The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (2023)

The Project Gutenberg eBook of The new northland, by Louis Pope Gratacap

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Title: The new northland

Author: Louis Pope Gratacap

Illustrator: Albert Operti

Release Date: February 1, 2023 [eBook #69925]

Language: English

Produced by: Peter Becker, Barry Abrahamsen, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive)


The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (1)

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Preface (Editorial Note) 7
Chapter I The Fiord 39
Chapter II Point Barrow 63
Chapter III On the Ice Pack 89
Chapter IV Krocker Land Rim 116
Chapter V The Perpetual Nimbus 141
Chapter VI The Crocodilo-Python 162
Chapter VII The Deer Fels 184
Chapter VIII The Pine Tree Gredin 203
Chapter IX The Valley of Rasselas 228
Chapter X Radiumopolis 246
Chapter XI The Crater of Everlasting Light 271
Chapter XII The Pool of Oblation 288
Chapter XIII Love and Liberty 308
Chapter XIV Goritz’s Death and the Gold Makers 332
Chapter XV My Escape 348
Chapter XVI The Sequel 376


The Police Follow Riddles’ Cue (Frontispiece) 28
The Fiord 39
The Professor and the Pribylof Seals 69
On the Ice Pack 98
Krocker Land Rim 131
The Perpetual Nimbus 158
The Crocodilo-Python and the Wild Pig 180
The Deer Fels 190
The Pine Tree Gredin 215
Meeting the Radiumopolites 226
The Valley of Rasselas 239
Ziliah and Her Father 292
The Pool of Oblation 300
Goritz’s Death 334
Erickson’s Escape 375
Erickson’s Rescue 382



This remarkable narrative of Arctic explorationis itself a remarkable confirmation of the wisdom ofthat tireless hunt for NEWS which has becomesecond nature to the newspaper man, and whiledistinctively a mark of his calling, has attached tohis profession the opprobrium of “yellowness.”The appropriation of this color—so intimatelyassociated in nature with the golden illuminationof the noon, the royal charm of lilies, and theenduring lure of gold—to designate an irresponsibleand shameless sensationalism has never been adequatelyexplained. The “yellowness” of the livejournalist, turning with an instinctive scent tofollow to its end every new trail of incident,sniffing in each passing rumor the presence ofhidden and serviceable scandal, and ruthlesslybreaking through the sham obstruction of modestyto snatch the culprit or to free the victim, cannotcertainly be referred to the torpor marked by thejaundice of the invalid, nor to the weakness of thelast stages of an emaciating fever. Perhaps if thereproach is to be made, or can be made, intelligible,the yellow color finds its subtle analogue in a mustardplaster.

That popular cataplasm has a dignified andancient history, and is gratefully recorded in literaturefor nearly two thousand years as a contrarientof value, allaying hidden aches through the excoriationof the uninjured and painless surfaces. The8process seems to involve an injustice in principle,but it is, in spite of abstractions, a beneficentpractice. The “yellowness” of newspapers mayamaze modesty, startle discretion, and afflict innocence,but it cures interior disorders, and the unpleasantnessof an ulcerated or inflamed skin shouldbe condoned or forgotten for the benefit of a regulatedstomach or a renovated joint.

However, this all en passant, as only remotely,and yet diffidently, related to the manner of myobtaining the circumstances and facts of the followingadventure. I have attributed my successto the pertinacity of instinct and the olfactorysense of mischief. It is true. Without one or theother—though the combination of both renderedfailure impossible—I might not now be in theenviable position of proclaiming a “beat” on myprofessional rivals which no amount of editorialvenom, aspersion, contempt and innuendo willever obliterate from the annals of journalism, asunprecedented.

I am indeed afflicted at moments with a sort ofdiscomfiture over my own modesty in not havingransacked to better advantage the commercialpossibilities of my tenacity and acumen. Incredibleand hypnotizing as is this story of Mr. AlfredErickson, as a foil to its romantic daring and itstranscendent interest, the brief relation of theepisode—and its development—that led to itspublication, has a delightful thrill of excitement,and an up-to-date volubility, so to speak, of incident,that frames the story in the most exhilaratingcontrasts.

An office boy, a temporary expedient for amessenger and page, Jack Riddles, mercurial,vagarious, and quick-witted, a sandy haired, long-limbed,peaked-nosed and weazel-eyed creation,with flattened cheeks, whose jackets were always9short, and whose trousers despised any intimacywith the tops of his shoes, got me the story.

Jack is destined for great things in our metropolitanannals. In the mission of the Progressiveparty, with its millennial attachments, Jack and hissort would be progressively eliminated. Crimeexists for detection, and detection is Life at its nthpower for such as he. Jack is endowed with a rareintuition of ways and means when the center of areportorial mystery is to be perforated, and theprocess of “getting there” to him is as inevitableas the first half of the alphabet. Riddle’s onlycounterpart was Octavius Guy, alias Gooseberry,Lawyer Bruff’s boy in Wilkie Collin’s story of theMoonstone.

He began his exploit on the top of a Fifth Avenue’bus, and it was about the middle of September,1912. Jack has a Hogarthian sense for the multitudinous,the psychological, the junction of circumstanceand expression in revealing a plot orbetraying a criminal. To hang over the railing of aFifth Avenue ’bus and watch the crowds, the motorcars, each vibratory shock, as the behemoth shiversand plunges, bringing your interpretative eyeunexpectedly into a new relation with the faces ofthat ceremonious throng, was intoxication for Jack.It evoked exuberantly the passion of espionage.There was indeed concealment here, in the packedand methodical progression of people and people,and yet more people. Yet with an average dumbnessor dullness, or just the homogeneous stare ofbusiness, or the vapid contentment of contiguity toriches and fashion, Jack caught glimpses, direct,profound, of dismay or discontent; of the pallid,revolting grimace of suffering, the snarl of envy, orthe deeper placidity of crime.

They were rare, but Jack watched for them; hisprecocity ran that way and he was rewarded. It10used up his dimes, it widened the solutions of continuityin his nether garments and brought his feetmore familiarly in contact with the hard flagging.Some supersensual instinct urged him. The succeedingstory attests the splendor of the revelationhe uncovered. Jack may have been about eighteenyears of age.

It was opposite the Public Library, just belowForty-second Street on Fifth Avenue and on thewest side of that thoroughfare that Jack’s eyes,after a long stop which held up an endless phalanxof automobiles, fell upon a man and woman whoconveyed to his thought a hint of crime. Thewoman was beautiful too, a Spanish siren, full inform, with developed curves that yielded so slightlyto the sway of her tight fitting mauve dress as tostart the conjecture that she did not belong to themore rarified types of Venuses. A light featherboa, deliciously pearly gray in tone, heightened thecarnation of her cheeks. These in turn yielded tothe orbed splendor of her eyes, and that to thewealth of black hair darkly globed underneath amaroon velvet turban-like cap, in whose foldstwinkled a firmament of greenish stars. Jackliterally devoured her radiance, so near was he toher as she descended with her companion the lastterrace to the sidewalk between the amorphouslions of the Public Library.

The man with her was inordinately, insolentlyhandsome, dark and tall, dressed a little beyond theform of reticence, as was the woman. Hereinperhaps lurked the confession of their mutual depravityto Jack, an untutored psychologist; toall besides it appealed as a momentary sensation, tosome as barely an infringement of good taste.

The man wore a light fedora hat that suited thebravado of his curled and graceful moustache, theovate outlines of his face, his liquid, voluptuous11eyes, the sensuous thickness of his lips. Observationstopped short at his face where he intended itshould. Its arrest was made imperative by a blueand ormolu tie, relieved against a softly-tintedyellow shirt, carrying a horseshoe of demantoidgarnets in a wreath of little diamonds. His feetwere encased in tan gaiters, a permissible distraction.For an instant only the spectator was rewardedwith an appreciation of their admirabletournure. Otherwise he was in black, relieved bythe white lining at the lapels of his coat, and hecarried a cane in his gloved hand.

It was a few instants after Jack’s ravished eyeshad fastened on this entrancing couple, that thecane was raised sharply in the air to descendabruptly on the woman’s head. The attackinvolved the man’s slight retreat—a backwardgesture—and his turning aside, whereby his profilecut keenly across the sunlit stone behind him, andJack was shocked into a delighted recognition ofthe same profile in a print in the show window ofKrauschaar’s gallery. He remembered the title;it was “Mephistopheles, A Modern Guise of an OldOffender”; a smiling, swarthy beau at the feet of aremonstrating and beautiful ingenue.

The explosion was evidently the climax of analtercation. Jack recalled the previous animateddemeanor of the couple. Explanatory reflectionswere cut short by the velocity of the woman’sdefense. She flung herself on the man, caught hisarms with her outstretched hands, and kicked himviciously. Infuriated, he tore himself away, raisedthe cane and the next moment would have inflicteda harsher insult on the defiant Amazon, into whoseface, so Jack thought, had sprung a tigerish fury,when, from the stupified and expectant crowd beforethem, half shrinking and half jubilant, shot a tall figure,whose interposition transfixed both contestants.

12This meteoric stranger was remarkable for hisbroad shoulders, and a peculiar taper in his framedownward to his feet, that made him figuratively ahuman top, the impression of any actual deformityarising from his immense chest, on which, by aconnection scarcely deserving consideration as aneck, sat his squat, contracted head. Prodigiouswhiskers covered his face, invading his high cheeksalmost to the outer limits of his sunken eyes.

This hirsute prodigality contrasted with hiscropped cranium and his closely shaven lips. Thelatter were long and thin-compressed, they seemedto separate his chin from the rest of his face by ared seam. His forehead was low and his head wascovered with a steamer-tourist’s cap. His clotheswere of plaid.

As he rushed between the wranglers he caughteach by the shoulder, and he pushed them apart.He had turned toward the avenue, facing the wonderingthrong, and Jack heard him speak quicklyand sharply, but in a guttural, obscured way thatsuggested something that was not English or, if itwas, it was hopelessly incoherent to Jack’s earsfrom its imperfect articulation.

The man and woman seemed stunned into immobility,and then obeying his gesture, followedhim on the sidewalk, jostled and pressed by thecrowd which at first, inquisitive but timorous, hadrecoiled a little from the enigmatical encounter andthen, almost obstreperous and decidedly interestedengulfed the trio, who however pushed their waythrough, energetically piloted by the stranger.How quickly a drama evolves!

All three had almost simultaneously stepped intothe little scenario, and yet by the illusion of anassumed sequence the last actor seemed a novelty,related as unexpected, to the other two, as morefamiliar and apparent. None of the three spoke,13nor did they heed the interruption of the spectatorswho tardily parted to let them pass. The momentForty-second Street was reached the leader turnedtoward Sixth Avenue. Jack standing on the roof ofthe ’bus, which slowly swung off into the restoredmovement northward as the obstruction somewhereahead disappeared, saw them enter an automobileopposite the northern entrance to thelibrary and dash westward.

Jack did not argue the matter with himself. Hehad no compunctions. He jumped straight for theto him (as perhaps to anyone) tangible certaintythat he had struck a trail of iniquity. But how tofollow it? His ruminations were cut short by theloud honk of an automobile and there, returning toFifth Avenue at Fiftieth Street, he saw the yellowlimousine which contained the suspects wheelinginto the procession and, forced by the unrelievedpressure to relax its impatience, moving with thelimping concourse at the same pace.

Jack watched it eagerly. His eyes never left it.It swayed a little to the right and to the left as thedriver, probably under threats or persuasion, endeavoredto insert his vehicle into the chancespaces that opened before him. This irregular andtentative progress brought the automobile at lengthdirectly alongside of the ’bus which had on it theNemesis of its (the automobile’s) occupants. Itwas underneath Jack’s very eyes; he could havedropped on its roof almost unnoticed. Jack’sheart beat with trip-hammer throbs, and his mindrehearsed the possibilities of murder, arson, burglary,brigandage, kidnapping, etc., gathering headwayin that uncanny conference going on therebelow under that burnished but impenetrable roof.But he was exulting too with the steel-clad certaintyof having a “case,” and that a little intensiveuse of his wits would promote him from the14office floor to a reserved seat in the Reporters’Sanctum.

A jolt, a lurching swing, the vituperative shriekof an ungreased axle, and the ’bus followed ameandering lane that brought it into an unimpededheadway. Jack sprang to his feet and watchedbehind him the still imprisoned limousine—it tooshot ahead; noiselessly as a speeding bird it overtookthe ’bus and then with a graceful curve,almost as if in mockery of his impotence, it vanishedinto east Fifty-eighth Street.

Jack had a message for the Director of the MetropolitanArt Museum. It was from myself in responseto an inquiry as to what space we couldafford for a description of a new Morgan exhibit.Jack was a safe messenger, unmistakably accurate,but we always discounted his celerity, because of hispreferences for a ride on a Fifth avenue ’bus and thelittle delinquencies of delay his observationalpowers tempted him to perpetrate. He was anhour later than the most generous allowance oftime would justify. Jack was to bring back “copy”for the next day’s issue. I lectured him. Hewas sullenly respectful, indifferently contrite, andshowed a taciturn preoccupation that impressedmy reportorial instinct as significant.

As a matter of fact the missing hour was used intraversing Fifty-eighth Street. The fruit of Jack’ssearch was diminutive but it was conclusive. Onthe pavement in front of No. — east Fifty-eighthStreet, Jack picked up a microscopic green glassstar. He knew where it belonged—the spangledturban on top of the massed hair of that afternoon’sdebutante; debutante to Jack’s official criticism.

This minute betrayal had dropped from her hat,from nowhere else, and the belligerent cane of herescort had dislodged it. It had lain somewhere inthe folds and creases of the soft velvet, to fall just15there, unsuspectedly at the entrance of her retreat—afrail enamel bead releasing to the world amarvelous secret. For Jack Riddles intended towatch that house; he would enter it; if it concealedsome half consummated plot of SIN, ifindeed the plot was over, its victims disposed of,and the conspirators were there enjoying the harvestof their guilt, he would know it, and—theeventuality of failure never entered his head. Hefelt, in every fibre, a certainty of wrong-doing,something shadowy, perhaps darkly cruel in thesepeople. His prescience was involuntary; he neverexplained it, he never himself understood it.

Jack lived in Brooklyn, with his wifeless father.That night as he left the office he dropped a postalat a lamp post and took a car north. He was followingthe trail. A little transposed I submitJack’s story as he gave it to me the next morning.

He came to the office a little late, and knocked atmy door. On entering I saw instantly that he wasin an advanced stage of nervous excitement. Hewas pale, and a fluttering involuntary movement ofhis hands, one over the other, as he stood before me,with a glitter in his peculiarly shaped and smalleyes betrayed his mental agitation. He was quitewet, had probably been drenched, and the firstsymptoms of a chill showed that precautions werenecessary to avert a possible collapse. I told himto sit down, opened a cellarette, which had its professionaland commercial uses, and poured out arather stiff jorum of the best whisky I owned.

As he swallowed in a gulping manner theproffered contents of the glass, he was rather aludicrous and yet pitiful and heart-moving object.His disordered hair, shabby clothes and a certainforlorn wistfulness in his glance upward to me, combinedwith his lean and disjointed anatomy gavehim an expression that was at once tender and16laughable. Only a Cruikshank could have doneit justice. His spirits revived, animal heat reasserteditself, and back with it, as if it had stoodsomewhere aside until invited to return, cameboastingly his invincible pugnacity and confidence.

“Mr. Link,” his speech was customarily hesitatingwith a deprecatory manner as if forestallinginterruption or correction, and impeded by aslight stutter, but now, in the tide and torrent ofhis thoughts, under the sway of the elation over hisfirst bit of detective work, it was rapid but coherent,and oddly picturesque. “Mr. Link, I’ve nipped apretty piece of mischief in the bud—seems so to me.Of course I’m just on the trail, and fetching up tothe big game that I think is in sight, barring thetrees—may take more work than I think. But theproposition is as clear as glass that there’s a crookedgame being pulled off at — east Fifty-eighth Street,and I’m convinced that ‘the deceits of the world,the flesh and the devil,’ as it goes in the prayer book,are behind it. Now here’s the evidence—not muchyou may say, but I’ll hang up my reputation onit—you know, Mr. Link, I have a little hereaboutsat finding out things, and I’m just convinced it—won’tdrop.

“I was on the ’bus, stalled just below Forty-secondStreet, opposite the Library. I saw acouple of people, a man and a woman, coming downthe steps to the street. The woman—Well, Icouldn’t begin to tell you how stunning she was.Beauty was just all over her, thick too, from herfeet to her head. I remember now the thoughtstruck me as I looked at her that she’d make a brassman turn round to see her when she’d passed. Andthe goods on her were as sweet and gay as herself—apicture, Mr. Link, a real picture, if ever a womanmade one. The man was with her, good-lookingand cruel; neat, too, and Hell painted on him so17plain it would make an angel throw a fit—if anangel could, supposin’.

“Now Mr. Link I hadn’t looked that long,” Jacksnapped his fingers, “before I felt, sir, that theywere rotten, not four flushers, but the real bad, likethose the Sunday School man told us of, who ‘builda town with blood, and establish a city by iniquity.’”The pause Jack interpolated here was as oracularas the quotation. I did him a great injustice toseem indifferent and impatient. Really I felt thethrill of an inevitable sensation approaching, and—Isaw beyond it hypnotizing copy. Jack desideratedencouragement, approval—I looked at theclock over my desk and yawned. Surely it wasdeliberate malice.

“Like that, sir!” Jack clapped his handsloudly; the ruse broke through my affectation,and startled me into attention that he waskeen enough to see was as intense as he wished itto be.

“Like that, sir, they hit out at each other, andthere was a fight on! Then a husky— Well, a—white-hopeyou might have called him—bouncedin; they knew him, he knew them, and the threechased off in an automobile. I lost ’em, found ’em,and tracked ’em down east Fifty-eighth Street.She had green stars in her hat—things you couldhardly see—but they shone! I found one on a doorstep—andlast night I watched the house!”

The typical story teller who at such a juncturelights a cigar, finishes an unsmoked pipe, empties aglass of grog, or rises with unconcealed surpriseover his neglect to fulfill an engagement elsewhere,could not have surpassed the self-control withwhich Jack, for the same purpose, intimated his ownretirement. He rose, crushing in his thin fingershis poor bleached blue cap, his small sparkling eyesraised to the clock, which a moment before I had18invoked so heartlessly to aid the hypocrisy of myassumed exemption from common weaknesses.

“I think, Mr. Link, it’s time for me to see Mr.Force.” Mr. Force was an assistant in the press-room.

The rebellious spirit of honesty which I hadshamelessly essayed to crush, got decidedly the bestof the situation now; behind it was the pressure ofmy own exorbitant curiosity.

“I think Jack, you’ll sit down and finish yourstory.”

Jack sat down.

“There was a vacant or closed house opposite.I perched on the top step of the porch and glued myeyes on No. —. I think, sir, that if any man orwoman inside had winked an eye at me from acrossthe street, I’d have seen it. But it wasn’t lightenough for long to watch trifles, and I just keptlooking at the front door and the windows. It wasright funny how the lights changed. They brokeout first on the second floor, then they dropped tothe basement, then they climbed to the third story,down again to the first, but they ended in the atticwindows and they stayed there. Everything elsewas as black as the tomb.

“The wind hustled about a little, splashes of rainhurried along with it, and it grew dark in the street.Once or twice the shades lifted and, Mr. Link”—Jackwas a picture of poignant eagerness—“I sawthe big peach and her man, the two of the Librarysteps, just the same as I see you. They’d open thewindow too and look out together down into thestreet. I knew why, sir. They expected thatlimousine—and it came.”

The constraint of any position more repressivethan sitting to Jack, now on the edge of his exposurecould not be imagined. He stood up, movedtowards me, the color mounting in his pale cheeks,19his body bent a little forward, and his eyes lightingup with an interior brilliancy that suddenly mademe realize Jack might become a good-looking man.

“After that they’d go away from the windowfarther back; I think they carried a lamp withthem for the light would fade away, or else theyturned the gas off. At eleven o’clock—I couldhear the clock bells from the steeples—the windwas racing and it began to rain hard. I got someshelter under the doorway; the light never left theattic across the street. I felt it all over me, sir, thatIT was coming. I’m not sure, I may have fallenasleep, but I came to with a bounce. Lightningwas chasing through the sky and the thunder wasbooming and—the door of No. — was open; thelight from the hall flickered over the wet sidewalk,but the shower had passed. The man and thewoman both stood there for an instant, then theywent in and the door shut with a slam. I thought,sir, I had lost the trail. I never felt worse. Ihated them, Mr. Link. Good reason, too.” Hishands suddenly searched his vest, they were unrewarded;his face grew blank and he dropped hishands helplessly, while a piteous look of consternationand utter despondency shot from his eyes tomine, by this time fully sympathetic and as lustrousas his own.

His glance fell on his hat that lay at his feet onthe floor, a flood of revived remembrances followed;he snatched it up, fumbled in its lining and pulledout a scrap of wrinkled paper. The returning sunshineof confidence renewed again the handsomelook I had noticed before. He certainly wasworking up his effects with a remarkable melodramaticinsight that was captivating.

“I ran down the steps into the street, I hadheard a distant croak of an auto-horn, and on topof it came the toll of one o’clock from a tower. I20had been asleep over an hour. There was no lightin No. — except upstairs, as before, in the attic.Then the croak seemed to come from towards theEast River, and I saw two balls of light rushing atme. IT WAS THE LIMOUSINE. I startedback, and stumbled over a small cobble stone. Itlooked like an intervention—a message, Mr.Link—who knows? I picked it up, and I pulledout a jack knife I had in my pants. Why? Ididn’t know, but, sir, they both came in handy.

“The auto sneaked up quiet enough, wheeledround facing East River, and crept in a little to oneside of No. —. Mine wasn’t the only pair of eyeswatching for it. It had hardly grazed the curbwhen the front door opened and there stoodMephistopheles, behind the beautiful woman, bothin the half dark. I knew them, alright. The mancame down the steps bareheaded, he carried a shortsomething in his right hand. The sprinkle startedagain, and a smash of thunder roared overhead,and a clot-like gloom came out of it. Under thatcover I dashed over the street like a hare, and crepttight up to the back of the car. In it sat Husky—thepeg-top fellow that met ’em in Fifth Avenue—andanother man, smaller, and sort of muffled up.The chauffeur in front never stirred from first to last.

“Meph. opened the door; Husky stepped out; heshook the little man. I heard him mutter ‘Comeout here. Be fly, but quiet, or by God, I’ll stickyer through and no compunctions, mind yer.’The bundle inside stirred; I peeped in from behind,a little higher; he was in a black bag or somethinglike it, and as he stooped under the door andstumbled out, the two caught him, lifted him andstarted up the steps, where the woman leanedforward—it seemed to me she kept clapping herhands together softly as if she couldn’t hold in fordelight. Then, sir—”

21Jack straightened himself, bent back, relaxed,pitched forward with one outstretched arm, projectedlike a catapult, in front of him, “then, sir,I let fly—not at them—I didn’t know who I mighthit and anyhow, hit or miss, they’d slipped offthrough that door quicker’n snakes. That was nouse. The cobble stone slammed through the glassside of the limousine, it went through that and splitthe window opposite. I haven’t pitched for theBogotas for nothing, sir. Before they had time tothink, I jabbed my jack knife through the tire andoff it went like a mortar. Everything was quietthen up above and the crash and the explosion hadthe center of the stage, as you people say. I guessit made their hearts jump. They looked around,the woman screamed, and—I screamed—and thatchauffeur didn’t even turn about. For nerve orsheer fright he had the record. Perhaps at suchtimes, sir, you can’t distinguish. Eh?

“Well, they lost their grip on the bundle, for itwas a pretty uneasy load to carry now; the interruptionperhaps gave the fellow inside some hope.He rolled down the steps onto the pavement like abag of beans, moving slightly like a strangled dog.I heard Husky’s voice, ‘Inside, inside with him!Don’t stop, swat him,’ and then the black scoundrelraised his cudgel and beat the poor creatureinsensible. I heard him groan where I stood. Iwas crazy with rage; I felt myself suffocating. Ihad been shouting, ‘Help! Help!’ but my voiceleft me; I discovered that I was very wet, and thena strange vertigo came over me, a pain crossedmy chest, and a fire seemed to rage in my throat.I was sick, sir. I am—”

Jack tottered. I caught him, poor fellow;exposure and overstrained emotions had prostratedhim. And he was still damp; perhaps breakfast-less.I had been thoughtless, but no time was to22be lost. There was an emergency room in the building,and there Jack was hurried. Strengthenedwith nourishment, and warmed again into animationwith stimulants, revived by sleep—he hardlystirred for sixteen hours, so deathlike was hisslumber—he just escaped a serious illness. Recuperationwas instantaneous; his own mentalenergy worked wonders and when two days later hereturned to the theme of his story hardly a trace ofhis weakness was betrayed. He was keen to engagein the solution of the midnight mystery and heimplored me not to share his discovery with anyoneelse except the police to whom indeed I had alreadyrelated Jack’s experience. Jack realized that theirco-operation was indispensable. It was then heshowed me the wrinkled scrap of paper which hehad secreted in the lining of his cap, and afterwardsstuck in his trousers’ pocket, and which I hadforgotten.

There was printed on it in pencil, “I am a prisoner.My life is in danger. A. E.”

The paper was of the thin and excellent qualityused in engineers’ pocket tables and handbooks.

It appeared that Jack upon feeling the suddendesertion of his strength had stolen again to the doorwayof the empty house opposite No. — and musthave drowsed away there the rest of the night,urged apparently by his ineradicable hope of furtherdisclosures. His persistency was rewarded byfinding this puzzling and startling bit of evidence.He found it, most remarkably, on the floor of theabandoned limousine.

The car had remained undisturbed all night in thestreet, and this strange neglect on the part of itsprevious users could only be explained by the suppositionthat they feared some unpleasant complications,involving disagreeable explanations withits actual owners, unless they were the owners of it23themselves. Jack crawled over to the car in theearliest hour of the morning before the dawn hadyet grown strong enough to make its outlinesvisible, while night practically covered the street.No. — was dark from basement to attic, not a lightshone in it anywhere. He remembered that verydistinctly.

He had had an indefinite premonition or fancythat something left behind in the car might befound; clues like that figured in all the romances ofdetection. He explored with his hands the corners,the cushions, and the floor, when, passing his handalong the edge of the carpet mat covering the floor,it encountered a bit of paper rolled up into a pellet.After the discovery of the writing he went to anowl wagon restaurant, and then hastened to thenewspaper office.

But two hours later, when the daylight sweptthrough the city, he returned to Fifty-eighth Street,from a restless feeling of suspicion, and agonized toowith the thought of the abused and helplessprisoner. The auto was gone, and the mysterioushouse revealed nothing, with its shades drawndown and its immobile identity with the othersandstone fronts hopelessly complete. If murderdwelt behind its expressionless stories, or somedastardly drama of persecution, extortion, torture,effrontery and crime had been enacted there, notelltale signal betrayed it. And yet to Jack’s inflamedimagination it confessed its guilt; somehowto his obsessed eye he saw the meanness of itsdegradation, as if it shrank away from its orderlyand decent neighbors; as if indeed its neighborsfrowned upon it. He returned to the office andtold me his story.

A newspaper man has the keenest sort of scentfor sensation—especially the yellow newspaper man,and I fail to recoil from making the confession of24my personal yellowness in that respect. He is seldombewildered by scruples, seldom daunted bydanger; he doesn’t think of them. He starts theengines of exposure and arrest, and records theresult. Half an hour after Jack’s story was toldCaptain B— of the — precinct was closetedwith me, and I repeated Jack’s adventure.

Jack’s description of the three principals in thissuspicious criminal alliance was insufficient orinadequate to enable Captain B. to recognizethem among the notables of both the under and theupper worlds with whom he was acquainted. Ihad not then seen the paper Jack found.

“Mr. Link,” Captain B. finally said, after ashort silence following my communication, “youfeel pretty sure of this young fellow, Jack Riddles?The name suggests an equivocal character.”

“I feel a good deal surer of him, perhaps, than Ido of myself—if you can understand.”

“Oh I catch that. Well No. — will be watchednight and day for a short time. Your youngfriend’s rather violent exploit may have scared itstenants off. The auto went. Perhaps they wentwith it. It won’t do to break in at once. Wemust have some evidence of occupation and a lineon the occupants that runs straight with Riddles’description.”

“But that wretched man? Suppose they kill him.A little less carefulness, Captain, might save himand, under the circumstances, I don’t think I’d besqueamish over precedents.”

“Oh, that team isn’t ready for murder yet—they’renot thinking of it. They’ve kidnappedsomeone for one reason or another. Bagging himthat way showed they wanted something out ofhim. I’ll place them in twelve hours or so, and ifthey cover the same size Riddles gave I’ll take therisk and search the house.”

25“Of course you’ll let us in, Captain, on the groundfloor so to speak?”

“Sure! I’ll tip you on the first peep we hear.But get that boy on his legs; we’ll need him.”

It was just a day and a half later that a policemanbrought me a sealed envelope. Of course Iknew who had sent it. There was no answer thepoliceman said, and left. I opened the missiveexpectantly. I was not disappointed. Its contentswere more rapturously thrilling to my journalistichunger for marvels and mysteries, and thoselabyrinthine prodigies of subterranean deviltry thatCobb, or Ainsworth, or George Sand revelled in,than any mess of crime I had tumbled on or in, sinceJoe Horner, our chief city reporter, went through ahatchway in the Bronx and dropped into a hogsheadof claret (Zinfandel) with two dead bodies init!

Captain B.’s note ran: “Riddles corroborated.They’re there; three of them and a squeegee. Upto mischief—perhaps forgery—something like it.Pounce on them tomorrow. We’ve moved likemice, and the trap has been set quietly. Nothingmore simple. Guess you might like to be in at thedeath. Bring Riddles. We break cover at 11 p.m.Meet at the police station * * *”

Riddles was then on the mend, and when I toldhim how matters stood, the boy smiled grimly,caught my hand and exclaimed: “Good medicinefor me, Mr. Link. I feel it to the end of my toes.That’s the tonic I need. Trust me, I’ll be withyou, strong and hearty.” He was.

Captain B. had arranged the affair tactfully. Hehad conveyed his suspicions to the householder onthe west side of No. — and had secured his permissionto admit three plain-clothes men through hisbackyard to the backyard of No. —; also his ownparty of six, with Riddles and myself as press agents,26onto the roof, whence we expected to effect anentrance through the roof door or skylight, while afew men on the street would intercept flight in thatdirection. Riddles was radiant; it was a beautifultribute to his sagacity; all this had come aboutthrough his quick insight, his instantaneous sense ofobliquity, alias crookedness, when he saw thequarreling pair on the Public Library steps. Aswe cautiously climbed over the low parapet separatingthe two roofs, with only the light of the stars toguide us, not altogether appropriately I recalledJonathan Wild’s chase of Thomas Dauell over thehousetops, and also the burglary at Dollis Hill inJack Shepard. There were more apposite occurrencesin fiction to compare our maneuvers with,but I thought of these.

I had shown to the Captain the pathetic call forrescue scrawled on the paper scrap. It was palpablywritten by a foreigner, perhaps a German,certainly someone of Teutonic origin, and the paperhad been torn from a book, some such technicalguide for engineers as I had suggested. It did notinterest Captain B. greatly. He told me, before westarted out, that the “peg-top” man—a Hercules—thebeautiful woman and “Mephistopheles” had allbeen seen, and no one else, but that dark ruby glass,identical he thought with that used by photographers,had been inserted in the front attic windows,where he suspected the imprisoned man waskept at work in some nefarious trade, from whichthe trio derived support or profit. As to thecriminal character of “the bunch” he had nodoubts. The two men almost invariably carriedbundles into the house, but none out.

We were at the doorway of a little triangularerection which covered the stairway leading fromthe roof to the attic and our approach, in rubbers,had been almost noiseless. The door was shut, but27only locked; the precautions against invasion hadbeen forgotten or overlooked. It was not evenbolted. Evidently the conspirators or counterfeiters,or whatever they were, apprehended nothing;we might catch them red handed. A stoutchisel enabled us to force the door inward, and adark lantern revealed a dilapidated stairway below,ending in a kind of storage room, cluttered up withthe refuse of successive occupancies, a dangerouslyinflammable chaos of rubbish, in which a feeblysputtering match could create a conflagrationbefore it was suspected. It required some discriminationto cross this debris without startingsome crumbling avalanche of fragments in theboxes, baby carriages, stoves, chairs, trunks,picture frames, racks and easels. As it was, withour best efforts slides occurred, and the mastodon-liketread of the detectives sank noisily through anoccasional bandbox. We paused anxiously—I did, atleast—at such moments, but the crash, so it soundedto me, brought no response. I reasoned the housemust be vacant, and that our quarry had escaped.

We found that a closed door opened upon a narrowhallway, and as we softly drew it back loudvoices most unexpectedly became audible, certainlyproceeding from the front rooms of that very floor;from that front room wherein Jack had noticed thelight, and where the detectives reported the insertionof the ruby panes. A hoarse dominant swelledup in the excited conversation. Jack leaned towardsme and whispered “That’s Husky”; Captainraised a warning finger, and we filed out, one by one,gingerly tiptoeing toward the room which nowunquestionably contained the objects of our search.The familiar scare or thrill which submerges alllesser emotions, as the danger point in an encounteris approached, decidedly manifested itself somewherein my anatomy, or probably all over it.

28Any mental analysis of my feelings was abruptlyhalted by the threats or altercation now heard veryclearly in the room before us.

We had reached the door, beneath which astreak of light gave a penumbral illumination tothe end of the little hallway. Below, in the houseitself, absolute silence reigned, and apparentlyas complete darkness. Our approach was unnoticed.The excitement or rage that overpoweredthe speaker, breaking out in threats that nowbecame intelligible and startled us into a fierce impatienceto interfere, had certainly stopped hisears. The suffocation of anger had made himdeaf.

“Damn you—you’ll show us the trick, or elseyour starved and scorched body will take the consequences.We know well enough you can do it.You’ve led us on with blind promises, but nowwe’ve got you where we want you. You can’t getout of this, remember, until we get what we want.Can you understand?”

“And then you’ll kill, I suppose?” The voicewas strained, thick, foreign in accent, and low.

Riddles stretched himself up to my ear again andwhispered “A. E.?” I nodded assent.

“No! No! Oh, no; but—you must not stay here.”The voice was a woman’s. “We’ll take care of you.Nicely too, Diaz, I guess. We’ll keep you whereyou won’t tell tales.” A mean, cynical laugh followed,a muttered corroboration from a thirdperson, who had evidently crossed the room. Itwas this last voice that continued the harangue ofthe prisoner in a smooth, polished, plausible mannerthat thinly veiled its heartlessness; its crafty insinuationbetrayed a designing selfishness, but itseemed welcome after the barking hoarseness andferocity of its predecessor, and the cruelty of thatfeminine sneer. Its climax came at the close with29a threat of fiendish wickedness that broke the tensionof our restraint.

“Alfred Erickson, perhaps you can understandyour predicament a little better, if you will stop tothink it over. You are a stranger here, and you arein our power. That, you probably realize prettywell by this time. There is something else you maynot so clearly comprehend, and that is, we are notafraid of consequences, because in your case, so faras we are concerned, there will be no consequences!You can extricate yourself easily enough if you willbe sensible. Obstinacy has its merits under somecircumstances; your perseverance in your Arcticexperiences was rewarded—and we know exactlyhow—but obstinacy is of no avail just now, and norescuing party from Norway, or even from the NewYork police will save you from, perhaps, an unfortunatecalamity.”

This allusion appealed facetiously to the others,and there arose a musical outburst of laughter fromthe lady, with an accompaniment of harsh bassgrunts from the first speaker. The voice continued:

“You possess a secret that the whole world hasbeen hunting for, and we propose that the world willgo on hunting for it before you will ever beable to tell it. Share with us and, under reservations,you will be well cared for. Refuse and,as we have gone so far, we will find—and youtoo—the rest of the way very simple. You’re notat this moment likely to be able to help yourself.That little incident outside,” Riddles nudged meagain, “meant nothing. You’re as much buriedalive in this attic in the first city of the world, as ifyou occupied a tomb of the Pharaohs. We’re notas self-controlled as you seem to be. We may getrestless. Then, sir”—we heard him step forward;I imagined him leaning close to his victim, for it30was evident the man was in some way confined—“then,sir, up you go—you and your secret—insmoke.”

His smothered rage broke out then, and we heardhim strike the man and curse him. There was theremonstrance of a cry—that was all. The nextinstant we would have forced our way through astone wall had we been against it, but Captain B.raised his hand. His trained endurance amazedme. The voice resumed:

“Now what do you propose to do?”

“Yes, what?” from the first ruffian.

We held our breaths and listened with all ourears.

“Let me get up. Let me talk this over with you.You are driving me crazy! I can’t think. I willforget what you say I know. You—”

“Hell with your parleying. I’ll untie your tongue.I guess your memory will work quick enoughafter this”; it was Husky threatening.

Then succeeded the jeering encouragement of thewoman and, strange paradox, the voice was rich,enticing, but mocking.

“Oh, yes; just a little stimulation will hurry upmatters. Diaz we can’t wait much longer and,”the menad fury broke loose, “if this miserablecreature holds out much longer we shall be ruined.Burn him—burn him—scald it out of him, Huerta;the dolt, simpleton, idiot—”

There was a shuffling movement inside, the suddenbristling, rushing sound of an airblast (Couldit be a naphtha lamp?) and then a raving, rending,terrifying cry, something that meant fear and rageand madness, the awful, marrow-chilling shriek ofinsanity.

Quicker than thought a man behind me shovedus aside. He raised an iron mallet; it struck thedoor with a splintering crash—another and another—the31door burst inwards, torn from its lock, tornfrom its hinges, and we all rushed forward. I hearda shot, then another; the group in front of meparted and an extraordinary scene was revealed,one I can never forget. A huge broad-shoulderedman was crumpled upon the floor. There hadfallen from his hand a thick, long soldering iron;it had been red or white hot; fallen on the floor itwas burning into the boards, and little swingingflames encircled it. Near at hand was the largeform of a plumber’s furnace with the blue whistlingflame still shooting from it. Huddled in a corner,cowering behind a menacing man—quickly subdued,however, by a pointed revolver—was thebeautiful woman, a half dishevelled creature in adeep yellow wrap, fastened a little distance belowher peerless throat by a big turquoise brooch. Herabundant hair had become loosened, and it pouredover her shoulders in a raven tide.

The man in front of her was Riddles’ Mephistopheles.He was pale, and the pallor hardly becamehim. Although strikingly handsome it gavea peculiar expression to his face, of craven hate andsinister fear, if that can be understood. In bothhis and the woman’s eyes shone a horrible surprise.But the overpowering object in the room was thehalf-naked figure of a man with extended arms anddivergent legs, strapped to a narrow table by ironbands. These latter passed over his wrists andankles, and were actually screwed to the table.His face was not readily deciphered; whiskerscovered his chin, a high forehead beneath overhanginglight hair and a large mouth formed togetherthe suggestion of a very dignified and intelligentface. His condition was heart-rending;bruises covered his body, one eye seemed swollenand shut, and scars—I shuddered at the thought oftheir having been caused by the iron in the hands of32the prostrate fiend—marked the white butdefaced skin of his shoulders and arms.

There was little furniture in the room—the torturedman had probably been kept on the table atnight—a few chairs, a second table, and towards thefront of the room a long table covered with a confusionof physical apparatus. It was the work of aminute to search the criminals, and to handcuffthem; though the woman cried bitterly at thedegradation Captain B. was taking no chances, andthen the liberation of the pitiable victim of theseinhuman miscreants was effected. The stiffness ofhis limbs almost forbade movement, and he criedwith pain—and for that matter I am sure with joytoo—as we tenderly raised him, lifted him into achair, and tried to relax the rigid muscles. Hisagony, crucified so on his back, must have beenincalculable; evidently his resolute refusal haddriven his tormentors furious, and made themincarnate demons. But what was it—theSECRET? Reader, you are not to know, exceptas you find it out yourself, by reading this almostincredible story.

With our prisoners—the Hercules was carriedout; his femur had been split by the Captain’sbullet and he was in desperate pain—we made ourway down through the house. There seemed to beonly two rooms showing any signs of habitation,two rooms on the second floor used as bedrooms,and their furnishment was a droll mixture of barenessand luxury. Shreddy and hanging wallpaper,a superb rug or so, a sumptuous easy chair, and thenwooden kitchen chairs, plain bedsteads, but abureau or toilet table covered with jewel boxes, andin a corner odds and ends of silver utensils, heapedup into quite a noticeable hillock. Was it thesethat the men had been seen carrying so constantlyinto the house? Our prying about uncovered some33decanters of wine incongruously stowed away in apantry below a washbasin. Their contents helpedErickson, and some of the rest helped themselves.

Riddles had been gloating over the capture of hisgame; his eyes never left the sullen, downcast faceof Mephistopheles, distorted too at moments withangry scowls, nor the disturbed shadowed splendorof the woman’s countenance. At an unguardedinstant Mephistopheles sprang out of the hold of hiscaptors, and brought his clenched, handcuffedwrists down on the head of Jack, who promptlydropped.

“You dirty little fox, you did this. I know now.I’ve seen you hanging about here. I’ll mark you!I’ll mark you! I’ll tear your liver and heart out yet.Oh, I don’t forget. Diaz never forgets.”

He was jerked back into decorum and silence, andsomewhat injuriously rebuked as well, but a littlescar, bare of hair, was to remain as a memento of hisregard for Jack Riddles for many a long year afterwards.

I bargained successfully with Captain B. for thepossession of Erickson, and I took him home in ataxi, greatly to my journalistic bliss. He waspretty dangerously ill for days; the nervous breakdownwas dreadful. He raved and shouted andwas almost maniacal in his outbreaks. It was thenatural reaction of a powerful mind and natureagainst the circumstances of his degradation andinsult. But he finally came round all right, theglow of health covered his cheeks, and his earnesteyes welcomed me with sanity and gratitude.Then he told me his story, in two parts. The firstpart explained the predicament in which we foundhim here in New York, the second— Well, thereader has it before him in this volume, exactly asit appeared in the daily issue of the New YorkTruth Getter.

34A few words more to explain Mr. Erickson’sequivocal, abject position in New York, as we foundhim, and this Editorial Note will no longer restrainthe puzzled and vexed subscriber. These wordswill be very few indeed, and may indeed prove veryunsatisfactory. Yet they will conveniently makea skeleton framework or outline for deductions,with which the reader may fill its expressionlessand yawning blanks, after the gift of his imaginationor the bias of his temperament, upon readingthe ensuing narrative.

Alfred Erickson reached San Francisco from theArctic Exploration, herein circumstantially described.In San Francisco he formed, ratherrapidly, the acquaintance of Angelica SigurdaTabasco, and Diaz Ilario Aguadiente. There weremutual prepossessions. Mr. Erickson also fascinatedhis new friends by certain wonderful claims,which were however partially supported by oculardemonstration. They all came to New York. InNew York Mr. Erickson came to grief. He hadcome too far from the base of his operations, and hesuffered from a complicated treatment. We rescuedhim from its worst effects. I think that is all.I will not trust myself to say more for fear of myown remorse over misleading statements. Angelicaand Diaz were never prosecuted. Erickson wasafraid to tell his story before he wrote his book (thisbook), and we all agreed he acted wisely from acommercial standpoint, and the police so impressedAngelica and Diaz with their—the police’s—contiguityunder any and all circumstances, in thiscountry anywhere, anyhow, that they left it. AndJack’s “Husky” turned out to be a hardenedphotographed and historic criminal, who hadplayed the heavy villain in the little mystery underthe same impelling motive that animated the mindsand tongues of Angelica and Diaz. He had also35captivated this captivating pair by blandishmentsless peculiar than beauty, and he had wound upAlfred Erickson into the tightest kind of a knot ofphysical embarrassments, from whose Gordianembrace Erickson had been delivered through theintervention of the very humble instrument ofFate, Jack Riddles.

“Husky’s” name eluded determination for awhile, but was revived through his own inadvertencein talking in his sleep, wherein the confessiontranspired of his having “done up” Blue Brigsy ata time when he himself carried the soubriquet of“Monitor Dick.” The clue was slight; it provedsufficient, and landed him in Sing Sing for a quarterof a century.

Jack Riddles was “lifted.” He was taken out ofthe proletariat, the pages, office boys and messengers,and placed among the police reporters, wherehe was duly taken in hand under instruction toacquire the current cursorial gait and speed of theslam-bang reportorial style. He will get it. Thisrelieves the situation created by Riddles’ opportunecircumspection from the top of the Fifth Avenue’bus.

The reader, albeit he may demur at the jejuneskipping around the explanation of the mystery atNo. — east Fifty-eighth Street, has hereby had thesituation sufficiently cleared to feel himself ready toenjoy Erickson’s story, and I assure him, he maylook forward with expectancy to find the residue, orthe heart, of that mystery resolved at, let me say,page 400 or thereabouts, assuming that by thattime he cares any more about it. So that, pleasantlyimpelled by the spur of curiosity, as regards asecret yet undivulged, let him accept our editorialinvitation— Does he not see our obeisance, and thesweep of our hand pointing to a door opening uponunimaginable wonders?—to peruse the history of a36voyage more marvelous than that of Marco Polo,of Father Huc, of Mandeville, of Munchausen, ofSinbad, the Aethiopics of Heliodorus, of Ariosto, ofGulliver, of Ulysses, of Peter Wilkins, of Camoens,of Pomponius Mela.

Sive per Syrtes iter aestuosas,

Sive facturus per inhospitalem

Caucasum, vel quae loca fabulosa

Lambit Hydaspes

His unappeased wonder over a bit of unraveledcriminality will vanish in the excitement of discovery,of adventure, of revelation, but at the otherend, as the book drops from his hand, finished andadmired, he will approve our reticence at this end,for then he will know HOW Erickson got into hisdifficulty, and WHY.

Erickson’s story was published in the New YorkTruth Getter—of course the reader never saw itthere—prepared from his verbal narrative, hisnotes, and memoranda, and so expressed in Englishas to retain the glow, enthusiasm, amazement,and graphic delineation of the original. Itwas told to me in my library overlooking the sunlittides around Throg’s Neck; in the short winterafternoons at times, at times through the long winterevenings, with Erickson hanging over the hearthwhere, as Max Beerbohm puts it, “gradually thered-gold caverns are revealed, gorgeous, mysterious,with inmost recesses of white heat.” Past alldreams of wizardry, more remote from thoughtthan any visions of magic, stranger than the hallucinationsof invention, was this picture of theunreal and terraced world descending in titanicsteps to the heated regions of the earth’s mass,peopled with an impossible people, alive withanimal abundance and clothed in the vestal gloryof innumerable plants. In it were enacted those37transmutations which Science predicts as the lasttriumph of human knowledge, and in it a wealthtranscending the maddest hopes of Avarice hadaccumulated in an Acropolis of SOLID GOLD!

There in the frozen north, walled in by ice,hidden in fogs, almost impenetrably concealed orprotected by storm, lay this incredible continentof wonders, unsuspected by the world of one thousandmillion people around it, the goal of whoseambition it had already reached, the course ofwhose evolution it illustrates, and who had, in theselatest years, begun to grope blindly for its guessed atshores.

Azaziel Link.

38The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (4)




The Fiord

How well I remember it! The solemn, beautifulfiord, framed within the pine tressed walls, fleckedwith patches of sunlight, where its waters glistenedwith beryl hues. Shaded in the recesses of thecliffs where the lustreless flood softly murmuredwith the faintest rhythmic cadence against therocky rims, immobile and caressed as they had beenfor hundreds of thousands of years, and in a fewplaces yielding slowly to decay in shingled beaches.And the music of nature united with the appeal tothe eyes of color and form, to entrance the visitor.

A rushing brook singing like a girl hurrying tosome holiday joy, broke from the highlands, a silverythread, then a braid of pearls, then a slopingcataract of splintered and rainbowed waves, thenin silence for a while, catching its breath, as the girlmight catch it, for a new descent, and then therenewed song, through a tiny gorge, its jubilationsoftened to a murmur, and then the flash andchorus of its outspread ripples as it leaped into thefiord. And that was the light soprano of the musicaround us, and under it rolled the bass notes, mutedand sfuggendo, of the distant waterfall—foss—atthe inland head of the fiord, and towards whichwere even then starting the pleasure boats, launchesand steam yachts of the tourists.

The sense of smell contributed its intoxication to40the charmed surrender of eye and ear, for there wasflung down from the tree-crowned cliffs the scent ofwild flowers and the clean, resinous odors of thespruce. The wind singing, too, like a chord accompanimentto the cheerful ballad of the brook, andthe heavy recitative of the waterfall, brought thisfragrance to us, even as it swept in capricious rushesoutward over the fiord to its gateway, throughwhich the distant sea lay motionless like a blazonedshield, beyond the Skargaard.

A shelf of land, dropping off in a slope to thewaters of the fiord and pierced by a roadway whoseclimbing curves led at last to the summit of thecliffs, and which ended on the shore in a dock, thengay with the summer glories of young girls and men,held the picturesque red houses of a few farmers,and the wandering walls of the comfortable hotel.The brilliant green of the cut lawn, like an enameledsheath, covered the little tableland, and venturesometongues and ribbons ran flame-wise upcrannies, ledges and narrow glades, to be lost in theshadows of the firs and the sprayed and silkenbirches high above.

Round a table on the broad piazza of the hotel, inan angle where we looked straight through the eyeletof the rocks to the sleeping ocean, a gold-backedmonster like a leviathan covering the earth, slumberouslyheaving in the sun, I was sitting with threecompanions.

There was my best friend, Antoine Goritz, a manthickly bearded, with a broad, unwrinkled browsparingly topped by light wisps of straggling hair,with a straight Teutonic nose, deep-set blue eyesunder carven ivory lids, beneath eyebrows deepertinted than his hair, and with a physical frame,strong, massive, large, effective, perhaps a trifleoverdrawn in its suggestion of muscular power.

It was a titan mould, but the face above it was41humorously still and observant. I often comparedhim to Sverdrup, Nansen’s captain, but he was abigger man. Like him he possessed the docility ofa child, the energy of a giant. Slow of speechordinarily, as he was slow of movement, but in stressand excitement convulsed with his rapid, headlongutterance, and rising to a momentum of action thatwas irresistible and swift. He sat upright in a thickbrown plaid with a blue sailor’s scarf around hisbroad neck and a straw hat like a coracle on his head.

Next to him sat Professor Hlmath Bjornsen, avery tidy man of ordinary build and stature, butoddly distinguishable by his abundant red hair, thecrab-like protuberance of his eyes (he wore noglasses), his indented lips, which looked as ifstitched up in sections, also undisguised by anycovering of hair, his patulous, projecting ears. Hishomeliness was saved by the merit of cheerfulnessat least, by a pug nose, a rosy complexion and ademure, winning sort of smile that was generally apropos of nothing, but was retained habitually asnature’s protective grace against the prematureprejudices of first acquaintances. Professor Bjornsenwas a man learned in rocks, minerals, mines,geology, the hard and motionless properties of theearth. He was scrupulously neat, and his frequentinspection of himself, especially his hands, wasequally disconcerting and amusing.

Spruce Hopkins was the next man, alongside ofmyself, and probably he would have been the firstman whom an approaching stranger would havelooked at the longest, and concerned himself withknowing the most. He was a Yankee, an Americanof Americans, but of that Grecian phase whichrejects toto-coelo, the newspaper type, the BrotherJonathan caricature, the cheap idiosyncracies of theparagraph writer, unassimilable even with themore credible picture,

42of one who wisely schemed

And hostage from the future took,

In trained thought and lore of book.

Large-brained, clear-eyed—of such as he

Shall Freedom’s young apostles be.

Spruce Hopkins boasted no particular thrills.His thoughts followed really a rather narrow gauge,and he could weigh with premature or precociouscarefulness the two sides of a practical questionwhen his decision would have halted perhaps atalternatives involving the emotions.

He had a superb figure, graceful, plastic, andeloquent of strength. His face leaned, so to speak,a little to the Brahmin type, but any introspectionit might have accompanied or suggested was lost inthe radiance of the eyes, the tempting sweetness ofhis smile, the full-blown glory of his infectiouslaughter, the spiced offerings of his genial tongue,the crisp charm of his wavy, glossy, chestnut-tintedhair, and that slight but irreducible soupcon ofswagger which gave him distinction.

And then there was myself; you see me, a hardyman (a blush rose to Erickson’s cheeks; he couldnot overcome some apprehension of my recalling hisrecent humiliation), a sailor man with a little landschooling, loving yarns, telling yarns, and—believing’em.

“Why, yes, Erickson,” I interrupted, “I supposeyou have been quite willing to believe some gildedtales that those friends, your late companions herein New York, told you, but even a captivatinggullibility hardly explains how a young giant likeyou were found on your back, strapped to a table,and about to be skewered like a spitted pig.”

“Ah, sir, patience. You shall know all, but—atthe end, at the end; even if I could resist a plausiblestory, I could not always resist what goes with agood story.”

43“SCHNAPPS?” I interjected.

“Please, sir, patience. It is worth while. I haveseen what no living man— Perhaps I shall never seeagain my fellow travelers, the three who sat withme on the hotel porch three years ago.” He benthis head, his bruised, rough hand was passed overhis face, and I thought a flare of flame, shot from acleaving coal, showed on it the glistening trail ofmoisture. “—what no living man has ever seen, acountry more wonderful than dreams or legends orfairy stories have described or painted. Oh, sir, inthat new world in the north, something of theimagery of the mythology of my forefathers seemsrepeated; very vaguely indeed. There I have seenNilfheim, I have seen Hwergelmer and Muspelheim,the world of fire and light, but different, yesvery different, and perhaps— Well, no, not Valhalla,but something like Yggdrasill, and if it wasnot Gladsheim, what was it?”

He resumed.

It was Professor Bjornsen speaking, with his bighands clutching his head on either side, buriedindeed in the luxuriant wealth of his ruddy hair,with his staring eyes fixed on the table as if he sawthrough it, looking at the land of his prophecies,while we all listened, with our eyes measuring thecliffs up to the green fringes that ran, a dark zoneagainst the sky, on their sun-blazed peaks.

“Signs, signals, came to the explorers of Europelong before Columbus set his face westward; longbefore, standing at the peak of his little caravel, hedared the perils and the powers of the bewitchedwestern ocean, the woods and weeds of Cipangofloated to the shores of Europe. There are signsand signals now, gentlemen”; the Professorbrought his long fingers down with a smart, startlingslap on the table that brought our own handsnervously to the sides of the unsupported glasses,44lest they capsize in his assault of enthusiasm, whilehis disordered hair flamed aureole-like over hisbulging forehead, beneath which smiled exultantlyhis piercing green eyes.

“Signs that an untouched continent is hidden inthe uncharted wastes of the western Arctic Sea.A vast area of waters, a blank space on the maplies there, but that is simply the refuge, forcartographic lucidity, of our ignorance. Whatreally lies there is reciprocal on the west of Greenlandon the east, of the Franz Josef Archipelago andSpitzbergen north of us. There is there anotherlarge fragment of that original circumpolar continentthat Science, in a moment of intuitional certainty,points to as the source of the world’s animaland vegetable life. And the signs? You ask me,your faces do, what they are. They are negativeindeed but they are convincing. Payer reached82°5´ North Latitude, on an island, Crown PrinceRudolf’s Land, and still further north he thought hecould see an extensive tract of land in 83°. Hecalled it Petermann’s Land. Driftwood on the eastof Greenland comes from Siberia, circuitouslyperhaps around the pole, not across it, since the‘Fram’ drifted from the north of Cape Chelyuskinin 1893 to north of Spitzbergen in 1896. The woodis Siberian larch and alder and poplar. Articlesfrom the American ship ‘Jeannette,’ which founderednear Bennett Island, had taken the samecourse, being picked up on the east coast of Greenland.Professor Mohr held that they drifted overthe pole. Why did not the ‘Fram’ drift over thepole? The set of the waters that way is obstructed,and that obstruction is a continental mass. Nothingsurer.

“Dr. Rink has reported a throwing stick, used bythe Eskimos in hurling their bird darts, not likethose used by the Eskimos of Greenland, and attributed45by him to the natives of Alaska. The pathtraversed by this erratic could not have beendirectly eastward from Alaska, threading an impenetrableand devious outlet in the Canadianarchipelago, neither was it over the pole, as anypathway there would, constructively, have reachednorthern and not eastern Greenland. Again thatinvisible obstruction, as patent, as real, as theinfluence of the undiscovered Neptune in the perturbationsof Uranus, which led Leverrier andAdams to make their prophetic directions for itsdetection.

“Sir Allen Young, appreciating the nucleal densityof the land towards the pole, and speaking ofNansen’s promised attempt to drift over it, said,‘I think the great danger to contend with will be theland in nearly every direction near the pole. Mostprevious navigators seem to have continued to seeland, again and again farther and farther north.’

“Peary has seen Krocker Land. Over the westernverge of the horizon its peaks rose temptinglyto invite him to new conquests. That was a segment,a tiny fraction, a mere hint of the unknownvastnesses beyond. But the most convincingsymptoms—Ah, a feeble word to designate a fact—ofthis continent are the observations of the UnitedStates’ meteorologists. Dr. R. A. Harris, a competentauthority, has shown that the tides, mutebut eloquent witnesses, testify to its existence.The diurnal tides along the Asiatic and NorthAmerican coasts are not what they would be if anuninterrupted sweep over the Arctic Sea prevailed.Their progress is delayed and along narrow channelsis accelerated or heightened, as past the shores ofGrant Land. Why? Again that undiscoveredcountry.”

“Harris, a clever fellow. Met him in Washingtonjust two years ago this autumn—a crackerjack46at mathematical guessing. The way he can figureand run off a reel of equations on anything from therate sawdust makes in a wood mill to a mensurationof the average dimensions of turnips is surprising.If he says Krocker Land is there—why, then I guessIT IS,” was Spruce Hopkins’ comment, whilewe all turned our eyes from the cliffs to catchthe Professor’s rejoinder, and Goritz leaned towardshim, fixing him with those luminous orbsof his that betrayed his suppressed excitement.

“What does this man Harris say?” asked Goritz.

“He says,” answered Bjornsen, thrusting hishands in his pockets after he had looked them overin his habitual manner of inspection, “he says this.The diurnal tide occurs earlier at Point Barrow thanat Flaxman Island; the diurnal tide or wave doesnot have approximately its theoretical value; atBennett Island, north of Siberia, and at TeplitzBay, Franz Josef Land, the range of the diurnalwave has about one-half of the magnitude which thetidal forces acting over an uninterrupted Arcticbasin would produce; the average rise and fall atBennett Island is 2.5 feet, but the rise and fall ofthe semi-daily tide is 0.4 at Point Barrow, and 0.5feet at Flaxman Island. And he makes this point.”The Professor drew a red chalk from his vest pocket,stood up, and pushing our glasses aside, drew asquarish outline, broader on one side, with a tailstanding out at its lower right-hand corner. Hedrew a circle a little above its long side, andscribbled Pole within it, then a jagged scrawl toeither side, representing the coasts of Asia andAmerica, with an indentation like a funnel forBehring Straits.

“He points out that the ‘Jeannette’, an Americanship sent out by the proprietors of the NewYork Herald, stuck in the ice here”, he jabbed his47crayon, which crumbled into grains under his pressure,to one side of a projecting point of the outline,“and that the ice drift carried her eastward”;he made a flourish under the fascinating trapezoidthat we now understood embodied the suggestedcontinent; “while the ‘Fram’ stuck here,” again ared splotch above the diagram, “and was carriedwestward toward Greenland. Again why? Becauseat a critical point between their two positionsthe ice current is divided by the influence of aterminal promontory of Krocker Land. It splits,so to speak, the trend over the pole of the ice drift,turning one arm of it eastward, the other westward.His creative vision goes farther. A point of thisnew land lies just north of Point Barrow in Alaska,that causes the westward tide at the point; and hethinks it is distant from Point Barrow five or sixdegrees of latitude, 350 to 420 miles. Harrisclaims the ice in Beaufort Sea, north of Canada,here—” Another flaming signal was scrawled on thewhite tablecloth below the right-hand corner of thefascinating outline that now, assuming a magicalpremonition of some great geographical reality,kept our eyes fastened on it almost as if it mightsprout before us with mimic mountains and icefields.

“Harris says that the ice in Beaufort Sea does notdrift freely northward, and is remarkable for itsthickness and its age. He says the ice does notmove eastward, for you see,” the Professor flung hishands over the cryptogram on the tablecloth like anexorcising magician, “you see Beaufort Sea is a sea,land-locked by Krocker Land, that here approachesBanks Island. Are you convinced?”

We looked at each other a trifle slyly and disconcertedly,and Goritz laughed, but it was SpruceHopkins who suddenly turned to the Professor,caught his arm and held him for a moment without48speaking but with his face yielding slowly to somegrowing impression of wonder within him until hebecame quite grave.

“You see, Professor, I feel about this thing thisway. I guess you’re not far wrong about this newland; it’s exciting enough to think of it. I calculatedthere was room up there for a little moreglory after I heard your lecture before the PhilosophicalSociety at Christiania last November;glory for some of us, such as Peary and Amundsen,Scott, Shackleton, Nansen, Stefansson, have won,and I thought it over. I fell in with Erickson andGoritz at Stockholm and we canvassed the matter,sort o’ stuck our heads together and thought it out;then we sent for you, and the demonstration seemsstraight enough. Some rigmarole! Don’t getangry Professor, that’s my way and, anyhow, I’mnot going back on you, not so much as the thicknessof a flea’s ear, and I think you’ll allow that can’tcount; but the more I looked at the matter themore I wondered if there was anything about it theleast bit more substantial than glory.

“And that wasn’t all, either. I think I’d like toget back again.”

“Yes, Professor,” it was Goritz speaking, withhis head tilted back, as he followed the scurryingflight of sparrows amid the tasseled larches of theopposite gaard, “dead bodies are rather indifferentto glory. If we are great enough to get there, wemust be great enough to get back. It would beno consolation for us to have our relatives andfriends sing;

Sa vandra vara stora man

Fran ljuset ned til skuggan.’”[1]

1.Thus our great men wander from the light down into the shades.

Hopkins smiled; he was neither hurt nor confused.He shook his head assentingly, and his49faint drawl prolonged itself somewhat in his mockingrejoinder:

“That’s all right, Goritz. As a corpse you probablywould attract a little more notice than eitherErickson or myself, but buried fathoms deep in anArctic sea, or just rolled over by a nameless glacierin this nameless land, your own chances for a newspaperobituary might shrink to very small proportions.You might not even have your dimensionsmentioned.”

Goritz looked approvingly at the American, andbenignantly raised his hat and bowed.

But the impatient Professor was in his chair, hishands spread out before him; his smile hadvanished, his encroaching eyes had retreated, hisserrated lips were puckered, his eyebrows frowned,and altogether he assumed such a sudden portentousnessof suppressed eagerness and concealedthought that we rocked with delight and themomentary restraint was forgotten. And with ourlaughter there stole back into the Professor’s faceits usual smile, but it had enigmatically deepenedinto a sort of mute expostulation.

“Listen,” he said, and he waved his hands, invitingus to a closer attention; his voice fell; Ithought his peering eyes glanced to either side toavert the proximity of eavesdroppers. “There isgood reason to believe that this new world of thenorth is neither inclement nor barren. I believe itis a place of wonders; in it rest secrets, REVELATIONS.”There was now a sorcery in the Professor’svoice that made us lean toward him, drawingthe circle a little closer, like conspirators overan incantation. “What they are no once can tell.You ask, Why? I believe this. I can hardlyexplain; my faith in this is a growth, a coalescenceof many strands of feeling and many lines of study.My conviction is complete. I admit that extrinsically,50as I may say, it is unreasonable; intrinsicallyit is now as inexpugnable as a theorem from Euclid,or the evidence of my own senses.

“That there is a new world south of the pole ismaintained by Science; it is the unalterable beliefof the explorers, the hydrographers, the geographers.But what may that world be like?What was it like? Long millions and millions ofyears before our time the Arctic north was theprocreant cradle of ALL LIFE! From it streamedthe currents of animal and vegetable creation; itwas warm; forests of palms flourished along riverand lake-side, and within them roamed the creaturesof tropical or semi-tropical climates. Paleontologistsfrom Saporta to Wieland, from Keerl toHeer have pointed this out, with an emphasis thathas varied with temperament or knowledge, fromconviction to surmise. G. Hilton Scribner, a cleverAmerican litterateur says”—the Professor ludicrouslygrasped for something in an inner coatpocket and revealed a little book, exquisitelybound, of scraps and extracts, and read from apage whose smoothness he had marred by foldinga leaf—“he says, ‘thus the Arctic zone, whichwas earliest in cooling down to the first andhighest heat degree in the great life-gamut wasalso the first to become fertile, first to bear life,and first to send forth her progeny over theearth.’

“And Wieland, a remarkable Yale scholar, anauthority on fossil cycads and Chelonia, the latestto speculate authoritatively along this line, writes”—anothercreased page was turned to—“‘in a word,that the great evolutionary Schauplatz was borealis possible from the astronomical relations, probablefrom physical facts, and rendered an establishedcertainty by the unheralded synchronous appearanceof the main groups of animals and plants on51both sides of the great oceans throughout post-Paleozoictime.’”

“But Professor,” it was my remonstrance thatnow interrupted him, “that was millions of yearsago. It’s a dead world up there. Surely you don’tthink—”

The Professor broke in with a deprecatorygesture of regret at his own impatience. “I know.True, true, for the most part, but perhaps not forall—not for all. It’s a deep matter.”

Professor Bjornsen’s eyes were glistening withenthusiasm; his manner became extravagantlymysterious, and his words boiled out feverishlyfrom his scarred lips. “The north, to whoseenchantment the whole world bows; a strange,magical region, lit by the supernal splendors ofheavenly lights, and wrapped in eternal snows, wasthe Eden of our race. It was that navel of theworld related in all mythologies from India toGreece, from Japan to Scandinavia; it was theParadisaic earth center, the fecund source of everymanner of life, endowed by the Creator withoriginal unrestrained powers of exuberance. Hereman originated; here was his primal home, herehis first estate, dressed as he was in every facultyof mind, and enriched by all the gifts of nature.As President Warren, another American, eloquentlywrote twenty-six years ago—”

Again the Professor dove into his pocket, producedhis amazing little scrapbook, while we allgazed at the excited gentleman with a new fascinationand astonishment. Here was the man ofcrystals and mensuration, of ores, adits, drifts andstrata, riding the high horse of mystical and religiousanalogy, and somehow we felt ourselves drawninto the vortex of his cerebral excitement! Wewere quite dazed in a way, and yet felt an elationthat kept us spellbound.

52“Ah, here it is. He wrote, President Warren,‘the pole symbolizes Cardo, Atlas, Meru, Hara-berezaiti,Kharsak-Kurra, every fabulous mountainon whose top the sky pivots itself, and aroundwhich all the heavenly bodies ceaselessly revolve.’

“Assume this; assume that here the finger ofGod first impressed this insensate whirling globe ofunconscious matter with the touch and promise oflife and Mind. Is it likely that all vestiges, allsigns, all remainders of that consecrated first endowmentshould have quite disappeared, succumbedingloriously to the stiffening embrace ofcold, congealed in an eternal sleep beneath theglaciers and the snows? I think not, my friends,I think not.”

“But,” it was the protesting voice of Goritz whonow voiced our incredulity, “haven’t the expeditionists,the geographers, the explorers—hasn’teverything we have been told, everything we haveread, all we know about it, and that’s a good deal,from Franklin to Peary made it clear that at thepole there is nothing but death, desolation, andice?”

“Antoine!” Here the Professor turned abruptlyto the big Dane, thrusting his umbrageouscrown of red hair almost into the thin locks of hisfriend, and whispered hoarsely, “Ah! Antoine, thesecrets are hidden in that uncharted land beyondthe ice packs north of Point Barrow. The reservationsof life are there. You have all heard,” therufous glory now moved towards Hopkins and myself,“of Symmes Hole? Of course you shrug yourshoulders; it was preternatural simplicity you say,the mad dream of a fool, uproariously derided.Yes! Symmes was not a fool; he was a brave man, asoldier, chasing a reality through the distortions ofan hallucination. There is no hole; the earth isnot hollow, but—there is a depression; there must53be. The depression is at the North Pole somewhere.It has not been found, and the Arctic seashave been parcourired by explorers, as you notice,Goritz. The depression is Krocker Land. If profoundits climate is temperate. Life, the remnantsof its first evolutionary phases, may be there—butmark me!” The Professor positively dilated,everything in him enlarged as if his bounding heartsent fuller currents of blood to all its outposts; hiseyes were refulgent; I thought they were anemerald green; his hair rose in the thrill of hisvaticination and his mouth opened into a vastexclamatory rictus, in which flashed his big whiteincisors like diminutive tusks. “Mark me, theretoo will be found the last evolutionary phases ofthe human race!”

Here was a climax, and the mental stupefactionof the Professor’s audience was exactly reflected inthe prolonged silence that ensued. It was entertaining,however, to watch Spruce Hopkins’ fixed,expressionless perusal of the Professor’s face, andthe immobile glory in the Professor’s answeringstare. Hopkins spoke first:

“Well! I like your certainty about that depression,Prof. Can’t see it noway. You’re makingthings interesting enough, but surely that depressionisn’t the gospel truth. Is it?”

The Professor relaxed; he laughed, and hislaugh was the most curious blend of a chuckle anda whistle, utterly impossible to describe except byreproduction. It always affected Hopkins hilariously;he said the two elements in the Professor’slaugh were satisfaction and astonishment; thechuckle meant the first, the whistle the second, andthe state of the Professor’s mind could be wellgauged from the predominance of one or theother. Just then the chuckle had the best of it.

“Mr. Hopkins,” he said, “you are a very intelligent54man. Don’t you see that a rotating andsolidifying viscosity cannot become solid withoutforming a pitted polar extremity?”

Hopkins withstood this assault with admirablestolidity; he even looked injured.

“My dear Professor; really your statement istoo simply put to appeal to the complicated convolutionsof my gray matter. Your manner isjuvenile. Such a subject should be treated in abecoming obscurity of terms.”

After our amusement had subsided, Bjornsenexplained his view. It was easily understood.The earth had cooled down from some initialgaseous or lava-like stage, and, if the congelationhad not progressed far or fast enough at the poles,centrifugal force at the equator would have withdrawnenough matter to effect a depletion at onepole or the other, with the consequent result (I recallhow particular the Professor was over thispoint) of forming a graduated, evenly rounded andsmoothish concavity, if the polar areas were nottoo rigidly fixed; or a broken, step-like successionof terraces if they were. Later we were triumphantlyreminded by the Professor of this prediction.Then too he involved his theory with demonstrationsof the vertical effect of rotation, producinginverted cones or funnels in liquids, as is familiarlyseen in the discharging contents of a washbasin.We were not convinced, and our evident apathy ordissidence chilled the Professor into a taciturnityfrom which he was scarcely aroused when cries fromthe water’s edge of the fiord announced the returnof a fishing fleet, a phalanx of jaegts, the singlemasted, square sailed, sturdy boats familiar totourists in sea journeys along the fair Norwegianshores. It was welcomed with shouts and salutations,and the waving of flags and handkerchiefs, inwhich we joined.

55But the hidden springs of wonderment, thelatent impulse in young, strong men for adventure,discovery, perhaps some marvelous realization ofthe unknown, had been stirred within us. TheProfessor would have been gratified if he hadknown how restlessly Goritz and myself rolledabout in our beds that night, or how with sleeplesseyes, flat on our backs, we rehearsed his strangestatements, or in dreams encountered polar bears,threading our way through devious leads to thewintry coasts of a NEW CONTINENT. Theimagery of the north was familiar to us. We hadboth visited Spitzbergen and the Franz JosefArchipelago. As Hopkins had said, we had methim at Stockholm and discussed together the sensationof the hour, Bjornsen’s lecture at Christiania.We were all three of us idlers—I by compulsion—butfirm in body, ambitious in spirit, andhalf exasperated at our uselessness in the world’saffairs. Goritz was a rich man, an only son, heir tothe fortune of a successful fish merchant in Stockholm;I had a bare competency, and Spruce Hopkins,a vagabond American, seeing the world butyearning for sterner work, had already gained inEurope an unenviable reputation for recklessextravagance. It was at Hopkins’ suggestion thatwe had invited the Professor to meet us at thefiord, and we were all wondering how far we mightgo in this strange experiment of finding KrockerLand. Should we go at all?

Whatever satisfaction the Professor might havefelt over Goritz’s and my own agitation, his mostsanguine hopes of producing an impression wouldhave been inflamed to exultation had he knownthat the Yankee had not slept a wink, had not takenoff his clothes, but had just, as he characterized it,“stalled on everything,” until he got his bearingson this “new stunt.”

56The Professor’s equanimity was restored whenwe met him in the diningroom at breakfast thefollowing morning, and he most good-naturedlyaccepted professions of contrition at our mentalobduracy. But it was the American who confoundedhim by his sudden determination and aprecipitant proposition to “get away on the firsttide.”

“Prof.,” he exclaimed clapping the smaller manon the shoulder with a cordial gaiety that shockedGoritz, “I’m willing to take the chance. It’s abig stake to win, though,” his whimsical smile propitiatedthe Professor completely. “I’m notbuffaloed on all your talk about the tropical climatewe’re likely to meet. Of course, I’ve looked intothe matter a little, on my own hook, and just nowthe plan of action is something like this. Thesetwo good friends,” he waved his hands geniallytoward Goritz and myself, “know a good deal aboutzero temperatures, polar bears, walrus, starvationand ice floes; you have surveyed Spitzbergen, andas for myself—Well, honestly, I’m a tenderfootbut young, hardy, sound as a steel rail, a good shot,a prize rower, and once Prof., take it from me, Istrangled a mad dog with these hands.”

Hopkins never looked handsomer than at thatmoment, his face burning with an expectant eagerness,the color rising to his temples beneath thewaves of chestnut hair, his frame and figure likean Achilles.

The Professor nodded his approval and assent.

“We’ll make a strong quartette; quite enough forthe jaunt. These big outfits are a blunder. I’vealways thought that was the mistake the Englishmade. Plenty of dogs, rations and a few mouthsgo farther, with less strain and less risk. Andanother thing, friends,” he wheeled round fromthe Professor, and addressed us, “no big ship, no57‘Fram’, no ‘Roosevelt.’ We’ll get the stiffest andmost flexible and biggest wooden naphtha launchthat can be made; stock her; carry her up on ahired whaler from San Francisco, bunk at PointBarrow, pick our best chance through the leads inthe open weather, and then with dogs, sleds, andkayaks, take to the main ice and scoot for the happyland of—Krocker! Eh?”

Goritz and I heard the extraordinary daredevilplan with consternation. It seemed the limit offoolishness, and absurdly ignorant. We waited forthe inevitable crushing denunciation of such follyfrom the informed lips of the Professor. To ouramazement the Professor grew radiant, seizedHopkins’ hands, shaking them vigorously, his pop-eyesstarting out with the most amiable encouragement,while his beaming smile endorsed Hopkins’lunacy with mad enthusiasm.

“Right, Mr. Hopkins! Right—the very thing.No reserve, no retreat, no store ship is necessary.I had convinced myself of the absolute propriety ofjust such a course of action, but I expected to findit a hopeless task to persuade anyone to believe me.Krocker Land will supply us with everything, andthe ice course will be far more simple and easy thanNansen’s trip from 86° to Franz Josef Land, orPeary’s over North Greenland; a straight-awayrun with a few water breaks. No great hardships.At least,” and the Professor in a burst of audaciousnonchalance knocked over a few glasses and a watercarafe in his swinging ambulations, “none greaterthan the ordinary experiences of an Arctic traveler.I congratulate you, Mr. Hopkins, on your perspicacity—Americanshrewdness. Ah! American—whatyou call GAMENESS. Eh? Let meassure you that had you been a hardened, experiencedNorth Pole explorer you would never havehit on this; NEVER. You’d have stuck to the old58plans. And the only reason you are right now isthat Krocker Land is an exceptional proposition,to be negotiated by exceptional methods. Ipromise you exceptional results.”

For a few moments Goritz and I were dumb withastonishment, and I think Goritz was almostchoking with indignation. Somehow he suppressedhis threatening outbreak and only muttered, “Isuppose we will never want to come back—neverneed to?”

A ripple of comic commiseration crossed Hopkins’face:

“Come now, Goritz. WHERE I COME BACKis just here,

Sa vandra vara stora man

Fran ljuset ned til skuggan.’”

The situation was so funny, with that tantalizinglyhumorous face of the Professor looking on inperplexity, that Goritz burst into laughter, in whichI joined, and his evanescent rage was swept away.

But the Professor answered his implied sarcasmquite literally.

“Antoine,” he said, both hands raised imploringly,“trust me; we shall find food in KrockerLand, an abundance; the launch can return toPoint Barrow with a small crew, and when we wantit on our return—why—”

His indecision or uncertainty or the blanknessof his mind about it was quickly relieved by Goritz.

“We’ll send a telegram ordering it over, andwait—for it?”

“Oh it’s no joke Goritz”—Goritz admittedsotto voce that it certainly was not. “We can getback without it, our kayaks will answer. And youforget the People of Krocker Land.”

“Why Professor,” I protested, “we haven’theard of them before.”

59The Professor assumed a surprised air, becameportentously solemn, and then—I never felt quitecertain whether he actually winked at Hopkins ornot—gravely answered.

“The people of Krocker Land, Erickson, are anassured certainty. An unpeopled continent is asmuch a lusus naturae as an unfilled vacuum.”

“Certainly, Erickson. Didn’t you know that?Somebody must be provided to pocket the revenuesfrom whale blubber and walrus ivory, not to mentionthe conservation bureau for glaciers, the outputof icebergs, and the meteorological corps for thestandardization of blizzards,” and Hopkins hid hisface in his hands to stifle his screaming mirth.

But the Professor was neither ruffled nor amused;he went on oracularly:

“Erickson, the expectation is a little discouraging.Well I’ll say from your point of view it isalmost impossible of belief that an unknown peopleexists in an unknown land near the North Pole.Now Stefansson’s discovery of the so-called BlondEskimos has nothing to do with my confidence inthis matter. It rests upon a broad deduction, ana priori necessary assumption. If the originalEden, the primitive center of dispersion, on thebasis of the unity of the human race—if—”

Behind the Professor, whose labyrinthine locution,sounding higher and higher, was attractingsome general attention among the guests of thehotel, stood Hopkins with two tumblers of water inhis hands. He raised them suddenly above hishead and dropped them. The crash was startling,and it was followed by an equally unexpected yellof pain from Hopkins, who apparently slipped, fell,seized the tablecloth and dragged to the floor avaried array of glassware and cutlery in a clatterthat was deafening.

Confusion, explanations, reparation and a tumult60of amusement followed, and in it disappeared theProfessor’s voluminous harangue. It was neverresumed.

Hopkins recovered his seriousness, and weattacked the novel project he had suggested,critically. All that next day we argued over it,thrashing it out with the illuminative referencesGoritz, the Professor and myself could make to ourown experiences, Hopkins listening and pertinaciouslysticking to his original suggestions. Hisplan grew more and more attractive; its reasonablenessdeveloped more and more under examination.Of course all four of us were now thoroughlyexcited; the lure of discovery almost maddened us,and the necromantic charm of the Professor’s amazingpredictions, which we actually were unwilling toresist, instilled in us the wayward and fantastichope that we were on the verge of a world-convulsingdisclosure. We have not been disappointed.

The project finally took this shape: Hopkins andGoritz volunteered to bear all the expenses connectedwith the expedition; Hopkins would go toAmerica, consult naval architects, and have anaphtha-propelled launch devised, combining, asto its hull, features of the “Fram” and “Roosevelt”in a diminutive way. Goritz would followand buy the supplies, clothing and equipment.Then would come the Professor with instrumentsand books, and finally myself with three chosenmen—Hopkins demanded they should be selectedin America—who would be the captain, engineerand crew of the launch on its return to PointBarrow, and who would look for us the next summer.How preposterously sure we were that wewould find land and game! But how ineffectuallypaltry after all were our expectations compared tothe reality.

When everything was ready—the end of a year’s61time was fixed for the date of our departure—wewould have the launch set amidships on a whaler,and sail for Point Barrow, our prospective headquarterson the North American continent.

The last question Hopkins put to the Professorbefore we parted was about the mineral wealth ofthe new land, which had now incorporated itsactuality with every sleeping and waking moment,seeming as certain as any other unvisited realm ofEarth which we had seen on maps, but nevervisited.

Of course the Professor was quite equal to thisdemand upon his imagination.

“Mineral wealth? Probably immense. Themother lodes of the gold of Alaska have never beenfound. They lie north of Alaska; the geologicalextension of the mineral deposits of Alaska isnaturally in that direction, and the enrichment ofthe primary crystallines with the precious metalscan be reasonably asserted to surpass the mythicalvalues of Golconda or California.”

“That suits me,” was Hopkins’ laconic comment.

At last the whole scheme was pretty thoroughlyworked out, down to its details. Correspondencewould be maintained during the summer. TheProfessor left for Christiania, Goritz and myself forStockholm, and Hopkins steamed away to Hull onthe English ship “North Cape.” Our conferencehad lasted just a week.

How wonderfully lovely was the day and scenewhen he left us that June morning three years ago.If portents of our success could be discerned in itsdelicious, enveloping glory of light and beauty,then surely we might be hopeful. The great gullswere sweeping with deep undulations through theupper sky, exulting in their splendid power, thesummer wind faintly stirred the dark spruces,whose gentle expostulation at its intrusion reached62us with a sound like the washing of waves on a farawayshore. The granite rocks of peak and cliffflashed back the unchecked sunlight; the road,like a white ribbon, spun its loops to and fro overthe hillside, through meads where the glistening redfarm houses stood, that seemed like rubies set in anemerald shield while the waters of the fiordslumbered at our feet, a liquid mass of beryl.

It now seems to me as if a quarter of a centuryhad passed since then. And, if events are themeasure of duration to the subjective sense, itmight seem even farther away. I recall SpruceHopkins, radiant and handsome, amid a throng ofnew acquaintances—he gathered friends about himas frankly and quickly as roses attract bees—amongwhom not a few young women offered him theirmute but eloquent admiration; I remember himleaning over the rail of the steamer’s deck and recitingin a rollicking drawl:

“When the sea rolled its fathomless billows

Across the broad plains of Nebraska;

When around the North Pole grew bananas and willows,

And mastodons fought with the great armadillos,

For the pine-apples grown in Alaska.”

(Editorial Apology. The foregoing chapter inits diction and in certain studied phases of constructionwill disturb the reader’s sense of congruity,perhaps. He will be inclined to doubt itsauthenticity as the exact narrative of Alfred Erickson.The suspicion is partly creditable to hisliterary acumen. The editor admits substantialemendations useful for the purpose of imparting aliterary atmosphere.)



Point Barrow

We were all aboard the steam whaler “Astrum”in the spring of the next year, and with us a marvelof compact maritime construction, our naphthalaunch “Pluto”. Hopkins suggested the name onthe satisfactory ground that we were likely to have“a hell of a time.” We had worked ourselves upto the most supreme height of confidence andenthusiasm. The Professor was in a sort ofdemented state of expectation; Hopkins furiouslyasserted the name of Christopher Columbus wouldnow be forgotten in the new fame to be allotted tous, “the Arctic Argonauts,” and finally Goritz andmyself succumbed to a peculiar feeling of predestination.

Captain Coogan of the “Astrum” knew nothingof our proposed destination. It was a stipulationmade by Hopkins that nothing on that point was tobe discussed, until we reached Point Barrow—if wewere to reach it—and the services of Captain Cooganand his selected crew—not the usual polyglotassemblage of ethnic odds and ends—were unconditionallyours up to that moment. The temptationsof whaling were to be absolutely escheweduntil we had vanished into the fogs and wildernessof the ice pack, beyond whose trackless waste layKrocker Land. Of course a sea dog like CaptainCoogan, a clever and hardy mate like Isaac64Stanwix, a pertinacious thinker like the engineerBell Phillips, and such an experienced and avariciousreader as the carpenter Jack Spent (he hadmade ten trips to Point Barrow) could make prettyshrewd guesses as to our intentions. The storesand supplies, the sledges and kayaks, splendidvehicles of travel made under Goritz’s supervision,were informing enough, had it not been for thedisconcerting secrecy of the actors in this strangenew ice-drama. I think we were regarded as a“parcel of wild devils or fools,” though I think too,with the exception of perhaps the Professor, ourphysical constants were impressive.

Our departure did not escape public notice. Wewere besieged by reporters, but we were impenetrable,and yet we were genially communicativetoo. It was the Arctic or bowhead whale we wereinterested in; we were naturalists, the Professorwas hoping to introduce the bowhead whale intoEuropean waters; just now a preliminary study ofits habits, habitat, food, breeding grounds, andcommercial availability was indispensable. Thatfiction sufficed. The remarkable launch prepared forus was made into a skillful adjunct to our investigations.We were honored by several columns ofinterviews in the dailies, and the splash of ouradventure spread its circle of disturbance even toWashington, whence official offers of assistanceand participation were received which—were neveranswered. Among our visitors, for we did notescape the invasion of sightseers, was that Goliah,Carlos Huerta, from whose branding iron yousaved me.

(Erickson spoke this measuredly and calmly tobe sure, but his hands covered his face, and I sawhis body sway, convulsed by his emotion.)

“This man somehow appealed to me; perhapsit was his herculean dimensions. He was familiar65with launches and machinery, and was very intelligent;forceful, too. His suavity disarmed suspicion,and his robust, seemingly ingenuous interestpleased me. Almost his last words, before wesailed, invited me to come to see him—he handedme his card—and to tell him “all about it.” Itwas a curious, inexplicable divination on his partthat I should have much to tell. That man, Mr.Link, was the most ruthless scoundrel I ever met;he was my first scoundrel; because I had never meta scoundrel before I fell into his net.

(Again a pause. It lasted so long that I fearedsome complication of feeling had robbed him of hismemory. I said “And Mr. Erickson, you left SanFrancisco?” His consciousness returned, and heturned to me smiling.)

Yes, we left San Francisco about the end ofApril, a dull day with fog banks lifting and fallingover the Golden Gate, while a rising storm outsidewas turning the ocean into water alps, smiting theclouds. Our course was almost a direct line toBehring Straits; we were to pass through thechannel between Unalaska and Uninak Islands,then coast the Pribylof Islands for the benefit of theProfessor, reach Indian Point, on the Siberian sideof the strait where some of the natives, Masinkers(Tchouktchis), could be seen, then cross to PortClarence on the Alaskan shore for an inspection ofthe Nakooruks (Innuits); then two stops for thebenefit of Hopkins and Goritz. We also intendedto secure at the latter place dogs for our dash overthe ice to the Krocker Land shore from PointBarrow. Captain Coogan recommended a stop atCape Prince of Wales where further ethnologicalnotes might be gathered, but this was overruled asboth the Professor and Hopkins expected to visitthe coal beds beyond Point Hope, and CapeLisburne in the Arctic Ocean.

66We came abreast of Pribylof about May sixth,stalled off St. Paul’s Island in a still sea, light southwestwinds and rising tide. The Professor waspulled off to the island in the morning; his eagernessto visit these famous fur-seal rookeries beingirrepressible. He had talked of little else, in theintervals when we were not discussing our momentousenterprise, but the marvelous stories whichold navigators, Captain Scammon and CaptainBryant had told, and the fascinating studies ofElliot. He told us that formerly, in the middle ofthe nineteenth century and later, these pelagicmammals had swarmed in millions up to theseislands, rising from the ocean like a veritable mammalinundation. He told us about the bull seals,how they fought, their tenacity, their endurance,how a bull will fight fifty or sixty battles for thepossession of his ample harem of twelve or fifteencows, and last out to the end of the season, threemonths perhaps without food, living on his own fat,covered with scars, eyes gouged out, striped withblood; and how the jovial bachelors, not so disconsolateas might be imagined, the “hollus-chickies,”congregate to one side. He said the noise fromthese monstrous breeding grounds, where thousandsof seals are roaring, bleating, calling—mothers,fathers and pups—could be heard, withthe wind right, five or six miles to sea. He didn’texpect to see the households developed then—itwas too early—but he might have an opportunityto find a few advance bulls on their stations. Hefound the bulls, and he found an adventure, andwe found him.

It was almost four or five hours after the Professorhad left the ship in a yawl rowed by twosailors, that Hopkins, Goritz, and myself followedhim in another boat. We saw the yawl on a shortbeach of sand, with the men sunning themselves67and asleep on the black rocks which hemmed in thelittle cove. We ran our boat on the sands, themen came strolling toward us, rubbing their eyesand recovering from the inertia of what had beenan uninterrupted snooze. When we asked for theProfessor they told us he had disappeared, and hadordered them to stay where they were while hepursued his investigations. He certainly was nowherein sight and a little anxious over his longabsence we moved up to the broken rim of rockswhich probably separated this retreat from somesimilar beach on either side.

The elevated cones and ridges of the island couldbe seen towering up toward the interior in gauntgray surfaces, on which rested extensive patches ofsnow. We surmounted the inconsiderable elevationand found it was a broader barrier than we hadanticipated, a platform of jagged projecting crestswith intervening rocky basins or tables, the wholean extended spur from a black wall of rock, onwhose summit were the clustering huts of a nativevillage. On the edges of the rocks hung a few largecakes of ice, and the receding tide had left broken,hummocky masses tilted at various angles over theinclined faces of stone. The scene was chilly anddesolate and to add to its lugubrious desolation afog had slowly drifted in from the sea and was nowtortuously rolling down from the highland on theopposite shore to the island. Our search for themissing Professor would have to be hastened.

“The Professor must be found,” said Hopkins.“We shan’t know how to deal with the nativeKrockerans when we meet ’em, without the Professor.At present he is the only man alive whounderstands their peculiarities, and as an interpreterhe’s bound to prove useful.”

“Of course,” said Goritz, “you don’t think theseals can eat him?”

68“They might,” answered Hopkins, “but theycould never digest him. It would certainly be adeath potion to the venturesome bull who mistookhim for food. Likely as not he is now engaged inexplaining to an interesting family his plans for thepreservation and increase of them and theirkindred.”

During this irrelevant badinage I had crossed therocky flat and reached another cove or gully,headed towards the land by a slope of brokenboulders, and floored with sand. We had as yetencountered no seals. Looking beyond this bay Isaw on a promontory bounding the distant edge ofthe beach what seemed like a human figure, orindeed like a group of figures. Watching the objectsfor a short time I could more clearly distinguishthem, and to my astonishment determined that onewas a man and the rest some erect animal forms,doubtless seals. The group was at an extremepoint on the rocks, and, if the solitary human wasthe Professor, his only possible retreat from thebeleaguering seals would be the water.

I hallooed to my companions, pointing to the distantobjects, and hastened forward onto the rock-strewnbeach. Goritz and Hopkins struggled overthe rough patch of rocks and overtook me.

“Yes, by the lives of all the saints!” criedHopkins, who had stopped a moment and withshaded eyes was studying the enigmatical figuressilhouetted against sea and sky. “It’s the Professorand three beachmasters apparently bent on hiscapture, or else drinking in wisdom from his lips.It might just be they’re competing for his servicesin teaching their prospective families.”

“I can see him waving his hands, it seems to me,and now he’s shooing them with his hat,” exclaimedGoritz. “He’s in something of a fix. Hurry.”

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (5)


We bounded forward, and over the beaten sand69raced together, taking quick glances ahead at thenow certain embarrassment of our friend. It wasindeed the Professor, and his predicament was unmistakable.Amusement however mingled withour anxiety, for as we drew near we could plainlymake out that he had taken his hat between histeeth and was violently wagging his head, theabsurd appendage of his cap flying up and downproducing a very ludicrous effect. It was a serviceabledevice, however, for the amazed seals hadstopped their approaches; their barking or snarling,at first quite audible, had ceased, and they werenow attentively regarding the Professor withalmost immobile heads.

“Guess,” called out Hopkins between breaths,“they think the Professor is a little dippy, and arereconsidering his engagement as a domesticinstructor.”

We were now near enough to attract the Professor’ssight; he hailed us with swinging arms but didnot venture to desist from his mandarin-like wig-wagging.The approach to his position was a littledifficult, and we suffered some falls. Our adventhad attracted the notice of the bulls and theyswerved about to receive us, humping their backs,leaping forward on their flippers, and renewingtheir truculent miauling or barking. We attackedthem with stones but their defiance was unchanged,and they lunged and rushed, quite unappalled byour onset. They would retreat almost immediatelyto their former positions, holding the poor Professorin chancery with an apparent unanimity that keptGoritz laughing, for with every retreat, the Professorwould renew his violent gesticulations.

At length Goritz and Hopkins armed with anarmful of stones drove in on the biggest of the bulls,and assailed him with such a shower of missiles thathis reserve was overcome, and he plunged forward,70following them for twenty feet or more. I ran tothe Professor and caught his arm, and we got out ofthe zone of danger, while the momentarily alliedbeachmasters, frustrated from their imprisonment ofhim, suddenly resented each other’s proximity andafter a miscellaneous “mix-up,” as Hopkins calledit, shuffled and loped away to their former stations,the chosen spots for their future seraglios.

With the liberated Professor we sat down on somestool-like fragments inserted in the sand of thebeach and heard his story. It was laughableenough and added an unusual trait to the recordedconduct of the big bull seals, usually indifferent tothe approach of men. These three indolent, unoccupiedforerunners of the great herds that mightsoon be expected, had actually chased the Professorand, having cornered him on the promontory, hadhopelessly besieged him. The Professor had beentoo much interested or too imprudent. His amiabilityperhaps had brought him into this unexpecteddilemma, for he had gathered up seaweedfrom the rocks at the edge of the water, andattempted to feed the bulls. They followed him,and their disappointed expectations developedlater into the pugnacity that had made him aprisoner.

While he was talking a few more seals emergedfrom the ocean, lazily hauling themselves on therocks with that ill-assured clumsiness of motion sostrikingly replaced in the water by the greatestgrace, agility and speed.

“But Professor,” interrupted Goritz, “what wereyou doing with your hat?”

The Professor, who had been much ruffled andexcited over his encounter, welcomed this inquirywith a restored equanimity.

“Ah! Goritz, that is a contribution to science.On our return I shall call the attention of Lloyd71Morgan and other animal psychologists to thisnovel observation. Antoine, it has long beenknown that the rhythmical oscillation of a flexiblesubstance, a rag, hat, towel, banner, exercises apeculiar influence on animals. It will allay theferocity of a mad dog or alarm him. Color hassomething to do with it, as instance the red ragwhich irritates the bull. Now—” here the Professorlooked critically at his steamer cap, and mayhave mentally noted that it was a green and brownScotch plaid. “Now this influence seems curiouslyreinforced if the substance or garment is taken inthe mouth and shaken.”

The incorrigible Hopkins had again buried hisface in his cupped palms.

“No reason that is incontrovertible has beenassigned for this, but I assume that it is an appeal toa latent demonism in animals, which in its laterevolution appears as devil-worship in aboriginalpeople. I most fortunately recalled this, and at acritical moment, when I was threatened with thenecessity of retreating into the sea—” The poorlyrepressed vibrations in Hopkins’ body might havebeen referred to sympathy or—something else. “Aquite unnecessary ablution, let us say,” and theProfessor smiled benignantly at me, as perhaps theone most gravely interested in his narrative. “Ithought of this remarkable device, which I believehas something of the nature of an incantation.The effect was miraculous. This simple gestureheld the seals at bay; I think it is quite demonstrablealso that there is a physiological basis fortheir evident stupefaction—the optic nerve. Theseanimals you know have very poor sight—the opticnerve is disturbed and a cerebral vertigo is inducedwhich, like—”

“That settles it,” cried Hopkins, stumbling to hisfeet with a very red face and hurrying across the72sands. “Professor, there’s something worse thanseals on this island; there are the U. S. officials,and—I guess they are charmproof.”

“Exactly,” assented the Professor in an absent-mindedway, “exactly, but had you gentlemenrestrained yourselves a little, I believe I could haveadvanced an interesting corroboration to a hithertodimly—”

A gun shot was heard. It evidently came fromour men in the adjoining cove and we smotheredthe Professor’s scientific homily with a shout, andaccelerated our departure.

When we reached the boat we found some nativesand two resident officials surrounding our men, theformer somewhat excited and demonstrative. Theofficials questioned us and were informed of ourpurely accidental visit, and with that explanation,as the fog had increased and there were threateningsymptoms of a blow, we manned our boats and gotaway.

Captain Coogan resumed our course, makingnorthwest for Indian Point, amid heavy ice,whose leads were carefully followed until theyliberated us in open water, and the immediate dangerof being nipped was past. The next morning Iwas awakened—my room adjoined Hopkins’—byhearing the American reciting in a voice loudenough to justify forcible remonstrance:

I met my mates in the morning (and Oh, but I am old),

Where roaring on the ledges the summer groundswell rolled,

I heard them lift the chorus that dropped the breakers’ song,

The beaches of Lucannon—two million voices strong,

The song of pleasant stations beside the salt lagoons,

73The song of blowing squadrons that shuffled down the dunes

The song of midnight dances that charmed the sea to flame

The beaches of Lucannon—before the sealers came!

We made Indian Point, or Chaplin, as the settlementis called, in five days, held back by floes andfogs, narrowly escaping a collision with an adventuresomeand premature whaler making its way tothe same destination. These sailors often getcaught in the ice, when they are helpless, and if thepack tightens on them, they are likely to come togrief with a cut stem or a stoved side. We assistedone poor fellow out of such a plight. His vessel wasshipping water fast, and we helped shift his load,giving the boat a stern list that lifted its brokennose and allowed him to make repairs.

Chaplin is a small settlement of natives on theSiberian coast, the largest along the line to BehringStraits. There may be some forty huts there, andthe whale men find it a convenient place to do astroke of trade. Indeed, if it were not for theirvisits the unfortunate Masinkers might resign thejob of trying to live at all, as the whales are morescarce than formerly, or more cautious, and walrusand seal scarcely turn in closer than St. LawrenceIsland. The village is on a projecting tooth ofland—a mere sandpit—and back from the villagealong the foothills is the curious, disconsolate lookinggraveyard where the dead are buried in rudelyexcavated holes and covered with stones and earth,some with deer antlers stuck about as gravestones.

The natives were not slow in coming aboard, andas we had outrun the whalers who are annuallyexpected, their reception of us was, so to speak,enthusiastically hearty. I thought it was a trifleoverdone. The entire population tried to get74aboard, and assumed possession of everything withsuch unsophisticated satisfaction that it strainedthe limits of our hospitality and tired our patiencesomewhat. They were a jocular, spontaneous andchattering crowd, of all ages, many hues, and somediversity of dress. Each canoe had received fromCaptain Coogan a bucket of bread, but their appetitefor tobacco would have made a tremendouscontribution to the income of the United CigarCompany. Everyone wanted it—men, womenand children, and it stood first in the commercialschedule of trade. We rejected their whaleboneivory and foxskins, but boots, skin shirts and coatswere acceptable.

Our very generous demeanor towards their needselicited the stormiest approval, but we regretfullylearned that it prolonged their occupation of theship which, so far as fragrance was considered, hadseriously declined from its former estate of habitability.Articles of all sorts come handy to thesepeople, but as we were not prepared for theiromnivorous demands, tobacco formed the staple ofour barter.

Now in our little library, whose usefulness thesustained succession of long days of suspense oridleness had fully demonstrated, we had read in asmall light blue book by Herbert L. Aldrich, called“Arctic Alaska and Siberia,” of the author’s visit tothis very place. In the book a man, Gohara byname, was designated as “the Masinker of theMasinkers,” a man forty years of age, tall, commanding,and “by far the best specimen mentallyand physically of his people.”

We discovered him. He was yet vigorous,though approaching seventy and his remarkablespouse—his third wife then—Siwurka, maintaineda supreme position in his household, which theadvent, since Aldrich’s visit, of two younger women75had not disturbed. One of these later accessionsto Gohara’s domestic felicity was a person of becomingrotundity, with a distracting tousle of hairthat almost covered her eyes. The inexpugnablescientific curiosity of the Professor led him into hissecond predicament with this young person, which,for a moment, promised to be more serious than hisinquisitional visit to the fur seals.

It was the last day of our stay at Indian Pointwhich had been prolonged by the viewless stretchesof ice moving out of the Arctic into Behring Sea,and we were all ashore. As usual the Professordeserted us, following out some preconcertedscheme of observation or experiment in which ourparticipation was unnecessary or even resented.It was some hours after we had missed him, and ourinspection of the tupicks, the dogs, the children,and the industrial products of the Masinkers wascompleted, that a large boy, prodigiously magnifiedby his big boots, rushed upon our trailing groupcrying:

“Doghter! Doghter! He out of head. Hoopla!”

The fellow was excited and out of breath withrunning, and his excitement became reflected in thefaces of the natives around us, who were helplesslybewildered and looked so.

“It’s the Professor—another row. Hold backthe crowd. I’ll go with this screaming lunatic andextricate our distinguished friend. Some scientificescapade, you can bet your hat on it,” whisperedHopkins.

To inquiries of his acquaintances the boy kept upan unintelligible jabber and pointed to the fartherside of the village. Apparently the assemblagewere on the point of bolting for the spot, in deferenceto the boy’s ejaculations. Hopkins handed usa package which he had been reserving for some sortof a valedictory to Chaplin and its unsavory population.76It was a liberal assortment of quids,smoking tobacco, cigars and snuff, and its exhibitionand immediate distribution quelled the flightof the rabble around us, whose inclination to staywhere they were instantly hardened like adamant.

Hopkins seized the boy, turned him around, andthe two vanished in the direction the boy had indicated.In about half an hour, or less, they returnedwith the Professor between them, much upset butcalm, and apparently indifferent to the objurgationsand imprecations, delivered in unvarnished andvigorous Tchoukchi, hurled at him by no less a manthan Gohara, followed by his five wives, whosevoices querulously mingled and reinforced theirmaster’s denunciations. The situation was unquestionablyvery amusing, very curious, and,except for the fortunate intervention of Hopkins’miscellaneous propitiations, might have becomevery annoying. We hurried the Professor to thebeach, got into our boats, Hopkins making a stern-wiseaddress to the multitude on the shore, a mostgrotesque and tumultuous bunch of long, short,thin, fat, smiling, frowning, dark and light figures inskins and fur, and reached the “Astrum,” whichthat very evening left the offing, and, over a clear,moon-lit sea was directed toward Port Clarence inAlaska. A hard blow was on, and the ice packshad been scattered or driven eastward.

Hopkins’ story that night, after the Professor hadretired, which he did unusually early and with acomplete resumption of his smile and his goodhumor, entertained us until after midnight. Iabbreviate its windings and prolixity, interspersedwith Hopkins’ incommunicable reflexions.

The boy, conveniently named Oolah, led Hopkinssome way back of the settlement to a tupick ofconsiderable size, and covered with canvas (usuallywalrus hide or skins form these roofings) which was,77it so happened, Gohara’s storehouse, stocked withtrading material. Hopkins restrained his guide’simpatience, and finding a convenient aperture forthe inspection of the interior peered within. Tohis delighted astonishment there was the Professor,with notebook and pencil, and near him in placidwonderment, which occasionally broke in smiles ordeepened into terror, was the last and, with reservationsfor taste, most attractive wife of the headtrader of Indian Point, Ting-wah by name. TheProfessor’s performances were immoderately extravagant.Seen in their incongruous environment,combined with their novelty, they compelledHopkins to retire at intervals and roll on theground, in order to control the violence of his merriment,another proceeding which strengthenedOolah’s conviction in the immanence of the devilamong these strangers.

When Hopkins first descried the Professor, hewas standing erect with his arms raised high abovehis head, close together, the hands in contact,flapping and clapping them in an indescribablyfunny way, while at intervals he shrank andcowered over as if seized with the insupportablepains of colic. To these antics the woman returneda perplexed stare, as the Professor resumedhis normal manner, took up his padand pencil, and waited apparently for her response,while she, equally expectant, stoodstock still and waited for more explicit communications.

Then the Professor suddenly extended his armsin front of him, and wheeled round on his heels,with such commendable agility, that as he spun,his expansive ears seemed almost obliterated. Itwas then that Hopkins resorted to the refuge of theground to conceal his feelings. Still the womanwas mute, but her face showed a rising fear, and78her hands rose to her neck as if to seize somethingfrom the skin pouch made in her upper garment.

The Professor left off his physical maneuversand began a series of grimaces which, as Hopkinsexpressed it, “would have dimmed the luster of thebest vaudeville star he had ever seen.” Theyexpressed almost everything, beginning with somethingthat might be called suffering, to a terribleexcruciation of joy, when the Professor exerted hisfeatures to a degree that Hopkins called “the limitof facial agony.” And yet the girl was silent, buther eyes never left the Professor, and Hopkins, andOolah too, saw her quietly draw a knife from her“bread basket.” Hopkins might not have observedthis if Oolah had not grunted, “Stick ’im.”

He felt then it was time to intervene, but hisinterest and curiosity—“better’n a show” he repeatedover and over again—had up to this pointprevented him.

Suddenly the Professor desisted from his rapidplay of expression, and began to moan diabolically,rolling towards the woman with supplicating arms.The knife flashed, it was upraised, and the girlcrouched, her face darkening with either rage orterror. The next moment she had sprung at thenow observant and terror-stricken Professor, whoexecuted a flank movement—“side-stepped” Hopkinsput it—and was out of the door and—into theprotecting embrace of Hopkins’ arms, while Oolahwith precocious intelligence intercepted Ting-wah.The girl’s pent-up emotions spent themselves inscreams and fervent but barbarous complaints thatbrought Gohara and his other spouses to her rescue.Hopkins, utterly mystified by the Professor’s exhibition,resorted to the very plausible explanation,suggested by Oolah in the first place, that the Professorhad gone crazy, which indeed he most apostolicallybelieved himself. This answered the79purpose, though it did not repress Gohara and hisfamily from uttering a string of uncomplimentaryepithets which might have provoked a serious disturbancehad it not been for Hopkins’ tact and thecelerity of our retreat. Gohara’s rage followed ourboat with stridulous recriminations.

The Professor was noticeably crestfallen andalmost sullenly indifferent to our questions as towhat had happened. It was only a few days later,when his spirits had become thoroughly restored,that he spoke about it, with a sudden assumption ofconfidence that delighted us.

“My friends,” the Professor began one cold,radiant afternoon as we were ranged round thenaphtha launch admiring its adaptation, strength,the happy conception of structural ice runners letinto her keel, the easily unshipped tiller and screw;“My friends, the theories of the origin of languagehave been various; there are the views of Geigeras to its inception in movement and action, thoseof Noire as to the importance of sound, onomatopoeticor imitative, and the value of expression, aswith Darwin.”

“You see,” he continued with a fine indirection ofreference, which we appreciated, “I was before anuntutored child of nature. I attempted, alongthese various lines of non-verbal intercourse tosecure an illuminative response that might throwsome light upon theory. Under the circumstances,the subject, vitiated I think by contact withEuropean culture—Ah—”

Shied” suggested Hopkins.

“Well,” the Professor smilingly concluded,“there was certainly an hiatus. Her aboriginalpowers of interpretation were dulled—dulled—perhapsextinguished.”

“But Professor, you woke up a good deal of oratory.In fact, Professor, you’re nervy and—if80I may be permitted the vulgarity of quotation—

‘You would joke with hyenas, returning their stare

With an impudent wag of your head,

And you went to walk, paw-in-paw, with a bear,

“Just to keep up its spirits,” you said.

Without rest or pause—while those frumious jaws

Went savagely snapping around—

You skipped and you hopped and you floundered and flopped

Till fainting you fell to the ground.’”

The Professor passed his hand approvingly overthe side of the launch, ignoring the jibe. Wedropped the subject, indeed forgot it, listening toGoritz’s animated and assuring praise of the littlecraft that would introduce us to a new continent,and the incident was never again heard of.

Our next haven was Port Clarence in Alaska, andwe had a lot of trouble making it. The ice streamingout of Behring Straits was thick, and, as theYankee put it, “numerous.” The captain andmates were keen to watch their chances, and weoften found ourselves surrounded by blocks thatthe wind threatened to pack together to our imminentperil. It was very early, and whereas thewhalers make Port Clarence about midsummer weexpected or hoped to get to Point Barrow aboutthat time. A northwest wind came up and scatteredthe ice and gave us an open sea, though wewere compelled to make some long detours aroundwhite meadows of snow-covered ice, that slippedoff into the recesses of low, cold fogs and suggestedillimitable barriers ahead of us.

The distant rattling or caking sound of grindingice was sometimes constantly heard for hours, andagain vast fields, looking almost motionless, loomed81up with the sun shimmering their surfaces into anendless complexity of mirrors. Along the indentedor hummocky edges of these little continents wewould steam serenely and exult courageously in thethought of crossing just such white ways to thehidden wonders of a hidden world. We often fellinto fits of dreaming, buoyed up by the calm andglowing vaticinations of the Professor.

We finally brought up at the port and received atumultuous reception, having outrun the whalingfleet. The natives, Nakooruks, crowded aboard,and were intently watched but quite passivelyshunned by the Professor. Water and wood weretaken on here, and about one hundred selecteddogs, whose points were minutely inspected or determinedby Goritz and myself. It was June, andalready flowers spun their colored webs over theinhospitable shores, compensating for their brieflife here in the north by a marvelous abundance.Yellow, white and blue, the bewitching patchesof moss-blue flowering hepatica, forget-me-not,anemone, phlox and daisy charmed us, and for amoment brought back such a flood of memoriesthat a surge of homesickness swept over us, thelast tug of the pleasant world we had turned ourbacks on before the portals of a stranger worldopened and closed on us, perhaps forever.

We bought fish and furs from the natives whohad traveled hither with their pelts and offeringsfrom Norton Sound, Cape Prince of Wales, andKing’s Island. There was confusion and bustle onshore, and on board the barking of dogs, gutturalcontroversies among the Eskimos, wailing of babies,orders, the shriek of the donkey engine hauling oncargo, produced a pleasant excitement whichattained its climax on the arrival of the UnitedStates revenue cutter. Visiting of the captains,exchange of news followed, and we were told that82the season was unprecedented; the ice in theArctic had broken up early, there was a clear passagein the straits and an audacious whaler hadattempted the passage and “skinned” through toPoint Hope. We were sanguine of reaching PointBarrow early in July.

On the fourth of July we were under Cape Lisburne,encountering the rush of the wind that seemsharbored by that lofty cliff, and which like a physicalavalanche pushed us over until the water rippledover the lee rail. Along the shores everywherethere was a broad avenue of open water, stretchingfrom the skirt of shore ice to the heavy packs,sheeted with fogs and murmurously moaning,inimitably flooring that mysterious ocean whosefurthest waters beat on the shores of Krocker Land.

From Cape Lisburne the shore line strikes at aright angle to the Corwin coal fields, the low shores,except for a few occasional interruptions, as withCape Lisburne itself, marking the margins of thehigher uplands in the interior. Salt lagoons,crescent shaped beaches, sandpits, shoal basins,furnish a monotonous succession of flattened, uninterestingfeatures, which practically reaches toPoint Barrow. At the Corwin coal beds slate,sandstone and conglomerate overlie each other,and the Mesozoic age of the beds themselves isestablished. Here the Professor emerged from themental coma which had suspended his pedagogicenthusiasms since we left Indian Point, and a fewfern leaf fossils unlocked again the storehouse of hislearning and loosened his tongue with eloquentpredictions.

Standing up at our mess table with a beautifullypreserved fern leaf, sketched in black interlacings,reticulations and frondy leaflets on an ashen-coloredslate, the Professor spoke to us, and indeed we ourselvesfelt the thrill of a reconstructed world in this83bleak land, as we saw this silent token of formerwarmth.

“My friends,” he held up the fossil leaf, “here isa vestige of the past, a leaf of a fern. It tells us ofhot, moist, heat-oppressed cycles of years, whenmarshes densely thicketed with tree fern, swollenwith hot rains, drenched in a perspiration of mists,covered these now arid snow-blanketed flats; whena reptilian life, the consonant faunal response tothese climatic conditions flourished here also, when,dropping into the bayous and ponds, leaf upon leaf,branches, spores and trunks of an expanded filicineflora built up the masses of vegetable debris inlater ages, to become consolidated and transformedinto coal and—” the Professor’s eyesstarted, his inherent smile became a portentousstare, and the wide ears seemed almost to convergeto catch his own words of promise; “and—we shallrediscover a warm or temperate climate here at theNorth Pole. WHY?

His voice spoke this interrogation in somethinglike a squeal, so that the answer, in its unaffectedprofundity, produced a really dramatic climax.

Because we shall be nearer the center of the earth.

We took on coal at the Corwin mines andresumed our progress northward in the still unimpededlane of open water, with porridge iceforming fast along the outer pack but the shore rimintact, and bucking against a strong northeast currentsetting along shore. We passed Point Lay andIcy Cape the second day, and reached Point Barrowon the tenth of July.

How well I recall our landing on the low beach ofthis tip-top point of the continent, and wondering,in a dreary dream of coming hardships and dangers,at its desolation, a low barren sandbank forty toone hundred yards across. At Cape Smythea small promontory raises a faint remonstrance84against the encroachments of the sea in a bluff ofabout thirty feet elevation, and here we found thevillage of Uglaamie, a cluster of twenty or morehuts, inhabited by a boreal tribe, the Nuwukmeun.Life however, in the plants and animals revivedour feelings, and the Professor’s exultation over thetraces of old beach lines inspirited us. Here on theland, in propitious spots, sprang up buttercups,dandelions and a peculiar poppy; over our headsflew flocks of eider ducks, a butterfly danced gaylyin its wavering flight by our side, and CaptainCoogan reported a school of whale running to thenortheast, “in a hurry.”

We found some standing portions of the UnitedStates meteorological station placed here in 1902,and Goritz stumbled upon a dismantled graveyardwhere saint and sinner, rich and poor had promiscuouslysuffered from the inroads of the Eskimodog. It offered a mournful commentary upon thetransitoriness of human greatness.

But reflections were out of place; we had reachedthe point of departure, and the Great Unknownsternly invited us to begin our quest. Under suchcircumstances the long subdued instincts of theprimal man reassert themselves, and an augury ofgood fortune befell us that was droll enough, unrelievedby the nervous solemnity of our feelings, butwhich so connected itself with these as to give it anabsurd stateliness of meaning.

An angora goat was the queer and unexpectedwaif we found here, left by an unlucky whaler theprevious year; a long haired, pugnacious billy goat,whose property or power as a mascot had failed tosave the “Siren” from being “nipped, pooped andswamped,” and lost in the remorseless ice. Theresident Eskimos in Uglaamie had imbibed respectfor the goat (which had been somewhat summarilyabandoned by its former devotees) and its influence85with the unseen agencies that control destiny.But they were logical enough to conclude that itsintimacy was with bad—tuna—rather than withgood spirits. This omnivorous beast furnished uswith a favorable omen, all the more auspiciousbecause he embodied the very genius of destruction.

Now this expatriated goat rejected the prostrationsand worship of the Nuwukmeun, like acapricious deity, and perversely clung to us withembarrassing insistence. The launch had beenput in the water; it seemed almost ideal in itsqualities, it shot through the water, it turned at asuggestion; its mobility, its steadiness, its comfortablesize, its ample deck room, the large capacityof its storage tanks, its strength and sinewystiffness delighted us. With this, and with propitiouschances, we could follow leads, narrow andcrooked, mount the ice, and make of it a giant sled,to resume at an instant’s notice its natural homeand so circumvent all treacheries of ice or water,with protean ease sailing on each.

Lost in his admiration of his creation, as it roseand rocked in a low swell at the side of the whaler,Goritz stood on the shore and forgot his pricelesschronometer which, wrapped in a red flannel rag,he had for a moment placed on the sand. Therest of us were not far from him, but might havefailed to detect the imminent danger, when suddenlythe Professor clapping his hands together invigorous whacks, shouted,

“Antoine! Antoine! The goat, the goat; thechronom—”

The sentence remained incomplete. Like a flashGoritz had wheeled about, to see his hircine holiness,with insufferable assurance, pick up in histremulous lips the precious watch. If Goritzturned like lightning, his attack on the offender waseven a trifle quicker. He caught the beast by the86throat, determined to intercept the descent of thetimekeeper into the intricate passages of the god’sintestines. There was a struggle, the goat fallingover on its back and kicking with might and main,while Goritz inexorably tightened his constrictinggrip on the animal’s wind-pipe. There could bebut one of two results—a dead goat or the recoveredchronometer, and, of course, it was the latter.

The choking mascot, with an expiring effort,gagged, and shot the uninjured instrument, stillswathed in its red envelope, from his mouth. Thefallen god’s subjects were at hand also, a littlebewildered over their deity’s predicament. Whenthe reparation, on the part of the goat, was made,Goritz released him, kicked him, and the humiliatedtuna turned tail and incontinently bolted forthe nearest igloo, and—tell it not in Gath—theaffair was construed as a “good sign.”

It was the eve of the day appointed for our northwardadvance. Captain Coogan invited theofficers of another recently arrived whaler aboard,and spread a generous banquet for us, whichinvolved the last resources of his larder and pantry,and really seemed sumptuous. I think we all felta little overawed, or indeed a good deal so, by thetremendous exploit we were embarking on. Thatnight the midnight sun shone strangely along thehorizon upon the waste of northern ice, illimitable,roseate, inscrutable, the white cerement of a deadcontinent, and that dead continent the one wehoped to reach alive! Would we?

There were speeches, toasts, stories, impromptusongs (Goritz played well on a mandolin and sangsome courage-inspiring ballads of Scandinavia, andHopkins could “warble” as he called it, quitepleasingly) and we were wished “good luck” athousand times. Still we felt the restraint of anoverhanging mysterious fate, and all that Coogan87or Isaac Stanwix, or Bell Phillips, or Jack Spent, orthe newly arrived friends from Alaska, could contriveto express of cheer and encouragement—andthe verbal part of the contrivance was ratherlimited and monotonous—failed to dispel oursolemnity or the inner sense of serious misgiving.We laughed indeed when Hopkins told the storyof the goat, the chronometer and the goat’s abruptcontrition under Goritz’s forcible persuasion.Hopkins concluded that it reminded him of anincident “at home” narrated as follows in verse:

“There was a man named Joseph Cable

Who bought a goat just for his stable,

One day the goat, prone to dine,

Ate a red shirt right off the line.

“Then Cable to the goat did say:

‘Your time has come; you’ll die this day’

And took him to the railroad track,

And bound him there upon his back.

“The train then came; the whistle blew,

And the goat knew well his time was due;

But with a mighty shriek of pain

Coughed up the shirt and flagged the train.”

When all was over, and everyone had gone to bedor bunk, and dreams, I stole out alone on the deckof the “Astrum” and “thought it over.” The Arcticsilence weighed upon me like an ominous portent;the dusky sun rolling its flaming orb along thewestern horizon (it was two o’clock past midnight)sent shafts of bronzy light over the rubbled icefields that returned a twilight glow, and along thehorizon on either side of the sun, low down, burneda spectral conflagration. It was clear, the windblew, and chafing sounds, that may have beenroars from where they emanated, but came to me as88hoarse whispers, rose northward, as if spirits spoke.

I remembered how Oolah, the Eskimo, explainedPeary’s success in reaching the pole; he said “thedevil is asleep or having trouble with his wife, or weshould never have come back so easily.” I devoutlyprayed that domestic turmoil in the household ofhis satanic majesty might again prove distracting.

But to penetrate that vast icy solidity with anaphtha launch! It seemed like trying to breakone’s way through a glacier with an ice pick. Irecalled the fable of the Pied Piper when at the“mighty top” of Koppelberg Hill:

“A wondrous portal opened wide

As if a cavern were suddenly hollowed,”

and I remembered too, to a more practical purpose,that Amundsen navigated the tiny “Gjea,” a sailingsloop with a gasoline engine, from the Atlantic tothe Pacific.



On The Ice Pack

Our task was before us and it was to be enteredupon at once. Perhaps you are thinking that wewere hopelessly amateurish, inconsiderate, improvidentand foolish. BUT WE SUCCEEDED.Nor were we forgetful or ignorant. Everythinghad been read. The elaborate preparations forpolar exploration in the great expeditions had beenstudied. Two of us had been in the north before.The apparent simplicity of our outfit arose from apeculiar circumstance, and that was an imbeddedconviction, perhaps only in me shaken by recurrentfits of alarm, that Krocker Land was a reality, andthat it was habitable. And that meant life and living.

Then too we had fallen under a spell of imagination,we had become hopelessly enthralled in thevisions of a new order of things. It was as if wehad drunk draughts of some Medean drug that hadstolen away our common sense and immersed us ina flood of fantasies. I don’t think we confessedanything concretely to one another; we talked togetherabout Krocker Land just as men might talkabout some portion of the earth that they had neverseen, but which as a geographical certainty was onthe maps and was known to possess an unusual interest.Perhaps, after all, the Professor was responsiblefor the orientation of thought that madeus clairvoyant and credulous.

90Still our plans had been fixed with a dry precision,as those of other explorers had been, and our suppliescomprised just the things that stock the mostprosaic and methodically arranged scientific expeditions.We had our tins of pemmican, of biscuit, ofsugar, of coffee, condensed milk, our oil and our oilstoves. We were each provided with a rifle, a shotgunand ammunition. There were matches, hatchets,can openers, salt, needles and thread,bandages, quinine, astringents, liniments, sledgesand kayaks, dogs and harness, tents, furs, alcohol,rugs, snowshoes, pickaxes, saw-knives, kamiks,certainly more things than Nansen and Johannsenhad had when they left the “Fram” and scooted forthe pole over the paleocrystic sea; and we were notlooking for the pole, we were engaged in a trip to acontinent, most certainly impingeable, because itstretched over 90 or 100 degrees of longitude, and20 or 30 degrees of latitude.

And then—Ah, here our minds, irised, so tospeak, like cracked crystals, furnished us a journeyinto fairy land—once there, we were to be entertainedby wonders and comforts, then morewonders and comforts! Had we ever said that toeach other consciously in our waking moments, wewould have forlornly concluded that piblokto, theEskimo hysteria, had carried us into the seventhheaven of affectation and madness. No; it wasnot fairy land indeed, but something more marvelous,a miracle of realities that to recall even nowmakes my head spin with the vertigo of a confessedself-delusion. LISTEN!

We had staked everything on the naphthalaunch. As an invention it was ideal. Weexpected to drive it over the ice floes, and to sail itacross the leads. It would hold all we needed, andour team of dogs, forty or fifty in number, would beable to pull it over the ice. If it was too heavy in91the snows it could be lightened of its load on thesledges, or on the sledge teams which we expectedwould accompany it. The project appeared a littlecumbersome but safe. We had noticed the strikingabsence from the western polar sea of icebergs, andwe concluded that the sea north of Point Barrow,like the sea generally north of Cape Columbia orCape Sheridan was a frozen water, smooth or interruptedonly by the pressure ridges which scarredits surface with cyclopean walls of massed ice. Wehad indeed gone further in our inferences, andassumed that no mountainous elevations, with theirchasms, intervening valleys and gorges made up thecoasts of Krocker Land, for if they had, as in Greenlandor Grant Land or as usually in the easternarchipelago, the discharge of the ice streams thatfilled them would have produced icebergs. Or wasthe annual snowfall inadequate?

Certainly the spectacular processions of the icebergsevery spring and summer in the east wereabsent in the west. The conditions presentedseemed to be a convincing assurance that ournaphtha launch and ice boat, in its compositeadaptation to land or water, would successfullytraverse the flat ice sheet. Not indeed that itwould actually be a plane table, but the obstaclesof hummocks, piled up ice floes, ridges, moundsand walls could be circumvented, avoided, and thelaunch bodily driven over the pack. Such maneuversmight add much to the distance, but the resourceswere sufficient for a long journey, and, werewe made to feel that the launch offered insurmountabledifficulties, we would abandon it, increase theloads of our sledges with its distributed freight, andgo on.

The naphtha launch was a simple and interestingvessel. It was a long, narrow, strong wooden raftwith curving sides, and a broad, smooth sloping92bow, reinforced by steel binders, bolts and rivets,set on runners, with a short tiller, easily unshipped,and a peculiar slanting propeller which was simplyone rotating blade of alternating plates of wood andsteel, allowing a shifting attachment to the engine,so that its stem could be shortened or lengthened,or withdrawn altogether, and the propellerdisk sheathed in a pocket in the body of thevessel.

The upper works were a watertight box andnothing more, about six feet in height, made up oftwo skins, between which was packed asbestos,built strongly, with no doors or windows. A fewcovered eyelets allowed a poor sort of ventilationwhich could be improved by opening the manholeon top, through which entrance to the inside wasto be made. Through this manhole everything wecarried was introduced; the sledges and kayakswere placed on its roof. This box-cabin coveredthree-fourths of the length of the boat. The bowadmitted the socket and step for a mast and a smallsail. It had no beauty, no speed, but we believedit was adaptable to the vicissitudes of travel beforeus, because of its amphibious properties. If fairlycaught in an ice jam it would be crushed like apeanut shell, but it was intended to rise on the ice,and we expected to save it from the contingency ofany ice chancery by keeping it on open fields of ice.

The conditions before us welcomed this treatment,or at least we thought so. We could give ita load of two tons, which affords an equivalent ofone ton in traction force to haul, so that forty dogs,pulling fifty pounds each, would draw it, and thiswas a very lenient exaction. Circumstances vary,and the phases of Arctic mutability are almostincalculable, but once on the ice we anticipatedsuccess. The weak feature of our plan was thelate start. If nothing could be negotiated, in the93slang parlance of exploration, we would return toPoint Barrow and wait until later.

The long days invited us and the calculablechance of escaping the awful winter storms. Whatwe probably could not cross were the large pressureridges which are perhaps twenty feet high, a fourthof a mile in width, and which contain individualmasses of ice as big as a small house, all in a gallimaufryof confusion. But we would flank themsomehow; that was our purpose. The summermight give us good leads, winding, penetratinglanes of water drifting through labyrinthine coursesto the “promised land.” It was there, and it grewin our thoughts every day as more and more desirable.We did not care at what point we hit it.Four hundred miles ahead of us somewhere layterra firma, and the conception grew in magnitude,not as another Greenland buried under thousandsof feet of snow, a monstrous, appalling desert ofice scoured by hurricanes and chilled in death witha temperature half a hundred below zero. No! Byan incomprehensible infatuation (the Professor hadwarped our judgments by his indefatigable promises)we were convinced that Krocker Land containedthe resources of life.

Had not Peary at Independence Bay, on the verynorthern edge of Greenland, found flowers, grassand musk oxen? Had he not, when driving for thepole, “repeatedly passed fresh tracks of bear andhare together with numerous fox tracks”? Andthen those uncovered veins of gold seaming theprimal rocks, how they swam before our eyes inyellow reticulations over square miles of quartz!We had become decidedly crazy about it all, for,unexpressed, but cherished in our deepest heartswere fantastic hopes of some indescribable faunal,floral, human remnant, like Conan Doyle’s “LostWorld” or the Kosekin in De Mille’s “Strange MS94in a Copper Cylinder” in the Antarctic, and thatromantic and sufficing Paradise that Paine depictedin “The Great White Way,” or even the nightmaretrances and inventions, the megalithic splendorsand horrific glories of Atvatabar, or the mythiccreatures in Etidorhpa. And yet our extravaganciesof imagination were all finally obliterated, evento memory, in the grandeur and miracle of Reality.

In one respect we altered our first plan. Hopkinshad wished to have three Americans selectedto bring back our launch, and to pick us up againthe next summer. We changed that. We wouldnever come back, or if there were disappointments(“Inconceivable,” said the Professor) we would getback our own way unaided, and—

(Erickson looked at me solemnly, and his voicestruck a sepulchral tone that would have donecredit to Paris at the tomb of the Capulets.)

“And Mr. Link, I am the only one that did comeback. The Professor and Hopkins are in KrockerLand today; Goritz is dead.”

(He resumed his narration.)

Captain Coogan steamed over to the ice packwhich lay beyond the shore channels of open water,towing our launch, which certainly now seemed todwindle into an inconsiderable implement of insertionin that trackless ocean of ice. He pushed hisway through the “slob” ice, and jammed the noseof the “Astrum” upon the bulwarks of a great floe,whose uneven, rumpled and snow encumbered surfacereceded into a measureless distance, veiled,gray, dismal. We disembarked with the dogs,the launch came alongside, Goritz started theengine and she bucked the ice hopelessly. Thenwe windlassed her onto the pack, harnessed the dogsto her in five teams, one pack from the bow, twoamidships and two at the stern, and started.Goritz and I were good teamsters, and Hopkins95made a fair try at it, with promiscuous difficulties.The rudder and tiller were unshipped. Itlooked as if she would “go.” We did not make fiftyfeet in our trial, but the dogs certainly could pull hereasily on her bone runners. Then came the unloadingof our supplies from the steamer.

The day was most favorable, clear, cold and still.The wind with its usual aptitude for mischief inthese northern asylums of meteorological chaos, waswaiting to catch us later. We packed the supplies,sledges, two kayaks, guns, ammunition, stoves,oil, pemmican, and the assorted constituents of theregular provisioning of an Arctic expedition, intoand on the launch, which made a very original andunique picture. The Eskimos who came offshorewith the steamer and the dogs themselves seemedquite thoroughly perplexed, and doubtless entertainedunspoken and unfavorable opinions as to ourfinal success, and the dogs were perhaps dubious asto their own fate.

The closing hour of the day, scarcely separablenow from the night, with the sun always above thehorizon, found us ready. The dogs were ananxiety. We hoped to feed them on fresh meat ina large measure. Seals, the flipper, the bearded,and the hooded, were common. Goritz and I weregood hunters, and a better shot than Hopkins neverlived. Our formal relations and duties were prettyquickly arranged. Goritz was commander, withespecial charge of the dogs, Hopkins was engineer,I was steward, and the Professor combined, veryhappily, the services of cook and scientific observer.We started with one hundred dogs, double perhapsour actual needs, but the sometimes sudden andunaccountable mortality among these animalsjustified our precaution.

Then came the leave taking and, for the firsttime, an explicit avowal of our intentions, with96Krocker Land pictured as our destination, andalso with the renewed stipulation, enforced by asigned agreement and the additional security ofprepayment, that Coogan should return the followingyear and look for us. I have said we did notintend to return. We did not, but then that reservationwas a hidden, peculiarly communal feeling,unspoken and realized between ourselves, as apsychological dithyramb which we didn’t confess orparticularize, but which coerced us insensibly, as amission does a prophet, an ambition a conqueror,or a dream a poet. Externally our demeanor wasof the ordinary rational type. Coogan shouldcome back for us—OF COURSE.

It was picturesque and unprecedented, thatleave taking. The Arctic scene, the outlandish andpiled up “Pluto,” the waiting, serviceable dogs,alert and incredulous, the swarthy, grimy, wrinkled,heterogeneous natives, ourselves on one side of thepictorial composition, Coogan, Stanwix, Phillips,Spent on the other, with the crew in an amazementof disgust hanging over the steamer’s taffrail,perched in the rigging, or sauntering near us, andthat illimitable ice-packed sea, imperturbablyplotting our destruction. Hopkins delivered thevaledictory.

“My friends,” he said with a profound sweep ofhis cap, and a big obeisance that made the Eskimosshout with glee, “we’re off for parts unknown.You probably entertain a rather hopeful feelingthat we’ll never come back. May be. You nevercan tell. At this end of the earth the unusualusually happens. However, we’re not worrying.Not in the least. To miss the resumption of youracquaintance would distress us, and might hurtyour feelings, but it’s a case of taking what comes,and kicking don’t go up here. You’re all aware ofthat. No, you mustn’t put us in a class by ourselves.97We are just part of the bunch, that for thelast one hundred years or more has been leavingcards at the door of Our Lady of Snows, with anoccasional intimation on the part of her ladyshipthat the visitors were welcome, but generally witha bolted and barred entrance, and an upset of snow,ice, wind and zeros from the upper stories of herpalatial residence, that compelled an ingloriousdeparture, or left the gentlemen in question deadon the doorstep. Well, we’re ready to join theprevious company.

“Only I don’t think so. I’m not in the leastnutty—I hope you catch me—and there arescientific reasons—” Hopkins patted the back ofthe Professor—“scientific reasons for banking on asafe return, with the goods, for all of us. Whenthat happens, my friends, you’ll be very glad to seeus. Nothing will be too good for us, nothing toohandsome. The ordinary brand of explorer won’tbe in it with us, for if that kind gets back with hisclothes on, and the breath in his body, he gets inthe picture supplements, is put up for sale to thehighest bidder for receptions, cornerstone laying,and memorial exercises; he can put the wholecountry to sleep listening to his talk at one hundredper—minute!—and is never known to disappearfrom the public eye until he crosses the Styx onanother kind of expedition from which therecertainly is no ‘come back.’

“That won’t be our way. When next we reachNew York, and the land of the free and the home ofthe brave, our suit cases will be so full of boodle thatyou won’t be able to shut them with a steam compressor,and we can give you cross references to allthe original sources of all the gold that the worldever had or can have. The trusts won’t be in it,John Rockefeller will dwindle into invisibility, andthe bunko lords and potentates on the other side of98the big pond, always fishing for big money will justscramble to get in first to sell their junk crowns tous. JUST WAIT. If there’s an income tax onour return, we’ll undertake single handed to run thegovernment and, what’s more expensive, buy up thepoliticians. Fact, Captain Coogan; fact, MateStanwix; fact, Engineer Phillips; fact, Jack Spent;fact, all of you!” And Hopkins executed anotherinclusive gyration, “And now, Good-bye.”

I don’t think his audience took him in, or elsetheir previous convictions were only somewhatstrengthened by this nondescript allocution. TheProfessor smiled benignly. Goritz grunted approval,I felt queerly elated. Coogan came forward,hoped it would all turn out right, promisedto look for us next summer, told us to stack up allthe spare meat we could when the winter set in andshook hands. There was no more speech making;the rest came forward and shook hands too, as didall the Eskimos. Jack Spent, the carpenter, withhis spectacles on his nose, and his brushy whiskersstiffened out like a privet hedge, tried to sing a song,which by reason of its quavering falsetto broughthowls from the Nuwukmeun. Its import ran:

“Good Luck to you my trusty mates,

Good Luck and Fortune brave,

May God and all the kindly Fates

Your souls and bodies save.”

The groups turned back, the grave Eskimosclimbing in last, over the “Astrum’s” rail. Thesteamer backed out of the “porridge,” and we,impatient to be off, trimmed up the dogs, tightenedthe ropes over the pyramidal freight, and cheeringas we heard the parting whistles from the“Astrum,” soon hazily obscured in a rising eveningdusk, went northward over the great ice field beforeus.

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (6)


99The dogs were alert, the yacht-sledge went alongwell, the ice was sloppy but fairly smooth, and thefloe had apparently escaped the contusions, bumpsand collisions, which heap up these Arctic raftswith mounds, faults and pressure ridges, over whichour unusual equipage never could have made itsway. As it was, we at times traveled slowly enough,avoiding inequalities and dodging obstreperoushumps. Towards evening of that first daythe thermometer fell, an easterly wind came out ofthe sullen eastern sky, the snow flakes floatedthickly in the air, and the sun glared like a giganticruby in the west, across which scurried veils fromsnow banks, eclipsing and revealing it at inconstantintervals—an augury of a storm.

We camped; that is we unharnessed the dogs,who proceeded, accordingly to the conventionalstyle, immemorially recorded, to tie themselves upinto yelping snarls of fur and harness; we lit ourstove, partook of tea and pemmican, biscuit andmarmalade (Yes, Mr. Link, marmalade) and slippedinto protected nooks, amid the boxes on our diminutiveark. As the wind was rising we turned herlengthwise to the wind to prevent a capsize,wedged her forward and, under warning to jump tothe ice if anything happened—a generalized warningfor almost every sort of disturbance—tried tosleep.

It was a long time before dreams came to me, andwhen they did come they were unwelcome, for Iseemed to be helplessly struggling up an inclined plainof ice over which flowed a sheet of icy water. I wokewith a start. A roaring sound, almost stunning inits loudness, came through the snowladen air. Thesnowfall had increased and might have deadenedthe distant report had it not been for the hissingwind which brought the sound sharply to our ears,mingling it menacingly with its own sibilant fury.100Another and another! We all tumbled out on theice. The floe shook. We distinctly felt its tremorsunder our feet, and, as it were, subterranean crackingand splitting noises developed underneath us, asif the floe might break. It was an anxious moment.But the floe was some eight feet thick, aresistant mass that might easily, however, succumbto cleavage surfaces. The booming sound ceased,but a prolonged crushing and rattling followed.Goritz clapped his hands. It seemed an unaccountableexhibition of spirits.

“Well,” exclaimed Hopkins, “what do you makeof it?”

“The best thing for us. We’ve got anotherlength laid out for us on the straight track toKrocker Land. This floe probably ended off theresomewhere,” he pointed northeast, “and nowanother has struck it, crumpling the edges. We’renot making such progress as we thought. Thewhole sea is in motion, but pretty nearly due east,so that as long as we go forward the easting doesnot hold us back on the northing, or very little.”

“What do you say to breaking up camp now.Let’s see what’s happened,” suggested Hopkins.

“Certainly,” chimed in the Professor, “KrockerLand has a long coast of course. The nearer we getto it the greater likelihood of eddies, conflictingcurrents, flood tides and even favoring windsdriving us ashore. I’m for the advance.”

“And I,” I concurred. We dug out the dogs,who were not very deeply covered, fed them, hadtea and biscuit and some potted beef stew, andwere off. Goritz calculated we had covered eightmiles in northing, though our speculative wayaround obstacles had made the actual stretchspanned much longer.

Curiosity and suspense conflictingly urged us tomake haste. The snow died away with the wind,101and the sun, running its cartwheel course along thehorizon, again watched us from the east in a clearsky. It was a “gorgeous Arctic day.” The summerheat had not yet too strongly prevailed, and theair almost sparkled over the dazzling splendor ofthe ice, undulating where it was seen in spacessomewhat cleared of snow, or spread with the deepermine of the snow itself, which again, in rifts,drifts or circular heaps, reflected the sun like afirmament of pinpoint stars. The snow, melting,became compressed, and at length a duller lustrerelieved our eyes of the strain of the almost insupportablebrilliancy of the morning hours.

We had made sluggish headway, the wet snowclogging and detaining us; indeed we lightened theload on the yacht-sledge, and used the sledges andextra dogs to improve our progress. About noonwe saw the results of the night’s collision. Atoppling but not very high pressure ridge hadsoared upward between our floe and another, presumablylarger, for it had overtaken the one wewere on. On that floe we must ourselves continueour advance, for already to the north and west wesaw the broad leads of open water, indicated toGoritz’s experienced eyes by the dark “water blink”seen, as he told us, the day before.

But how to surmount the barrier of ice blocks?Goritz and Hopkins went forward to investigate,the Professor and myself watching the dogs whosesudden alternations of obedience and mutiny keptus perpetually active. Hopkins found a lessprominent section of the ridge, where the slantingand unevenly disposed blocks might be flattened toaid our progress, or be shattered into fragments,with dynamite. We adopted Peary’s expedient inshaking the “Roosevelt” free of ice at Lincoln Bay.Dynamite sticks attached to poles were stuckamong the blocks, and connected by wires to our102battery. Then we turned on the current. Theexplosion seemed to stop our hearts and breath, butif it did we were conscious enough to wonder at thefountain of splintered ice that rose like a geyser inthe air, shimmering too with ten thousand irisesagainst the sun, as it subsided with clatter andtinkling to the floe.

We had cleared our way and to our exultation theavenue opened showed us a wonderfully level andunencumbered field of ice. This obstruction mighthave been circumvented by taking to the water,but too late we realized the danger of being crushedin the battling floes that swirled together with thecurrent or were driven by the winds. It was aprudent measure to keep to the ice at present. Ourlaunch was flat, rounded and intended, like the“Fram,” to rise over the squeezing ice blocks. Butwould it? It seemed a trifle top-heavy, with itsvaried load. An upset would have been fatal; thedogs would be lost.

And now joy ruled, hope rose, the promise seemedgranted. Oh, the incurable madness of humandreams. A gleam of light betokens the full day;it may be only a ray from a lantern, or the quietbefore the storm gives assurance of eternal peace;it may be but the presage of the tempest.

We drove in triumph through the dismantledgateway, pierced by the convulsion of those yellowsticks of doom. Out on the white field, on whichperhaps only the wind had left its imprint, which noeye but that all-seeing orb of day had ever scanned,whose silence only the winds, the waves, the stormingice had ever broken, and which now, the firsttime since Eternity began its reign there, wasrudely assailed—we imagined it as an astonisheddeity—by yelping dogs and four hurrahing mortals!

The snow was deep and melting, but our dogs(Goritz had harnessed all the dogs and they were103still in good condition) dragged the strange bulk ofour ice-yacht with its rocking cargo at a toppingspeed. Exhilaration reigned, we were hilariouswith confidence. It was not long before Hopkins,in spite of the heavy trudging, indulged in somecharacteristic musical levity, and his baritone notesfinely contrasted with the silence of that void, inwhich we alone seemed sentient and animated.

It was a college reminder, and I just recall thatthe refrain had a most freakish incongruity:

“‘’Twas on the Arctic polar pack

I smoked my last cigar.’”

Well, the merriment did not last long. In aboutan hour we saw before us a rising hillside, the snowsloping up to an elevation of twenty feet or moreand having drifted in thick mounds above andbelow it. We halted. Goritz plunged forwardand struggled to the top of the eminence. Wenoticed him turning from side to side, leaning forward,looking backward too over our heads, trampingup and down like a dog on a lost scent. Thenhe waved his arms. We understood his summons.I watched the dogs, and Hopkins and the Professorran on, tumbling into the white heaps, apparentlyhitting slippery surfaces below, which sent themsprawling in a splutter of white dust. The threemen at length stood together and their gesticulationsmade black strokes against a white-gray sky.There was rain coming. I knew we had struck abreak; there was a bad hole ahead with a poorchance of getting over it. Slowly the threereturned, and it was Hopkins who gave the firstintimation of the difficulty.

“Mr. Erickson, we’ve been a little ‘previous’ inour expectations. I think perhaps that psalm ofjoy was a mistaken indulgence on my part, or elseI unconsciously hit the nail on the head and—our104last cigar will be smoked here and a few other lastthings may happen along with it. Go up and lookat the scenery.”

He motioned to the snowhill. I did not need theinvitation, I was already on my way, noticingGoritz’s gravity and the absence of the Professor’sstatic grin. And in the interval that may beallowed between my first step and my surmountingthe snow bank covering the topsy-turvy abattis ofice blocks, a paragraph of explanation may bewisely inserted.

Anyone familiar with experiences of Arcticvoyagers in this western Arctic sea, as for instancethe thrilling pages of DeLong’s diary in the disastrous“Jeannette” expedition, will recall the factof the broken condition of the polar pack in thesummer, and its hitherto almost invariably picturedconfusion of peaks, ridges and pits. Such a personwould question the truthfulness of the few previouspages and note incredulously the absence of anyremonstrance on the part of the “Astrum’s”officers at our foolhardy undertaking. There wasremonstrance enough however. We were told wecould not live in the broken, smashing, surging ice;that there was no even ice floor; that everythingwas uneasy, perilous, shifting, open; that we shouldwait until winter had solidified the mass, and then“just hike it north.”

And we knew pretty well ourselves just whateveryone else had seen and recorded. But we tookthe chance, and by a perfect miracle of opportunityfound there was, outside of Point Barrow a marvelousfield of ice suited for our progress. (The realword turned out to be occupancy.)

Well, I got to the top of the snow pile, and myheart beat a rapid retreat to my boots at the sightbefore me. Ice, ice, ice, but everywhere in blockssmiting each other, rolling, rocking, jamming, and105all together crying aloud in a jargon of groans,shivers, reports, grumbles, growls, like packs ofquarreling dogs or wolves. It was a disconcerting,discouraging spectacle, and it stretched endlesslyaway on every side. And in the middle distance,looming larger each instant, rose a floeberg thatcame on, shoving to the right and left the iceshards about it, resistlessly, as the steel prow of acruiser or battleship might sweep a flotilla of boatsand barges from the path of its imperious progress.

Its pinnacle blazed in the sun; its prow, a pointedice foot, pierced the obstacles before it with a rattlingdischarge of rending and splitting; thencame an ominous silence and the powerful ice ramrushed down upon us through softer or smallerparticles that brushed to each side in parting waves.A few minutes more and its collision with our floewould follow, and then—? I saw too quickly wecould make no headway in that hurly-burly of disorder,and then the thought flashed on me that inthe pathway of this rushing dreadnought of thenorth lay death and destruction.

I leaped down the pressure ridge and regainingmy feet at its base ran on shouting to the others,who were arrested by my sudden return, “Back!Back! Back!” waving to them to get away.Goritz understood, the rest followed him. Thedogs were wheeled round, the crack of the longwhips sounded in their ears, and the sting of thelash tingled on their backs. The lumbering“Pluto” swept in a half circle, and was shot alongthe trail we had just made towards the south.Perhaps we had gained a hundred yards, when thejolt came. It threw us on our faces and upset thedogs. It came with a queer, smothered roar thatsharpened into a long, rending shriek; the icebeneath shook with the blow, and then—parted!A seam opened below the “Pluto,” and water106spouting from underneath covered the rearwarddogs. The Professor and Hopkins were on theseparated section. They sprang forward, whileGoritz jumped to his feet in a flash, and played hiswhip like a demon on the dogs who seemed, to myeyes, tied up in its rapid convolutions.

The yacht-sledge crossed the chasm, and I, ashort distance behind, on the “calf” made by theimpact, pitched into the gap. I came up like a corkand instantly felt Hopkins’ hand in the neck of mycoat. He dragged me out and for the moment wewere safe.

But behind us ploughed on the devastator. Acloser view revealed a great hulk of ice blocksheaped up, up-ended pieces of the floeberg, perhapsforty feet high. It would strike us again, the shockof its first blow had allowed the strong current toturn its extension northward, and it was slowlyrevolving on a water pivot, and another face wasabout to deliver a second disrupting blow furtheralong. There were no councils held just then.We scampered out of danger at our best speed,leaping to the sides of the “Pluto” and helping topull with the dogs, all together, with a simultaneousinspiration. It worked well. We were slippingalong fast, thanks to the level surface, when BANG,and then bang again, and then a fierce rippingsound.

“A wallop on the slats, and a jolt under the chin.That rocks us,” exclaimed Hopkins spasmodically.

Goritz was keeping the air over the dogs bluewith imprecations and hot with the winnowinglashes of his whip. We were too late. Twenty ormore feet ahead a black jagged line suddenly ranover the ice, a million unseen hands seemed to haveseized the farther edge of the seam and pushed itopen with frightful speed. Deliberation wasimpossible, but there must be a decision of some107sort, “right off the bat,” as Hopkins would say. Itcame.

Goritz called back, “Shoot it! Loosen the dogs!All aboard!”

We cast off the loops from the cleats, alwaysintended for quick release, and prepared for embarkation.The word “prepared” does not fit, forit was preparation wound to the top-notch of precipitancy.Goritz turned the forward teams ofdogs and slowed the momentum of the boat-sledge.She slid on, however, and almost dumped into thelead that had been formed; a fortunate hump ofice blocked her and made her cargo of boxes and tinsrattle absurdly. It had a silly effect like the wailof a baby in a storm. I long remembered it. Gettingthe dogs stowed was troublesome. We hadseventy (thirty had been discarded and sent backwith Coogan) but pemmican pitched on the boathurried them aboard and kept them there. Thenwe pushed the boat overboard, holding her backwith boathooks. In another instant we were onher, too, and the little voyage towards the recedingice began—towards the larger mass, which webelieved to be still connected with the ice field wehad first traversed. That was a trifle, but it wasanother matter lifting her to the surface of the pack.We sloped the edge with picks, anchored a capstanon the ice, and by main strength hauled her on,putting in the dogs at the final pull. We fed thedogs, fed ourselves, and took time to think. AsGoritz remarked, “there was some room forthought.”

Our dilemma was this: Should we try to regainthe first floe cake, through the gateway we hadmade in the pressure ridge, or stay where we were?In any case the complete breakup of our platforminvolved sticking to the boat, trusting that shewould not be crushed and waiting for the colder108days when the cementation of the floes would begin,when we could push northward somehow over theice. A reconnaissance settled the question. Ourfirst floe had parted, the pressure ridge had disappeared;south of us, as all around us, was thetreacherous, shifting, pulverized ice pack (theparticles of the pulverization were often smallrafts). We drilled the ice and found it from fourto six feet thick, and took our position in the center.We were beleaguered; as with Marshal Bazaine itwas J’y suis, j’y reste, for each of us. A storm wasbrewing, the wind rose and, as Mikkelsen hasdescribed it, the ice floes “ducked and dipped andhacked at each other, crushing and being crushed.”

“As long as our island holds out we’re safe enough,and if some good leads develop we might strike thewater, and make off for another,” said Goritz.

“There’s no place like home,” said Hopkins.“Stick here. We’re drifting in the right direction.When we sight the metropolis of Krocker Land wecan hoist our colors and, if there are proper harborfacilities, come up the bay under full steam. Iguess the Professor understands the formalities ofthese upper regions. He can introduce us to themayor and the aldermen and get us the freedom ofthe city, and perhaps we can negotiate a commercialtreaty that will give the United States of Americathe monopoly of the ice crop. If we could get anattachment on these rory-borealises for the movies,it would be a mint.”

The Professor ignored these pleasantries. Healso believed our safest plan was to stay on the floeand drift at present. Game would turn up for thedogs—seal, walrus—and when we touched KrockerLand (persistent iteration had banished all doubtsnow of its reality) we would find bear.

“And really,” the Professor continued, “nothingcould be more favorable than our prospects at109present. We are drifting northwest; wind andtide are pushing us along on the right course.Krocker Land, my friends, is not one hundred milesaway. This coming storm will help amazingly,and I see no reason why we shouldn’t raise sail.”

The suggestion was overruled by Goritz. Thedanger of collisions was too great, and the headwaymight be faster than we could overcome if we werethreatened with one. The ice was getting softer;pools of water glistened all around us, and a badblow might break us up.

Watches were kept, and as the light lasted thefull twenty-four hours, we were not likely to besurprised by unsuspected invasions. The higherfloebergs were to be feared. Their bases, prolongedfar below, furnished push surfaces to the tide forperhaps hundreds of feet, and their mass suppliedmomentum. They were dangerous neighbors.And now the storm rose furiously around us.Except for our peril it was a spectacle we mighthave enjoyed. The Professor alone was absolutelyunconcerned, and his nonchalance calmed our ownapprehensions.

The clouds in strips and bulging banners werecarried high above us. Streamers they seemed,from the eastern sky where the high lying cirrusflakes, slowly expanding into shapeless patches,had already delivered their usual warning. Theseagain were soon blotted out in the onrushing scudall around us. A dull yellow light at first spreadits sickly tint over the ice field, and the sun,darkened and blurred, was soon utterly cloakedfrom view. The wind rose quickly, brushing closeto the surface of the ice, ushering in interminablestrife among the pitching blocks. They groundtogether, and the swell, started below them, kepttheir edges pounding, while a tumult of groans andcreaking noises like the smashing of heavy glass110raised an unceasing din, a din indeed that possessedsome of the elements of a wild, fascinating rhythm.The rain came in pelting downpours, whipped intohorizontal sheets by the blast, and then with asudden drop of temperature changed to blindingsnow flurries, that buried everything in white dust,and sometimes smote us with the sharpness ofmyriad-edged microscopic needles.

The water washed in long flows over the sides ofthe berg, and the berg itself rocked and shook,threatening to start our ice-yacht into motion, andto carry her and her precious cargo into the whirling,fighting ice about us. Fortunately it continuedto grow colder, and the snow, besides offeringus means of banking the yacht, stem, stern, andprow, and ramming her bowl-shaped sides with astiff embrace from which a jolt would hardly freeher, provided a bed for the poor dogs, who werefrantic with misery, howling and whining in disgust.

Our berg had shrunk considerably; it was only aremnant, an angle of the big field we had enteredwith such rejoicing, and we knew it was gettingsmaller. When the dogs had quieted, and we feltthat the launch was immovable, we crept into thebox-cabin and gratefully partook of hot tea, warmedpemmican, and biscuit, with cups of soup to “washit down.” It was a parnassian feast, and thoughwe were anxious, the snug refuge and the soul-stimulatinggrub brought us to the verge of exultation.Even the hard knocks that the packreceived attested to our progress, and if it heldtogether, and the blizzard lasted, we would win somemiles of our journey, almost without effort, and, asGoritz said, “it was just the sort of a blow to clearthe track.”

I certainly had fallen asleep. Pictures had risenlike projections on a screen, one after the other, inmy mind, one melting deliciously into its predecessors,111and all linked together by the memories ofhome. My mother, my sister and her two boysunder the pine tree by the side of the dreamingpond, holding in its reflexions the cloud-fleckedbosom of the blue sky, and the slanting cliff, thehillside graveyard, and the reversed boats mooredto the little dock, and then the dash of the phaetondown the road, the group waving their kerchiefs atme, and my own answering salute, the turn of theroad, the dark passage through the spruce forest,the cleared farmsides with the red houses, and theclustering friends along the filled fences, cheering,and then—a terrific bump—the phaeton hadsmashed against a stone, and—!

“Wake up, Erickson, all hands busy.”

It was Goritz’s voice bellowing in my ear, it washis hand, shaking me like a giant by the shoulder. Ileaped to my feet, dazed and, leaping to conclusionsas quickly, thought the ice had split our keel and wewere sinking. Everything was dark around me. Iheard Hopkins swearing over the oil lamps whichhad fallen to the floor and the Professor mumblingfurther away. And then came a curiously stifledboom.

“Well, what’s up?” I stuttered.

“The ice cake is breaking up. There—it goesagain,” groaned Goritz.

Another report, louder, keener, like a gun shot,was heard above the babel of noises that the wind,the waters now and the straining boat, not to speakof the cargo on the deck, rustled and scrapedthroughout its many joints and the crevices betweenthe boxes, promiscuously raised. There wasa pause, then came another report that made us alljump to the door; it seemed almost as if the launchwere cracking beneath our feet. It was a detonationdirectly below us. Outside the wailing, demoniacalstorm was raging. Our cargo, thanks to its112unbreakable anchorage to the deck, seemed safe,but on all sides of us was water, laden with iceblocks that beat trip-hammer blows against thesides of the launch. OUR DOGS WERE LOST!

No, not all. Ten had struggled from their confinementin the snow and had taken refuge on theboat. The rest, swallowed up in the sundering ofthe raft, had perished in the foaming sea. Theboat was tossing, and the waves would haveswamped us had not the watertight door of thecabin house been shut. She was drifting helplesslyamid the ice-strewn billows, whose retreating slopeswere sheeted white with a lather of foam. We wereholding onto anything convenient, and weredrenched, but finally Goritz and Hopkins found theirway somehow with the agility and tenacity of cats tothe stern, and shipped the rudder, and in a few moments—theyseemed hours—we were in line withthe wind, and racing before it, lifted and shot onwardby the waves that, luckily for us, were notdangerously crested, but were peaked hills of water,whose ebullitions were somewhat suppressed by themasses of ice distributed over them. We seemedlike playthings, and like playthings the giant of thedeep tossed us on, thus humorously willing to aid usto our destination if we could stand the treatment.

The storm would half subside and then, as ifmaddened at its clemency, would renew its violence.As Hopkins put it, “She certainly can come backgood and hearty, gets her second wind and takes aright hook, just as if nothing had happened. Butafter all it’s no raw deal. We’re covering groundfine, and not turning a hair to pay for it, providedwe can hold together. The insides of the weatherman are hard to fathom, and he has never beencredited with too big a supply of the milk of humankindness, but if he isn’t putting it over us hard witha goldbrick, it looks to me as if we might soon113expect to run up against the revenue cutter of theKrocker port. I suppose we can declare thesegoods as essential to life, liberty, and the pursuit ofhappiness, and beat the duty.”

It grew lighter on the third day, and the awfultumult lapsed suddenly into a peacefulness amazingand ideal. The temperature rose and the skiescleared, the sun was unclouded and intenselybrilliant for these latitudes, and, most glorious ofall, the ocean was clear of ice, only the green rollingwaves sweeping over the limitless distances, flatteningout against that magic circle where sky andwater meet, and where we half expected to see theemergent peaks of mountains.

And the next days were wonder days. The airwas even balmy; the sea, cleared of its litter of ice,invited us with green gleaming undulations totempt its mercies still farther. Our engine wasstarted, and the “Pluto,” albeit a little slowly,forged on, and later, aided by a sail that drew everywind that stirred, advanced over the ocean, witheven a flattering pretence to speed; her safenesshad been assumed at the start.

Except for the destruction of our dogs whom wehad already begun to admire and to cherish,nothing seemed wanting for our perfect peace ofmind except a little more confidence that thisunknown world, now rapidly approaching, wouldoffer us a decent foothold; that it would not be anice-buried continent, the asylum of all the terrorsof the north, awful in its solitude, remorseless in itsscorn, brutal in its revenge. Well, the Professorundertook to calm our doubts, and while he exertedhis culinary skill in the infinite variety of combinationsof soups, canned fruits, preserves, bread, cake,biscuits, candy, pemmican, wine, custards, pie andmacaroni, he expended a more valuable art in convincingus that we were indeed to discover a pleasant114country, and was not averse to beguiling us intoraptures over his fabulous pictures of its possibilities—“spinningyarns” and “pipe dreams,” Hopkinscontemptuously styled them.

“My friends,” said the Professor, sprinklingdried raisins into the yellow dough which wouldlater be transformed into a delectable cake, “thisKrocker Land has been the dream of ages.It is the ancient Eden, and it is preserved to us inthe records of prehistoric men who have retainedthe childhood stories of still more ancient peoples.Relatively it is a legend because no one has seen it.In reality it will establish the unity of tradition, asit ought,” and so on and on, with some new notionsof the oblateness of the earth’s form, and the factthat at the north we were some thirteen milesnearer the earth’s center, and then some more aboutthe unequal distribution of the interior fluid massesof rock, and the great probability that such unsolidifiedmagmas, radiating great heat, might occurin the boreal regions of the earth’s crust to producelocal warmth. But of course his great point wasthe depression idea. He harped incessantly on that.

“It looks to me,” said Hopkins as we sat roundour little mess table in the cabin, “that if the goingstays good, and the food lasts, we surely will getthere. Holes are, however, dangerous things, andAmericans don’t relish getting into them too deep.The grub question is important. We’ve stacks ofit just now, but this invincible habit of eating isgetting the best of it, and starvation is a mostinglorious death. Do you think, Professor, thatthis Krocker Land has got any live stock on it?”

The pained expression, of having been woundedin the house of a friend, that came over the Professor’sface, as he wiped his mouth and reluctantlypaused in his consumption of a ham sandwichwas very delightful.

115“In Krocker Land, Mr. Hopkins” this ceremonialgravity was met by a severe, deferential attentionon Hopkins’ part that was perfect—“we may expectto meet a concentrated reflexion of the palearcticand the neoarctic faunas. Along the coast therewill be whales, walrus, seal, bear, the shores will betenanted by the eider duck; and snipe, geese,ducks, ptarmigans, plover, will be found inland,with the reindeer, the fox, hare, and the musk ox,and—” here the Professor paused with a deliberationintended to impress us—“and I should not besurprised to meet with the American bald headedeagle.”

We all shouted, and the Professor hid his faceand his satisfaction in his sandwich. But Hopkinsaccepted the challenge unflinchingly:

“Good, Professor. If the American eagle is upthere, it certainly is God’s country, and a white mancan live in it!”



Krocker Land Rim

On the fourth day came another change, for inthese haunts of the snow gods and the ice gods theshadow of storm darkens quickly, and if thesedeities descend to earth they wrap themselvesthickly in shades and mists and white trailing togas,or else they just blow upon the earth their coldestbreath, killing all human life, lest they be seen ofmen. That strange Arctic hush, the misty lightover everything, that grayish white light caused bythe reflexion from the ice being cast high into theair against masses of vapor, that Nansen has described,encompassed us. A mist, a fog, rose later,or else descended, and Goritz said we were nearland, in which I concurred. Our excitement wasintense. Was the great revelation to be vouchsafed?

The fog of fogs grew, advancing upon us from thefour points of the compass, rising around us fromthe water like spectres, descending from the skies insoft, insensible folds, buried in the thickeningnebula, until, we could hardly see an arm’s length infront of the boat. Then a chill came with it, lightbreezes from the northwest (“From land,” saidGoritz) and then as if some resistance from the eastwas roused into action, another tempest gatheredthere, rushing ravenously upon us with a blindrage, with wrack and cloud, with rain and snow,117the last interference of the elements to destroy us,before the secret of the north was revealed—asenseless protest, for their madness only flung usswiftly forward to the forbidden coasts.

The “Pluto” plunged and rolled; her rounded,swollen bottom made her an easy prey to the ballotingwaves, and unless she could be kept in thewind her overturn seemed certain with ourselvesspilled into the distracted waters. It was hardto do this, hard to stick to her deck at all, whenevery now and then some vicious poke senther across, and we would cling like barnacles torope or rail or stanchion. The tiller was jerkedfrom Goritz’s hand and its arm dealt him a blowthat almost disabled him. I was pitched headlongon the forward deck and narrowly escaped rollingoverboard; some of the cargo aboveships slipped itsfastenings and was lost, threatening the dislocationof everything. This danger was too serious, andHopkins and I did our best to avert it, but do whatwe could or might, the load was crumbling awaybefore our eyes, loosened from its fastenings by thefierce storm. Box after box disappeared in thegloom. The dogs were hustled into the cabin,whence their howls and terrified whines issued likethe cries of lost souls. We were now pretty wellalarmed, and our predicament strongly resembledthe prelude to complete annihilation.

Suddenly the Professor shouted, “The ice—theice again!” and the next instant we were pinnedin a pack of formidable blocks that thunderedaround us, lodged on our deck, and beat into ruins,as the waves lurched or hurled them over us, thefrail battlement of boxes which contained oursupplies. My heart sank within me. EVERYTHINGGONE! Not quite. There was somethingleft in the cabin, but on that raging waste ofwaters—? The question stuck in my throat. In118that instant I seemed separated, sundered from allthe others, the concentrated agony of my terror—forterror black and paralyzing it was—robbed mealmost of consciousness. Almost as in a trance Iheard Hopkins cry, “Look! Look!”

Something happened. Actually it was ameteorological phenomenon brought about by theproximity of mountain masses perhaps; to mymind it seemed like the visible extension of thehand of God to pluck us from destruction. Aboveus appeared a bright spot that was wideningrapidly; the motion within it was apparent, andthe velocity of the atmospheric rotations within itmust have been almost incalculable. It was becominga monstrous orifice into which poured theabominable chaos that was overwhelming us; itsenormous vortex swallowed up the storm, transferredin its outrageous coursing from earth toheaven. The deity of Krocker Land favored ourapproach. He had rebuked, repelled, dissipatedthe tempest.

The scenic shock was really tremendous. Thedramatic intensity of the change, the startlingevolution from storm and darkness, blisteringwinds, soaked with snow and rain, the earth-drivenrolling clouds, black and gray, tossed overus and engulfing us in blankets of cold wetness thatsent shivering thrills of dread through our bodies,as the waves mounted and pounced on us likebeasts of ravin! And then this magnificent uplift!Oh, the calm, superhuman glory of it! The shattereddebris of the broken tornado vanishing aboveus, and—as its myriad shaped or distorted curtainsrose—the sunlit dark mountain peaks, thebare rocky crags, jeweled with snow, the ice-strewnbeaches of Krocker Land, evolving superbly beforeour eyes, as if created then, at that very moment,by the transfiguring finger of the Almighty.119Mr. Link, it was the most sublime spectacle imaginable;for me it was the climax of my life. I shallnever forget its wonder, its power, its amazingenforcement of the idea of creation.

I don’t think there was much difference betweenany of us in our feelings at that moment; its immensityappalled us in a way, and then it thrilled us.Temperamental details were submerged in the overpoweringsensation. At first perhaps we thoughtit an apparition, a mirage. It was unreal. Andthen when the realization was acknowledged, toput it bluntly, we gazed in stupid astonishment.We were about four miles away, when the visionbroke, standing on our deck, from which everyvestige of our supplies had been carried off by theruthless wind and water. I believe we stood thatway for a quarter of an hour, before we quite cameto our senses, with the waves and wind still drivingus headlong on that apocryphal beach. Then webegan to take notice and to take precautions.

The shore was partially encumbered with shoreice, and the lashing waves were throwing upon itother small and large fragments. The coast waslow, sandy, shelving, cut up by a few projecting andsand buried ridges of rock, which, like spurs, passedback into the interior, and may have been the outspreadroots of the looming ranges beyond andbehind them. Goritz managed to direct the launchupon a flat expanse of sand on which we landedwith a thud that made the timbers creak. I thinkthe Professor was the first to leap ashore, thenHopkins and myself, and at the last Goritz, withthe painter. The next wave drove the boat furtherup the beach. Nothing now could budge her.Somehow we looked then to Goritz for orders.

“Better get everything out, and take an accountof stock. This is good enough camping ground,until we get our bearings and perhaps a little120better hold on our wits. I hope the Professor’sfaunas are expecting us.”

This oblique hint to the loss of our provisionsdampened any ardor we might have succumbed to,in our enthusiasm over the discovery. We set towork with a will, and almost without a word.There were some welcome surprises. The dogswere safe, sound asleep in the cabin, exhausted bytheir fright. They became a solicitude, however,because of the additional mouths to fill, though, ina state of idleness, half rations would keep themwell. But would we need them? Our ammunitionand guns were safe, our oil and stove, alcohol,medical outfit, and six boxes of canned vegetables,pemmican, biscuit, tea, coffee, chocolate, in allperhaps three hundred pounds; and our spareclothing, for which we offered fervent thanks. Onesledge was saved from the wreck, and one bruisedand broken kayak. The portable tent was uninjured,and there remained a serviceable equipmentof cans and pots, though for that matter onecan for the preparation of our tea and coffee orchocolate, and one pot for miscellaneous stews,soups, and what Hopkins called “hari-kari,” wereall we needed. The watertight cabin had savedmuch.

When the review was finished, and we feltcheered over the immediate prospect, we drew upthe “Pluto” on the beach, anchored her, as well aswe could, and converted her into our camp. Wewere clamorously hungry and the dogs were raging.The Professor wasted no time, though just now theallowances were rigorously measured. It might bebetter when we caught sight of the Professor’s“concentrated reflexion of the palearctic and neoarcticfaunas.” At the moment a sublime solitudesurrounded us. Yet I had noticed high up on theshoulders of the rock and in the slight subsidences121that like saucers lay at their bases, the growth ofplants, and the quick eye of the Professor had notedit too. Surely that meant game. I guess we bothunderstood that, for the Professor worked over hisfires and vessels with a boyish profusion of activity,and was inclined to be lavish in his ingredients(Goritz, watchful and prudent, stopped him),while something like elation sprang up within meand an utterly inappropriate yearning to sing andlaugh and dance.

I remembered Mikkelsen’s and Iversen’s joywhen they descended from the cold monotony andwhiteness and treachery of the inland ice of Greenlandto the habitable earth with its flowers, and life,and warmth. With Mikkelsen too vegetation hadmeant animal life. They seemed inseparable correlates.In Greenland it had been pygmy willowtrees, six inches high, with trunks an inch thick, andblades of grass, and thick moss, and beautifulheather, and then—musk ox!

What it was here would be disclosed as soon asthe evening meal was finished. We had all beencuriously dumb since we had been thrown ashore,that is, there had been no reference made to ourwonderful landfall. Perhaps we were speechlessfrom sheer amazement, or some haunting dreadthat our return was impossible, or that we were onthe margin, as it were, of bigger marvels. I thinkthe latter feeling made us almost mute. Ourfancies before we left Point Barrow had been high-strungand the visions wrought in our minds werealmost mystical—I have explained that—but thesehad very completely vanished during the last daysof turmoil and disaster, when the wonders we expectedto encounter were more likely to have beenfound in another world than in this one. Yet yousee they really had not vanished, they had shrunksomewhat, retreating into invisibility in the122crevices and holes of the mind, and now when thestupendous reality confronted us they rushed outfrom hiding, huger than ever, smothering us intosilence with their immensity! A new World, whatmight not be in it? It was Hopkins who broke thetrance that imprisoned us.

“That transformation took the gilt off any lightning-changestunt I ever have seen and—Of course,Professor, there isn’t any guess coming that we’veARRIVED, that this is Krocker Land?” he saidsuddenly.

“Not the slightest,” answered the Professor,filling our cups with chocolate, and in a matter offact way that was final.

“We have absolutely reached a New Continent.Everything confirms that: Latitude, longitude,direction from Point Barrow, and the topography.It isn’t Wrangel or Herschel or Harold or Bennett,or any part of the Franz Josef Archipelago. Thatsplendid fringe of peaks hides inner valleys thatdecline into a central area of warmth, light andLife!”

I really think that we believed him. Theglorious extravagance of the prediction, its superbaudacity, its anomalous improbability subjugatedus totally, because our startled expectations wouldbe satisfied with little else. That was the psychologyof it. And Mr. Link, the Professor wasright. LISTEN!

Our position was on a flat, shelving coast, slowlyrising to foothills, beyond which gaunt bare precipicestowered apparently to uplands, from whichsoared the sharp serrations of a continuous cordillera.It made a noble picture. Snow covered thehigher elevations, it lay in drifts in the lower chasms,it formed a light covering on the tableland butfailed to approach nearer to the shore, which was aseries of sand or rubble flats, embedding low backs,123pointed mounds, and dikes of diabase. Only atone point was a glacier visible. To the north, almostat the limit of vision we could see the glitteringribbon high up in the mountains. The dayswere shortening, and although the sun remainedfor most of the time above the horizon, nightfallwas marked by its declination, when a peculiartawny golden glow filled the air. The mountainswere striped with light and shade, half roseate,half black as ink; the highlands were also in gloom,and between both the foothills made a beadedgirdle of whiteness like a necklace of giganticpearls on the dusky neck of an Ethiopian.

There was no question of turning back. Anunappeasable hunger for discovery filled us. Whatlay beyond those pearly pinnacles? WHAT?Our plans were quickly laid. There was call forexpedition, for the Arctic night was coming, andwhile sincerely, with three of us, some inexplicableprovision seemed imminent for its replacement,Antoine Goritz resisted our madness at that point,and told us that if this was a dead world, nothingbut the dogs would save us from death; ourretreat would have to be over the frozen polar sea.

The first step was to find game: Seal, walrus,bear, ox, hare, anything. We divided into twoskirmishing parties, Hopkins and I going to theright, Goritz and the Professor to the left. Thedogs were tethered, and fastened to the launch.The Professor and myself had already collectedsome of the plants. How radiant and beautifulthey seemed in that still untrodden asylum, thelittle green-leaved willows, a saxifrage, the yellowmountain poppy of Siberia (Papaver nudicaule),forget-me-nots, cloud berry, and in the boggyhollows cottongrass, spreading its wavy downcarpet, while here and there tiny forests of bluebellsswung their campanulate corollas! The cold pure124waters of the snows fed these alpine gardens, andwe even detected the hum of insects amid the variegatedpatches of delicious bloom. Game? “WellI should smile,” shouted Hopkins.

Hopkins and I, in splendid spirits, made our wayto the upland, a distance of some five miles, andthen through the snow, watching the slopes of thefoothills that made ideal pasturages for the muskox, if these “artiodactyls,” as the Professor ratherpompously spoke of them, were here at all. Wehad not gone far when up a ravine, where narrowmeadows and boulder strewn intervals conducted,between two steep hills, a cascading stream, breakingfrom the craggy cliffs beyond, Hopkins espieda little herd of four cows, two calves, and a bull.Were they musk oxen? The horns looked different.

Hopkins skipped in glee, and, with his usualrecourse to verse (preferably Lewis Carroll’s), hehoarsely whispered:

“‘What’s this? I pondered. Have I slept

Or can I have been drinking?

But soon a gentler feeling crept

Upon me, and I sat and wept

An hour or so like winking.’

“Erickson, my pop first. I’ll forego the tears.Stalk them up to windward.”

The animals had not noticed our vicinity, althoughgrazing and leisurely approaching us. Wefinally squatted behind a rock, and just a half hourlater, as they reached the edge of the mimic field wefired. Hopkins stretched out the bull; it sankmajestically to its knees, its head drooped, somethinglike a groan escaped its throat, and it fellsideways. I was not so fortunate, nor skillful. Iwounded one of the cows, but there was no attemptat escape. The herd pressed together, stamping alittle but almost motionless, as if paralyzed with125terror, or robbed of volition by curiosity. Hopkinslet fly again and my wounded cow glided to theground. My second shot was fatal, and anotherhelpless brute succumbed. Then as if stricken witha sudden consciousness of their danger, therest of the herd trotted off, spared further decimation.Our larder would be well replenished,and we both knew now, with an unshaken conviction,that we were in a land of plenty.

“We should worry!” sniffed Hopkins sententiously.When we reached our quarry I wasamazed to note the peculiar narrowness and elevationof the horns of the bull, and the dirty graymaculations on the black hair of the pelage.

“A new species, Spruce,” I exclaimed.

“Well then,” he replied, “here’s where the Professorrings up the curtain on the textbooks, and—SayAlfred!—as I had first blood, and bagged thebull, why not hand it out as Bos hopkinsi?”

“By all means,” I assented. When we got back,and we did not return empty handed we foundGoritz and the Professor. They looked a littledispirited but our report put such a pleasant aspecton things that they quickly recovered. They hadfound nothing, but that was due to the pertinacityof the Professor in carrying Goritz off on a tour ofinvestigation. They had crossed the tableland andhad threaded their way half across the foothills,until they met the frowning crags skirting the mountainterrain. These were seamed with waterfallspouring into some encircling canon below them,which again formed a channel for the escape of thegathered floods, but whither they went was undetermined.It was evident that the water of thestreams came from the melting snowbanks lingeringhigher up on the mountains, and that the regionwas one of very heavy precipitation.

Goritz insisted on bringing in the meat, and126indeed our mouths watered for a juicy steak. Thedogs were fed, and these insatiable beasts ravenouslydevoured the pieces we threw to them, untilGoritz, fearing their consequent lethargy, drovethem off half frantic, harnessed them, and accompaniedby me took the sledge to our depot; returnedwith the carcasses and skins and ushered ina memorable night, lit by the futile rivalry of sunand moon.

There was first our supper when the Captainpermitted a relaxation of his restriction, and theProfessor plunged into the resources of our slendercommissariat with a most reprehensible abandon.I believe we washed down our steak with Eulenthaler,a few bottles of which had still survived ourperils. Then there was the Professor’s ecstasyover the new species of Bos, for such it was, and hisdelighted acceptance of Hopkins’ patronymic forits technical name. And then—our Council ofWar; war on the Unknown, the Mysteries of thisnew land, the perils before us, and those that mightawait us beyond those slumbering virginal crests,from whose pinnacles even now the clustering geniiof the realm watched our intrusion with scorn andhatred!

Our debate was a little disputatious. Goritz wasquite immovably for returning that winter, executingas much of a littoral survey as we could, toreturn another season with an equipped expedition,trusting to get back to Barrow, with the dogs,sledge, kayak and launch, and with meat storesfrom the Bos hopkinsi. The Professor vehementlyand feverishly protested. Here we were on thebrink of world-convulsing wonders. To declinethe invitation so miraculously extended to us wasflying in the face of all recorded traditions of exploration.It was an ignominious flight from insignificantdangers. He knew that beyond that portentous127circle of peaks lay an inverted cone holdingwithin it warmth and civilization.

I think Goritz felt the appeal, but he was sagacious,a prudent man, and had no vaingloriousdesire to appropriate the forthcoming discoveries,which the Professor gloated over, for himself. Heshook his head energetically. Then Spruce Hopkins,who with myself had only interjected questionsand inquiring comments, and who with mewas fascinated by the Professor’s predictions andpromises, suggested a compromise.

“My friends, I’m sort o’ on the outside of thisargument, though I guess my skin will get as muchpunishment, either way, as any one of you. Can’tyou come to terms on this easy ground? Get upthere,” and he waved his hand towards the serenesplendid domes in their terrible beauty far above us,“and if the land goes down, as we might say hole-wise,we’ll stick, but if it goes straight, level, or up,why we’ll beat it home again. That’s sense Goritz,and I guess, Professor, it’s philosophy too.”

This jocularity relieved the tension superbly, andwhether Goritz and the Professor were quite clearas to how the provision should be interpreted,Goritz consented to make the attempt to reach “therim,” as the Professor called it.

The next days were days of anxious preparation.It was no child’s play scaling that natural fortress,and within its labyrinth of parapets, bastions,moats, and demi-lunes, ramparts and ditches whatunforeseen dangers lurked! Our chief concern wasour stores; the inroads made upon them by thestorm was serious, and the inconvenience of starvingon the “rim,” in sight of the promised land wasdisturbing. Our campaign would consist of makingcaches of meat on the uplands, taking our condensedfood, tea and coffee on our backs, makingforced marches to the summit, reconnoitering and128plunging on ahead, if unanimous in that, or elsetumbling back, and setting our faces homeward.Homeward—the word seemed a mockery in thatstrange and hidden corner of the earth.

Another thing happened, though not quiteunexpected. The wind had shifted to the west,bringing loose drifting ice and some hulking floebergs,and the squally twists, the livid streaks inthe sky, and the sun’s sepulchral pallor had indicatedsome rising uneasiness skyward. The changecame good and plenty later. The wind rose almostto a tornado, though there was no snow or rain, justa bitter cold searching wind. It smote the mountains.We could see the sky-rocketing volley ofsnow on their sides, and noted too that towardstheir tops there was no disturbance, indicating asemi-icy condition of the snow there, perhapsbetter, perhaps worse for going. And now in theturning of a hand the crowding ice packs were back.As far as we could see their humps and fields spreadeverlastingly, and the chorus of groans, wheezes,and queer hushing sounds that they all sent up wasastonishing.

Hopkins shot a bear, before the storm attainedits top-notch of fury, which brought much cheerfulnessto the camp. I never shall forget it. It wasfunny too; it might have been just as tragic. Heand I were off to the west, reconnoitering for apossible easier entrance to the “rim,” when Hopkinscaught my arm nervously, and pointed out over thegroaning packs, and said he saw something moving.I could not see it. We ventured out a little way onsome near shore ice and were behind a slight pressureridge, when a shockingly coarse growl issuedfrom the other side and a moment later a big polarbear surmounted the pile, and laying both its frontpaws on the blocks, over which its face rose, mostwhimsically recalled the emergence of a preacher in129high pulpit. We were pretty well taken aback, butHopkins slipped off his usual doggerel, sotto vocehowever—while the bear watched us critically—

“My only son was big and fine

And I was proud that he was mine,

He looked through eyes that were divine—

Indeed he was a BEAR.”

And then he raised his rifle and—Bruin wasn’tthere. We jumped up on the ridge, clambered tothe top and almost fell into his ursine majesty’sarms. He had ducked down on seeing the rifle buthadn’t budged from his position. It looked as if hehad met hunters before. Hopkins blazed away, andI followed. The splendid beast gurgled and fellbackward dead.

We had reached the foothills, crossed theuplands, made our caches of meat, stuffed the dogsand turned them loose—Goritz called it “burningour ships behind us”—and were creeping along theedge of the narrow deep chasm or canon whichcaught the waters from the cliffs, gathering them inan awful, tempestuous, writhing torrent, thatbecame almost maniacal in its agony where hiddenrocks stopped its course, or where it dropped intoblack abysses. We must cross that chasm, climbthe cliffs, before we could begin the ascent of themountains. The chasm was twenty or thirty feetwide, the cliffs rose above it, from our level, aboutone hundred feet, and below us they descended to thewater trough, one hundred feet more. The problemwas to reach the bottom of the chasm, bridgethe raging brace, and then work up the cliffs. Itlooked like a fly’s job. And what disclosures theroofs of the cliffs and the mountains beyond had wecould only guess. These difficulties had beenanticipated, in one way; we had strong wire rope, aflexible cable made of copper wire and skin.

130Crawling on hands and knees we were studyingthe sides of the chasm, and not infrequently Goritzwould suspend himself, held by the rest of us, overthe frightful gulf, to determine where we mightsafely enter this inferno, with a prospect of spanningthe seething, spouting, vociferous river, and ofscaling the black and jagged wall on the other side.Our search was unavailing. We had explored thebank for more than a mile. The delay was maddening.Suddenly the Professor, who had beensilent, and had been studying the black and redwalls opposite, with occasional long examinationseastward with the glass, exclaimed:

“We are making a mistake. Our course is upand to the back of the glacier. These cliffs aresedimentary; they lie on the eruptive crystallinesof the mountains; the river runs west; the glacierhas dammed its course eastward, where it shouldflow, following the dip of the slates and sandstones.It cuts the dip, and the glacier has crossed its pathand filled up this singular crevice, which is a faultrift.”

He looked triumphant; Goritz seized the suggestion.

“That’s right,” he shouted, “up the glacier andthen—we can use the dogs!”

We were soon back to the abandoned sledge;some of the dogs had followed us, the rest weresleeping off their debauch of raw bear’s meat. Weloaded the sledge with meat, from one of our caches,leaving the other intact, and with awakened hopestarted at a lively pace over the snow covered uplandsfor the distant ice-river. The going was notgood for the snow had drifted somewhat, and wassoft and mushy, but the dogs were in excellent condition,and they really seemed to understand thatthey had escaped desertion.

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (7)


In three hours the glacier was reached. It was131a more significant feature than we had supposed.Where it emerged from the mountain hollow it wasalmost obliterated from view by an immensemorainal accumulation which had choked up theriver, as the Professor guessed, forming a small lake,fed also, we discovered, by the underground watersflowing from the glacier itself. Over this morainewe made our way in a helter skelter manner becauseof its unevenness, the scattered rocks bulging upand intercepting our path with a perverse frequencythat drove Hopkins to improvisation:

“If I had a little dynamite

To put these pebbles out of sight,

I think I’d skip from pure delight

And say my prayers with all my might

As well I know is surely right.

But as it is they make me cuss

And put my temper in a fuss,

So if perdition is my share,

I owe it to this rocky lair.”

There was plenty of snow in places where the sunhad as yet failed to evict it, but everywhere meltingand warmth were encountered. The summer wasreigning, and the verdurous garb of green andcolored things was drawn like a veil over the ruggedgrounds, soothing them into a transient loveliness.We could see the rivulets from the snowbankscoursing everywhere, and could hear from theglacier the gurgle, rush, and tinkle too of hiddenrivers, while towards the coast, in the daytime, thesun revealed a shield of wide-spread waters wherethe floods from the melting ice poured over theshore, and cut long, wide lanes in the rapidlyvanishing shore ice.

When we had struggled to the glacier wall wefound it an almost imperceptible rise to its surface,and once there, our faces turned toward the ice-river132to gauge its character. It was badly crevassed,and although the snow sheeting it over hadbeen heavy, much had disappeared. Along thesides where the lateral moraine somewhat shieldedit the snow still remained, but the depressions traversingit, sometimes in herringbone fashion,showed the position of the masked depths, in whoseicy jaws our whole party, sledge and dogs mightreadily be entombed.

Goritz went first with the dog leader, then camemyself at the head of the team, with Hopkins andthe Professor on either side of the forebraces of thesledge. We were roped together, and the sledge—theonly survivor of its kind from the storm—washeavily loaded. We each carried about twentypounds of condensed food, ingeniously harnessedon our backs. It was an inconsiderable load andmight prove serviceable if the sledge vanished.

At first we advanced gingerly, bridging crevasseafter crevasse, but our confidence increased as thesnow flooring, although yielding, repeatedly proveditself adequate for our support. At one point thesledge smashed the weakened crust and threatenedto drag the dogs backward with it, as it hung almostvertically into a wide slit, forty or fifty feet deep,wherein the ice, to our eyes, was an aquamarinemass of jewels. Hopkins lashed the dogs and theyhauled the sledge back again on the snow.

We had reached a turn in the glacier’s track, anda patch of outrageous confusion. The whole surfaceseemed shattered, and serac-like monuments,poised all over, threatened us. We were constantlystartled by crashes, and we moved with alarmedcaution, for not only were the holes deep but theyopened into sluiceways of hurrying water quitecapable of sucking any unwary intruder into subterraneantunnels of ice. The dull plangor of thebeating currents arose to us with an ominous133warning. The dogs here became nervous and unmanageable.Again and again we bridged thechasms with the sledge, and crept one by one overthe improvised crossings, coaxing the dogs to follow.We now did not have the protection of thefriendly banks. Goritz had concluded to ascendthe mountainous ridge before us on the oppositeside of the glacier, where the glacier itself, like asmall “jokull” terminated, or began, in a neveloaded cirque.

To do this we were compelled to cross the glacier.After a good deal of dangerous work, with one ortwo nearly fatal mishaps, we attained the centraldome of the ice and found here an ideally fashionedspace for resting and feeding. The dogs wererestless or sullen from hunger, and we needed theencouragement of food ourselves. The worst limbof our trip remained.

But it was a beautiful picture on every side.The day was clear and warm, and, as we gazed farbelow at the ice-flecked ocean over the glacier’smarge, or upward into the rugged bowl, walledwith bold precipices, streaked ever and anon withspouting waterfalls, or higher still to those mute,imperishable peaks, guarding the secrets of thewonder-land towards which we were slowly,so slowly, moving, or lastly at the nearer edges ofland on either side, the constricted throat of theglacier serpent, bountifully sprinkled with a vermeilof audacious blossoms and tender grass, wefelt the thrill of our strange adventure keenly, andrejoiced in it. But a few minutes later our spiritswere harshly dashed, and despair almost broke ourhearts.

It was about two in the afternoon; everythingwas repacked and we had resumed our snail-likeprogress. The path, if it had been marked by a line,would have been revealed as a maze of loops,134necessitating countermarches and criss-crossings,but its widest indirection, after hours of work,showed that we were nearing our goal. Theflowers on the cliff beyond us were now almostindividually visible. They seemed like a lure toinvite us to hasten to their side, when a jolt andtug, that nearly knocked my legs from under me,and then a recoil that sent me sprawling amongthe dogs.

The rope had parted; I saw its end fly upward,even as I saw the tall form of Goritz with tossingarms sink from sight. My God! Goritz had falleninto a crevasse and—how the thought laceratedme!—they were deepest, widest, on this side!Hopkins and the Professor knew it almost asquickly as myself. We recovered ourselves, andran forward. Lying flat, on the rim of what hadbeen a snow bridged crevasse, and held in positionby the other two, I leaned out. Never shall I forgetthe horror of my feelings at that moment.Below me caught on an ice arm, which held himabove the seething ice water, still deeper down onthe floor of the gash, was Goritz, those splendideyes imploringly lifted to mine:

“Quick, Alfred—the rope!” I tore the rope fromaround me, noosed it, shouting all the time in a sortof delirium I think, “Hold on Antoine, you’re safe!Hold on! On! On!” And then, with a glance atHopkins and the Professor, whose faces werealmost whiter than the snow at our feet, was on mystomach again, the rope in my hand, and the nooselowered carefully to my friend. He lay on his sideon a shelf of ice; a movement and he would slipinto the tide below him. It was a critical moment,and yet only with the utmost precautionary slownessand delicacy of adjustment could the rescue beeffected. Goritz knew that, though it seemedincongruous to watch a man, prostrate, literally on135the brink of destruction, approach the measures ofsalvation with the deliberation with which onemight crack the shell of his breakfast egg. Slowly—theseconds seemed ages—he drew the loop to himself,caught one arm in it, thrust his head throughit, and was endeavoring to extricate his other armfrom its chancery beneath him, to engage it too inthe friendly loop, when—I heard the snap—theshelf broke away! I slammed backward, calledto the others to pull, jabbed my spiked shoes intothe ice, and held on. Goritz’s voice came thicklyfrom his imprisonment:

“Haul, Alfred!”

And haul it was; the weight seemed trebled. Iknew—the water was hauling too, but, before Goritzwent, it might, for all I cared, drag me to the samedoom. I guess Hopkins and the Professor felt thatway, too. It seemed nip and tuck. Were we all to bepulled into the frigid maelstrom, to be finally ejectedinto the Arctic sea in the rush of the sub-glacial river?Somehow thinking this way put steel into ourmuscles and defiance in my heart, and—we pulledAntoine Goritz back to life at least, and his receptionon the top of that glacier was as fervent, if alittle less boisterous and showy, as if he had beenmet by the king in an audience room at Copenhagen.He was drenched and cold, had a wrenched shoulderbut I took his place ahead now, and he dried offwith exercise, after the fashion of Arctic navigators.And a bowl of tea that the Professor bewitchedwith a little of our last bottle of whisky helpedmatters.

We had left the glacier; that icy track was farbelow us, and distance contracting and closing allits wicked seams revealed it as a blazing whiteribbon, negligently thrown over the shoulders ofthe still, black rocks. It looked well. Theaneroid registered 6000 feet. The snow was awful136in spots, and we rolled into holes unsuspectedlysaturated with water. Our snowshoes were indispensable,but the dogs were almost useless, flounderingand helpless in the drifts. Our dog meat wasrapidly diminishing, and, if the cruel dilemma mustcome, rather than to exhaust our supplies on themwe would be compelled to kill them.

We were pushing along what bore the appearanceof a col or pass between two majestic peaks,wrapped in ermine to their highest points, erminethat in the day glittered magnificently, rayed andstarred with innumerable irises, and that in thelesser illumination of the night was immobile anddead, a monstrous winding sheet over a dead world.

A terrifying snow storm held us up for two days.The air was so dense with the falling crystals thatwe felt encased. It was a singular sensation. TheProfessor, who had been incubating some ideas (wealways looked forward with expectancy to his firstutterance after a spell of prolonged silence),launched the amazing paradox, during this storm,and while we, in the most detached manner awaitedits conclusion in our snug tent, that we wereapproaching a warmer, snowless, and rainy zone.It was Hopkins who first recovered his powers ofutterance after this promulgation.

“Professor, as a sedative to the distracted mind,you’ve got everything else winded. And fornovelty, well, Barnum and Bailey’s best advertisercouldn’t begin to get the collocation of superlativesnecessary to give a hint of your surprising guesses.”

“It is not difficult to understand,” resumed theProfessor urbanely, with that calm manner ofshelving the unconventional Yankee which alwaysenraptured Hopkins; “the wind has been westerly,the excessive precipitation shows it was a moistwind, a wind heavily laden with suspended water,that moisture was dropped out as snow here, but137west of us it must have escaped expulsion. Why?Because it was not cold enough to condense it assnow. I think, though, it fell as rain. We shallsee.”

“And,” he added a moment later, “on my theoryof a polar depression that would be so.”

We went to sleep on that, and the depth of ourslumbers had some complimentary significance forthe Professor’s prediction.

After the storm, the sky failed to clear, and awind sprang up from the north that rapidly increasedin violence, hurling the snow in torrents,blinding, cutting us and foundering the wretcheddogs, who lay down in their tracks repeatedly, orsnarled up together in vicious fights. But Goritzwas inexorable. He insisted on pushing ahead.His reason was just. We were now near the turningpoint; we had surmounted KROCKER LANDRIM. Should we go on or turn back? If it was tobe back we had many things to think of, and notmuch time to waste, with our larder growingsmaller each day and the prospect of half-rationsahead. Goritz had a tender heart and I know hewanted to get the dogs back, too.

Luckily the snow furnished better going, thewind ceased, our hearts leaped again, and the sternsolemnity of that alpine land strangely elated us.At night now, the sun almost sank below the horizon,but its decline was the signal for the noiselessevocation of half lights and shadows, spectral tints,pale ghosts of mist curling over the endless desert ofsnow, a retinue of chiaroscuros that glided hither,thither, never quiet, yet never restless. And farsouth we thought we saw the crystal light of halfeclipsed auroras. It all entranced me. I oftenstole outside our tent to watch the voiceless dramaof the night, and often Goritz stood beside me.And now—poor fellow—”

138(The speaker paused in his story, a sob choked hisvoice; then it was over and he continued.)

The Professor was right; the snowdrifts thinnedaway to bare ground. It was warmer, at first someten degrees, then more, and the land descended.Had not Goritz lost? Should we not, according tothe protocol of our agreement, search the new land?Goritz was unconvinced and inclined to temporize.Yes, the land was lower, perhaps; it was warmer,but how did we know it would keep so; a smalldecline here might change into an ascent furtheraway; we were on a tableland, but another axisof elevation might arise from it, and remember inthese solitudes there was not much life, no game,and our stores would in ten days be exhausted, notcounting the dogs, some of whom must now besacrificed for the others.

This had the appearance of tergiversation. TheProfessor was vehement, I and Hopkins leaned inhis favor, but I think all of us would have succumbedto Goritz’s wish and certainly to hiscommand—the sweetest, bravest, most generoussoul I have ever known! At length, at Hopkins’suggestion, we compromised again on a reconnaissance.

It was a pivotal point. We were in a sandyplain, with much bare rock, and soily places nowgreenish with moss or lichen. The surprisingfeature was the sudden onsets of rain with the eastwinds. It was rather misty all the time, and thefogs made it abysmally cheerless. It was easy to seethat this excessive moisture formed the fathomlesssnows among the mountains we had ploughed over.

On the day of the reconnaissance we all separated.Goritz went north, the Professor, pertinacious in hisconvictions, went due west, with the aneroid,Hopkins and myself southward. Our reports wereto be made at the conference at night. We reassembled,139all except Goritz turning up at the tent atalmost the same time. Hopkins said that for stonebreaking, the country he had walked over was themost promising he had ever encountered. Hecouldn’t imagine a better place for a penalestablishment. A reservation like it alongsideof New York City would raise the moral standardof that city almost as high as anyone wouldlike to go. He thought perhaps we’d better turnback.

The Professor disheartedly admitted that theland after sinking rose abruptly, and that theremight be another axis of elevation—the Professorpronounced the technical observation with evidentdisgust. The fogs grew so dense it was impossibleto determine. He concluded dolefully that, asmuch had been accomplished, it might be well forself preservation to return.

I corroborated Hopkins, and also suggested areturn. We had been talking informally, sharingour observations, but their detailed presentationawaited Goritz’s presence. And where was he?We had been back an hour, and our hunger remonstratedbitterly against his tardiness. Still anotherhour passed, and nature refused to tolerate a furtherdeference to custom or respect. We ate our eveningrations—already they were being shortened—concludingto go out on a search for Goritz, if he didnot soon come in. Another hour hurried by, andyet no Goritz. We began to be alarmed, and yetthat seemed absurd. What harm could come to aman in that flat land? And to a man of Goritz’sstrength and resources? Hardly had we thusreassured ourselves when the tent flap was pushedaside, and there stood Antoine Goritz, with onehand behind his back.

His melodious voice was raised, his eyes shone,his frame seemed expanded with excitement, his140face was flushed, and the disengaged hand openedand shut convulsively.

“Gentlemen,” he said, “we shall go on. KrockerLand is inhabited, and—it is a LAND OF GOLD!”

He paused, stepped forward, and laid on oursoap-box table a broad belt of gold plates, engraved,and united by a gold buckle, beautifully embossed.



The Perpetual Nimbus

You probably might recall, Mr. Link, that wonderfulchapter in “Robinson Crusoe,” where Defoedescribes the feelings of his hero after he found thefootprints in the sand. I mention it here becauseI am amused at the memory of how different wereour emotions as Goritz showed us the gold belt.I turned last night to the pages of Defoe’s masterpieceand jotted down this appropriate quotation;it illustrates completely what I mean.

“I slept none that night: the farther I was from theoccasion of my fright, the greater my apprehensions were:which is something contrary to the nature of such things,and especially to the usual practice of all creatures in fear:but I was so embarrassed with my own frightful ideas ofthe thing, that I formed nothing but dismal imaginationsto myself, even though I was not a great way off from it.Sometimes I fancied it must be the Devil, and reasonjoined in with me upon this supposition; for how shouldany other thing in human shape come into the place?”

That gold belt to us we knew meant human occupationof this New Continent, and it was almostimpossible for us to control our violent joy over thediscovery. We were not worrying as to whetherit was the Devil or savages, and we felt sure we werenot the victims of illusion. Perhaps a little trepidationcrept in later, but for that moment we werebeside ourselves with happiness and wonder. Andyet we were at first silent, dumbfounded, bending142over the strange find in dazed delight, eager yet incredulous,lost in a bewilderment of anticipation.

The Professor had produced a small pocket glassand was nervously inspecting the plates, very muchto our annoyance, his ears and head seemingconstantly to be pushing our faces away. A lookof profound vindication appeared on his features,and I think we sympathized with his feelings andapplauded them. Goritz beamed benignantly,and I knew Hopkins was on the verge of a metricalquotation. But the Professor had the floor.

“Gentlemen,” he began, “this belt has no possiblerelation to any know human culture. The fabricatorsof this chef d’oeuvre—it’s such in every sense—haveprobably never existed outside of the eccentricdepression—the size of a small continent—intowhich we shall be privileged to descend.” TheProfessor bowed to Goritz, who was radiant fromhis approbation.

He continued: “The figures engraved on theseplates, the relievos on this buckle, are autochthonous”—Hopkinsemitted a low whistle. “They are,however, distinctly colubrine, reptilian, crotaline,lacertilian, poly-catabolic-arbori-animalistic. Theyindicate a serpent worship and a tree worship, andare reminiscent of the Fall; I may call it the recapitulativesurvival of myth.”

Hopkins’ whistle had been attempting someshriller ejaculations of surprise, but the verbalavalanche smothered it. It was a suffocatingmoment for all of us, and when Hopkins said,“Professor, with a cocktail on top of this I believeour cerebral intoxication would be complete,” theinterior danger of explosion increased almostbeyond control. But the Professor kept on, and alittle “plain stuff,” as Hopkins called it helped usout of our embarrassment.

“An animal like a crocodile or an alligator, in a143peculiar stage of evolution, approaching that of aserpent, is depicted here,” his finger touched thebuckle, “and everywhere else are variations of onetheme, the Serpent and the Tree. The people ofthis Navel of the World retain the traditions of ourreligion.”

After that we all became intensely interested inthe belt or girdle, but we withheld our comments.Our pretense was sincere enough. We were interested,so interested that it would have been impossiblefor any of us—the Professor alone was capableof such sublime detachment—to have slept a winkif we had tried to, but then our interest, in whichmingled the elixir of a fabulous Hope, succeedingdays and weeks of danger and uncertainty, wassatisfied at a lower stage of realization. With us itwas MEN and GOLD, and, scintillating back ofthese noble facts, was the speechless marveling ofthe world of letters, of science, at our recital, if everwe got back to those things.

I asked Goritz all about it when we were togetheroutside of the tent. It seems he had walked aboutthree miles from the camp, and was watching aflurry of wind tear up the water of a little pool,literally boring it all out in spray, when, as theaction was accomplished, he saw the glint of thegold. Another look and the belt was in his hand.He sat down to catch his breath, and to quiet thebeating of his heart, and then when he hadrecovered his composure, he had gone on, believingthat other trinkets might turn up, or that he mightencounter its makers, or anything in fact that mightexplain the treasure trove—but the search had beenunavailing.

“Well,” I said as he finished, “what do youthink? The Professor has some wild notions aboutit, but it looks to me as if the Professor has all alongsailed pretty close to the wind.”

144“Yes, Alfred,” he answered, “there’s a kernel oftruth in his talk. Of course I always thought so orI wouldn’t have come at all—And Alfred,” hissplendid eyes searched my own in that great way hehad, “I have had curious premonitions just now,as I walked back to the camp. We are comingupon incomprehensible things. We must go on,though we may cross starvation before we reachfood, and—the marvels beyond. The rations I knoware low, and I know too we’ve a bad way ahead—Mais,esperons.”

I would have said more but before us stoodHopkins. He was actually smoking—“to keepfrom going bug-house,” he explained, and then hemuttered:

“Send me to the Arctic regions, or illimitable azure.

On a scientific goosechase, with my Coxwell or my Glaisher.”

Camp was broken up the next morning. Wewere wild to get away. Before we started the dogswere fed the last of the bear meat, and we were allput on half rations; the demands on our strengthfor the work immediately before us would not begreat.

I also got a chance to see the belt better. It wasvery short and made up of plates hooked togetherwith a larger buckle. There was absolutely nometal but gold in it. The buckle was decoratedwith an impossible serpentine monster with legsand a snout-bearing head, indeed a thing very welldescribed by the Professor as a cross or mixture ofa huge snake and an alligator, and the plates wereengraved with hieratic markings that looked likepoles encircled by spiral lines.

“So,” I said to myself, “these are the reminiscentTree and the Serpent.”

145“Look to me like bean poles,” remarked Hopkins,who was looking over my shoulder.

On we went west. It seemed as if the abominablerocks and sand would never come to an end,the former sharp and knife-like, cutting our shoes,the latter whirling in blinding sheets against ourfaces, in spite of the almost constant fog, and eventhe occasional rain. The sledge was lightened andmoved as carefully as possible, but the obstaclescould not be avoided in the mist, and before theday was half over it was a wreck, so that its loadhad to be distributed among us. There was madeat once a concentration of everything indispensable,and the rest was abandoned. Our heavy packs didnot help our progress. The wind kept westerly.It was strong. We were astonished at the absenceof snow and at the moderate temperature. Thethermometer denoted 0° and 2°, Centigrade.These conditions seemed to bear out the Professor’sclaims, and the altitude was decreasing too. Thencame a desperately stony hollow, and the land rosesteadily until we were even higher than we hadbeen at the start. But there were no mountainsabout us, just a broad back of sloping rock, “a gigantic,intrusive, basaltic dike,” said the Professor,between gasps, as fog smote us with almost thesolidity of water.

We had made thirty miles, and nature and theday were united in protest against a longer drive.A yelp ahead, a shout from Goritz to “fall back,”showed some danger line in our vicinity. We hadnot stopped one instant too soon. One of the dogshad plunged over a precipice, and we were thenstanding on its crumbling edge. By one of thosesudden changes in nature which call to mind adivertissement in a scenic theatrical display, thefogbanks now drifted off and in the light of the lowwestern sun we looked out over a strange land.

146The barren and roughened ridge at last ended inthis inner line of the Krocker Land Rim. Itabruptly, like a palisade escarpment, fell off intodeclivities or occasional slopes made up of thetalus of its decomposition or dilapidation. Wegazed now on a singular barrenness of steeplyslanting land, ribbed with asperities like hogs’ backs,of parallel hills. Over this land, in the channelsthat they had made for themselves, someentrenched in precipitous valleys, rushed streamsfed by that continual precipitation which towardthe sea became snow, and inland away from acolder atmosphere fell in torrents of rain.

The scene was indescribable, not by reason ofvariety but of monotony of detail, and becausebeyond it, far along a horizon that may have beenfifty or more miles distant the most perplexingvaporous effects prevailed. What it might be itwas impossible to determine. There were constantmotions there, motions explosive and gradual, forwe could almost be sure that the cloudy masses wereprocessioning now measuredly in huge volume andthen disordered by internal rupture. We thoughtwe caught the flashes of electric storms.

The scene below us was most repellent. Thevicissitudes of cold and storm had ejected all semblanceof charm from those black, denuded rocks.Their asperities, which were pinnacles hundreds offeet high, were united by valleys bare to the eye,from our point of view, of all vegetation, the wholecombination slanting inward, and composing abroad, melanic sterility perhaps only paralleled onthe lifeless and crater-pitted plains of the moon.The violent tossing streams, many of them hiddenin defiles of erosion, alone imparted the sense ofanimation, and even this animation seemed ruthlessand destructive. It was utterly sullen, and whenit was not sullen, it was savage and threatening. It147was all so overwhelming that we simply stared atit, voiceless and despairing.

Hopkins broke the spell of our dismay: “Well,Professor, this certainly is not Paradise, but I’mwilling to believe that it’s the shell, the outside of it,and a pretty hard kind of a nut it makes. Can wecrack it?

That indeed was the question we all silentlyasked. Where would this wilderness of rocks andwaters lead us? Could we expect to find game orany sort of food in this tableland of sheer, stark,desolation? Our supplies were daily shrinking,and we had been a little wasteful too, deluded bythe false hope of soon securing succor. It was along way back to the cache on the tableland, and alonger one to the anchored launch on the sands ofthe coast, but how far was it ahead of us to life?At least behind there were bears and musk oxen,and seal and duck; did anything replace thembefore us? It made us pause; the risk of going onwas considerable.

Our council convened under rather straightenedcircumstances of confidence and hope. The dogswould be of no use in the marches before us, unlessindeed we threw them into the larder, and their upkeepwas an equivocal handicap, which might morethan offset their value as an aid to the commissariat.Goritz said we had forty pounds of provisions,about a pound a day for each man for tendays; and there were the guns and ammunition tobe carried too, the instruments and the stoves andoil. The tent outfit could be left behind; at apinch we might battle through without it. Battle,though, to WHAT? Ah! That was the question.Were we in a dead land? Was the gold belt a prehistoricrelic, having no relation to any living race,a token of past occupancy by a people who had fledfrom the fast contracting opportunities of life in this148Arctic inferno? It was a good illustration of thecaprice of human feelings, our total rejection of theconsiderations that a few days before had made usjubilant, boastful, careless; so quickly does theaverage man reflect the color of his surroundings.

Our position was dismal indeed. The inexplicablefogs settled around us, or, if the west windblew—and only for that brief interval when wecaught sight of the bewildering landscape below us,had it ceased to blow—drifted over us in endlesscloud-like masses. A precipice was before us, howmany more were beyond that? And then thereturn. The longer we thought over it, and turnedthe angles of possibility to inspection the morehopeless the prospect grew. But again the GoldBelt? A shining lure of the Demon of Death totempt us to a horrible doom. As Goritz ostentatiouslyshowed it to us it became loathsome, sinister,a delusive snare!

And this led to our great surprise. Goritz wishedto go on. He said so. This quiet, reserved,strong man handed back to the Professor his predictions,subscribed to with his own enthusiasticacceptance, and the Professor, pirouette-fashion,had wheeled around in a rather dogged scepticism.I think Hopkins and myself, out of puredread, favored the return. Goritz had alwaysresisted the quest. The gold bauble was “gettingin its fatal work,” whispered Hopkins.

Goritz put it this way: We couldn’t get back.The return trip would be far harder than to progressin our present course. We had no sledge. Everythingpointed to success if we could keep on. Theland beyond us indicated a great depression, thefogs rolling over us showed an approaching warmerarea; the glimpse that had been permitted us wasconclusive; once beyond that cloud zone and therealities, the living realities, would begin. This149gold belt (he held up the glittering charm that hadturned his head) was no relic, its engraving was toofresh, its outlines too sharp; it had been broughtwhere he had found it, it must have come from thewest, and the way, practicable for its formerwearers, was practicable for us.

“How about a balloon, an aeroplane, anythingthat flies?” suggested Hopkins. Antoine Goritzbecame scornful, his French blood often came tothe surface. He looked straight at Hopkins, and afrown clouded his face; it did not become him.

Parbleu vous etes fou, mon frère, que Je crois,

Avec de tels discours vous moquez-vous de moi?

Hopkins didn’t wince; it wasn’t his fashion.

“Well, Goritz, I’m game for the deal. Youcan’t put it over me with your parlez-vous. Butlisten, we’ll never agree on this stake. It’s up tothe little Goddess on the Wheel. What do yousay?” He tossed something in the air and shouted:

“Fair or Foul?”

“Fair,” called Goritz.

The shining object rattled among the stones; ithad a silvery lustre, and as the Yankee stooped andpicked it up, there was something strangely gravein his face.

“You win, Goritz,” he calmly said, as hepocketed the trinket, “and I’ll follow you till thecurtain drops.”

He rose and extended his hand; it was graspedcordially by the big Dane, the two men facing eachother at almost the same level, both beautiful typesof manhood.

“Mr. Link, the object that Spruce Hopkins flungupwards, and cast as the die of our destiny that dayis in my hand.” (He laid a flat silver medal on the150table between us. I picked it up; on one side wasa masterly execution of the face of a lovely woman;on the other was a sort of Satan.)

“Mr. Link,” resumed Erickson, “that woman isAngelica Sigurda Tabasco, and that man DiazIlario Aguadiente, the two interesting occupants ofNo. — east Fifty-eighth Street, from whose unpleasantsociety you freed me. Hopkins gave methat the last time I saw him alive. What he toldme then had something to do with the predicamentyou found me in.”

(Mr. Erickson again retired into his obviouslygloomy thoughts, which I did not attempt to disturb,and, on his emergence, continued his story.)

This impromptu solution won the day, and weprepared for the unknown transit over thatunknown territory of which we had had one fleetingglimpse, and which lay somewhere before us, in avast milkness of mist.

We concluded to take with us two dogs; therest—now three, one had gone mad (piblocto) andhad been shot—were killed, and a cannibalisticfeast offered to the survivors. The oil and stoveswere left behind; there might be enough fibre orwood for fire, at least we hoped so. Our packs weremade as light as possible. We were in a race, likeMikkelsen’s last lap, a Race against Hunger. Thesleeping-bags were discarded, the tent we carried ashort distance only. No grimmer or braver determinationever animated explorers; we were notrunning for safety, we were running away from it.The step taken, our spirits rose, the former fanciesswarmed upon us, and perhaps the gold belt againfloated before our vision, an omen and a guide.This imaginative sway of anticipation was needed,or else we could never have plucked up courage tomake the fateful start.

The beginning was symptomatic enough of our151coming dangers. To get over and down the precipiceon whose edge we stood was impossible withouta clearance of the besetting fogs, and fortunately,as if by invitation for us to retain our resolution, thefog lifted on the morning we started. We were onthe brink of a high columnar black wall, rising from200 feet or less to 600 feet or more, from the rockyfloor of the country beyond. We searched for somepathway for descent. Innumerable shelves andfootholds diversified the precipitous faces but theywere far apart, and often offered little more thanspace for a bird or a goat. Once down the firstvertical cliffs the gigantic heaps of talus leaningagainst their bases would afford us a practicablethough rough way to the bottom. And now wesaw with astonishment the obvious inclination ofthe farther land. It seemed an almost unbrokenhillside, coursed by streams and stream beds, furrowedby dry, stony valleys, cut by the low, serratedbacks of steep hills, the whole landscapeterminating in that distant medley of rolling clouds,streaming vapor banks barely discernible, except as,so it seemed, they were lit by flashes of light.Were we on the outer flanks of a continental lavabed, and was that cloud space beyond the lip of avast volcanic confusion? The question was notasked aloud, but its staggering terror made ustremble. Never, Mr. Link, did men more heroicallywalk into the shadows of the Valley of Deaththan did we.

The morning sun sent long shadows westward;the day was actually warm; a sudden brightnessencouraged us. If the food lasted! That was theterror that haunted us. Could it? At last Goritzdiscovered far northward a gorge or ravine reachingalmost to the top of the palisade. Down this wescrambled and found ourselves in the bed of a lowstream, which a day later became a swollen torrent,152so quickly did precipitation feed the rivers, and soenormous was its volume. This made our dailyprogress more dangerous. We were soaked andmiserable ourselves, but the protection to our foodwas imperfect, and that gave rise to serious doubtsas to whether it would last us ten days, the calculatedlimit before its exhaustion. The biscuit halfturned to dough and the drenched tea exuded intawny drops from our packs. This led to a readjustmentand each man carried his rations of teaand biscuit and chocolate underneath his coat.The pemmican, force meat, cabbage and beans aresafe enough on our backs.

It soon became necessary to desert the waterydefile which we had first entered; it became moreand more confined, the banks were literally stoneheaps, and after one or two perilous slips whichmight have accelerated our progress by dumping usinto the chasing flood we painfully climbed out overa high rocky ridge on the summit of which our sightwas cheered to find low, herbaceous growths. Herewe managed to extort a niggardly flame which wasassisted by oil Goritz alone had had the prudenceto add to his load, and our evening meal was eatenin some gratitude.

The rains, distressing as they were at intervals,when the downpour became most vehement, wereon the whole preferable to the fogs. They clearedthe air, and we could see our way, calculate interruptionsand avoid disaster. As we went on thevegetation increased in quantity, and often smiling—theyseemed smiling to our tired eyes althoughlit by no sunlight—patches around us in shelteredcorners afforded welcome though damp campinggrounds. Our clothes were torn by frequent falls,and our shoes are turning into tangled shreds. TheProfessor had sprained his wrist badly—he narrowlyescaped rolling down an embankment which153might have put him out of the running altogether—andGoritz is in pain. I know it by his limpinggait, and the twitches of suffering that cross hisface. Something is the matter with me too,fatigue and the insufficient or canned food istelling on me. My muscles are stiff and aching,the joints of my limbs red and swollen, and darkblue spots were showing on my skin. Is it scurvy?

It is the sixth day, and we believe we havemade seventy miles. The cloud zone is approaching;our prospect every day grows moreextraordinary, more terrifying; we encampbehind a shoulder of rock, on a low upland whichseparated two roaring rivers. The rain hadstopped and a colder atmosphere reveals the scene.The temperature is just above 2° Centigrade, theaneroid shows we had fallen two thousand feetsince we had left the Krocker Land Rim. We areimmobile, in a sort of stupor, yet fascinated by thespectacle. Hopkins alone remains cheerful andgarrulous.

“Professor,” he chatters, “the Rocky Road toDublin had nothing on this boulevard. Thegentleman who, by reason of a congenital failing,which was assisted by circumstances outside of hiscontrol, complained of the narrowness rather thanthe length of the street would be inclined to makesome severe reflections on this thoroughfare also.But we can be pretty sure the transformation takesplace the other side of the proscenium-showyonder.”

Poor Spruce Hopkins, he kept up his joviality forour benefit, but we didn’t care much and I don’tthink he did. We were starving; it was half apound now a day. But Goritz never wavered ahair, he urged us on, he promised food, rest, recreationeven, if we would persevere through the cloudcurtain.

154And now we were under it, cowering in dreadbefore the awfulness and magnitude of it. It rosein towering gushes of stream, belched forth from ahuge crack in the crust of the earth in which pouredthe full rivers that had accompanied our march.Those rivers entered recesses of the heated earth,and were returned in steam with detonations andearthquakes, so that

The frame and huge foundation of the earth

Shak’d like a coward.

Reviewing it now, as it was revealed to us laterupon examination and study, the physiography ofthe stupendous phenomenon we had reached wasthis. Some strain had cracked the crust of theearth in a long arcuate rift; it suggested the creviceand it was irregular in the same way, which is seenin the Almannaja in Iceland, but it was profoundlydeep, and the area communicated with the igneousinterior. The water that was continually condensedfrom the steam that poured upward fromthe huge fissure, as continually was returned, and,except for interruptions in the reciprocal exchangeproduced by meteorological conditions, such as cold,heat and varying winds, this curious equilibrationwas unbroken, had been for ages. The emergenceof the steam was irregular, though it was alwayscoming up at some points, and there was a synchronybetween points. We discovered later thatat very distant places from our position on thegreat circular break there was no steam. Therock beneath had become thoroughly cooled andcongealed, or the inner fires were absent, and thewater entering the chasm was lost within the crust,or else, deviously percolating laterally may havesubsequently contributed its supply to the activesteam geysers when it touched the heated surfaceswhich formed the sources of the latter’s energy.

155Therefore you may place this picture before yourmind, of a steam wall projected from a raggedlyedged, very broad earth rift, absorbed by theatmosphere, or condensed in clouds, and intermittentlyreturned to the earth in rain or if transferredby westerly winds, falling outside of theKrocker Land Rim in snow.

The explosions that rent and shattered thissteam veil, or shattered the cloud masses above us,were at first difficult to explain. It was after wehad penetrated and crossed the abyss that theProfessor suggested that they were due to a partialdecomposition of some part—a very, very smallpart—of the steam into the gases hydrogen andcarbonic oxide, where coal or carbonaceous depositsexisted at rare or higher heats, and that these explosivemixtures, retained somehow in the steam,undiffused, were fired by electric-lightning sparks.This theory never seemed scientific to me. Butthe fact of such disturbances remained, and it wasowing to the momentary glimpse a terrific shock ofthis kind permitted us across the void, that wepicked up daring enough to make the attempt tocross the horrid gap.

We were within perhaps five hundred feet of thespouting cauldron, where rain was constantlyfalling, crawling over rocks wet and slippery,astonished and half delighted at the luxuriantdevelopment of moss on the lips of pools or saucersof water, and noting a great rise in temperature,with that peculiar buried tumult of hissing, issuingfrom the earth, when this happened. There was aflash, a roar, and, as if a gigantic hand had partedthe dense curtain before us, our eyes crossed thegulf, and we saw a land of greenness and of light!

Stunned, half sick, hungry, with a gnawingwretchedness of desire, it almost seemed that wehad been duped by some illusion born of our weakness156and the deceptive play of the illuminated mist.Huddled together in a niche of the rocks that werein places dissected by cracks, that also dischargedtenuous lines of steam, we talked in whispers overthe marvelous apparition. Yes, we had all seen it.There could be no mistake, but Goritz had seenmore. Across the black, vomiting pit was a bridgeof rock! It might have been some remaining partition,holding its place against disintegration,spared in some way for our salvation from the destructiveagencies that had here ripped the crustasunder, or indeed it might have been built up fromsome later solidified eruption. Had he seen it?

Goritz was madly certain about that. Well,and if he had, could we use it? There are desperatestages in desperation that breed, Ajax-like, defianceof danger. The sudden realization of a world ofbeauty, a world of food, on the other side of thesteaming pit, nerved our poor flagging bodies, andsummoned an audacity of will to our minds! Itwas our last chance. Myths of the past in thatdelirious moment flocked back to my mind, whichpictured guarded paradises, defended gardens ofdelight, treasures watched by dragons, elysiumshedged with terrors, and always, always couragewon the prize, and passed the dangers. And yetthere must be caution; the old refrain sounded inmy ears, Be not too bold!

Goritz and Hopkins, the least impaired, reconnoiteredthe pass. They moved down some steppedledges and were lost to sight. In an hour or so theyreturned. Their faces were lighted with hopefulness.They both believed the path was negotiable,and they both agreed that there were periodic cessationsof the fiercer ebullitions from below. Itwas also discovered that we could not make ourway to the right or left for any considerable distance.We had trailed our way to an isthmus of land,157enclosed by two impassable streams, shooting inrugged wild channels. To think of crossing themwas sheer madness. Goritz and Hopkins hadactually advanced a little way on the bridge, strainingtheir eyes to catch some further intimations ofthe delectable country we now believed would beattained were we once over this inscrutable fissure.The daylight, when the sun was highest andeasterly, was now short, and in the mist-encumberedland, in the cloud-swept skies, thatlight was almost eclipsed. Everything contributedto our uncertainty and danger.

We made ready for the start. We consumedevery scrap of food, divested ourselves of unnecessaryouter clothing, which had already becomeinsufferably warm—kamiks, nanookis, kooletah—packedour ammunition on our breasts, reversedand strapped our guns on our backs (the Professoradded to his burden a pot and a fryingpan), tuckedaway our matches, chewed the last tea leaves ourcanister afforded, and with a few chocolate cakesin our pockets went down the steps,

“*** with a heart for any fate.

I was indeed sick; exertion pained me, and anauseating weariness threatened at moments torob me of consciousness. The two poor dogs whichhad escaped the extremity of our needs, less throughmercy than through revulsion, were turned loose.Yet as we went down the ledges to the brink, I sawthem chasing us. Goritz roped us together again,gave a few orders as to signals, and ordered thedescent.

We went a tatons, literally on all fours; Goritzfirst, then the Professor, then myself, then Hopkins.As we drew near to the ominous edge, and felt ourway over the first steps of the stony crossing itrequired all my strength of will to draw my legs158after my groping hands. At first it presented atolerable pathway, flat, narrow, but sloping dangerouslyto either side, slippery from the constantrain that fell from the saturated air. We silentlypushed on, Goritz by agreement stopping everythirty counts (seconds), and resting five. Graduallythe path contracted and, in about thirty feet,became a sharp backbone over whose sides our legsdangled in the constantly steaming vault. It waswarm and almost stifling at intervals and then camerelief in the shape of whirling gusts of wind, whichhowever were disconcerting, and made our precariousbalance still more uncertain.

We had probably proceeded fifty feet in all, whena blackness shot through with red darts came beforemy eyes; I reeled slightly and dropped forward,instinctively clutching the wet rock and jerking therope that bound me to the Professor. The Professorin turn pulled on Goritz, and our thin linehalted. It was arduous work for the Professor,whose wrist was still aching.

A detonation thundered far away below us. Thespasm passed; I pulled the rope, the Professorpassed the signal, and we resumed our insect-likeprogress. Singular that, as I moved again, thethought of Dante and Virgil crossing the bridgeover the tenth circle, as illustrated by Dore, rosedistinctly, clear, indubitable, in front of me. Iteven seemed possible for me to define the paginationof the leaf I actually saw. This strange resuscitatedimpression kept me conscious.

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (8)


On, on; the arete remained unchanged; ourprogress was encouraging; I seemed cognizant of adeeper gloom; it was the opposite wall. We hadreached it. Alas! It rose above our heads andmust be scaled! Goritz pulled the rope, the signalran through the file and we halted again. Thepath broadened now, as at its eastern end, and our159legs were relieved from the irksome straddle theyhad been subjected to. It was a welcome pause tome. I knew that the last scrap of effort I wascapable of was needed now, if some vertical wetwall was to be surmounted in that almost impenetrableblackness.

In about fifteen minutes the tug came again, andwe knew Goritz had solved some problem of theascent confronting us. I heard him calling back,and the Professor answering. Then I found myselfin this situation; on a fairly wide platform againsta broken wall and up it I heard the scratching exertionof the Professor as he seemed to be bodilypulled up the ragged face. The constantly fallingrain had ceased. But as the Professor rose, I felthe was no longer attached to me. I drew in therope before me and came to its loose end. Wewere separated! Aghast, I was unable to speak,but my outstretched arms encountered Hopkins.

“Hopkins, Hopkins,” I hoarsely whispered, “therope has parted. We are alone!”

“Don’t worry,” replied that extraordinary man,“we couldn’t be lonelier than we have been. Thissolitude is the most unbroken bit of isolation I everwalked into. Of course we’re separated. Thisinteresting masonry we’ve struck isn’t very wellconstructed. It isn’t plumb. It hangs out aleetle above. Goritz found it out, uncoiled himself,got to the top, told the Professor to drop you andme, and is now engaged in hoisting that scientificencyclopedia up to bliss and safety. We won’tstay dropped long. We’re to go the same way, andreally, admirably adapted for concealment of anescaped felon as is this retreat, honest men couldafford to dispense with its protection.”

I sometimes thought that when Hopkins talkedthis way on the verge of destruction he was a littledemented from fear. Perhaps I wronged him.

160“But say, Erickson, you’re not well, old fellow.”

I had fallen against him; another surge of giddinessand harsh pains lacerating my joints had overcomeme. Then I was struck by a rope end; ithad descended from above. Understanding it allnow, and clutching at the hope of deliverance fromthe terrors around us, I roused myself.

I heard the voice of Goritz shouting, “Tie up.”And then Hopkins replying, “All right! Alfred is alittle out of sorts. He can’t help you much.When I say, pull together.”

Hopkins unloosed our connection, firmly fastenedme to the rope and, indicating my upward course,telling me to “brace up,” and that it was the lastlap, pushed me up a declivity bristling with sharpprojections. For the first time I saw a dim lightfiltering from above. I did not attempt to lookupward. The pull came, and I scrambled weaklyforward. Again the dark, red-riven cloud overwhelmedme, my limbs seemed disjointed; a pictureof home, I thought, filled my eyes; a blow onmy head, then a vast detachment as if I were fallingthrough space succeeded, and I lost consciousness.

And when I awoke! Ah! Mr. Link I have sinceoften believed that our first glimpse of heaven maybe like the vision of loveliness that surrounded mewhen slowly my eyes took on their functions, andmy head cleared, and rational observation againbegan. My pains, too, had for the instant subsided.I felt almost disembodied, as if indeed insome spiritual trance I had reached the other sideof death.

I was lying in deep grass on a hillside, bathed inlight; my friends around me—No, Hopkins wasnot there. I noted that. Backward the steamingwall of vapor was lit with a soft radiance, and resembledan ever-changing cloud land. Above, thesky was clear and blue; the distance was a revelation161of beauty, ponds and lakes separated by lowhills, whose summits held coppices of trees andshrubs, sparkled and shone in far flung chains andgroups, and below, in a softly radiant vale, theslim, long outline of a little lakelet, embosomed intall, waving reeds or grasses, like some titanic jewel,gleamed, crystalline and keen.

Ducks were swimming on its surface, and skimmingwith beating wings its tiny waves. Heronsor cranes were wading in the sedges on its shores,and a stirring and noisy aquatic bird life everywhereabout it, made it vocal and animated. Faraway a strange, soft light burned in the heaven, andfor a moment it seemed as if another sun had replacedthe diurnal traveler of the skies.



The Crocodilo-Python

But nature reasserted its importunities, andhunger gnawed my vitals. In a chapter of AdmiralPeary’s book, “Over the Great Ice,” is a thrillingepisode which describes his own and Astrum’s,hunger before they slew the musk ox near IndependenceBay, Greenland, and the ferocity, almost,with which they feasted on the raw meat. I oncethought that the story had been given a halftheatrical exaggeration. Now I know it wastruthful enough. My companions were also weakand prostrated. I now saw clearly their thin,pinched features, the natureless stare of their eyes,the flaccid, hopeless flutter of their hands. I hadnot realized how near we had been to dropping deadin our tracks.

There was a shot—another, then—another.“God be thanked,” muttered Goritz, and the Professormechanically rose to his unsteady feet, andshaded his eyes, looking down the hillside.

“He’s coming, and his hands are full,” at lengthhe said, and sank to the ground.

It seemed an eternity before the tall figure of theYankee brushed through the grass, and flung thedead bodies of three wild geese among us.

Few or none who have not known the extremity ofhunger can understand how, as Mikkelsen expressesit, “one’s whole consciousness becomes concentrated163into one importunate demand for food—food—food.”And do you remember, if you read it,how Mikkelsen and Iversen set up the tins of thecache at Schnauder’s Island in a row, to feast theireyes on them, and then, after all, came that“feverish race with death—the grim death ofhunger”?

Our state was not as desperate, but perhaps wewere not such hardened and strong men. It wasnot long before a fire made of branches and twigsand grass was burning merrily, and though therewas nothing but water to drink, and there were nocondiments—no salt or pepper, no bread or biscuits,we devoured the fried duck with a rapture no wordscan properly do justice to. It was not enough.Hopkins must go again and again. But the larderfurnished us in these new, hospitable surroundingswas inexhaustible. We wondered whether thesound of a gunshot had ever been heard here; thebirds were simply curious, not frightened, and onlyinterrupted their play or avocation with a momentaryand short flight.

We moved forward from our first resting placeand encamped under the leafy covering of a beautiful,narrow, silver-leaved tree, that the Professortold us was a relative of that ornament of parks andpleasure grounds in Europe and America, theAnastatica syriachum. We called our camp Restoration.Hopkins suggested Emptiness as a name,for several reasons, because of our unappeasableappetites and because in it, besides ourselves, ourguns, a few cooking vessels (to be exact, just a potand a fryingpan) the rope we carried, and our fewinstruments, our ammunition and our matches,there were none of the appurtenances that areassociated with the name of camp. But the nameRestoration pleased us better, for here were wefilled with a wonderful animation of expectancy,164here our strength had been fully restored, here wehad become joyful beyond estimation, the Professorhad resumed his alacrity of mind, and once morewe all embarked on the sea of fabulous imagining.It was altogether wonderful. Where were we?What was the meaning of this temperate charm ofclimate? Whence came this broad illuminationwhen the sun had set?

The first moments of our mere animal restorationpassed, then a delicious weariness overcame us as wesurrendered to the mirthful spirit of surprise andadmiration, and to the curative properties of friedor boiled duck. Around us stretched a magnificentcountry, which bore the aspect of the sylvan lonelinessof the lakeland of Minnesota and Wisconsinand Canada, though more undulating or hilly. Thewall of steam and cloud behind us, occasionallyglowing dully with the flame of its intermittentexplosions, extended north and south, or was lostin the pearly exhalations of the distance.

It formed an inexhaustible source of rain, for, asthe east winds prevailed, the mists swept over thisaquitanian land in showers, or, if the west wind, itwas rolled away in thunderous glory to deluge thatsteep, barren zone we had descended, from KrockerLand Rim, and, beyond the Rim, it fell again insnow. The Professor, boastful now, and Goritzcalmly exultant, arranged the fortunes we wereabout to meet in pleasing colors. To listen tothem as Hopkins and I lay on our backs in thefragrant grass, starred with white and blue blossoms,was like the recital of a fairy story, a legendof miracles and marvels.

The Professor took up the strain in this wise:

“Here is the most wonderful illustration of PerpetualMotion. The precipitation of the ArcticSea falls on this land in rain, outside of it in snow.The rain flows down the rivers of the arid slope165under Krocker Land Rim, is emptied into theheated or inflamed bowels of the earth, uncoveredby the huge meridional crevice, and returned assteam to be again thrown down, evaporated andreprecipitated in an endless chain of suprememagnitude.

“And, gentlemen, we have entered the polardepression of which you were so scornfully incredulous.We have already fallen two thousand feetbelow the mean level of the earth. This is a temperateregion, with symptoms of subtropical or evenperhaps tropical life I believe we shall discover aseries of successive gigantic steps, each a recessionwithin the crust of the earth, like continentalamphitheatrical terraces, and at the Center—”

“What?” gurgled Hopkins.

“Ah! Mr. Hopkins, what indeed.”

But before the Professor could frame his answerto the question, Goritz, whose reticence had nowsuccumbed to the wonders of our experience hadseized the thread of the lecture. He would outdothe Professor in prophecies, with a merry fling orsoaring of imagination that made that cheerfulscientist dubious or irritated. I think he ratherresented this unexpected, half satirical participationin the monopoly of his professional vaticinations.

“I’ll tell you what, Hopkins,” would continueGoritz smilingly, with a musical intonation thataccorded with the serenity of our surroundings, “itwill be a City of Gold—houses of gold, goldenchariots, golden furniture. We can break off thelegs and arms of the chairs and tables, knock downthe doors, rip up the flagging, and put up a stackof gold bric-a-brac that will keep us forever.We’ll go back, bring in the engineers, bridge thatgulf, and railroad the metropolis to the shore, shipthe whole thing to America and then—(by this166time Hopkins would be pummeling me “to sit upand take notice”) we’ll come back, seize the minesand fetch the Millenium back to the world; nomore poor, no begging, no charities, just universalpeace and happiness!”

“May be,” Hopkins would grunt as he knockedme flat again, and fell himself face forward to theground, “may be, but Pujo and the DemocraticCongress will catch you, if you don’t watch out.Why my dear, unsophisticated friend, if you gaveit away, and let people know you had a claim on theoriginal, inexhaustible goldbrick of the Universe,the crowd up here would tilt the earth over, and setit rolling the wrong way. And then—WHAT?”

So we often joked and laughed together in thehalcyon days that restored our strength and health.But the fit of mere whimsical jubilation soon cameto an end. Our exploits were only begun, andalready two serious wonders attracted our attentionand brought us in contact with an amazing phenomenon.The first was the unbroken illumination,the measureless day! The sun itself hardly raisedits red disk above the horizon now. We knew thatthe six months’ night was fast approaching, outsideof this enchanted bowl, and yet within its magiccircle the light remained, and there were no alternationsof day and night. A varying light indeed, asthere were clear or cloudy skies, but still the sensible,broad day. What did this mean? Whatanomaly of natural philosophy, of physics, ofastronomy, could be invoked to explain this aberration?

And the second was the Sleep of Vegetation.The trees went to sleep, the flowers too. Theleaves of the trees turned upward, and clasped thetwigs and branches, exposing their dull brownunder surfaces only, and the sepals and petals ofthe flowers did the same. Shielded behind the167impervious dark film of the thickened integument,the green upper surfaces remained as it wereclosed; a voluntary recuperation that was novelenough. The Professor was enraptured, and hediscovered that the breathing pores (stomata),usually in plants on the under side of the leaf, werehere above, that too there was no prevalent custom,so to speak, among the plants, in their“going to sleep.” One plant would be thus sleepingalongside of a wide-awake neighbor. But hedid note a kind of periodicity, in opening andclosing, as Pfeffer has done in plants keptconstantly in the dark. And it seemed to all of usthat the colors were both paler and deeper; deeperin the reds and purples, paler in the greens andyellows.

But that artificial sun that towards the westillumined the zenith, an endless fixed lamp set in thesky, immovable above the earth? What was that?Towards it we hastened, now almost free of loads,and free of cares, immersed in a reckless curiosity,feeling the wantonness of a luxurious and marvel-bringingpastime.

It grew colder, showing that the outside changesaffected the depressed area, but the phantom lightin the west was also a source of heat, and if we wereto drop down further within lower craters, the“static heat of the earth,” the Professor averred,would “increasingly raise the temperature.”

Our meals of bird became monotonous, butthough we saw fish in the lakes, we could not catchthem. Our instruments, matches, ammunition,guns, and the indispensable pot and fryingpan, afew odds and ends in our pockets and some vestigesof other commodities in our packs made up ourpossessions. A change of under clothing we hadvouchsafed ourselves, before we abandoned thesledge, and an under dress too of serge, so that,168though our skins and furs were thrown aside, “wemight be able,” as Hopkins said, “to meet the ladiesof El Dorado without a blush.”

The scenes around us, as we pushed westward,repeated themselves with inconspicuous changes,but we would often enter into pictorial compositionsthat exhaled an artistic beauty quite incomparable.It was after a ten hour tramp over the interminablesavannahs, that the Professor, noting a cliffside, aunique feature, towards the north, we directed oursteps thither. Then we encountered a picture thatswayed us by its loveliness, and we ran into a zoologicalrevelation also, that made our hair stand onend, so that the emotional antipodes thus experiencedsupplied us with some exciting themes forconversation.

We first stood at the beginning of a valley slopingfrom us with wide, graceful reaches. It lay betweentwo series of hills, separated by minorvalleys, whose contributions of water, in tree orbush-lined brooks, were added to the meanderingriver that subjugated all other impressions in itsstately movement towards a far distant lake. Thislatter formed a great mirror of light on the horizon.The hills were much more deeply wooded than anywe had passed, indeed the country assumed a newphase, and the languid inclines and faintly expostulatingelevations here were replaced by more bouldersand a piedmont-like picturesqueness.

And yet there dwelt in the picture a gentleness,an inviting softness of contour that was ingratiating,while the banked trees, the occasional escarpmentsof glistening rock, and that luminous, distanthaze over the faraway lake tended to addstrength and mystery. It was almost, by ourchronometers, mid-day when we entered thisdelightful vale. Dark evergreens added a toniccharm to the coloring, and above us, scoring the169blue, were ranged radiating white ribs of compactedcumulus.

We had clambered up on the ledges of a rockexposure, encumbered at its base by huge, confusedfragments, and edged at its summit by the bushyfortress of a white flowered low tree like a wildcherry. The Anastatica(?), so abundant in thecountry we had passed over, had disappeared, andwith it, we surmised, that mirific population ofcranes, herons, geese, and ducks that made theenchained lakes vocal with pipings, screams, haloos,and bugle calls.

“Looks good to me,” exclaimed Hopkins.“Yes,” I said, “if we could take that picture with usback to New York on a canvas or a film, or a plate,we’d have ’em guessing. It’s a marvel. Prettyhard to believe we’re at north latitude 84°. That’sabout it, Professor?”

“84°, 50’, 5”,” replied the Professor sententiously,as he applied his lens and his eyes to ascrap of stone.

“New York?” snorted Goritz. “You surelydon’t ask for anything better than this. This isEden.” It certainly seemed so, and while Hopkinscontented himself with the comment that he hadn’tnoticed any snakes about, we turned attentive earsto the Professor, who by this time had completedhis enthralled study of the glittering schist in hishand.

“Azoic rocks,” he cried, his becoming smilemantling his face, his red, prominent ears and hisflaring hair making a droll combination. “Veryearly rocks; the Grenville Series beyond doubt,as named by the Canadian geologists; the firstsolidifications of the earth’s crust, perhaps schists,granites and limestones, though here schists withpegmatite veins. An ancient circular axis surroundinga circular depression that has never been170covered by the later oceans. Gentlemen, we areprobably now situated on the one point of the earthwherein the processes of evolution have neverplayed any role, because marine life has never existedwithin it, and the processes of derivationwhich have supplied the dry land with their mammalianfauna from the animals of the sea have beentotally excluded, unless—unless—,” the judicialintrospection and litigation which the Professorassumed at such critical points in his scientifichomilies were always diverting, “unless the barrierhad been broken at some point and the surroundingocean admitted, just as Walcott has surmisedmay have been the case with the western protaxesof North America, when the pre-Cambrian seasintroduced their life into the interior basin of thecontinent. We shall see, however; the sedimentaryrocks of the inner circles (It was quite reassuringto observe the Professor’s stalwart certaintyabout everything) will reveal that. Even had nosuch invasion been permitted, life would havereached this isolated nucleus through the flight andmigration of birds who might readily enough, aspointed out by Darwin, Wallace, Lancaster, Leidyand others, have carried the embryos of fish, theshells of molluscs and the larvae and bodies ofinsects hither, and the winds themselves may haveassisted in this involuntary transit. The injectionof seeds might have taken place in all sorts of ways.So far, you will observe that the faunal features, asmight be expected, are very scanty, and true mammalsare absent. The zoological peculiarities ofthis paleolithic bowl are absolutely unique. As acontribution to biological science our resultspromise to assume important proportions.”

Under the stimulus of this flattering encouragementwe resumed our way, following the banks ofthe beautiful river to that remote splendor, the171lake on the horizon, which seemed a fairy sea,where indeed might float argosies of an indigenouspeople which had been imprisoned in this invertedearth cone since human occupation of our earthbegan.

And it soon became apparent that we were againrapidly descending, a transition indicated by increasingwarmth and the changed gradient of theriver which was flowing rapidly, more rapidly,between thickset, outstretched arms of alder-liketrees. Our interest was intense. The utter, incalculablestrangeness of it all kept our nerves strungto an extreme tension. Sometimes we were simultaneouslyarrested by an overpowering mentalrevolt against it, as though we felt we had lost oursenses, or as though some trauma had been inflictedon our brain, and then we stood staring, in absolutestupefaction. For all this was not simply new, itwas superbly beautiful.

“Every way we’re to the good,” cried Hopkins.“We’re walking right into a Safe Deposit thatwould make Rockefeller or Rothschild coil up in acolic of undisguised despair. That, in the firstplace. Then, we’re mighty comfortable, well fed,careless and improving. That counts in the secondplace. And thirdly, if we get back to sanitaryplumbing, carved food, and flats, we’ll be able toput up a story that will keep the people—I meaneverybody—gasping, and there won’t be enoughpresses to print it, enough woodpulp to print it on,and I assume it’s more than likely that we’ll precipitate,as they say, the worst panic ever known,because nobody will be able to work until they’vefinished the story, and from appearances I think wecould a tale unfold that might cover a thousand ormore pages. Our copyright will be worth a king’sransom.”

“But they won’t read it because they won’t172believe it,” I said. “We’ll be classed with Munchausenand old Doc. Cook, Symmes and Sinbad.”

“Won’t believe it?” exploded Hopkins. “Won’twe show em? The Professor will rattle off the newspecies, and how about our buying out the governmentat Washington, and running the country justfree of expense a few days, say for a week, to proveit? That will be convincing, I undertake to say.And then the pictures. The camera’s workingyet, and there are a dozen or so of film rolls. Butdon’t worry. We’ll be the biggest thing on the foot-stool,and then—some. Christopher has had a fairshow, in fact he’s been rather spoilt, but he’ll haveevery reason to be glad he’s out of sight when weget there. Why really it’s hard to understand whatwon’t happen.”

At that we all laughed, and that relief made usserious again, and with eyes open, pencils scribbling,and an occasional click of the camera (Hopkinswas our photographer) we hastened down thenow somewhat contracting valley. An elbow ofland pushed out and diverted the stream and on thispoint, where the river turned, swerving back into itsfirst course, and where an expanse of yellow sandand pebbles furnished an open space from which thelake, the receding valley behind us, a gorge beforeus, the open sky, and the encroaching flanks ofhigher hills were all visible, we halted.

Hopkins seized the opportunity for a new flightof speculation.

“Do you know,” and the shadow of a real embarrassmenton his face fixed our attention, “I’vebeen wondering who is to own this bailiwick. Ofcourse we’ll meet the native residents sooner orlater—their shyness is a little unaccountable as itis—but you don’t imagine for a moment that thefirst class national hogs of Europe would let apromising domain like this go unappropriated?173Not much. Those disinterested potentates wouldbe up here before you could say Jack Robinson toprove how necessary it was for the peace of theworld to cut it up at once. Gentlemen, this is aninternational question, and we’re the only men whohave a right to settle it. What do you say?”

“Oh, my portion goes to Denmark,” chuckledGoritz.

“Mine too,” I added.

“I owe allegiance to Norway,” reminded theProfessor.

“Funny—how clannish you are,” continuedHopkins. “You’re all as good as Americans, andyou speak English. You’ve lived in the UnitedStates, and you know, way down in your boots, thatshe’s the Hope of the whole earth; the only thingjust now visible in the shape of government thatcares two coppers for the under dog. Ain’t thatso? Well I’ll tell yer,” and Hopkins squinted,drawled, and put his long index on the side of hisvery presentable nose, “I’ll tell yer. We’ll givethe Edenites a square deal, and let them decide.You see we can each take the stump for our owncountry, and then give them the choice at a generalPrimary Election.”

“Will you let the ladies vote?” I asked innocently.

“Why not? Certainly. Ladies first,” smiledback the gallant Yankee.

“Well then,” I triumphantly concluded, “as theycan’t understand us, they’ll of course, after themanner of their sex, be guided by LOOKS, and—Americawins.”

We shouted at Hopkins’ discomfiture. He certainlylooked nonplussed and aggrieved. He wasshaping a retort, and his mouth had already formedthe words “See here, Erickson; don’t you foolyourself—” when there was a movement on theopposite bank. Almost instantly Hopkins’ quick174eye was diverted, and his arm shot forward, indicatingthe intrusion, while he whispered in the stage-struckstyle, “Look, look!

We turned as one man. Opposite, thrustingtheir heads out of the foliage of the bank, and revealingtoo the front quarters of their bodies were fourwild pigs, a hog, a sow and two youngsters. Theadult animals were of great size, with portentousmouths and snouts, flat cheek protrusions, hairy,pointed ears, and the animals bore two upturnedinvoluted tooth horns or tusks on each side of theirupper and lower jaws. The animals were black,their bodies covered with coarse, spiny short hair,bristling into a mane at the neck and their small,fiery eyes snapped viciously. They were largebrutes, stout, muscular, possessed of a strangehollow grunt that rumbled ominously inside theirheads for a while, and then became suddenlyaudible as a terrifying, snorting squeal. It was theoddest, most unaccountable animal noise any ofus had ever heard. But the Professor complacentlyinformed us that the creatures were undoubtedlyrelated to the Forest Pig—Hylochoerusmeinertz hageni—of British East Africa, and thattheir study would add a new chapter to naturalhistory, while the skins of the monsters would beeagerly competed for by the museums of the world.

Hopkins dismissed this with a wave of his hand,urging the antecedent considerations of pork chops,fresh ham, and sausage. The subjects of thiscolloquy remained, however, undisturbed. Hadwe shot them there was no discoverable way in ourposition at the time to secure their bodies, and fromthe gastronomic point of view the Professor questionedtheir importance.

The pigs watched us nervously for a short time,then they grunted reflectively; their whitish-greeneyes were almost distended in excitement and shone175with a blue light. But with a raised arm, a thrownpebble, and a shout from Goritz they flew off, crashingamong the undergrowth and easily traceable intheir flight down the hillside by the wake ofviolently agitated shrubbery and herbs.

“An interesting encounter,” remarked the Professor.“Its congener is found today over theslopes of Mt. Kenia at a high altitude, where thejungle and the forest meet, supposed by Akely tofollow the trail of the elephant, and addicted to aninexplicable habit of scraping together leaves andgrasses which it forms into diminutive mounds.We are coming into a warmer region, the increasingprevalence of acacia and eucalyptus-like trees, theoccasional pitch pine, and something like an evergreenoak indicate that, though this floral associationmay be uncommon. I really believe thatalong the edges of that great lake ahead of us are—palms!”

It was only a short way from this delightful spot,with its sweeping view, that we heard the rush androar of falling water, as we now fought our waythrough a tangled maze of branches, emerging atintervals on grassy glades which bore evidence ofthe past presence of the wild pigs. An hour laterwe almost tumbled over the brink of a rocky gulf,into which the gathered waters of the river obviouslyfell. We could not see the falls, but thespouting spray, rising in spiral puffs, the moistureshowering through the trees, and the dull bassresonation from the tormented pool that caught theplunging torrent, announced its nearness.

It was a matter of some difficulty, making ourdescent, and the ropes again did good service inhelping us down the vertical walls. It was prettyclear that we were about to meet a picture of somegrandeur, for our climb continued, and when wefinally broke through to the river again, we had176descended over three hundred feet. Fortunately wewere not required to increase our exertions to reacha favorable position for enjoyment of the scenicwonder we had circumvented. It was before us.

Above us in a narrow sheet, in a setting of thewildest beauty, the river poured its flood, tense,glossy, when it first slipped over the rim, as withthat convulsive firmness of the young swimmer atthe first plunge over his head. Then it beganunraveling its woven strands, and became plicatedin silken ridges that unwound still more, or flewapart in diamond dust, so volatile that it rose upwardin shimmers and rainbows, while at our feet,discharged from the overburdened pool, rushed atorrent of mobile beryl. It was transcendentlylovely in the frame of trees; and how amazing tohave repeated here, at the pole of the earth, thefamiliar charms of the woodlands and streams, thesylvan solitudes of the world in temperate andtropical climes where the sun rose and set each daythroughout the year!

What was climate? “Climate,” retorted theProfessor, “is an atmospheric condition fundamentallydependent upon the heat received from the sun,but if there is light, that heat can come from theinterior level of the earth itself quite as well.”

“Yes,” we exclaimed, “if there is light, but thelight that, as with the sun, insures the processes ofgrowth in plants, should not be here, for the sunhas already run its course for the functions ofvegetation at the North. What is the meaning ofthis continuous light that bathes this marvelousnew world we have entered? Does it, like the sunlight,build up leaves, decorate flowers, strengthentwig and trunk?”

“Ah! Does it?” soliloquized the Professor.“Solvitur ambulando; look around us. What doyou see?”

177We did look around us, we were looking eventhen, and the scene was indeed rich in color, ingreenness, in luxuriance perhaps of floral charm.This everlasting illumination, with the strangeaccommodation of the plants to an enforced sleep,almost maddened us with wonder. To be sure wefound out later that the greenness changed, and, if wehad studied the matter more closely we would havebeen made aware of a paleness in the grass (thiscondition had been evident for some days, while apeculiar effect within ourselves seemed referable tothis inexplicable light). I will return to this whenit has formed the topic of a later conference, heldduring those divine hours passed on the hills of theDeer Fels.

We now had satisfied our eyes with the pictureshow, and we hastened on, for our supplies of duckwere almost exhausted, and, although the Professorhad added to this a salutary and delicious spinach-likemess, made from the boiled shoots and tenderleaves of a plant like our poke or pigeon berry,which grew abundantly in the valleys, yet we hadbecome impatient for some change of food. Thepigs suggested a new and appetizing novelty in ourcuisine. This indication of game in the country wewere approaching whetted our desire to begin a morestirring life, and to penetrate now rapidly towardsthe veritable center and solution of all this mystery.

It was not long before we had threaded the precipitousravine, which from the foot of the fallsextended into the park-like expanses about thegreat lake. A great lake it was, dotted with distantislands and embosomed in a subdued whiteland almost impossible to describe. The bordersof the lake were marshy and flat, the water wasfresh, and the vegetation in its neighborhood green.It was a physiographic anomaly to find this freshnessenclosed in a land on whose face were written178most legibly the characters of sterility and dryness.The soil of the low hills was parched, and a cactusor euphorbia growth replaced the broad leavedplants which had pertinaciously clung to our stepsup to this point, and had indeed pushed out intothe plain, but with an evident aversion, as theybecame smaller, sparser, and at some remove disappearedaltogether. The spiky stiffness of somethinglike the Spanish Bayonet gradually assumedpredominance, and the ashen tokens of sage bush(?) multiplied.

We concluded that in our hand-to-mouth methodof subsistence it might be unsafe to venture forwardon this trackless waste, and, still expectant offinally terminating our exploration with the findingof human beings, agreed to follow the margin of thelake. This would keep us supplied with food,would carry us on, apparently a little north of east,and as its waters were fresh, would doubtless offersome outlet of escape without compelling us totraverse the inhospitable barrens.

It was here that we shot some quail-like birds,which furnished a new element to our larder, andsome acid and fruity berries proved edible, afterour ludicrously careful experiments had tested theirqualities. Then Hopkins ran against a formidablewild hog and laid him low, and while he did notprove exactly delectable, there was a noticeabledifference from previous entries on our menus whichmade that addition welcome also. The Professorextracted some lard which helped as fuel and servedto quicken into a blaze our sluggish fires.

The palms noted by the Professor were fullyrealized, and they made the most curious and extraordinaryforegrounds, in conspicuous groups,against the dull lengthiness and vapid immensityof the chlorinated desert beyond them. It was atthis time that we hit the zoological phenomenon179hinted at before, which completed our nervousprostration, if mental suspense and amazementrepresent that state. We were encamped aboutthree days’ journey from the deep glade fromwhich we emerged on the plain, and were still followingthe marginal fertile tracts bordering thelake. The lake furnished some surprises.

Strips of muddy banks forming islands coveredwith a profusion of plants, among which mighttower a palm, banks of marl wherein the Professorpicked out cretaceous fossils, occasional warmsprings, the condensed vapors of which floatedlazily upward, and which, where they spouted fromthe ground, had erected basins of calcareous sinter,or their waters trickled to the lake between banksred and white like painted boards.

Our camp—a fire, our knapsacks, our multi-serviceablepot and fryingpan, and our outstretchedfigures, with the instruments, always including ourcamera outfit, a few implements and guns—was atthe foot of a thicket of high ferns, under a group ofpalms, and we were at the base of an inconsiderablehill or rise, whose top these ferns and palms concealed.Hopkins had just returned from stalkingsome of the wild pigs, but he was empty handed;Goritz was very busy devising a stretcher or hurdlefor our various belongings, to be carried betweentwo of us, by turns, and the Professor was ruminating,with head in his hands, his wing-like ears protruding.I think I was asleep. Our supper hadbeen made memorable by tea; a hidden packagein one of our packs contained this precious leaf, andit was quite noteworthy how it revived and cheeredus.

Well, I felt a sharp jolt, and a cavernous abyssyawned under my feet, and with a monstrous effortI snatched a providential branch and saved myselffrom falling. My eyes opened; I had seized Hopkins’180leg, and it was he whose energetic shaking hadbroken my slumbers with this nightmare.

“Get a move on, Alfred. The scrap of the centuriesis going on up there.” He pointed to thegrove and hilltop. “If we had a motion-picturecamera, we’d have everything in that line knockedinto junk. Get up. The White Hope is having itout with the sable champion.”

Utterly bewildered by these incomprehensiblewords I struggled to my feet, and we both scrambledpele-mele to the top, and there joined Goritzand the Professor, who hardly noticed our approach,so absorbed were they in watching thestrangest spectacle that ever human eyes beheld.

Out on the level on a thin carpet of herbs andgrass was reared the violent and horrible shape of awrithing, bending, gracefully oscillating, whitish-greenmonster, and before him the infuriated figureof a black pig. The pig’s bristling mane waserected, his small tail, like a bit of black rope, beatupon his muscular buttocks, his eyes gleamedviciously, his muzzle with its expanded nostrils wasupturned, and his challenge sounded like a cornet,and again like a rolling drum.

But the creature before it mastered all attention.The elongated head of a saurian armed along itsjaws with sword-like teeth, a long curved neck, athorax but slightly enlarged over the width of therest of the body, provided with a short pair of frontlegs, terminated by claws perceptibly webbed, andopening and shutting with a nervous rapidity,noticeable dull-colored scales striping its sides, apair of much longer hind legs on whose skin-enwrapped,stilt-like support it had raised itself, andthen a prodigious tail, heavy and fat at its protrusion,but lengthening out into a thin python-likebody whose involuntary movements swayed it to andfro in serpentine motions through the flattened weeds.

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (9)


181The color of the beast was most loathsome; asickly yellow white it seemed at first; a closer studyshowed it to be a nauseating green, like a frog scum,and yet through it all, as if summoned to the surfaceat the will of the creature, coursed reddishblotches, whose inflamed contrasts gave the wholeskin the aspect of inflammation, of purulent disease.This coloring prevailed over the neck, the faintlyswelling belly, the sides, and over the hind rumpand thighs and anal region. The monsterawakened an awestruck repulsion. But at themoment its source, home, meaning, were swallowedup in the thrilling, tremendous combat betweenthese strange litigants, a wild boar of today, asaurian—a tyrannosaurus or something like it—ofthe Cretaceous!

The huge lizard was skillful, wavering, crafty andsinuous. It swung from side to side, and when itattempted to descend on its antagonist its mouthopened, almost absurdly, as if waiting for theappetizing bite its hunger or its ferocity anticipated.A wicked mouth, shining with yellow teeth andslobbering with saliva! Any disposition to laugh atits floundering indecision was soon, or at once, overcomeby hatred of its hideousness.

It was interesting to watch the hog. He wasirresolute and then aggressive; he lunged outwardand then tumbled backward. As the giant lizardreeled upward and then poured forward, thebristling pig would run in, and then “sidestep,”as Hopkins said. The ultimate object of bothcombatants became increasingly clear; the saurianaimed at crashing down on the pig, and the pigrelying on its sharp incisors intended to rip openthe defenceless abdomen of its foe. Again andagain with shifting success they attempted theirinvariable coups, and again and again recoiled,frustrated in their design.

182The fight passed through one episode of somenovelty. The saurian in flinging itself forward lostits balance, and, as it were, stumbled to the ground.We saw its eyes then, queer turgid, opal masses, litinternally with fire. In a trice the pig leaped uponits back, stamping and tearing, but, in anothertrice, the effort seemed incalculable, the huge tailof the snake lizard swept around and bowled thediscomfited porker sideways with a swishing blowthat knocked it down. Then for a moment itseemed as if the coiling ribbon would enclose thepig, when, held in its crushing vise, the lizard mightdissect its victim at leisure. But the pig squirmedout of the trap, and, nothing daunted, resumed itsdefence with less obvious pugnacity. Except forits monstrous spectacular features the conflict grewmonotonous. And here came the end.

Nature was exhausted; an unguarded momentof inattention and, like the black pounce of theeagle, the ponderous head of the lizard fell on thepig, the scimitar teeth cut into hide and bone. Asnarling roar, an infuriated lacerating drive by theboar, and, though he sank sideways in a deathagony, his tusks had torn open the belly of hisconqueror. The viscera emptied from their enclosure,an abominable odor assailed us, and thegreat bulk of the amphibian lapsed to the ground,its inverted head, caught in the chancery of itsbody, broke its neck, and with a husky frighteningexhalation, like a magnified hiss, it fell in convulsions.The pig was already dead.

Just then none of us were inclined to pursue anyinvestigations. We were all absolutely silent, andall went back to our little camp in a state of mentalconsternation. The Professor had no theories topropose, nor had Hopkins any comments. As forGoritz, he mechanically brought out the gold belt,and as I bent over him and noticed its relievos, I183felt convinced that its designer and artificer hadseen the saurian.

But something more awful occurred about threehours afterwards, when, as we observed, the smellfrom the battlefield became more and more intolerable.The waters of the lake were furrowed withapproaching objects, exposed heads rose upon theshore, shuffling and waddling and scramblingcreatures proceeded up the bank, and the entangledbodies of the great lizard and the pig were soonbeing torn to pieces, in the clapping jaws of theformer’s brethren, as they rustled and scrapedagainst each other in their envious greed in what,by our reckoning, was their nocturnal banquet.

Soon, however, I fell asleep again; a feverishsleep it was and I welcomed my awakening. Itmust have been hours later, the lake was calm andbeautiful to see in the mysterious light, and it wasthe cheerful, heart-inspiring voice of Hopkins thathalf restored my normal gaiety. He was helpingthe Professor at what in its serial position was ourbreakfast, and he prattled to his benignant comrade:

“‘We were amphibians, scaled and tailed,

And drab as a dead man’s hand;

We coiled at ease ’neath the dripping trees

Or trailed through the mud and sand.

Croaking and blind, with our three clawed feet

Writing a language dumb,

With never a spark in the empty dark,

To hint at a life to come.’”



The Deer Fels

I must hasten my story; so much remains to betold, more wondrous, strange and unnatural,though that last word is not to be interpreted inany of its senses as abhorrent. Far from it.

We hurried away from the scene of the peculiarcombat and the fratricidal feast. I do not thinkwe feared these hideous saurians. We looked forthem, and the Professor exulted in their evidentmarks of an evolutionary history (philogeny, hecalled it) quite isolated or diverse from thoseestablished by Barnum Brown, Williston, Lowe andothers for the sauropsida of the—Mr. Link I wasactually going to say EARTH, in a foreign sense,for somehow in this Krocker Land we felt detachedfrom all we had ever known or ever been. Had webeen transferred to Mars or the Moon or any otherinconceivably contrasted sphere, we could not havefelt more inimitably separated from what we hadcalled the Earth.

No more of the Crocodilo-Pythons, so Goritzcalled them, were seen. We believed that theirhabitats were in the half submerged broad flatlandsthat rose in archipelagos out in vast expanses ofthis inland sea. Perhaps we traversed a distance ofone hundred miles before the mingled expression ofsage desert and semi-tropical lake began to change.The opposite boundary of the lake (Goritz as our185geographer has named it the Saurian Sea) becamevisible. We were approaching a constriction orclosing of its banks, and in a few days we perceivedthat it emptied into a wild, deeply sunken ravine orcanon, an enormous, terrifying gorge of sandstonesand limestones, where we could just dimly discernthe foaming cataracts, the eye-like preparatorypools, and then the sweltering froth of ragingrapids.

The water of the Saurian Sea enters this canon(the Canon of Promise Goritz called it, for a reasonyet a long way ahead in my narrative) over an incline,and a series of waterfalls, which were invisible to us.It was hopeless to follow the canon, nor could we continuenorthward for we were powerless to cross theriver. There remained the alternative of turningto the left, penetrating the sage plain and attainingthe slopes of a hill country eastward, at whose feetdoubtless the desert terminated. It promised tobe an easy day’s journey and it was. The quailhad supplied us with food. They now replaced theducks. Indeed the Saurian Sea became almostdevoid of aquatic bird life as we advanced, aneloquent testimony we thought to the fear of theomnivorous brutes who lived there.

We crossed the desert and were delighted toobserve its gradual surrender to the encroachingfeatures of a pleasanter land, a hill country slopingaway into painted domes; not a land of heavy rainfallnor deeply forested. Its undulating skylinepresented rounded and densely shrubby groundwhich to our eyes seemed luminous with a pinkhaze. The flanks of these hills were clothed in acoarse grass unevenly distributed, and even absentfrom bare spaces of the limestone rock, where agray half succulent moss flourished. We noted toowith some astonishment that these aspects of thehills facing us seemed in shadow, contrasting effectively186with the singular pinkish aureole along theirhigh outlines.

Goritz discovered with our glass the presence ofmoving or browsing groups of animals and amoment later exclaimed:

“They’re deer, small deer. No worry now aboutthe commissariat.”

“You see,” murmured the Professor, “the sedimentaryrocks here prove that at some time thisboreal basin has been invaded by the sea, a formerdeeper cavity has been filled up by these strata oflimestone, slate, sandstone and marl. The molluscanremains, such as I have picked up, whetherin the Saurian Sea area, in the Canon of Promise,or on these moors, are generically similar to thoseof the cretaceous, tertiary, and paleozoic rocks ofEurope or America. About that there can be nodoubt,” and he approvingly exhibited the smallcollection he retained from his examination. “Theoutermost rocks of the Krocker Land Rim are theearliest crystallines and eruptives. Their solidificationbelongs to the very first primary conditions,and I think there can be no doubt thatwe can say that this stupendous cavity, continentalin extent, either represents that physical polarpitting I alluded to when we discussed this expeditionin Norway, made when the Earth was assumingits spheroidal shape and was a mass of swiftlyrevolving mobile magma, or—” the Professor’ssucceeding statement impressed him so solemnly,that his administrative and reportorial mannerbecame almost gloomy in its earnestness. Wewatched him with dilated eyes—“or—that it representsthe wound, cicatrix, and HOLE from whichwas ejected the earth’s satellite—the MOON.”

Comment was in order, but we had become ratherplastic under the Professor’s instructions, or, shallI say, gelatinized, and incapable of a natural187remonstrance against his dictations. But Goritzdemurred. Hopkins and I listened with admiration.

“Professor, the moon came out of the side of theearth, centrifugally separated at the equator byfastest motion, surely not out of the pole. Darwinhas suggested, you know, that the Pacific Ocean—”

“True, Antoine. True, true. I know all ofGeorge Darwin’s speculations. True, but supposethe axis of the earth’s rotation has changed; supposethis very area here at 85° north latitude hadformerly been equatorial in position. That is aview of commendable authority. It has beenurged to explain the Ice Age, though I admit,Goritz, it has not, today, the most respectableauthorization.

Mais, passons.” This theoretical retreat anddeflection of the Professor before Goritz’s criticismsensibly flattered my friend. “You see gentlemen,that these startling surfaces before us seem, as youhave noticed, to be in shadow. I think that throwssome light on the character of the singular continuousillumination of this region. Up to this pointwe have generally been descending, since we leftthe vapor shroud of the Perpetual Nimbus; wehave been climbing down the walls of a bowl whosecentral sun is of sufficient intensity to illuminate itthroughout its extent, but, having an inconsiderablevolume or size as compared with the size of thebowl itself, and also—mark me—a fixed position,can only throw shadows when intervening objectsoccur, as a lamp in the middle of a room illuminatesthe whole room, but throws shadows toward thewalls of the room, where there are obstructions.But the higher the position of the lamp in the room,with reference to the floor, the shorter the shadows.Here is an exact parallel, and I take it that as theshadow of these hills, which may be three thousandfeet high, hardly extends into the plain, the fixed,188subsidiary SUN we are approaching may be towardsthe limits of our atmosphere, or say twenty-fivemiles over the mean level of the earth.”

We grasped this quickly enough, and the imageremained, as you will see in the sequel, substantiallycorrect, though greatly corrected as to altitude.

The deer were easily trapped; they hardlynoticed our approach, and, though startled by thedischarge of our guns, would only scamper off for ashort distance, herd in compact bunches, andwatch us. They were small animals, perhaps halfthe size of the Virginia deer, but their flesh wasdelicious, and our first meal, graced with the coldestspring water and by a small toothsome red berrylike a strawberry, imparted to us the liveliestspirits. We felt eager and excited, an almost irritablecuriosity had developed within us; forgetfulof all we had left, oblivious, through an inscrutableexaltation of wonder, of the things, objects andendearments of home, we hungered for adventure.It was not many hours later that a new sensationeclipsed everything we had so far experienced, andthrew us into an excitement that stirred the depthsof our beings.

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (10)


Less than a day was consumed in making theascent of the hills, which resembled steeply inclinedmoors, and on their summits we entered on a sunny(?) expanse, captivating in its loveliness of color,and ingratiatingly varied in topography. Thetantalizing pinkish haze was explained. It was anendless billowy ocean of pale heather, with clumpsof yellowness like gorse. As we looked over theentrancing picture in a golden light, in a fresheningand tonic atmosphere, with a reverberant sense ofbeing travelers in fairy land, a poem taught melong ago by an English friend came almost unbiddento my lips:

189“‘What, you are stepping westward? Yea

’Twould be a wildish destiny

If we who thus together roam,

In a strange land and far from home,

Were in this place the guests of chance:

Yet who would stop, or fear to advance,

Though home or shelter he had none

With such a sky to lead him on?’”

And westward we too went on.

Marshes, wet concealed bottoms, lakes andboggy tracts diversified these uplands; and downgulches in the bold profiled bays streams poured incascades, all rushing westward. Coming over alower neck between the domes we came in view of adark blue lake of water far down in a narrow amphitheater;just above it on a higher shelf was asecond smaller lake. What appeared to be whitegulls were sailing in circles over them. The picturewas a lovely one. We clambered up itseastern wall, and, in the midst of low balsams thathere interrupted the heather, and so thicklycrowded together that you could walk on top ofthem, we looked straight into the pocket. We laydown on the short balsam trees, in a soft perfumedbed of green needles, and gazed and gazed. Astrong wind blew. Far, far eastward rose thatportentous bulwark of clouds and misty confusionwhich the Professor had called the “PerpetualNimbus,” and which was the cosmic screen of thiswonderland. Hopkins was on his back, and it washe whose cry shot a new thrill of—How shall I nameit?—laughing consternation through us.

“My God,” he cried in a sort of stifled shout,“there’s a gang of the fellows we’re looking for,straight above us, in a cluster, like so many soapbubbles.”

Again his summons brought us to a concentratedattention, and sure enough, dimly separable fromthe air in which it floated, was a minute cloud of190small balloons, and dependent from each group ofthree the outline of a small human figure—and allgently drifting in an upper current of air, certainlyless strong than the brisk gale about us.

“Get under the trees,” whispered Goritz,“they’re coming down.”

We were quickly concealed, burrowing our waywith the alertness of moles below the thatchedbranches, and each eagerly hunting for a spyingplace whence we might watch this strange argosy.Yes! They were rapidly approaching; the danglinglegs, the fluttering blue and yellow tunics, confinedby golden belts (!!!) were visible, curious unproportionateheads, hanging forward as if from heaviness,legs in loose trousers, and sandaled feet.Then the wind blowing about us touched them and,like a gyrating swarm of mosquitoes dispersed by abreeze, they were flung away, dancing, bobbing,hither and thither, and from them issued squealyshouts and squeaky laughter. They came togetheragain, directed by means undiscoverableto us, though the Professor detected some wavingobjects in their hands, and then the crowd, perhapstwenty, as if suddenly apprized of their desiredposition, dropped like so many unsupported bodiesstraight into the deep pocket of the little lake wehad just been admiring.

The wind did not drift them, the balloons seemedcollapsible, but, to our amazement, they expandedagain, checking the fall. In fact, unless our eyesdeceived us, and we all agreed as to the main point,the balloons inflated and shrank, somehow at thewill of these extraordinary beings, producing aneffect not dissimilar to the opening and shutting ofa bird’s wing, the alternations of which carry it upand down.

As they slid past us, perhaps not more than agood stone’s throw from our place of concealment191we were permitted to catch a glimpse of them, andit was hard to restrain the impulse of leaping to ourfeet to obtain a longer inspection. Anothermoment and they disappeared below the brow ofthe hill. We emerged cautiously. Goritz spokefirst, though he, like the rest of us, seemed a littlestunned by the weirdness, the wizardry of it all.

“If they’ve gone down, they must come up.But what are they?”

“Well,” answered Hopkins, “search me! Thisis nearer to fairy land than I ever thought a humancould get, and—I don’t believe I like it. Rathergoblin-like I thought, though not Gilbert’s notioneither;

‘The goblin-imp, a lithe young ape,

A fine low-comedy bogy?’”

“Certainly the genus homo,” said the Professorreflectively, and looking more startled than pleased.“They offer a field of unusual research. Theymight be,” he lifted his eyes upward, almost as ifimploring light on the subject, “they might bepreadamites. They were not simian, not in theleast. Gentlemen,” sudden thought lit up his facewith the customary smile, while his lips retreated,displaying his imperfect teeth, his eyes grew largeror they issued farther from their orbits, and his redhair, now inordinately long, draped his face in arufous tapestry that made him look still morestrangely excited. “Gentlemen, I have it (“ThankGod,” sotto voce from Hopkins), I have it. Wehave here an isolated group of mentalities that havebeen subjected to a restrictive and intensive processof development. Of course they had initially theprerogatives of reason. They have attained apeculiar culture, it may be a very one-sided one, butat least their methods of aeronautics leave little tobe desired, and they understand and practice metal192working, textile arts; they have a language. Personalbeauty they do not boast (“That’s putting itmild; they looked like blueprints,” again sottovoce from Hopkins) and their physiques seemdwarfed and impoverished. How did they strikeyou, Erickson? What did you see? Your linguisticknowledge may help us, and—I think you had ourglass.”

Parenthetically I may tell you, Mr. Link, thatI have been a poor sort of a journalist, and a teacherof languages, and a traveler, a mixture of vocationsnot conducive, you will say, to signal distinction inany line.

“This is what I saw,” I began, with an assertivenessthat brought me wrapt attention. It was truethat I had seen a good deal; my monopoly of ourfield glass had been complete. I spoke withrather crisp acerbity because I had already taken astrong prejudice against these jaundiced objects,and neither as associates nor as subjects of studywas I willing to seek their acquaintance.

“They are diaphanous yellow anthropologicalinsects, with big beetle heads dropping forward,scrappy hair or none at all, are anemic, short bodied,long legged, short armed, and absurdly pervadedby a saffron-blueness—I can describe it in no otherwords. You saw their dress; the tunic clothingthem like a nightshirt or a butcher’s blouse, iscinctured by a gold belt! They are scarcely morethan three feet high.”

“Alfred,” asked Goritz, “are you sure about thegold belt? I thought I saw yellow links aroundtheir bodies too.”

“Oh, yes,” I replied indifferently, “the gold beltswere plain enough, but Antoine, I tell you you hadbetter leave these microbes alone.”

The intensity of my repugnance amused them.I think it was shared by Hopkins. He said,193“They’ve rather got my goat, but the risk of seeingthe thing out is worth taking. They certainly havethe goods and, as for scrapping— Well, say, wecould blow ’em away.”

“Could you,” I indignantly flared up. “Not sofast, Spruce. Did you see those tubes in theirwhite fingers?”

“Yes, I saw them?” Hopkins rejoined interrogatively.“Looked like lead pipe.”

“Well, I’m sure there’s devilment enough inthem. They raised them this way and that, andguided their flight by them.”

“What’s the harm?” Hopkins continued. “Perhapsthey’ve a thing or two worth patenting inballooning; very likely. They’re funny enough,but—Pshaw!—we can run ’em in any time withthese guns.”

“How many balloons were attached to eachperson?” asked the Professor.

“Three,” we all said together.

“I thought so,” he continued, “one from eacharmpit, and one from the belt. They spoke distinguishablewords. Could you make anything outof them Erickson?”

“Why,” I muttered laconically, quite as a matterof course, “It sounded like corrupted or archaicHebrew.”

“By the Great Horn Spoon,” shouted Hopkins,“pawnbrokers. Levitation would be worth whileto some I’ve known.”

After this explosion we were silent for a fewmoments. Our thoughts were running wild overthe inscrutable occurrence which portended strangedevelopments ahead of us. Hopkins was elated atthe prospect of adventure, Goritz, I really believe,was consumed with a passionate curiosity to seemore of the gold, the Professor was burning upwith scientific wonder and excitement, and I alone194was overcome by a repulsion which I could notexplain, and which, on the face of it, was unreasonable.

Communing thus with our thoughts and quiteindescribably stirred, Hopkins cried out, “Beat it.Here they are again,” and there, rising gently fromthe depth below our elevation came the little flotillaof bobbing manikins, announced even before theywere seen, by a shrill chatter, and squealy laughter,which consorted naturally with their queer, aged,wrinkled faces, the fluttering tunics entanglingtheir pipe-stem legs, and the odd diaphaneity oftheir bodies.

I am not a naturalist, Mr. Link, and there aresome things in nature I cannot reconcile myself to:snakes, caterpillars and BUGS.

We were under our coverts in a jiffy; the celerityof our movement was something like the noiselesstail-up concealment in the ground of prairie dogs.And our eyes became as active as our legs; not anoptic nerve but was strained to the full extent of itsreportorial powers. One feature of their machinery,I had not noticed before. Flexible tubes tiedthe balloons to their bodies, and these again wereconnected under the sleeves of their tunics with thelengths of pipe they carried in their hands. Theswelling and deflation of these balloons seemedmost delicately under their control, and at timesthey would, like a swarm of flies, rise and fall, in aperfect mimicry of a fly’s uneven and dancing undulations.It was most curious and utterly inexplicable,and then too when they moved to and fro oradvanced, the tubes were held behind them, andsome propulsion ensued which carried them on theirflight, though it was quite evident that any volitionon their part was quite overcome by the prevalentcurrents of air. The latter they avoided by risingabove or sinking below it, and at the moment, as we195gazed, they surrendered themselves to the windblowing about us at our elevation, and were tossedalong it, in shrill enjoyment, and vanished westward.They were absorbed in misty veils thatwere drawn between us.

Once more we came out of our hiding with a ludicrousastonishment painted on our faces. Hopkinslooked the least bit scared. Almost instantly heexpressed his feelings.

“They certainly have me guessing. Old guys, allof ’em. Perhaps they’re terribly old, and perhapsthat’s the way up here—everything very oldshrinks, wrinkles and wears glasses.”

“Glasses,” called out Goritz. “Yes! I saw that,and do you know for more than a week my eyeshave ached. It’s something to do with this strangelight.”

Then came the confession from all of us, that wehad each been bothered with our eyes. Shootingpains, blurry outlines, whizzing sensations in ourheads, and a sense of dryness of the eyelids, asthough they had been overheated by a mild exzemaof the skin. It was surprising, the moment weattended to the matter, how urgent our complaintsbecame, and how communicative we were about it.

“I feel sure,” said Goritz, “that we are bewitchedby this light. These odd creatures have becomecrinkled and gnarled by it. They’re a race ofdwarfs, prematurely aged and megalocephalic.”

This last daring incursion into the Professor’sdomain of reserved scientific language ratherstartled us. “’Peaching on the Professor’spreserves,” whispered Hopkins. But the Professordid not resent it. It was some minutes later, afteran expectant silence, that he very demurely suggestedthat we all put on our snow goggles. Andwe did. It seemed to help.

Of course, considerably flustered over the unexpected196appearance in this utterly unexpected mannerof the aboriginals of this enigmatical region,we undertook to examine the narrow and deep littlevalley into which our visitors had descended. Itwas a rough scramble, as the sides of the pitproved not only very steep but unreasonably rocky,sharp and precipitous. When we finally reachedthe bottom, and the Professor exultantly told usthe rock was a dolomite, that it contained coralremains and brachiopodous shells that wereDevonian, we found ourselves in a peculiar place.

It was a kind of gigantic well, on the floor ofwhich and to one side were situated the two littlelakes we had seen from above. Considerablewater flowed into them from crevices in the walls,and the place was overshadowed at one point by aprojecting ledge that formed a portico to a cavernousrecess. Leaden colored fish rose and sank inthe water of the lakes, and we thought the gulls,who must have penetrated to this remote asylumfrom Beaufort Sea, had been attracted by them.It proved to be a dreary, bare hole and instilled inus a feeling half despairing and melancholy.

“This isn’t the gayest place in the world,” saidHopkins. “Our insect friends certainly didn’tcome here for recreation. Looks like a smuggler’sretreat, or a den of crime. Perhaps we may findhere some enchanted troubadour, a chained damsel,a lurking dragon, or the fountain of eternal youth,which those cadaverous anchorites we saw upstairsvisit occasionally to keep the life in their shiveringshells. Or—”

“What’s this?” exclaimed Goritz, his muffledvoice proceeding from the recess into which he hadpenetrated, entering its prolongation, which becamea sort of cave.

We rushed forward, all keyed now to an excitedlimit of curiosity, so that, as Hopkins expressed it197afterwards, “an invitation from the angel Gabrielto step into Paradise, wouldn’t have phased us much,in fact would have been an ordinary incident in ourinvestigations.”

“What is it, Antoine?” I cried as I reached himand found him gazing in bewilderment at a shiningnodule of something ahead of him, in the deepergloom within. I asked no more questions, butstood still with him, wondering. The others cameup and we all gazed awhile, transfixed by a commonastonishment.

The glowing mass, perhaps about the size of ababy’s closed hand, shed a mellow radiance aboutthe cave; its light draped our own figures, and itwas reflected from innumerable bright points whichspangled here and there on the floor and walls likeminute lamps.

“Diamonds,” murmured Goritz, awestruck.

The place was heated, and the light made usshade our eyes. The Professor had moved alertlyforward in an impulse of almost desperate joy. Hestood in wrapt contemplation of the luminiferouschunk, then he struck one of the scintillating projections,a piece detached itself, and showered somesplinters through the air to the ground. Thesplinters shimmered like microscopic mirrors.

Sphalerite,” he cried. “Zinc sulphide! Thisis literally a chamber of Sphalerite, a huge pocketenclosed in the limestone. It has been workedsomewhat; its extension in the rock is probablyvery deep; and, gentlemen,” this apostrophe accompaniedby upraised hands, palms supplicatinglyheld towards us, always denoted some especiallydisturbing or exhilarating announcement, “thislight proceeds from some natural phosphori. Itmay be,” he paused to allow our minds to adjustthemselves to a new attitude of marveling, “it maybe RADIUM. We are in a world of transmutations,198the home of the Stone of the Philosopher.In the world we have left—” the language waspositive, convincing, for now the feeling of translationfrom all the familiarities of the world ofEurope and America grew persistently, eventhough plants and animals expressed a similar life—“inthat world, the combined product of all itsmines, of all its laboratories, scarcely exceeds TwoGrammes. Here is perhaps four ounces, or theQuarter of a Pound, and—”

It was then that a black clot, shaping itself inirregular fingers with blue and yellow fringes revolvingraggedly around it closed my eyes. But beforevision departed, I saw the Professor clutch hisbreast, stagger forward, and I heard him cry, “Out,out!” and then I felt my knees stung by thepointed stones and, blindly groping, I crawled away.

It was later, I do not know how long, that Irecovered my sight and around me, languid andprostrate; though reviving as I was, were mycomrades.

“Transmutation?” said Hopkins, feebly smiling.“It was pretty nearly a transference over the river,and no return trip-slip either.”

“Heaven! How my head aches,” groaned Goritz.

“Gentlemen,” the Professor gurgled, flat on hisback and sicker than any of us, but with his scientificapparatus under control and working smoothly,“we are on the eve of great discoveries. Thepapers which I can prepare for the Royal Academyof Sciences will throw a flood of light on a subjecthitherto only darkly approached. I am confidentthat we were in the presence of a monstrous—monstrouscomparatively, you observe—mass ofradium. Further, I feel sure that the StationarySun that maintains a perpetual day in this remarkableland has something to do with radium emanationsfrom the Interior of the Earth!”

199The poor gentleman stopped abruptly, somepeculiar evidences of his own interior activity justthen making him roll over and refrain from speech,because he was otherwise engaged.

“Do you suppose,” asked Hopkins, “that thoseaeronautical hairpins left that gold brick insidethere?”

“Certainly,” answered the dilapidated Goritz.“And they were up to something curious perhaps.Why, somehow I can only think of Aladdin and thelamp in the Arabian Nights. You remember it?”

“Of course, Antoine, but you see there are devilmentshere that are not so very beguiling or so veryprofitable. At any rate let us get out of here.The wind has risen; a storm is coming on. Thedarkness above looks interesting; in this hole itwill be just stupidly pitch black. I feel halfsuffocated in this pit. There isn’t a very promisingchance for our survival if we go on into this radiumland, with a sun made of radium, when a handfulturns us into puppets and pretty nearly intocorpses. I say leave it, leave it all. It’s madnessto go farther.”

“You are mistaken—mistaken,” interrupted theProfessor, who had regained his composure. “Theproximity—the reflections—our own unadaptability—fatigue—thecloseness of the confinedspace and the—the—unmitigated monotony of ourfood made us ill. No—no—We must see it all.It will be the miracle of the century.”

He gasped out his remonstrance and explanationsin dissected sentences that measurably restored mygood humor, so funny were they. A little laterand we had set about getting back to the balsamson the cliff top, and to the small shelter we had sofar managed to construct, and whose protection ina storm seemed very attractive. The storm itselfin these strange quarters promised new scenic200effects, and its meteorological features mightexceed all possible anticipation. Three of us hadbecome ecstatically anxious to see everything, oneof us (myself) shrank from his own baleful premonitionof the future.

But we had reached the height, and the freshnessof the air restored our equanimity, and made ourstrength whole again, and before us, with slowdivulgements of unusual grandeur, spread the blackskirts of a storm. But it was not over us, thoughpatches of cloud were streaming from the west inhurrying phalanxes, dun, disordered, driven, as ifunder orders. And far off, beneath, it almostseemed, that strange stationary sun now halfeclipsed, the hurlyburly of an inordinate atmosphericdisturbance was visibly in operation.

The impression almost instantly made was thatof a cyclonic movement—a suction of the air intothe maelstrom center of a revolution that was gatheringfrom the four quarters reinforcements ofcloud and wind. A dull yellow light shone throughoccasional gaps in the aerial concourse of vapors,fish-gray chasms opened out at moments as if tornapart by uprushing or irrepressible volumes ofwind, and, lit up by sharper flashes, they wouldsuddenly evert, pouring out in boiling currentstorrential black clouds. Then a cap of darknessseemed to descend, and yet in the remnants of lightthat stuck here and there to the flanks ofthis mountainous obscuration, we could see themultitudinous scurryings, windings and collisionsof the smoking flails and banks and missilesof cloud.

Below this indivisible commotion, between it andwhat seemed the earth, stole or lay a stratum oflight, and into this, slowly evolving like a giganticcorkscrew from the storm above, grew downwards,streaked with black, pillars of condensation, that201were nothing else than water-spouts, terribletornadoes in traveling helices, erect, inclined, andstalking towards and away from each other likewatery titans.

We thought we even saw their conjunction anddispersal, but what was visibly secure in the picturewas the ascent heavenward of an intolerably wilddust avalanche. The whiteness, for such it seemed,smote and penetrated the clouds; it swerved andwas beaten into straight ribbons of livid light, or,mingling universally, adulterated the inky burdenwith a spurious ghastly filminess. Flashes oflightning (a rare phenomenon in the north) thatmust have been terrific in intensity and portentousin size bit through the darkness, and rumblingsreached us from the remote conflict. Then agglomerationand colossal curdlings and it all wasswallowed up in night!

We talked long that night upon the excitementsof the last ten hours, and it was plain to each one ofus that we were again approaching descents toparts still farther below the levels already passed;that the storm was over a distant depression; thatin the last day or two the actinic power of thatstrange radiance that lurked somewhere in theskies over this depression was becoming strongerand more intolerable; that we might expect tofind the incredible influences of Radium in all this;that perhaps in some way that Sun we saw, we felt,which was the photal center, provocation and causeof the plant life around us, and through which wehad passed, was now limiting or suppressing it;the unmistakable dust or sand tornado showed adesert region before us. Then, too, we discussedthe poverty of the faunal life, now growing thinner,smaller, more depressed as we advanced, thesallowness of the grass, the blueness of leafage, theanemic pinkiness of the heather, our own tortured202feelings of alternate hope and apathy, of well beingand of sickishness.

The bleaching, killing effect of this radium light(so we called It) was partially overcome by therainfall which operated favorably for the plants.In hunting the small deer, and even they becamemore infrequent, we noticed that they occupied theshadowed sides of the hills and, in this stationarylight, these shadowed sides remained almostunchanged. I say almost, because it became moreand more apparent that the stationary Sun stirred.It rose or fell or approached or receded. Therewas some fluctuation too in its light. It was not alamp hung in the sky but an aura that floated inconstantlyover or around some central pivotal,causal spot, that varied also in its emanations.

Should we go on? I was silent. Overwhelmingas might seem the inducements to break throughthe veil of the mystery before us I hesitated—No,I recoiled. But this was flagrant treachery to thespirit and ambition of exploration. So I wassilent. Goritz dreaming of his Ophir and Golconda,was impatient to hurry on. Hopkins feltthat there was nothing else to do; his doggerelhelped him out:

“‘What matters it how far we go?’ his scaly friend replied,

There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.”

But the Professor was resolute. Here were allhis predictions fulfilled—the vortical polar pit, thewarmth, the aborigines, Eden reminiscences (hereferred to the Crocodilo-Python) and now, what,so he modestly admitted, he had never dreamed of,the—


Go on? Of course.



The Pine Tree Gredin

After we had jerked some of the deer meat, fearingthat the diminishing chances for game wouldleave us unsupplied, and as yet quite mystified asto where or when we would engage the pygmypeople, we took up our loads and went on. Thestorm whose gyrating fury had absorbed our attentionhad raged itself away, though it was somethirty-six hours before it cleared, and, slowly liberatedfrom the thickly wrapt curtains of gloom, thenow more and more obvious sun shone again. Theupland we were crossing caused us many perplexities.The numerous broad troughs and depressions, thetracts of tangled dead bushes and the hedges,resembling “pressure ridges” of ice, which had beensomehow shaped by prevalent winds into longfences of scraggly, prostrate trees, were increasinglyinterspersed with sandy expanses, which weinterpreted as the melancholy presages of a desertarea beyond.

The average elevation was level, with a tendencyto fall as we advanced. We expected daily to reachsome abrupt drop which would announce our descentinto the “last hole of the Golf Links,” toquote Hopkins. The scheme of Krocker Landgrew daily more and more convincingly simple.Whatever limital lines embraced it, it was a sort ofamphitheater, with the serial displacements up or204down which we had already traversed succeedingeach other concentrically; it was temperate inclimate; it might become torrid because of itsinclusion in the deeper parts of the earth’s crust, orbecause, even more probably, it was situated oversome residual uncooled igneous magma. It wasencircled, we assumed, by the profound crevicewe had bridged below the Rim, and its extraordinarysun which gave light and heat was practicallyconcealed from external detection by thegigantic vaporous wall of the “Perpetual Nimbus,”endlessly created by steaming and evaporation fromthe crevice itself, reinforced, too, by the turbulenceof the general atmosphere, which for days and dayshad presented a turmoil, or else a dead waste, ofcloud-filled skies.

We thought of that outer world now slowly—nay,rapidly—succumbing to the tightening grip offrost and snow and ice, now again dark or visibleonly in that strange sepulchral glow of aurora andstars; of that vast Arctic desolation, the shroudedcorpse of a world, and of the gathering legions ofsnowflakes endlessly dropping or whirling from theblue-black empyrean; of the ice pack formed likea vise around the empty, tenantless shores, andgroaning under the lash of the winds or the tyrannouspush of the tides; of the distant easternArctic lands, pale with ghost lights over glacierand mountain, inland ice, trackless coasts, blackrock-bound capes and the blue domed igloo of theEskimo; a land hallowed to thought by heroism;on whose barren plains the monuments to the deadrise in the wastes feebly to tell of devotion, couragepast knowledge to measure, faithfulness; wherethe polar bear and the walrus alone maintainnature’s plea against utter death.

How those thoughts contrasted with all thisaround us, an undulating oasis in the polar desert,205where now indeed the antipodes drew near in somestrange new development of sand and aridity.Somehow this latter notion clung persistently. Itwas partly due, no doubt, to a natural ascription ofdeadly power in the inexplicable Sun, whosestrength each mile was revealed in a more deadlymanner; in part also to the decrescence of life,now noticeable in many ways. There was a palingand bleaching of the herbage, and for miles andmiles the movements of insects were almost absent,while the deer vanished, and only moles or shrewswere occasionally detected in the crookedly ridgedground.

It was after five days’ continuous struggle overthe back of this lumpy and semi-mountainous region,whose charm for us had long before disappeared,and when the sharpest scrutiny no longerdisclosed the little deer whose succulent steaks andchops had kept us happy and well, eked out withwater, and the still persistent berry I have mentioned,that we reached the edge of a new descent.Shielding ourselves in a low coppice of bushes fromthe peculiar light, which was sensibly increasing instrength and which seemed less softened by theinterposition of veils of mist and cloud, we couldjust see, like a black ribbon painted along thehorizon, a zone of tree tops.

“TREES,” we shouted joyously.

“Yes, they are trees,” after a while came theaffirmative assurance. The Professor was studyingthem with our field glass.

“They are trees, of some narrow leaved orconiferous genus. They are so densely, darklygathered together. A wood now would indeed bewelcome, but we are fated for a rather tryingmarch over another desert. I can see a sand plainstretching away ahead of us, terminating perhaps inthis new region beyond. I have a strong presentiment206that this wood forms the last screen to thegrand revelation we are certain to be vouchsafed.It surrounds the home of the RADIUMITES.”

“That’s a cheerful view of it, Professor, and not abad name. And if we are getting as warm as all thatdon’t you think we might conjure up some plan ofoperation before we meet these—these—electrons?How’s that, Erickson? You see I have a talkingacquaintance with Science after all, even if I haven’tgot so far as to call her by her first name. Electronsand Radiumites are rather related terms. Eh?”

“Well,” I said, “Hopkins’ suggestion is surely awise one. These remarkable creatures have obtainedsome curious insight into chemical laws.They are our masters if we meet them. Before wecan do a thing they will transfix us with chemicalions, or something like them, and decompose us intoour original elements. I’ve been thinking aboutthose little lead pipes they carried. I saw thempress them and wave them, and whenever they dideither, something happened; they went up anddown, or any way else, as they wished. Theballoons were not so very small; they appeared, Ithink, smaller than they really were, and they didlook too small to lift their loads, little and light asthey seemed, even if they contained our lightestgas-hydrogen. I tell you they’ve refined methodsin radio-chemistry perhaps, that enable them togenerate an even lighter gas, and its buoyancy isout of all proportion to the gas volumes representedin these small balloons. These little men are formidablesavants, who may get rid of us, if they wantto, like that,” and I snapped my fingers.

This harangue stirred the Professor. I meant itshould. His hair, which now seemed almostredder than when we started, and had grown sothat it enveloped his head in a penumbral glory,like a sunset fire, rose, as it were, to the occasion.

207“Erickson,” he retorted, “put away your fears.The very fact of the intellectual promotion of thesepeople would make it certain that they have abandonedsavage ways, and that they would recognizein us, to say the least,” it may be the Professorblushed slightly, though the rufescent splendor ofhis hair disguised it, “representatives of a culturethat will excite their curiosity, their—Ahem—envy.Personally I feel confident that—Ahem—oncesome sort of communication is establishedbetween us, I can interest them. I should feelhonored even to present their contributions toscience before the Royal Academy of Sciences atStockholm. In the hierarchy of scientific authorstheir names would arrest the attention of the wholeearth.”

After this flight there was a respectful pause,until Hopkins resumed:

“Say Professor, the particular culture thatwould impress them most now would be a wash, aclean shirt, a shave and a haircut. Eh?”

The Professor contemptuously ignored theinterruption, though a furtively repressed approachof laughter on his face showed his appreciation ofits justice. We were indeed frights.

“And, Alfred, as to your suggestion of a gaslighter than hydrogen in the balloons, perhaps youare aware that so far as the apparent transmutationof the elements permits any conclusions in the matter,hydrogen has hitherto yielded only helium,neon, carbon and sulphur, all heavier bodies. Idon’t say you are not right. It’s tremendouslyinteresting. However, you may have underestimatedthe size of the balloons and over-estimatedthe weight of the little men. They had a verypapery look to me, and of course,” the Professoralways had this pragmatic style of insisting youknew, when he was inwardly crowing over his208chance of illuminating your ignorance, “you knowthat the levitation of hydrogen equals seventypounds to one thousand cubic feet of gas—atordinary pressures. Those balloons were largerthan they seemed; some reflexion in the airdiminished them, and really those aged infants,I believe, scarcely exceeded thirty pounds in weight.Do you know,” he became excitedly radiant,“perhaps their tenuity has some relation to theirintellectual development—they represent somefinal stage of human evolution, when the bodyshrinks, and the mind enlarges, and—”

“The teeth drop out,” suggested Hopkins.

“True, Mr. Hopkins. Professor Wurtz haspointed out the probable absorption of the teethor their disappearance under the debilitatinginfluence of mental growth. These people may livesolely on saps, juices, milks, liquids, extracts.”

This tickled Hopkins boundlessly, and he rattledaway—I don’t know whether it was quotation orimprovisation:

“Really I hesitate to say,

What they promise now some day,

When learning and brain

Are fit for the strain,

Of telling the Truth to a hair.

“For the Docs have puzzled it out,

And there isn’t a reason to doubt,

That we’ll lose all our grinders,

All our gold-plugged reminders,

Of the toothache that taught us to swear.

“It’s a case of gray matter and such,

Though for that we need not care much,

For—cocktails and chowder for lunch,

Soft drinks, sangaree, and rum punch

Will surely be living for fair.”

209“Come,” growled Goritz, “this sort of nonsenseisn’t getting us anywhere. Strap up your packsand get out of this. The chances for grub aheadare not the best in the world. The country isalready as bare as a cleared table, and what are wegoing to do for water?”

That was a disagreeable predicament. Hithertothe springs, little tarns or water holes, though decreasingin number as we advanced, had fully metour requirements, but if we were to cross any considerabledry tract we might be seriously imperiled.To be sure, the limestone country if prolongedwould almost certainly feed us, but that desertland which our closest inspection of the distanceonly made more unquestionable—How about that?

The conclusion we came to was to husband allthe resources we could command. It soundedgrandiloquent—our resources! What were they?Some patches of jerked deer’s meat, our fryingpanand pot, the remnant of our improvised tent andour knapsacks, almost empty except for theinstruments, a few necessary implements, theammunition, still sufficient, and our guns. Ourclothing was desperately worn. Literally, we werein rags, but a primitive kind of treatment in water,from time to time, had freed this dejected apparelof at least a large percentage—I really think apreponderant percentage—of its dirt. The questionof water remained urgent.

In about a day or so we came upon the outlines ofthe desert plain—scrappy expanses of sand andpebbles—mostly angular, and we noted the dustoccasionally sweeping heavenward in yellow cloudsbut still we thought we also saw the dark fartherzone of trees. Our horizon was now more limited;we had descended some fifteen hundred feet, andthe advantage of an elevated circumspection wasdenied us. The professor determined the sand to210be a pulverulent shattered and crumbling limestone,and although absorbent and apparentlydeeply bedded he believed we could, almost anywhere,upon digging find water. This was encouraging,and the trip over this tawny and sometimesdazzling waste seemed less formidable. Thelight became peculiarly tantalizing and objectionable,and we were thankful enough for the goggles.After deliberation we made up the canvas of ourlittle tent, which we still retained, into bags (we hadpack thread and sailors’ needles) and expected touse them as water carriers. Then we trapped afew moles, though recourse to this unpalatableflesh would only be considered in an extremity, andthen, not without foreboding, we started over thepallid desert.

We soon came upon traces of the great stormwhich we had watched from the Deer Fels. Thesewere unmistakable. Deep gouges had been madein the sand by the volleying and cutting winds, butthe most extraordinary vestiges of its violence werethe conical hills of sand, raised over the surface inhuge mammilary erections. These were distributedwith a very striking evenness, except atspots, where it would seem the moving hills in theirtranslation had closed upon one another, and,demolished in the collisions, left formless congeriesof tossed and sprawling heaps, which might have alength of a mile or more, and were from half to threequarters of a mile in width. They were disagreeableobstacles, and ploughing through them was thehardest kind of work, for the surfaces werecomposed of a deep deposit of minute grains anddust and our feet sank into them as quickly asthough we were engaged in a plunge through acolossal flour bin or a wheat pit.

But our complaints and discouragements wereprovidentially rebuked. Fighting our way up and211down these dry quagmires of dust, stumbling,falling and not infrequently assisting to extricateone another from the floury embrace, we had cometo the crest of a ridge which crossed diagonally oneof these shapeless, tortuous mounds. This ridge,over the mean level of the plain, was almost twentyfeet high, a good measure of the strength of thewind suction which had built it up. We were dusty,almost exhausted, and the water we had carefullyconserved, as best we might (for the bags were notwatertight) in our canvas receptacles, was approachinga dangerous depletion. It was absolutelynecessary, fight against it as we might, towash our mouths and throats, clogged and asperateas they were with the grains and dust, quite often,or, it seems to me, we would have been suffocated.What gratitude we felt you may imagine, when, onsurmounting the ridge, our eyes fell upon a smallpool of water entrapped upon some imperviousbottom, in a natural bowl, enclosed by the ridge onwhich we halted and a lower ridge beyond us. Thefamiliar thought of how it transcended in valueany imaginable wealth of gold and diamonds at thatmoment flashed, I guess, through all of our minds.We camped there. The water was clear and cool,for, I should have mentioned it, the weather hadbeen colder, and, when our “fixed Sun,” as Goritzcalled it was hidden, we suffered somewhat fromimperfect protection.

“Queer we don’t hit any more of those weirdphantoms that own this place, isn’t it?” said Hopkins.

“Oh,” I replied, “they may be watching us now,listening to us. You can’t tell. I think they’re asort of supernatural people that can do almost anything.Perhaps they wear magic cloaks, hats,shoes, that make them invisible. Speak easy whenyou meet ’em Spruce, and don’t abuse them212behind their backs, for—it may be—to theirfaces.”

“Look here, Alfred, I really believe you’veloosened a nut in that tight little head of yours.To hear you talk gets on my nerves. Don’t do it.Hasn’t the Professor explained it all as Evolution,and how exceedingly friendly these fine folk will beto us when they get a bead on our own families.As for speaking easy, I shan’t speak at all. Withme it’s the case of Pat once again, and I couldn’tget even as far as he did with the Frenchman withhis “Parlez-vous français, and—give me the loanof your gridiron.

“Alfred,” asked the Professor, “could you talkwith them, if it turns out that their language isHebrew?”

“Certainly,” I answered, “I am a Jew, and myearliest training has never been forgotten. I havebeen hugging the thought that I can understandthem or make them understand me. I grant,along traditional lines there was something Hebraicin their looks.”

“Yes Alfred—this,” said Hopkins, touching hisnose.

We laughed, but the Professor stared at methoughtfully.

“Alfred,” at length he solemnly began, “theVestiges of Creation—Who knows but—”

The sentence was never finished and to this dayI only dimly suspect the lurking and indefinablethought that those world-dreams of the past, withEden placed at the North Pole, and a still moreirreclaimable theory of a residual populationdescending from some God-made primal ancestor,confusedly rose in the Professor’s mind, and thathe was groping his way to express this cryptic andimpossible illusion.

No! the Professor was probably utterly213stunned into dumbness, as we were made half wildwith wonder by a cry from Goritz:

“SEE! Over there are the head and arm of adead man sticking out through the sand.”

We jumped to our feet, followed with our eyeshis stiffened, outstretched arm and rigid finger, andsaw the chubby face of a corpse, with closed eyes,streaming black hair, pushed out from a blanket ofsand, while an arm with a clenched hand was protrudingfrom the same covering. For a moment—perhapsfor several—we remained motionless,perusing the face which was so astonishingly contrastedwith the lineaments of the diminutiveaeronautical philosophers, and noting too the convexityof the earth covering the body, which indicateda man or woman, of an average size or a littleundersized. What struck each one of us at oncewas the unmistakable Eskimo type, the narroweyes, small joufflu nose, wide mouth, puffedcheeks, low forehead and coarse, straggling andprofuse hair.

A little later and we had dug out of his grave theastounding figure. When it was uncovered itcorroborated all our first impressions as to itsEskimo relationship, but we then detected that itsconstruction was more slender and generally betterproportioned, and the beardless face was morerefinedly cut. Its dress was a yellow gown or tunicover very loose bluish trousers, and its feet wereencased in roughly made loose slippers, fastened bylaces or strings over the instep. The material ofthe dress was a woven wool. The tunic wasclasped by a broad belt of the same substance,fastened by a leaden buckle; the trousers were heldin at the bottom by a kind of anklet of bone andskin, and the sleeves of the tunic were similarlyconfined.

But perhaps it was the buckle that excited our214curiosity the most, for there was engraved—notembossed—on it the same serpent and crocodile-likefigure that had been seen on the gold buckleGoritz found, and over it too were the singularconventions of a branched tree encircled by asnake. Goritz compared his belt and buckle withit and was convinced of their identical interpretation.Nothing else was found. We detected nopockets of any sort in the clothing—Yes, there wassomething else, from under the body we dug upspectacle-like yellow glasses.

It was clear that the creature had been overwhelmedin a sandstorm, but it was not clear whyhe should have been alone and apparently wanderinga long way from his home and companions.The incident incited us to greater haste, and whenwe had replenished our water skins, we resumed theexhausting tramp. The tree line became increasinglyplainer to view, and it offered a goal and prizenow that dissipated our fatigue and roused ourambition. We had not discussed the Eskimo waifbut I guess through all of our minds slowly orquickly filtered the conviction that he representeda lower slave or working group; that we were soonto break into a world of industry and achievement,founded on social distinctions; that indeed up herein Krocker Land flourished perhaps an oldtimeclass regime with knowledge and power confined toa priestly or imperial class, like Egypt, like Mexico,like Peru.

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (11)


Some of my first trepidation over the adventurehad vanished, but much remained. I felt no confidencein those uncanny air travelers. Goritzbecame impatient and almost retaliatory; he wasmaddened by the vision of wealth, for he dreamedwe were coming close to some dazzling, incalculablephenomenon of riches. Hopkins was good-naturedlysuspicious and apprehensive, but confessed215to an overpowering desire to see the thingout, and “have it over.” The Professor lived inthe seventh heaven of delectation over the prospectof preparing a batch of papers, to be read before theRoyal Academy of Sciences in Stockholm, thatwould place his name high on the walls of theTemple of Knowledge. All of us were thus anxiousto get on, and we made rapid progress. Needthere was, for our provisions were again nearingexhaustion.

It was almost a hundred and twenty hours, orfive days, since we had left the Deer Fels before wedragged ourselves into the first grateful shadows ofthe great Pine Tree Gredin. So ProfessorBjornsen termed it. Such it was. A vast, plunginghillside or scarp, covering miles and miles, andappareled from top to bottom with this wonderfulvesture of tall pines. And it sang with the refreshingmusic of innumerable brooks. The exhaustlessreservoirs of water emptied upon the vast desertzone which, almost without leaving a trace ofgreenness behind them, entered that profoundlyweathered and comminuted soil, engulfed completely,as are the rivers of California or Coloradoor Persia, and reissued unsullied, purified and cold,over this pine tree steppe.

The exhausted pilgrim through Purgatory whosees the gates of Paradise open to him, would, forChristians, furnish a description of our feelings as,ragged, choked with dust, almost crazed withthirst and speechless from fatigue, we threw ourselvesat the foot of the first towering grove, andsank our heads into its moss lined bowls of livingwater. As a Jew I myself recalled the pretty fableof “The Slave Who Became a King” and all thatthe shipwrecked wretch had felt when the newpeople he had reached made him their king and fedand clothed him; for indeed to us, as Nefesh was to216Adam, this new stage was the Island of Life. Ihad reason to remember the story more literallyafterwards.

And the marvelous stateliness of this blue-greenocean of straight trees, the entrancing vistas betweenthe majestic columns, with a life of pheasantand hare and squirrel, the bubbling cadences ofsprings, and the rambling mirthfulness and riotof the brooks, the deep-browed silence in places,and the needle-thatched ground, inviting us tosleep and dreams, had a fabulous expression, as ifthe prelude to some unearthly—See how the wholeunreality of it haunts me—experience. But,besides its picturesqueness, we rejoiced in the dusk-likeprotection from the light; in the effect andfeeling of a dark submarine immersion, the lightbecame so beryl-like, that we again, and now as itwere en masse, encountered fresh reminders of thestill invisible people we must soon see face to face.

There were clearings which had been made in theforest. They were dotted with stumps and crossedby fallen trunks, and made outlooks from which wesaw the interminable distances of serried ranks oftrees. Far to the right, far to the left, far before uswith as yet no determinable limit in any direction,the gigantic flood of pines flowed ceaselessly downthe sides of a continental amphitheater.

These cleared rings were suggestive enough.There was no evidence that less toilsome methodshad been used than those adopted by prehistoricman. The trees had been hacked and cut by stoneaxes, they had been trimmed by stone axes, and wefound traces of fire around them, which had beenmade to hasten their fall. But it was not longbefore we came upon well-made roads threading theforest, to which the clearings themselves weretributary, and over which the great logs had beentransported.

217Besides we found dishes and cups, vessels ofvarious sizes, which were well advanced in fictileskill, being watertight, with glazed bodies of whiteand yellow or terracotta tints. And over them, ason the buckles, were rudely painted and reburnedthat now familiar symbol of the tree and serpent.These interested us greatly, but our sharpest huntfor some gold relics was unrewarded.

“No lost property worth advertising for ’roundhere,” said Hopkins.

“Well it’s still westward,” said Goritz. “Wemust run them down soon. But see how endlessthe prospect,” and he pointed to that unique multitudeof motionless trees, falling away and everdownwards into some gigantic central subsidence.

It was remarkable that we encountered no temporaryabodes, no camps, no settlements and nolaggard or outpost of the elusive people.

The Professor, invincible in theorizing and pertinaciousin assertion, animadverted on our discoveriesin this way:

“Well, these Radiumites show a sort of frustratedculture. They have some specialized knowledge,and then again they are in other respects primitive.It’s a very interesting ethnological problem. It’sa well known circumstance that civilizations declineor even degenerate. The modern Indian ofMexico or Peru offers a sad contrast to hisancestors, but in the useful arts, as Tylor remarks, askill once acquired is seldom or never abandoned orforgotten. If these people could smelt iron theycertainly would not resort to stone for felling trees.Races like the New Zealanders have never learnedto reduce iron from its ore, though iron ore aboundsin their country.”

The trails and roads proved to be labyrinthine,and led us over long and useless journeys, frequentlyback to our starting point. It was Goritz218who solved their apparent confusion and provedthat they were parts of intersecting loops or circles,and that each series of circles connected with asucceeding one by roads leading always from thewesternmost (or lowest) edge of each circle. Theselatter roads seemed radial and continuous. Theplan was like this (Erickson showed me a drawing)with the circles a mile or half a mile in diameter.

But it was the Professor who detected a remarkablefeature which plunged us all into renewedspeculations and wondering surmises. In followingone of these circular roads he observed that thearea enclosed by it was a depression, and this fact,together with a less crowded growth and someprevious clearing permitted him to note that an unusuallylarge tree towered among the others, apparentlyexceeding them greatly in height and, rudelyat least, it was at the center of the circular space.

As, at times yielding to a lotos-like influence, wenow moved more deliberately, and would remainat one camping spot (this was before Goritz pointedout the more direct line of advance over the radiatingroads) twenty or more hours, the Professorwould direct his steps to this tree as a landmark.Some abstruse stirrings of suggestion urged him.But it seemed almost a miracle of second sight, forit uncovered an astounding system of combinedsurveying or charting, associated intricately withreligious motives. He diverted our attentionindeed to a search which enriched us with somevaluable objects, though we were likely to havelost them all later. But it thus led to the denouementof an utterly unparalleled adventure byforcing us sharply upon the mysterious people wholived here, and opening up a chapter of incidentsand episodes never otherwise related, except intales of invention or in the dreams of disturbedand romancing minds.

219He found his tree in a small, open, carefullycleared space, and on it were not only carvings ofthe ubiquitous serpent sign, but with this evidentlyscripts, which he interpreted as prayers, or sacredutterances and adjurations, and, more astonishingly,conventionalized GOLD images (hardly exceedingthree or four inches in height) laid at the bottom ofthe tree. These images rudely symbolized ahuman figure enrolled in the coils of a serpent.

When he brought one of these images into ourcamp—he timidly refrained from disturbing theothers—you may imagine our excitement. Goritzgazed and gazed at it in a trance of amazementand gloating. He wanted to set out on an excursionof discovery at once. But we overruled that.The Professor had our attention completely. Hisexploit gave a real authority to his entertainingdisquisition. We were thoroughly interested.

“Yes, here is a stupendous theme—Serpent andTree worship—developed on an unusual scale and inan unprecedented manner. You see this enormousforest is arranged in a chart-like manner into aseries—I might say a Halysites, as it were—ofencircling roadways, producing the effect of agarland of wreathed snakes, while in each fold orembrace, some tree, conspicuous for size or height,or some physical perfection, has been selected,about or around which again the serpentine coilsare enwrapped, a splendid combination of tree andserpent worship ideographically presented in apark plan. Again the votive objects attached tothe trees form a group of subordinated ornamentalcommemorative or religious symbols, and thewhole display is ancestral, archaic, turanian, forFergusson holds that no Aryan people succumbedto this peculiar cult, dimly shadowed forth in myth,fable and history at the first emergence of raciallife.

220“Think of the legendary lore connected with thestrange prepossessions of early peoples, the mythof Adam and Eve and the Serpent; the brazenserpent lifted up in the wilderness by Moses, theSerpent of Epidaurus in the temple of Aesculapius,the dragon of the Argonauts, the serpent of theoracle at Delphi, in the grove of laurel trees; theserpent inhabiting a cave at Lanuvium, andwrought into religious practices; the ascription toserpents of healing powers and powers of divination;the snake in Indian, Egyptian, Phoenician,Assyrian religions. Think, Goritz and Erickson,of the tree worship of the Scandinavians, culminatingin the Yggdrasill, the ash, whose branchesspread over the whole world, and even reach up toheaven, the extended and dreadful homage paid togreat snakes in America, still existing among thedesert Indians of Arizona and New Mexico!

“But as a contribution to the ophitic lore Ibelieve we have found in this new polar continentthe central arcana of the mystery referable, foraught we know, to the Adam legend. Gentlemen,we are stepping on the skirts of a great mystery.”

The solemnity of this conclusion which wasbecomingly indicated by the Professor’s outstretchedhands and by the smile of benignantinvitation for us to assume his own gravity, wassomewhat abridged or spoiled by Hopkins’ interjection.

“I’m afraid, Professor, that we’ll be stepping intotrouble if we pinch too many of these joints. Isay leave the contraptions alone.” This wasmeant as a rebuke to Goritz who was for riflingeverything. I half believe he would now havebeen willing to abandon our further march, huntfor the wood temples, despoil them, and retreat,recover our yacht and hike it over the ice for PointBarrow. The gold had strangely turned his head.

221“Yes,” I interrupted, for I was really anxious too,though I was willing to join the laugh that followedHopkins’ remonstrance, “we must be careful.There’s mystery enough here and there may bepower behind the mystery, enough also to send useach about our business to Eternity.”

However, from this time we watched for thetrees that accentuated the great rings of woods,marked off by the circular and intersecting roads.We detected numbers of them, though for daysnone would be found. Cleared spaces surroundedthem, but not always, nor indeed generally, werethere votive offerings of gold images, but bits ofapparel, pottery, glass beads (we wondered muchover these last), leaden, rudely shaped figures,stone implements and carved wooden masks. Wewasted time in this pursuit, urged to it by Goritz’sinsatiable delight over the gold finds (we resistedhis intentions of taking everything away, though hedespoiled many of the trees), and I think the Professorwas responsible for much of our wandering,for in his note taking he was indefatigable.

The ground continued to descend, and thoughthe decline was interrupted by hillocks, protuberantmounds and long, rising slopes, these exceptionswere accidental, and we realized that since enteringthe forest we had descended nearly three thousandfeet. We were actually over five thousand feetbelow the mean level of the earth. From some ofthe elevations our view still measured the endlessstretch of sombre green (really a blue-green),though we felt certain that a still lower valleybounded its marge and that beyond the latterlimit there were hot springs or geysers, the gushingupward of steam clouds was so incessant. Andthen more wondrously, we were made aware of ashaft of light, a luminous prism shooting upwardfrom the earth, which we began to suspect was222related to the stationary sun from which thispuzzling and utterly unrelated nook of the earthreceived light and heat, when outside of its charmedand storm-beleaguered rim the polar seas and landslay bound in the iron grip of winter and were darkbeneath a sunless sky. Bewildering, maddeningparadox! We were often thunderstruck andspeechless, dimly doubting whether we had notindeed “shuffled off the coil” of life, and hadbecome reincarnate in another sphere.

I guess that I alone had that feeling often, forHopkins’ imperturbable realism, Goritz’s avariceand the Professor’s splendid vaulting ambition toconvulse the scientific world kept them mortallyconscious and human.

And now an amazing thing happened. Itbegan the rush of events that for three or fourmonths tossed us along a course of excitement thatmade our heads spin and terminated in episodes forall of us too fabulous to be believed and yet—Mr.Link they are the sober, unvarnished truth. Youmay doubt your ears, you may be tempted—youwill be—to put me in a class outside even of thebiggest assassins of truth—and as a journalist youhave known a good many, but in the end perhaps Ican re-establish my reputation by an appeal to youreyes! That sort of evidence cannot be gainsaid.

Well, it turned out that we had nearly crossedthe interminable forest, and were tramping silentlyalong one of the radial roads, just after it had cut(“bisected” the Professor insisted) the arc of one ofthe great circles, when Goritz quickly raised his hand:

“Listen! Music—drums!”

We halted, breathless with wonder. Softly, in alow, monotonous hum came the itinerant beating.Yes, we all heard it, and with it, as we waited, wasmingled the metallic clangor of cymbals or somethinglike them.

223“‘Regardless of grammar they all said “That’sthem,’” whispered Hopkins, quoting his Ingoldsby.

Up the tree. They’re coming nearer,” saidGoritz.

“Decidedly,” coincided the Professor. “As anexhibition of the prehistoric musical art this will beunique.”

We were not long in clambering among the outspreadboughs of a big pine, leaving our instrumentsand packs at its foot (the species in growth andcyclical arrangement of its limbs resembled thewhite pine), helping each other until we were finallyasylumed among the topmost needles, peering outover the receding road for the approaching procession,if procession it was.

We were not to wait long. The music, disentanglednow from the interference and dampeningeffect of the trees, rose assailingly from the distance,and the thumping drums and the dulcet swish andclatter of the cymbals seemed almost beneath us.We were straining our eyes, and, in our impatienceand curiosity, became careless of our position, allhalf standing on the same bough, clasping the trunkand leaning outward.

There was a glittering, swarming effect in thevista, and we saw the advancing ranks of thestrangers. Instantly we recognized the Eskimo, orhis modified image, in the first companies. Theywere lurching ponderously forward, their legs andshoulders advancing together to the irresistiblerhythm swelling behind them. They wore shortyellow tunics or sacks engirdled by cloth belts withleaden buckles; blue trousers caught at the anklesby leaden anklets and sandals completed theirdress, except that on their heads they wore broad,white, hive-shaped straw sombreros not unlike thehead covering of the peons in Mexico. Each man224swung a short bludgeon comically suggestive of aNew York City policeman’s club.

“Cheese it—the Cop,” chuckled Hopkins.

The ranks came on in goodly number and theyformed a stalwart, if clumsy and shuffling phalanx.The band, as a proper misappropriation of the wordwould describe it, succeeded. These, too, were allof the Eskimo type, but men and women mingledtogether; the men plied the small, stiff, vociferouswooden drums and the women rather gracefully,and with inerrant precision, smashed the cymbalstogether.

“Gold—by God,” croaked Goritz, and he almostlost his balance in his admiration.

Gold they were indeed, and the metal delivereda note less rasping and shattering than the ordinarybrass. The men and women of the band weredressed in closer fitting garments, their legs werenaked, but over each of the women’s knees wasstrapped a glittering gold cap and their hair wasbraided with sinuous gold serpents. They burnishedthe dark outline of the marchers like gleamsof light or fireflies in a summer gloaming. Itwas really very pretty, and Hopkins nearly losthis self control by starting our applause. Theimpulse was momentary, for in a trice our eyes wereensnared in the sight of the astonishing crowd oflittle people that followed them.

They were perhaps larger than the strange littlemen we had met on the Deer Fels, and their headsdid not fall forward with that irksome sense ofheaviness which afflicted those diminutive philosophers.But they formed a diverting and animatedpicture. They were in all sorts of order, and ratherprevalently without any order at all. In threes andfours, in strings and lines, in gravely marching littlebands, and then in dancing disorder, all wearingtunics and trousers of various colors or plaids, but225with the belt and the hieroglyphic buckle. Everynow and then as they surged along they sang, amidget song, quavering and odd, musical in a way,but a rather poor way, and, like the shrillingcymbals and the tom-tom drums, sing-songy andmonotonous. We became spell-bound at the weirdspectacle. They also wore broad brimmed strawhats, but pushed back on their heads, as if to offsetthat ludicrous tilt of their funny big heads.

And then came a host of the Eskimo girls beatingthe cymbals again, but there were no drums or men.

“Well, I must say,” softly spoke Hopkins, “thepopular chorus girl hasn’t anything on these peacherinas,has she?”

But what was this amazing company that followed—bizarre,fascinating, crudely savage, and yetenigmatically enthralling? A chariot or a flat platformcar on low, solid wooden wheels, drawn bygoats whose horns were tipped with gold snails,bore a group of diminutive figures which we allrecognized as being the very little men whoseaeronautics had so astonished us. They and morelike them sat back to back on this equipage of gold,as in an Irish jaunting car, and one chariot succeededanother, all loaded down with the Areopagusof councilors and governors, for such theycertainly seemed to be. But they were sumptuouslydressed in violet cassocks, girt with gold;gold chains encircled their necks, and pendent tothese was the serpent symbol. On their heads theywore the flat broad brimmed hat bedizened withgold trappings. These hats now lay in their laps,their long-fingered, waxy hands folded over them,and their eyes were protected by the absurd goggles.

They too were singing or praying, the chantrising to us with the undulatory emphasis of aHebrew cantor, and—so it seemed to me—the wordswere indeed a Hebrew jargon. But around them,226before them, behind them, stalked an ordered regimentof the slimmer, taller Eskimos; all men, andthey each raised on their left shoulders, held stationaryby the bent left arm and the right armextended across the breast, a pole of gold, on whichwas entrained a living snake. The creatures wereimprisoned, for their necks were caught in locks atthe apexes of the poles. These snakes were black,a glossy black, and on the glossy, glittering polesthey formed a strange caduceus. It was in a waya horrible assemblage, and then again, against thebackground of all of our incredible experiences, itassumed a bewildering charm, as if it were a dreamhalf turned into a nightmare, or a nightmarechecked in its course by a remembered dream. On,on, they swayed and moved, and amid theseophidian pages, groups of drummers kept up aceaseless dull, stupid drubbing.

Then something stranger followed. An emptychair on a gold wagon, a chair itself of gold, butshaped like the stump of a tree with two branchessprouting from it, and between these as they wereprojected above the stump, the spread figure—inheraldry displayed—of the Crocodilo-Python, alsoin gold. The hideous animal enormity was allthere, its anaconda-like tail winding about the treestump, its stilted hind feet grasping the lower endsof the branches, its shorter webbed forefeet draggingtheir curved ends towards its twisted neck, andthe saurian jaws in a horrid rictus, imminent abovethat empty throne whose occupant perchancemight be some aboriginal Apollo or a grinning andrevolting savage sibyl.

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (12)


Well, Mr. Link, the spectacle, with this climax,made us dizzy; some reminiscent weakness frommy swooning attacked me, but I would have beensafe enough. I stuck fast to the trunk of the tree,when Goritz turning backward stepped on my227support. It cracked, it broke. Hopkins seizedGoritz’s arm, the Professor Hopkins’ coat tail—whatthere was of it—and ingloriously, with crashand whisking flight from branch to branch, we fourhopeless Argonauts slumped from the top of thelofty pine, with arresting scramblings and maniacalclutchings, to the bottom, and were spilled to theroadway; four voiceless, bedraggled, ragged, bushy-haired,wild eyed, grimy men, more savage in ourdestitution than the savages we had fallen amongst.As we banged to the ground, a jolt stopped theempty throne, with its golden splendors of thedistended image of the saurian, directly oppositeour jumbled, prostrate bodies.



The Valley of Rasselas

It was an incongruous position, and a mind responsiveonly to the ludicrous would have beendelighted with mirth over it. But it was really nojoke, and if Hopkins, whose risibilities were theleast easily subdued, had ventured upon one of hiswhirlwinds of laughter, instead of sedately rising(enjoining us to imitate him) and bowing profoundly,it might have had a tragic termination.

As it was, Hopkins himself actually prescribedour solemn behavior. It somehow appealed justthen to his freakish sense of humor to appear portentouslygrave and decorous, and as he kept up hissalaaming we fell in with the trick, and werebobbing away with the gravity of mandarins.

The crowd, as we slammed into the road, werepretty well upset. There was a queer gurglinggroan, and then a shout, and a few of the menrushed forward with leveled poles, from which theblack squirming ribbons uncannily unrolled, as ifto strike us. Our appealing gestures for forbearancedisarmed them, and then curiously some ofthem began to smile. Hopkins’ later reflectionthat we would probably have “made a meal sacksplit open with diversion,” was about correct, andit must have been the preposterous absurdity of itall, conjoined with our indefatigable rolling up anddown, and some improvised gesture of the Yankee,229expressive of submission and subjection, thatgradually increased their merriment, until we hadin front of us a friendly audience, simmering withamusement.

The commotion and noise of the bending, breakingbranches had been seen and heard much furtheralong the cortege, and it had caught the eye of thedignitaries on the wheeled platform. In a fewminutes a number of these ambling, beetle-likeworthies arrived and, withdrawing cautiously intothe protecting circle of the Eskimo youth, gazed atus with unaffected astonishment. We now had thebest opportunity to see them at short range, andthis was so desirable that we brought our antics toa close, reciprocating their scrutiny with as keen aninspection on our part. The impression made onme, on all of us, was favorable.

The faces of these short men were remarkable foran unmistakable gravity; their eyes, from whichthey had removed the goggles, were penetratingand bright, sunken beneath arched and conspicuouseyebrows, and set alongside of prominent aquilinenoses. The lower parts of their faces were weak,narrowed, and clothed with a scanty pointed beard.Their brows were broad, high and of alabasterwhiteness. This colorlessness pervaded their wholeanatomy, related at it were, to the thinness of theirlegs, their slim long arms and pendulous fingers,their flat and insufficient feet. We noticed thenthat they carried in their belts tubes of metalsimilar or identical to the wand-like ones that hadseemed to aid their flight with the balloons.

Their study of us was emphasized by considerablestroking of the beards, shrugging of the shoulders,and an occasional despairing waving of thehands. Everyone, everything, remained motionlesswhile these wiseacres made up their minds as tothe meaning of our intrusion, or endeavored to230meet the broader problem of what do to with us.And so the whole mass slowly gathered, the firstranks of the muscular Eskimo older men, thedrummers and the cymbalists, the fluttering,diversified groups of the little people; they crushedinto the woods, blocked the road, climbed up intothe trees; many pressed near to us, their handsresting on their hips, regarding us with a tense andsilent absorption that made me nervous.

Hopkins nudged the Professor. “Prof., give’em a lecture, anything, only hand it over highlyflavored—paprika-like. Slam a few dictionariesat ’em. What we need just now is a little intellectualstanding, I take it. These highbrows thinkwe’re no better than we look.”

Oddly they had said nothing to us until theynoticed Hopkins talking; then one of them, arather benignant and especially reflective lookingindividual, who had been arguing vehemently themoment before with one of his colleagues, advancedand said what sounded like “do bau” or, had itbeen in such Hebrew as I myself understood,“dobare”; namely “speak,” “talk.”

The Professor probably did not understand theword, but he understood perfectly their wishes, andunder Hopkins’ admonition stepped forward, andstarted a harangue. Nothing that had precededwas so likely to ruin our discretion as the scene madeby this overture of the Professor’s. Hopkins wascompelled to grovel on the ground to suppress hismerriment, but this ruse was interpreted fortunatelyas an expression of reverence for thewords or voice of our leader, and his explosionsreduced by this means to a subterranean titterwere further alleviatingly considered as a phase ofweeping.

The Professor was a sight. Not any part of hisattire was whole, and his boots were devoid of toes231and rent along the soles. He was dirtier, I think,than any one of us, as his ablutions had been lessregular, so far as regularity was the appropriationof an opportunity once a month, and he had beentorn and bruised and scratched, and had a mostdespondent expression of hoodlumism. His handsalone were presentable; I have referred to his sensitivenessover his hands. And his hair! It was abright red, and it had grown profusely, and, exultingin some untamed inclination to revert to savagery,had grown outward in a stiff jungle that nowflamed around his ingratiating physiognomy likesome angry halo. Under the stress of his nervousnessand—his periods, he flourished his hands andshook his head, and this immensely increased thegap between his grandiloquence and his humiliatingappearance. It was side splitting.

And then increasing the ludicrousness of it allalmost insufferably, was the close attention of thepeople, and the absurdly critical demeanor anddeliberation of the philosophers. Certainly nobodyunderstood a word of what the Professor saidand yet they listened with bent heads, devouringeyes, and a mute satisfaction impossible to describe.And the Professor, flattered or deceived by the thrillingeffect he was producing, fired off his lingo at agreater speed, with a screaming voice (he probablythought that if he yelled he would be better understood),and more tumultuous gestures. The combinationwas more unutterably funny than ourpredicament was possibly grave. Hopkins wasunable to raise his head. I heard him groaning,“Such a bizness. Choke him off.” I was compelledto hide my head in my hands and allow myconvulsions to go for what they were worth asemotional signals of despair. Goritz, a grave man,lately a fiercely obsessed man, deliberately turnedhis back and stuck his fingers in his ears.

232And this was some of the Professor’s sonorouspatter:

“My friends you are amazed to see us, but wehave come from the great (hands pressed together)world beyond your continent to find YOU (emphasizedby two pointing index fingers). We knew youwere here (an ascending shout), and we knew youlived in a world of wonders (miscellaneous flourishesof both hands over his head), and enchantments,scientific miracles (a prolonged crescendo) ofwhich we wish to know more. Do not feelastonished at our appearance (an inclusive sweepof the right arm); we have traveled over the polarsea, over mountain ranges, through a desert; wehave crossed the steaming chasm that encirclesyour country (hands and arms in descriptive attitudes,and constantly moving). We have essayedthe impossible (another shout), and we have accomplishedit (sudden drop into a growling bass);we have,” etc., etc., etc., for at least ten minutes,with the people positively hypnotized, so it seemed,by his clamorous chatter.

The absurdity of this address was to us evidentenough, and yet it was just the kind of demonstrationon our part which impressed them. The Professor’sstyle was valorous and friendly and noisy,and the effect of his rattling appeal was propitious.There would have been real danger for us, I believenow, had they discovered how we had rifled thetree temples. That might have roused their worsthatred and made our position perilous.

Suddenly the benignant looking leader clappedhis hands together, and then put one over hismouth, and the Professor wisely took the hint andsubsided. There was an animated colloquy begunamong the other chiefs and legislators, and we alllistened intently, I especially, for it became astronger and stronger conviction that these dignitaries233spoke a strain of Hebrew, to me not at allunderstandable, and yet approaching my ownHebrew vocabulary, but masked or distorted bytheir peculiar nasality and squeakiness.

The discussion grew vehement, and the littledoctors attained a degree of excitement that threwthem into violent gesticulations, their heads dancingwith their vigorous utterances, their beardswagging, and their arms and hands flung around inelucidations that seemed never to convince anyone.Well, the upshot of it all was that an order wasgiven to take us in custody, which we were made tocomprehend by very expressive signs, and the orderwas accompanied by a lot of gracious grimace,deprecatory bowing and apologetic shrugs, whoseburden of significance we understood to be that anescort would take us to the conveniences we needed—abath, renewed clothing, food, rest, shelter, etc.—whilethe procession would pursue its ceremonialtransit, which we very well saw was a state occasionconnected with their religion and involving perhapsa long journey consuming weeks for its completion.I wondered whether they would discover ourthievery, and felt convinced that if they did oursojourn amongst them would be less pleasant.

After some confusion and distracting running toand fro, all of which had quite a civilized aspectfrom the self-importance of the little actors, and thetypical uncertainty and contradiction of orders,we were finally dispatched with an escort or guardof Eskimo men, led by a chief or captain who hadreceived from the council a budget of directionsand injunctions, and who, as Hopkins put it, “hadrather soured on the job” which would deprivehim of the emotional reflexes of the religious revival—surelya sort of vast national picnic.

By this time the spaces around us were jammedtight with people, the little folk and the bulky234Eskimos crowding together and picturesquelyintermingled; multitudes were leaping into thetrees and climbing out on the branches, so that wewere literally in a defile of the strangers, whosedrums and cymbals were now silent, and who,passive and almost motionless, gazed at us witha fixed wonder that robbed their faces of allexpression.

An incident reminded us forcefully of the strangepower of the little rulers over their bulky dependentsor subjects, and revived our astonishment atthe contents of the metal tubes they carried.These tubes were in the possession of only the“faculty,” the big headed, diminutive and rathervenerable looking persons who evidently ruled thecommunity and whose disproportionate powerprobably sprang from the magical qualities of thesesame tubes.

A tall, morose looking Eskimo had approachedus in a threatening manner after having beenordered into the group who were to take charge ofus for the mission determined upon by the littlechiefs. Something in the half amused inspectionSpruce Hopkins made of him, or his own disappointmentirritated him, and with a sudden angrycry he sprang out of the ranks, his face distortedwith savage fury, and raised the pole or spear hecarried to strike Hopkins, when the latter “side-stepped,”and the big stick thumped harmlessly onthe ground.

Before anyone had time to intervene or calculatethe creature’s next move, the amiable disputantwho had taken so much interest in us nimblyjumped before the man, snatched the tubefrom his belt, directed it at Hopkins’ assailant,pressed its end and sent the fellow sprawling on hisback in apparent agony. There was no sign of anydischarge, there certainly was no sound, perhaps235there was a momentary gleam of light; we learnedafterwards that there must have been. But themoaning ruffian was effectually quailed, and thehush, followed by a low quaver of satisfied subjectionfrom everyone, indicated the supreme powerof these physically impotent magicians over theirmuscular companions.

“If we could hand over a few of those pepperguns to the New York police the gang, thug, andcrook fraternities would go out of business prettyquick. Eh?” said Hopkins. “That’s slicker thanchain lightning.”

“A powerful, suddenly produced and concentratedX-ray effect,” commented the Professor.

“Goritz,” I asked, “where have you put the goldimages and trophies? It will probably be best for usto keep them pretty well out of sight.”

“Yes I know,” returned Goritz. “I’ve thoughtof that. They’re in my pack, and that won’t getout of my hands. Don’t worry.”

The main mass moved forward. There was ascurrying to and fro, and a downpour of acrobatsfrom the trees. Long after all were out of sight weheard the hum of the drums and dying whir of thecymbals, reaching us through the forest. Thenwe collided with another detachment, the commissariat,a promiscuous mixture of figures, andwith them small flocks of goats. First came platformcars drawn by strong big rams, piled up withwhat looked like loaves of bread; these were succeededby the rambling goats and kids leashed infours and fives, and driven by goatherds of the littlepeople, all wearing the universal tunic and loosetrousers; then more cars heaped high with basketsor hampers, and more and more, till Hopkinsexultingly declared:

“Well, we shan’t starve. I guess we’ve droppedinto a highly developed culture, as you say Prof.,236among a people who realize the foundation principleof enlightened living, a full and diversifiedbread basket.”

Just at the moment I turned and looked up theslope behind us. I caught through a straight vista,almost as if made for my view, the shifting lines ofthe Eskimos with the gold poles and the blackserpents. Somehow the light struck them andthey seemed to glitter menacingly.

“Yes! Mr. Hopkins, we have dropped down on acivilization that perhaps is the most ancient on theearth. This segregation of Adamites has developedin this strangely protected seclusion a peculiarknowledge, a knowledge, I am beginning to suspect,only dimly anticipated by the Curies, Ramsays,Rutherfords, Sollys.

“They have hit upon some of the properties ofmatter by which, Mr. Hopkins, one kind of matterbecomes another kind, through radio-activity.The prevalence of gold amongst them may beattributable to a mother lode of which I havespoken before, but these mysterious tubes, theradium-like mass in the zinc-blende cave in theDeer Fels, this utterly inexplicable light, hints atdeeper secrets. And yet, sir, with this last triumphof scientific power in their grasp they unite anelemental savage worship of snakes and trees, avestigial trace, sir, of the very first ages. Then itis clear there is a peculiar industrial or politico-economicphase of society conducted on a divisionprinciple of fighters, workers and thinkers, a sort ofanalogue to the formicary and the apiary—the antand the bees. Yes sir!”

This last word was in recognition of Hopkins’enthusiastic denotement (with extended arms and aloud “Hurray” which gathered the Eskimo guardaround us in a hurry and in some perplexity; theywere relieved when some speaking signs indicated237Hopkins’ appreciation of “grape juice,” pure orfermented), of the last wagons closing the foodsupply for the peripatetic religious carnival.These were also platform cars on the rudelyrounded solid wheels, burnt and charred, ofpine tree sections, but on them were huge earthenwarecasks like the immense vessels found in Peru,and like them ornamented with colored designs; inthis case manifold variations, conventionalizedand realistic of the Serpent and the Tree. Theircontents were unmistakable, for a mere watersupply was almost too abundantly found in theinnumerable brooks, springs, and deep pools of thePine Tree forest.

“We’re certainly approaching civilization now.As an ultimate evidence of man’s enlightenment,quantity and quality of booze are complete. Thereign of reason and the Dominion of John Barleycornare simultaneous.

“‘John Barleycorn was a hero bold

Of noble enterprise;

For if you do but taste his blood,

’Twill make your courage rise.

’Twill make a man forget his woes

’Twill brighten all his joy

’Twill make the widow’s heart to sing

Tho the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,

Each man a glass in hand;

And may his great posterity

Ne’er fail in Krocker Land.’”

To let the provision annex pass as it lumbered by,while tall drivers of the Eskimo plied long whipswhose lashes stung the air with rapid reports, andthe straining rams tugged and bolted, we had beencompelled to huddle to one side of the road. Thisoutbreak of Hopkins and the Professor’s soliloquy238were amazing to our guard at first, but as soon as theyhalf comprehended Hopkins’ pleasure and hismusical voice sang Burns’ apostrophe they becamemightily amused, and they beamed on the Americanwith unstinted confidence.

Goritz, who knew some Eskimo from his experiencein Greenland, attempted to talk to them, buttheir answers were unintelligible; neither, I thinkdid they understand him, and it is also certain thatthey did not converse among themselves in theSemitic phrase peculiar to the little men. Therewas very little talk of any kind amongst them or us,and after the ebullition when we ran into the winecart, we relapsed into a resigned silence, enjoyingmost a study of our guard. Nothing had beentaken from us, no search made of our packs, and ourguns still remained apparently unnoticed in ourhands. The “little doctors” as Hopkins calledthem had indeed looked at them curiously, and Ifelt certain they would on their return find out theiruses as also the uses of our instruments, the aneroid,thermometers, chronometers, clinometer, artificialhorizon, all of which we had regained from theirhiding place below the pine tree from whose crownwe had so unexpectedly descended.

On, on, on, we tramped; the trees becamesmaller, more distant, and an open ground appearedbefore us. In another instant it was succeeded byan even denser growth of younger and greener pinetrees; the road turned sharply; it crossed the thickscreen; another turn and, like a vision, the centralvalley of Krocker Land unrolled before us, an endlesspark, seamed by silver rivers, clothed inemerald meads, tenanted by incalculable flocks,and marbled in its lighting, by an incessant drift ofclouds that threw over it a penumbral shade.

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (13)


That was a marvelous moment, Mr. Link. Wewere dumb with admiration, and we stood still,239rooted to the spot, immobile in a transport ofamazement. Nothing was said until the Professorhalf audibly murmured, “The Valley of Rasselas,”and the captain of our guard pointing to theglorious picture muttered to himself. Familiar asthey were with the scene these unemotional menappreciated our astonishment, and allowed us tomeasure with our eyes the grand prospect. Therewas a wayside house near at hand, an adobe structureof red and yellow; beyond it the road dipped,suddenly passing through a hewn gateway in thecliffside which we had reached and which, withvarying heights and undulating limits, enclosedlike a mammoth parapet the scene of peace andloveliness before us.

To this house we repaired. It was evidentlylocated there as a proscenium box for the contemplationof the ravishing picture. On its porch,most fitly placed, we sat on low benches andattempted to record the details of the view, by oureyes hardly recorded before, so lost had they been inthe enveloping, slumbering beauty. The cordialityof our hosts was perfect; we munched spicedtortillas and drank from absurd spherical mugs apleasant, ruby colored wine, a sort of Tokay.And this, sir, is what we saw.

It was a flat land over which wandered threeseparate rivers, fed by the spouting falls thatrushed over the cliffside from many points, thegathered waters of all that tracery of streams in thepine forest. Between these rivers spread vastmeadows or fields, thickly patched by motionless—sothey seemed—herds of sheep and goats. Braidinglines or hedges of trees and shrubs parceled thegreen plains into checkers and, as the eye passedoutward, these hedges, massing themselves in perspective,banked the horizon with a continuouswood. And there was a floating colorfulness in the240picture besides, a roseate-blueness, that we laterdiscovered came from an abundant wild flower likeour iris which nestled over acres of land in the wetterspots. And far, far away with a spectral splendorrose into heaven shafts, or one monstrous shaft, oflight. It glowed and pulsated, changing from anopalescent pearliness to the hardened glint of steel,anon streaked with bluish ribbons like a spectrum.Nothing could be more wonderful.

Playing against it rose what seemed a volleyfrom steaming cauldrons, folded, unfolded, anddrifting. Following this magnificent radiation intothe sky it was lost in a wide halo or pond or lake ofstrangely scintillating light; an overspread roof oflight it seemed, forming that stationary sun, thatfrom end to end, from side to side of this polar bowllit its manifold circumferential areas. Thither ourfascinated eyes rose, and then it became manifestthat the overflowing permeating glory of this sceneresided in the play of this light, apparently foreverveiled by nets and skeins and shifting aureoles ofclouds, that somehow formed a floor beneath it, sothat its emergent rays, as in our sunsets or sun risings,shot outward, coronal-like, and as theyencountered the perpetual play of clouds andvapors as perpetually painted them in colors. Asuperb and marvelous meteorology, for this Valleyof Rasselas thus remained, for long periods perhaps,bathed in the beauty of a royal sunrise or a royalsunset.

This screening from the downpour of the light ofthe stationary sun was certainly a beneficent provision,for while there might elapse periods whenits unchecked blaze smote the valley, the harshordeal of enduring it was constantly intermitted.It was clear too that the rainfall was excessive, bothhere and in the pine forest we had traversed; thatthis navel of the world was a watery kingdom.

241Even as we gazed the pageant of the sky mysteriouslychanged, and with its changes the complexionof the picture earthward underwent delicatetransmutations too. From gay to sombre, from awide refulgence to a twilight grayness, from aflecked radiance to the transient darkness of clottedclouds, from a burning splendor of illumination, bywhich things lost their definition, and the dazzlingexcess of light blotted out details, to half light,whereby a clearness of outlines developed, allowingus to measure the distance, and to pick out houseand tree, bush, stream and rolling mead. We wereenraptured by reason of this protean aspect, andwatched and, still lingering, gazed, unsatisfied.

The Eskimo men understood our delight and itbrought on their rather apathetic faces a smilingapproval. They chattered and gesticulated andsurrendered themselves to a renewed appreciationof this age-old cradle, in which they had grown andlived, strangely associated with the older race,perhaps of some Semitic stock, strangely alteredfrom their rude forebears and separated morestrangely still with their associates from the throngingworld of men outside of this entrancing cell ofearth, and yet bearing the impress of traditionswhich that outer world had created. How couldit be explained? Here was the new and crowningmarvel of the centuries—Krocker Land!

A floating tree trunk had indicated to Columbusthe vast unknown of the western continent andthe scattered prognostications of geographers hadled his scientific thought steadily forward to itsprediction and—it was found. A mountain’s darknessbrushing the horizon had crossed his vision asAdmiral Peary looked westward through his glass,and betokened yet untrod tracts of earth; thevagaries of the tides submitted to scientific computationhad proven to Harris their positive existence,242and now to us, four froward, unknown men, it wasvouchsafed to establish in facts these symptomaticguesses.

But our discovery was enriched by unsuspectedmarvels; this immense polar depression, like a dentin the crust of the earth, the peculiar succession ofdropping zones, their physiographic contrasts, thestupendous circular—so we supposed—rift whichframed them, its igneous depths, that incessant up-pouringof steam devising a curtain of cloud aroundthis screened continent, the perpetual chain ofchanges in the precipitation of the condensedvapors renewed again by evaporation, the survivalof saurian life, the meteorological perplexitiesintroduced, the bewildering fact of an ethnic evolutionin these small people, their peculiar associationwith a dependent Eskimo race, the suggestionof Adamic traces, the apparent control overadvanced chemical agencies, this indigenous treeand serpent worship hinting at ancestral influenceslost in the shadows of the very beginning, and then,more incredible than the wildest dreams of fiction,this impossible stationary sun, sustaining this littlesegregated world, feeding it with light and heat, anunimaginable oasis in the incalculable desert ofArctic snows and ice. WHAT WAS IT? Uponwhat miracle of matter were we advancing?

I was lost in such reflexions when an exclamationfrom the Eskimo—sounding like ibbley—and ahand clapped on my shoulder straightened me intoattention. The pool of clouds over the valleywhose inconstant movement alternately veiled andrevealed the light beyond them, had parted, asthough a sudden wind had pierced it and driven itsparts in rapid and eccentric flight to all sides, as astone dropped in a pond sends the waves shoreward,and, past the rift, we saw through the rising vapors,beyond the rigid, fan shaped prism yet involved in243it, an incandescent surface like a mammoth shield,a shield covering acres of space, and over it again,and yet perhaps miles and miles further away, thesolemn grandeur of an ice capped lofty mountain.

It was a glimpse only; an instant later therefluent clouds had flung themselves together again,in the ceaseless to and fro, and, as I thought, rotarymotion, that conveyed such a changeable expressionto that peaceful hidden vale.

That glimpse, Mr. Link, is the memory of alifetime, it was a picture so inwrought with theoccasion and my own feelings as to remain with mea deathless vision.

“I suppose this extraordinary pseudo-sun,”said the Professor after some moments’ silence “isthe most astounding thing we have seen. It iscertainly unaccountable. Its power to illuminate,warm and enliven this little continent within thecircle of the Perpetual Nimbus surpasses comprehension.On what theory of physics—for of courseit is not an extra-terrestrial phenomenon—can it beaccounted for?”

“How about this Radium. There’s light andheat in that isn’t there?” asked Hopkins.

“Of course, as we know it in its bromide salt.But the radium couldn’t be a fixed object in thesky, and, if on the earth, what fixes its rays or convergesthem on one spot, and what is the radiantmaterial of that spot itself?”

“I have been thinking,” said Goritz, standing up,while our Eskimo escort gathered around us, andlistened with a gravity that half persuaded methey understood us, “I have been thinking thatthere is a vortex of dust up there in that nebulousmass, that heat and light reach it from some terrestrialsource and are again reflected earthward.Would that meet the problem?”

“Perhaps,” assented the Professor, and even as244he spoke the light everywhere about us diminished,so that the valley became hidden in a most dismalhalf light, and then that feeble illuminationvanished, and we were literally plunged in darkness.Waning of the light, amounting sometimes almostto extinction, and lasting for some hours, had beenconstantly observed by us on our journey from thecoast, but nothing so complete as this. We werepretty well astonished, and remained silent, expectingsome novel demonstration, for now we hadbecome so convinced of our immersion in a sea ofSinbad-like adventure, that we were not only preparedbut almost impatient for still newer andnewer and stranger happenings.

The Eskimos were as silent as ourselves, butwhen in perhaps half an hour the light revealeditself again in the sky, as spluttering radiations,somewhat like the splattering of sparks about aslowly reconstructed arc light, and then becamecontinuous, and then gradually swelled to itsoriginal intensity, and the valley once moreglowed under our eyes, they began singing. Itseemed to be some hymn or religious chant and weconnected it at once with superstitious feeling overthe removal and renewal of the light.

It was a wearisome iterative sing-song drone,rising and falling in pitch, and sometimes derivinga rhythmical accent from the clapping of theirhands. The voices were not unmusical, and therewas enough vocality in the words to even elicit anapproach to charm. When later we heard thissame song sung by thousands, its reinforced effectivenessproduced a positive spell.

It was time to proceed; our guard evidentlythought so. The captain shook us each by the arm,pointed down the road, and we tramped away,watched eagerly by the few inmates of this roadsidehouse—a man, his wife, and three rabbit-eyed,245almost naked kids. The road passed through agateway of stone, hewn in the cliffs, and with amoderate grade conducted us some ten hundredfeet in vertical descent, into the Valley of Rasselas.

It was the last step on our long journey, the goalof dreams had been reached, Krocker Land wasdiscovered, and now the revelation was to becrowned by a closing and incalculable drama.




There had been noticeable for some time achange in temperature. It grew colder and therecurrent periods of darkness were more frequent.It almost seemed as if the stationary sun respondedto the secular changes produced by the apparent motionof the firmamental sun, and that, while light remained,a reduced form of winter might still be expectedin this oddly conditioned corner of the earth.

Already in some way the rumor of our approachhad spread far and wide. The fields were at firstcrossed by solitary figures trooping to the roadsideto see the strangers. These were shepherds of thegreat flocks of goats and sheep, whose slowly shiftingmasses drifted over the meadow in irregularblotches of white and brown and black. At times,where we crossed marshy exposures on either side ofus, the gurgle of chattering water fowl reached us,and then when we attained a higher ground hostsof red and blue iris-like plants clothed the edges ofthe fields, from whose corollas rose, like a visibleincense, innumerable white and yellow moths orbutterflies. It all was transcendently novel andinteresting, and though occasionally we shiveredwhen some chilliness entered the air, from passingbreezes flung into the valley from the vast cold outside,we almost forgot our discomfort in our excitementand enthrallment.

247The spectators along the route became morenumerous, a wide-eyed, open mouthed throng, atfirst scarcely vocal, just an amused, staringaudience. They were made up of the largerserving, working class—those I have designated asEskimos—and they hung over each other’sshoulders in mute astonishment, their black eyessharply scrutinizing us, and very often their fingerspushed out in expressive glee at the Professor,whose superb shabbiness and challenging splendorof hair always evoked the liveliest pleasure.

But as we advanced, mile upon mile, over a roadof perfect construction—evenly arched and wellditched on both sides—we observed a changingcharacter in our audience. The little people werethronging in. They came from distant low villagesand they imparted a contrasted demeanor to thewayside. They were mildly clamorous and critical.They broke into ejaculations, hallooed salutations,and extended comments which kept them amusedand vibrating with curiosity. A few sombre olderpeople remained silent or grunted a few monosyllablesto each other, but the younger element wasquite irrepressible. At one place where the roadcrossed a village community, the guards had tobecome rigorous in maintaining an open path for us,and into large trees—a tree that here resembled thetop-heavy Pawlonia of Asia—urchins nimble asmonkeys had climbed in clusters, and dropped on usnuts and grain and leaves.

“Well the kids have the right spirit. I feel moreat home now when the enfant terrible shows up.Where the youngsters have a sense of fun it seemsto me the fathers won’t have gotten so far beyondit, as to serve us up in an imperial banquet, cut offour heads as intruders, or feed us to the Crocodilo-Python,”said Hopkins to me who was just alongsideof him. “I’m half afraid they’ve taken a248shine to us, and will have us up in some municipalmuseum for the education of the public. I feelanxious about the Professor. They surely thinkhe’s a most attractive wild beast.”

And now we were trudging through a farm land;agricultural acres expanded before and around us;the bean, wheat, rye; the grape, apple, cherry;clover fields and honey hives were in evidence,though the harvesting—far later than in the south,a singular inversion again proceeding from theinfluence of the stationary sun—had been completed.The red and yellow houses of adobe tile orbrick were gathered in small clusters and when,over long distances they sprinkled the tawny orsear landscape with patches of bright color, like bitsof new cloth on a worn gown, the effect was delightful.

Our spirits rose; although prisoners over whomno doubt some national parley or pow-wow wouldbe seriously held, and although distrustful of theobsequious gestures (most decidedly so in my case)with which the “little doctors” had invited us toreturn with the guard to the somewhere we mustbe now approaching, still the winning charm of theland, the agreeable manners of the little people, andthe stolid unconcern of the larger race half convincedme that our fate wouldn’t be a tragic one.Our most ominous thoughts were connected withthose dreadful metal tubes!

I took occasion to study the people. The largerserving or inferior class were Mongolian in type;they resembled a taller, more slender and less intelligentEskimo norm, but the little people presenteda surprising range of individual variation.The tallest of these latter were almost four feet inheight, the smallest scarcely exceeded three.Literally they were a boreal pygmy race. Thedominating peculiarity among them was a tendency249to macrocephalism which in the “littledoctors” became exaggerated, and made themoverbalanced and grotesque. In many the headsdid not too obviously exceed a normal size, and thelower limbs were almost normally developed,giving them shapeliness. The women were verystrikingly less afflicted with “big-headedness,” andin them too the nose, attaining among the men apreponderant magnitude was much more moderatein size. Many of the young women were verypretty, a few almost beautiful, and the becomingattire of the tunic, the loose trousers bound, inmany instances, with gold anklets, the abundantblack hair coiled up in coronal chignons, and sinuouslydecorated with the gold serpent-shaped pins,administered a piquant loveliness. Generally themen were not so attractive; an unpleasant lankinessof limb, and (because of a deficient dentaldevelopment) sunken cheeks, with narrow chests,and their unusual heads, on which too in a greatnumber of cases an extreme scantiness of hair wasobservable, robbed them of physical rhythm andproportion. But again among them were alsostriking exceptions, and these gained immensely incomeliness from the average homeliness of theirassociates. The older men universally affectedbeards, which some compensatory whim in naturemade abundant. All were dark.

My greatest achievement in observation on thislong march was the certain identification of thelanguage with a Semitic tongue, and the detectionamong the taller people of an Eskimo dialect. Thislast discovery was made by the help of Goritz,whose knowledge of the eastern Eskimo dialectswas extensive, although he at first questioned myconclusions. The reasons are philological and Ipass over them. I hope to discuss the matterbefore the congress of Americanists, to be held in250Philadelphia next year. It is enough for the followingchapters of my narrative to say that Ibecame proficient (reasonably so) through myintimate acquaintance with Hebrew, with thespeech of the “little doctors,” and Goritz acquireda less facile mastery of the Eskimo tongue. Therecognition of corruption in sound of a few consonantsand a peculiar ellipsis of some vowels, in thefirst case, accomplished the feat for myself. WhenI told Hopkins of my success he was overjoyed.

“Alfred, that is dandy. If we can tell whatthey’re talking about, and get a line on their planswe’ll skin through all right. When the propermoment comes let ’em know you’re wise to theirgibberish, and they’ll take water quick enough.Why, we might start a revolution, if they try to putit over us. The big fellows could sweep them likechaff—and then our GUNS.”

“Yes,” I curtly interjected. “And their tubes?”Spruce was silent.

We had now been five days on our march and ourprogress had been alternately hastened and retardedby the curiosity of the people. Hastenedwhen messages from nearby villages along the roadcame to our captain urging speed, that the citizensof these country communities might inspect us alittle longer; retarded by reason of this sameimportunity to allow the gathering countryside thegratification of the show. For literally we hadbecome that, and had there been an enterprisingmanager to exploit our novelty his receipts wouldhave been enviable. The crowds increased, therumor of our approach spread on every side, and tomeet their unappeasable wonder over our appearancewe were stuck up on platforms in the squaresor open places in the villages and watched, studiedand applauded by the insatiable throngs. It wasindeed a stupefying experience. Certainly it was251abundantly ludicrous and amusing as well.Hopkins of course enjoyed it. Goritz was patientand obscurely piqued by it, the Professor regardedit as ethnologically delightful, and I took advantageof the display to note the people and their speech.

“I have served a good many purposes in my life,”said Hopkins, “but I never supposed I’d make adrawing card in a traveling circus. Our unitedeffect is really gorgeous. I should think theymight improve the show by some fresh clothes.But say—the Professor is immense. And heTAKES. The way they shout and rubberneckto get nearer to him will start something doing.If the Professor only had a little political ambitionand an ounce of sense he’d organize a campaignthat would land him in the presidential chair.And then! Well then we’d all be prime ministers,and hand out the dope to these babies in a mannerso impressive that we’d hold the job down tight,until we could get away with the loot. We’d makeGoritz treasurer and he’d come the Tammany acton ’em so strong that maybe we could leave with allthe goods worth having in the country, in our jeans.Eh?

“Look at ’em, now, surveying the Professor. Ifeel an artistic jealousy of that red hair of his. Itcertainly has ’em guessing. Perhaps they thinkit’s a kind of halo, always on fire. He certainlymust keep it on his head. It’s our salvation. Letthe local barbers touch that, and find out it’s justplain scissorable wool, and we’re in the soup—andthe Professor? Well, they won’t do a thingto him.”

This fifth day turned out to be the last one of ourmarch. A memorable day it was. Larger andlarger grew the crowds; they met us, streamingalong evidently from some near point of population,and, as now the captain of our guard would allow252no delay or halt, we assumed that our destinationwas almost at hand. Attaining it formed a newthrill.

We had come to a marked irregularity in the topographicmonotony of the valley, a high, evenlysloped ridge curving away on either side, whichmight be the arc of a continuous or completedcircle, or just a natural accident. The broad roadascended this hill. We had just stepped out on thesummit, when one of the intermittent light flashesor sunbursts blazed on the strange scene before oureyes. We were looking into a dish-like area, forsuch it seemed, as we could trace north and souththe circumvallation of the ridge, and it was filledwith settlements which became denser in the distance,and in that distance (later we discovered itwas about the center of the circular enclosure) rosethe dazzling pediments, stories and wings, of aGOLD HOUSE.

Nothing could be more astonishing. Instinctivelywe came to a full stop and gazed. And ourcompanions, familiar with the spectacle, werearrested by the sudden apocalyptic flashing of lightfrom the burnished building, as “of summer lightningon a dark night suddenly exposing unsuspectedrealms of fantastic and poetical suggestion.” (Aline, Mr. Link, I found last night in a book byGeorge Saintsbury.) But the suggestions here wereoverwhelmingly fantastic.

Imagine a swelling mound tapering to a narrowplatform, itself created by the leveling art of theengineers, surmounted by a curiously heaped upsuccession of stories, which were buttressed belowby extensions and porticoes, and frescoed orincrusted throughout by rude and hieratic ornamentation—anornamentation that certainly hadmore lucidity than the confused medley of symboland ideograph at Copán, but which had not yet253freed itself from a mixture of extravagance andrealism. Then finally imagine this executed inwhat seemed to be pure gold, and all glittering in aquick concentration of light. It was refulgent andit was unearthly. Below it spread the dull tawninessof an outreaching terracotta city.

“What have we come to?” faltered Goritz, whowas transfixed by this new wonder.

“It might be called,” said Hopkins, “the Desireof All Nations; at least it would look that way to athoroughbred anywhere inside of Christendom. Iwonder how long that pile would stand on theprincipal street of the capitals of the world! Thearmy, with fixed bayonets, shot guns, and dynamitebombs, couldn’t keep the gentlemen of America orthe spend-thrifts of Europe from getting theirhooks in somewhere. I think it must be the Casino;nothing short of Policy or Poker could keep up anestablishment like that. Gold must be very cheaphereabouts, or else the people need a little freeschooling as to the particular and pleasant uses itcan be put to. Looks that way.”

“Ah,” spoke up the Professor. “Barter, primalconditions, prevail here, where a medium ofexchange is hardly needed. Gold to these people isa color, an ornament. With it they have no morethan without it, for every desire is satisfied, andthe pride of possession or the sentiment of avariceis unknown. All are equally happy, and all areequally rich or poor. Gold has an interest to thembecause it pleases the eye, and it is here dedicatedto personal or religious distinctions, but as wealth,in our sense, it has no value. These flocks, theseacres of grain and fruits, mean subsistence, butGOLD is something to look at—simply. Its namehere has probably no meaning of commercialutility.”

“Pretty good for the eyes though, Professor,”254was Hopkins’ rejoinder, “and as for the name Idon’t recall anything

Which acts so direct, and with so much effect

On the human sensorium, or makes one erect

One’s ears so, as soon as the sound we detect,

unless perhaps—it might be—BEER—in adrought.”

“Well,” in an undertone from Goritz, “if Goldhas no practical uses in this outlandish nook of theworld, we can take enough of it away with us to aplace where it’s more useful than ornamental.”

“Have a care,” warned Hopkins. “Our headshad better be kept on our shoulders, too. Remember,Goritz, you’ve considerable loot in yourpack now. If they give us the third degree, andstart in on a customs house search, we may get toanother place where—where Gold wouldn’t beworth the handling, because of the heat, or otherwise,or because our immediate necessities wereotherwise provided for.”

All this while we were again rapidly moving on,and with each step, while the marvel before usgrew larger, plainer, some of its first surprisingeffectiveness changed. It began to be seen that itwas little more than a piled up structure of thecommunal dwellings which dotted the plain beneathit, but on it a queer aboriginal fancy had stuckplates of gold,—or what seemed to be gold—andthat its corners were decorated with upraisedstandards of gold delineating the patron god, ordemon, of the establishment, the Crocodilo-Python.Over it too in whirls and corkscrewspirals spread innumerable folded scrolls and windingfigures whose lumpy extremities betokened theheads of snakes. It was not long before we hadgained the heart of the city. Everywhere it hadbeen a monotonous series of the tile huts, stuck in255tiers, one series over another, such as descriptionand photographs have made so familiar from theArizona and New Mexico region. There was now amuch smaller admixture of the taller people, and thelittle men and women appeared to be almost theonly occupants of the city.

We had come almost underneath the pimple-likeexcrescence on which the golden habitation sat,like a yellow corolla on the green bulb of a thistle,and we found a space surrounding it of about athousand feet in width, filled with enclosuresholding, to our amazement, large black snakes, thecongeners exactly of those held aloft, in the processionwe had met, on golden rods. The walls ofthese enclosures were of tile or rudely baked bricks;some were screened with an open wicker work,which in many instances had become dilapidatedor were quite worthless as fences to prevent theegress of the snakes. In the enclosure bushes andweedy herbs flourished, and their occupants hungfrom the branches of these or torpidly lay in thegrass beneath, in repulsive bunches. I admit myunreasonable aversion to snakes, and these extraordinaryprotected nurseries overcame me withdisgust. Hopkins was hardly less disturbed. Tothe Professor and to Goritz they were manifestlyattractive.

“St. Patrick can’t be the patron saint here,” saidHopkins, “and whatever language they speak itpretty certainly is not Irish. I think no one couldmistake their brogue for anything heard in Cork orDublin. As for the snakes, I guess what BobbieBurns said to the louse will fit them,

‘Ye ugly creepin, blastit wonners,

Detested, shunn’d by saunt and sinners.’”

“Every step we take,” solemnly rejoined the Professor,“discloses new wonders. To me it is quite256evident that the trail of the ethnic origins of Treeand Serpent worship crosses the pole!”

“Yes,” shouted Hopkins, “and to me, it’s quiteevident that the trail of these reptiles crosses ours.Look out there!”

He pointed ahead and over the road stretchedthe wriggling bodies of twenty or thirty faintlyspotted black snakes, sleek and graceful, their headsraised indifferently in a cool inspection of ourapproach, and their tongues quivering in defiance.

As soon as they were perceived by our guard, theleader raised his hand, and we waited for theirophidian majesties to satisfy their curiosity, andpass on, which they did, swaying the cropped grasson the wayside and vanishing into one of theneighboring pounds over its loosened dejectedblocks. It was quite clear that the city of Radiumopolis—sowe came to distinguish it later—mightprove unpleasantly full of these creatures, for whomthe citizens maintained a most disagreeably piousregard. It reminded the Professor of the greatcenter of Serpent Worship at Epidaurus, wherestood the famous temple to Aesculapius and thegrove attached to it in which serpents were keptand fed, down to the time of Pausanius.

Once over the peripheral plain we began theascent of the mound at its center. There was asimple stateliness about this terraced rise of steps,formed of a red tile or brick, from its very gradualrecession and its extreme width. Here our eyesmeasured and studied the astonishing house, ortemple, or Capitol, which was to be for us doubtlessa “house of detention” also.

It was a square composite, with openings on threesides—those we could see—and pierced by windowembrasures, sensibly regular in their spacing.Porches extended outward from the openings andon these a little rather unsuccessful decorative construction257had been expended. Over each porchentrance was the literal reproduction in gold and instucco of the local deity, in addition to the upraisedimages—careening and expanded like hippogriffs—atthe four corners of the building. These latterwere made entirely of gold, and represented thousandsand thousands of dollars. It was indeedstupifying to estimate their probable value.

The gold surface of the Capitol proved to be aplastering of gold plates, not so well or so carefullyexecuted as to preclude the constant exposure of theunderlying adobe. But this prodigious prodigalityof gold was again most incredible.

We were conducted at once into the Acropolisso the Professor styled it—noting before we entereda serviceable courtyard around it, which secured alittle dignity from a wall of bricks interrupted byhigher pillars, and also rimmed with gold. Enteringa broad hallway we were overcome by thepervasive softly emitted radiance from lamps ofmineral on clumsy stands, and held on round goldsaucers or servers.

“Radium,” said the Professor. “It is exactly asI have been suspecting. These people have gainedaccess to some vast deposit of this miracle-workingelement. It not unreasonably may be supposedthat it is exposed in some chasm in the crust of theearth, entering to great depths, and perhapsimpinging on such central masses as have beeninterpolated in some recent physical speculations,as giving rise to the static heat of the earth. Herewe probably have an explanation of the abundanceof gold—transmutation! And here too someadequate explanation of the stationary sun raysconverted by reflection into light and heat—Astounding!Astounding!! Astounding!!!”

To me the fascination, in a way, of all this mixtureof wonders and horrors (the snake and later258discoveries and episodes) and primal simplicity, wasjust that incalculable oddness or mystery of theconjunction of some almost superhuman powerwith the weird religion and the archaic habits. Icannot describe how perversely it affected me,sometimes raising my interest to a fever heat, andagain filling me with a tormenting fury of desire tomake my escape.

We passed through the hall, our guard, at somegesture from the captain, closing around, and as weemerged at its further end, again upon the outsidecourt, I, looking back, saw attendants cover theradium masses with opaque caps. We were now ina somewhat contrasted entourage. On this sideof the Capitol the city seemed excluded, and arather thick wood and an untamed undergrowth,through which however stretched a broad highway,monopolized the ground westward. We hadentered both the city and the Capitol from theeast. In an adjoining yard at the foot of anothersymmetrically disposed terrace of steps was aclosed tenement, and into this we were led.

Imagine our delight to find it occupied by animmense basin or pool, into which two conduitspoured hot and cold water. The immense bathwas even then gently steaming; the outer air hadgrown increasingly colder. Rough masonrycouches, covered with rugs, had been built againstthe walls, and on the edge of the huge tankwere scattered white chunks which, at first conceivedto be soap, turned out to be an indifferentsubstitute, in the shape of an unctuous and grittyclay.

This delightful prospect almost brought shoutsto our lips, and Hopkins raising his hands in mockhomage and gratitude, exclaimed:

“But this day of water, cleanliness, and soap,

I shall carry to the Catacombs of Hope,

259Photographically lined

On the tablets of my mind,

When a yesterday seems to me remote.”

And to crown all we were given the tunic andtrousers of Radiumopolis with the belt and enigmaticallyengraved buckle—of lead, to Goritz’sill-suppressed mortification. And then we weretaken back into the Capitol, and alloted four roomsfacing the east, each provided with a window, fromwhich we would now surely be able to watch thepageant of the returning worshippers, priests orcelebrants. These rooms deserve a passing consideration.They were low ceilinged, moderatespaced, their floors carpeted with a rude figuredmatting (again the conventional Crocodilo-Python)their walls hung with rugs far less artistic than theNavajo blanket, low couches upholstered withmatting and rugs or carpets, and across the doorwaya surprisingly artistic tapestry of gold threads,figuring the Crocodilo-Python in a maze of interlacingand sinuous outlines, something like theconvoluted sea dragon on the jade screens of China.One of these curtains hung at the entrance of almostevery room in the Capitol, and they were verynumerous and capable of accommodating a remarkablenumber of people.

There were on the ground floor—where our ownrooms had auspiciously been reserved—large assemblyrooms, or audience and council chambers, and,as the sequel shows, one of these was the ThroneRoom. There was no glass covering to the windows;perhaps in a few instance screens of leather,which were inserted in the openings of the rooms,helped to exclude the cold, such as it was. Rainwas kept out by board frames. We found out thatthere was seldom a cold exceeding 0° Centigrade,and that radium stoves or our clothing itself,mitigated any severity of weather the denizens of260these houses experienced. Everything reinforcedour first impressions, that the culture of theRadiumopolites was simple, unostentatious, a littlegrotesque and savage, but that their proximity tosome source of radium had evolved a mysteriouspower among their wise men, which had overlaidthe supellex of their culture with this resplendentglory of GOLD. Was it, as the Professor moreand more confidently believed—was it transmutation?

In our rooms we were supplied with the radiumlamps and were made to understand that too longexposure to their influence was dangerous. Oncein possession of this marvel we surrendered almostall curiosity to the inspection of the transcendentmaterial. Facts connected with its properties andits power are considered in another place; ourimmediate history in our new surroundings claimsprecedence now. We were permitted the libertyof the courtyard around the Capitol, but were notallowed to descend the hill, nor to investigate thesurrounding city. Of course we saw the occupantsof the Capitol, who evidently formed a restrictedand semi-imperial class, and the many messengers,tradespeople or supplicants who every day came outof the city.

The small people were immensely the moreinteresting of the two types. They varied muchamong themselves, and exhibited individualities oftemperament, behavior and feature, that weremost absorbing. One defect amongst themwas the imperfect and incomplete teeth, especiallyin the men, the apparently thin-shanked(platynemic) legs, and the somewhat constrictedchests, indications, taken in connection with theirlarge heads, that the Professor interpreted as evidenceof great racial age. The women were oftensharply contrasted with the men, being larger,261more shapely, and often boasting really extraordinarybeauty. This was most marked in the residentsin the Capitol, and one of these ladies of the Capitolwhom we later encountered promenading the courtyardquite enthralled us. Her own appreciation ofthe Yankee was on her side equally enthusiastic.

We had our meals served to us in a separateroom, attended by servants of the larger race. Wesat at a table covered with a yellow cloth, withdesigns woven upon it of the ubiquitous Crocodilo-Python,and we ate from square dishes of pottery,also yellow and bordered by blue traceries of interwovenserpents, which revolted both Hopkins andmyself. Our cuisine was not much varied, and themost pleasing element was the delicious wine.The flat meal cakes, nuts, fruit and dishes of goatand sheep meat, with some vegetables, were offeredrelentlessly day after day, and it occurred to Hopkinsthat if he could have had an assorted shipmentfrom Park and Tilford’s, and been allowed to makea few simple experiments in the kitchen he couldeasily have raised the standard of living immensely.

But I was making remarkable progress in acquiringthe tongue of the upper classes. Myexcellent knowledge of Hebrew made this practicable,and in a short time, before the return of theCouncilors, Priests or Governors from their peripateticreligious pilgrimage made it supremely helpful,I could actually converse intelligibly, and fromcarefully enunciated addresses understand myinterlocutor. I was most lucky in hitting on avery sympathetic teacher. It was no less a onethan Ziliah, the daughter of Javan, the president ofthe Council and Ruler of the Capitol. He was thebenignant and expostulating little gentleman wehad encountered when our mishap precipitated usfrom the pine tree top. She, his daughter, wascertainly the fairest of the children of Radiumopolis,262and her wandering and liquid eyes had neverbeen more satisfied than they were now with thesweet boyish beauty of Spruce Hopkins, theYankee.

Ziliah Lamech—if I may adopt the Gentilepractices of nomenclature—was one of the largerwomen, and exhibited a different and piquant skillin dress. Her trousers were rather baggy, her skirtslooped on the sides, so that her pretty feet in embroideredgoatskin sandals were delightfully visible.The belt of gold plates and the wonderful buckle ofgold clasped her waist, constricting the blowsy uppertunic, which was a delicate blue, and enrichedby interwoven threads of gold. It was loosened ather neck and the dark, smooth skin bared at her finelyshaped neck, was decorated by a series of delicategold chains in a composite flat necklace. Herabundant hair, as with the women we had met inthe pine forest, was made up in compact rolls, thatwere held in place by the gold serpent pins, andfrom her small ears hung tiny bells of gold.

Her face, as I carefully studied it, was distinctlyJewish. The features were really perfect, and themingled softness and intelligence of her expression,the half denoted charm of extreme sensibility in hereyes, the mobility and loveliness of her mouth, aswaying grace in her motions, an indefinable distinctiontoo in the carriage of her head, and theenticing fullness of her bared arms—the sleeves ofher upper garment were caught up to her shouldersby broad loops of ornamented gold—combined tomake of her a captivating and most novel picture.She it was, whose heart the errant little god Cupidhad now sadly transfixed with his stinging arrows,and her heart was beating wildly under the loosenedfolds of her jacket with love for the blond American.

It was my opportunity. Love is a quick teacher,and makes quick confidences, especially with naive263and unsophisticated natures, as now, in this littleprincess of the north. She met us frequently inthe courtyard surrounding the huge glitteringCapitol where we were constantly strolling, and Irecall the extraordinary picture she made, whenone of the black lustrous snakes rose from the parapeton the edge of the hill as she was passing. Shebowed to us, seized the reptile, wound it around herbody, and lifted, above her own, its big wedge-shapedhead, with one hand, holding with theother its scaly loops at her waist. The effortbrought color to her cheeks, excitement to her eyes,and though neither Hopkins nor myself admiredthe combination, her beauty won from the fantastic,or repellent, contrast a most singular thrall.

There was a maidenly coquetry with her, asbecame her degree, for she retired after disengagingthe creature, throwing it back down the hillside,whence it sped to the immense preserve below reservedfor these unpleasing guests. The ophidianimpress everywhere was to me almost unbearable.These snakes traveled from their enclosures, moreor less frequently, in all directions; they were numerousin the city, though, and, after their secretivehabits, were discovered most unalluringly in corners,eaves, holes, roofs, hanging from trees, or nestledon clothes. In the Capitol or Palace they werenot so common, and probably were never foundabove the first floor.

Hopkins of course realized his conquest, butHopkins decidedly abhorred snakes. When thebeautiful Ziliah vanished, he said with a mostcomical grimace:

“A married life with a snake lady wouldn’t bemuch better than a lifelong companionship with agin mill,” an ungallant commentary which Idenounced.

Ziliah and I loitered long together until under her264adroit tutelage I became almost proficient in thisunquestionably deteriorated Hebrew tongue. Andthen, when we fairly understood each other—howthe questions flew! She exulted in telling me all sheknew about her people, and the exchange on mypart, in telling her of our origin and home, withwelcome dilations on the talent and prowess of theadorable Spruce, only too well repaid her efforts.I told all these things to my friends, and for longhours we would discuss and rehearse them withincreasing amazement. In conjunction with allthat I learned later, the picture to be presented ofRadiumopolis, the Radiumopolites, and theircountry—KROCKER LAND—is mainly as follows:

The Valley of Rasselas lies to the southwest ofthe Krocker Land terrain, and the city of Radiumopolisto the southwestern corner of the valleyitself. They are eccentrically related to the vastdomain of encircling mountains, and to the stupendousgorge of the Perpetual Nimbus, which seemsthroughout its extent to penetrate to uncooled origneous wombs of the earth. But at one pointwestward there is a superimposed gorge that actuallycuts the first encircling monstrous crack, andthrough this secondary gorge, cutting the first toimmense depths, pours the deluge of the waters ofthe river that empties the Saurian Sea into theCanon of Promise. (See Chapter VI.) Thisgreat river enters the Valley of Rasselas towards thenorthwest, and after a short, peaceful transit, as abrimming flood through wide savannahs, it turnsabruptly westward in an entrenched conduit andresumes its terrible course through the canon Inamed the Canon of Escape. Through this awfuldefile and on the surging flood of that river I mademy own exit from Krocker Land, reached BeaufortSea, Behring Straits, and finally San Francisco.Goritz’s appellation for the gorge beyond the Saurian265Sea is, however, justified because of the river’sfinal, though brief, passage across one extremity ofthe blissful Valley of Rasselas.

Immediately southward, west of Radiumopolis,are hot springs, a sort of geyser basin, whence hotwaters are constantly derived for the baths of thecity—and we found the latter to be numerous.Beyond these again, in the same direction, the continentalrift of the Perpetual Nimbus almost closes,and the horrible crack becomes a crevice easilycrossed. But beyond it again, in a crustal splitthat defies computation to measure, or science toexplain, or experience to equal, lies, probably aradium (?) mass fifty or more miles in linear extent,with a width of three or four miles, and from whichconstantly pours an almost cosmic immensity ofheat and light—emanation-niton. Its environsare withered, blasted deserts of rock. No one hasever approached it. Its emanation strikes a baremountain face beyond it—a part of the KrockerLand Rim—and the incalculable volume of rays(Cathode Rays) reflected into the upper atmosphereover Krocker Land and immediately superiorto the Valley of Rasselas, are somehow arrested ina nebulous ganglion which forms the StationarySun of this utterly fabulous region. This sun isreally not stationary, nor is it in any sense equable,as hints in my narrative have already indicated.It moves, drifts north and south, east and west,undergoes perturbations, dies out, flares up, andwould, to a properly equipped meteorological corps,stationed at Radiumopolis, furnish, I believe, anobject of study absolutely unrivaled in terrestrialscience.

But from time immemorial in the radium landfragments, nodules of a grayish or brownishmineral, were picked up and their nuclei were laterrevealed to be pure radium (they called it Luxto),266and from these by an accident—still retained in thetradition of the people as a heavenly bestowedrevelation or miracle—the power of transmutationwas learned.

Mr. Link, we had already suspected this, as youknow, but when I actually learned it from the lipsof Ziliah—the love-dazed Ziliah—I verily doubtedmy existence for a moment. In connection withthe whole complex, so to speak, of wonders, itproduced a half vertiginous feeling hard to describe.Ziliah’s story was in this wise:

“A long, long, long, time ago, after a long darknessin the Stationary Sun, a terrible storm brokeover Radiumopolis. The thunder, the lightningflashes, had never before been heard or seen, andthere roared through the air an awful, destructivewind. It upset houses, blew over part of theCapitol, razed the trees; and then amid thethunder and the lightning, in a downrush of air,came a stranger, a little man strangely dressed inwhite with a black cap, and he had a dark face.He stayed with the people and taught them manythings, but only to the rulers, the older men, themen of the council, would he teach the secret ofmaking gold. He took them away with him on ajourney westward to the radium country. Theywere absent many days and when they returnedthey were in rags, and their faces were pale, andhaggard, but their hands and their pockets werefilled with lumps of gold. The little stranger leftas he had come in another awful storm. He wentupward in a whirlwind and rode like a ghostthrough fearful gusts and disappeared in a roarof thunder and blaze of light, and a circle offlame descended from his feet and burnt a deephole in the ground, as anyone can see to thisday, below the hill in the snake pasture. Butthat wasn’t all. He carried away with him the267beautiful daughter of the Head Man and she neverwas seen again.”

“Why,” exclaimed Hopkins, when I repeated thelegend, “it’s a clear case again of Alice Hatton andthe Devil, though in that case Old Nick left nothingbehind him but a bad smell:

“Now high, now low, now fast and now slow,

In terrible circumgyration they go—

The flame colored belle and her coffee faced beau!

Up they go once and up they go twice!

Round the hall! Round the hall! And now up they go thrice.

Now one grand pirouette the performance to crown,

Now again they go up, and they NEVER COME DOWN!”

Whatever the legend meant it intimated thatsomeone had discovered this peculiar power in theradium mineral, and the knowledge had been carefullyguarded, though, as Goritz said, “Of what usewas the knowledge when gold was needed by noone?”

But the power itself, its physical or chemicalpostulates, the method, the material! Later welearned something, but not much, and I trust itmay be reserved for Science, with the materialat my command (which exerts this miraculouspower) to solve the problem of the ages.

Ziliah told me something of the origins of herpeople and this curious civilization of theirs, butit was vague and inconclusive. The small peoplewere an intensive people, whose unresisted controlof a physically stronger and bolder race resemblessome of the ethnic phenomena of Asia and Africa.Their literature was practically little else than longgenealogies, the traditions transmitted by word ofmouth of former rulers, councils, the doings of a268few notables, and a cosmology which very singularlyresembled the story recently deciphered on aSumerian relic by Professor Arno Poebel of theUniversity of Pennsylvania.

In fact these Radiumopolites had lived uneventfullives and the incidents of history were controlledexclusively by the incidents of weather, theatmospheric and terrestrial perturbations involvedin their unique environment. When had theyreached this extraordinary polar depression? Werethey autochthonous? Was it not more likely thatthe Eskimo people had assimilated with them, andhad been absorbed rather than, as in Ziliah’saccount, the reverse? These were unansweredquestions. To propose them only covered Ziliah’sface with the shroud of an unhappy perplexity.

Their social economic life was very simple. Asfar as Ziliah could tell me they had always beengoverned by a patrician class, constituted of twoorders, one the Eminences of the Capitol, to whichJavan, Ziliah’s father, belonged, and who numberedsome twenty-four, presided over by a President,and all of whose families, retainers, etc., were forthe most part domiciled in the great Capitolbuilding; and the Magistrates of the city, whoruled over wards or bailiwicks, living in superiorstructures, whose roofs were also distinguished bygold plates, and which throughout the city blazedpicturesquely among the lowlier red buildings.

The religion in primitive communities, always acontrolling and oftentimes the most distinctivefeature of their culture, was in the Krocker Landpeople a monotheistic faith which, however, securedthe satisfaction of visualization in a deeply rootedand superstitious Tree and Serpent worship. YetTHERE WERE NO PRIESTS. And thisanomalous condition was explained partially byZiliah, who told me that it had years before been269instituted as a Law of the People that only a Kingcould be their Priest. Whether they had ever hadKings she did not know but there was someprophecy made by one of the wise old men of theCouncil, a hundred or more years ago that a Kingwould fall out of the clouds to them, that he wouldlook like a poor man, that he would not know theirlanguage, that he would bring them a new wisdom.It was some time before I could make out themeaning of this. It dawned on me at last. Itsfull meaning received a startling explanation later.The services of the religion were controlled by theCouncil (the Areopagus, as the Professor styled it)of little Wise Men, and one prominent feature wasthis periodic peregrination through the great PineForest when the selected shrines were visited, thevotive tablets nailed to the sacred trees, and theblack snakes left to protect them. When I toldHopkins about all this he shook his head gloomily;

“Yes, and how about Goritz’s loot? I guess theGod of Krocker Land won’t stand for that.Erickson we’ll get it in the neck yet. The Professoris our trump card.”

“Oh, yes,” I replied. “How about yourself?The fair Ziliah pulls well with her father, I guess,and you pull well with her!”

Hopkins gave me a derisive glance. “Oh ofcourse. We’ll do the Captain Reece stunt—youremember?

“The captain saw the dame that day

Addressed her in his playful way—

‘And did it want a wedding ring?

It was a tempting ickle sing!

“‘Well, well the chaplain I will seek,

We’ll all be married this day week,

At yonder church upon the hill;

It is my duty, and I will!’

270“The sisters, cousins, aunts and shape

Of every black enlivening snake

Attended there as they were bid;

It was their duty and they did.”

Of course in exchange for all these confidences, ifthey could be called that, Ziliah exacted some confidencesin return, and I confess I had to resortsomewhat to invention, where I did not haveHopkins’ precise directions in the matter, in meetingher exorbitant curiosity over everything concerningAmerica. This disquisitional curiositywas singular in an unsophisticated maiden of a semi-civilizedpeople who, it might have been supposed,would have contented herself with the indulgenceof her affections and felt no interest in her hero’shistory.

But so it was. Spruce Hopkins understood heradmiration, but was extremely puzzled, certainlyat first, as to his own legitimate behavior in theaffair.



The Crater of Everlasting Light

The return of the Ophidian Pilgrims, as theProfessor termed them, seemed unreasonably slow.The wardens, Ziliah, and the servants of the Capitolwere all equally mystified over this unusualslowness. Cold, dry weather supervened, for indeedthe stationary sun seemed sensibly to respondto the secular influences of the seasons, as we knowthem. We had all been too sufficingly engaged instudying our new surroundings, to regret or missthe absent Government, for a larger liberty hadbeen vouchsafed us, though one thing was forbidden.We could not enter the precincts of theforest to the west of the Capitol.

We walked through the city, we explored theCapitol, we increased our acquaintance with thedomestic habits of the populace, and the Professorand myself had accumulated notes on all of thesethings, to be incorporated in the work on KrockerLand which we fervently hoped to write, and whichnow—Alas!—may never see the light, for—theProfessor is today a fixed official fact in that almostmythical land in the Arctic Sea. But I hasten.

Goritz had restrained with difficulty his almostuncontrollable impulse to perpetrate some outrageon the Capitol itself in his determination to accumulatea fortune of gold. We had averted thisdanger by very emphatic protests. We pointed272out to him its danger and the folly of jeopardizingour safety when the means of getting back—I hadalmost said to the Earth, as if we had actually leftit—were now almost null, or were at least desperate.We told him that the plunder in his room, iffound—and I began to fear that the depredationson the tree shrines had already been detected andwere, in some way, a cause for the delayed returnof the pilgrims—would involve us all in gravedifficulties. To our entreaties or threats he becamedeaf or obstinate, and I had followed him, in thesleeping hours, when he expected to achieve hisrobberies without molestation, only to intercepthim chiseling at the gold plates that encrusted theCapitol.

In the meanwhile the Professor, whose popularityincreased with everyone, had become attracted to ayoung Eskimo whose first astonishment over theProfessor’s poll of red hair had been succeeded by asort of personal adoration. He followed the Professorwith an attachment and fascination thatmight have proved irksome. I made some inquiriesof my informant, the acquiescent Ziliah,about him, and learned from her that he was a guideand the gatherer of radium. He alone apparentlywas able to penetrate the strange and ghastlycountry where the radium masses were collected, inthat zone of the Unreal where lay the CRATER OFEVERLASTING LIGHT. His peculiar abilityarose from his immunity to the influence of theradium itself, which invariably prostrated those whotouched it, while the region itself forbade approach,by reason of those indeterminable emanationswhich destroyed the adventurers who entered it.For some reason, or, in some way, Oogalah Ikimya,the young Eskimo, enjoyed a unique invulnerability,and on his efforts Radiumopolis depended forits supply of radium. This distinction had given273him a particular arrogance. He alone now daredthe inexplicable dangers, or even knew the deviousroute that threaded the labyrinths leading to thisunutterable place.

When I told my friends about this, we all felt amad desire to see, even at a distance, this intolerableland, a mineral Gehenna. I knew of the man’sdevotion to the Professor, and I felt certain wecould gain his consent for us to accompany him.No one of us felt a keener impatience for the tripthan Antoine Goritz. I told Ziliah of our wish.She grew pale with horror at the suggestion; herbeautiful eyes pleaded with me to abandon thesuicidal project; she pointed to Spruce Hopkins inpiteous despair, she indeed flung herself at his feet,and invoked his commiseration of her should he belost. Then she became tempestuous with scornand indignation.

We could not go. The guards would prevent us.She would summon the magistrates of the city.Was she not Ziliah, daughter of the President,head man of the Council? We should not stir.NOT HE.

And that feminine transport over, she againimportuned us, with terrible threats of our fate,not to consider it; so many had perished in thesame outrageous pursuit; dead bodies marked theway; it was forbidden; the curse of the Crocodilo-Pythonfollowed those who went there; it meantmadness, hysteria, death.

Finally it was made clear to us that whateverOogalah Ikimya might say this influential andenamored young woman would prove hopelesslyobstinate. Physical force would be invoked torestrain us. Oogalah himself rather welcomed thisopportunity to show off his skill, his exceptionalprowess, but his volubility and transports availednothing. Hopkins executed what the French274might call a coup d’amour and liberated us.His overture to the despairing or incensed Ziliahthrough me was rather compromising and risky,but its effect was instantaneous and certain. Oppositionvanished when Hopkins explained thatthe lovely woman might get herself disliked, andthat any conceivable state of future happinessfor both of them depended on his having his way.

So it eventually ended, as the mountainousobjections seemed to melt away like dew beforethe sun, that we found ourselves on the road thatled westward from Radiumopolis, under the guidanceof Oogalah Ikimya, who strode before us withrapid swinging of legs and arms, his face radiantwith pride. We had cautiously promised to becareful, not to go farther than was prudent, tosatisfy ourselves with a distant view of the blastedland, and to return as quickly as we went, for it wasinsisted that we should hold ourselves ready for thedisposition of the Council, when the long delayedpilgrims returned, to settle our fate.

The noisy rumor of our departure for theRadium Country, and the haggling and delays thatpreceded it, Ziliah’s outbursts and excitement, theconsultations over the permission to let us go at all,Oogalah’s gossiping activity about it, led to thepopulation’s—which besieged us and surrounded usalmost daily—outpouring on the day of our departure,so that for miles we were accompanied by acrowd watching us with increased wonder, and,among the older, with much ominous head shaking,and, with the younger, many sneering comments, alittle cheering and some obstreperous farewells.The Professor evoked much enthusiasm—he alwaysdid. I do not know the rationale or the etiquetteof love matters in Krocker Land, but I rememberthat Hopkins took the profusely smiling and opulentlylovely, young and small Ziliah aside, and275tried to make her understand—without my help—thattheir public parting should be very formal, nomatter how ecstatic their private one might be.On top of that, considerably to his disappointmentor chagrin perhaps, Ziliah hugged him prettytightly when they stood on the terrace stairs as weleft the palace, and the very observing publicgathered about were neither amused nor interested.

It was rather funny I thought, but I admitted, Iam sure, that as a display of superb manners itwould be unmatched anywhere else in the world ofso-called culture today. Atala came into my mind,though Spruce Hopkins was a good deal of a contrastto the sentimental Rene, and there was acertain aplomb, directness, vivacity and insistencein Ziliah that hardly suggested the Natchezmaiden. And there certainly was no Outogamiz.

Well, at length we were on our journey. Atfirst the highway, for, though seldom used, thiswestern road was in a state of fine preservation,traversed a thick but low wood entangled withundergrowth. We had never entered this woodbefore and had been especially prohibited fromentering it. Of course we tried to see all we could,but there was absolutely nothing remarkable aboutit. The land to the left sloped off into a marshytract. The people were numerous also at thispoint, which interfered with our inspection, and Iknow now that Oogalah, obedient to instructions,hurried us along this section of the route—he first,the Professor second, then Goritz, then myself,then Hopkins—until we reached a spare, meagrecountry, beyond which rose the western ranges ofthe Pine Tree Gredin.

The land rose steeply, but it was almost bare, theparched soil supported a ragged growth, and in thisappeared a few stunted pine trees. Apparently,for many miles north and south, this condition276prevailed, an unhappy and strong contrast to thepine tree zone to the east of the amphitheater,where the land bubbled with springs, was murmurouswith brooks, and where the lofty, splendidtrees spread a temple-like shade over the vastdecline.

Beyond us already rose the faint shimmer of thePerpetual Nimbus, that wall-like screen of vaporthat enclosed Krocker Land within the mountainousRim that lies outside of this veil of cloud,though here, as I have already noted, the Nimbuswas wavering, inconstant, and in patches of the distanceabsent. The Deer Fels country and theaquatic and marshy plateaux were from here scarcelydistinguishable. A level tract of stony wastes wasthis, varied by occasional rugged hills, depressionsthat glistened balefully, dead ravines barely supportingthe niggardly growth of sapless yellowplants that lurked here and there below boulders, orsought the moisture of a few sullen pools whosereplenishment depended upon the infrequent but,we were told, furious storms.

And the Nimbus—a paltry reproduction of theincalculable vaporous discharges that encircle atevery other point this hidden paradise. Thechasm here was indeed deep, but imperfectly continuous,and huge horsebacks of stone piled withinit formed practicable though most broken and unevenbridges across it. The steam rising from theheated rocks below was not visibly referable to anywater supply, as on the east, where the plungingrivers so abundantly furnished the means ofraising this colossal stage curtain, and there wasabsent from here that tumultuous rolling ocean ofclouds in the sky. Probably underground coursessupplied the water, for, after we had surmountedone of the least precipitous and angular of thebridges and had gotten into the rising territory277beyond, we encountered a puzzling intricacy ofprofound cracks or fissures, and we could not onlyhear but could see the patchy lustres of runningwater in them.

From this point our guide turned abruptlynorthward, taking us through a terrible desolationof rocks, with the high snow-clad peaks of theKrocker Land Rim gloriously looming skyward onthe left. I shall not forget that strange transit.It was hard work. We carried our own supplies,the water and a few instruments, and their weightwas almost insupportably increased by the discomfortsof the harsh, inhospitable land we traveledthrough, and, by some dizzying influence whichbegan to strain our heads with headaches, to parchour throats, and to produce a most uncomfortableand absurd illusion of treading on air cushions.This last hallucination made us unsteady, and aftera while it pestered us so much that we were compelledto stop at short intervals to rest.

Oogalah kept on well ahead, looking back at usevery few minutes and distrustfully shaking hishead, with incessant gestures for increased speed.We were not over anxious to hurry. The regionwas extraordinary and its geologic features, asconnected with this unparalleled deposit, or vein, orlode, or whatever it was, of radium, were certainlyworth noting. And then our heads! Hopkinsdiverted us by his misery.

“I’d like to look inside of my cranium just now.I couldn’t begin to tell how it feels; something, Ishould say, like what gunpowder men call deflagrationis taking place there, popguns going offevery few minutes, with a hurdy-gurdy accompanimentin my ears and a bad taste in my mouth.

“The Professor really ought to be very carefuland avoid any extra exertion. In a bean as full ashis, there probably isn’t much room for expansion,278and I guess the right word for describing our conditionis expansion—almost unlimited. My headmay seem no bigger than usual, but I should say ithad already grown large enough for distribution toa dozen headless gentlemen, enough to give eachof them a head piece of ordinary dimensions.Whew—but this is fierce.”

The poor fellow had clapped both hands to hishead as if to actually hold it together. And withall of us the inscrutable sensations were becominginsufferable. Goritz insisted on keeping on but weoverruled that. It was just possible that ourresting a while might accustom us to the strangeinfluence of atmosphere, and enable us to proceedwithout this torturing plague of heat and noise anddilation in our poor heads. We sat down. Oogalahquickly discovered our reluctance, and was backwith us in a trice, gesticulating and vociferating aswell, absolutely unaffected, which brought to thesuffering Yankee’s face the most comical expressionof disgust and surprise.

“I say, Erickson, this has me guessing. Whatdo you suppose that fellow’s made of? Rubber?Cork? Do you know I believe he’d put electrocutionon the fritz. You’d be compelled to pulverizehim if you ever expected to drive the life out of hisbody. One hundred yards more of this and I’lleither join the choir invisible ipse motu, as theysay in the books, or just get one of you to pass meover with a wallop on the cocoa, or a fine slit alongthe carotid. I believe I could go so far as to commithari-kari, and not know it. It can’t bepossible that you fellows don’t notice it.”

“Notice it!” I answered. “My head feels like aballoon. I almost wonder I don’t float off with it.We can’t last this way. It would be a sorry endingto this famous exploit, if we were all to burst likesoap bubbles.”

279Oogalah by means of elaborate pantomime to theProfessor, and a few intelligible words to Goritzacquainted us with his assurance that a hill aboutone hundred yards away would bring us relief. Westruggled to it, sick and staggering. To ouramazement upon ascending it a little way reliefcame, and our tormented heads sensibly shrank—soit felt—to something like their usual volume.Then we noticed, guided by the Professor’s acumenin such matters, that while the region was unmistakablyan igneous complex, the rocks we hadpassed over were entirely granitic, and the elevationon which we now stood was a basic olivine-peridotite,dense and black, and in some wayexempt from the radiumistic occlusions which perhapssaturated the granitic batholith around it. Iwill not stop to discuss this, sir, but later we indeedestablished the fact that the enormous outflow ofgranite lava had brought to the surface innumerableradium bodies, distributed through it in molecularaggregates of considerable size, and that the unseenbut voluminous discharge of the emanation soaffected us, while the gabbro dikes, containing none,afforded an impermeable flooring for our passage.

Then, too, we were now approaching the splendidprism of light that shot upward, yet obliquely, in avast pulsating diffusion of a delicate radiance thatgrew, as we advanced, more and more intolerable.Our progress consisted now in crossing, as quicklyas our stumbling movements would allow, thegranitic intervals that separated the ranges of lowbasic hills. On these latter we regained ourstrength and composure, and prepared for the succeedingdashes that carried us over the perilousinterludes. It was amazing to watch the insoucianceand activity of our guide. He did not evenprotect his eyes. It seemed as if some physiologicalpeculiarity rendered him immune to the terrifying280disorders that signalized to us, instantly, the presenceof these puissant particles of radium, or elsehe had become so from his long continued exposures,a theory quite incomprehensible to us.

But even to this dogged and halting march therewas a limit. Oogalah himself had enough rectitudeof purpose to realize that, and perhaps too he feltvainglorious of his superiority. He indicatedalmost sternly a final towering hill, a continuationof the broken cordillera we had been following,which should be the terminus of our exploration.We—at least Hopkins and myself—would not havecared to overpass it. We were deadly faint andexhausted when we reached it, and but for themagnanimous help of the Eskimo, who carried ourpacks, I think we would have swooned and fallenby the way. The Professor seemed the leastsusceptible to the mysterious influence, and thisamusingly vexed and confounded Hopkins. Brutewillpower and his insatiable fever of desire to obtainthe transmuting substance which raised before himthe vision of boundless wealth, kept Goritz on hisfeet. With the Professor it was the energizingpower of scientific curiosity. The paralyzingeffect of suffocation was really noticeable.

Well, after a few minutes’ rest, with Goritzimpatient and the Professor aflame with wonder,we started up a portentously narrow hill, and a highone too. Oogalah pointed out its pinnacle as ourdestination, and then turned westward into thatdizzying and unearthly country wherein lay thetrough of radium. Around us fell the radiance ofits wonderful emission, but we found that theclimbing path—it had been worn well into the rockby previous pilgrims—clung to the eastward scarpof the hill, and was therefore actually in shadow—awelcome relief. Perhaps five hours were consumedin this toilsome ascent, but when we reached281the last winding trail, and had clambered to a smallshelf immediately under the ragged apex, we lookedover a scene of unparalleled terribleness.

The pen of Dante or the pencil of Dore alonecould have done justice to its weird and frightfuldesolation, not entirely expressed in lifelessness, butin the awful grimace in it of tortured and disfiguredmatter. The blacks, purples and reds, smearedover it wrote in it a sort of agony of disgrace andunseemliness and pain. I wonder if the landscapesof the Moon resemble it.

For a long way in the foreground, where we sawwith astonishment the running figure of Oogalah,stretched a broken platform of white quartzite,and through this sprang the strangest confusion oflines, skeins, dashes and drippings of black, purple,brown, and traceable here and there, as of thetracks of a bleeding animal or man, chained drops ofred. It was not beautiful certainly, it had noornamental or decorative features; it was, rather,scoriaceous and blasting.

Beyond this rugose platform rose two mounds,one ashen and white—the Professor said it was ableached, corroded and kaolinized granite—theother a purplish, livid mass streaked with threads orblotches of yellow (sulphur, the Professor thought),and these hills ran north and south, becomingreduced to sprawling and unwholesome heaps ofslaggy consistency which ever and anon encroachedon the quartzite zone and even encumbered it, as iftossed upon it in drifts of scattered nodules.

Through the gateway, between the two firstmounds, we saw even now the form of Oogalahpassing, but he was no longer erect. He wascrawling on hands and knees, and over his headhung a towel. Hopkins and myself shuddered forhim. His venturesome undertaking seemed to ussimply suicide. He intended to bring us each a282mass of the mineral—a small piece. When hegathered this miracle-working substance for Radiumopolis,we were told, he first camped behind oneof the peridotite hills, then issued upon his dangerousmission, collected what he could, returned to hiscamp, and for weeks kept at it until his supply wassufficient. The store made, he removed it in thesame laborious way, stage by stage, until he cameto the safer country, where he was met by numerousassistants who transported the radium homeward.

But we could see from our elevation beyondthese dead heaps, beyond, into the vale of Acheron,as it were,

Quam super haud ullae poterant impune volantes

Tendere iter pennis;

a further dead valley declining into the deeperchasm from which sprang the auroral light. Thischasm was evidently indefinitely prolonged northward;from it rose the coronation or rays whichseemed converged upon a marvelous blazing precipiceon the further boundary of this irregular,narrow, longitudinal canon. Into the canon itselfit was impossible to look. It was enclosed in theupper valley which we could see, and whichpresented a spectacle of stony desolation. Itssides were evidently precipitous on the east, andpretty generally hidden from us, but on the west itpresented to us a long, receding slope of rockpalely illuminated beneath the light streaming ina broad and thick flood over it. These rockexposures were curiously discolored, and alsocuriously spotted with glow-spots, from includedradium perhaps.

Clefts or rents tore down their sides, and ragged,serpentine embrasures interrupted the cliffs thatbordered it. Black recesses contrasted with the283bright surfaces, and sharp crests (arete) bristledhere and there in jagged series, where the cliffsattained elevations of probably thousands of feet.It was a vast abyss and was split more deeply by asecondary and later fissure which had uncoveredthe central masses of radium. Nowhere could wediscern any evidences of aqueo-thermal activity,no steam spirals anywhere. The vapor line waseastward along the crack where the Perpetual Nimbusappeared. Beyond, far beyond, rose the snowytops, the glacier ridden summits of the KrockerLand Rim.

It was enthralling. Remember, Mr. Link, it wasthe night time of the polar world, and here all wasbathed in light or silhouetted in shadow, while thatStationary Sun which filled the immense valley landwith light, imparted to it warmth; it shone in itspeculiar zenith, deriving in some way (by reflectionfrom the crystalline walls to the west) its replenishmentof light and heat from this stupendous sourceof both. We watched in a trance of amazementfor hours. There were perceptible pulsations in theemanation, and it was altogether remarkable toobserve that these were recorded in the variablesun, obviously susceptible to these changes. Itsreference (the sun’s) to the radium masses, hereuncovered, was now indisputable.

It had now in the advanced season becomeapparent that the earth’s secular changes were notquite dissipated in the Krocker Land basin by itsunique feature of the Stationary Sun. For weeksit had been growing colder, and now—to ourastonishment a spectacle of dazzling beauty relievedthe singular weird terror of this lifeless scene. Wesaw a gathering gloom from far away darken thepeaks of the Krocker Land Rim; it spread and becamerevealed as a snowstorm. A wind brushedover us—another instant and the wide zone of284delicate radiation was transformed into an indescribablyglorious firmament of stars, shifting,dying out and renewed, and around us from the skyfell a shower of icy particles, a flurry from thetempest that was sweeping over the distant ranges.

Hardly had we recovered from the shock of thisunexpected display when we heard the voice andsaw the form of Oogalah approaching our position,from the opposite side of the hill. He had executedhis errand and was returning, and the expandedbag in his hands showed that he had accomplishedhis purpose. We had seen him disappear in thedefiles beyond the crumbling hills. He showed thestrain of his work and the effect of the unnaturalinfluence of that exposure, but in a short time, afterresting, his strength and composure returned, andhe was ready for the home journey. He afterwardstold me he had never looked into the chasm, orchasms, whence the radium emissions or radiationsproceeded. He had not cared to. Once on thefield of his dangerous occupation, groveling to theground, he moved cautiously over the rocky flooring,and extracted the mineral masses from theveins wherein they seemed to be segregated, hammeringthem out. Formerly he had been able topick the nodules up loose from the granite ledges.That was no longer possible. He had exhaustedthe supply of free lumps, and now he was compelledto practice this superficial mining. He knew thatthe surface finds were abundant further down theslopes of the defile, but he dreaded the experimentof entering further into the disorganizing influencesof the lethal chamber. He had once been rash inthat way and had swooned, and only the brush ofsome cavorting wind current from above, such aswe had ourselves felt, had sufficiently revived himto enable him to regain his feet and to escape.

On our return Goritz monopolized Oogalah. He285plied him with questions, and evinced the mostexcited interest in his work. Poor fellow—thepoison of the lust for gold, sacri fames auri, hadentered his mind and heart. A magnificent man,Mr. Link, sturdy, resourceful, remorselessly selfforgetful, and most simple in tastes, a lovablebrother, if ever there was one, but sir, never thesame after that unlucky find of the gold belt, whenwe crossed the first barrier of the Krocker LandRim.

He became secretive, avaricious, moody,impatient, a delirious dreamer, and then mostunaccountably suspicious. It was a revolution incharacter that would have puzzled an expert inpsychology or nerves to explain. To me it was apretty bad shock, and when at last the unhappyman—but let that wait. It displays a measure ofthe pernicious power of the temptation of money tocorrupt (the word in Goritz’s case is misapplied), toalter nature and temperament, and all because heexpected to enjoy its pleasures in the world we hadleft; for gold in Krocker Land for any of ordinaryuses, like ours, was literally not much more desirablethan so much earth. To the Radiumopolite itadministered, it is true, a mild esthetic pleasure.There was some recondite recognition in his ingenuousnature of its beauty at least, and itsunchangeableness. To the rulers, the doctors, thechiefs, it may have seemed more; at any rate theydevoted it to the purposes of distinction andreligion.

Goritz on our way back was most impatient toexamine the strange mineral Oogalah had broughtus, but the man refused to let him, intimating, quitefiercely, that it should be distributed among us whenwe got back to the Capitol, and not before. Thisrefusal really arose from his intention of giving theProfessor the largest piece. As Hopkins averred,286the Professor had Oogalah “buffaloed” an epitomizedsubstitute, certainly not intelligible, for alengthier explanation of the Professor’s extraordinaryinfluence over the man.

I remember we were all silent on our way back;we were dazed, and the journey had been rapidand arduous. The Professor himself had indeed,for weeks past, neglected to speculate on the wondersabout us, and we now seldom received from himthose lectures with which he had first instructed us.Perhaps he was overwhelmed by the incrediblerealization of the prophecies he had made to us onthe sylvan banks (how far away and distant theyseemed) of the beautiful fiord in Norway, under asummer sky.

Once again within the charmed borders of theValley of Rasselas we found the highway deserted.It was a contrast to the eager multitudes that hadescorted us when we left. Past the mysteriousswamps on the right from which, at one moment, Ithought I heard a queer sucking wail or bark, as ofsome big animal, and on into the city, and yet noencounters! Past the bathhouses, over the wideserpent pasture with its populous cribs, up the widewestern terrace of steps of the Golden Capitol, andnot one welcoming face—only the listless snakessluggishly gliding or coiled in varnished mats.

To these omnipresent, pervading inhabitants wehad become, in a manner of speaking, accustomed;we found them in the streets of the city, and throughthe courtyard of the Palace, over the parapets,ensconced in niches in the walls, rising hideouslyfrom the pavement of the inner halls, or unexpectedlyand unwholesomely slipping over the mats ofour rooms, or dripping like dark thongs from theircornices. Hopkins detested them.

“I tell you, Erickson,” he would exclaim, “anexternalized delirium tremens of this sort is287worse than drink. Beats me how people ever cameto think well of these critters. They’re the mostpainfully unpleasant denizens of this earth that Ihave ever encountered—to me. Tastes differ ofcourse, but I can’t help feeling that nobody reallylikes ’em, and pretences to the contrary are justplain lies, or the deponents have never enjoyed theadvantages of a public school education, a hot bath,towels, soap, the morning newspaper, pure food,clean shirts, and the white things that generally goto make up white civilization—in other words,Alfred, they’re just savages like these big and littledemons all around us.”

“How about Ziliah?” I might ask mischievously.

The handsome fellow would smile bewitchingly.“Say Erickson, if Ziliah and I ever go to housekeepingwe’ll cut out the snakes—I will—and I’llstart up Anti-Snake missions, until we get thepeople converted into regular Christians—the realIrish sort. Then I’ll come the St. Patrick act onthem, and exterminate the varmints, and cominggenerations, hereabouts, will call me blessed.”

We were somewhat more astonished to enter thewestern doorway of the Capitol and still find no one,but we could see darkly through its dingy length—theradium lamps were covered—and noted a crowdoutside of its eastern entrance. At the same timesomething like beating cymbals and tanging drumscame to our ears, and then unmistakably the shoutsof people.

“They’ve come back,” shouted Oogalah in hislingo, and he rushed past us, mad with expectation.

We followed him with almost equal precipitancy,and the bag of radium mineral that had cost us allthis effort was forgotten. Oogalah dropped it, weneglected it in the sudden excitement, and—it wasnever again found.



The Pool of Oblation

Oogalah was right. It was the return of thepilgrims, and the delighted city, plunged for daysin wondering doubt over their safety had rushedbodily out to meet them. Our momentary importancewas hopelessly eclipsed. I dreaded lest itmight undergo an inverted resurrection, and thatthese potent little men, incensed over our discovereddepredations, might turn angrily upon usand destroy us. For the moment I forgot theseapprehensions in pure admiration at the novelexhibition.

When we emerged on the courtyard at the easternentrance of the Capitol we found the broad moundon which the gold house was erected crowded.Immediately in front of it was a jostling massof women, and prominent among them, byreason of stature and position, was standing thepretty Ziliah, arrayed in certainly her best andmost becoming costume, at the head of the broadstairway, a view down which led the eye straighteastward over the wide thoroughfare, now fencedin by enthusiastic multitudes. Literary remindersconstantly recur to me, and just then I was amusedto find myself picturing Rome when Pompeyentered it and recalling Marullus’ proud words, inJulius Caesar:

289“And when you saw his chariot but appear,

Have you not made a universal shout,

That Tiber trembled underneath her banks

To hear the replication of your sounds

Made in her concave shores?”

There was no Tiber, to be sure, but there werethe people, and the shout, albeit rather more shrilland piercing than thunderous. The air seemed atmoments and in places thick with the rising hatsthat were tossed with splendid nerve, in acclamationof the advancing procession.

On it came, hardly visible at first, save as anoscillating shimmer and movement, and accompanyingthe incessant rumpus of the shatteringcymbals and the thumping drums. The musiciansevinced a pardonable pride and extracted as muchnoise as vigor and appreciation could extort fromtheir very willing instruments. It was excitingenough. As the first companies of the Eskimosapproached and the cataract of sound poured overus we sought some higher outlook. A narrow ledgelike a water-table separated the second from thefirst story of rooms in the communal palace. Wecould, by boosting and climbing on each other,reach this, and once there the coup d’oeil would becomplete. Goritz bent forward. With the lightnessof a deer Hopkins sprang up, straightened himself,and touched the coping. He swung onto it,and—I half dreaded it would give way—it held.Then we maneuvered the Professor up. I followedand with a long pull we jerked Goritz off his feet andhauled him to us, and thus rather absurdly andflagrantly placed, we awaited the event. Our feetdangled over the crowd below and, as we were infull view of the terrace of steps and the road, thefirst thing the returning “doctors” would behold,would be our desecrating presence on the walls of290the palace. But we were oblivious to consequencesjust then.

Gazing down immediately underneath our perchwe saw the ladies of the Capitol bunched in a manycolored knot at the head of the steps. Crushingupon them were the servants, attendants, guards,and an indiscriminate crowd of citizens, and downthese steps, kept inviolately clean, on either side,was a line of the taller Eskimos, a man to everystep, with a black snake coiled round his waist, butwith its neck and head held outward in an inclinedposition, so that a view from our seat crossed a profileof extended snakes’ heads and necks, somewhatsymmetrically displayed in two series. It was amost peculiar bizarre picture.

Already the first regiment of men in the processionhad halted, fallen irregularly backward alongthe side of the road, and then massed beyond thesewas the tireless band, men and women in theirtight bodices and sacks, their naked legs, and thepicturesque gold knee-caps. Almost instantlyappeared the bright gold poles, around which, whenwe met them in the pine forest, had been coiled theimprisoned snakes. The snakes were no longer onthem. The companies holding these advanced,strode up the steps, and stalwartly, with a martialerectness absent from everyone else, lined themselveswith the snake holders. The diversified andvariegated cohorts of the little people which we hadnoticed in the forest, had evidently dispersed, losthere and there along the route, for they doubtlesswere adventitious accretions, followers from customor for amusement, and with them too had vanishedthe very considerable commissariat.

There remained only the jaunting cars, with theirodd but impressive little occupants, and that jolting,shivering, monstrous gold throne, bearing theshocking effigy of the Crocodilo-Python. Yes, and291here they were! The tugging rams with snail tippedhorns, and the council in violet gowns bedizenedwith gold braid and chains, utterly insignificantlilliputian creatures, with their beetle heads.True, but the deadly power lurking in those metaltubes—What was that?—not to be gainsaid, not tobe denied. The thought of it gave me a shudderingsense of impotence, before these caricatures of men.

Of course the wagons could not ascend the steps,and the governors softly alighted—it was quitedelightful to see their noiseless flitting to and fro—purringinto each other’s ears as they cametogether, and then separating with mimic gesturesof expostulation or disgust or approval. Theylooked, so we thought, almost as they had when wefirst met them, and I began to wonder whether theydid not harbor in their light, frameless and bobbinglittle anatomies, extraordinary powers of resistance,abnormal energies perhaps.

There was a little decorous shifting to and fro,and ceremonious bowing and scraping, which hadthe most incalculably ludicrous appearance, as if,after all, they were nothing but vaudeville puppets.Hopkins of course appreciated all that uproariously.Finally they started up the stairs, led by the benignantlittle gentleman who had told the Professorto “speak,” and afterwards most effectively had gonethrough the dumb show of telling him to “shut up,”and who, by the way, was Ziliah’s father. Theyrose towards us with a mincing dignity that wasreally pleasing. We noticed again their whiteness,their thinness, their long arms, their thin fingers,their senile-like agitation, their pointed beards, andthe singular splendor of their eyes. The latterwere now uncovered, the disfiguring goggles hungfrom their necks by the most delicate filaments ofgold.

There were quite a number of them, perhaps292thirty in all, and as they slowly drew near to us werealized that while they belonged to the racialconfiguration of the little people, they were probablyimmensely removed from them, too, by anintellectual gap that bore some reference to trainingor descent. The Semitic character of theselittle people was irrefragable.

Hardly had the President—it turned out thatsuch an appellation might describe him—reachedthe middle of the ascent than we were treated to acharming show of filial affection. Ziliah, ravishinglyfixed up in close fitting attire, and distinguishedby some gold trinkets that became herextremely well, ran down the steps and—fell intoher father’s arms? No—not that—exactly. Therewere some insurmountable difficulties, related tothe comparative sizes of the principals, that madethat commonplace impossible. Ziliah took herfather up, hugged him, kissed and—set him downagain.

I heard Hopkins groan, and the query came in anundertone: “Where’s my mother-in-law?”

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (14)


After that there was a great deal of confusion.Mothers and daughters, wives and sons, the magistratesfrom the city and innumerable friendspoured over the steps to meet the dignitaries, and,for all the world, it just then resembled, allowingfor the difference in latitude and other things, thehomecoming of a western deputation to your congress;their arrival at the town hall, and theiradmiring reception by the neighbors. And thedemocratic expression of things increased. Thesnake sharps on the steps, so Hopkins designatedthem, disappeared with their charges, depositingthem in the enclosures in the “snake pasture,” thegold-polemen scrambled up the steps and enteredthe Capitol, the rams, jaunting cars, and the grinningthrone-horror left too, but where I could not293see. We encountered the latter again under prettystartling circumstances. Then when all this hadhappened the crowds from the city jammed everything,with a shrilling of voices ascending to us thatsounded like a magnification, a megaphoning, ofcountless crickets. The bigger people, the Eskimos,were scarcely visible. We felt relieved—I did.We had been quite forgotten, and that spoke volumesfor our safety. We discussed the situation.

Hopkins: “Suppose we get down and join thehouse warming. It’s just possible that they havesomething better to eat than usual on occasionslike this. I’d welcome a change of diet.”

I: “As this was a huge snake picnic, it may bethey wind it up by eating snakes.”

Hopkins: “Bah!”

The Professor: “My friends, now that theFaculty has returned Erickson must interviewthem, explain our mission, establish scientificrelations with them if possible, get the records,assure them of the astonishment which will be feltover their existence when we report it before thescientific bodies of the world, solicit from them somedemonstration of their knowledge of transmutation,aeronautics, the X-ray; those powerful tubes theymanipulate; and then really we should be thinkingof getting home.”

I: “Professor, I don’t think we’ll find the Faculty,as you call them, very communicative (“Tightwads?” interjected Spruce.) I’ve learned somethings from Ziliah, and judging from her communicationsI believe these people know very littleabout themselves and what’s more I believe theyexercise their occult powers without knowing therationale of them either. At any rate while I canget along with their speech I know I should befloored in any intricate matter. As to—gettinghome. I agree with you, but—HOW?”

294The Professor: “But Alfred, be reasonable.Learn what you can. Try them. I do admit ourreturn presents difficulties.”

Goritz: “There can’t be much of the naphthalaunch left now.”

Hopkins: “But Antoine, you are not thinking ofgetting out! I believe you intended to apply fornaturalization papers.”

The Professor: “There are the—Balloons?Perhaps—”

Hopkins: “Dear Professor, cut it out. There issome difference in size and weight between thesemidgets and us. Really, if you’re solicitous on thesubject of the posthumous notices you are destinedto receive in the learned journals of the world, trythe balloons. None in mine. Rocking the cradleand watching Ziliah cook snakes is preferable.And seriously I could make a hunch at getting onhere if somehow we could improve the brand of thereligion—but this snake business has me going.I guess, too, a little eugenics might help the people.Interbreeding, I should say, with the huskies wouldadd something to the linear dimensions of the inhabitants,for really the girls have some class.”

I: “It seems likely to me that one might reachBeaufort Sea by a short overland route to the west.It’s pretty clear that Radiumopolis is far towardsthe western border of the Valley of Rasselas, andthe Rim, and the sea beyond that, are not far off.Our trip to the radium country showed that.”

The Professor: “The importance of this discoveryoutranks anything that has happened in theworld since the discovery of America. It’s tooastounding to be even indicated in a few words.The radium deposit alone is the most tremendousfact in nature today. For one, I should deplore thedestruction of this most curious aboriginal culturewith the ethnic problems displayed in it, but it is295our indefeasible right to proclaim to the world thepresence here of the radium. The whole aspect,industry, economics, finance, health of the worldwill be profoundly modified by its exploitation.”

Goritz: “Well I should say nothing about it.Let it be. We can use what we learn about itspowers for ourselves. That seems right enough tome. What can be the use of turning the wholeworld topsy-turvy, and of course as a consequenceexterminating these innocent people. Do yousuppose you could hold back for one hour the rampaginghordes that would pour into this littlevalley and inundate it with hungry, riotoussavages? Put a mining town with its rum and itsdemons in the place of this contented realm with itspicturesque life, its peaceful ceremonies, its longinherited customs that for centuries upon centurieshave never changed; erase or debauch a communitythat on the very edge of the roaring world,since time began, has kept on its quiet hidden wayin this unassailable nook, and do you think youwill ever forgive yourselves for the ruin, the devastation?It would curse you to your death.”

We all looked at Goritz with surprise. He didnot often turn on the oratory like this. It was atouch, I said to myself, of his old nature. Theplea was well made and it kept us silent for sometime, and I think the longer we measured its meaningthe more it affected us. Suddenly Hopkinsbroke the silence.

“Say, where’s everybody? There isn’t a soul insight.” It was true; the mound hill, the courtyards,the road, the steps, the doorway, the snakepasture, the parapets, which it seemed but a fewmoments before had been crammed with the chatteringmultitude, were deserted. In our absorption,seated above the heads of the crowd on thecomfortable ledge, we had forgotten to note its296disappearance. Always anxious over some possiblenew development which would endanger our safety,and never confident of the good intentions of thelittle wiseacres with their preternatural powers,their minute crooked devices, and their probabledeceit and malevolence, I now felt some alarm atthis silence and desertion. Was it some new turn inaffairs, a new stage in their ceremonial procedurethat portended any harm to us? I had wonderedover the apparent forgetfulness of our presence,and our absolute neglect. Was it part of somepreconcerted design, an ostentatious indifference,concealing some mischievous plot for our undoing?For it was quite easy, indeed unavoidable to conceive,that these little rulers, impregnable hithertoin their power, would view suspiciously our adventamong them. A secluded bred-in civilization likethis, is jealous of intrusion, resents the foreigner,and spurns novelty. It has always been so andthe Faculty—the word the Professor complimentedthem with—would readily descry in us the forerunnersof a more dangerous invasion. It would bewell to watch them and—where they were?

I leaped to the ground and the rest at oncefollowed. We ran around the corner of the building,first to the north—in which direction the citywas far less expanded than southward and eastward—andthe same emptiness confronted us.But to the south and at the west the contrast wasstartling. The areas were packed with streamingthrongs; crowds from streets were discharging intothe broad highway leading westward, that one onwhich we had just returned from the radium hunt,and, as we hastened to the west side of the Capitol,we saw that the concourse was passing out on thesame boulevard towards the swamp land just outsidethe ranges of the city. Our elevation enabledus to trace the variegated ribbon of people, made297up of the little folk for the most part, and occasionallya towering figure, moving silently outward inan enormous evacuation of the city. What hadpreceded them or what they followed we could notundertake to determine.

Fragments and sections of the formal parade, asit had returned from the ceremonial circuit, wereembedded in the stream, and we guessed the Councilled the procession. Glancing into the broadcentral hall of the Capitol—where the radiumlamps were—nothing was seen. The big communalhouse of government was bare and abandoned.Goritz’s hand passed enviously over the broadencrusting plates of gold which now any ruthlesspillager could have torn away, but he did notattempt to remove one. We certainly would haveinterposed had he tried it. It required no deliberationon our part to conclude to mingle in the crowds.It might be that if their destination was the swampswe now might learn something of the uses of thatmystery-shrouded depression and reservoir.

Running down the western terrace of steps wewere soon immersed in the multitude, though byreason of our physical proportions we rose abovethem like tall saplings among bushes. Somefamiliarization with us had been gained by theRadiumopolites, and although we never stirredabroad without awakening interest, they no longerregarded us with the first unsubdued wonder andcuriosity. And on this occasion we were lesslikely to excite attention, as a more dreadful expectationfilled their minds.

Slowly we made our way for a mile or so untilthe sombre thickets and enshrouding vegetation ofthe swamps came into view. And then a rapiddispersal began. Down innumerable paths andtrails, all more or less artificially finished, the peoplevanished. Files of them entered these forest alleyways298and the quickly thinning throngs left us comparativelyfree. We passed a broad road leadingto the left, down which in the distance we discerneda line of vans pulled by Eskimos, and on themprostrate and bandaged or chained figures, somemoving, we thought! For the moment we wererooted with horror. What could they be? Whatwas this? A public execution, a sacrifice, a holocaust?Good God—could it be a cannibalisticfeast? Great as were our suspicion and terror, theconstraining power of a savage curiosity drove uson. Down the very next lane we met, we rushedpele-mele, with something like rage, something likedisgust, something like a sickening fear, a blendhard to analyze.

Perhaps we had run a half a mile, when we burstthrough the last encircling hedge of bushes andfound ourselves on the shore of a turbid, muddy,malodorous pool, confined by a low wall of clay,paved with tile, and then surrounded by the outstretchedcordons of the adult population—not achild was visible—of Radiumopolis! And immediatelyabove us, at the side, so that we could inspectthe actions of its occupants, was a low platform,also of clay, perhaps twenty feet high. On thisplatform, ranged in a circle, were those detestableworthies (?) and behind them stood the vans, andon the vans—motionless bodies in small low heaps,like fagoted wood! Yes! They were dead—alldead—quite dead. God be praised for that!

From somewhere back of the platform the cymbalsbegan their clamorous cries, but whether itwas due to an augmented band or an exasperatedeffort, the noise seemed redoubled, rising into ascreeching tumult quite indescribable. And thenthe people shouted. It sounded like Lam-bo-o,Lam-bo-oo.

It was a curious vocality and perhaps as nearly299as anything might be likened to the queruloussqueal of monkeys, with just a faint ameliorationof disapproval on the assumption that it was singing.That—the combined discord of the cymbalsand the singing—continued for perhaps fifteenminutes, with intervals of a minute or so. It wasaltogether unearthly. Now we began to see thatthe pond or pool or swamp connected by a narrowneck of water with more remote basins, that mayhave had interminable connections in all directions,forming a web of waterways.

From these distant bayous and lagoons nowissued three or four or five sinuous monsters, rushingforward upon the waves of their own disturbance,their saurian heads raised slightly, and thehuge convolutions of their tails discerned in thewash of their wakes, as they hastened, as if withsome anticipatory avidity for their meal, towardsus, towards the platform, from where the immolationawaited them. They were the Crocodilo-Pythons.We recognized at once the white-greenbeasts we had seen in the Saurian Sea. Yes, thesame obscene, unspeakable beasts.

They only revealed their terrifying bulk as theyapproached the platform and finally came to restbefore it. Then inserting their muscular posteriorsin the mud, beyond which lazily rolled the python-liketails in portentous folds, their heads and fore-quartersslowly rose into the air. This exposuremade us quail and yet exult, with an excitement nolanguage can convey. The same repulsive coloringmasked them, the greenish-yellow skin, the agitatedand red blotches. Higher and higher,mounted the snapping jaws, and at moments themucus covered eyes emerged with a baleful glitter;the long neck swayed and the short front legs beatthe air, as if in expostulation at delay. Thefascinating thrill of horror which such a sight300causes can be understood; only the painter canjustify it.

And, sir, they were fed—fed with corpses, whilethe infernal cymbals banged on, and the insignificantpeople wailed their “Lam-bo-oo, Lam-bo-oo!

The bodies were naked and they were the dead ofboth races; the gaping jaws caught them as thesea lion catches with inerrant skill the tossed fish,that no sooner reaches the expectant jaws than itvanishes with a hollow-sounding gulp. So for themost part did these small bodies go, the dilatingnecks of the animals marking their descent to thecavernous abdomens. A few vicious twirls maybe,a shivering hammering together of the jaws, accompaniedat times with a dip beneath the water, sendingmuddy waves to the banks, indicated the lesseasy negotiation of the larger bodies.

Revolted and overcome by the pervading half-sickeningstench—in part the exhalations from thevile saurians—we turned away. As we went backI caught a full view of the little dignitaries in theirviolet gowns, their glittering chains and their beehivehats, and what an incongruous contrast itmade. In their frailness, their whiteness, theirchirping volubility, with their overmade heads,their tenuous shanks and their globed eyes theytook on, to me, the whimsical likeness to delicatelycut and animated netsukes in ivory, dressed liketoys; and I thought too their enlarged heads mightkeep company with their compressed hearts, thoughcertainly we could not say yet, and religious habitsoften accompany many horrors, much bad taste,and a lot of antiquated humbug.

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (15)


We got away, the Professor reluctantly. Hesaid the “mandibular action” merited longer observation,and Hopkins inquired, “I wonder how theundertakers of Radiumopolis relish this sort ofburial? It certainly saves the mourner considerable301in flowers and gravestones, but I don’t believeI would cotton to finding my ancestors in the bonesof an alligator. It’s decidedly composite youknow, like as in “The Yarn of the Nancy Bell,”when the man who had eaten a good deal of everybody,sang:

“‘Oh, I am the cook and a captain bold,

And the mate of the Nancy brig,

And a bo’s’n tight, and a midshipmite,

And the crew of the captain’s gig.’”

Long after we had regained the highway, andwere on our solitary way to the city we could hearthe smashing cymbals, the thudding drums, andthe dolorous salutation of the—Well WHAT?Worshippers. Ugh! But we did meet Oogalah andhe was in dreadfully low spirits, with a face full ofmisery, wringing his hands in distress. When hesaw the Professor he ran up to him and stood beforehim in a woe-begone way, quite incapable of explaininghis grief. Goritz could make him outfairly well and he asked him “What is the matter?Sick?”

“No! No! Oogalah not sick, but the Big Menhave thrown his dead mother to the Serpent!”

Of course we were interested, and Goritz extortedfrom our friend an astonishing story. Briefly, itwas this. Every year at the winter solstice (forlater we found that these people possessed a calendar)a ceremony of sacrifice was celebrated at thePool of Oblation—so I named it. Formerly, many,many decades before this, live men and womenhad been thrown to the carnivorous saurians, butthat had been altered (“by the Progressives,”Hopkins suggested), and now the dead only, andnot more than a dozen or so, were thrown to them;a reduction in numbers because the beasts sometimes302refused some of them, and the bodies corruptedthe pool.

Every five years the great lustration of the ForestTemples took place. That was the festival whosebeginning and termination we had seen. At thesetimes the whole woodland where the chosen treesare cleared—the Tree Temples—would be traversed,and at each Tree Temple chants would besung, a black snake left, and some gold offeringattached to the tree itself. Shorter pilgrimagesoccurred four times each year. The snake pasturewas kept up as a nursery for the supply of the woodtemples, for the snakes did not long survive in thepine forest. This year the Great Lustration hadbeen unaccountably delayed—Oogalah did notknow why, but he had heard that the “Big Men”(“A decided catachresis,” said the Professor, “forthey literally are pygmies”), were very angry aboutsomething (my heart jumped with a sudden fearwhen Goritz told us this).

Oogalah’s mother died while we were away withhim in the radium country, and the Magistrates ofthe city, who saw to the gathering of the yearlyhecatomb, had attached her. Deaths were notnumerous, it appeared; the supply of corpses—adequate,that is, for a satisfactory oblation—wasnot always secured, and a few sheep or goats madeup the deficiency, their saurian majesties being atthe same time importuned not to resent the substitution.“A Radiumopolite,” commented Hopkins,“may be a sweet morsel, but, under the circumstances,I surely would prefer mutton.”)

Oogalah could not tell us much about the “Serpent”(our Crocodilo-Python), or his worship. Hesaid it had always been so, and that the “bigponds” toward the south were full of them. Hehad traversed these once on a raft, and apparentlyhad got the scare of his life, for the beasts wobbled303about him and, except for an inconvenient satietyat the moment, might have picked him and hiscompanions off like crumbs from a plate. He saidtoo that it was in the savannahs, morasses andmeadows of the “southland” that the food for theblack snakes in the “serpent pasture” was foraged.“A typical surviving remnant, doubtless,” saidthe Professor, “of Cretaceo-Juro-Triassic scenery.”)

Oogalah’s communications quite restored hispeace of mind, and the gift of a pocket knifefrom Goritz put him into such blissful acceptanceof his domestic bereavement, that the theftof two or three dead mothers would have beenthankfully condoned for a similar exchange in thecase of each.

We had again reached the city but in darkness.The clouds had thickened in an impenetrablecurtain over the Stationary Sun, and the deepestgloom had settled over everything. Forebodingsfilled my mind. Superstitiously watching everysymptom of nature I dreaded the effect of thiseclipse on the people, and their cunning littlegovernors, who might at any moment change theirdeferential behavior into a ruthless malignancy.After their rite of propitiation this darkening of thesun might indicate to them a yet unappeased deity,for, as the Professor had put it, the “Serpent andthe Sun had a consentaneous meaning in many oldmythologies.” Why then was he unappeased?The Strangers and their profanation of the Shrines.I always returned to this suspicion with dread. Afew moments later my worst fears were confirmed.

We had ascended the western terrace of steps andwere immediately beneath the western facade ofthe Capitol, still to all appearances empty, when aflying figure met us, and in another instant the armsof Ziliah were about Spruce Hopkins’ neck, and—myconclusion on the matter can scarcely be questioned—his304were probably about hers. It certainlywas a bad case of nerves. Ziliah was in asort of hysteria, moaning and gasping with (soHopkins called it) a “strangle hold” on his “wind-pipe,”that also quite robbed her lover of thepower of utterance. I intervened. The incidentmight have terminated in their mutual suffocation—soit seemed to me.

The fair and stricken Ziliah told her story.

She had not gone to the Oblation. No; she didnot like it. But then there was something else.“Spooce” was in danger, her own “Spooce”—andall of us, all. The governors did not like us; theywere afraid of us, afraid we might bring more—herfather was as bad as the rest of them. And theyhad found out something, she did not know what,something we had done. We were enemies of theSerpent, and—Ziliah’s agitation at this juncturequite robbed her narrative of coherency, but in alucid interval I understood her—we were to besacrificed; we would be fed to the Serpent!!!

“Zerubbabel and Heliopolis,” shouted Hopkins.“You don’t mean it? Does she say so? Well sohelp me—if we don’t blow the pack into kingdomcome—and twice as far. How much powder havewe got left?”

The tubes,” I remonstrated.

Hopkins was silent; he remembered their power,and it was not so many hours since something of thesame inscrutable influence had nearly brought usall to the verge of extinction.

Never, to the last day of my life, Mr. Link, willI comprehend what happened then. Was it thehand of God—or was it telepathy. WHAT?Ziliah repeated the words I had uttered—exactly.She loosened Hopkins’ embrace, she movedstealthily towards me, I saw her deep, sweet eyesraised to mine, her hands closed on my cheeks;305the boreal dusk light that comes from the firmamenteven when clouded, made her whole facevisible. In it shone a strange divination; sherepeated the words, “the tubes,” and then sighed;seized with a sudden inspiration, I forced my mindupon hers; my brain contracted (it felt so), as witha fierce concentration of will I projected the sense ofmy words and all they implied upon, in, through,the spirit before me—the spirit that itself leapedto their comprehension.

She crouched slightly, moved away, but her softfingers closed around my hand, and she drew metowards her.

We entered the broad hall of the Capitol,Ziliah holding me tightly and leading me. Weturned into a passage-way. At its dark end westumbled on a half raised arched tile. Ziliahraised it, and seemed sinking below me, as I felt herpull me down. I stooped and felt the edges of anopening. My wary foot detected a stairway.Together we descended and in a dozen or moresteps reached the floor of a chamber whose wallsseemed only a few feet off on every side of us.Ziliah led me to the corner of this room, pushedupon a wooden door and we entered what proved tobe a much larger room. Then telling me to wait,my guide left me. Another instant and a softradiance filled the place. It came from a radiumlamp which Ziliah had uncovered. She pointed toa table in the center of this apartment. On it lay ametal box—a leaden trunk. Ziliah raised its lid.I leaped forward. I already knew what to expect.

In the bottom of the box lay, neatly aligned inrows, thirty leaden tubes, one probably for each ofthe governors. Here at last in our power, ourpossession, were the murderous little vials. Butwere they charged with their life-arresting power?And how to use them? I stood perplexed, and306Ziliah remained motionless by me gazing at me witha mute happiness, as she realized she had attainedmy wishes. But it was plain that the dear creatureknew nothing about them. No—the clever littledoctors were not such fools as to popularize theirpeculiar knowledge, and the dark beauty, tears yetbepearling her long lashes, was just a child beforethem, as I was. But why had they left them hereat all? They must have been deposited after thereturn, for the doctors indubitably had worn themin their girdles when we so inauspiciously droppedonto the road in the pine forest. Did they have aduplicate set? The thought unnerved me.

Now not the least remarkable circumstance inthis startling episode was that I had not talked toZiliah at all, though we understood each other.Telepathy, or sympathy, or suggestion, had doneits perfect work so far; not a word had passedbetween us, but at this obstructive ignorancestaring me, so to speak, in the face I opened mymouth.

“Ziliah are these all?”

“ALL,” came the answer very quietly, but with afrankness and certainty that assured me.

“Do you know anything about them Ziliah?How they work?”

Ziliah knew nothing. “The—,” I understood herto mean the doctors, including her precious father,“will kill you all—Ah! Spooce, too. No! No!Take them away,” pointing to the chest, “AWAY—AWAY.”

The girl’s nerves were reasserting themselves;time was running away too, my friends weredeserted, and detection was imminent at anymoment. Another glance at the desperate littleinstruments, and then—nolens, volens—I pickedthem up and pushed them under my tunic, so thatI felt their cold surfaces chilling my skin.

307Then I shook Ziliah and pointed to the door,closing the lid of the chest. She understood. Ourway back was as noiseless as our entrance had been.Unless our footprints remained as silent betrayersof our robbery, there was no reason for suspicion,no proof of our misdeeds. Misdeed indeed; itwas our SALVATION.

In five minutes I was back with my friends, andZiliah, reaching the limit of her endurance comfortablyfled to her familiar refuge—Hopkins’ arms.

Now you may ask incredulously—Why did younot in the first place ask Ziliah where were thetubes; why impair the credibility of your story byinjecting this transcendental nonsense about—telepathy.

I don’t know, sir; the facts are just as I haverelated them.



Love and Liberty

We soon heard the swarming crowds returning,and before long saw the flat wagons, with the straininggoats drawing them, and softly luminous fromthe radium bulbs held in wickerwork cages, and onthem the governors, much agitated and confused.It was really a rout. Panic had seized the people,the guards were in disorder, and they failed to repelthe surging masses that rolled up against the rockingchariots. It was a straggling, in some sectionsa struggling, cortege, and the dominant purposewas to get under cover, for the blackness deepened,the very last glimpses of light had vanished, and anight of storm and wind with a cold rain hadblotted out the smiling peacefulness of Radiumopolis.

Fortunately, the construction of the houses wasexcellent and, except as the wind drove rainthrough or past the crevices of the board or leatherninsertions, their interiors were probably quite dryin storms. The rooms at the Capitol were completelyso.

And now the running groups, the populace, theguards, officials hastening variously on their manyways could be heard tramping and surging along,with only occasional ejaculations of impatience oralarm, but all in an evident race and retreat.

I did not wait long with my friends. I knew309Ziliah was with them—with one. I clutched myintolerable load closer, I sprang to the easternterrace, now deserted, and rushed down, suddenlyseized with the thought of destroying the infernalmachines I carried. It was a great loss to scienceno doubt, but at the moment I felt convinced thatonce these preposterous weapons were lost to thelittle doctors, we were safe. I cried in my heart,“Our guns against everything.”

So on I flew, and straight out into the serpentpasture, now and again slipping on some coiled orgliding snake to where I knew that well hole laywhich marked the departing kick of the celestialvisitor who had taught Radiumopolis the trick ofmaking gold. It was a deep hole and it was full ofwater. I reached it. I opened my tunic and fromit the bundle of pestiferous little arsenals of magictumbled, and splashed in the water—and weregone. The pack that fell off Christian’s back androlled backward into the sepulchre could not havebeen gotten rid of with more satisfaction to thattired pilgrim than I freed myself of those hatefullittle tubes. Of course afterwards the Professorwas dreadfully upset about it. He deplored the“loss to science.” “Perhaps,” retorted Hopkins,“but—we count too.”

I soon returned to the others and found them—minusZiliah, who had been persuaded to retire toher boudoir—nestling against the corner of theCapitol where there was less wind and rain,enjoying the home gathering of the Sanhedrin,its wives and children, relatives, attendants, andthe police.

“My!” gurgled Hopkins under his breath, “sucha coop of hens! And the cackling! What’s hard tounderstand is how such poultry govern this land,and how they have the nerve to keep up thisdetestable religion with its snakes and its crocodiles;310and yet—blame—me—they certainly are onthe inside of a good many things, and they surelyare on a Gold Basis, and some of our best peoplewouldn’t mind swapping all they know, for justthat one particular bit of information which willturn a leaden pot into a gold one.”

“We must know how, too,” grumbled Goritz.

“Well,” continued Hopkins, “say the word andwe’ll revolutionize this country, get into thegovernment, and run the mint.”

I was getting impatient with this nonsense, andI said, “Now see here my friends, we are four menagainst thousands—why talk such rubbish? We’reall in danger because of our imprudence but I thinkwe can steer away safely though our difficulties,get the confidence of everyone—perhaps more, andcome out, as you might say Spruce, on the Top ofthe Heap. Ziliah knows what she is talking aboutand she says we’re to be put out of the way. Butthat perhaps won’t be so easy now. I’ve stolenthe tubes and buried them out of sight forever.”

The three men sprang around me and seized mewith one exclamation: “No!”

“Yes I have—they’re gone. Come to our roomsand I’ll tell you everything. We must use diplomacy,but if they push us to the wall there are ourguns. The people are accustomed to us and areindifferent. Those little doctors never will let usget out alive if they can help it. There’s more thanour lives at stake; there’s the revelation we shallgive to the great world outside of this polar hole—aboutthese strange people, their achievements,their knowledge, above all about that radium masswhich may change all the civilization we areacquainted with into something quite different. Ido not agree with Goritz, though I can sympathizewith his appeal. Science must know of this place,and what is here. Science, I say, MUST KNOW.”

311In a few words I explained what had happened,when we had gotten to our rooms, which stillremained undisturbed. I told them of the curioussuggestive influence on Ziliah (Hopkins said he“didn’t like it”), how we penetrated the subterraneanroom, how I found and seized those menacinglittle vials, and how I despatched every one of theminto the fathomless mud and water (the Professorcompared it with “the crime of the Caliph Omarwho burned the Alexandrian Library”), and hownow, with Ziliah as an ally, and with our guns, wemight turn the tables on the discomfited doctors.“Guess you’ve taken the sting out of their tails—thelittle wasps,” exclaimed Hopkins.

We did not have to wait long for developments.The storm passed, the light returned and it wasmuch colder. Warmer clothing was given us, andour meals were even more liberal. This excessivehospitality made me suspicious and I insisted thatthe bearers of the cakes and bread, the wine andmilk, the meat and vegetables should partake of alittle of each, before us, and this I ingeniouslyexplained to them was the custom of our nativecountries. They never hesitated, and the courtesy,as they understood it, quite delighted and propitiatedthem. This too was a part of my rule.I intended to conciliate them so thoroughly that Imight be able to make them spies on our enemies—“pump’em,” said Hopkins. Ziliah watched diligently;the beloved Spooce was an invaluablehostage.

Our liberty was not interfered with, it seemedextended, and the Professor kept up his unremittinglabors in making notes for the voluminous papershe was contemplating, and which he idolatrouslyregarded as his possible monument in the files oftime. Goritz became a confirmed pilferer, and hisstock of gold objects, whittlings and fragments grew312dangerously. I remonstrated, but he kept at it.I could not get the wizened little doctors to talk.I addressed them as I met them in the palace inthe Hebrew patois I had acquired, and which I wasconvinced they understood. But no—not a word;a bow, those wrinkling smiles, that deferentialobeisance, and the palms of their hands rubbedtogether meditatively, while the prodigious eyeswatched me, I thought, with an unmistakablemalice, and—with FEAR.

We seldom saw the ladies of their householdswhich, as Hopkins expressed it, “considering ourextreme manly beauty, as compared with the ALLIN look of their own matrimonial boobs, is a reflectionon their good taste, a proof of their imperfecteducation. Everybody else likes us,” he said.And that was true. We met with the mostamiable reception, and Goritz’s skill in talking withthe Eskimos, and my astounding success with theHebrew lingo was giving us a vogue that it seemedunreasonable the little rulers did not see wasruinous to their prestige. Could it be possible thatthey were afraid of us—afraid of our popularity?I thought that they would avail themselves of thediscovered thefts of the tree shrines and of theunpropitious storm, on the day of the Oblation, toturn the populace against us as personae non grataeto their deity.

But they had not, and the storm was forgotten.It was bewildering, for I felt sure Ziliah was notdeceiving me, and that our lives somehow were atstake. Perhaps—perhaps—in that curious complicatedpsychology of their dwarfed natures, cowardice,deceit, sharpness, superstition, ferocity even,were so mixed up with an enervating feebleness ofmind, in spite of their astuteness, that it madethem, as Lady Macbeth puts it, “infirm ofpurpose.”

313At any rate we would watch our guns, in allsenses, and we literally did watch those we owned,carrying them with us, always strapped to ourbacks, our cartridge belts at our waists, and a partof our dress. I think this alarmed our spies a little.

But now the crux of the whole situation came tolight. Two things had happened and both ofthese were known to Ziliah. Ziliah was splendid—the“best ever” said Spruce—“true down to herlittle toe bone; she turned down her own dad andturned ag’in the Government rather than see uslicked. Tell you what, Alfred, I’ll take my chanceswith her, and—it’s good-bye to the States.”

It was this way. And to begin with, Ziliah’sfather’s first name was Javan, and, because thecoincidence is so extraordinary, the names of thoselittle governors, and there were thirty of them, areworth repeating, because again—as the Professorwas the first to observe—they can all be found inthe first Chapter of the Book of Chronicles, in ourBible. This is the list: Riphath, Kittim, Put,Cush, Pathrusim, Lud, Hul, Joktan, Peleg, Hadad,Naphish, Jeush, Jaalam, Shammah, Shobal, Homan,Uz, Samlah, Bela, Zephi, Zyrah, Ebal,Manahath, Anah, Amram, Mibsam, Gomer, Magog,Anamim, Ludim.

I took these down carefully from Ziliah, by wordof mouth, and they confirmed all we had inferredof Semitic relations but when later—much latersir, on my return to America—I made the comparison,as the Professor suggested, I was dumbfounded.But I will not stop now to elaboratereflections. My story has already lengthenedbeyond my expectations, and there is much torecount.

Two things had happened, I have said. Oh, bythe way, Mr. Link, I might insert this here—Javan,Ziliah’s father, encouraged his daughter’s intimacy314with Hopkins; he thought it would lead to something.It did. As Hopkins put it, “it was theGuy who put the eat in Beat it.”

The two things were—the theft of the tubes hadbeen discovered, and there had been a Council held—a“pow-wow” according to Spruce, in whichJavan threw a bomb into the deliberations forour destruction because he connected what hehad to say at the “pow-wow” with the disappearanceof the little wizard wands. A wonderfuldenouement was at hand. It all came about asfollows:

The excursion through the pine tree shrinesshowed a considerable damage, and the inspectorswere sure the mischief had been perpetrated by us.Our tracks were unmistakable; they found ourcamps, and they noted that the pillaging had beendone, as it were, yesterday. Their indignation wasgreat, but, as the detection of the outrage wasactually unnoticed by the multitude, and had onlycome to the knowledge of the little doctors—theSanhedrin as we had called them—and had notthen been seriously considered at first, except by afew leaders—apparently the older and shrewdermen, Put and Hul, Peleg, Hadad and Javan, himself,the President—it was concluded to keep stillabout it, and that nothing should be done untilthey had returned. But the outrage, as they consideredit, made them rather anxious as to the stateof mind of the insulted serpent and tree deities—thenumina of their unseen world. Propitiationwas in order, and they had taken pains to visit allthe shrines, repair the mischief, attach new offerings,sing and dance and pray, and go through asnake ceremonial with the doctors as masters of theceremony, as indeed these odd creatures were reallypriests to the nation.

They talked a great deal about it among themselves,315but they were dreadfully bothered byJavan’s scruples as to touching us, and all becausehe recalled an ancient prophecy of a fall from theclouds of a beggar-like man, who would not knowtheir language, and who would bring them a newwisdom, and who would be their King.

Now it seems this ancient prophecy was in theirarchives, as you might say, and action in our casewas to be delayed until its exact portents or contentswere ascertained. There were queer coincidencesin the matter. Our descent from the top ofthe pine tree, albeit awkward and a little unseemly,was a good deal like a drop from the clouds. Itseemed so to them. Our beggarly condition wasreally shamefully clear. Then we did not speaktheir language, and as to the new wisdom, theProfessor’s harangue rather filled the bill there, and,in spite of themselves, his red hair had impressedthem, as it did everybody else.

Certainly there were or might be discrepancies.There were four of us for instance; we had been inthe wood some time—desecrating it too, a profanationinconceivable in a future King—a heaven-sentKing! These considerations cheered them greatly,for really the little fellows did not wish to abdicate.So they mulled these things over and fixed theirplans very craftily. They’d get back, ignore us,seem to forget all about us, hunt up the preciousdocument, and, if they came to the conclusion to“do us,” as Hopkins said, the affair would be keptvery secret, and—their white fingers clasped theominous tubes as they raised them significantlyover their big heads—they wouldn’t be long about iteither.

At the return to Radiumopolis Javan heard fromZiliah’s own lips—very soon, I suppose, after shelifted him up in her arms on the terrace steps—whata dreadful state her heart was in over Spooce, and316Javan (“perfidious dad,” Hopkins called him)simpered, sniggered, and encouraged her attachment.But Ziliah possessed some feminine acuteness—“Nopiker, she,” declared Hopkins—and shewas not many minutes in finding out the trueposition of affairs; viz., the enmity of the Directorate,the existing government, for us. She wasin an agony of fear, and, aflame with her love, shehad met us and told me of our danger. Then, sir,as you may incredulously recall, I did that telepathicact, and cleared away the most formidableobstacle in our way.

From that moment Ziliah was ours, every heartbeat, every brain pulse was for us. She certainlyplayed her father, but we had no intentions againsthis life, and it was just simply immolation for us allin his case, as the coterie would have sent us on thelong road in a hurry, and then all this strange talewould never have entranced your ears. Ziliah, asthe verdict of the world will pronounce, chose thebetter part. Her devotion led us into the light ofdeliverance.

The old record of the prophecy was brought tolight. It actually was engraved on a gold tablet.That showed, sir, that the knowledge of transmutationwas over a hundred years old in KrockerLand, for, as you will learn, there is no mining forgold in Krocker Land; that mother lode which theProfessor predicted, as far as we know is a dreamonly. All the gold in Krocker Land comes fromRadium Transmutation.

Ziliah saw the tablet, she heard it read; for thatmatter she read it herself (“A twentieth centurywoman and no mistake,” was Hopkins’ tribute toher sagacity), and now what I tell you, sir, willhardly be believed. It has such a fabulous fairy-likesound.

The prophecy read thus: The future King would317fall from the sky, in the shape of a man dressed inrags, with hair red like blood, with a strangelanguage on his tongue, and “he KILLS withTHUNDER.”

That, sir, brought our guns and the Professor intothe drama, and swept the stakes into our hands.You shall see.

The prophecy did mightily disturb the council.They convened in their state chamber, and arguedit out circumstantially, and Ziliah, convenientlydisposed for the revelations to be expected, listened.The upshot of their deliberations was that therewas much difference of opinion, with a preponderantfeeling that the Professor was a dangerousprobability. Had we fallen from the sky, or justdropped out of the branches of the tree, and, if thatwas our first appearance how about the thefts?Yes—yes—the thefts, and the traces of our previouscamps, and then the killing with thunder?There was some ill-natured derisive and weakgiggling over this. Thunder indeed!

The upshot of it all was that Javan was deputedto keep an eye on us, and probably the best thingto do, taking a strictly conservative view of thematter was to— Ziliah didn’t catch this, but whenI told her Hopkins, he winked assertively and drewthe forefinger of his ring hand across his throat, andsaid nothing.

Anyhow the little elders came out from the conference,looking greatly satisfied, very benignant,and were happily garrulous. But the second eventwas the discovery of the disappearance of thetubes. It seemed that some recuperative effectwas sought for in thus storing them in themetallic box in the subterranean chamber, but—WHAT?And whether other agents werepresent in the box will never be known, asindeed the mystery of those tubes is itself a closed318chapter, unless forsooth the Professor elicits theinformation as to their fabrication, by reason of hispresent control of the scientific resources— Butpardon me, I anticipate.

The tubes had been placed in the chest almostinstantly after the re-entrance of the cortege intothe Capitol. A literal translation of Ziliah’sremark as to the need of this would be that theywere “dying out.”

You can imagine Javan’s despair, consternation,and amazement. Apparently there were no moreof these stupefying inventions handy, and the Sanhedrinwere really at their wits’ end. At thisjuncture Ziliah became a perfect demon of suggestion.Hopkins’ enthusiastic submission to hercharms inflamed her with a sprightliness of mindthat kept us busy too, and won our case. Ziliahknew that the citizens of Radiumopolis, whichpractically was Krocker Land, the outlying agriculturalsections being little else than a diaspora ofRadiumopolis itself, were not so loyally disposedtowards the exclusive Areopagus on Capitol Hill,and that some shock of wonderment that mightestablish our supernatural origin would solve theimpasse, and give us the upper hand, for literallythere was now no way out of the dilemma but forus to RULE.

Ziliah conceived the idea of our subverting thereigning government as quickly as we had reachedthe same conclusion, and Hopkins was not slow tosharpen her perceptions. But she formed the planof our coup d’etat. We had thought (and theProfessor was as deeply implicated as any ofus, he realized our plight and for once worldlyaims gripped and diverted his mind) to make apublic appeal to the people or else insidiouslyfoment discontent, lead an attack on the nowdefenceless governors, seize the throne, as it319were, and establish the dynasty of Hlmath Bjornsenthe First.

At first blush the Professor seemed greatlypuzzled and unwilling, and his bulging eyes staredat us with blank misgivings. But when the rigor ofour situation was forced upon him, with the compellingsuadente potestas of his red hair, and itsfelicitous conjunction with aboriginal prophecy, heworked himself into a real glee over it that wasdelightful. To Hopkins there was something somacaronic and side-splitting about this role of theProfessor’s, that he could scarcely look at his halfrueful, absorbed expression, his odd mouth, theprodigious ears, and the coronal splendor of hishair, without being overcome with a badly concealedmerriment that might have turned ourplans awry with anyone less essentially good-naturedthan the Professor.

Of course we improved our popularity, and weput the Professor through ambulatory excursionsthat must have tired his legs. From the first thepeople had “cottoned” to him (fide Hopkins), andwe wanted them to become intimate with theirfuture KING. Certainly it seemed like a hugejoke.

Everything was coming our way. The governorshad actually become afraid of us. We were nolonger confined to the Capitol. We fascinated ourguards by giving them all the trinkets we could findabout us, and Goritz and I talked constantlywith the people. The Sanhedrin might haveturned the people against us by revealing our thefts,but somehow they did not try it. They did noteven enter our rooms for proof. I think we beganto despise them. They had a secretive, feeble waythat too plainly advertised their impotence. Itwas evident indeed that some fatal collapse in theirauthority was imminent, and they did not have the320miraculous tubes to reinstate themselves. Nothingcould have withstood them then. Between theprophecy and the loss of the tubes they were desperate.Our sedition prospered in the meanwhile.

Suddenly it occurred to me that their apathy andshrinking avoidance of a collision meant mischief.It might be ominous. Were they—the thoughttransfixed me with horror—were they secretly atwork repairing their loss, MAKING OTHERTUBES? Of course they were; in the light of thissuggestion their apparent timidity was explained.It was not timidity. Nay, it was just a delicate,artful duplicity that was fooling us. Ziliah mustfind out and then one way or another we must testthe situation. Of course the prophecy that Ziliahhad recounted to us was constantly the keynote ofour plans. To lose our chance now would be madness.

And Ziliah? She wheedled Javan and Put, andCush, and Hul, and the rest successfully. Theythought she was keeping us quiet, and they thoughttoo their own inoffensiveness was blinding us. Ahha! It was—while they contrived their devilishweapons anew. They had made no outcry whenthey found them gone. That might have liberatedthe people of their fear for themselves. But wasZiliah possibly playing us false? There was orcertainly had been a countermine at work and shehad failed to detect it. These foxy patriarchs werefooling our own spy in their camp, or again—wasZiliah false?

Well sir, Ziliah was “straight as a string and trueas gold,” to quote Hopkins. She knew nothingabout the making of the new tubes, but she wouldfind out. Her terror over this new turn in theaffair was greater than our own, her surprise too.Ah, sir, she knew what those tubes meant, whatthey could do!

321She soon returned to me—it was easy enough,and it was easy to do it unnoticed. Javan trustedher implicitly, and indeed she and I had been somewhathoodwinked by him. Ziliah confirmed mysuspicions. The new tubes were indeed underway. The eukairia, the “nick of time,” had come.We must strike. Then it was that Ziliah told usHOW.

We were to take on the grand air, assert ourprovenance from Heaven, repeat the prophecy fromthe tablet, call the Professor Shamlah, and threatendestruction if the Sanhedrin did not receive us atonce, see that our thunder bolts were ready, anduse them. The message, to be taken by Ziliah,would admit that our manners had been humbleand that Shamlah had concealed his mission. Butdelay would be cut short. The time for his royalassumption was at hand. We would come to themwith our thunder tubes and talk with them; andif our overture was rejected we would go to thepeople and show our power.

That was our ultimatum; batteries on bothsides were now unmasked and the issue defined.What we needed just then were theatrical properties,some chromatic detonating explosions, fireworks,skyrockets, roman candles, flower-pots,fire-fizzes of any sort that would give us a supernaturalflavor. As Hopkins said, just one night’sConey Island Payne’s Fireworks outfit, and whatwasn’t ours in the joint, wouldn’t be worth having.But—we had only our guns. That however was agood deal.

Ziliah returned the answer of the Conventicle.They would not see us just now, later, perhaps infourteen settas, which meant, in our time, about aweek. Oh ho! That was the limit of our sufferance.In a week they would meet us on their own terms.The crisis had come.

322It was not half an hour later that Goritz, Hopkins,the Professor and myself, as faultlessly attiredas our wardrobe and toilet facilities permitted,marched from our abode in the city, down the greathighway. Our guns were in our arms, claspedtightly to our chests, and all the ammunition wepossessed was loaded in our cartridge belts andpockets. We were instantly noticed and numerouslyattended. We entered the serpent pasture,at the eastern end, and walked to the easternterrace of steps, and up these to the courtyardabove. We were seen. Men and women, girlsand boys, in a desultory manner at first, then inhastening groups, emerged from the Capitol and,among them a few of the little rulers. The rumorof attack spread.

From the houses of the city, its looms and barns,the workshops and bakeries, its gardens, the clothmanufactories, the metal shops, the curious smallpeople gathered, and with them the larger race fromnear and far, while the idle and loafing contingent,always large and drifting instinctively towardsevery new incident, hastened in mirthful or expectantgroups, pouring along behind us. Each freshaccession stimulated a wider circle of attention,until it almost seemed as if the populace werefollowing us en masse. They overflowed the road,they dispersed over the meadow land appropriatedto snakes, they clambered up on the dilapidatedcutches, where the snakes congregated and clustered,in gaping crews, on the steps of the terrace.Their humor seemed propitious. The peculiargaiety that characterized them when we werebrought to Radiumopolis, dampened or made alittle grave by wonder, again affected them thatday, but it was freer and more hospitable, and Ithink they already appreciated the situation.Goritz and I had been rather industrious disseminators323of mischief—“Semeurs d’emeute” Antoinesaid.

When we came to the last step of the terrace weseparated. The Professor took a central position,and the light luckily turned his splendid coiffureinto a garnet glory that must have transported theaudience around us. Goritz and Hopkins flankedhim, I stood somewhat to one side. We all heldour guns—magazine rifles—but the Professor, itwas agreed, should remain statuesque and motionless,only succoring us at any critical juncture.I have a splendid voice, I proposed to use it.

By this time the throng in the doorway of theCapitol almost blocked it. The dignitaries werecoming out quickly and the magistrates from thewards of the city were arriving, but all somewhaten deshabille. Their court robes were forgotten, ortoo hastily deserted, and their appearance assumedan absurdly shrunken manner and tenuity. Wevery certainly outclassed them. The Professor,par excellence, was magnificent. The people measuredthe spectacular effect and, I guess, shrewdlypreferred our “make-up.”

I began my demand. I spoke for the SON ofTHUNDER, and I spoke of the prophecy whichdescribed his coming to rule his people, and then,it was a master stroke which almost unnerved myfriends, knocked the Directory plumb off its feet,and thunderstruck the people, I showed the goldentablet (Ziliah’s stroke), and read it. By this time Ihad acquired fairly well the Hebrew dialect of thesepeople, and they understood me. I pointed to theProfessor who, responding to some histrionicimpulse, which none of us had even suspected inhim, raised his hands as if invoking the heavens,and then bowed to me, to Goritz, to Hopkins, andin unimpeachable—English, said in a loud domineeringtone,


Now this was absolutely an improvisation. Wehad not planned the affair exactly in that way, butwe were on the qui vive (Johnnies-on-the-spot,averred Hopkins), and off went the whole magazineof guns in a glorious unison. It was really immense,coming as it did upon the heels of the prediction,that—he kills with his thunder. Only we hadn’tkilled anything. And then the Professor byanother sublime intuition filled the required bill.It was nearing spring time and the reinforcementof the light and heat from the diurnal sun wasbeginning to be felt. Some straggling Arctic gullscrossed the sky. The Professor was a fair shot.The accentuation of a supreme moment nerved hisarm, brightened his eye, and put the force of precisionin his aim. He fired—a gull fluttered to theground almost at our feet—another shot, and asecond bird flopped actually upon the heads of thedismayed councillors, who were now in a finefrenzy of agitation.

The mercurial disposition of semi-civilized peopleand that contagion of admiration which, as Le Bonhas shown, infects a mob, as with the sharp upwardrush of a fire fanned by high winds, had an invincibleillustration then and there. At first there was asilence; as if shocked into dumbness by the inexplicableoccurrence, or bewildered by a confusion ofresponses they could not define, they for a momentawaited direction. It came. Oogalah, in the veryfirst rank of the attendant crowds, shouted withhoarse exultation:


Then came the reaction of release from incertitude,and the assemblage caught the sound— Nay,the word, and from side to side, to and fro, hither,thither, the cry doubled and redoubled, until italmost seemed as if the convulsed nation would325start some riotous stampede in favor of that darling,red-headed, heaven-sent, death-dealing sovereign.And the Professor, animated by I know not whatelan of conquest, seized his rifle in both hands, andholding it horizontally before him, stepped forwardagainst the heterogeneous throng of courtiers, officials,and Areopagites that crammed every inch ofspace in front of the Capitol, as if he were theDemiurge of Destruction. In a fright they gaveway, and in the path thus made we followed.There was nothing else to do, although this demonstrationto me seemed unaccountable and dangerous,as it might lead to some unexpected disasterand an anticlimax of ridicule and repulsion. Withthe Professor it was just an involuntary spasm ofstage play, with no clear purpose outlined or evenseen in it. Behind us in the regurgitant host Icould hear the stentorian roars of Oogalah. Thisunexpected and vociferous ally after all had agrudge to gratify; he had not altogether forgottenhis inviscerated mother. His appeals were quite infavor of the new allegiance. You see, sir, it was anorgulous moment for the Professor, and I don’tthink he knew exactly what he was about.

But Luck, which after all favors a good manymore people than fools, intervened. We hadgotten rather tightly entrapped in the brigadesabout the Capitol, when we were met by a huddleof the patriarchs, themselves somewhat violentlyjostled by the pushing citizens. Here were Javan,and Put, and Hul, Peleg, Hadad, the head men,and they presented a very sorry and despoiledappearance. Their nervous white hands ran overtheir straggling beards in piteous perplexity, and,lacking the surplusage of their state regalia, theyappeared even more contemptible than depressed.

Knowing me best and perhaps too dismayed bythe flaming presence of the Pretender himself,326Javan literally flew to my arms and urged clemency.It was complete capitulation. I knew it. But thevictory must be more crushing. The last struggleof the victim must be squelched. It had occurredto me before that an epic seriousness, if not majesty,might be given to our high-handed pretensions byshooting down the Crocodilo-Python effigies at thecorners of the palace. The risk might be considerable,and then again it might be very little,with tremendous compensating benefits if the dicefell the right way. How would the people take it?I did not know. This moment of irresolutionpermitted something to happen which gave us theupper hand most beautifully, eliminated violence,and struck the keynote of a perfect CONCILIATION.

Ziliah, ardent, arrayed superbly, with hercopious dark hair bound up, as was the fashion ofthe upper-class women, with the little gold serpents,wearing the gold caps on her knees, her anklesencased in gold filagree that rose half way up thenaked leg, her feet in golden sandals, and swathedsomehow in a soft delicate blue tunic covering herthighs and body, but falling away from the pillar-likeneck and firmly moulded breasts, a vision ofpicturesque loveliness, sprang amongst us. Herface was flushed by excitement but radiant insmiles. And of course she wore the golden beltwith its serpent buckle.

She flung her arms around the Professor, kissedhim on both cheeks, salaamed, bending her kneesto the ground with a wonderful, unstudied grace.Then she took her astonished father’s hand and ledthat little gentleman forward, and then Put, andHul, Peleg and Hadad—the remaining elders,arrived, but had shrunk from the presentation.Then Ziliah spoke. Her voice was high keyed, butmusical, and had a soaring quality in it that carried327far. Silence fell and the intensity of the psychologicalmoment made me wonder at the girl’sprescience.

“Father, make peace with these men. Theybring us a New Wisdom. We shall be happy withthem. Let the Son of Thunder (my eyes at thatinstant fell on Hopkins; he was visibly squirmingin an agony of suppressed mirth at the designation,but the Professor retained a most noble immobility)be your guide, your companion. These men willall be brothers to us, and this man (she knelt againat the feet of Hopkins, who seized her in his arms,and lifted her to his face) will be my husband.”Javan’s astonishment then was a study.

I was transported, and I rushed in to the rapprochement,as she ended, with fresh promises offriendship.

Nothing would be disturbed, nothing changed.We came to them strangers from the clouds, wewould bless them with new powers. The GreatSerpent still should reign.

At all this there was a great shouting, a tempestof approving comment, and the landslide of publicendorsement overwhelmed the council. The retreatingor abashed or cowardly members of “theSyndicate of Old Toddlers,” as Hopkins said,issued from their niches in the crowd, and Javan,caught in an enjambment from which he could notextricate his party, surrendered. He cameforward, and after him came Put, Hul, Peleg,Hadad; and the Professor, with a fine urbanitythat capped the climax and swept away all tracesof resentment or repugnance, fell on their necks, soto speak, though the act had to be rathersedately done for he would incontinently haveknocked them down. It had a delightfully funnyand picaresque effect and I again felt, as I had felthundreds of times before, that it all was a dream328and unreal. The string as it lengthened embracedthe whole Areopagus, and this fraternalceremony evidently, as Hopkins noted, “tickledthe little old fellow to death.”

They were all there: Riphath, Kittim, Cush,Pathrusim, Lud, Hul, Joktan, Naphish, Jeush,Jaalam, Shammah, Shobal, Homan, Uz, Samlah,Bela, Zephi, Zerah, Ebal, Manahath, Anah, AmramMibsam, Gomer, Magog, Anamim, Ludim. I amsure I did not know their identity; I counted them,thirty in all. That consummated matters and setProfessor Hlmath Bjornsen of Christiania on thethrone of Radiumopolis in KROCKER LAND.

Javan and the other doctors softened beautifully,and actually expanded into a self-satisfied body ofpatronage and allegiance. The Professor was“shown through” the Capitol, and he threaded itsmaze of compartments, saw its Council Chamber,enriched with gold, hung with gaudy rugs, andfound there the as yet unoccupied clumsy and incalculablyvaluable gold throne which we had seenshaking and rattling in the procession, itself a relicof some old time, when this isolated kingdom hadhad a king, but was young compared to that stillmore remote time when “the stranger” taughtthat king’s progenitor the miracle of making gold.

From it now, under the aegis of its hideousdevice, the rearing Crocodilo-Python, our dearProfessor was to dispense justice to the Radiumopolites.Of a truth it was an almost inconceivabledenouement. What would, what could, the Professor’scolleagues at the University say, and bywhat insupportable hypothesis could they explainthis transmutation?

And there was to be a Coronation! Oh yes.Javan and the rest of the Fathers had conspiredsuccessfully there; indeed the fuss of its preparationand the importance of their parts in its conduct329had now really made them inanely jubilant overthe whole revolution in state affairs.

Hopkins and I walking eastward along the broadhighway over which we had entered Radiumopolis,out into that fair Valley of Rasselas which wasagain stirring with the field life of the advancingspring, talked rather earnestly of our predicament,for, after all, predicament it was. How were we toget home and tell our story? We were to be madea good deal of here but—could we escape? Goritzhad become eager to return with his gold“souvenirs” (never inquired for), with his radium,with the secret of making gold, if he could learn it.That was yet concealed and, much more important,so were the tubes. Those balloons, the radium-litcave in the Deer Fels. And there was the greatethnic wonder of the people themselves, the marvelof the Stationary Sun, the radium country! Itwas impossible to reconcile ourselves to a lifelongimmurement in this monotony. Science mustbreak through into this chrysalis of wonders. Itwas our bounden duty to bring her here. Butliterally we were captives; the hocus-pocus of ourdescent from the sky would not let us demean ourselvesin ordinary ways (in spite of past precedentsof the vulgarity on the part of heaven-descendedkings) and we began to see we had prepared adilemma for ourselves which might end more fatallythan the enmity of the little doctors had threatened.

Now all was changed, and like flies in honey werewe hopelessly entangled. Perhaps the most fortunateof us all was Spruce Hopkins himself, whofrankly loved Ziliah; but even he wanted to“vamoose” and take his bride with him, for hethought she would “take the edge off the jolliestswell ladies anywhere.” The Professor, now thejoke was over and our necks safe, was sick to deathof his role, and only extracted a comforting morsel330of pleasure from it in its possibility of opening tohim the few but very peculiar secrets of physics andchemistry which the Faculty of Radiumopolismonopolized—monopolized too, we learned, by arigid system of verbal transmission. And then ourthunder! It wouldn’t last for ever; and ourcelestial powers would fail conclusively in creatingcartridges on demand, owing to the unscrupulousfondness on the part of the Radiumopolites, whichwas having easily foreseen and disastrous consequences.Our supply was shrinking fast. Weadopted the expedient of delegating the role ofThunderer to the Professor, which saved shot, or atleast extended the usefulness of our arsenal. Thepeaceful nature of the Professor was, however, sofar exasperated by the improvident urgency of hissubjects that he confessed to a murderous inclinationto shoot them at the same time. If any one ofus got away he would need his gun and ammunitionand much more—a stock of provisions too, andtransportation. We both felt pretty blue.

Hopkins: “One of us must make a breaksoon.”

I: “Well you certainly can’t. Your family’shere now.”

Hopkins: “Ziliah’s a sport. She might justprove to be the guy to put light in flight. BesidesI could tell her some things about the way we livein New York that might increase her desire totravel.”

I: “But we came from Heaven!”

Hopkins: “Yes, I know—we’re the angelic sort.Say, if I wanted to desert Ziliah—and I don’t—Icould play up the Lohengrin gag. Get her to askquestions, get mad about it—and quit.”

I: “Easier said than done.”

Hopkins: “There’s no chance to skip out up herein this everlasting daylight.”

331I: “Pshaw! That isn’t it. Think of the journeyback; think of the ice pack.”

Hopkins: “If we could only wireless back for arelief expedition.”

I: “If.

We turned back, gloomy and dispirited. Whenwe reached Radiumopolis we found King HlmathBjornsen thundering from the Capitol and Goritz—gone.



Goritz’s Death and the Gold Makers

I skip the coronation and enthronement of KingHlmath Bjornsen of Krocker Land in Radiumopolis,because the King asked me to do so in mylast interview with him. He wishes to reserve itsfeatures for his great book. He thinks that theceremonies, taken in connection with many otherconsiderations prove that the Krocker Land cultureties together a number of ancestral ethnic cults, andthat there is good reason to believe that the mixtureof semi-savage practices, the archaic or nepionicstatus of society, the advanced language, the peculiaracquisitions of the patrician class, their specializedthough limited knowledge, the vitality of theserpent-monster worship taken in connection withthe biological fact of a partial, at any rate, survivalof Mesozoic conditions in limited topographicbasins, as seen in the Saurian Sea, in the chain ofswamps beyond the Pool of Oblation, and especiallyin the undeniable and formidable fact of the existenceof the Crocodilo-Python, an animal quiteunlike any known saurian, indicate what he termsthe concatenated debris of a series of overlaid civilizationsand that its complete interpretation willcarry us back to the probable origin of Homosapiens and the Garden of Eden, restricted ofcourse to a purely naturalistic conception. (Erickson333took a long breath, and then—he was offagain.)

The geological features of this polar pit, itsstepped or terraced conformation, the extraordinaryigneous activity revealed beneath it andthe disclosure herein of immense endomorphicradium deposits, combined with unparalleledmeteorological phenomena are also reserved by theProfessor, the King, for personal and elaboratetreatment. With the especial opportunities nowavailable the Prof—the King (It’s difficult for meto be consistent in alluding to my old friend) willprosecute inquiry, so far as his official duties permit,but through me, Mr. Link, he most ferventlyimplores scientific recognition of the facts so farrecorded in this narrative, and immediate scientificinterposition in his behalf and cooperation for hisassistance. (Erickson again paused and allowedthe full meaning of his elongated statements topenetrate my purely secular mind.)

However, this in passing, Mr. Link. I will recurto it. Let me resume my story, omitting under theforegoing stipulations any description of the Professor’senthronement. I am indeed approachingthe moment of my own hazardous dash fromKrocker Land for the outer world.

Goritz, I said, had disappeared. It seems hehad not been seen for many settas—setta is equivalentto about twelve hours. Hopkins and I hadbeen away scouring the countryside, and knewnothing of Goritz’s whereabouts. I have alreadyhinted at his restlessness, moodiness, and his unceasinghunt for gold. Latterly this had becomechanged into an intense eagerness to revisit theradium country with Oolagah to collect radium.

We had not yet seen the process of transmutation,certain as we were as to its accomplishmentand knowledge of the same among the Radiumopolites,334a knowledge probably limited to thedoctors. Goritz had a theory as to the illimitablepower of radium to effect this conversion. He wasmistaken. He was dissatisfied with the pieces wehad been given—oxidized lumps holding the unchangedmetal in their centers—and was alwaysteasing Oogalah to take him again to the radiumvalley or chasm. Oogalah refused. I think he didnot relish Goritz’s company. Now Hopkins and Ibelieved Goritz harbored the intention to gatherhis belongings at a favorable moment, mostly thegold objects and the radium, and, trusting blindlyin his great strength, experience, and resources, toforce his way back to the Krocker Land Rim, regainthe coast, hunt up the naphtha launch and possiblymake some attempt to sail back to Point Barrow.It was sheer madness. We had had few occasionsto argue it with him, as he rather avoided us, andhis secretiveness and stealthy activity strengthenedour suspicions. Hopkins half feared the unfortunateman was losing his mind.

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (16)


But when we learned of his absence—we were allrather marked men now in Radiumopolis and ourgoings and comings were minutely noticed—Isuspected at once he had tried to get to the radiumfields alone and had been lost or destroyed there.Taking Oogalah, now acting under orders, Hopkinsand I started out. We reached the peridotite hillswhich afforded us such welcome relief against theinordinate misery of our heads, that arose from thepowerful emanations of the region of the graniteledges. No traces of our missing friend appeared.Oogalah left us, passing through the gatewaybetween the sulphur patches, and made straightfor the edge of the cliffside that broke down into theunapproachable and impossible crevice. Beyond thefarthest point he dared to penetrate lay theprostrate body of Antoine Goritz, our former335leader, dead. Oogalah could see him plainly, buthe hesitated to try to reach him, and it would havebeen impossible for him alone to have carried thisyouthful giant back. Goritz’s head was towardsOogalah coming from the east. He had fallenheadlong, a little crumpled up, as if in convulsionswhen he fell, and in his hands, still clutched in anirretractable deathgrip, were two lumps of radium.

Sorrowfully Hopkins and I turned back, followedby the mute but wondering Eskimo. We could notpossibly have recovered the body then, but wehoped to later. We had already heard that theworkers in radium, the Gold Makers, were likeOogalah immunized or less sensitive to its paralyzinginfluence, and with some of these men we hopedthe recovery could be made. We noticed on thissad errand that our own susceptibility had changed,that it deterred us less, just as for months past theirritation of the eyes from the peculiar light of theland had passed away, which before, in the DeerFels, even in the Pine Tree Gredin, had afflictedus. So, reluctantly we returned, fully assured byOogalah that with assistance from some of thegold makers the body could be withdrawn. Andthat, sir, partially led to our second visit to thevillage of the Gold Makers.

That gold was made by some miraculous power,aided by some peculiar skill in the Radiumopolites,we had convinced ourselves, before we reached thatcity. Since then the spectacle of the Capitol, theapparent extravagance of the use of gold in decorationand in apparel, and even in the appurtenancesof the rooms and homes of the officers of the city,the shockingly hideous Crocodilo-Python effigieson the palace, and that impossible, realistic creationof the Serpent-Throne in which the Professor sat atthe time of his triumphant coronation, and Ziliah’sstory and the equally credible narrations of Oogalah336confirmed specifically our suspicions. But we hadnever seen it made, nor even found in the industriesof the city any trace of its manufacture. That theodd encounter of ours with the sphalerite in thelimestone cave of the Deer Fels, when the convocationof little men drifted down from the sky, borneby those incommensurable balloons (and, by theway, we had never since seen a balloon in use oridle) had something to do with gold making, wewere positive.

Since our arrival and establishment in the citywe had heard of the Gold Makers. It was for themthat Oogalah explored the radium fields near theCrater of Everlasting Light. Oogalah told us mostof what we learned about them. They were adifferent people again from either the Eskimo or theHebrew type in the city of Radiumopolis, and theValley of Rasselas. They lived in a secluded communitymany miles away from Radiumopolis, andseldom visited the city, though they occasionallyintermarried with the comely Eskimo girls or thelarger women of the small race. When we inquiredthe cause of their isolation Oogalah said the mineswere where they were to be found, and the burialgrounds.

The last named excited our wonder, but Oogalahwas vague on the subject and seemingly uninterested.He did exhibit some enthusiasm over hisrecollections of the wildness and beauty of thecountry where the Gold Makers lived and worked,and mentioned a mighty river there. This was theriver that issued from the Canon of Promise, theeffluent from the Saurian Sea, which, as I have said,again turned westward and through anothersavage defile entered the Kara Sea. That river Inamed “Homeward Bound,” for by it I came out.

Well, the Professor, after his accession, expressedthe strongest desire to see the Gold Makers and337their country, and said that we all must accompanyhim. For the Professor had acquired a little knowledgeof the language, and with me as interpreterhe got on famously, and told the Council ofwise men that he was writing a book about them,and after they had mastered the idea, for amongtheir other trivialities they had no books, nowritings of any sort, they took to it immensely.This appeal to their vanity—megalomania literallyand figuratively—was a great stroke. Bjornsenwill find out all their knowledge before he abdicates.

So it very soon materialized that we should beshown the Gold Makers. (This was some timebefore Goritz’s death.) It was a picturesque trip.I shall never forget it, and for good reasons. Itstarted me on my way home.

The Professor, Goritz, Hopkins, myself, and thechief men of the Senate, Javan, Put, Hul, Peleg andHadad, made up the party with the guard, driversand a few attendants. We went in their oddwooden-wheeled jaunting cars, pulled by the verylively and entertaining rams.

It would form an appealing and pleasant studyfor me to describe the Junta of Radiumopolis—thosethirty humorous little figures, with the sedate,old, and variously featured faces, a galaxy of physiognomiesthat embraced good nature, cunning,sullenness, querulous self importance, feebleness,gravity, benevolence (more in the seeming than inthe reality, I take it) spitefulness, apathy, fussiness,dullness, alertness, sympathy, cruelty, perhapssternness, and above all a mannerism of profundityunspeakably amusing. Their physique is hopeless,for they have pin bodies and have pin heads, asHopkins described them, and their off-the-centerlook with their top-heavy heads and bowedshoulders make a mannikin effect, ludicrous andgrotesque. All are dark.

338But while we are on our way to the Gold Makers,through the open flowering meads and broadpastures and arable acres of the Rasselas Valley,I will try very briefly—in staccato—to put beforeyou Javan, Put, Hul, Peleg and Hadad.

Javan, the father of Ziliah, was by far the bestlooking, and generally the best formed. His facewas really handsome, and his beard made no falseclaim to being one. It was full and flowing. Hiseyes were large, glowing and passionate. Hesmiled too much, and a “few crowns and bridgesmade from home material would have benefited hismouth organ,” said Hopkins. His cheeks werehollow and pale, but the positive beauty of thebroad white brow seemed to compensate for allother defects.

Put was a rather tall man, under the restrictedsense of long and short as applied to these gentlemen,and nearly bald. His nose was a moremodest creation that those of most of his colleagues,but his mouth, in so small a face, was portentous.Nature by some ineptitude had almost omitted hisears, and his eyes had a glassy and fixed stare(when not concealed by the official goggles), but theforlorn remnant of some forgotten smile hadbecome fastened in his face, which actually helpedthe artificial effect of his eyes to the point of makingyou almost believe he was of wood or plaster, andnot of flesh and blood. Hopkins quoted the BabBallad verse, which runs,

“‘The imp with yell unearthly-wild,

Threw off his dark enclosure:

His dauntless victim looked and smiled

With singular composure.

For hours he tried to daunt the youth,

For days indeed, but vainly—

The stripling smiled! to tell the truth

The stripling smiled inanely.’”

339Hull was somewhat shorter but he was a distinctanalogue to Put, with most of Put’s eccentricities,softened, by no means to the point of extinction,but so far as to make him a laughable simulacrum.

Peleg was the best example of this small Semiticpeople in the thirty Areopagites. He was reallymuscular in a way, well developed, with a hawk’seye, and a severity that would require, I surmised,very little provocation to turn it into ferocity.His head seemed less ponderous, he carried itstraighter, and a deeper glow of redness in his faceimparted to him a humanity denied by the parchment-liketexture of his fellows. His beard too,was full and his hair really rich and luxuriant. Ithink he would have proven a firm friend.

Hadad was an anomaly. He was fat. Hopkinscalled him “the Alderman”; he was the presumablyhappy possessor of a so-called corporation (asHopkins put it, “a Trust individualized as anabdomen”), and his voice and laugh were musical.Generally I don’t insist on the association, but Ihave found it noticeable. Hadad had pop-eyesand an incorrigible habit of spitting. He seemedloquacious, and he usually could be found in themidst of any discussion.

This conventionalized description might producea wrong impression. These little men did not dressin coat, vest and pants. Figure them in yellow orblue tunics falling well below the knees, sometimesin a sort of violet cassock, either bound with therococo gold belt and its conspicuous gold buckle,with leggings or buskins, with the beehive hat, andall this apparel on state occasions loaded with goldchains. You can conceive that they presented amost unusual appearance, even one of some dignity,though it must be confessed their relatively largenoses undeniably depraved it with a vaudeville effect.Hopkins never could get over this impression.

340“Alfred, if I could ship ’em, as they stand, on thehoof so to speak, to New York!—sign a contract asmanager, and bill ’em for a tour of the States, myfinancial horizon would be cloudless. Eh?”

The defects of these diminutive people seemedincreased by contrast with the taller race, who werewell made, normal in every way, and whose womenwere most pleasing. And as regards the ladies ofthe small type, they were much bigger than themen—another fact to the disadvantage of theirundersized partners—and often, as with Ziliah,they were superb. (The matrimonial question wasalready looming ominously prominent for KingBjornsen, and his counsellors, I knew, were solicitousfor his royal appreciation of their daughters—“one,or several or all,” said Hopkins.)

And there was the great and glorious land of theGold Makers. As we approached, its diversity andcontrasts became excitingly apparent. And, as inmyself dawned the scheme of making it the point ofmy departure, or ESCAPE, to that great outerworld from which like thrown pebbles Chance—notin this case a blind goddess—had dropped us intothis sealed and secluded lesser world, it assumed averitable splendor. Far off the shimmering agitationof the broad stream that poured its accumulatedflood down a long grade from the Canon ofPromise, in a vast crosscut through the Pine TreeGredin, sparkled in our view. Hills, low andsparsely wooded, rose from the floor of the Valleyof Rasselas—we had already reached the latter’snorthwestern limit—between them were flat andgrassed interspaces, and in the foreground a savannah-likeexpanse, quite treeless, and then far to theright the clustering villages of the Gold Makers.Obviously the river dominated the scene, with thatfar distant background of indefinite elevationsoutlining the northern concentric bulwarks of341Krocker Land, beyond which a good glass mightdetect the shroud of the Perpetual Nimbus, and yetfarther, infinitely removed, but seen in presence ifnot in form, the snowy or ruddy pinnacles ofKrocker Land Rim. The river before it reachedthe pastoral foreground had recovered its calm, andonly in its full tide did the gliding patches of foam,and here and there a larger, more disquieted wave,indicate the turmoil and torture of its descent.The road drew near to its banks. Within our viewit turned westward, and we could see that it againpassed outward between the walls of a rugged andimposing defile. Could I trust myself to its impetuouscurrent, and find over its boiling waters anavenue of escape? So I mused, as we jolted alongand as, to me, the scenery brought back long forgottenpictures of the Vale of Llangollen inWales.

Scarcely were we in sight of the villages thansome of their occupants hurried to meet us. Whenthey came closer, to our wonder, we found them, asOogalah had described, of a different racial typefrom the rest of the Radiumopolites and very unmistakablySamoyedes, men from the vast Siberianuplands, physically distinguishable by the broadfaces and pyramidal skulls of the Turanian family.These nomads of the treeless fringes of Siberia, sofar as indications showed or inquiry elicited, hadbeen in a small company, wrecked on the Arcticcoast of Krocker Land in some dateless past. Theyhad made their way into the Valley of Rasselas, hadestablished themselves without molestation in thisrestricted corner, and had then—how, remained anunanswered or insoluble question—come undersubjection of the Radiumopolites. When thepeculiar industry which now engaged them haddeveloped was as indefinite in its relations to whatwent before or followed after it as the advent of the342supernatural(?) stranger who had taught Radiumopolisthe process of gold manufacture itself.

It seemed however that at an early time theseSamoyedes had been appropriated as workers inthis singular art, because of their discovered immunityfrom the deleterious effects or influences ofthe hypostatic element.

I saw men and women fishing in the broad river,and to my amazement found their boats wereliterally rafts—wooden logs bound together byropes or thongs of leather and fibre. Hardly had Iperceived this before the thought and hope flashedthrough my mind that on some such vehicle oftransit I could trust myself to the stream, and thatit was most likely that these hardy highlanderscould give me the information I now needed as tothe channel, direction, debouchment, and navigablenessof the noble water in its course to the coast.

One of the strange idiosyncracies of the Radiumopolites,in spite of their attested skill in workmanship,their intelligence and emotional liveliness, wastheir obtuseness in geographic matters, or better,numbness. I don’t think they ever questioned thefact of their absolute finality both in place and inexistence. Outside of the distant Krocker LandRim was nothing but that blockade of ice, of whichthey had heard—the gold belt found by Goritz wasa token of an aeronautic (?) reconnaissance—andoutside of that, if speculation in their minds suggestedthe query, was just nothing again. As theProfessor said, “The centripetal tendency of manyprimitive cultures was well understood, but in thiscase it was pivotal on a new topographic conformationthat forbade migration.” I don’t suppose itever occurred to a Radiumopolite to even ask whatmight become of that river cutting across this cornerof his Eden-like valley. They had becomestatic, and what they knew and what they enjoyed343never changed. In house building, in weaving, ina rude artistry of design, in agriculture, in brickand tile and pot making, in their religion, in theirgames, they had attained a development that gavethem happiness. And that ended it. It wasInca-like, or Mayan, Toltecan, Aztecan, or any ofthe American cultures which inhabit one spot,flourishing within it and never exceeding it, like thephenomena of centralization in plants and animals.And yet what questions this same culture suggestedto a less individualized student, thatdiminutive Semitic race, the tree and serpentsurvival, and this unique oligarchy of little magnates!

Arrived within the precincts of the Samoyedianvillage, there was a bustling reception from dogsand children. These were the first dogs we hadseen. Then a slow emergence of women and oldermen from the low briquette abodes followed.Almost without noticing their salutations, Javan,Put, Hul, Peleg, Hadad, leading the way, took usthrough the scanty settlement to a series of barracks,also made of burned clay briquettes, andentered the first one. On long rude tables wereheaped, in this armory, piles of galena (lead sulphide),and the glistening mineral was in nodules,free and clear, or enclosed in a pulverulent limestone.It was the duty here of the workmen toextract the mineral from its matrix, pound it intodust, and separate it in small wicker baskets. Itwas then carried away in these receptacles, by men,to other buildings. In another house or shedSphalerite (zinc sulphide) was similarly treated.From these preparatory stages we passed to theradium storehouse. This was practically a cavedug in the side of the hill, where the material,gathered by Oogalah was kept, and which we werenot permitted to enter. The radium masses were344thrown into this place through an opening above, asort of chimney, and removed below by an openingwhich permitted their extrication by stone hoes.As they were drawn out they were taken in basketsto the Mixing House. The critical work waseffected here.

In every respect it was like the other workshops,but in it the workmen did not remain more thantwo hours at a time, the “shifts,” as we would say,being then changed. At one end of this buildingthe radium nodules were cleared of their dullcoatings of oxide. Instantly the metallic nuclei,which was malleable to a slight degree, but whichsoon developed brittleness, were pushed towardsother workmen, who hammered them with stonemallets or hammers until they were broken orsplintered into grains or small angular pieces.This triturated metal was pushed forward againwith slate knives to the last group of workers towhom the basket of pulverized lead and zinc mineralhad been brought.

These operators divided the broken radium intolots and poured over each lot the contents of asingle basket. The heap thus formed of the commingledradium and sulphide was then drawn to theedge of the stone and brick table and carefullyscraped into a leathern or woven apron or bag andtied up. From this house these bundles werecarried away to a distant upland which furnisheda favorable soil for their burial; they were depositedin holes, five to ten feet deep, thevariation in depth having some reference to thesize of the bundles. These burials were then notdisturbed for a length of time which correspondedto about a year of our time. At the expiration ofthat period they were exhumed and examined.Fortunately we were enabled to see this stage of theprocess also. The bundle being taken out of its345sepulture is opened on a table and its contentsspread out in a thin layer. From the granularcommixture the gold particles are carefully pickedout, and are then collected for welding by pressureinto larger pieces.

Certainly nothing could have been more amazingthan the exhibition thus offered of the transmutingpower of this wizard element. The transmutationis never complete, that is, the original mass ofgalena or sphalerite is never wholly converted intogold. The residues are reinterred with the almostunaltered radium, and after six months are againexamined. The second crop of gold grains invariablyis less, and after a third trial the mixture iscarefully freed from the radium and the unaffectedsulphide thrown out. The radium thus used iskept apart from the fresher supplies of radiumwhose potency is always stronger. But the partiallyexhausted reagent is saved, and used over andover again with fresh ores. For, just as the radiumsuffers a diminution of efficacy, so does the sulphidelose its susceptibility to its influence. This necessarilyinvolves considerable sorting, parceling,labeling and adjustment. Superintendents watchthe operations of each workhouse, and the new andold supplies of the radium and of the ores aresuccessfully recorded and mutually apportioned, asexperience dictates. The lead sulphide yields thelarger percentage of transmuted gold.

In all instances the crop of gold is small, and itsaccumulation slow, so that the rich displays atRadiumopolis must have represented the result ofmany years of this peculiar labor. Javan told methat the yield of gold was steadily diminishingbecause of the difficulty of obtaining radium, andthe almost exhausted condition of the lead andzinc sulphide mines. Then he told me of a possiblenew replenishment of the latter from deposits far346beyond the pine tree forest to the east. TheProfessor, Hopkins, and myself exchanged an astutesmile of understanding as did also Goritz, thoughless intelligibly. We recalled the flying trip of thedoctors, and the radium-lighted cave in the DeerFels. The mines of sulphide in the limestone hillsof the Gold Makers’ country are of the types familiarto the miners of the same mineral in Minnesota,Wisconsin and Iowa.

With what wonder stricken faces the Professor,Hopkins, Goritz and I gazed upon the flattenedpiles of sulphide ore and radium, after the long-buriedmixture was taken out of the ground inwhose seclusion the miraculous effect had indisputablybeen produced. The lead-gray glint of theore made more conspicuous the scattered dust ofgold amongst it, with particles cohering to halfconverted lumps of galena. And our wondertranscended words when we were led into an adjoiningroom where the gold detritus was hammeredinto sizeable bits, and these again compacted intosticks or nodules, while on the shelves surroundingthis apartment, the collected masses lay in bewilderingconfusion. Aladdin’s Lamp seemed almost lessinsupportably incredible.

It was on the occasion of the enforced second—butmuch desired—visit, when we besought theservices of the Samoyedes to recover the body of ourlost friend, that I again studied, more closely, thechances of the river liberating me from the increasinglyunendurable imprisonment. A few of thehardened Samoyedes were brought back with us,after this errand of mercy, to Radiumopolis, andwith Oogalah they recovered the body of Goritz.I think the Council would have been pleased tohave instituted a special Crocodilo-Python festival,347and delivered the poor fellow’s body to the horribledenizens of the neighboring swamps, but KingBjornsen forbade that sternly, and it caused someunpleasantness. It was another indication to meof the inevitable “blow-up,” as Hopkins called it,of our amicable relations with these Radiumopolites,and the increasing urgency of my effecting my escape,to bring to my friends the means of theirpossible extrication. Under the pretence of returningGoritz to the sky, from which (with us) he hadcome, we secretly buried him in the valley, andthere he lies today.

It was something of a contre-temp to have Goritzdie at all. It gave a rather second-hand and made-uplook to our claims to have come from theheavens, and to the inquiring minds of our enemiessupplied undesirable data for starting grave doubtsas to our authenticity—still another danger lurkingin our path, or, as Hopkins gloomily put it,“another nail in our coffins.”

Our friend was King indeed, but the enthusiasmthat had carried him to that eminence lackedpermanence. It could not be rooted in racial consanguinity,it was probably constantly decried bythe little doctors, and the Professor, to quote theepigrammatic Hopkins, was a “poor mixer.” Thatlast word unveiled a multitude of perils.



My Escape

You must have observed, sir, that in my narrativeI have from time to time exhibited our variantand varying frames or states of mind toward thestrange conditions we were approaching, and thestill stranger ones we actually entered. You havebeen told that some of us dreaded to go on—myselffor instance—that later, diverted or enthralled bythe strangeness of it all, we wanted to go faster,that from shrinkingly divining some disaster wewere lulled into the anticipation of great pleasure,and that when our actual danger was reached andsurmounted it might seem we should almost haveresigned ourselves to stay; resigned ourselves tothat serenity of mind depicted by Doctor Johnson,from whose work the Professor derived the name hehad given to the central vale of Krocker Land,where, “such was the appearance of security anddelight which their retirement afforded, that theyto whom it was new always desired that it might beperpetual.”

But it surely does not require much penetrationof feeling, to say the least, or sympathy of mind, tosee that our position would very soon become unendurable,from the same general repugnance in allof us and from particular motives in each. Tobegin with, we soon felt stifled in this reconditeand obsolete and trivial civilization; the very circular349enclosure which shut it in became a prison,and after all, if we were of the same zoologicalstirps, as these people, we had differentiated toomuch for pleasurable association. At no time haveI felt so keenly that the breath of the modern man’slife must be the breath of the world where it movesthe fastest and its breath is quickest.

Then there was the wonderful discovery itself tobe published, the Professor’s notes, crowded uponthe pages of a notebook he had most carefully preserved,to be given to science. Goritz before hisdeath yearned for the gratification of indulgencesto be purchased by his new wealth, and, as hethought, his new knowledge. I revolted at thesurroundings, the snakes and the periodic sacrifices,and feared an inevitable distrust and collision.Hopkins loved Ziliah, but he had found in thisrara-avis a positive promise of supreme adaptationto the best life he could give her in the world. Atany rate he wished to try it.

Our discontent increased, our impatience chafedour nerves, and in hastily stolen conferences wedetermined upon a supreme effort to escape. Wewere tormented by the espionage and ruffled mannersof the Council of Thirty, who interminablybuzzed about us, and had probably shrewdlydetected our hidden restlessness. And the utterdullness of the life! Never before have I so unspeakablyrealized that even if you cannot live inthe current of life, you must live near it, hear itsmurmurs, watch its waves, and rejoice in knowingthose who swim either with or against it. We hadall been dreadfully disappointed in the Radiumopolites.

Again and again we planned to break away undersome pretence of revisiting our celestial home,hurrying off and disappearing completely, thoughnow we had made up our minds to return with big350reinforcements of assistance and to turn over thisnew continent to the examination and gaze ofscience. It seems a cruel decision. But why not?Krocker Land could not in any case remain muchlonger concealed, and we were entitled to the fruitsof our adventure, while we were reasonably confidentwe could make its investiture by our civilizationsafe, humane, undisturbing. I think differentlynow, but that was our conclusion.

“This Ascension business,” as Hopkins called it,was just humanly possible by the use of balloons,and it was apposite that at the Professor’s enthronement,the aeronautics of the Radiumopolites weredisplayed at last. It very oddly turned out thatonly the smaller race played with the balloons.The word is deliberately correct. These balloonswere a kind of household furniture or means ofdiversion, as a bicycle is with us. They furnishedinexhaustible amusement to the little people, buteven there their use was limited to the very daringor the very light. Almost every family possessedone. And yet more curiously it was in the balloonline that experiment and invention were actuallystirring these ludicrous people to improve and addto what they knew. This activity sprang from theunsatisfactory discrimination their present aeronauticalknowledge made between light and heavyweights.

This ballooning in Krocker Land is in everyway anomalous and extraordinary, and like theirknowledge of transmutation partakes of the miraculous,certainly the previously unsuspected.Science here is again in the presence of a New Departure.The balloons are filled with a gas havinga far greater buoyancy than pure hydrogen and itis derived from gas wells, themselves of verymoderate depth, but evidently supplied from farmore deeply seated sources. It is incontestable.351A balloon not three feet in diameter will levitatethirty pounds!

Except for the astonishing transmutation thisphysical fact invades the realm of the unbelievablemore deeply than anything else.

No evidence of this wide-spread predilectionappeared before the Professor’s enthronement.The suppression of the sport had something to dowith the ceremonial rites of visiting the tree shrines,I believe, the winter solstitial feeding with humanbodies of the saurians, and awaiting the springplanting of grain. The opening of the season, soto speak, is inaugurated by the ascent of the entireAreopagus, and after that the amusement becomesgeneral.

All of the Aeropagites are not equally expert,and many, after a sufficient aerial excursion to meetthe ceremonial requirements, which are de rigueur,subside and retire. But the art of sailing the airis traditionally a matter of pride, and the leadersdo very well. It was an adventuresome trip forthem to have attempted reaching the outskirts ofKrocker Land when we met them softly settlingdown on the Deer Fels, and it later proved almostindubitable that they were the customary politicalbosses, Javan, Put, Hul, Peleg and Hadad, thougha closer inspection of these worthies corrected someof our first impressions, expressed before in thatchapter of this narrative.

The experimental efforts at improvement arosefrom the discontent and envy of the heavier individualsover the glad pastimes and disportments ofthe lighter ones. You see the method involvedthe use of at least three balloons, one from eachshoulder and one from the waist, and as three feetdiameter was the maximum size, safely manipulated,those weighing over ninety pounds—andthere were a great number of these, almost all352adults of the taller race, and many women of thesmaller—were simply excluded from this diversion.Hinc illae lacrymae, and hence also the energy ofinvention to overcome this disparity.

When the sports began, nothing could have beenmore interesting and spectacular. Groups wouldrise together, separate, and reunite. This air-swimmingwas effected by fans attached to thewrists. But the Aeropagites revealed a superiorguidance, at least we imagined so, for when theirfloating shapes had thrown shadows on the illuminedsummits of the Deer Fels, they had beenprovided with those inexplicable tubes, and up tothe moment of my escape these miracles had notbeen repeated. And the NEW tubes—where werethey?

The proper state of the weather was indispensableand only in complete calms would the amusingexhibition take place. As in all exercises,bolder spirits attempted their excursions underperilous conditions in high or moderate winds, butthese had often resulted in loss of life, the unhappyaeronaut falling or actually being driven headlonglike a fly or moth beyond the valley into the solitudesand dangers of its encircling zones.

The harness—for it is nothing less—which theaeronaut assumes holds him easily and steadily tothe three bubbles above him, and, as he generallycan regulate his flight with his hands, his indeterminatecontrol is over his descent. Few accidentsoccur. The balloons are symmetrized in positionover him, the one at the waist being nearest hisbody and the two outside bags higher but on a levelwith each other. His control is entirely over thecentral balloon which he may quickly deplete byopening a valve. Variations of adjustment and ofapparatus, as might be imagined, are numerous,and individual tastes or designs introduce great353diversity. There may be four or five or even sixballoons employed, but in this case they are mademuch smaller. The balloons may be of differentsizes. Along the direction of increasing the numberof maximum sized balloons lay the hopes of thebigger people, but there had been some bad mishaps,and the balance or adjustment proved difficult.The levitation became unmanageable, andthe descents were often appallingly rapid andshockingly tragic.

When these air revels began—as they did at theProfessor’s coronation—minus the crown—we momentarilyseized upon the project of adapting thislocomotion for our flight. It required a very briefinspection to utterly expose the hopelessness ofthis scheme and still more strongly occurred to usthe prohibition from attempting to leave together.Such a wholesale evacuation, unless accomplishedas one might say de coup de tonnerre, would never bepracticable, and as Hopkins ruefully reminded us,“Ziliah may be an angel, but I’d rather sour on herprospects of being a balloonist.”

Literally I was the only free man, now thatGoritz was gone, and literally upon me devolvedthe task of getting back, rousing the world, andeffecting my friends’ release. How should, howcould I do it?

Always distressed by this inseparable anxiety,the trip to the Gold Makers suddenly appealed tomy searching mind with a strong likelihood that thegreat river we had skirted might carry me safely,and, too, with a swiftness beyond our hopes toliberty, though when more seriously considered, itmight prove, I saw, to be only the Liberty of Death.

Immediately, therefore, after our return I founda convenient occasion to discuss this project withthe Professor and Hopkins. It struck them bothfavorably, though they rather shrank from recommending354it, as it was equally clear that if the rivercould be, as it were, employed at all, it would probablyprove to be an obstreperous and mischievousservant. However, that way lay my path.

Under the pretence—hardly ever now were wefree from some dogging spy at our elbows—ofwishing to report more faithfully the operations ofthe Gold Makers in that book which he waswriting on Radiumopolis, and which somehow hadnow captivated the fancy of the Council, the Professor(King Bjornsen), Hopkins and myself revisitedthe distant village. Although we were notpermitted to go unattended, it was easy enough forme to engage the Samoyedes in conversation, andask them about their knowledge of the great river.They spoke quite freely about it, and proved notonly willing to tell me all they knew, but discouragedmy plan to navigate the river to its mouth, by anot altogether lucid account of the attempt of one oftheir fishermen to venture on the river beyond therocky gateway frowning on them to the west, andof his receiving some sort of violent treatment atits hands, he being thrown ashore and returningalong the banks of the stream, reaching homealmost more dead than alive. So ran their brokenand obscure story.

Where was this man? “Dead.” Were any ofhis family, descendants, acquaintances, intimates,living? “Oh—yes—he knew everybody.” Aftersome painstaking examination, accompanied by animmense amount of irrelevant recollections of whathe did after his return, how he died, and how hewas buried, his size, his strength, his obstinacy,and a recital of the disposition of his slender estate,I uncovered a trail of associations leading to an oldblind man who was yet alive, and who, it wassupposed, knew a little more exactly than anyoneelse what this daring disciple of Izaak Walton hadseen or experienced.

355This ancient was located, but it proved a mountainoustask to extract much intelligible informationfrom him, partly because he was dreadfullydeaf, hopelessly stupid, and so incoherent that theinterpreters chosen to interview him appeared tobe at their wits’ ends to make him out, and moreparticularly because he was himself suspicious ofhis examiners.

I at last came away with the impression that theman had floated off peacefully on the swellingbreast of the flood as it emerged from the broadlake-like embayment in the Gold Makers’ land, andhad been carried along for a great distance at arapid rate but not with much or any danger, untilthe descent brought him to a change in the bed orbanks of the river (what this change was could notbe determined), and that he had even survived this,but that later he jumped overboard from his raft(for raft it was), and reached the shore and, satisfiedwith his adventure, had made his way back byalmost incredible exertions.

Singular as it may seem to you, sir, my deductionsfrom this incomplete story, bristling as itmight seem with unimagined, untold dangers, were,that the river maintained a full flow, was seldominterrupted by obstructions, had some seriousbreaks in its grade, which, however, did not involveactual falls, and, if violent at any point, was notunnegotiable, as you say. The fisherman evidentlypassed the worst place alive, but did not survivethe shock. He lost his nerve and got ashore—andbesides, in his case, there were most valid reasonsfor objecting to a lengthier transit.

This favorable interpretation, so far as it helpedme to make up my mind, was really itself helped bya kind of desperation. It was impossible for me toremain in this solitude any longer. An almostfierce monomania of repulsion was growing within356me, and, of some natural hardihood myself, thisexcitant for action bestowed on me an almost unnaturalindifference to danger.

Later I told my friends I had made up my mind.Whatever perils lay in my way I would cope withthem as I could—but GO I would, and as an avenueof escape that seemed to promise the quickestrelease I preferred the river. There were manysolemn and affecting conferences—continued as wehad opportunity—and the preparations were, sofar as the resources allowed, carefully made. Theywere indeed so wisely made that I reached theSiberian Sea safe and sound. The intervention ofLuck or Providence in assisting him, is consciouslyor unconsciously expected by every Arctic explorer,probably by any explorer; and with the contributionof his best judgment, unsparing effort, andpersonal fortitude, he is inclined to put the blameof his failure—if he fails—on those two omnipotentfactors. If he succeeds, a brave man is probablynot less inclined to give them the credit.

We selected the best rifle of our little collection,stored all of our ammunition, depending on theingenuity of Hopkins and the King to reconcile theRadiumopolites to this sequestration of theirbeloved thunder, the Professor entrusted to mesome pencil scribbled papers, and then we turnedour attention to my personal equipment. Ibelieved that in a week’s time at the most I wouldbe enabled to reach the coast. We all felt that,assuming a parallel conformation of the variouszonal strips we had traversed entering Rasselas,their proximity on the west argued for a probablenarrowing of their width. To have attempted theeastward route over the path we had taken had noattractions for me, and from the first we felt myabsence would then be more quickly discovered,and myself willy-nilly overhauled.

357But later we turned our first plans upside-down.Hopkins said my departure should be a publicevent, that we would never be able to accomplishanything satisfactorily in this hidden, secretfashion.

“Take the bull by the horns; fly a high kite andput it up to ’em this way. Tell ’em the shade,spirit, spook, anything that’s handy of AntoineGoritz, has appeared to you, and told you to take tothe water; that big things will be brought back thatway; that the Serpent God wishes it—Oh, anything.Hand it out strong and lively and scary.I guess that’ll rehabilitate Goritz too, give him thesaecula saeculorum sort of effect, and it won’t do usany harm either to keep up our show of being onintimate terms with ghosts and such.”

“Will they believe it?” I asked.

“Sure. Why not? What else have they got todo? They’re made that way. All of these rubbishypeople who came into existence before gas andelectricity, the telephone, trolley car, pasteurizedmilk and incubators, will believe anything you tell’em about goblins and witches and scarecrows andsecond sight and dreams and invisible voices. Tryit, Alfred. It’s a cinch.”

Well, we did try it and it was, to put it that way,an unalleviated success. Still there was a fly in theointment, in a way. Ziliah told Hopkins the littledoctors were overjoyed—they wanted me out of theroad. I asked the Professor and Hopkins whatthey thought about that and they both agreedthey could take care of themselves. This upshot ofthe matter was indeed a rather disturbing surprise,but—my departure was a triumph!

The resources of Radiumopolis were at my disposal—food,clothing, and although direction orinformation could not be furnished, the physicalrequisitions for combating hunger and cold were358generously provided. This alacrity on the part ofthe little rulers was unmistakably connected withtheir expectation that the adventure would be thelast of me. They were obedient to the injunctionsof King Bjornsen, but their subserviency washypocritical in its protestations of devotion.

Unluckily there was the most helpless ignoranceof boat making to contend with, and the additionalprovocation to despair that there were no tools tomake them with. This historic fisherman hadtried to do the trick with a raft. I would take araft too. What else? The Samoyedes built themwell and strongly, and under my uncontrolledsupervision a narrow raft made of two tiers of logs,crossed in position and bound together with thestrongest ropes, was prepared. On this a wovenhamper was firmly fastened, and in that were placedmy provisions (tortillas, and dried meat) and extraclothing, and rugs, and a sleeping bag of sheepskin.A pack strapped to my back carried Goritz’s goldsouvenirs, some radium masses, a compass, chronometer,matches and a selection of fishing hooks andlines. A gun was almost riveted to my side, soimmobile did it seem. But the tour de force of foresightwas involved in the insertion of two shortposts (five feet high) at the stern, though distantfrom the raft’s edge by about three feet, and distantfrom each other by three feet. To each ofthese posts, at the level of my shoulders, wasreamed a hole for two looped leathern thongs, soadjusted that standing between the posts I couldinsert my arms in the loops, clasp my hands acrossmy breast, and secure a chancery that nothingshort of dislocation of the raft itself could break, orthe avulsion of my own arms from their sockets,while in an instant I could free myself.

The Samoyedes rigged up a rude steering tillerwhich of course was indispensable. It consisted of359a girdle suspended from a cross piece, binding thetwo abovementioned posts, through which a stickpaddle was swung. It was decidedly awkward, asit displaced me from my position of safety betweenthe posts, and therefore at critical moments mightprove quite worthless, if not a positive danger.Here I must count on my own agility and strength.Besides this tiller half a dozen poles and as manyoars were tied to the posts projecting above themlike short masts. These might prove very serviceable.But there was also a last Atlantean touch.Two of the three foot balloons were firmly tied tothe crosspiece of the upright posts. It was the Professor’ssuggestion, and I am positive that at acritical twist it saved matters.

That was about all, except that some furtherrecords were given me by Bjornsen and they wereconsigned to the great woven hamper. Well,some learned societies will be saved head splittingdisputes, and no less head dizzying theories, theformer perhaps not altogether harmless. Thathamper never came through.

By the beginning of July I was ready for theplunge. The day was auspicious, clear but torrid,with the stationary sun wrapped in luminousclouds, and its overwhelming rival coursing a higheraltitude in unchecked splendor. The great riverassumed an enticing placidity; its tranquil currenthad even lost the chained bubbles floating from theshattering cascades that freed it from the Canon ofPromise. And Radiumopolis had bodily transferreditself to the scene; the banks, the hills, theroofs of a few abandoned sheds were closelycrowded, by a wonderfully variegated multitude,intensely interested, subdued into a faintly murmurousthrong by the excitement of admiration.I was something more than a hero that day. Obeyingthe summons of the spirit of my former companion,360I was to rejoin him along that tracklesspathway of the great river, whose banks touchedheaven, in whose inaccessible depths dwelt all thedemons of death and terror.

There was a reservation of space, at the pointwhere my raft swung uneasily, for the King, theCouncil, Hopkins and Ziliah, and the magistratesof the city, and only a Hogarth could have donejustice to that commixture of physiognomies, theodd and contrasted figures, interspersed with thetaller men and women, all wearing their regalia, andthe massed battalions beyond them in holiday array.Some daring aeronauts circled in the airabove me. Flowers did not figure in the festivalsnor in the predilections of the Radiumopolites,though blue and yellow blossoms lit their landscapeswith a smile of floral prettiness that was verybewitching, and their own blue and yellow tunics,or coats, indicated some sympathy with thesecolors. On this occasion I was presented with someflat pincushion-like mats made up of these flowersby some blushing girls, and from the laughter—gentleand decorous—that this evoked, I believedthey evinced a warmer sentiment than regret. Ofcourse my mission, as publicly declared, precludedmy probable return, or, at least, it meant my longabsence. By the Council doubtless, certainly by afew undisguised enemies in it, it was hoped that itmeant my wholesale and irremediable destruction.

As I shook hands with all I came at last to theProfessor (King Bjornsen) and Hopkins. Ourhands closed tightly and we dared not look eachother in the face. I heard Hopkins whisper,“Heaven help you,” and if prayer reaches thethrone of Grace when it is consecrated by theheart’s holiest hope, that prayer, I know, ascendedto its place. As the Professor embraced me, heloosened the belt of lead I had worn and replaced it361with a heavy gold girdle whose big buckle bore thecarven Serpent. That, Mr. Link, I have nevershown to anyone. Diaz, Huerta nor Angelica haveever seen it. It will amaze you. The Professorremoved it from his own waist. There was a halfhushed remonstrance. But the King’s gift wasinterpreted favorably, and as I received it a shoutwent up, and even the Council, for prudent reasonspossibly, indulged in a titter of endorsement. Myraft was pushed by willing hands into the stream.Its prow or front yielded to the gentle urgency ofthe current, and turned. I stood upon the hamper,and waved my hat—not the beehive contraptionbut a sheepskin fez—and again the Radiumopolites,now strangely stirred by this solemngliding departure of a single man into the unknown,broke spontaneously into one of their sing-song,not quite unmusical, and not exactly musical,chants, which rising in pitch until it swelled to meover the water, almost seemed, I drearily thought,like a dirge. Its crooning wail still filled my earswhen all details of the multitude were lost, and theshadow of the great gateway of rock, into which theriver was relentlessly carrying me fell across theglassy wave that had now become my path toliberty.

There was now nothing to be thought of but self-preservationamid unknown and unsuspected dangers.I seized some bread—tortilla—a hunk of thedried, not unpalatable meat, and drank some wine.This interjected meal raised my spirits. A momentarysang-froid replaced my nervousness, andindeed, so great was my exultation at the thought ofregaining the vanished world, of liberation from anunendurable stagnation and the bald, horriblemisery of a silly paganism, that I became almostcheerful. That mood did not last long. AlreadyI had passed the portal of the deep canon. The362red sandstone walls rose in sheer precipices aboveme, and were rising visibly higher beyond. A fewshrunken pine trees clung here and there to shelvesof rock, while through some upward openings, andleading into transverse valleys, I caught glimpsesof the dark green motionless tops of the serriedtrees that here marked the amphitheater of thePine Tree Gredin.

The grimness of the swiftly developing descentalmost appalled me now. I was on the back of aresistless flood not yet maddened into a fury ofimpetuous violence by opposition, nor quickenedinto the onset of a galloping torrent by sharperchanges in its gradient, but doubtless bringing meand my smoothly drifting raft into just such wildvicissitudes. Could either one or the other survivethem? The clumsy boat beneath my feet was awilling servant. It responded to the strokes of thetiller, and my dismal forebodings were momentarilyforgotten in the amusement it gave me to swing theraft from side to side of the still broad waterway.As the light became dimmer, and a half crepusculardusk crept into the deepening fissure over whosetopmost edges the sky hung like an illuminatedribbon, I felt the grip of a solemn dread, the precurrentrigor of that deadly rigor animae whichpalsies the heart.

Still on and on, in a course that scarcely deviatedfrom a straight line, and thus safely conducted us(to me my little barge shared, as a sentient thing,our common danger, and it alleviated my solitudeto fancifully, as children do, personify it, talk to it,praise it) toward that distant goal, the ice-packedshore of Krocker Land. The bed of the stream layin a rectilinear joint and the weathering on eitherside had not greatly widened the aperture above.The picture changed only in detail. The frowningsides, walls scarcely relieved by any vegetation or,363which, if there, was too far above me for my eyes todetect, offered no distinction in color. Nature hadnot here spread her palette of blending hues, thosethat over the silent expanses of the Grand Canonof the Colorado transfer the colors of sunset to theimmutable stone. It was the utter sternness, theharsh, immense uniformity of the still increasingprecipices that crushed the soul. I seemed like anatom in the void, a plaything of nature; for amoment, and for a moment only, seen in this outragedsolitude, to become then a part too of thelifeless panorama.

The cliffs rose now a thousand feet or more, andsensibly receded, the dislodged blocks from theirsummits building an awful fringe of titanic boulders,angular monoliths, at the water’s edge. Beyondme stretched the unvarying avenue, the shootingriver seeming far away, motionless and fixed like acongealed mass, though every particle of it wasflying onward with fresh acceleration. Therecould be no doubt of that. Points observed onthe shores were more and more rapidly passed.This hastening pace became to me a portent of disaster.The angry river, placable at first, luring itsaudacious victim onward, now in sullen mastery,with a rising temper, as if impatient over its ownleniency threatened to hurl the petty intruder, thegraceless little egotist, into eternity. It wouldhave done with him, washing his lifeless corse on itssullied waters to the depthless ocean, a mementoand a warning, if so paltry an object could be either.Thus I seemed to divine the storm of its gatheringwrath.

So far the great volume of water had been accommodatedin the channel, and the surface of the riverwas almost smooth. But with the increasing speedthe channel narrowed, and the water became turbulent.Waves rushed on and out from the shores364and rolling backs of water chased each other in thecenter of the stream. Fortunately, though thewaves washed the raft from end to end and sometimesdrove me to the protection of the uprightposts, the river maintained its straight course, andwe still rode gallantly onward. There were suddendips, down which we slid with alarming velocity,that made me shudder, but nowhere a rock, abreaker, no treacherous bend, no falls, not even yetthe dashing turmoil of a rapid. What invention ofmalice was this?

Suddenly my eye noticed a prominent bulge inthe river, perhaps three or four miles ahead. Itlay about midstream. Here was some formidableinterruption? Was there a sluice-way on eitherside of it? If so I could avoid it; the balloonshelped my buoyancy. The raft trembled. Ah,already it felt some premonitions of the tussle.Yes, a decided—no, not a bulge after all; it was adrop, the river fell over a ledge, but apparently alow one, so low that the deep volume filled it up,making the transition from above to below it inconsiderable,and below—I could just see—was retardation,and expansion; the river moved there overa flat! Curious, such relenting!

“Have no fear, Old Boy,” I shouted, stampingthe logs beneath me to awaken their attention,“stick together, take a brace and over we go, safeand sound.”

The spot seemed to rush towards us. For aninstant I hesitated. Should I scoot to the sidesand avoid the plunge? Was it a trap? The tortuousflow sideways might smash us against the rocks,and then—Ah! then, requiescat in pace. Downthe center, sink or swim, there was no help for it—onceover, thrice saved—a wetting perhaps, perhapsa mouthful of water.

The boiling water lashed us, and something like365a moan came to me from the shores, almost as if thebaffled river gnashed in its impotent disgust. Isteered for the rounded mound in front; a strainingcreak from the grinding logs, a sharper bolt ahead—Iclung to the posts, and the neglected tiller draggedbehind—another sprint and I saw the shelving faceof the water below the drop tossing furiously.Over, with an upward jolt; that was the greatestdanger of all. But the sturdy frame held together,and then in a tussle of bristling waves, noisy, eachone striking over its neighbor’s shoulder at us, andI hard at the tiller, we raced down the slope, inundated,wrenched, even pitched a little, but quitesafe, quite sound. I could not restrain my impulseto shout, though a moment later, as the mockingechoes smote my ear, fear stilled my voice, andstunned conscience whispered: “Pride goeth beforea fall.”

The raft swam later into the center of a lake-likespace, in a welter of bubbles and foam from thecascading water. The cliffs here declined, and tothe north a pass led upwards at whose terminationon the waterside two deer were actually drinking.Had they heard me shout? Their undisturbedassurance denied it. But now they caught sight ofme and were retreating with backward glances asthey halted on the grass-lined trail. I was in theDeer Fels.

I steered my craft, which had now gained theprestige of an actual companionship, toward theshore, drew out one of the poles, and poled it carefullyinshore at a sandy brink not far from the footprintsof the deer. I was very quiet now, so as notto frighten away the animals who watched me froma high point. Their presence delighted me, andreinforced my courage. Had they been at my sideI could not have raised a hand against them, sofraternal and human did they seem. But oh, for a366voice to answer my own! I talked to myself, butnot loudly. I dreaded to wake those jeering echoes.

The sunlight streamed through the pass, and Iwent up a short distance very softly, for the deerwere vigilant, but still remained where I could seethem. I lay down on a grassy knoll and dried myself.Then I returned to the raft and picked outsome food. Much of it was wet and the contentsof the hamper needed overhauling and drying. Imade a fire, finding some chance sticks and wood,and in the one kettle left to us, and which Hopkinshad given me, I actually made a stew which tasteddivine.

Then I climbed to the top of the ridge and lookedabout. I could see the pine trees’ shadow eastward,the rolling hill land of the Fels about me, andbeyond, westward, the big plateau of the aquatictrough, and then I thought I caught the pale,fluctuating, gushing pillars of the Nimbus and, ashad often happened from other points, glimpses ofthe pinnacled and snow-capped Rim. I momentarilydoubted my own resolve. Should I abandonthe raft and travel over the land to the coast? Butthat awful crevice of the Nimbus rose threateninglyto mind. I feared it. Before it the untried terrorsof that descent to the coast by the imprisonedplunging stream actually looked inviting. Perhapstoo the worst was over. And then the quicknessof it. Twenty-four hours more and I wouldbe released. Released? How? Thrown on a pitilesscoast, beleaguered by the endless ice! Whatmadness was this. Safety, a kind of animal happiness,at least, had been mine in the sleeping vale ofRasselas. But now—? I shuddered, and theswarming rogues of despair and foreboding rose inclouds like gnats from a shaken bush. It was aninstant when a man’s heart seems to weaken intowater.

367I had slowly retraced my way, and there I stoodat the edge of the waterway, one foot lifted to stepupon the raft, to all appearances a man calmly bentupon the fulfillment of his purpose. And yet allthe while I was beset with conflicting and warringthoughts. It was so as I took the sleeping bag anda rug or so and tied them to the posts, arguingalmost unwittingly that, were the hamper sweptaway, I would thus save them. And then blindlyI crammed my pack—ready at any crisis for myback—with food. It was even so as I took myplace on the raft, as I pushed it off from the shore,as I maneuvered it into the streamway, even as Itook the tiller and guided my boat on to the fastestcurrent. The automatic force of some ulteriorprevention just kept me in the chosen line of work,unconsciously and yet irreversibly. Strange!

Again the darkness of the canon walls fell aroundme, and then only the subdued mind rose and reformed,as it were, visibly, my unalterable determination.And indeed now there no longer wasroom for incertitude. The rush forward keyedevery sense into a vivid expectancy. The bed ofthe river had become more gorge-like, the unevenand projecting cornice edges of the rock on eitherside sent back the bounding water, and the surfacearound me was filled with leaping waves. Thecourse though, most luckily, remained almostundeviatingly straight. To have engineered acurve or any sharp deflection would have beenalmost impossible at the rapid swing the raft wastaking in the descent, which, however, hardlyvaried from my previous experience. It was difficultenough to keep “my keel” steady, with theconstant tendency of the logs to throw themselvesacross the stream. It was buffeted by the “rollers”sent inward from the shores, and the rapid pull ofthe midstream was itself interrupted or diverted by368the development of short waves, that chased downthe center of the channel, and that indicated obstructionsor inequalities in the bed over which thewater was impetuously pouring.

It was only by the stiffest exertions that I wasenabled to keep the raft headed true, and, as it was,over the rougher passages it was swept with water.I was drenched, the spray and waves splashed androse upon me. I now realized the indispensableassistance given by the posts and the unbreakableloops, one of which at least was constantly in use.The management of the tiller, in this half imprisonment,was awkward, but in spite of strains, shiftings,violent jolts and lunges the raft shot well alongthe center, and did not seriously deviate from anaxial position.

It was evident, too, as we swept onward, thoughmy attention was too eagerly fixed on the recurrentpredicaments in the water to be able to notice itcarefully, that the canon above had enormouslywidened. I mean that the upper walls had recededthrough progressive weathering; the tunnel-likegrimness had somewhat softened, and more lightfell on me. Fortunately there were changes in thegradient of the rocky floor, and while some were onthe wrong side of the account, others introducedagreeable relief. These latter were more levelstretches where the turbulence disappeared, and theraft floated evenly, and was easily kept obedient toher helm.

I had been running safely enough, though themargin of safety, it must be said, was often a verynarrow one, for some ten or twelve hours, and theloss of sleep, constant anxiety, the wetting and theindifferent sustenance had been slowly telling on mewhen my weary eyes detected a new, perhaps acrowning danger.

Before me the walls of the canon seemed to close—they369always did so in the manner of a perspectivecoalescence—but this was now different. Therewas a break in the continuity of the channel. Thestream turned to the left, and I saw a wall of rockbefore me. At such a point a whirlpool effect wasinevitable, and this, apart from the danger of awreck on the rocks in the rapids, I had mostdreaded.

I noticed the elbow was rounded towards thesouth, forming a sort of pool, and reminding me ofthe Niagara whirlpool, but it was not so large, and,as the raft began to be seized by a stronger current,it was also evident that the bed sloped again, andthat the stream attained a dangerous velocity.The waves spanked and broke over the raft, thedistance was white with foam; I was rocked as in acradle, and I felt that I must abandon the tiller,insert myself between the posts, and hold on to theloops. If the raft escaped or survived engulfmentI might then be saved. The balloons were intactand their attachments unbroken. They weredoing some service, though a slight one, as theydragged behind me, restraining my descent.

Another feature appeared ahead in the rapidlynearing vortex, about which all doubt was nowremoved; I could see its powerful rotation. Thisnew feature was a periodic uplift of the water fromthe pool in a broad spout or fountain, ejected obliquelyand falling on the waves beyond the whirlpoolitself. At first this outburst alarmed me.Its discharge seemed so unaccountable and so violent.A moment later I felt it might mean mysafety.

On like an arrow we sped—the raft had become acompanion—and fearing the tiller might in someway become entangled or deflected and in the turmoilof our certain submergence play some fataltrick that would disable me, I cast it loose. I370could see it swing past the raft, and dance madlyon the combing surges. Then it was lost but Istrained my eyes to detect, if possible, its emergencein the spout ahead. I thought I saw it, but now inthe clutches of the ravenous tide, I became blindwith unmistakable terror. The noise of the chaoticwater around me seemed like a low roar, mingled,too, with an interminable hiss, and in the gloom ofthe desolate stony chasm the menace almostdarkened my mind and made me unconscious.

A boom struck my ear, low, definite, smothered;I attributed it to the regurgitant geyser from thewhirlpool. A leap forward, a choking rattle fromthe logs beneath, and then a wrenching twist thatthrew my feet from under me, and the water rosesolidly over my head. I could reach the air bypulling myself upward on the straps about my arms.I saw the balloons tugging desperately and tworeports like the bursting of a bomb immediatelyfollowed. They were in tatters. Again I sank;this time it seemed like doom. Yet I was still conscious,and then, as if an omnipotent arm thrustfrom below raised us, I felt the raft pressed upwardagainst the welter and inrush, and then a titanicconvulsion, and the raft, and I dangling to theposts, were shot bodily out of the maelstrom,though scarcely lifted above the surface; and,enveloped in the hill of water that accompanied us,the raft swam out again upon the descendingstream, in a turbulence of waves that made medizzy with its confusion.

I hardly realized I was alive, but in a few minutesevery sense attested its reality. I felt the pack on myback—I had very early secured it there—I heardthat the creaking, groaning logs were still intact,I looked before me and saw the hamper had beenswept away, I tasted the cold water in my mouth.I was saturated, it almost seemed, and I was faint,371perhaps from shock, in a measure. The sturdyposts which had been my refuge were unshaken,and now, straight before me in a shouting turmoil,the waters put on to me a friendly guise, and seemedjust delirious over my escape. So quickly does thetemperature and spirit of the heart find its reflectionin inanimate nature. For now, though I hadbeen despoiled I was safe, and my gun, my cartridges,some food at least, my fishing tackle, theevidences of Krocker Land, many notes, the compass,matches—in a watertight box—and, thanksto my forethought a rug and a sleeping bag were allwith me, as most helpful friends.

The recovery had been so unexpected that I feltgay as a child, and as the French say, everythingabout me wore for a little while couleur de rose.The stream itself, ample and full, sprawled out in awider bed; before me a break in the canon walls,on one side, indicated some tributary valley andaffluent and—I was rummaging my pack—herewas a bottle of undiluted, unwatered wine! Ialmost emptied it. A tortilla and some strips ofdried meat completed my banquet. I was myselfagain. The poles and paddles lashed to the postswere still there, and one of the former was soon inmy hands, for the guidance of the boat. The bestI could do now would be to keep her off the shores,turn and wriggle as she might in the middle stream.

My composure now returned, and permitted meto consider my predicament more calmly. Wherewas I? A few minutes after I asked myself thisquestion, the lateral valley opened to view. It wasa rough, rocky streambed in which now a probablymuch shrunken tributary to the river—HomewardBound—on which I was, made its way from a bare,rugged upland. But here I caught a glimpse ofthe sluggishly ascending vapors and clouds fromthe Perpetual Nimbus. I could not be mistaken.372The wall of wavering whiteness seemed to stretchsouthward. The confirmation of the Professor’shypothesis was complete. The Valley of Rasselaswas an enclosed pit, on all sides of which the terracedzones we had traversed on the east, wouldcertainly be found. Here on the west less developed,compressed and narrower, they still existed.Radiumopolis at least was excentrically placed inthe valley, but the valley itself was excentric also.Then I would soon be crossing the Rim, and apprehensionsof new difficulties swarmed in my mind.The canon I was in cut across the great circularfissure which surrounded Rasselas, and the positionof the whirlpool perhaps marked the crossing.Could it be possible? It was an extraordinarygeological situation I was sure, but its explanationcould wait. What terrors of rapids, falls, or cataracts,or more whirlpools lay before me? I lookedahead. The light from the stationary sun hadgone, but the friendly luminary that now morethan replaced it, was burning in the sky, and itshowed my future course.

To my delight, on either side the canon wallsdeclined; indeed, it seemed that far off they becamesimply high banks and nowhere were there perceptibledisturbances in the stream itself. Thegreat volume poured its almost unruffled torrentover a very ancient bed, and the whole aspect ofthe river assumed a peculiar sedateness, as it were,compared with the rushing, headlong haste it hadshown above the whirlpool. And there! On eitherside rose the snow crowned pinnacles of the Rim!The encircling mountain fence of Krocker Land wasopened here by a valley, and in that valley, deeplyentrenched, Homeward Bound was placed. Andnow a new and beautiful feature developed.Brooks or streams, fed perhaps by melting snows orice, leaped into my river from the still high cliffs.373I could count a dozen or so, the splash of the fallingwater breaking the surface of the river into waves,and the noise of their motion and impact filling thecanon with a half musical roar. It was a fascinatingpicture.

The river turned, not abruptly, but swingingsouthward in a long arm or curve, and then a vistadeveloped that, for an instant, filled me with freshalarm. On the left side the cliffs fell away, andtheir place was taken by the face, it looked so, of asmall glacier. I was at sea level perhaps. Thewall rose somewhat on the right, and intermittentthreads of water still seamed their sides with linesof light and whiteness, but to the left thereappeared the wide mouth of a glacial coulisse, andfrom the ice mass in it, little bergs floated in thenow much retarded and widened river. The bergsscared me. A white or yellowish turbidity spreadfrom the glacier, the contribution of rock-mealbrought by the river that issued from beneath it.

It was quite possible to guide my raft by thepaddle I had, and, though the Homeward Boundmaintained considerable current still, it had butlittle directional force. In half an hour I wasopposite the glacier, and amongst its bergs. Igazed eagerly seaward, trusting I might catch someglimpse of the coast that must be near at hand.But the view closed again, there seemed to be a contractionof the river, the walls rose on both sides,and now the river’s flow was but little more thanthe propulsion caused by its residual momentum.

The ice serpent wound upward into the snowrecesses of the mountains. Opposite to me itsriven front glowed with beryl and sapphire veins;the white calves lazily caught the motion of thestream, and almost, it seemed to me, resented myintrusion, so suddenly did they gather about me,either in derision or in menace. I did indeed feel374powerless among them. Ice cakes flecked thestream. I was in a treacherous company. AnxiouslyI steered my craft through them, but in themist that sprang from their sides, I would sometimesfail to see them and an inauspicious bump wouldsend me sprawling. I felt that the moment ofrelease was approaching. Soon the pale, haunted,Arctic Ocean would hold me. I felt its immensityalready, and now that the excitement of thescramble for liberty, this arrowy voyage down thestrange and majestic chasm of a great new river ofthe earth, was behind me, my heart quailed beforethe UNKNOWN, that confronted me with what—Deliveranceor Death?

The mountains sloped away on either hand, orwere, in fact, already behind me, for I was nowfloating with a diminished current that aided myavoidance of the torpidly drifting bergs. I was ina canal, literally cut through an ancient giganticmoraine, the vast scourings of an ancient ice sheet.It was not long delayed—my emergence on theice-bound shore of western Krocker Land. Thebanks declined and slowly disappeared, yieldingnow to the broad fringe of a coastal plain where theriver, encountering a varying resistance, had succumbedto the vagaries of mere idleness, and swungin broad loops to the sea. Yes—there it was—toquote the graphic words of Nansen—“that strangeArctic hush, and misty light, over everything,—thatgrayish white light caused by the reflectionfrom the ice being cast high into the air againstmasses of vapor, the dark land offering a wonderfulcontrast.”

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (17)


And now the river widened, its banks receded anddwindled. To the north the high Rim advancedupon the sea, and black promontories rose inaugust severity in the glare of day, desolate andgrim, their skirts fringed with the white surf of375inrolling waves. Beyond them open water andthen ice floes, endless prospect! To the south theRim declined abruptly into a wide detrital platformof sand and clay banks, and huge boulders,and, here and there, like white ships, the icebergsthat had stranded. I was in the Kara Sea. Beyondthat dread, compassionless horizon lay Siberia—butcould I reach it? The awful chill of a realizationof my abject helplessness for the first timeoverwhelmed me. I was alone in the Arctic Ocean,a mere atom before the uncontrollable forces that awhim of the weather might suddenly summon forthon their wild errands of destruction; or else a waifcast on a desert shore to be left with pitiless irony,in the calm scorn of merciless Nature, to perish.

I’m not a praying man, Mr. Link, but somehowI asked GOD then to help me.



The Sequel

I worked my tried and still most workable anduseful raft to the shore, and stepped from it to thesand, between some ragged floes of ice—a kind ofice foot. The loss of the hamper was a heavy blow,and to confront the unknown future with a fewmorsels of meat and some soaked tortillas seemedonly a desperate and suicidal bravado. I was for awhile stunned into a torpor of inaction. I hadmanaged to force the raft somewhat up on theshore, but I took the precaution of further loadingit with stones. Until I had more clearly made upmy mind what would be my next step, I would notpart company with this friend, for somehow to methen, the mute bundle of logs had become almostanimate with a human affection.

And now the reaction against fatigue and all thesleepless hours made me faint and weak. I mustfirst sleep. I untied the welcome sleeping bag andthe rug, and disengaging the heavy gold belt—whata mockery its value seemed in this sterilesolitude—and the small hatchet which it held, Irolled myself up, and instantly fell into unconsciousness.I must have slept almost twenty-fourhours, for the sun which had been declining to thehorizon was in almost the same position when Iawoke. I was ravenously hungry, but my couragehad returned, and at least I felt equal to consideringmy plans.

377But first it was food. I made a fire, warmed ortoasted the flat pancakes and roasted the meatchunks, and these with water contrived to satisfymy hunger. The contents of the pack were nowmy sole resource. They had been well soaked, butI had spread them on the white sands, and in theheat of the sun they had dried, even the matchesproving serviceable again. My gun, which hadbeen well greased (swagged) was uninjured, and thewax-smeared cartridges retained their murderousfacility of exploding. If game was to be had thelife in my body might yet reasonably expect considerableprolongation. And why not game?I recalled our first encounter when we were unceremoniouslyintroduced to Krocker Land—the muskoxen. But was I to become a prowling RobinsonCrusoe; were the days, the weeks, the months—therecould not be years—before me to be a savagestruggle to just live and then realize—starvation?At any rate there must be a plan. What should itbe? It was then that my mind working feverishlyover a few projects—the only ones I could conceiveof, and all of them preposterous—was suddenlyarrested by recalling that this very summer, evenduring this month, Coogan and Stanwix, Phillipsand Spent would be pushing the “Astrum” throughthat very sea—but farther east—to find us. Onthat peg of suggestion I hung my hopes. I wouldwork eastward if I could, or as far as possible, keepa watchout, and hope for the best. What else?

At first I thought I could make use of the raft, asthere was much open water, but it required only alittle circumspection to show me that the plan wasimpracticable; worse, fatal. I must fight my waysomehow along the coast eastward, replenishingmy larder with game, possibly with fish, not goingfarther than the inevitable angle—there must besuch a turning point—where the land contours bent378northward. That was a plan, it had a significantvalue. Immediately my spirits rose, so quicklydoes the mind recover its equipoise in an emergencywhen it is set about a rational scheme of action. Itwas really difficult for me to desert the raft. Inthat long drive through the canon of HomewardBound, the irrepressible instinct of companionshiphad nurtured a curious hallucination of impersonation,and the bundle of dead logs had assumed anindefinite but real vitality. Could not I shape orbuild from it a serviceable sledge, and still, transformed,keep it in my service? Then again, could Ispare the time to effect this change? I had only myhatchet for an implement, and the thongs andstrands, rope and cords that had so stoutly kept itintact for nails and iron bands.

I abandoned the project, but before I started onmy desperate search, I hacked enough timber fromit to build a fire and cooked or roasted my last mealover it. It partook to me of the fantastic feeling ofa valedictory.

The shore along which I now made my way wasfavorable for a rapid advance. It was a low upland,mainly detrital in composition with a beachapron of sand, gravel, and mud flats. It slopedupward to a semi-piedmont zone of hills, beyondwhich towered the monarchs of the Rim. The viewlandward was inspiritingly beautiful, and when thefogs that rolled inward from the vast ice-fleckedand iceberg-studded sea, were absent the picturewas entrancing. Rich verdure covered the upland,inundating, like a green flood, the opening valleys,slopes and sheltered ingles, and bearing on itsbosom the Arctic yellow poppy and even the goldenstars of the dandelion. Surely in this land I mightexpect to find game.

Nor was I to look long. I could just see, far offagainst a protruding dazzling granite mound, a379moving spot. It was the Ovibos hopkinsi. Ialmost laughed. I recurred to our first encounterwith this new mountain sheep, when Hopkins andI first saw it, in an almost identical environment,when we landed at Krocker Land. I watched itwith the eye of a voluptuary. Fresh meat wouldtaste—Ah! my mouth watered—I could notventure a simile.

I hastened up the beautiful Arctic glen, and thestill unsuspecting animals moved towards me.Now they saw me, and the bulls ranged themselvesin defence, behind them the still grazing cows,startled only for a moment into attention. Therewas no inclination to escape. Only as I fired andthe foremost bull staggered sideways and thendropped headlong at my second shot, did the herdshuffle to one side and then scamper away. BeforeI had reached the fallen leader their shaggy headshad disappeared over a fold of ground that shut inan adjoining valley.

I cut some steaks and loaded myself with thejuicy red masses of flesh. Although Greely andPeary had failed to smoke-dry meat, perhaps Imight succeed. I returned to the raft. It hadbecome a base of operations. Here I cooked mysteak and with the tasteless tortillas they made afeast. But the momentary thought of jerking themeat was hopeless. It would take too long andthen it might prove futile. If Coogan was lookingfor me, I must be looking for him. One more longsleep and then I must “be going.” I felt sad, andthe glorious dying day bathing the horizon in carmineand gold, to be shifted a little further on, withscarcely a change of color, into sunrise, from itsvery exorbitant splendor oppressed me. I slept,but I tossed with forbidding dreams. I WASNOT WELL.

The next day I started down the coast, but I380revisited the ovibos, tore more meat from the carcass,and with my pack, a sleeping bag, the rug, mygun, and a bundle of splinters of wood I began myjourney. The heaped up bundles on my back bentme, and I did not expect to make a record in walking.I was carrying my household on my back.But the favoring character of the shore cheered me,and it almost seemed that the peaks, barricades andbuttresses of the mountains receded. I was on anextensive morainal or alluvial plain, furrowed bysmall valleys and inconspicuous ridges, where itrose to the amphitheatrical wall of the KrockerLand Rim. If it would last!

The diary of my daily progress for the next fewdays need not be rehearsed here. It was satisfactoryon the whole, but the sure signs of scurvy hadbegun to show themselves, and some rheumaticailment began to make every step I took painful.I seemed to see the end of it all, and, anticipationfed disease. My march each day lessened; themeat had been consumed in a few days, and wassupplemented by ducks, a seal, and another ovibos,so that for almost ten days I suffered no deprivationof actual nourishment, but my swelling limbs, thepasty and aching jaws, the occasional vanishing ofall strength, and temporary collapses gave insistentwarnings that I could not continue. A dull senseof helplessness supervened, my memory wavered,delusions visited my brain, and ever and againthe white ice-packed sea seemed a snow coveredtableland on which I might walk safely.Only some frantic remnant of sanity preventedthis suicidal impulse. I was delirious at timeswith pain.

And the end of the propitious coast was in sight.I must have made, Mr. Link, in those ten days, bysuperhuman exertions, some one hundred and fiftymiles, furiously driving on, almost unconscious of381my motion. And now a black rampart of boldhills, stretched out like an arresting arm, crossedthe horizon. Higher and higher rose the forbiddingcliffs, and I saw with despair that they entered thesea in escarpments, whose vertical and gloomywalls were beaten by waves, or against which thechurned ice was flung in broken cakes. Beyond thestern barrier my flagging strength could never takeme. And yet, in my feebleness I hastened to reachit as an ultimate goal over which, I almost thankfullynoted, so worn was I in spirit, I could not pass.Temperamental decay was at work in me, and Ibecame inert. I did not care.

At last—oh how heavily dragged my feet, howwearingly surged the pains! I had come to the darkshadow of the cliffs. It was a sheer precipice.My wandering and scarcely seeing eyes dimly notedits immensity. It crushed the last vestiges ofeffort. Its undeniable prohibition smote me as aphysical violence. I fell headlong. Nothing waswith me but my gun. Pack, rug, sleeping bag, allhad been dropped, the first last, for to its unequivocaltestimony (in the gold and in the radium) of allI had seen, all I had been through, I clung with analmost demented obstinacy. And now that wasleft behind. Some recurrent spasm of vitalityreturned; I struggled to my feet, shaking in anague, and just able to support myself against adetached splinter of rock, almost at the foot of theoverhanging bluff, that seemed to my seared sightto touch the sky.

What was it then that made me seize my gun,and, steadying myself by some superhuman help—Yes,Mr. Link, by some help not of this earth—emptythe magazine of cartridges in a crashingvolley against that impenetrable rock? Was itmadness, the last rage of defeated purpose, or wasit inspiration? I do not know, but as the sharp382reports multiplied, and to my racked nervessounded in terrific crescendos I fell forward. Thesense of hearing was the last to desert me, andthough my eyes had closed, even while the shatteringreverberations from the cliff rang in them, IHEARD AN ANSWERING SHOT. It was allI heard. I had swooned.

But, Mr. Link, the ebbing tide of life returned,slowly indeed at first, so slowly that the friendlyfaces around me seemed only indefinite, leeringmasks, before which I shuddered. Warmth reassertedits sway, the warmth of life. I felt fresh,cleanly nourishment, the elixir of whisky slippingdown my throat, and then a delicious thrill of comfort,and I became conscious, to find myself eatingand drinking and around me the anxious, staringfaces of Coogan, Isaac Stanwix, Bell Phillips, andJack Spent.

It was for an instant only, the violence of myreturn to consciousness weakened me, and I sankback in their arms, but as I did, the overmasteringcare that lay deepest in my heart struggled intoutterance, through all my clouded mind, and Igasped, pointing to the path over which I had come,“The pack—the pack.”

It was not many hours later that I again awoke,in the luxurious cabin of the “Astrum,” pillowed inan easy chair, and watching with grateful eyes theministering mercies of my friends. Very graduallymy sapped strength and health were renewed, butindeed it sometimes occurs to me that I shall neverbe quite all I once was. The multiplied strains,repeated, contrasted, with the unapparent but realnervous shocks of excitement suffered in the ordealsof entering Krocker Land, and those less obviouslybut most certainly disordering experiences inRadiumopolis, with the whole effect of themonstrous unreality of it all, have unhinged my383system. And then—the agony of my last humiliationin this city.

The New Northland, by L. P. Gratacap—A Project Gutenberg eBook (18)


The story told by Coogan was a most simple one.It corroborated my expectations and of courseexactly justified my conduct. The “Astrum”according to orders left Point Barrow, and steamedinto the ice, which proved to be unusually negotiable,looking for us. They failed to discover anysigns of us on the ice pack, but in an adventuresometrip northward, invited to the undertaking bythe open water, they made a landfall, and foundthere the “Pluto,” our naphtha launch. It was onalmost exactly the place of our landing from thestorm. They concluded we had skirted the newland, reconnoitering it edgewise, as it were, or atany rate their first and prudent course was to do so.They had managed to creep on safely through broadleads between the shore ice and the big floes, untilthey came to the massif, that, like an out-thrustarm with clenched fist, cut the land in two. Theyhad rather gingerly picked their way through theice around the frowning headlands when my shotswere heard. The rest is the usual story—thestory I have hinted at—and my pack was safe. Itlay at my feet.

Now to tell the truth I was rather reticent withCoogan and the others as to my own adventure. Idid not wish then to tell them everything or evenmuch. The whole marvel must be elsewhere anddifferently unfolded. It must be given to theworld through science, and the national governmentof the United States must be empaneled forthe rescue of my companions. I desired theaudience of a nation, and the ears of the world.And now—deplorable reversion—I am telling itto you alone. I hid much or all, admitted that thenew continent was large, that we had entered it,that the Professor and Hopkins were pursuing investigations384there, and that I must return in timewith a larger expedition. They seemed to understandmy reticence—or was it commiseration?—andgood-naturedly left me alone. About twomonths later we arrived safely in San Francisco.

(“Mr. Link”—the voice of the speaker perceptiblylowered, I might say perceptibly trembled—“it hasbeen a pleasure to rehearse this wonderful experience,pleasant to recall my two friends still exiledin that mysterious continent, pleasant to believethat through the instrumentality of your publication,they may be extricated from their bewilderingembarrassments, but—it is not pleasant to finishmy story.”

Mr. Erickson was silent for a few moments, as ifhe half expected me to release him from the impliedobligation of explaining more completely the originsof the predicament in which we found him. But Iwas relentlessly silent, and after a glance at myimperturbable and fixed gaze, he turned his headaside and resumed the “last measure of his tale.”)

I was not long in finding my former acquaintanceto whom now instinctively, in my dearth of companionship,I had recourse for advice, and sensiblyfor succor—Carlos Huerta. Nothing could exceedthe boisterous ardor of his welcome. He was overjoyedand appeared almost rapturous in his demonstrationsof astonishment and delight at seeing me.Of course I succumbed all too easily to the caressesof his friendship—and then (the speaker pausedagain and a flood of carmine filling his cheeks andglowing warmly even in his temples, revealed hisconfusion), he introduced me to the most beautifulwoman I have ever seen in all my life, AngelicaSigurda Tabasco, whose intimate, Diaz IlarioAguadiente, was a gentleman of marvelous cordiality.I was literally taken to their hearts. Yousee, sir, plainly my state of defencelessness against385these scheming reprobates—cunning parasites offortune—whose suave geniality disarmed suspicion,and whose enthusiastic sympathy, not unintelligenteither, warmed my weary heart and opened my lips.

They wormed a good deal out of me, they saw thegold—not the buckle—the radium, and they actuallylistened to the recital of our visit to the GoldMakers. Then they laid their plans. I was to becoaxed to New York—how many specious inducementscould be given for me to go there. The seasonwas not too late for any relief expedition, and atNew York all the avenues of approach to capitalcould be reached. I was to give a public lecture,the best social and scientific auspices would protectit, and from New York the wave of interest wouldradiate to all the capitals of the world. It seemedso simple, it was so inviting, and then it was urgedwith such cordial plausibility and fervor, and allaccompanied by that personal suasion of admiration,and the artifices of encouragement in surroundingsthat were sumptuous and enthralling.I was completely taken in.

I came on to New York with Huerta, wholavished every kindness on me, and whose incessantquestioning as to the process of gold transmutationwhich I had seen easily assumed the guise of anatural curiosity. The merest accident preventedmy bringing on to New York the precious pack inwhich the gold souvenirs, the gold buckle, and theradium mineral masses were preserved. The trio—themselvesdeceived by their gloating cupidity—hadurged the necessity of protecting this propertyby placing it in a safety-deposit vault, and whenthe day arrived for Huerta and me to leave SanFrancisco, at the last moment, and just as Iexpected to call at the safe deposit company toclaim and remove my property, I was seized with achill that rapidly increased into a convulsive fit,386followed by a temporary coma. I was alone in theroom of my hotel and the seizure was so suddenthat I was unable to summon assistance. Whenit had passed, much time had been lost, andactually fearing to reclaim the pack in my thenphysical condition I concluded to leave it, and haveit forwarded later upon a written order.

This was quite feasible, and in some respects, soI thought at the moment, safer and more preferable,as I had taken the unusual precaution of enclosingthe pack in a strong metal box.

When on the train I explained to Huerta mymishap he at first changed his demeanor, frownedand fidgeted and nettled me by his half suppressedacerbity. I think then I might have been saved,had his suspicious temper prolonged itself. Butit was gone almost instantly, and his customarydeceptive solicitude and optimistic confidencereplaced it and my doubts vanished. It was alsosupposed by me that Angelica and Diaz wouldremain some time longer in San Francisco, andwhen I encountered them in east Fifty-eighth StreetI was stupefied, though of course, by that time, Ihad no reason to feel any surprise over any developmentin my relations with these monsters.

In New York Huerta conducted me to an eastsideboarding house. It is incredible how I permittedmyself to follow him. Even while suspicion anddistrust began to assail me I accompanied him intoa common sort of house, apparently the resort ofmen only, and rather hard looking characters atthat, and yet with these pregnant signs of comingmischief, I kept alongside of this inhuman brute,sat with him in a duskily lighted room at a shabbytable, served by some slatternly woman waiters,under surroundings hopelessly sordid and dull. Iwas not myself, Mr. Link; the stamina of resistancewas extirpated in me, and I was led like a child.The denouement followed quickly.

387That very night or evening I went to my room orwhat I supposed was my room, only to discover itwas a small bathroom, provided with a sleepingcot. I had preceded Huerta, who pointed to thedoor. As I opened it my surprise caused me toretreat, but Huerta pushed me in, and instantly hewas joined by two other men from a room near athand, and the door was locked. Of course, as by aflash of light, an unexpected danger was revealed.I saw that I was trapped.

There happened to be one chair in the place.Huerta, whose whole demeanor now altered,motioned toward it with a scowl and the other menstepped forward. Each of them carried a shortleaden pipe. Mr. Link, I am not a timid man—whatI have gone through shows that—but I wasintimidated then. I glanced around me; therewas not a window in the room; it was lighted by asmoking gas jet.

“Well,” I said, collecting my thoughts to meetthe situation, “I guess you have me. What is it?What do you want?”

Huerta’s agreeable style was resumed. “Whyjust this, Mr. Erickson. You have got a sort ofknowledge which is rather valuable, and we wantto make an agreement with you; you might call ita sort of combine. You have got hold of some veryinteresting information. Let’s pool it and work itfor our common benefit.”

“What information,” I asked and leaped to myfeet, infuriated at the smiling, insulting visage thathe wore as an answer to my question.

“Oh! Calm yourself. These gentlemen andmyself are not icebergs, but perhaps we can hit ashard. The thing is simple enough. Sign thispaper.”

He held out a folded sheet which I at once recognizedas having been torn from a writing pad in the388Pullman in which we had come to New York. Itwas an order on the safe deposit company in SanFrancisco to forward to him, Carlos Huerta, mypack, the satchel of gold and radium. Thenfollowed his address, which was—east Fifty-eighthStreet, the very house in which you found me,Mr. Link.

I threw the paper in his face. It was maladroit.His temper—and he had the passion of a fiend—brokeloose and he struck me. I jumped at him,and hurled the chair straight at his head, but it wasintercepted, and, in a trice, the three rushed at meand held me, kicking, squirming, and shouting, onthe narrow bed. No help came; I was bound andwas knocked almost senseless.

(It was some time before Erickson could continue;he was in a pitiful agitation, walking over andacross the room with a most distressful expressionon his face. At length he pulled himselftogether and resumed his story.)

Well, they kept me in that room some five days.I was fed and attended by my captors—I think nowpartially drugged by them. But my will remainedstubborn. I had faced death before, I could faceit now, though it seemed more terrifying in thiswretched shape than meeting it undisguisedbeneath the open skies. This obstinacy droveHuerta frantic. I calculated that it would lead toan outbreak or issue soon. It did.

The sixth night the room was entered by thethree men to whom, now weakened, dazed, nervouswith disgust, I could offer no resistance. I wasreally sick. They tied my arms and legs andgagged my mouth, and put me in a sack. It wasthen, before they completed their task, that Imanaged to secrete a few scribbled words on a slipof paper, which I had kept by me, and later succeededin forcing through an aperture in the bag.389This paper your boy Riddles found. I was whiskedoff in an automobile, unloaded like a sack ofpotatoes at the door of—east Fifty-eighth Street,and taken to the attic floor where you and thepolice found me.

Before you came I was confronted with Angelicaand Diaz, and the proposition was very attractivelymade that nothing should be said in any public wayabout Krocker Land, but that my gold specimenshould be sold as bullion, and that we four shouldform a transmutation plant with the radium thatI had brought back. Accede to this, they explained(they were somehow convinced that I waswithholding the secret technique I had learned ofthe process of transmutation), and combine withthem, and my life and freedom would be assured.

I saw through the ruse, feeble as I had mentallybecome. My life, at least its short continuance,depended upon my resisting their demands. Oncegranted, the paper signed, what I knew of thetransmutation revealed—and I now sedulouslyencouraged their belief in a more or less reconditeprocess which demanded physical apparatus andsilver bullion—and my life would be but a flash inthe pan—out—like that. (And Erickson snappedhis fingers.) If I could delay the upshot—inevitablein any case unless relief came—until somelucky chance brought me deliverance and I hopedthe paper scribble would—I might yet survive.

Therefore I pleaded, I argued, I promised everythingif they would liberate me, and then upontheir savage refusal, I grew dogged and silent. Itwas then or a little afterwards that the conversationoccurred that you and the police overheardand then, when these ruthless, bloodless imps ofHell were about to inflict their brutal torture—thedoor was burst open, and all was over.

390I recall distinctly the evening on which Mr.Erickson concluded his stupendous narrative. Ithad been agreed that, apart from some brief announcementsbefore the various proper scientificbodies of the world, no details should precede thepublication in book form of Erickson’s personalaccount and the serial report in the Truth Getter.All this is now a part of history, and a part whichfairly challenges comparison with those thunderstruckdays when Columbus and Cabot, Vespucius,Hudson, and Verrazani rolled up the curtain thathid the western world.

I say I remember the evening. It was a sombredying twilight in March. The servant had just litthe lamp of the library, and a hoarse wind rosepetulantly outside, like the distant drone of a fogwhistle. A vision stood at the door. It was mydaughter, Sibyl. She was resplendent. I noticedErickson’s awed rapture. She held an eveningpaper in her hand. Her voice was as beautiful asher person. Its music conveyed this message:

“Father, this paper has a telegram from St.John’s, Newfoundland, saying that DonaldMcMillan has reached Krocker Land, and below itis one from Point Barrow, saying Stefansson hasreached Krocker Land. Isn’t that a surprisingcoincidence?”

Erickson sprang toward her, and she handed himthe paper; his face in the red reflection from thehearth looked sallow. He read the lines.

“My God, it’s true—Then Hopkins and theProfessor are saved.”

“But,” I interjected with proper journalistictrepidation, “where do we come in, Mr. Erickson?”

He gazed at me as if petrified:


It was rushed, and before McMillan or Stefanssonwere again heard from, Erickson’s story was theproperty of the world.



There are many things in the foregoing pagesthat perhaps awaken incredulity. There aresome inconsistencies of statement. There seemsto be discoverable a feeble effort at invention. Thereader will almost instantly, upon reading the lastword of it—and surely he can afford to skip none—feelthat perhaps a little enlightened cross examinationwould have confused a veracious chronicler.I am inclined to suppose that almost mechanicallyhe might murmur to himself, “Those balloons,dubious—those tubes, impossible—the Crocodilo-Python,preposterous—the little Hebrews, madness—theradium chasm, a nightmare—transmutation,poppy-cock—the Perpetual Nimbus, deliberate lie,”and so on, until affected by his own overheatedthoughts and a partially justifiable resentment athaving been made the victim of a fabrication, whichhas consumed some ten hours of his time, andwould have, assuming its reality, supplied him withthe most perdurable reasons for rejoicing that hislot was cast at the beginning of this twentiethcentury, he indulges in some specific appeals,more majorum, to the demon of darkness to makeaway with its editor.

Gentle—pardon the inappropriateness of theword, but to say Irate might only increase my condemnation—Reader—wait.We shall all see. Vilhjalmar Stefansson and Donald McMillan are onthe very verge of this new continent.


“Not so fast, Mr. Editor”—It is the voice of thewife of the Gentle Reader—“Not so fast! Whatconnection had Spruce Hopkins with eitherAngelica or Diaz? You remember the flat silvermedal that Hopkins flung into the air on KrockerLand Rim, and which was the last token Ericksonreceived from the Yankee?”

Ah—Madame, that is another story.

  • Transcriber’s Notes:
    • Missing or obscured punctuation was silently corrected.
    • Typographical errors were silently corrected.
    • Inconsistent spelling and hyphenation were made consistent only when a predominant form was found in this book.


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