unbelievable landscape, while the nights and days,
the winters and summers, and the storms and calms of a thousand
years swept past them into the irrevocable past.
Presently Arthur drew her to him and kissed her. While he
kissed her, so swiftly did the days and years flee by, three
generations were born, grew and begot children, and died again!
Estelle, held fast in Arthur's arms, thought nothing of such
trivial things. She put her arms about his neck and kissed him,
while the years passed them unheeded.
Of course you know that the building landed safely, in the
exact hour, minute, and second from which it started, so that
when the frightened and excited people poured out of it to
stand in Madison Square and feel that the world was once more
right side up, their hilarious and incomprehensible conduct
made such of the world as was passing by think a contagious
madness had broken out.
Days passed before the story of the two thousand was believed,
but at last it was accepted as truth, and eminent scientists
studied the matter exhaustively.
There has been one rather queer result of the journey of the
runaway sky-scraper. A certain Isidore Eckstein, a dealer
in jewelry novelties, whose office was in the tower when it
disappeared into the past, has entered suit in the courts of
the United States against all the holders of land on Manhattan
Island. It seems that during the two weeks in which the tower
rested in the wilderness he traded independently with one of the
Indian chiefs, and in exchange for two near-pearl necklaces,
sixteen finger-rings, and one dollar in money, received a
title-deed to the entire island.—He claims that his deed is
a conveyance made previous to all other sales whatever.
Strictly speaking, he is undoubtedly right, as his deed was
signed before the discovery of America. The courts, however,
are deliberating the question with a great deal of perplexity.
Eckstein is quite confident that in the end his claim
will be allowed and he will be admitted as the sole owner
of real-estate on Manhattan Island, with all occupiers of
buildings and territory paying him ground rent at a rate he
will fix himself. In the mean time, though the foundations are
being reinforced so the catastrophe cannot occur again, his
entire office is packed full of articles suitable for trading
with the Indians. If the tower makes another trip back through
time, Eckstein hopes to become a landholder of some importance.
No less than eighty-seven books have been written by members
of the memorable two thousand in description of their trip
to the hinterland of time, but Arthur, who could write more
intelligently about the matter than any one else, is so
extremely busy that he cannot bother with such things. He has
two very important matters to look after. One is, of course,
the reenforcement of the foundations of the building so that a
repetition of the catastrophe cannot occur, and the other is
to convince his wife—who is Estelle, naturally—that she is
the most adorable person in the universe. He finds the latter
task the more difficult, because she insists that he
is the most adorable person—