A Mystery of the Pacific (2024)

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A Mystery of the Pacific (1)

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Based on a painting by Antoine Caron (1521-1959)

A Mystery of the Pacific (2)

First published by Blackie & Son, Ltd., London, 1899

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2021
Version Date: 2021-09-18

Produced by Keith Emmett and Roy Glashan

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A Mystery of the Pacific (3)

"A Mystery of the Pacific," Blackie & Son, Ltd., London, 1899

A Mystery of the Pacific (4)

"A Mystery of the Pacific," Variant Cover

A Mystery of the Pacific (5)

"A Mystery of the Pacific," Blackie & Son, Ltd., London, 1899




  • Illustration 1. Frontispiece. Saluting the Subterranean City.
  • Illustration 2. "As I live, a Roman trireme!"
  • Illustration 3. "Help, help!" shrieked the girl.
  • Illustration 4. "I thought you were alone, my father."
  • Illustration 5. We enter the Cave of Gems.
  • Illustration 6. "What—will one Englishman fire at another?"
  • Illustration 7. We could see the lurid glare of the volcanic peak.
  • Illustration 8. But answer I got none.

A Mystery of the Pacific (6)

Frontispiece. Saluting the Subterranean City.


SEVERAL years ago, in the good old days of the QueenslandPolynesian Labour Trade—instituted, as some of my readersare aware, to provide a supply of Kanakas to work the sugarplantations in that colony—in the good old days of thetrade, I say, before the abuses crept into it, and kidnappingreplaced honest and voluntary engagement of the islanders of theSouth Seas, I held the position of government agent or inspectoron board the Fitzroy, one of the schooners engaged in thetraffic. The situation possessed two of the enviablecharacteristics of the immortal Circumlocution Office—thesalary was liberal and the duties were nominal. The latterconsisted mainly in representing the paternal government ofQueensland at all engagements of the natives. My instructionswhen I entered the service, given to me with an appalling amountof periphrasis by the veteran official who then presided over theColonial Secretary's department, included the onerous duty ofseeing that the "boys"—as the islanders arecalled—clearly realized the provisions of the contract asan entirely voluntary agreement entered into for so many"moons"—usually thirty-six—in return for which theywere to receive a fixed amount of wages, including tobacco; also,that when their term of service expired they would be broughtback to the island and the particular village whence they hadbeen taken.

We had already made two or three successful trips in theFitzroy. My cousin, Bob Anstey, our captain, was as fine aseaman and as noble a fellow as ever walked a quarter-deck. Bymany of his friends and fellow-skippers he was styled "the Bayardof the Pacific". Some of them good-humouredly ridiculed what theydesignated his "quixotic championship of the nigg*r." He in turnwould retort in the lofty lines of old Whittier, his favouritepoet, against the wrong of sneering at—

"the black man, whose sin
Is the curl of his hair and the hue of the skin."

Far from any of the cruelties staining the later annals of thetraffic being perpetrated during the visits of his vessel to theislands, he was notoriously lenient and indulgent to the boys,and would have shot down any sailor who attempted to employ forceto secure a single recruit. A tight hand and a ready arm wererequired to keep in check the "anointed ruffians" we were oftencompelled to employ as sailors. Really good men, with theirpapers right, would rarely look at the terms of the "labourservice," for the wages for seamen were low and the work washeavy and incessant.

Bob's strangely magnetic personality and popularity with alland sundry had carried him hitherto over all difficulties.Skipper Anstey's craft, with its white hull and blue lines, wasalways welcomed at every island, from the Solomon Group and thesavage Marquesas to New Britain and the mysterious EasterIsland.

The trite old proverbial copyhead, "Honesty is the bestpolicy," that has come down to us from the old Greek polymath,Pittacus, holds true to-day quite as firmly among thefetish-worshippers of the Pacific as among the ethical casuistsof London and Berlin. The islanders of the South Seas couldalways rely upon receiving a fair price and honourable treatmentfrom "Boss" Anstey, in return for their cargoes of copra andbêche-de-mer. Against his commercial honesty there was noblack mark in the unwritten register of the natives. He had neversuffered from lapses of memory as to payment as soon as he hadthe cargoes under hatches, nor shown a clean pair of heels inplace of either coin or kind. The outrages in the South Seaswhich our missionaries and missionary societies are ever and anoneloquently bewailing, were never the result of his unchristianswindling of the "gentle" savage. They were due to the deceitperpetrated by other captains, whose Christian practice was oftenin inverse proportion to the volubility of their profession.

In October, 1877, we left Brisbane, upon what was destined tobe our last voyage, amid the usual felicitations and wishes ofbon voyage from the owners of the Fitzroy (inwhich, by the way, Anstey held a share) and our skipper'snumerous friends. Apparently our company held it truth withPraed, who sings:—

"I think I have as warm a heart
As friend to friend can be,
So another bumper ere we part—
Old wine, old wine for me!"

For champagne and claret corks popped freely as the trim, tautlittle schooner was being towed by the tug Gannet down theBrisbane River. Two or three of the sugar-planters for whom wewere procuring the Kanaka recruits, a friend of ProfessorBarlow's—the Professor was taking a trip with us to pursuecertain ethnological studies—a journalist or two, besidesMessrs. Laffit and Jolliboy (the firm of owners), and some ofBob's friends, were on board, intending to proceed as far as thePile Lighthouse, where we would "cast off" the tug, in which theywould return to town.

Little did we think that some of us at least would never seethe old shores again, as we dropped slowly down the windingreaches of the beautiful river on that deliciously clear eveningin the fair colonial springtide, when the very atmosphere wasredolent with sweet, subtle odours of magnolia, gardenia, andother semi-tropical flowers, as well as of new-mown hay, waftedto us from the little farms on the banks. The great glad worldaround us was teeming with the countless myriads of thatmultiform life visible under the Southern Cross.

Trouble oft comes with the swiftness of lightning out of ablue sky, sings the Persian poet Firdausi. Scarce were the adieuxand the well-wishes of our friends spoken and our sails set whenour cares commenced. Bob's proverbial luck deserted him. Verily,as in the case of Ulysses, it seemed as if the favour shown tohim hitherto by some of the gods had, in an inexplicable way,aroused the jealousy of the others, for he was now to experiencefrowns in place of smiles.

Our crew consisted of twelve men all told. They were a ratherworse lot than usual. We had not lost sight of the sandycoast-bluffs of Queensland more than twenty hours, and wererunning down our "Eastings" before a fine westerly breeze blowingfresh off the land, when notice was brought aft by the steward tothe mate, Mr. Rodgers, that one of the men in his watch had beenseized with a mysterious ailment. Rodgers, who was a first-rateseaman after the skipper's own heart, went to the fo'c's'lewithout delay to see the sufferer. Presently he returned with arather grave and troubled face. Professor Barlow, Anstey, and Iwere seated on the poop conveniently near the wheel, that Bobmight keep an eye on the course until we got well clear of theland. They were discussing the moral and intellectual status ofthe Australian aborigines, while I was reading a smart article inthe Athenaeum on George Eliot's Daniel Deronda, butlistening ever and anon to scraps of the conversation. TheProfessor was adducing certain facts he had collected to demolishthe theories of the existing ethnological schools relative to theassumed debasem*nt of the race.

Rodgers joined us, and deprecating so abruptly interruptingBarlow, asked the Captain if he had any laudanum on board. Theskipper replied in the affirmative, and inquired what waswrong.

"I hardly know what is wrong," replied the mate. "Bill Adams,one of the best men in my watch, and, next to the bo'sun, themost reliable hand on board, has been seized with the mostexcruciating pains in his stomach. He has become quite black insome places, and is swelling terribly in all hisextremities."

While Captain Bob went to get the laudanum the Professorturned to the mate, saying:

"Can I be of any use to you? I have devoted myself to thestudy of medicine for many years past. Perhaps I might be able todo the poor fellow some good."

Rodgers eagerly accepted the offer. The time hanging heavilyon my hands, I thought I might as well accompany them to theforecastle. The skipper joined us with the bottle of laudanum inhis hand, and we all walked "forrard."

As we neared the fore part of the vessel, we were saluted bythe most pitiful moans it has ever been my fortune to hear. Adamswas certainly in mortal anguish. His whole body was covered withprofuse perspiration, induced by the physical torture throughwhich he was passing. Deep black lines were already apparentbeneath his eyes, and the eye-balls themselves seemed startingfrom their sockets. He was in a state of semi-coma, onlyrecognizing us at intervals. Several of the mates of his watchwere standing around endeavouring to alleviate his pain, butseemingly realizing their helplessness.

The Professor, as he entered, uttered a hasty exclamation, andwalked quickly over to the bunk of the sick man. After taking thetemperature of the sufferer, raising his eyelids to see whetherthe pupils were dilated, opening his mouth to examine his tongue,the Professor turned to the skipper and said:

"Captain Anstey, this man is suffering from the effects of anirritant poison, administered within the past three or fourhours. At first I thought the symptoms were those of antimony,but now I am convinced something else has been mingled with it.The spasmodic contortions of the body suggest strychnine, butthere are other symptoms indicative of arsenic. Singularly, andmost unhappily for us, the patient has not retched at all, and Imust now try to make him do so, though I may as well say I fearthe case is hopeless."

"Then, doctor, if the case is hopeless, what's the use oftroublin' him ter make him retch?"

It was one of the men who spoke, a swarthy, sinister-lookingIrish-American, big and burly enough in physique, but who carriedthe word "villain" writ large on his features.

"To discover the scoundrel who has administered this poison,for that this is a case of either accident or suicide I cannotbelieve," replied the Professor, eyeing his questioner sosteadily and closely that he slunk away behind his fellows.

At this moment the shadow of an overwhelming trouble seemed todescend over Captain Bob. His face became pale as marble, but asimpassive. Turning to Rodgers I heard him remark in a low,hurried tone, "Quick, lock up the armoury, bring two or threeloaded revolvers." Then in a louder tone, to be heard by all,"You will find it in a green bottle in my cabin." In an instantRodgers was gone, and, as events proved, it was well theprecaution was taken. A few minutes afterwards Adams revived alittle, and opening his eyes, noticed the captain by his side.Beckoning him to bend down over him, the sick man made an effortto say something, in which the words "Poisoned—wouldn'tagree—plot—mutiny—seize ship—piracy,"were alone distinguishable.

Suddenly the captain was with scant ceremony pushed aside, anda hoarse voice said:

"'Axin' parding, cap'n, but I knows his ways. Here I be, mate;here's old Joss; I won't leave yez. Och, but poor old Bill'smind's away agin; he don't know his best friends."

The latter part of the speech was occasioned by a look ofunutterable horror which flashed into the dying man's features atthe sight of the evil-looking Irish-American who called himselfJoss.

What more might have passed can only be surmised, but at thismoment the Professor turned swiftly round to Joss, and, pulling asmall but deadly-looking revolver from the breast of his coat,pointed it directly at his head.

"Jake Huggins, alias Joss Ramage, hands up! I chargeyou with the attempted murder of William Adams, and with a plotto mutiny and seize this ship."

For a moment the villain was dumb-foundered at the discoveryof his plot, but, recovering himself, he shouted to the "watch ondeck", "To the armoury, boys; snaffle the shooting-irons, for thegaff's blown!" making at the same time an attempt to rush fromthe forecastle to join his confederates, who were beginning togather round the door.

The Professor, albeit a scientist, and likely to be morefamiliar with gases than gunpowder, and with the theoretic courseof the bullet as governed by the laws controlling projection,than with accuracy of aim, was as cool and determined a man asever lived. He had calculated every chance before he took theovert step he did. He therefore hesitated now not for an instant,but fired point-blank at Huggins, who fell at his feet with adeep groan. A loaded revolver slipped at the same time from hisgrasp, and Captain Bob at once appropriated the weapon. At thesame moment also the mate and bo'sun, a thoroughly reliable man,whom Rodgers had taken into his confidence, appeared, heavilyarmed, and driving the watch on deck before them like a flock ofsheep, the man at the wheel having been cautioned, as he valuedhis life, to remain at his place, and keep the vessel's head toher course.

The combat, if such it could be called, was over almostimmediately. The two other ringleaders, disheartened by the fallof Huggins, submitted to the inevitable, and surrendered atdiscretion. They were at once placed in irons, while the body ofthe leader, sewn in a shroud with a couple of shot at his feet,was thrown overboard without more ado.

Poor Adams only lived another hour. The Professor wasconfident that, had he been informed of his seizure earlier, hecould have saved him. Huggins, however, had put off summoningassistance until the poor fellow was in articulo mortis.Another of the men exhibited signs of having been marked out forthe same fate. But Professor Barlow, by strong antidotes, wasenabled to counteract the effect of the poison. He was convinced,by further examination, that the basic poison, or thatadministered in the largest quantities, had been strychnine. Forsome considerable time he had been engaged in the study oftoxicology, particularly with relation to snakebite, and hadverified the brilliant discovery of Dr. Mueller, of Yackandandah,that strychnine is an infallible specific for the bite of eventhe most venomous of reptiles.

With the true scientist's power of reasoning by analogy, heargued that if strychnine possesses the power of renderinginnocuous the toxic principle present in the fangs of a snake,that toxic principle inversely should prove an antidote tostrychnine. With infinite trouble he had collected a smallphialful of the fluid extracted from the poison-bag of numeroussnakes, in order to subject it to chemical analysis.

As soon, therefore, as the second sufferer was seized, Barlowadministered two minims of the latter poison to him. In twohours' time, save for an overpowering feeling of nausea, the manwas free from pain; in twelve he was at work. The success of theexperiment was complete.

Meantime the skipper and the mate were investigating the plotto mutiny and seize the ship. Of this, Huggins appeared to havebeen the Arch-Diabolus. His design had been deliberately planned,and as deliberately put into practice. Along with twoaccomplices, he was to ship on board the Fitzroy, andendeavour to win the crew over to their scheme. In this, bythreats and cajolery, he seemed to have been successful. Only inthe case of Adams and Robb had he failed. They had been faithfulto their trust, and declined to have anything to do with thematter, threatening, were it prosecuted further, to reveal all tothe mate. This difficulty, so unexpected, had rather staggeredHuggins, and he therefore determined to remove them by poison.The revelation that poison had been used was likewise a surpriseto the conspirators. That the Professor would know anything oftoxicology had never entered into their calculations, and hisswift, sudden recognition of Huggins, notwithstanding hiselaborate disguise, thoroughly disconcerted the scoundrel.

Professor Barlow afterwards supplied the remaining links ofthe story. Huggins he had known in America as a wrecker and bullyof the worst type. The evening previous to the outbreak he hadbeen lying in one of the boats taking some lunar observations. Hewas completely concealed from the view of all on deck.

Presently Huggins and two other men belonging to the watch ondeck approached, and, leaning over the bulwarks, immediatelyunder the davits supporting the boat wherein Barlow lay,commenced to talk of the plot. The arch-conspirator hadcompletely won the men over to his plans, which he was recountingfor their special information, so that the Professor was placedin possession of all. Of poisoning Adams and Robb, however, nomention was made, although the threat was used that if they didnot yield they would rue it.

The Professor at once communicated to the captain what he hadheard. They both determined to be on their guard and awaitdevelopments, informing Rodgers of the affair. The sacrifice ofpoor Adams' life, however, brought matters to a crisis, and at asignal from Captain Bob, the Professor had acted in the way hedid. When they came to overhaul the effects of Huggins and histwo accomplices, they gained some idea of the object of the plot,to account for which had previously puzzled both the captain andthe Professor. In Huggins' chest was found a bottle, evidently amessage from the sea, the contents of which were such as to causethem the utmost surprise. The bottle itself had apparently been aconsiderable time in the water, as the glass was encrusted withminute shell-fish and withered sea-weed.

Inside they discovered a paper on which was inscribed infaded, rusty-red characters, the following words, a considerableportion of them being quite undecipherable throughdamp:—

"L.t 27°13' S., L....111° 17' W.Is..e...Spirits, Tu..day 12th Fe....ry 18.. The fo.rth y.ar....residenc...dreary island...home..kin...love...God....Christcome...help....five castaway Englishm... gold.. treasu.es,precious... tempt ... here...abundan....make...wealthy,....dreams of... men...come...no . elay...end. ord. Mary We...ter Com..cial Ro.d, Lei.h, whoeverfi....his, and .od.r...ard.y...

"John Webster, 1.te ma..er..ec..ed..rig EmilyHope ...n. Gib..n ma.e...son, bo's.. Tho....ret,sa.l..Jo..Ric..ds, sail.r."

To decipher the letter was a work of some difficulty, owing tothe action of the brine in eating away the paper—evidentlya leaf out of an old note-book.

The characters also, originally written in blood, were sofaint as to be well-nigh illegible. However, after a time Isucceeded, in accordance with the captain's request, in piecingtogether the epistle, supplying what was awanting from theconnection supplied by the context. The full text of the messagethen read as follows:—

"L(a)t. 27° 13' S., L(ong.) 111° 17' W., Is(l)e(of) Spirits, Tu(es)day, 12th Fe(brua)ry 18 (year impossible todecipher). The fo(u)rth y(e)ar (of our) residenc(e in this)dreary island (far from) home (and) kin(dred). (For the) love(of) God (and of his Son Jesus) Christ come (to the) help (of)five castaway Englishm(en). (If) gold (together with) treasu(r)es(and) precious (stones can) tempt (any one to come) here (thereis) abundan(ce to) make (any one) wealthy (beyond the) dreams of(avarice). Men (we entreat you?) come (to our help, make) no(d)elay. (S)end (w)ord (to) Mary We(bs)ter Com(mer)cial Ro(a)d,Lei(t)h, whoever fi(nds) this, and (G)od (will) r(ew)ard y(ou).John Webster, l(a)te ma(st)er, (wr)ec(k)ed (b)rig EmilyHope.—Gib(so)n, ma(t)e—(names illegible of bos'un andsailors, the last names, perhaps, John Richards orRichardson)."


LYING alongside the bottle containing so pitiful a cry forhelp from the trackless ocean, was a bundle of letters and papersreferring to it. From these the fact became apparent thatHuggins' cupidity, not his humanity, had been excited by theinformation. To proceed to the spot indicated was evidently hisintention as soon as he had obtained facilities for so doing.

Not, however, to rescue the unfortunate castaways! With him aswith the buccaneers of the seventeenth century, life ranked as abagatelle compared with that precious metal, of which its bardTom Hood sings:—

"Gold! Gold! Gold! Gold!

Bright and yellow, hard and cold,

Heavy to get, and light to hold;

Price of many a crime untold.

For gold they lived, and they died for gold;

How widely its agencies vary!"

Calculations as to the exact position of the Isle of Spirits,letters in reply to some of his, urging men to join in an attemptto secure the treasure, an epistle half written addressed to oneJoseph Parslow, exhorting him to make every effort to ship onboard the Fitzroy, as she was a vessel suitable for theirpurpose, and stating the fact that "circ*mstances" might renderit necessary for "five" of those on board "to join the majority"without delay, were all discovered, with many other odds andends, among the papers of this finished and pitilessscoundrel.

On our showing what had been discovered to Professor Barlow,to our surprise he betrayed signs of an uncontrollable emotion.His features blanched until they assumed the colour of parchment.Staggering back until he stumbled against the bulwarks, heejacul*ted in a hollow tone, gazing at the paper meantime as ifon the lineaments of some frightful spectre, "My God, my sister'slong-lost husband—John Webster—EmilyHope!"

Captain Bob, with his usual sympathetic kindness, tried toconsole him by suggesting that, as the paper showed signs ofhaving been in the water for a considerable period, the castawayshad probably already been rescued. But against this suggestion,the keen, logical mind of the Professor instantly balanced thenegative probabilities of the case. "That may be so," he replied,"but with equal force it may not. Captain Anstey, Heaven hasprospered me as far as this world is concerned. I am what peoplecall a wealthy man. Now, I offer you whatever sum you choose toname, to bear down into the latitudes mentioned in the message,and to see if my brother-in-law is still there."

"Did it rest alone with me, Professor," said the manly Britishseaman, "no inducement would be needed to stimulate me to crowdon every stitch of canvas I possess, and to proceed as quickly aspossible to the rescue of my fellow-men. But I have myfellow-owners, Messrs. Laffit and Jolliboy, to consider, as wellas the underwriters. Not that they would not agree with me inhurrying the vessel to the rescue of the castaways, But they arenot here to give their opinion."

"Name your price, name your price; or, stay, let me buy thevessel right out," said the Professor, "including a sumrepresenting the possible profits of the trip."

"Perhaps that would be the quickest and the surest way out ofthe difficulty; we, of course, buying it back from you at thesame figure when you have completed your search."

The Professor assented. Summoning Rodgers and myself to act aswitnesses, Captain Anstey and Barlow descended into the maincabin, and there an agreement was drawn up, whereby, for the sumof £3000 plus £800 (as representing the possible profits of thetrip), the latter became possessor of the schoonerFitzroy, together with all her belongings. To this, adetailed statement was also appended, setting forth the reasonsfor the transaction for the information of the Government. Tothis document our signatures were affixed, and all on boardstraightway became the servants of Ernest Barlow, by virtue ofthe cheque drawn by him in favour of the Captain and MessrsLaffit and Jolliboy, and deposited in the ship's safe.

"Now, gentlemen, a glass of wine to seal our bargain. Steward,a bottle of that old 'Three Star' Hennessey you crack up somuch," cried the Professor. "Now, skipper, here's to our success,make the little girl show her heels to the wind. Crowd on yourcanvas. Every damage you sustain will be made good. Remember mybrother-in-law's life and those of his men may depend on ourexpedition."

Captain Bob cheerfully responded to the Professor's toast.That every expedition would be used he assured him, and as thewind continued favourable the progress was all that could bedesired. Yet we could see that, excellent though the recordachieved might be, it was much too slow to keep pace with thelightning course of the Professor's anxiety. While he wasconstantly quoting as a sort of oral anodyne for the gnawinganguish of his suspense, the beautiful lines in the Helenaof Euripides, where the chorus advises the unfortunate daughterof "Leda"—"Never with presaging mind to anticipate evils tocome,"—we could note that the unuttered apprehensionsoutweighed the unction he fain would lay to his soul.

Captain Bob had assured the Professor that, taking thedistance at about 2200 miles from the position of the vessel atthe date of the discovery of the letter, to the exact spot in thePacific Ocean mentioned as the locale of the so-calledIsle of Spirits—a point, however, marked on none of theAdmiralty Charts as occupied by any land whatsoever—theduration of the voyage could not, under the most favourablecirc*mstances, be less than twenty-six days. Though an averagerate of progress, registering six knots an hour, might bemaintained in many places, allowance had to be made for calms,currents, baffling and head winds, and the like.

The Professor reiterated his full conviction of Captain Bob'sanxiety to reduce the term of the Fitzroy's run to aminimum. He assured us of his intention to possess his soul inpatience, to employ the time in pursuing his studies, with otherdeterminations of a philosophical and laudable character.

But of all servitors a truant attention is the mostintractable. Easier it is to preach than to practise patience,or, as good Adriana in the Comedy of Errors says, "Theycan be meek that have no other cause." Professor Barlow'sendeavour to fulfil the Scriptural injunction to possess his soulin patience had much in common with the illustriousexemplification of the same virtue by that paragon of patience,Sir Fretful Plagiary.

Long before the twenty-six days of the estimated term had runtheir course, the Professor's anxiety had broken down the rigidbarriers of an Englishman's natural reserve, and that mask ofunemotional callousness modern society pronounces comme ilfaut. More than once a suspicious glistening was perceptiblein the Professor's eyes. But the sun is very trying to the eyesin those latitudes, and the Professor always blew his nose withremarkable vigour on such occasions. But as the longest lane musthave its turning, the dreariest day its end, so the voyage of theFitzroy to the mysterious Isle of Spirits at lastapproached its termination. Captain Bob had privately confided tome his opinion that an error had been made in Captain Webster'sobservations. "Could it be possible," he reasoned, "that thenumberless American, colonial, and British ships passing this waywould not have discovered and reported land at a point whereneither the Admiralty, nor the French, nor even, for that matter,the Dutch charts, imperfect though they be, mark a rood of thebarrenest rock ever sea-fowl settled on? He must have landed onElizabeth Island or Ducie Island, or perhaps on Easter Island,which, God knows, is mysterious enough to satisfy the biggestglutton for mystery and supernaturalism the Psychical Societyever acknowledged as an emissary. But not a word to theProfessor; poor soul, he is worried enough already. Let him hughis illusions a little longer."

At last we reached the twenty-sixth day, on which Bob hadgiven it as his opinion we ought to sight the Isle of Spirits.Our voyage had been prosecuted under the most favourablecirc*mstances, both as regards wind and currents, but not a traceof land appeared on any quarter. In vain did the Professor scanthe horizon all round with his powerful telescope. Twelve o'clockarrived, when the skipper took his observation. "In five hours,"said he, "we ought to cross your brother-in-law's line ofobservation; but, as you see, there is no land in sight."

The Professor said nothing; the deepening of the lines ofanxiety on his forehead was the only reply. The wind meantime haddied away to the lightest possible breeze.

Suddenly Mr. Rodgers, the mate, who was standing at the bow ofthe vessel, reported huge masses of sea-weed extending for milesright across the direct course of the ship, and barringprogress.

"Humph—funny!" grunted Bob; "we are thousands of milesaway from the Sargasso Sea, and I never heard of such belts ofweed in these latitudes."

The Fitzroy drove directly on to the bed. She passedthe outer edge without much perceptible hindrance, but a fewseconds afterwards was lying perfectly stationary, rolling like alog amidst an immense mass of tangled black seaweed, offering anobstinate resistance to her further course.

"Confound the thing!" cried the skipper. "'Bout ship! What canit mean? Long as I have sailed these waters—and I maysafely say I have been a dozen times in this verylatitude—I never saw anything like this before. Lower thejolly-boat, Mr. Rodgers, while we are making this tack, and takea look round if you can see any break in the weed."

After some little difficulty in getting the vessel set to hernew course, Mr. Rodgers fulfilled the captain's instructions. Wewatched him and his men skirting the edge of the huge bed formore than a mile. Then they appeared to turn suddenly at rightangles into the sea-weed, and the boat, now a speck, seemed sweptup some opening with considerable velocity. After proceeding intothe heaving mass for some hundreds of yards, we saw them turn andendeavour to retrace their course back to the ship. But the taskproved no easy one. They evidently were battling against acurrent, whose tendency was to sweep them further into the heartof the weed-bed. Bit by bit, however, they won their way out, andat last we saw them emerge from the tangled mass of black snakyfeelers and row towards us.

Their arrival was now awaited with anxiety.

On coming aboard again, the mate reported that about a mileand a half on the port side there was a break in the sea-weed, inthe form of a channel about fifteen yards wide. But, singularlyenough, down this open space ran a current of not less, he wasconvinced, than from three to four knots. As far as he could see,the channel stretched for miles into the heart of the weed-bed.Of the latter there seemed positively no terminationwhatever.

"Well, Professor, what do you wish us to do?" asked Bob.

"I wish you, Captain, to run the vessel into that channel, andto sail through it. As I am a living man, I believe that behindthis vast bed lies the Isle of Spirits, where my poorbrother-in-law is. But, stay—there may be dangers herealtogether foreign to the ordinary perils incident to a mariner'slife. Will you, as captain, announce to the men, that to everyone on board I will guarantee a bonus of 20 per cent on theaggregate amount of their yearly, not their monthly, wages ifthey will stick to me?"

"Oh, that is not needed, Professor," said the Captaindissuadingly. "Your previous generosity in raising the wages ofall on board would stimulate every one to do his best to assistyou in your quest."

"Never mind, skipper; do as I wish, please, and let them allunderstand that he who obliges me in this will not find meungrateful."

From the cold reserved Professor this meant much. Anstey saidno more. He bowed, and proceeded to execute the order.

In a short time the Fitzroy, albeit hampered by thelight wind, was heading direct for the break in the wide expanseof algae indicated by Rodgers, who was personally actingas "lookout" in the bow of the vessel. Ere long we passed betweenthe two outlying "capes" of weed marking the entrance. Scarcelyhad the ship entered the so-called channel than she experiencedthe force of the current referred to by the mate. Her rate ofprogress was perceptibly accelerated, while as we were now movingmore rapidly than the wind, the sails were flapping idly againstthe mast.

The scene around us was weird and strange in the extreme. Tosome vast lake, whose surface was covered with water-lilies priorto flowering, as well as with other aquatic plants and weeds, theentire expanse of ocean, far as the eye could see on every side,bore close resemblance. In place of its bosom presenting ashimmering mirror, blue as the cerulean heavens above, itexhibited a dreary monotonous waste of brownish-black tendrils orstreamers, bobbing their knotted and knobbed "ganglia" at timesabove the surface, but generally covered by a thin layer ofwater, so that they were ever floating and swaying and twistingand turning on that surface, like myriads of octopi stretchingout black horrible tentacles to suck down any hapless being thatfell amongst them. Even the proverbial "waste of waters" waspreferable to this terrible spectacle.

But the channel through which we were passing showed no signsof narrowing, nor did the current decrease in velocity. Forconsiderably over three hours we had been carried along by itwithout experiencing any sign of slackening speed. Thrice hadCaptain Anstey ordered the lead to be heaved, receiving as aresponse—20—18—22 fathoms respectively.

Professor Barlow's excitement increased every hour. Hisagitation had become well-nigh uncontrollable. Ceaselessly hepaced the poop, stopping every few minutes to sweep the horizonline anew with his glass. Pale as parchment were his features. Tono one did he address himself, and all respected the silence heevidently desired to preserve.

Suddenly, as afternoon was deepening into evening, and theshadows lengthening, the startling cry, "Land ho!" rang from thecage at the mast-head, where Captain Anstey had posted a sailoras "look-out ."

The effect upon every one on board was electrical.

"Where away?" cried the skipper, startled out of hisapathy.

"Low down on the starboard bow; but there is a mist orsomething hanging over it, so that you can't make it outclearly."

The skipper and the Professor at once proceeded to themast-head. With the aid of the strong telescope of the latter thefact was established beyond a doubt that, be it of large or smallextent, land certainly lay in the direction indicated. Beforelong it was visible even from the poop as a low dark line on thehorizon.

Over all else hung a heavy pall of cloud or mist. To theProfessor, however, what was revealed was sufficient. That theland before him was the Isle of Spirits he entertained not adoubt. His gloom disappeared in an instant, and in hissatisfaction he was inclined to gently rally Captain Anstey onhis incredulity.

"Well, Professor, I must own I am in the wrong. But I may saythis, that, old sailor as I am, I never heard of land lying inthis precise latitude before. I grant the Pacific is mostimperfectly laid down as yet by hydrographic survey, and thatthere are hundreds of miles of water in these archipelagoes intowhich no vessel of any size dare enter, owing to the difficultiesof navigation from the coral reels. Still the existence of thisisland is a mystery."

"My dear Anstey, you were right when you said the Pacific ismost imperfectly surveyed. Still, I imagine that the difficultymeeting us this morning in the vast algae beds, has beenthe main cause of deterring other vessels from running down here.They have not been so fortunate in striking this channel."

"Nay, even if they did find it, not one man in a thousandwould dare to venture down it. I warn you it will need a tidy capof wind to take us out again, unless this current finds an outletelsewhere, after skirting the island, and will do us the samekind office in carrying us out as it is now doing in bearing usin."

But to the Professor any warning meantime fell on deaf ears.To solve a family mystery, overshadowing with the deep pall ofsorrow the life of his youngest and favourite sister, andrendered even more acute because of the uncertainty attending thefate of the loved one, was at present his one absorbing purpose.Humanity exhibited towards one object may, when carried toexcess, unwittingly involve gross cruelty towards others. Thiswas exactly our present situation. His natural affection towardshis sister blinded the Professor to the overwhelming dangerthreatening the entire ship's company, in thus running recklesslyupon an unknown coast.


THAT the Captain apprehended to the full the perils of thecase, I could detect in his troubled look and restless demeanour.With the anxiety of Professor Barlow to solve the pending doubtas to the fate of his brother-in-law, he had too keen a sympathyto permit him to say anything. But all that a bold and skilfulBritish seaman could do to ensure safety for us he did.

To the island we were now steadily approaching, and itsoutlines were beginning to stand forth in bolder relief againstthe glowing amethyst and orange hues of the evening skies. Theshimmering radiance of the dying day was rapidly merging into thedeeper shades of the coming night. This fact, however, occasionedbut slight apprehension, as, ere long, the moon, then at itsfull, would arise and afford us abundant light. The mistsenveloping the land had rolled away like the curtain of apanorama, and disclosed to us an island of considerable size, tojudge of the whole by the part presenting itself to our view.Though still a long distance from the shore, we could perceivethe physical characteristics of it to be mountainous; successiveranges of hills rising tier above tier behind one another, untilthey culminated in one supreme and solitary peak, partiallysnow-clad and loftily sublime, at whose summit, amidst thedarkling shadows of the night, gleamed the sullen, steady glow ofa semi-active volcano. To the steamy smoke, rising as it did inwhite, sulphurous volumes from the cone, were due the clouds andthe vapours enveloping the island when viewed from afar.

The Professor was in ecstasies. In his quest, he had struckupon a veritable terra incognita, a rare experience inthis age of persistent "globetrotting," when a man's reputationas a traveller rests not on his ability to reproduce the scenesthrough which he has passed, but on the aggregate amount of theworld's surface he has covered in his peregrinations. TheProfessor at once proceeded to christen the volcano "MountAnstey," in honour of our captain.

Darkness had now fallen over the scene, rendering everythingmore weird and unearthly, as seen in the dull red light cast infitful flashes from the distant crater. Presently, however, overthe north-eastern shoulder of the mountain the moon began toarise in all its peaceful silvery radiance; while afar off lightswere peeping out like flitting fire-flies from the shore,evincing that the island was at least inhabited, though by whomremained to be seen.

While speculating on this, we were startled by another cryfrom the look-out, "Sail on the port bow!" A sail!—surelynot? Another rush to the side. But the "look-out" was right.There, bearing down upon us, out of the semi-gloom of that sideof the island lying under the shadow of the towering mountain,and, therefore, not yet illumined by the rising moon, gleamedwhat seemed to be the white sails of a vessel. She wasapproaching us with great rapidity, albeit travelling against thecurrent. Nearer we drew to each other. Now she emerged out of thedeep gloom cast over the waters by the mountain ranges into thetremulous argent sheen gradually being suffused over the scene by"Cynthia in all her beauty."

"Good heavens! what kind of a craft is she?" cried theskipper, in a tone of utter astonishment. The sentiment wasre-echoed by us all. At both stem and stern were curious volutedfigure-heads; while her bulwarks stood high out of the water. Shecarried only one mast, on the low yards of which hung one vast,broad sail, in size and shape resembling a lateen sail, but atpresent clewed up into a single reef. Her breadth of beam, andquaint, high poop also attracted notice; but what most of allexcited our surprise was the fact that, although a vessel ofabout 100 or 150 tons burden, she was propelled by three banks ofoars, placed in an oblique order above each other on eitherside.

At last, when she was about three hundred yards distant fromus, the Professor, who had been attentively examining her throughhis telescope, broke silence with the words,—

"As I live, a Roman trireme, complete in every detail!"uttered in a tone of the most profound astonishment.

A Mystery of the Pacific (7)

"As I live, a Roman trireme!"

"What do you say, Professor?" said the captain.

"I remarked that the vessel approaching us is a facsimile, inevery detail, of a Roman galley or trireme of the age of theearly Caesars. What it all means I cannot say."

Presently, in response to some order, the rowers on board thegalley ceased pulling, and were evidently waiting for us toapproach.

Captain Anstey was, however, determined to err on the safeside.

"Bring up a rifle or two from the armoury," he said to themate. "Let each man carry his revolver in readiness; whether theybe friendly or hostile, it is well to be prepared."

At length, when we came within hailing distance, thereadvanced to the side of the galley a picturesque figure, attiredin a helmet and cuirass of some highly-polished metal, a coat orkilt of chain-mail reaching well-nigh to the knee, and greavescovering the legs from the knee to the ankle. He was armed with ashort sword, held drawn in his right hand, while on the left armrested a small circular shield with metal "bosses." In fact, hiswhole accoutrements reminded me of the illustrations in thosehighly-esteemed volumes, familiar enough in my school and collegedays in "Auld Reekie"—Dr. Smith's Dictionary ofAntiquities and History of Rome.

Our surprise over the occurrences of this eventful night wasrapidly deepening into the profoundest amazement. Was it possiblethat the customs in vogue in the Rome of the Caesars could beexistent in the nineteenth century away out in the semi-tropicalPacific? The whole matter appeared an enigma of the mostperplexing character. To say it was deepened would be to conveyonly the faintest possible conception of the thrill ofastonishment vibrating through our minds, when across the channelseparating the two vessels came the accents of that tongue,which, though now ranking among the dead languages of the earth,had been the current speech of that mighty empire, the stateliestand the most imposing the world has known—

"Quae navis est? Estisne amici aut hostes?" But theProfessor, in proportion as the mystery became more inexplicable,rose to the occasion. In his Oxford days he had been famous forthe purity and felicity of his Latinity. On him, therefore, thetask of conversing with the strangers in the language of old Romenaturally devolved, and was a delight. Without hesitation hereplied in their own tongue—

"This is the ship Fitzroy; we come as friends, seekingfriends who are thought to have suffered shipwreck here."

"You and yours, then, are welcome to Nova Sicilia.Publius Manlius Torquatus, and Caius Flaminius Piso, the consuls,have commissioned me to meet you to inquire your errand, and ifye came in peace, to bid you welcome in the name of theRepublic," was the response.

"In the name of my friends and myself I thank you. We areanxious to cast anchor. Where may this be done with safety?"

"This trireme will conduct you to a convenient anchorage inthe harbour, if you will accompany us. It lies about sixteenstadia from the present spot. At about half that distance thecurrent now carrying you along takes a turn to the right, andskirts the southern shores of the island. Our principal town,Nova Messana, lies a little to the north. You will thereforerequire to get out your oars, and leave what we call the'stream', so as to strike over the bay to the harbour."

A puzzled man was good Captain Anstey when the informationgiven by the stranger was translated to him.

"God bless the fellow, how the mischief can I get out of thisstream, as he calls it now, when there is not as much wind aswould fill your hat? Get out my oars! the man must be a bloomingchucklehead! What kind of oars would a 400-ton schooner carry,does he think? No, Professor, the only thing to be done is thatthe gentleman in the tin hat should order his trythingumyjig totake us in tow. By the powers, what have I come to, when my trimlittle craft has to be taken in tow by an outlandish co*ckle-boatlike that!"

"My dear Captain Anstey, it is a genuine Roman trireme, andthose apparently are descendants of the ancient Romans, thoughhow in the name of wonder they got here goodness only knows."

Poor Captain Bob muttered something about not caring muchwhether it was a "try-ream" or a "try-quire;" he didn't like thebusiness any the more. However, the Professor, having hailed thestranger—who, by the way, informed him that his name wasQuintus Calpurnius Lepidus—explained the difficulty to him.Apparently, the unwonted characteristics of our party wereoccasioning quite as much astonishment on board the galley astheirs among us. Lepidus having held a hurried consultation withsome of his companions, signified their willingness to take us intow, but seemed at a loss to understand how it was to bemanaged.

"Oh, that's a simple matter," cried Captain Anstey. "Bo'sun,take the jolly-boat and a couple of men, and carry a cable lineaboard that—that—what the dickens d'ye call it,Professor?"

The honest bo'sun, Job Simpson, one of the most faithful soulson earth, to whom an order represented a command to be carriedout at all costs, nevertheless did not relish his mission. Hemuttered some words about "not liking the cut o' the jib o' themthere furrineerin' blokes," but at once proceeded to execute hismission. With evident surprise, those on board the galleyobserved the three men in the boat first being lowered from thedavits, then proceeding to the bow of the schooner to take up thetow-line.

But the climax of honest Job's experience was attained when hereached the side of the galley, and, looking through one of theoar-ports, observed some of the rowers (usually slaves orcriminals in the days of Rome) eyeing him very attentively. ToJob all "furrineerin' fellers" had some subtle connection withFrenchmen. Only natural, then, was it that the good sailor shouldaddress them, as he considered, in appropriate terms:

"Axin' yer parding, mounseers, I ain't acquaint with yerparley-vous, but would yez jist kitch a hold o' this hereline?"

But not a sign of acquiescence was vouchsafed.

"Drat the fellers! Are they all deaf and dumb, think yez,boys? I'm sayin', mounseers, if yer honours would just lay holdo' this here line it would be a great obleegement."

Still not a sign from those whom he addressed, only sounds ofsuppressed laughter.

"Gosh, here's a mess! either all these bloomin' coves arestone deaf or they can't understand a word o' good English. I'msayin', mounseer—"

But here the Professor, who, with Captain Anstey, had beenwatching the efforts of Job with some little amusem*nt,interposed, and directed the attention of Lepidus to what wasdesired. The line was at once taken on board over the stern ofthe galley and fastened securely. Presently the trireme began toforge slowly ahead with the schooner in her wake.

At this point the channel perceptibly widened, until itattained a width considerably over 100 yards. The algaebeds receded farther and yet farther apart, finally terminatingaltogether, while we noted, gradually opening up in front of us,the coast-lines of a noble and spacious bay, semicircular inshape, around which, and extending up the slopes of the hillsbehind, gleamed the lights of a large and widely-scatteredtown—populous, too, if the hum and bustle of busy lifereaching us even at this distance were any criterion. Here, too,we left the current that had so long borne us on our way. After afew minutes' steady strain on the tow-line, during which wedistinctly heard the voices of what Professor Barlow informed uswere the hortatores or overseers (also called by Plautus,pausarii), encouraging the remiges or rowers intheir task by a sort of rhythmic refrain or chant, the schoonerwas slowly but surely drawn from the current of the ocean stream,and was presently gliding through smooth water towards theentrance to the bay.

Passing a projecting headland of rocky precipitous cliffs,whereon stood a pharos or lighthouse, differing materiallyin design, however, from Smeaton's great structure on theEddystone Rock—the model of all future erections of thekind—we swept into the bay, and in the clear moonlightbeheld the harbour and town unfolded like a panorama beforeus.


IN the fair moonlight this mysterious town of NovaMessana—whereon the eye of no European had rested thatreturned to tell the tale—stood out in strong relief. Thehouses, being built of a white stone or marble, were thrown intoprominence against the dark background of the mountains. The citywas evidently of great size, for around the entire sweep of thecoast-line, and over the shoulders of the two spurs of hill thatjutted far out to sea and formed the bay, serried lines ofstreets and houses were to be detected. Besides, the hoarsemuffled hum that reached us, of vehicles rolling along roads,dogs barking, children shouting, music playing, and all thehundred-and-one sounds one overhears when approaching a busy hiveof population, betokened the presence of a mighty multitude, beits nationality what it might. But who were they? How came theyto these latitudes? Such questions were still wrapped inmystery.

At last we glided slowly into the magnificent harbour roundwhich the town clustered in serried lines of masonry. Yonder weresubstantial stone wharves lined with stately warehouses. Closein, by the side of the wharves, lay innumerable craft of much thesame type as that now towing us, though lacking the rostraor high convoluted beaks. On the wharves we also noted cranes andslings for loading and unloading cargo of much the same type asthose among us.

About a hundred and fifty yards from the shore, Lepidusinformed us we could anchor without any danger. Then the trireme,having cast off the tow-line, returned towards us, and Lepidusintimated that the consuls would like to see the leaders of theparty as soon as was convenient.

"Look here, Professor, you go, and take our friend Bill withyou," said Captain Anstey, pointing to me. "I cannot leave myship. It wouldn't be right."

"Why not come up with me and see what the people are like?"replied the Professor.

"No, Professor; again I say, let Bill and you go. I will stayhere, and if any mischief is intended, I'll fire on the town withour carronade. It's not worth much against cannon, but it'sunlikely, if they work with the tin armour that worthy gentlemanMr. Leppydoes wears, that they ever heard the sound of artillerybefore."

"Well, as you think best, skipper. Bill, do you mind goingwith me?" he asked of me.

"Not a bit. There's nothing I should like better; but I wouldadvise we go heavily armed."

"Of course. We'll each take a couple of revolvers and somespare cartridges. We don't know anything about the peopleyet."

"I say, Professor, it might not be amiss if, under cover ofsaluting the flag of the country, we fire one or two blankcharges. Explain to your friend Leppydoes that we mean it as anhonour."

The Professor did as desired, and Lepidus appeared highlygratified. He thought they were to be treated to someentertainment. But when the thunder of the first discharge awokeall the echoes around the bay, and reverberated among themountain defiles for miles back—when, too, it was followedby a second and a third, an awful stillness fell upon thecity.

Then rose the terrible cry: "It is the voice of the gods, itis the voice of Jove!" and when we looked once more at thegalley, we saw that Lepidus and his companions were kneeling onthe deck. Their palms were turned outwards, and their heads bentin the attitude of worship.

The worthy centurion, though startled by the sound, wassufficiently master of himself not to show fright after theappalling sound ceased, but his respect for us had been deepened.Therefore, when we stepped aboard the trireme by a gangway thrownfrom its deck to our bulwarks, we were received with everydemonstration of honour. We were conducted to the high raisedpoop, where seats were provided for us, and where Lepidusendeavoured to do the honours of his vessel. On inquiring whencewe came, and on learning from the Professor that we hailed fromthe west, he inquired how things went on at Rome, who were theconsuls, how far the "Mistress of the World" had now pushed herconquests, and the like, until he succeeded in so bamboozling thepoor Professor that he had to beg for time to answer thequestions in detail.

But before this could be done, we reached the wharf, andthere, packed closely together, and evidently watching ourapproach with the intensest interest, were thousands of humanbeings, all attired in strict accordance with the costume ofancient Rome, the toga virilis We noticed that very fewfemales were present. Males predominated. Yet the utmost decorumand order prevailed. Attended by Lepidus, we disembarked andpassed up the narrow lane left for us between the crowds of eagercitizens. A party of soldiers, attired like our guide, and armedwith the spear, circular shield, and sword, preceded us, and wewere followed by the entire mass of the population.

We passed along streets of noble buildings gleaming white inthe clear moonlight, each edifice being an exact facsimileof those that used to figure in the engravings in our books ofRoman history and antiquities. They were in general two or threestories high, the façades being richly adorned, while the porchesand doorways were ornamented with fine carvings, and were alsofurnished with rows of Ionic and Corinthian pilasters. Thepaucity of windows facing towards the street gave the frontagesof the houses rather a blank, heavy appearance. As was the customin Rome, nearly all the windows of the rooms on the first orground floor faced inwards upon the spacious inner court, openingfrom the atrium, or general sitting-room. From latticesover our heads faces peered through, and soft dark eyes lookedcuriously on the mysterious strangers that seemed to have droppedfrom the clouds. From the roadway litters, chariots, and waggons,heavy and clumsy, were drawn up that their occupants might have aglimpse of the strangers.

During our walk Lepidus kept up a lively conversation withProfessor Barlow. I had been a fairly good Latin scholar when Igraduated in Edinburgh University. Though the rust of time hadblunted the edge of my proficiency in the language, still I wasable to follow with comparative ease the course of theconversation.

Lepidus, as we advanced, pointed out the theatre where theplays of Fundanius and Puppius, dramatists of the Augustan age inRome, were still performed, as he stated, with those of nativecolonial playwrights. He also showed us in the distance theColiseum, the Museum, and other places of note. Finally, wereached the Forum or market-place, a broad open space, laid outin the form of a square,—as far as we could detect in thedarkness,—and adorned with numberless statues. In the Forumwere located the consular and senatorial halls and offices.

At last we stopped in front of a splendid pile of buildingswith a handsome pillared propylaeum, to which a flight ofsteps led up. We ascended the stairs with our guide amidst acrowd of eager spectators.

"The Senate is in session, and would like to see thestrangers," said another individual, approaching Lepidus.

"That is well," replied Lepidus, and, motioning us to follow,he entered the Senate House of the Republic of Nova Sicilia.

A vast hall with sloping benches like a semi-amphitheatre! Atone end was a raised platform or tribune, in front of which weretables for scribes. Here met the assembly of the old men of thestate—the Patres Conscripti—in whose hands laythe destinies of the country.

One of the two consuls for the year always presided over thedeliberations of the Senate, taking the duty for six months each.The aged councillors of the republic, whose long white beardsevinced the age and venerable character of the owners, receivedus standing. The consul, Caius Flaminius Piso, in his own name,conjointly with that of his colleague, and in the name of theSenate, welcomed us to the country. It was evident that SkipperBob's salute had produced a very extraordinary effect on theminds of the people and of the Senate. They regarded us asdescended from the gods, or, at least, in some subtle wayconnected with them, if we were not gods ourselves, and it seemedto them perfectly in keeping with the eternal fitness of thingsthat these strange personages should be received with allhonour.

Piso, a fine-looking old man with a silvery beard ripplingdown to his waist in hoary masses, having duly welcomed us,motioned the senators to be seated, then led us to some ivorychairs placed on a slightly lower level than his own, andreserved for those whom the Republic delighted to honour. He thenindicated to us that we should sit down.

After seating himself, a slight pause ensued, intended as agentle hint that the Senate would like to hear our story. TheProfessor was not long in responding to the hint. Bracing himselffor the effort, he commenced to speak, and, after the first fewsentences, got on wondrously well, and produced a very favourableimpression on the Senate. In a few simple words, as far as Icould follow him, he recorded the reasons for our voyage, thenthe circ*mstances of the suppressed mutiny, and, finally, thediscovery of the paper in the bottle written by the Professor'sbrother-in-law.

With breathless silence the whole story was listened to by themembers of the Senate. At last, when on concluding the recital heinquired, "Tell me, I entreat you, has my kinsman reached yourhospitable shores? and if so, is he still here amongst you?" Theanswer pealed out from many responsive throats,"Certe—Yes"—than which no word could have beenmore delightful to Barlow.

"Pray inform me how he arrived here," said the Professor,addressing the consul. "When can I see him?"

But a strange diffidence was now visible in Piso's manner.

"I—I—am sorry—he has gone—"

"What has he done? Where has he gone? Has he committed anycrime against your laws?"

The Consul shook his head, and a strange buzz of whisperedcomment on the question ran through the assembly.

"Then if he be not a criminal, if he be not an offenderagainst your laws, if he has done nothing to merit punishment,why may not I see him?"

There was a sternness and a decision about Professor Barlow'smanner that were not without their effect on the Consul and thesenators.

Piso shifted uneasily, conferred with one of the old memberswho sat near him, and then replied:

"O strangers, think not our unwillingness to speak was due toany hostility to your kinsman. I was anxious to save yourfeelings as much as I could." Here again Piso paused and eyed theProfessor sympathetically.

The features of the latter paled visibly as the words fell onhis ear. He started, glanced quickly at me, then saidimpulsively: "I would know the worst, tell me all."

"You have made your choice. Joannes Websterius, about sixmonths ago, mysteriously disappeared. We know not where he is,save that he was seen to enter the 'Cave of Gems'."

The Consul thereupon began to explain the nature of the "Caveof Gems," which, it turned out, was only the entrance to aperfect network of caverns which ran throughout the entire lengthof the mighty range of mountains behind the town.

The Professor listened in silence. Then he said in a low tone:"Do you think he has starved to death there? Is there no chanceof escape?"

The Consul shook his head. "Even if he escaped and discoveredthe exit on the other side of the mountains, that would lead himinto the country of the Ariutas, our enemies, and he would beremorselessly killed."

"My poor Mary!" exclaimed Barlow sadly. Then turning to theConsul he said, "Will you inform me of all you know of Webster,so that I may convey the news to his wife?"

"He had become very morose and unsociable in his habits justbefore his disappearance. He would not converse with anyone, norwould he have any intercourse with us. He wandered about thecountry aimlessly, neglecting his work and his duties. He wouldneither eat nor drink. As for sleep, it never seemed to visithim."

"The poor fellow had become desperate through his lonelysituation," said the Professor to me in a low tone; then turningto Piso he continued: "Ah! he had been so long separated from hiswife and family, from all who are dear to him, that despair hadseized on him."

Piso nodded his head and added: "You desired to know somethingabout the manner of his arriving here!"

"I should be very grateful."

"About five years ago he came to us in a small boat with twoor three other companions, all of whom have since died. Heinformed us, through signs, that he had suffered shipwreck in theMare Occidentale, and had endured terrible hardshipsbefore reaching Nova Messana. After being entertained by us forsome time, as he was a man of great ability, we had himinstructed in our language, which we deemed it strange he did notknow, and at the end he was in charge of our naval constructionyard. He would fain have made radical changes, and banish theremiges, or banks of rowers, as being useless; but that wecould not recommend on his bare word alone; now, however, that wehave seen your vessel moving without oars, the Senate will againconsider the scheme."

"May I see the Cave of Gems?"

The Consul looked surprised, but recovering himself in amoment he replied:

"Most certainly, we will assist you in every way we can. Youwill be remaining here for a few days. The Government of theRepublic will lend you all the help in its power."

The Professor gratefully acknowledged the promise. Immediatelyafter this matter was settled, a knot of senators gathered roundus both, and endeavoured to elicit information concerning thechanges that had taken place in Rome and in Europe generally.They seemed to date everything to the beginning of the "PerpetualConsulship," as they termed it, of Octavius, shortly after thedeath of the great Julius. Not a member of the Senate but hadsome question to ask. It was as much as the Professor could do toanswer the queries as briefly as possible, so rapidly did theyfollow each other.

The Professor's replies evidently excited profoundastonishment, though few of the "Fathers" appeared to realizewhat was said. An example of this occurred when Barlow, in avoice choking with emotion, thanked the Republic through Piso forthe humanity and kindness it had shown to his brother-in-law,adding that he would represent the matter to the BritishGovernment, so that some formal recognition might be made.

"The British Government—where is that?—Britanniawe know as a dependency of Rome—is it not still so?"

The Professor was only able to indicate a few of the stepswhereby the British Empire had advanced to its present pitch ofgreatness when he was interrupted by many of the senators crying,"But where was Rome all that time? Why did she allow you toattain such greatness?"

"Because Rome was crushed and overwhelmed, and no longerexists as the Rome you knew." But the fact at this time did notseem to be realized by the senators. They only smiledincredulously at what they considered the Professor'sromancing.

Barlow at this stage expressed his desire to obtain someinformation regarding the migration of the Roman colony to theSouth Seas, adding, "We, in Europe, know nothing of yourexistence here."

"Nay, we do not wish you to know anything of us," retorted oneof the senators hastily.

"Why so? Why do you not wish to be known?"

"Because Rome would crush us. She would not tolerate ourindependent existence. Our fathers have informed us of the policyshe pursued towards her colonies, and time will not have modifiedher ideas."

"But I tell you Rome does not exist to-day."

Only a shrug of the shoulders followed this remark of theProfessor's. The Senators evidently considered he had somesinister motive in asserting the fact, which to them wasincredible, and one of them voiced the suspicions of the otherswhen he muttered, "How do you come to know our language if Romeno longer exists?"

Observing this, Barlow varied his question by requesting Pisoto inform him how their fathers had reached the quarter of theglobe in which they now lived? The business of the Senate hadbeen over before we arrived, so that we were not interfering withits transactions by remaining in the Chamber. Piso pondered overthe request for a moment, then said:

"Tis only just you should know. After Caius Julius Caesar hadgrasped at supreme power, and overturned the ancient form ofgovernment—after the triumvirate of Antony, Octavius, andLepidus in its turn had been superseded by the imperial authorityof Augustus—after our great hero, Brutus, ultimusRomanorum had died, a number of the older Republicans in thestate, despairing of the salvation of the country, determined,after the manner of the old Grecian colonies, to found a newstate which would represent all the nobler features of ancientRoman virtue, valour, and fortitude. Our forefathers spent a yearin quietly making preparations. They arranged to meet, as thenarrative preserved in our archives records, at the head of theRed Sea, with 20 triremes, and a company of 400 men, 150 women,and many children. The vessels were well provisioned, andappointed with everything necessary for the foundation of a newcolony. They knew they must push out into the vast unknown,beyond the confines of the known world, otherwise the greed ofconquest, united to his rage at their escape, would causeAugustus to send his legions to wipe them out of existence.Therefore they resolved to go as far as possible beyond IndiaExtra Gangem, from which ambassadors had been sent toAugustus, so much dreaded was the Roman name even there.

"The last point known to our Roman geographers, at which ourfathers touched, was the Sindae Isles in the Indian Ocean. Herethey heard that two ships from Brundusium had been there a fewmonths before, and had sailed farther east. This determined them,and after laying in a great quantity of provisions, they alsosailed east. After proceeding twenty days in this manner theyreached the shores of a very large continent, where theinhabitants were exceedingly savage."

"Australia or New Guinea," said the Professor to me.

"Here they were about to land, but on consulting the augursthey said the gods had brought them only half-way on theirjourney, and that they must proceed onward for at least fortydays more, when they would see their appointed home. Our fathersnever doubted that the gods were guiding them, and this wasproved by the fact that they were seldom out of sight of landmore than a day at a time, and were enabled to take in water andfruits. On the morning of the fortieth day they came to thealgae beds, which doubtless you saw, and which hadwell-nigh proved an insurmountable obstacle. But a flight ofbirds miraculously showed them the passage, down which they wentfearlessly, the great Neptune himself leading the way in theshape of a large porpoise. That night our fathers reached thisland. Here we have abode ever since. That is the history of thefoundation of Nova Sicilia."

"What a wonderful history! And from that day to this you havequietly progressed, until you have reached the stage where wefind you to-day?"

"Even so. The gods have been good. Our constitution is basedon that of ancient Rome, our laws, our municipal regulations, areall based on those of Rome. We would have called our city NovaRoma, but it would have been unlucky. You will, I trust, remainwith us for some time, and study our polity. We in our turn willstudy yours, and thus we may mutually benefit. But I beg of youwhen you return home not to inform the Romans of ourexistence."

Professor Barlow no longer attempted to remove theirdeeply-rooted belief in the "eternity" of the Roman power. Heaccepted Piso's invitation to make a stay in the city, butinsisted upon returning to the vessel that night to informCaptain Anstey of what had taken place. He promised, on thefollowing day, to call upon Piso, who offered to conduct himthroughout Nova Messana.


WHEN the Professor and I reached the street, we were at oncemade the centre of an eager group of spectators, who walked withus as we returned to the vessel. Yet one could not help observingthe innate courtesy of the people. Though their curiosity musthave been intense, they did not cause us to feel its effects inany unpleasant manner, by mobbing us, or handling our clothes, assavages are apt to do.

Their attitude was most respectful. But it was easy to seethey were in doubt whether to rank us as men like themselves oras sons of the gods.

We passed once more along the stately streets, Lepidus actingas our guide, and we found something to admire at almost everystep. The massive architecture gleamed dazzlingly white in theglorious moonlight, while from well-nigh every house resoundedthe notes of music or the ripple of soft laughter.

At the top of the long tree-lined avenue leading down to thewharves Lepidus took leave of us, with stately Roman courtesy,and we pursued the remainder of our journey alone, save for theposse of the curious, who still followed us.

"My poor brother-in-law!" murmured Barlow, as we walked downthe approach; "what a lonely existence he must have had amongstthem. I fear he must be dead, or he would have been heardof."

"Well, Professor Barlow, I'll make one to go with you andsearch until we find some traces of him. I don't think he can bedead. Surely his body would have been found."

"Right, lad; you are a good fellow; you have raised my hopesagain. We'll make a big effort to find some intelligence of him.These antipodean Romans seem a grand race."

"That they are, if all be true that we hear about them."

"Lepidus has given me a great deal of information regardinghis nation. It appears they look upon a liar as having committedmoral suicide, and no one will have anything further to do withhim."

"That is a good trait. They do credit to their ancestors."

"But that little old man, with whom I was speaking, gave methe most information of all. He is a half-caste, and belongs tothe native Ariutas. He is a doorkeeper in the hall."

"Dear me, what did he say?"

"He says that the New Sicilians are cold, critical, andunimpassioned. In some respects they are cruel, in otherscallous; but I think it is because they do not know what pity is.Yet they are just, virtuous, and noble in their lives, with alltheir severity. 'Crime is rare,' he said, 'and poverty is almostunknown.' They are simple in their habits, and exceedinglyhospitable up to a certain limit, save to those strangers thatcome to spy. Several natives from Easter Island came here someweeks ago. They were kindly treated and sent home again, with awarning, however, not to return. With the aborigines of thisisland they are constantly at war, but as to intercourse with theoutside world they have absolutely none."

"Is the island of Nova Sicilia large, did the old man informyou?" I inquired.

"Yes, larger than the original Sicily. It is wonderfullyfertile, and such minerals as gold, silver, copper, lead,etc.—are to be found almost everywhere, with diamonds,rubies, sapphires, and opals in extraordinary abundance."

"It is a wonder it was never discovered before now."

The Professor shook his head, and then said in a lower tone,"There is more under that than appears. I believe the island hasbeen discovered again and again, but that no one has returned totell the tale."

"What do you mean?"

"Though not naturally cruel, the people here will do anythingto preserve their liberty. They dread the very name of Europe.They cannot believe that the Rome of to-day is totally differentfrom the Rome of 1800 years ago."

"Do you think they killed those who came here before fromEurope?"

"Well, you saw me go over to a cabinet in the Senate Chamberand look into it. It contained curiosities. Among them, to myintense surprise, I found three suits of antique Europeanclothes, an ancient flint-lock musket, a volume of Shakespearedated 1736, and an old clay pipe. On asking where these camefrom, the Senators said, 'From the waves'. But there was astrange smile on their lips that I didn't like. My idea is, theybelonged to some Englishmen who were fortunate enough, as theythought, to discover a new country, but were never allowed toleave it alive."

"But that is not like the nature of the New Sicilians."

"Far from it. Hospitality is to them an article of religiousfaith, but then security is the first consideration."

"Might these articles not have been found in some sailor'schest that was washed ashore?" I asked.

"It is possible, but I hardly think it probable, because theywould have kept the chest also."

The Professor remained for a long time plunged in thought. Infact we were near the pier before he said:

"I don't like the look of it. We must watch, and be on ourguard."

At last we reached the wharf, and on a whistle from me, Bobsent the boat across for us, and took us on board. We had so manythings to relate to him that the new day was near its dawningbefore we separated.

When we awoke next morning and went on deck, a gloriousprospect awaited us. There was the lovely city of Nova Messanabasking in the sunshine, and glistening white as a pearl againstthe deep emerald background of the majestic range of mountains.The hills were densely wooded, all except the towering peak ofthe volcano; and a more charming picture than that presented bythe bright blue of the bay studded with shipping, and the townstretching on all sides as far as the eye could reach, with itsvineyards and olive groves, its orchards and pleasure gardens,could scarcely be conceived.

"It beats the Bay of Naples, I verily believe," cried theProfessor enthusiastically. "Surely men living amid such beautiescannot be otherwise than noble."

"Are there any other towns in the island, Emilius?"

Lepidus had sent over one of his officers to know if he couldbe of any service to us. He was standing near, and heard theProfessor's remark, at which he smiled gravely.

"O yes," answered the young officer. "There are four otherseaports—Brundusium, about twenty miles along the coast;Syracusa, on the other side of the island, about sixty milesdistant; and Drepanum and Bruttium, about eighty and a hundredmiles respectively. We estimate the island to be about twohundred miles in circumference, and about a hundred and twenty ora hundred and thirty miles across. But the interior, though inparts thinly settled by the colonists, is in large measure heldby the natives, who, by the way, are very far from being savages.In fact, there are over fifty miles of the coast-line still intheir hands."

"And what is the population of the island?" I asked.

"That would be hard to answer. Messana has over 70,000inhabitants, and the other towns less in proportion; but I shouldestimate the total population at not less than 400,000, exclusiveof natives."

"And these absolutely unknown to the people of Europe," saidthe Professor. "What a treat it will be to study their customs,and note what direction their own natural development hastaken!"

Emilius soon after went ashore to meet the Consul, who was topay us a state visit that day.

The morning was but young when the shrill sound of a trumpetfrom the shore, where crowds had been gazing at us from theearliest hours, betokened the advance of the consul. Presently wesaw Piso come down to the wharf, preceded by lictors, with theirbundles of fasces, from which peeped out the heads of theaxes. The party embarked on board the galley that had been ourconvoy on the previous evening. Evidently the consul meant thathis state visit should impress us.

Captain Bob was determined that "these old-fashioned beggarsshould see that the world had not stood still, if they had." Hetherefore ordered the mate to salute the New Sicilian flag withthree more discharges of cannon, and the ensign to be dipped asthe galley approached.

The effect of the artillery was even more pronounced than onthe previous evening. The thunder of the discharge reverberatedagain amongst the hills with startling echoes and re-echoes. Therowers were evidently awe-stricken, and stopped pulling, and itneeded all the persuasions of the hortatores to inducethem to proceed.

But Roman pride was flattered all the same. The Consul, as hestepped from the galley on board the Fitzroy, wasgraciously pleased to observe to the Professor that the Republicwould be pleased to enter into an alliance with a state whoserepresentatives were ready to show the flag of Nova Sicilia somuch honour.

The Professor bowed low to hide his smile of amusem*nt. Pisowas evidently much impressed with what he saw on board theFitzroy, but when he heard that it was but a co*ckle-boatcompared with some of the warships in the British navy, heappeared to think the travellers were, vulgarly speaking,"talking tall." He replied with haughty assurance, that even theRoman Republic in the Second Punic War accounted a quinquereme avery large vessel.

The Professor chanced to have some illustrated descriptions ofthe British navy, showing the Inflexible, theGalatea, and the Glatton in full fighting trim.

On seeing them, Piso was astonished, and after remainingsilent, said:

"But these vessels have no sails, and they all seem onfire."

"Oh dear, no! they are moving through the water by steam atabout 20,000 paces in the hour."

"By steam?—our friend Joannes Websterius tried toexplain that to us. I am aware that a steam-engine was at work inthe Serapeum, in Alexandria, in the days of the divine Julius andthe divine Augustus, but how can these little machines move animmense vessel like that?"

The Professor thereupon had to explain the principle to Pisoand his friends. As Captain Bob had in his cabin some smallmodels of locomotives, and engines of various kinds, Barlow andhe demonstrated by these the uses to which steam had beenput.

Piso was electrified. The purpose of his visit was allforgotten. He hung on the words of Captain Anstey and theProfessor, ever and anon turning to Lepidus:

"Joannes was right, and we thought he was only a cleverdreamer."

In fact, before the subject of the steamers was exhausted, theday was far spent, and dinner was announced. Captain Bob insistedon the Consul remaining. The lictors were therefore dismissed,and Piso, in his unofficial capacity, dined for the first time ata European board. Here a succession of surprises again awaitedhim. In place of the triclinia, or couches, there wereseats, and the diners, instead of reclining at meals, sat onchairs. The dishes, too, puzzled him. The pea-soup he recognized,and the salt meat, but the "lobscouse" or "sea-pie" was beyondhim, as was also the "plum-duff."

There was something infinitely ludicrous to my mind in thesight of a representative of the civilization which had been invogue at the Christian era, gravely sitting down beside us anddiscussing the dishes one reads about in Horace and Tibullus,Caesar and Livy. He was not partial to our European drinks. Themild wines of Nova Sicilia had not prepared his palate for thefiery terrors of Scotch whisky, or the subtle strength ofHenessey's "Three Star" brandy. His Massic and Falernian andCaecuban—how it thrilled one to hear the names of whichHorace used to sing in the great days of the Caesars—wereall he had been accustomed to. Piso was a great admirer of Horaceand of Virgil, but referred in his conversation to many otherauthors, of whom we moderns had only heard the names. Perhaps itwas our stronger liquors which excited him; but after dinner,when we commenced smoking, a habit which, in its uttermeaninglessness, filled him with wonder, he began to ask oncemore about Rome. Of course, Rome stood where it was, he knewthat, and was the capital of Italy, he knew that fact also, whatelse would it be? But he had never realized that the Rome ofto-day could be other than the Rome of his fathers, whereof he hadread in their archives the records of its grandeur and its power.He had heard what we said the previous evening, but he could notrealize its truth. Was not Rome still the mistress of the world,still the centre of art, literature, culture, and civilization?he asked eagerly, evidently anticipating an answer in theaffirmative.

His face was a study when Professor Barlow, opening an atlas,showed him first the Europe and then the Italy of to-day. He thenonce more informed him that the Rome of his fathers, the Romethat was mistress of the world, had long since passed away.

Piso sprang to his feet and gazed at us all keenly. I believehe imagined we were still in league to deceive him. But theevidence we adduced was more than sufficient to convince even soprejudiced a mind as his.

"Does not Rome still exist?" he asked hurriedly.

"Yes, most certainly, she still exists."

"Has she ever for a single year ceased to exist?"

"Never, from the days of Romulus until now."

"Then how could she lose her power? how could she be changed?how could it be that she no longer ruled the world as of yore?"he asked indignantly.

"Her people lost the justice, the sense of right, the love oftruth, the valour, and the simplicity that had made them great.The very things your ancestors disliked to see, and preferred toleave their country rather than endure, spread over the whole ofItaly. They ate out all that was grand in the character of aRoman. The Romans became luxurious, vicious, cruel, andtyrannical, until the very nations they had conquered anddespised, rose up in turn and conquered them."

"And our language?"

"Is now a dead or unspoken language, familiar only to thelearned."

A deep groan broke from Piso. His emotion was pitiable towitness. His features were working convulsively. Large tears werestanding in his eyes. We were witnessing the death of a Roman'spride of race.

"Proceed," he said in husky tones.

"It is now more than 1400 years since the Gauls and othertribes rose up against Rome and brought it to its doom."

"But when the men of that day saw the evils which they werebringing on themselves, why did they not stop and revert to thesimplicity of the age of the Scipios, or Cato, or grand oldCincinnatus? Why did not the rulers of the time cut out thecancer from the manners of the people?"

"The vice had eaten too deeply into the life of the people.The grand old name of Roman had no longer any power to charm. Theemperors were the most vicious men of the time, and it waslargely owing to their vices that Rome became what it did—abyword of reproach for all that was vile."

"But the old Roman valour—"

"Was gone for ever. The Romans themselves lost the ability tofight. They hired the conquered tribes to fight for them, andgradually the latter got the upper hand, until Rome was thricetaken and sacked by them."

"Rome taken and sacked," groaned Piso, striking his foreheadwith his hand. "O my fatherland, my fatherland!—disgracedand dishonoured—would that we had been there to have foughtfor thee," and, burying his face in his hands, Piso sobbedaloud.

The Professor endeavoured to console him, but the Consul wouldaccept no sympathy. His sole cry, when any such attempt was madewas, "Carthago, Carthago, thou art terribly avenged!" And withthese words on his lips he re-entered the galley, which hadreturned for him after putting the lictors on shore, and insistedon being conveyed to the Senate House as rapidly as possible.Such terrible news as that he had just learned was not capable ofbeing borne alone. Their pride and their glory had fallen. TheRome of their dreams had never had any existence.

And thus, 1400 years after Rome fell, its fell was mourned bya colony far beyond the limits of the Roman world, of whoseexistence the haughty senators on the banks of the Tiber hadheard no mention.

As Piso went down into his galley, weeping bitterly the while,old Job the boatswain happened to be standing by the rope-ladderdown which the Consul descended.

"Shiver my timbers!—wot's up with the old bloke. He'sa-turned on the waterworks and no mistake," said the old man tome.

"He's weeping for the fall of his country—the countrythat his fathers belonged to in Europe, I mean."

Job shook his head meditatively. "How long ago is it sin' thatere fall 'appened, sir?"

"About 1400 years, Job."

"About what?" shouted the old boatswain.

"About 1400 years," I replied gravely.

"Well, I'll be jiggered!—'ere's a bloke a-blubberin'like a bloomin' baby for a thing that 'appened fourteen 'unneryears ago—s'elp me, wot'll we see nixt, some blazin' oldbuffer a-'owlin' over old Father Adam an' the happle: s'elp me,but it's a rummy part o' the world this 'ere;" and Job, turningover his quid with a philosophic shake of his head, hitched uphis nether garments and lounged away to find his crony, SandyRobb, to whom he might confide the account of the wonderfulspectacle he had witnessed of a man weeping as if his heart wouldbreak over an event that occurred 1400 years ago.


THAT evening we were startled by hearing sounds resembling themost agonizing wails and moans proceeding from nearly everyquarter of the city. We were utterly at a loss to imagine whatthe reason of the noises could be. In the dusk of thefast-approaching tropical night we could see figures flittinghither and thither, carrying lanterns in their hands. But thewharves were deserted, although but a few hours previously theyhad been crowded with figures, eagerly watching every movement onboard the vessel.

To Professor Barlow the matter presented itself in the lightof a scientific problem that had to be solved at all costs.

"I cannot conceive what it means. The sounds are like nothingI ever heard," he said, with a puzzled expression.

"Could any great religious ceremony be going on?" Isuggested.

"Don't you think we should have heard more stir about itduring the day?" replied Barlow.

"Humph!" growled Captain Bob. "You never can tell what theseout-of-the-way fellows are up to. Who knows but they may bepreparing some hostile demonstration against us. It's bad policyto sleep with both eyes in an unknown country."

At this moment a small boat shot out from one of the westernwharves, with the evident intention of proceeding across to oneon the eastern side of the bay. As it had to pass under our bows,the Professor hailed the two men who were seated in it, and askedthem what was going on in the city. For a few minutes they wereso much astonished at being hailed in their own tongue from themysterious vessel, that they were unable to reply. That they wereterrified was evident, for, as we heard afterwards, the lowerclasses in the city regarded our artillery as undeniable proof ofour divine origin.

The Professor had to repeat his question before he received areply. Then one of them, bolder than his fellow, shouted, "We aremourning the fall of our mother-city Rome, which the barbarianshave destroyed." Immediately thereafter they rowed away with allspeed, as if amazed at their own temerity.

For some time we looked at one another in dumb amazement atthe very idea of an entire colony lamenting an event which hadhappened 1400 years ago. However, it afforded us a vivid insightinto the pride of race engrained in the nature of the NewSicilians, diluted though it had been through centuries oftime.

"Upon my word, I'd like to see their ceremonies," said theProfessor. "What do you say if we go ashore?"

"Don't, Professor; be thankful you have got back safely,"replied the mate hurriedly.

"But what is the danger, Mr. Rodgers? You are continuallythrowing out vague hints. What do they all mean?"

"Ah! but that's more than I can tell, Professor. I have onlysuspicions to go on, but they are pretty deeply rooted."

"And yet you admit yourself they are a fine, noble, manlyrace."

"That's all true, sir," replied the mate earnestly. "They areas noble a set of fellows as you could wish to meet. But since wecame here I've found out from Emilius, who had learned to speak afew sentences of English from your brother-in-law, that thecommon people have one deep-seated prejudice, and that is againstforeigners. They can be kind and hospitable enough, but Ihonestly believe they fear lest foreigners should bring somepower from Europe to wrest their country from them. Love of theirnative land seems a craze with them."

"Humph! there's something in that certainly; but I can't seewhat danger we should run."

"Won't the minds of the lower orders of the population beexcited over the intelligence of the fall of Rome? It seemsridiculous to us, but it doubtless is terribly real to them, forRome was their paradise, apparently. Won't the lower classes,when they hear that Rome was destroyed by barbarians, class usall in the same category, and take their revenge?" said CaptainAnstey thoughtfully.

"Anstey, I must see those ceremonies. I may never have such achance again. We'll go armed. You'll come also, Markham,"continued the Professor, turning to me.

I eagerly assented, but Captain Bob and Rodgers both shooktheir heads, the former adding:

"I had better stick by the ship, Professor. Without flatteringmyself, it might be awkward if anything happened to me, for thatwould leave our friend Rodgers, here, single-handed."

"All right, Captain, do as you think best; but let's get away,Markham, as soon as possible."

And so it came about that the Professor and I were once moreto assume the rôle of explorers.

We took with us a small revolver apiece, and then, arrangingthat the boat should be sent ashore for us when I sounded myship's whistle, we descended into a dinghy and were pulled overto the main or central wharf.

Around the wharves the vast warehouses and stores, built ofwhite marble and rising to a height of five and six stories,gleamed ghostly white in the moonlight. But not a figure did wesee near them. All was silent. Once more we traversed thetree-lined avenue leading up from the waterside, and gained theVia Marcella, the main thoroughfare of the city, whichcommunicated with the Forum. Along this street a few pedestrianswere hurrying towards the marketplace, which evidently was therendezvous for all the citizens.

To that place we directed our steps. The scene that met ourgaze was a remarkable one. The immense square of the Forum wasliterally packed with people, all intent upon the ceremony thatwas being transacted at the farther end. There, on a raisedplatform in front of the temple of Jupiter Capitolinus, stood alarge number of white-robed priests surrounding the PontifexMaximus, or High Priest, who was offering propitiatory sacrificesto the god. Round the platform stood crowds of professionalmourners, who beat their breasts, threw dust upon their heads,and rolled on the ground to evince the intensity of their sorrow.These had been the cries we heard on board the Fitzroy.Then all became silent as a new phase of the ceremonies wasentered upon.

The scene was a weird one. The spectators all carried torches.The façades of the noble buildings flanking each side of thesquare were literally in a blaze of illumination, not as a signof joy, but of grief. Amongst the multitude were people of allages, ranks, and conditions, standing silent and mournful,watching the priests. Not a sound broke the terrible stillnesssave a soft sigh, as of summer zephyrs passing through a grove ofaspens at eventide, when the High Priest referred to the fell ofRome. One after another the black oxen on which were laid theoffences of the people against their gods were slaughtered, andthen burnt on the altars; the attendant priests meantimeceaselessly maintaining a low chant, which Professor Barlowwhispered to me was the ancient hymn of the FratresArvales, dating back to the ancient days of the Sabines andEtruscans.

By quietly edging ourselves through the crowd, who were toomuch engrossed with their religious rites to pay much attentionto us, we had been able to advance pretty close to the platformwhereon the sacrifices were being performed. At a little distancefrom us, surrounded by his lictors and the soldiers of the SecondLegion, stood Piso the Consul, attended by many of the senators.Among so many persons attired in the flowing toga and wearing nohead-covering, our European garb and ship's caps soon attractedthe attention of the priests. I noticed that the Pontifex Maximuseyed us very intently all through the ceremony, until the timecame when the priestly curse had to be pronounced on those whohad occasioned Rome's downfall. The Pontifex pronounced it,gazing at us the while, until he came to the words, "Accursed,thrice accursed be ye," when he raised his hand and pointeddirectly towards us.

In an instant a terrible tumult arose, and for some moments itseemed as though we were to be torn to pieces. A hundred handsseemed to be laid on us, and the cry arose, "To the TarpeianRock!" whence we should have been cast into the sea below, asheer drop of seven or eight hundred feet. In vain did Piso,after an angry expostulation addressed to the Pontiff, order thelegionaries to proceed to our rescue. They positively could notreach us through the dense struggling mass. At that moment Imanaged to draw my revolver, and raising it above my head, firedthrice into the air. The effect was marvellous. The crowd fellaway from us on every side like the retiring waves of the sea,leaving a clear space, in the centre of which we stood. Thelegionaries themselves were daunted, but their leader ralliedthem, and they flung danger. He promptly despatched the boat witha heavily-armed crew under the command of Job Simpson, whoseinstructions were to fire at the crowd only as a last resource;but, if need arose, to fire over their heads as much as he likedto intimidate them. Accordingly, while we were embarking, and thelegionaries were hard put to it to keep the crowd from followingus down the wharf steps, Job ordered his men to fire a volleyinto the air, which had the effect of sending our pursuersscampering up the approach leading to the wharves as if all thefiends in Hades were after them. All very well was it to laughwhen we were out of the wood, but our escape was rather toonarrow to be pleasant.

"I tell you what, Professor, this business is a little too hotfor peace-loving people like ourselves," said Anstey, after wehad got safely on board.

"Oh! it was all due to the high priest," I retortedquickly.

"We were watching the sacrifices when the high priest actuallypointed at us as the authors of the misfortune which hadovertaken Rome. Of course the people were maddened and irritated,and their sentimental patriotism took fire at once. Had Markhamnot fired his revolver, and thus created a diversion, whichenabled the legionaries to reach us, I fear we should not havebeen here to tell you the story."

"Good Heavens! what a set of wretches, to assault unoffendingstrangers! They deserve punishment," cried Anstey.

"Nay, nay," interposed the Professor. "The people are not toblame. The high priest is the cause of all. He evidently has adeep-seated hatred against all foreigners, and would slaughterevery one of us if he could."

"Humph! it strikes me the sooner we get out of this hole thebetter," growled Captain Bob.

"Right! If my advice is worth anything, I would say the same,"said the mate.

"What! and lose such an opportunity as this for the study ofthe customs of this mysterious people? Not a bit. This dislike ofus will soon cool down. Piso and the best men in the Senate don'tshare in it. They are our friends. The old priest's enmity to uscannot last for ever. I could not leave the place withoutlearning more about it. Besides, can we leave the fate of mybrother-in-law uncertain? I must go into the Cave of Gems."

Rodgers turned away with a sigh and shook his head. The restof us were conversing on the poop regarding the situation when wesaw a small galley leave the wharf, and come directly towards uswith great speed. To our surprise our friend Lepidus was standingon its deck. The little craft was not long in reaching us, andsoon Lepidus stood amongst us.

"The consul and the high priest both regret what has happenedto-night," said Lepidus, after the preliminary greetings wereover, "and they have sent me to assure you that the Pontifexmeant nothing towards you personally when he extended his hand inyour direction."

"But he pointed at us," cried the Professor indignantly.

"That was only by accident, and he is deeply distressed overthe occurrence. He would have come over himself, but is detainedby the special sacrifices to Castor and Pollux that lastthroughout the night."

For a time the Professor seemed inclined to make more of theinsult than would have been advisable if he wished afterwards toremain on friendly terms with the people. But presently hisdesire to learn something more regarding this extraordinary raceprevailed over every other consideration, and soon Lepidusdeparted with the assurance that the occurrence would not beallowed to interfere with the friendly relations that hadhitherto prevailed between the New Sicilians and ourselves.


ABOUT a mile from the promontory constituting the right arm ofthe bay, at the head of which stood Nova Messana, and at adistance of perhaps two miles from our anchorage, lay a smallisland, densely wooded, but from the top of whose precipitoussides peeped the ruined walls of what seemed an ancient castle.As we could not visit the town for a day or two, we determined toexplore the little island. Accordingly, taking with us provisionsfor at least a day and a night, and each arming himself with hisrevolver, the Professor, Anstey, and I, accompanied by twosailors, started early one morning, before the smoke rising fromNova Messana had announced that the citizens had awakened to thelabours and the cares of another day. We rowed leisurely acrossto the island, whose sides, as we approached, appeared more andmore precipitous and unscalable. At last we discovered a littlecove which seemed to have answered the purposes of alanding-place, because at its upper end we observed the remainsof an ancient stone pier and a wooden wharf. But as far as wecould see, no vessels had discharged cargo at the island for manya long year, nor did it appear inhabited.

We succeeded in effecting a landing, and ascended the pathleading from the sea. Presently we reached the remains of aconsiderable township or village. But still no inhabitants. Thehouses, some of them in good preservation, appeared to have beenlong deserted. The first of them we entered, but only to startback in horror and surprise. There, facing us was a bleachedskeleton, lying on the remains of what had once been a bed.Evidences of wealth and refinement lay scattered around, goldendrinking-cups, platters and goblets, jewels of enormous value,and rich stuffs, and cloth of gold—mouldering away,evidently through sheer lapse of time. In the next house the sameterrible spectacle presented itself What could the mysterymean?

"Blow my buttons, but these 'ere blokes seem terrible gone onskellingtons," muttered the redoubtable Job, after we had visitedone or two other houses, only to find the same inexplicablephenomenon, and with it similar evidences of wealth and almostostentatious display of splendour. Sometimes the bodies werethose of males, sometimes of females, sometimes they were lyingon beds, at other times on the floors. Sometimes portions oftheir frames seemed to have dropped off, in others they werelacking altogether. It was after we had observed this peculiarityin one or two instances that I noticed an anxious puzzled lookpass over the Professor's features. He then directed our stepstowards a large building which stood at a little distance fromthe others, and seemed, from its size, to be of some importance.As we entered it we all experienced the same shrinking dread ofsome horrible revelation about to be unfolded. We were notdeceived. Scarcely had we passed the threshold than noisomeodours assailed our nostrils. We turned into a large lofty roomlined with low beds, one or two of which seemed to bear a ghastlyburden. From one of the beds near the door a feeble cry came, andwe saw "something," from which portions of hands, feet, ears, andnose had rotted away, roll on the floor, and, holding out itsmaimed hands, entreat compassion. It was all that remained of thefigure of a man.

"Leprosy!" cried the Professor in horror; "we are in alazaretto."

The effect produced upon us was terrible. Though leprosy hadbeen more common in Australia than in England, where there are noChinese communities, still none of us had been brought intocontact with anything like this. It was an appalling proof of theprevalence of the disease among the New Sicilians.

But if the realization of his surroundings had startled theProfessor for a moment, the feeble cry of the lonely suffererrecalled him to a sense of his duties. "Aqua, aqua,"moaned the hideous "Life-in-Death" at our feet.

"We must assist him. Something has happened unexpectedly,otherwise he would not have been so terribly neglected," saidBarlow rapidly. Then, turning to me, he said: "Fill that can withwater from the tank standing outside, then go and get some ofthose broad palm-leaves on the trees near the gate." I did so,and returned with several. "Now bind them over my hands and placemy handkerchief in my mouth. There, that will do. Leprosy iscontagious, but not infectious; ordinary precautions aresufficient to guard against danger."

When I returned with the can of water, he poured a little ofthe liquid into a wine-cup, and, adding some whisky, he held itto the lips of the poor leper, who drank eagerly. Then theProfessor, stooping, raised the maimed frame and laid it gentlyupon the bed. After receiving some bread soaked in the whisky,the leper, who had been literally dying of thirst and starvation,was able to talk, and in reply to the Professor's questions,explained that the island had for centuries been the refuge forthose afflicted with leprosy in Nova Sicilia. Some years before,in consequence of a severe famine that had raged in the country,and when food was scarce and poor in quantity, the cases ofleprosy had enormously increased, particularly among the lowerclasses. All without distinction were sent to the island, and astrict quarantine maintained. Once every fortnight a galley cameacross to the island with food and supplies for the sufferers;while two of the town doctors also visited them to alleviate, ifpossible, the anguish of their torments. A painless death througha subtle drug called letifolium was always offered them,but only in few instances had it been accepted. Life was deareven to those whose torments were so great.

The leper added that it had been the custom for those amongstthem who were better in health than the others to assist thelatter, and to cook for them. The inmates of the island had,however, been reduced to three, and but two days before, the twoother sufferers, who had ministered to him, had been drowned bythe capsizing of the boat while fishing in the cove, and ofcourse he had been unable to assist them. He had managed to crawlback to his bed in the hospital, where lay the unburied corpsesof the two others, whom the survivors had been unable to bury. Hewas lying praying for death when he heard our footsteps. Thegalley was due in two days more. He begged us to leave him foodand water sufficient for his needs until then.

"My poor fellow, we'll do all we can to help you," said theProfessor warmly. "Markham, you'll help me, I know, to conveythese two bodies to some other place, so that our friend here maybe freed from their presence."

I assented at once, but as in the hospital there was the samenoisome odour we had experienced on entering, in place of movingthe bodies whence, we carried the living man to one of the housesclose by, where he could see the medical officers when theyarrived.

We then made our patient as comfortable as circ*mstances wouldpermit, leaving him a supply of whisky diluted with water, andbread steeped in it, which he could easily masticate with histoothless gums. We promised also to communicate with the shore,so that a boat might be sent off to his assistance.

Then we beat a hasty retreat. Not a minute too soon, for bothJob Simpson and his fellow-seaman, as well as Captain Anstey,were beginning to look, as the skipper said, "very white aboutthe gills" through being so long associated with such a scene ofhorror.

On leaving the cove we rowed round the island as though wewere only taking a morning's excursion. Fortunately we were notperceived until we were almost within hail of the vessel.

"No more of such expeditions for me, Professor," said Anstey,as we clambered up the side of the Fitzroy.

"My dear skipper, if we hadn't gone across, that poor fellowwould have perished by the most awful of deaths, from hunger andthirst."

That of course was true, but it was many a long day before theimpression produced by the terrible scenes we had beheld on theisland of "Life-in-Death" lost their power to produce a shudderof horror in me whenever they were recalled.

That afternoon we were again honoured by a visit from thecenturion Lepidus, to whom Professor Barlow communicated theintelligence that when we had been taking a sail round the baythat morning, we had been hailed from the little island, andrequested by a man who appeared to be all alone there, to informthe authorities on shore that he was urgently in need ofhelp.

"The island—why, that is the Island of Death—yousurely did not land there!" cried Lepidus, springing to his feetwith alarm written on every feature.

"Land—there—why, what should we do landing there?"replied the Professor, wearing a most innocent expression ofcountenance; "what is on the island?"

Lepidus betrayed confusion when the question was put to him.He then answered, "We do not like to refer to it, but for a greatmany years past that is where we have had to send our lepers. Noone, save our doctors, has set foot there for many a long day,and they use the greatest precautions when they do so."

"But leprosy is not infectious. I have handled many leperswithout any evil results accruing."

Lepidus shook his head. "I will send over a boat in themorning. We have three other cases to be taken across, and ourdoctors have to make their annual report this visit. I am gladyou did not land, as, if you did, the people of the town wouldshun you like a pestilence."

After he retired I fear we rather laughed over the trepidationof poor Lepidus. Well it was we did not know the consequences ourvisit to the island was to produce.

Early next morning the port watch reported that a galley hadgone over to the island, and after some hours' delay we saw itreturning. We observed those on board looking at us verycuriously as the vessel passed, rapidly propelled by her longsweeps.

That night two of our sailors obtained permission to go ashorein order to obtain a supply of fresh water. They had made threetrips to and from the shore, when, to our surprise, we saw anofficer with a small detachment of legionaries come down to wherethe men were working and order them back to the ship. At firstthe sailors did not seem inclined to comply, but on seeing thesoldiers preparing to use force, they hurriedly completed thefilling of their casks, and returned to us. Anstey interrogatedthem over the incident.

"Blowed if I knowed a word o' their lingo, but they kep'pintin' to the hiland yonder, and the gent in the tin hat lookedso bloomin' ugly at us that we thought it wos time to clearout."

"I'll be bound they have heard of our visit to the island, andwish to quarantine us," said the Professor, grimly.

"Humph! it's a blue look-out for us if they do."

"Why so?"

"Because we want fresh provisions, and water, and heaps ofthings," replied Anstey. "Only a quarter of our casks are filled,and our condenser works so slowly it wouldn't keep us going indrinking water, far less what is needed for cooking."

The Professor looked grave.

"We must discover some means to break down their antipathy tous. I am longing to see Piso, and to get him to take me to theCave of Gems."

During the next two or three days we remained cooped up onboard the vessel, directing longing glances the while towards theshore, but precluded from setting foot on it.

At last, however, the Professor became impatient. He declaredhe would stand the confinement no longer. He stated his intentionof going on shore that night, and invited the skipper and myselfto accompany him.

"I tell you, I don't like leaving the vessel at present,Professor; but Markham and you can go again, although I don'tthink it's wise policy at all."

"But we can't remain like prisoners here; we must try to breakdown their antipathy against us. I don't ask you to go with us,Anstey, but I certainly intend to explore the coast-lineto-night, if I possibly can."

Captain Anstey said no more. He considered that the Professorand I were recklessly rushing on our doom. The prospect, however,was too tempting for me to think of declining it, and that night,when all seemed quiet in Nova Messana, we descended into a boat,and rowed quickly shorewards. Both the Professor and myself wereheavily armed, and we each carried a blue light to burn in caseof extreme emergency.


AN element of excitement entered into our expedition. We didnot know the lengths to which the inhabitants of Nova Siciliamight be inclined to proceed in their opposition to us. Ifcaptured, death might be our portion, for we were both well awareof the horror which the disease of leprosy aroused in the mindsof those who had not carefully studied its symptoms. Our positionrendered caution indispensable. Therefore, after leaving theneighbourhood of the wharves, we skirted the coast-line,examining each building as we passed it. The road ran parallelwith the shore the whole length of the bay, and while entirelyopen to seaward, was, on its landward side, flanked by nobleedifices—now a warehouse, now a temple, then a gladiatorialschool, and a course for chariot races—each buildingmassive, substantial, and imposing.

Of pedestrians we met but few. The night was dark; our garbwas not very different from that of the Sicilians, for we bothwore close-fitting skull-caps, which, in the dim light, wereentirely invisible. One or two of those we encountered looked atus for a moment, then turned away indifferently, but the majoritytook not the slightest notice of us.

We at length reached a large, fine-looking structure situateabout a mile from the wharves. This we proposed to visit.Entrance to it was obtained by a narrow road, which, passingunder an archway, led us along a short avenue lined with shrubsresembling cypresses, to the front of the building. We noticedwhen we reached the doorway that there were no windows in thefaçade, and that it presented to us one unbroken front, onlyrelieved here and there by fake pilasters, between which wereniches for statuary.

"It strikes me we have dropped across one of theircolumbaria, or receptacles for holding the ashes of theirdead, like the one which exists in the Via Appia in Rome, whichbelonged to Livia, the wife of Augustus," said the Professormusingly.

"Shall we enter?" I asked doubtingly.

"Of course; we may never have such a chance again," repliedBarlow eagerly. "The door is open. I have brought a dark lanternwith me."

We therefore entered, but had not proceeded far into thebuilding when we found our progress barred by another door, whichwas fastened, and resisted all our efforts to open it. We wereabout to retire in disappointment, when we observed thefastenings to be on the outside, making it an easy matter for usto obtain entrance. We were not long in doing so, and took theprecaution of securing the door after us on the inside. To oursurprise, when we had traversed a short passage, which brought usinto an immense circular chamber, we found the latter dimlylighted by myriads of little lamps. The interior resembled theancient Scriptoria of the monasteries, being honeycombed withniches exactly like large pigeon-holes. Many of these were sealedup and had a tablet in front of them, whereon was inscribed thename of the deceased whose ashes were inclosed in the cineraryurns within.

In some cases the slabs sealing up the niches had becomebroken, or had decayed from sheer age, and exposed the urnsinside. Many of them were of pure gold adorned with jewels,others of stone. In all, the workmanship and artistic finish wereexquisite.

The ashes of thousands of persons were evidently resting inthis silent and sacred edifice. Many were the touching tributesof parents to children, of children to parents, of wives tohusbands, and husbands to wives, that met our gaze. Nor were theyunlike what one commonly notices in the present day."Oh, Metella!" sighed one young lover, "the light of my life has goneout since the light died out of your eyes.""Oh, Sulpicius," wailed a fond wife, "how can I endure life without you?""Little Quintus, we shall no more listen to thy charming baby prattle.Vale, oh, carissime," mourned a broken-hearted pair over theirfirst-born.And so on. But why increase the catalogue of sorrows?Have we not the same records daily meeting us here? Sorrow overdeath is the one catholic emotion wherein all ages, races, andcivilizations join hands in mournful unity.

While we were talking and noting here and there inscriptionsof more than ordinary interest, to our surprise we heard voicesapproaching along one of the passages which ran off in variousdirections from the principal chamber. These passages were alsofilled with niches. We listened a moment, and heard a soft femalevoice pleading in piteous tones for life. As we did not wish tobe discovered as yet, we also stepped down another of thepassages, and concealed ourselves.

Scarcely had we done so when we were astonished to see tworuffians enter, dragging with them a maiden of surpassing beauty.From what I could overhear, it appeared she had been very ill,and was believed to have died. The body had, therefore, beengiven over to the crematory functionaries to be reduced to ashes.Just when they were about to begin, life once more made itselfmanifest, and before the astonished attendants were aware, thegirl had revived. As they had already received the money for hercremation, they did not relish the idea of returning it, andtherefore were going to put this beyond a doubt by slaughteringthe unfortunate girl in cold blood.

"But why kill me?" she pleaded in agonized tones. "Take me tomy friends, and they will reward you."

"Oh, we know a little too much for that! They would demandback the money they gave us, and we should get nothing for ourtrouble," retorted one of the ruffians.

"Oh, have you no pity? Take me home, and I swear to you, bythe faith of Minerva, that you shall be richly rewarded."

"We prefer to keep the reward we have," said the otherscoundrel with a brutal leer.

"Oh, spare me, and I will go away and let you keep the money!I will let my parents think I am dead; spare me, and no one willever know I am not dead." The beauty and grace of the maidenwould have melted many a heart, but these men were of stone.

"Come on—we are wasting time—give her a stab withyour knife, Tatius, and it'll be all over in a moment."

"Help, help!" shrieked the girl, in the vain hope that hercries might pierce the walls of this terrible chamber of thedead. "Oh, Juno—Mother of Heaven, save me!"

A Mystery of the Pacific (8)

"Help, help!" shrieked the girl.

In another instant the Professor and I had thrown ourselves onthe villains, who, taken by surprise and evidently considering usunearthly visitants, dropped terror-stricken to the ground. Ifear I was guilty of striking men that were down, so maddened wasI with their cruelty. They would carry certain marks with them totheir grave as the result of that night's rencontre.

Meantime the girl was gazing upon us entranced, believing wehad appeared in answer to her prayers. When I went forward to hershe would have thrown herself at my feet. But, restraining her, Itook off my long cloak and threw it over her, thus preventing herfrom contracting a chill from the damp night air.

Presently the Professor, after he had securely fettered thetwo men, returned to us, and asked the girl her name and whereshe lived.

"My father is a senator, and I belong to the Cornelian gens;my name is Cornelia, and my father's is Tullus Cornelius Stolo,brother-in-law to Piso the Consul. We live in the ViaSaluberrima. But who are ye, my deliverers?—are ye menor gods?"

"Men, my dear child," said the Professor kindly; "we are of alike nature to yourself. We chanced to be here when thesevillains entered with you, and were in time to save you."

I fear the look poor Cornelia cast upon us was of a much morereverential nature than either the Professor or I deserved.

"Some of my clothing is on the bier whereon I was broughthere. Ah! I remember!—I was sick—sick unto death. Irecollect feeling as though I were really dying, and my poorparents must have thought I was so."

"Think no more of it," cried the Professor cheerily. "Manycases happen like that: it is only a swoon or trance; you will bewell and strong now, I have no fear. Come, and we will go withyou to get the remainder of your clothing, and when you havedressed we'll talk over what is to be done."

But Cornelia had scarcely donned her robes again when we heardthe sound of many voices talking in front of thecolumbarium, and then the door was violently shaken. Inthe silence that followed we distinctly overheard a voice say: "Itell you, I saw them with my own eyes go in there. I sent Plautuson to summon you, and I remained to watch."

Then a second voice replied: "But what could they want there?They were over at Leper Island a day or two ago."

"Want there! why, they say some of these barbarians eat humanflesh. They are harpies. You remember the body of Cornelia, thedaughter of Cornelias Stolo, was to have been burned to-night.Here is her brother. That is what attracted them, I suppose,"added a third voice.

"Nonsense! these men are more like gods than men. What wouldthey want eating dead bodies? You are fools!" rejoined a voice,evidently of some one in authority.

"But Tatius and Spurius should be there at the crematory; whydo they not come and open? Ho,Tatius!—Tatius!—Spurius, ho!"

The Professor, drawing himself up to his full height, andseizing his lantern, strode down the passage, and, throwing openthe door, flashed the light over the sea of faces in front ofhim, demanding in stentorian tones, "What do you want withme?"

For several moments a dead silence prevailed amongst thecrowd. Then a voice replied, "What are you doing there?"

"Come inside and I will show you what my companion and I havebeen doing," said the Professor, as he turned back and strodeonce more into the columbarium. In a few seconds the placewas filled with an eager crowd. They were stupefied to seestanding before them, at my side, the girl who, they believed,had died a day or two before. Distinctly I heard one of the mensay to his neighbour, "They are gods come down to earth, and theyhave raised her from the dead."

Amongst the crowd was the brother of Cornelia, who, aftergazing upon her for a few moments in speechless amazement, rushedforward towards her with the cry, "Cornelia, carissima,can it be really you?"

And Cornelia, running to meet him, fell upon his bosom andburst into tears. But her emotion only lasted for a short space.Raising herself from his arms she pointed to us and cried, "Ah!Julius, I should never have been here had it not been for thosegood men."

The crowd, impressed by her manner, fell back mutely towardsthe walls of the columbarium as Cornelia, pointing to thetwo wretches that lay bound at our feet, proceeded to relate herstory. When she finished, a howl of rage rose from the ring oflisteners: "Away with such brutes!" "Kill the villains!" "I neverdid like Tatius and Spurius: they were always cold-blooded.""Down with them!" were amongst the expressions that broke fromthe crowd.

Julius, advancing towards us, and holding out his hands to us,said: "Ah! friends, you little know how great a burden of sorrowyou have lifted from our household. May Jupiter and Minervaeverlastingly preserve you! May your paths ever be fortunate, andmay the sun of your prosperity never set!"

"My dear young friend, we have done nothing. We simply came inhere to visit the columbarium, and while we were herethose scoundrels attempted to murder your sister, whom the nightair had revived from her trance."

But Julius shook his head, and with tears in his eyes he kneltat our feet. "You say that because you do not wish to be troubledwith our gratitude. You are the beloved of the gods. Whatsoeveryou ask they will do, even to sending the thunder of Jupiter. Ah!be not so hard-hearted as to prevent my revered father fromthanking you in person."

"My dear lad, we must get back to our friends. They will beanxious about us. We merely came to take a walk. It is now verylate."

"Then turn back with us to the city," pleaded the lad; andCornelia joined her voice with his in entreating us.

"I fear we cannot go," I urged in substantiation of theProfessor's refusal.

Suddenly an elderly man, who stood in the front row of theonlookers, said: "These good men ought to return with us,otherwise what evidence have we to convict Tatius and Spurius?"and the crowd, with their Roman sense of justice, murmured anapproval.

"I see we'll have to go or give offence, and that is notwise," whispered the Professor to me; then, turning to Julius, hesaid: "In those circ*mstances we will go."

Our decision was received with great approval. The companyfiled out of the columbarium, leading Tatius and Spuriuswith them; torches were lighted, and we began to return to thecity. But not by way of the coast road. At a little distance fromthe columbarium ran a cross-road, which conducted one directlyfrom the coast into the Forum. Hence we were but a short time onour journey. Julius and Cornelia walked by our side conversingwith us, while there was a struggle amongst the others as to whoshould have the honour of journeying along with us. How easilypopular passions are swayed!

Just when we were approaching the mansion of Stolo we met theold senator himself, along with Piso his brother-in-law, hurryingto meet us. Some one had gone ahead and broken the news, and asthe houses of Stolo and Piso were almost contiguous, to arousethe one was to arouse the other.

The brothers-in-law were in a painful state of excitement.They could not believe the news of Cornelia's resurrection. Nay,it was not until she had thrown herself into their arms, almosthysterical with joy, that they could credit the fact. That it wasa miracle, and we the workers of it, they seemed to have nodoubt. Presently the old senator, having tenderly embraced hisdaughter thus rendered "back from the dead," turned to us, and,raising his hand to heaven, he thanked the gods that they hadsent their messengers to earth to achieve so beneficent a work.Then he laid his hand first upon my head, and afterwards uponBarlow's, blessing us despite all our disclaimers, and vowingsacrifices innumerable in thanksgiving.

Nor was Piso less slow to show his gratitude. Nothing would dobut we must enter the house of Stolo and drink one cup of wine.As for Tatius and Spurius, his wrath towards them was terrible.Calling one of the guards that by night and by day watched theconsular dwelling, "Take them," he said, "and place them in thehold in the Leontian prison. On the morrow I will deal with themas they deserve;" and so the two wretches were dragged away, andwe saw them no more.

Considering the unseasonable hour of the night, we would onlyconsent to enter the atrium of Stolo's house for a few minutes.Only one or two intimate friends were present besides ourselves,Cornelia having been hurried away to receive the embraces of hermother. Presently a slave entered with the wine-mixers—jarswherein water and wine were mingled in equalproportions—the New Sicilians following the example oftheir Latin ancestors in never drinking the wine undiluted.

After we had each been presented with a cup of Falernian,which for all the world resembled sweet Madeira, the Professorrose, and in a little speech congratulated Stolo on the recoveryof his daughter. The senator, although somewhat surprised, made adignified and affecting reply, wherein he reiterated his undyinggratitude to us for our action in the matter: "The gods, who keepyou in the hollow of their hand, may yet enable me to evince itin some way."

Thereafter we insisted on returning to the vessel. Stolo andPiso both intimated their intention of accompanying us to thewharves, and so, in the early morning, through the silent streetsof Nova Messana we were conducted by the consul and hisbrother-in-law, each vying with the other in showing us honour.Ere long we were once more on board the Fitzroy, full ofthankfulness that all had ended so well.


THE next day or two were spent in sightseeing around NovaMessana. Stolo and Piso could not do enough to show theirgratitude. We could see, however, that there was always anundercurrent of anxiety running through all they said and did aslong as we were on shore. More than once I noticed the expressionof relief which overspread their countenances when we took leaveof them, and returned to our vessel for the night. It was asthough they would say, "We have protected you throughout anotherday, but how long it may last we know not." The Professor andPiso visited the Cave of Gems with its immense ramifications ofworkings, but were able to obtain no trace of Captain Webster."I'll go back alone some day, or with you, Markham, and see whatI can do in the matter. Piso seemed afraid of getting lost."

One day, when I was standing alone on the wharf, one of Piso'sfriends, a young philosopher belonging to the Stoic school in thecity, and the acknowledged lover of Cornelia, approached me andsaid in a low tone as he stood beside me, "It is a friend whospeaks. I like you and your companions. Do not appear alone inour city, and always carry with you the heavenly fire."—Hereferred to our revolvers.—"Our common people hate you asforeigners; our old men, headed by the Pontifex, hate you becausethey fear you will expose some of their tricks to gull thepeople. Your unfortunate visit to Leper Island, or the Island ofDeath, has given them an occasion for stirring up enmity againstyou, which it needs all the Consul's personal popularity to holdin check."

I thanked Naso for his advice, but pointed to my insidepocket, wherein lay my revolver.

He nodded. "You are wise," he said.

At that moment one of the wharf labourers approached the spotwhere we were standing, under the pretence of doing some work.Almost before I was aware, he had drawn a long knife and thrownhimself on me. But Naso was on his guard, and before the wretchcould reach me, the philosopher had hurled him back some paces,giving me time to draw my revolver. The fellow seemed to have aninstinctive dread of it, for with a howl of rage he ran off andrejoined his companions, who had been watching him. The situationlooked threatening.

"You had better get on board," cried Naso; "those fellows meanmischief."

"But you,—what of you?"

"Oh, they dare not attack me. They know they would die for itwithin an hour. But to kill you would be an act of religious zealfor which the pontifices would applaud them. These priestsneed a lesson; they are the hornets of our constitution."

"Why do you tolerate them?"

"The fear of the people, who reverence them. Now, there isyour boat coming across for you. Get on board your vessel asrapidly as possible, and I shall feel relieved about you."

But my assailants saw it coming too, and, seemingly, theydetermined to unite in a last attempt before I escaped them.Accordingly, they made a rush along the wharf towards me. I feltit was necessary to give them a lesson. Taking aim, therefore, atthe man who had already made the attempt upon me, and whoappeared to be the ringleader, I fired. With a groan the wretchfell writhing on the floor of the wharf, while his companionsstopped, terror-stricken at this new and awful weapon which couldcarry death at such a distance. Again I raised my arm and tookaim. The mere motion was sufficient. They fled like sheep. I hadpurposely aimed at the fellow's legs, so that the bullet, if ittook effect, might only maim, not kill him. Apparently it hadfound lodgment in the fleshy part of the thigh, for in a fewmoments he was able to drag himself away, looking with terrortowards me the while. By that time the boat from the vessel wasat hand. Taking farewell of Naso, I embarked, and soon was oncemore in our haven of refuge.

That afternoon a council of war was held on board the Fitzroy.Alarmed at the attack made on me, Mr. Rodgers, the mate, hadurged Barlow and Captain Anstey, by all the means of persuasionat his command, to leave the island of Nova Sicilia. This theProfessor was unwilling to do until he had studied the manners ofthe people a little further. He believed, and without doubtcorrectly, that never more would he have the chance of visitingthe island under circ*mstances so favourable. Mr. Rodgers, whohad been conversing with Naso on the previous day, impressed thefact upon us, that, with all their culture and civilization,their moral and political justice and rectitude, so great was thedread of Europe entertained by the inhabitants of Nova Sicilia,that they would kill every one of us sooner than allow any tocarry back to Europe the news of the island's existence. Itmattered not that Rome was no longer in the position she occupiedof old. The lower orders of the New Sicilians would regard thatas merely a tale to deceive them, as their belief in theinvincibility of the Roman Republic was too deep to be suddenlyeradicated.

"Well, in that case we must try to slip away as soon as I'vehad one more search for my brother-in-law. But I must say Iregret to leave a place that has never been pressed, as far as weknow, by the feet of discoverers before. Even as we are now, weare surely a match for them. We have one large gun and a lot ofsmall-arms."

"They would crush us by the sheer force of numbers, if it cameto that. But my belief is that no force would be used. We shouldsimply drop off mysteriously one by one."

"What do you mean by that, Rodgers?" cried Anstey, eagerly."How could they get at us? Where have you learned all this?"

"Naso has warned me. He says they have a very extensiveknowledge of poisons. They have some extracted from roots andstones, that kill in a very few seconds, the death beingabsolutely painless."

"Good Heavens! I say, Professor, I must confess I don't quitelike this job. Do you think it wise to remain?" retorted Ansteyanxiously. "I'm about as indifferent to danger as most men, but Idon't like the prospect of being robbed of life without somechance of escape."

"Well, I'll tell you what we'll do. We'll remain here anotherweek, and at the end of that we may fairly ask to be convoyed outof this seaweed trap. I really feel it would be a lostopportunity that might never recur were I to allow this visit toterminate without making another search, and also obtaining somemore notes on the island."

Reluctantly Captain Anstey agreed to the proposal

Meantime our friend Lepidus had arrived in the galley with amessage from the Consul to the Professor, that if he would comeashore in the vessel thus sent, Piso in person would conduct himthrough certain portions of the town where he had not yet been.He also invited Captain Anstey, Mr. Rodgers, and myself. But asthis meant that the vessel would be left entirely unprotected, itwas arranged that Rodgers and I should remain, and Anstey and theProfessor accompany the Consul on his tour of the city and to thecave.

We saw them depart, full of expectation and high spirits atthe prospect of a long day of sight-seeing. We were convinced ofthe bona fides of the Consul, and they would be under hisprotection. Then Mr. Rodgers and myself, after following themwith our gaze until they landed at the wharves and were conductedin state up the street out of sight, returned to the cabin, and,after filling our pipes, sat smoking and chatting for some time.Presently I began to feel myself getting terribly sleepy, towhich the sultry heat of the summer's afternoon in some degreecontributed. I could see that the mate was in the samepredicament, and could scarcely keep his eyes open. At length hefairly succumbed. On seeing this, I allowed myself to lapse intodreamland also.

How long I slept I do not exactly know, but it could not haveexceeded an hour at the longest. When I awoke, the first thingthat struck me was that Rodgers' seat was empty. I thought this aremarkable circ*mstance, but considered he might have gone ondeck for a few minutes, and would return presently. As this didnot take place, I went on deck to see if I could discoveranything of his whereabouts. A glance showed me he was not ondeck. I ran down to his cabin. The door was open, but there wasno sign of him therein. I began to get alarmed, yet did not liketo confess my fears. Along with one of the sailors I searched theship from stem to stern, leaving not so much as a rat-holeunprobed, but without success.

Then I began to question the men as to whether they had heardany sound of oars approaching the vessel. They had all beenasleep, sooth to say, although they denied the soft impeachment.One of them, however, who confessed to only being drowsy, said hethought he had heard the sound of sweeps gently pulling towardsthe vessel, and as gently pulling away after a moment's stop. Butas this was a common occurrence among the craft in the harbourwhen they had a larger complement of sightseers than usual onboard, he had paid no attention to it.

One fact was evident, however—the mate had either goneaway of his own accord, or had been carried away by otherswhether he would or not. Which of these alternatives was theright one? The latter undoubtedly. He had every reason to inducehim to remain on board—being in charge of the vessel;besides, he always had a dread that the New Sicilians would killhim. All this went to strengthen the idea that he had beencarried away from the vessel against his will.

But how could that be done without some of us hearing thenoise? Rodgers would not permit himself to be carried off withoutresisting to the very last. How came it, then, that no noiseeither of struggle or of footsteps had been heard on board? Thewhole incident was wrapped in impenetrable mystery. Of coursethere were plenty of small boats, or dinghies, plying about theharbour. But how could the occupants of these succeed in silentlykidnapping a strong, burly ship's mate, without awakeningsuspicion, or, at least, arousing attention?

I awaited the return of my companions with some degree ofimpatience. The hours began to get long, but still they did notreturn. When the afternoon gave place to evening, a terribleanxiety began to take hold of me. Had all my friends beencaptured together, and was I to be reserved to the last? While Iwas anxiously debating with myself what should be done, I saw thestate trireme once more leave the wharves and approach theFitzroy. My hopes returned. What a fool I was to troublemyself about such things! Here they were at last.

No such thing. Only our friend Lepidus with a messageprofessedly from Captain Anstey, requesting me to join them at abanquet given in Piso's house.

I never could tell what awakened my suspicions that thismessage was not genuine. Probably it was the fact that I wasmentioned alone in the invitation, and not Mr. Rodgers. Ireasoned that our friends would have sent for us both, and thatthis message came from those who, having the others already intheir possession, desired to get me also.

Mustering to my aid all my old academic Latin, I managed tomake Lepidus understand that I could not leave the vessel untilone of the two officers came to relieve me. I likewise wrote aletter to Captain Anstey, informing him that I declined to bedrawn into the trap, also to inform the Senate, or whoever wasdetaining them, that, unless they were on board by nine o'clockthe following morning, I should begin to bombard the town. I alsoexplained the purport of the letter to Lepidus, who seemed to meto look very much surprised when he saw the plot wasdiscovered.

Before he left I ostentatiously bade the men clear thecarronade for action, and he saw a heavy charge, with the massiveprojectile, placed in the gun. We were obliged to carry thecarronade and such heavy shot, owing to the fact that some of theislands in the South Seas were still infested with pirates.

Just before he set out on his return journey he made theremark to me: "I cannot see on what grounds you suspect our goodfaith. Your companions are well, and are well cared for. They areenjoying themselves, and desire your company."

"Well, well, if that is so, tell them to be on board here bynine o'clock if they wish to preserve the lives of thetownspeople. I swear I will not leave one stone standing onanother in the town if any of my companions have either beenkilled or injured."

"But none of them have been injured. Why should you threatenus for showing your friends a kindness?"

"That is all very well. I give them and you plenty of time tocome to an understanding together. I may be wrong, but I willtake the responsibility; and I swear to you that if they are noton board this vessel by nine o'clock to-morrow morning, woebetide your town."

For a moment a look of terror flashed into Lepidus' features.The unknown is always terrible. He cast a long scrutinizingglance at the carronade, which was pointing its mouth outside thegunhole in the bow, with silent yet threatening emphasis, towardsthe town.

Lepidus went off without another word, and I sat down in mycabin to watch and to wait. My position was a difficult one, butthe lives of my hapless comrades seemed to depend on mydiscretion. I had little doubt they were in the hands of the NewSicilians, who would either kill them, or try to detain themuntil after the departure of the Fitzroy. Their lives andliberties, therefore, depended on the manner in which I shouldplay my part in this responsible position. At nine a.m. should Ihave to bombard the town, or would our friends be restored? Weshall see.


MY feelings that night may be better imagined than described.Alone on a vessel with a crew of which Job Simpson, theboatswain, was the only one with whom I could holdintercourse—alone, with the lives of others depending on myexertions. My friends on shore might be counting the hours untilrelease came for them. That release had to be effected by me.Would my nerve carry me through?

Through the long, dreary night I sat planning what was best tobe done. About four o'clock in the morning I fell into a troubledsleep. No answer had come from the town, and I feared thatextreme measures would have to be adopted. But exhausted humannature could bear up no longer, and, laying my head on my arm,which rested on the table, I slept. How long I slept I could nottell, but dawn was breaking in the east when I was awakened by alow wailing noise from the shore. Inexpressibly sad and mournfulit sounded, as though all the pent-up sorrow of humanity,repressed throughout aeons of time, were concentrated in thelong-drawn-out, moaning cry.

I ran on deck at once, and in the gray light of the morningsaw that the shores were already covered with people. Standingback from the quays a little way we had noticed a structure likea pyramid without the apex, or rather a cone which had beenarrested in construction when only about three-fourthscompleted.

On the flat platform on the top of this I saw a largeassemblage of persons dressed in white robes. I observed, too,that the attention of the people below seemed directed to someceremony which was in progress there.

I hastily procured the ship's glass, and looked through it.Standing in the centre of the crowd, stripped to the waist, andwith their hands tied behind them, I distinctly discerned theProfessor, Anstey, and Rodgers. In the hands of the long-robedpriests—as I conjectured them to be—I sawmurderous-looking knives, which I had little doubt were intendedfor the sacrifice of my unfortunate comrades. The moaning sound Idiscovered proceeded from the trumpets which those who wereseemingly subordinate priests were blowing around the pyramid.What did it all mean? Suddenly I observed on the face of Anstey alook of the most intense longing directed towards the vessel.That was enough. Seizing my revolver, I discharged it into theair, to let our friends know we were on the alert. All eyes onshore seemed instantly directed towards the vessel for a moment,then were fixed once more on the ceremony. Rousing two of thecrew, I withdrew the projectile, and having inserted a blankcharge, pointed the carronade towards the pyramid. I had no wishto take life needlessly, yet I was determined to save ourcomrades at all costs, though every man's life in New Siciliawere the price. I reasoned that if I fired one blank chargeAnstey would know it was a warning, and impress on the Professorto urge the priests to let them go.

The roar of the carronade was terrific, as it reverberatedamong the hills. Once more the people fell prostrate, all exceptthe priests. I looked once more through the glass. I could seethe Professor on his feet talking earnestly to the Pontifex, andnodding his head towards the vessel. Then I saw the priest shakehis head, and seemingly turn away.

"I'll give that fellow a lesson," I cried angrily to thesailors who stood beside me. "Hand me a loaded rifle." The bo'sunat once did so. It was one of the old Snider-Enfields, but I knewI could rely on it carrying with precision at least 400 yards,and the pyramid was not distant more than that from the vessel.The danger was great lest I should strike one of our own friends;but it had to be risked. Taking steady aim, I fired just as I sawthe priest raise his hand with something bright held in it. Thenthere arose a shriek on the still air as of horror and alarm, andI saw the body of the Pontifex lying motionless stretched out onthe platform.

Leaping down from the poop, I seized a speaking-horn, andcried as loudly as possible in Latin:

"Send back our comrades at once, or worse will befallyou."

Still they hesitated, and I could see that the priests wereendeavouring to proceed with the ceremony. That was quite enoughfor me. Apparently the lesson had not been sufficientlysevere.

"Load the carronade, bo'sun, with shot. Do you see thatbuilding with pillars in front of it, standing to the right ofthe pyramid? I think that must be a temple of some kind, and insome way associated with this sacrifice, as these long-robedfellows have been coming and going in and out of it all themorning. Aim at it; I don't want to slaughter innocent people ifI can help it, but it strikes me these priests are at the bottomof all this business."

Honest Job did as he was told. A heavy charge was placed inthe carronade, which was pointed at the building in question.Then came a crash like thunder, and the missile sped on its way.The aim was true. The shot carried away one of the slenderpillars as though it had been a twig, and then tore its waythrough the wall of the temple, bringing down half the front ofthe building at the same time.

"Give them another," I cried; "it'll teach them that the livesof Englishmen are not to be taken with impunity."

The second shot was even more disastrous in its effects thanthe first, and the front of the temple was well-nigh reduced toruins.

The lesson was salutary. In a moment the wharves were crowdedwith kneeling figures, stretching out imploring hands towards usto stop the terrible thunderbolts of the gods.

Then we saw a crowd of armed men swarm up the pyramid anddrive the priests away, the latter, however, resisting to thevery last. Immediately afterwards, our comrades, released fromtheir fetters, were marched down to the galley, placed on board,and the rowers ordered to convey them across to us.

But I was determined to give our friend Lepidus a lesson if hewere there. Yes, sure enough, there he was on the poop, lookingthe very picture of terror and alarm.

"What do you mean by this?" I cried, in my broken Latin, asthe galley came alongside. "Do you wish us to batter down thewalls of your houses, until not one stone is left onanother?"

Lepidus knelt submissively on the deck, his head bowed.

"There are your friends," he replied. "We crave pardon; but weare not to blame. Our priests misled us. They demanded sacrificesto appease their gods; but they have offended others morepowerful."

Meantime the Professor, Anstey, and Rodgers had rushed up theladder and gained the deck of the Fitzroy.

"God be thanked, Bill, lad! your resource and pluck have savedus. I thought I had looked my last on the world when that tigerof an old priest raised his knife," said Anstey, wringing myhand. "That rifle shot came like a bolt from offended Heaven. Howthose priests did squirm!"

"But, look here, what's it all about, and how did Mr. Rodgersget with you?"

The captain smiled and shook his head, and I continued: "Ididn't like the look of things when I found he had disappeared.Then, when Lepidus came back and said you wanted me at thebanquet, I knew something must be wrong, as you never would havewished the ship left without some responsible person on board. Igave them until nine to-day, and I was going to bombard the placeuntil they gave you up."

"You have done quite enough damage over there, Bill, to lastthem for another century. They won't try on the game of humansacrifice again," said the Professor gleefully.

"But tell me your story, Professor. What an old reprobate thatPiso must be—inviting you over to a banquet and stringingyou like a lot of trussed fowls."

"Nay, do not blame him, he had nothing to do with thebusiness. It was that vixenish Pontifex Maximus or Flamen thatinsisted on everything, and ran a sort of religious revolution onhis own account against the consular power. We had the banquetright enough, and were induced to lay aside our arms forcomfort's sake. Then Piso took us through the city and showed usevery place he could think of, including a second visit to the'Cave of Gems'. The city is just a reproduction of ancient Romein every particular—the Forum, the Campus Martius, theSenate House, the Coliseum. Everything is reproduced. We werehaving a capital time, when we were invited to descend into thedungeons where malefactors were kept. I was anxious to see these.But when they got us there they kept us. We heard afterwards thatCurius Celsus, the Pontifex, had planned this trap, and had eggedthe people on to carry it through; also that Piso was soindignant over it that he shut himself up in his housebroken-hearted over the breach of hospitality."

"But how did they come to attempt to sacrifice you? Humansacrifice was never practised in ancient Rome, was it?"

"No; but it appears that recently a terrible plague has beenraging in Nova Sicilia, and has carried off thousands of theinhabitants: the leprosy also has broken out tenfold morevirulently than ever before. Celsus, after consulting the omens,and discussing the matter with the augurs, came to the conclusionthat some great sacrifice was needed to stay the anger of thegods. In one of their old books it is recorded that on a similaroccasion a plague was arrested by the sacrifice of certainstrangers on the high altar of Jupiter Fluvialis—thepyramidal one you saw us on. Celsus determined to sacrifice us.When your message came, informing us that you would bombard thetown if we were not handed over, I thought we were saved. But theold heathen made up his mind to offer up our lives on the altar,and then to send our bodies out to you, hoping that whateverhappened to the city from you, the plague at least would bestayed. Mind you, the old chap had no animosity towards us. I didhim an injustice. There was nothing so mean in him as that. Hewas a second Roman Brutus; he would have offered up his own son.There were tears in his eyes when he informed us of our fate. Hewas simply a fanatical old pagan, besotted with superstition. Heimagined he would outwit you by performing the sacrifice at dawn,for it appears it must be done while 'the light-giver' looks onor is near. When I heard your revolver shot I began to have somehope, though our circ*mstances were certainly desperate. But themoment I saw the old Pontifex roll over, I knew we were saved. Itwas a supremely dramatic moment that. Those superstitious NewSicilians immediately concluded that some other god was offended,and that they would have a pretty kettle of fish on their handsif they proceeded with our death. I fancy, however, they wouldnot have allowed us to go had not your carronade shots broughtthem to their senses. The effect of these was literallyawful."

"Well, well, it's all over now, and all's well that ends well,they say; but I should not like to be in that position again,"was my reply. Then I added, "By the way, Mr. Rodgers, how did youmanage to slip away so quietly?"

The mate once more smiled rather sheepishly and said:"Curiosity—curiosity was the cause of my being caught. Icould not sleep again after I had once awakened, and I wanderedon deck just in time to see that scoundrel Lepidus slip alongsidewith a small dinghy bringing a message, professedly from theskipper here, asking me to come off at once, without sayinganything to you, as you might wish to come, and they did not wantyou just then. A very unlikely story when you come to think ofit; but in my drowsy condition I didn't suspect any treachery,but slipped down the ropes. I didn't find out the trap until Iwas taken into the skipper's presence there, and found he hadnever sent for me at all. Oh, I was a beautiful fool!"

"Well, Bill, my lad, we owe our lives to you, as I said. Now,what's to be our next course?" said Anstey.

"To get away from this hole as soon as possible," was myanswer.

"Ay, but how can we get out? We can't run against thatcurrent."

"Bless us all, what are we to do then?" cried the Professor."We're in a trap, sure enough."

"We'll make them take us out," was Anstey's indignant speech."They owe it to us for attempting to sacrifice us to theirconfounded deities."

"Professor, if you will come ashore with me, as you can talkthe language so easily, we'll go and see the Consul, and demandthat we be shown the way out of this accursed place," I saidboldly.

The Professor shuddered, and did not reply.

"Don't go, Bill," replied Anstey, "we'll be losing you next,and there will be the deuce to pay then."

"But how are we to get out, Bob? we can't feel our way out,because if once we get into a current like that running betweenthe algae beds, it might throw us on some rocky shore from whichthe old ship would never more stir."

"Bill, I can't let you go there alone; it's sheer madness.After what we have suffered, I feel the same horror as theProfessor at the idea of going back among them. Let's send theboat round the headland yonder, and see what lies beyond, and ifit gives any hope of our being able to beat out, we'll tryit."

"Nonsense, Bob! you know as well as I do that there's no hopethere," I said sharply. "I've made up my mind that I'm goingashore, and will make them either tell me the course, or send agalley to take us in tow. If I don't return by the afternoon, youwill know what to do."

"Skipper, don't you think I should go along with him?" saidthe mate.

"No; you least of all," was my reply; "they would probablyinsist on your remaining. I tell you I shall be all right. I willrun into no dangers, and will take a couple of revolvers and aship's cutlass with me, with a small box of Eley's cartridges.I'll be able to give a good account of myself then."

"Well, Bill, if you must go, you must; but remember, if youdon't give any sign that you are alive by eight bells in theafternoon, we'll kick up a shindy over it."

"There's no fear but I'll be back again long before that time.Look here, I'm taking my wallet with me, and putting not only onebut two boxes of cartridges into it. I could stand a siege fordays now."

I never knew what induced me to take that additional box ofcartridges with me. Oh, how I blessed the chance that directed meto do so in the terrible days that were to come.

The bo'sun and another sailor brought the boat round, and Islid down the chains into it.

"Good-bye—until the afternoon!" I cried gaily, as wepushed off.

"Come back, come back!" suddenly shouted the Professor; "it'smadness for you to go on after what happened this morning. We'llnever see you again. You're simply going to your death."

"Nonsense, Professor! don't be superstitious," I replied,laughing. "You will see me turning up like a bad penny thisafternoon."

Alas, alas! neither that afternoon, nor for many anotherafternoon to come, was I to set eyes again on the tight littleschooner the Fitzroy.


NO sooner did I reach the shore than I was surrounded bycrowds of the townspeople, who were still lingering aboutdiscussing the occurrences of the morning. I noticed that theyone and all wore the ancient Roman toga, but they had added tothe garb worn of old in the Mistress of the World, widepantaloons which descended to the ankle, and were fastened therewith clasps. As the heat was too intense to go about throughoutthe day bareheaded, they also wore cloth caps, not unlike thebiretta, peculiar to the Roman Catholic clergy. But in generalfeatures I observed little change between their dress and thatwhich I had been taught to regard as peculiar to the Romans ofthe days of the Caesars.

It had been night when Professor Barlow and I landed in thispart of Nova Messana on former occasions, so that I had seennothing of the city beyond the outlines of the houses as theyloomed up in the darkness. Now I had an opportunity of examiningthis mysterious town by day, amid glorious semi-tropicalsunshine.

The people, by whom I was surrounded, seemed utterlyconfounded by my appearance among them. They regarded me with alook of intense fear, but I could not see in it any traces ofhostility to myself in consequence of the occurrences of themorning.

Turning to one venerable-looking man who stood at some littledistance from me intently observing me, I asked him where I couldsee Piso the Consul.

He replied with grave courtesy that I should find him at theSenate House. But, on observing my perplexed look when I receivedthe information, he inquired if I knew the direction whereinthese buildings lay. I shook my head. He then asked to be allowedto conduct me thither. Motioning the other citizens who hadcollected round us during our colloquy to stand on one side so asto allow us to pass, he desired me to accompany him. I managed tostammer out a few words of thanks, and at once put myself underhis care. He was evidently very anxious to converse with me, butperceiving that my vocabulary of Latin words was not large, andthat I had great difficulty in making myself understood, hesuddenly surprised me by addressing me in very fair English. Heread my amazement on my face, and said:

"Do not be surprised that I know your language. JoannesWebsterius and his comrades stayed at my house when first theyarrived in Nova Sicilia, and from him I learned to read and tospeak your language."

"You are Cratinus the philosopher, then," was my reply. BothNaso and Emilius had informed me of Webster's friendship withCratinus, and had designated the latter as being one of the bestof their nation, as a man of vast learning, of great intellectualforce, and with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. Lepidus hadalso added that he had seen exhibited in the daily life ofCratinus a truer nobility of moral character, and a more generousregard for the welfare of others, than in any other person he hadever met. I therefore felt a sincere pleasure in meeting with oneon whom I could so thoroughly rely.

"I am delighted to see you, Cratinus. You have made good useof your time to speak English as fluently as you do. I trust Imay be allowed to make use of you to explain my meaning to theConsul." I then told him what we desired, and that our only wishwas to leave Nova Sicilia as soon as possible.

Cratinus shook his head gravely, adding, "Oh, these accursedpriests! We are priest-ridden in this town; they tried to murderyour companions as a sacrifice to the gods in order to stop thepestilence, and brought on us a worse disaster from you! I am aStoic philosopher, and teach the tenets of that school to mydisciples. I am in favour of piety towards the gods, of areverend attitude towards their declared will, and of showing ourrespect for them by a moral, upright life, and honourable conducttowards our fellow-men, but more than this we have no authorityto expect from any man, and these priests have been ourcurse."

I smiled as I thought how very closely the attitude ofCratinus approached that of our men of science at home. Perhapsit was my smile that induced Cratinus to proceed, for he added:"No man has a right to lay down a rule of life for his neighbourunless he can found that rule on something higher or deeper thanhis own will. The moral law is our sole guide. The dictates ofthe moral law are implanted in all men. They are the sole rulewhich we can with safety follow."

"True, Cratinus, and if we in all things shape our conduct bythe unwritten but innate principles of that moral law, there willbe little fear of our offending the gods."

"My son, you are a good Stoic. Your system of philosophy maynot be in all things the same as mine, but in its grandessentials it is the same. Therefore I feel drawn to you by thenearest of all ties. I will help you as far as lies in mypower."

I felt greatly cheered by this testimony of the friendlyfeelings Cratinus cherished towards me.

Meantime my companion met a brother philosopher of the sameschool passing down the street. They accosted one another, andpresently Cratinus informed me that his friend, Zeno, would alsoaccompany us to the Consul's and plead my cause.

I noticed, as we passed along the streets, the stately andmagnificent character of the architecture. Temples, museums,libraries succeeded each other in bewildering profusion, eachconceived in a style rivalling the finest extant specimens ofGrecian design. Even the dwelling-houses, though not somagnificent, had all some pretensions to beauty and originalityin plan. And it was as much the severe simplicity of the toutensemble I admired, as the elegant finish of each severalpart.

I noted also the arrangements for drainage in the city. Theywere admirable, and consisted of jets of fresh water introducedat intervals into the covered drains, whereby they were alwayskept fresh and pure. All the streets were lined on both sideswith avenues of fine old trees. The shade was exceedinglygrateful amid the hot glare of the semi-tropical sun.

But meantime Zeno, Cratinus, and I had been pushing onwardtowards the Senate House. To reach it we had to cross the Forumor marketplace, which I now saw by day—a magnificentsquare, lined on all sides with the largest and most imposingbuildings in Nova Messana. On one side I saw the temple ofJupiter Capitolinus, and the platform where the sacrifices hadtaken place a few nights ago. In the centre of the open space wasa rotunda, and Cratinus explained to me that all the largepolitical meetings in the Republic were held there. The Forum wasby no means so full as usual, he said; many of itshabitués having been attracted to the shore by the scenesbeing enacted there. Still it presented a brisk and livelypicture, kaleidoscopically changeful. Knots and groups ofcitizens were scattered over its expanse; while at the fartherend were stationed heavy waggons and carts that had brought theproduce into market. Cratinus explained that, although there weresmaller markets for each commodity throughout the town, one dayin the week was set apart for each industry, on which it hadentire possession of the Forum. This was the day allocated tobutter, cheese, eggs, and farm-produce generally.

The Senate House was a magnificent structure, built of a whitestone closely resembling marble, and equally durable. A statelycolonnade at the head of a flight of broad shallow steps leadingup to the building afforded a cool promenade for the senators. Atthe head of these stood two soldiers attired in full armour, whoacted as sentries. They looked curiously at me as I passed, butsaluted with a deference that showed that the occurrences of thepast day or two, in place of arousing any feelings of hostility,had operated in entirely the opposite way, in creating for us,among this mysterious race, a feeling of awe and of profoundrespect.

We ascended the steps of the colonnade, and passing throughthe outer portico entered an immense corridor or lobby, where alarge number of senators were busily engaged in conversing. Herethe lictors were standing, betokening that Piso was not far off.A profound silence fell upon the assemblage as I entered with mycompanions. On all sides I heard the whisper go round: "One ofthe mysterious strangers! What does he want? What are Cratinusand Zeno doing with him?"

Cratinus, advancing to the chief of the lictors, told him thatI craved an audience of the Consul.

"Torquatus, the colleague of Piso, has returned to the citythis morning, and is now with him. Is it the stranger's wish tosee both consuls?" I nodded to Cratinus.

"Even so. He desires to see both of them. The matter is one ofurgency. Would you likewise state that Cratinus and Zeno, thephilosophers, will also attend to interpret."

In a few minutes the lictor returned, and requested us tofollow him. We were ushered into a spacious ante-chamberadjoining the hall, where the consuls transacted the routine anddetail business of the Republic, which was not supposed to belaid before the Senate.

Torquatus, although not so aged looking as Piso, whose longbeard, as we have said, was of a silvery whiteness, was,nevertheless, a man considerably past his prime. His hair andbeard were streaked with grey. His features were stern, haughty,and determined, in strange contrast to the mildness visible inthe expression of Piso. Torquatus was the warrior consul, Pisothe man of peace, who looked after national progress and thecommercial development of the country.

Evidently Torquatus had only just learned the strange facts ofour visit, and was burning to know more. All the warlikeinstincts in him were on the qui vive to discover thesecret which gave a handful of strangers so great a superiorityover the thousands who inhabited Nova Sicilia.

Piso, on my entry, greeted me with a cordiality which I couldsee was mingled with fear. He imagined I had come to call theState to account for its treatment of my companions. Torquatuscontented himself with a distant bow. It was evident that he atleast would not yield an inch. To my companions both the consulsbowed low. The name of a philosopher stood high in NovaSicilia.

"Welcome, O stranger!" said Piso nervously. "What can theState do for thee and thine? We are deeply grieved that thesuperstition of our Pontifex Maximus did hurry him into an act ofinhospitality and indiscretion which might have had seriousresults. Believe me, the State itself did all it could to preventit."

Torquatus uttered a curious grunt, but whether of approbationof his colleague's remarks or the opposite did not as yetappear.

Then did I say unto Piso through Cratinus,—"Think nomore of that matter. The Pontifex was under a deadly mistake whenhe took the step he did, and the gods have slain him for hispresumption." I noticed a curiously contemptuous expression passover the features of Torquatus when I said this. It was evidenthe had not much faith in the gods or in their power of vengeance.But the countenance of Piso cleared at once when I said, "We arethinking no more of that matter. It is past, it is gone; but wewish to know if you will permit your state trireme to tow us outso that we may be able to make headway against the current in thepassage through which we came? Or if there is any other way outinto the ocean, will you permit the galley to show us theway?"

Before Piso had time to reply, Torquatus interjected thequery, "Whither do you wish to go?"

"Home," was my reply.

"Where is your home?"

"In Australia, an island lying west of Nova Sicilia."

"But that is not where you were born."

"Nay, I was born in Britain."

"That is in Europe, beyond Transalpine Gaul."

"That is so. Britain lies due north of Gaul, or of France, aswe call it now."

Torquatus gazed at me keenly as he added:"Britain—Britain—Britain, that was the countryconquered by the divine Julius a few years before his death."

"It was. But that of course was very long ago, and Romeherself has long since been conquered. Britain now in extent ofempire far surpasses the glory of the 'Mistress of theWorld.'"

Torquatus allowed a contemptuous sneer to rest for a moment onhis haughty features.

"You say that, as Piso tells me," he said; "but what proofhave we of its truth? Rome's greatness was destined to beeternal."

"The Rome your fathers knew perished about 400 years afterthey left it," I remarked boldly. "The Rome of to-day is only thecapital city of the kingdom of Italy."

Again Torquatus shook his head. "These are the tales ofenemies. Rome might have been defeated, but she could neverdisappear in the way you state."

I saw it was useless to argue the question with the obstinateold soldier. I therefore again requested the favour of the galleyto show us the way out into the open sea.

Piso it was who said, "Fear nothing; we are ready to do all wecan to help you, but we must ask you to give us an assurance thatyou will not reveal the existence of Nova Sicilia to any one. Wedread having our free and prosperous state enslaved by some morepowerful country in the Old World. We have never known the yokeof the oppressor; we should take it ill now were we conquered byany other state."

"We would die first, Piso," was the answer of Torquatus.

"But who would wish to enslave you?" I asked—"no oneamong the European kingdoms of to-day. They would recognize yourindependence. Liberty is as noble a thing in their eyes as inyours. The policy of a free State for a free people would neverbe infringed by any of the European nations. Therefore what haveyou to fear?"

"But you will give us the assurance, will you not?" said Pisoanxiously.

"Assuredly; and you will lend us your state trireme to act asour guide and tow-boat."

"Yes; but, unfortunately, she has even by this time left theharbour, and will have rounded Cape Pelusium. She might havetaken you in tow then. There has been an insurrection atBruttium, about a hundred miles distant, and we have had todespatch Lepidus with the trireme and a transport to drive backthe savages that have crossed our borders."

"You have no other vessel here that would serve the purpose,have you?"

"I fear not. Our fleet is stationed at Brundusium, where isthe naval arsenal, near the large timber forests. The vessels inthe harbour are merely onerarii—merchantvessels—most of them with a single bank of oars. They wouldnot have the power necessary to tow so large a vessel as yours.But why not wait until the trireme returns? She will only be gonethree days?"

"Are you so adverse to accepting our hospitality that youcannot wait until then," said Torquatus grimly.

"An Englishman never suspects honourable men," I repliedproudly, and Torquatus bowed. "We will await your pleasure untilthe trireme returns."

"And you will remain on shore and accept my hospitality?"cried Piso eagerly. "Believe me, I am desirous of testifying toyou how deeply I deplored the treatment to which your companionswere exposed by Celsus and the priests. Besides, I owe you muchfor the release of my niece from a cruel death."

Before I could reply, a curtain behind Piso was drawn quicklyaside, and a young girl of rare and imperial beauty entered theapartment. She was evidently astonished to find it occupied, forshe coloured deeply, and was about to retire, saying to Piso:

"I thought you were alone, my father."

A Mystery of the Pacific (9)

"I thought you were alone, my father."

"Nay, my Clodia, you must not go. Do you not see I have one ofthe strangers with us who saved your cousin Cornelia from death.Will you not add your persuasions to ours to induce him to staywith us?"

"And why will he not stay? I have heard so much of you sinceCornelia's marvellous adventure, I wish to know you also," shereplied, turning to me. "Will you not remain with us, and I willtake you to see the Hanging Gardens, and the Mountain of Gold,and the Cave of Gems, and many other wonderful things?" Her voiceas she addressed me was low and sweet, and stole into my heartlike the notes of some finely-tuned harp.

Alas, alas! it was the old story. What will a glance from abeautiful woman's eyes not lead a man to do?

"I am grateful for the interest so fair a lady takes in me," Ireplied, in stilted phrases, "but I fear I must deny myself thepleasure."

"Why so?" retorted the imperious young beauty, with all awoman's pleading insistence. "Cornelia has never ceased speakingabout you. I wish to know more of you, I say."

I bowed, and murmured my regrets once more, but I fear theywere less firm in tone.

"Are you afraid of us?" she said quickly.

"Ha, ha!" laughed Torquatus grimly. "It looks like it, doesn'tit, Clodia, when a man refuses a pretty girl's friendship?"

Clodia pouted and looked so charmingly piquant in her affectedanger, that my resolution began to melt away like spring snowsbefore spring suns.

"But you will stay, won't you?" she reiterated. "What of mycompanions, who expect me back, and may—andmay—ahem—" The rest of my sentence involved anawkward reference to the treatment of the Professor, Anstey, andRodgers; so that I hesitated to complete it. Torquatus did it forme.

"And may think he is a prisoner, and batter down a few more ofour temples," was the half-angry, half-jocular remark.

"Well, you would get no more than you deserved for infringingthe duties of hospitality," retorted Clodia, with a mischievousmoue at the stately consul, with whom she was evidently aprime favourite.

"O you unpatriotic little witch! Begone with you, for Ibelieve you would sooner have a handsome stranger's goodwill thansee the honour of your country vindicated."

"Perhaps I might," she replied coquettishly; "but I wish areply from our friend here."

What could I do? What other man but would have done the samefor such a pleader? The lovely Clodia had won the day. Yet it wasnot without many and serious misgivings that I consented to stay.I had a presentiment of coming evil. Only stipulating with mykind friends that I should be allowed to return to theFitzroy that night for an hour to see my companions, Ipromised to be the guest of the consul. Meantime, I tore a leaffrom my pocket-book, and wrote a few lines thereon, telling BobAnstey what I had arranged, and what I intended to do, alsobidding them expect me on board that night.

I then turned to Piso, and asked him if he could send theletter on board the Fitzroy at once. He undertook to doso. I was accordingly placed in the care of the beautiful Clodia,while the consuls and the two philosophers repaired to the SenateHouse for the daily meeting of the Senate.

Alas, alas! I had taken many a foolish step in life before,but none so foolish as this.


CLODIA seemingly was in a state of exuberant delight that shehad carried her point, and that she was to be the sole guide andcicerone to one of the "Sons of the Thunderbolt," as wehad already been called. So great had been the terror inspired byour fire-arms and cannon amongst well-nigh all classes in Messanathat we were virtually masters of the situation. Whether the samedread would have been infused into the minds of the hardy Romansof the ancient republic I could not say. Certainly after thefirst shock of surprise was over they did not exhibit anyoverpowering dread of the African elephants which Pyrrhus broughtover with him to fight his battles. They speedily devised meansto neutralize the force of their attacks. But long residence inan enervating climate like that of the South Seas had necessarilylessened the average courage of their descendants. Still, theterror they had conceived of our fire-arms was out of allproportion to its cause, until I mentioned the matter toCratinus, and he explained that they associated the sound withthe roar of the volcanic eruptions, to them the most terrible ofall sounds, as it meant the possible destruction of the city.

Clodia led me through some covered passages lighted bylattices of exquisitely delicate cane-work until we reached thehouses allocated to the Consuls during their year of office. Theywere situated immediately behind the Senate House. Noble gardensstretched away into the distance, adorned with fine statuary andfountains casting cooling jets of water high in air. But it wasnot to look on these my fair guide brought me hither. It was tocast around herself a mantle of some soft, fleecy clingingmaterial that covered her head and neck from the rays of the sun,until she seemed like one of Fra Angelico's saints or Madonnaslooking out from a nimbus or halo of sheeny radiance.

The next house belonged to Stolo, and in its portico stoodCornelia watching us. She smiled a greeting to me.

"Will you not come with us, Cornelia?" cried Clodia. "We'll beback soon."

"Nay, although I would like to; but I am going with my fatherto sacrifice a kid to Proserpine, and one to Aesculapius ingratitude for my escape from death."

"Ah! then, we dare not keep you. Vive et vale,carissima."


Then Clodia pointed to a light chariot that was standing near,drawn by two fine horses, the driver of which, to my surprise,exhibited in the cast of his features a close approximation tothe negroid type. I could not help asking Clodia to what race hebelonged.

"He is one of the natives who has taken service with us," shereplied. She then beckoned to me to enter, and presently we weretravelling through the town at great speed, the light vehicleevidently proving a mere feather in weight to the strong animalswho drew it.

The drive was apparently undertaken with the object of givingme as thorough an idea of the extent of the town as possible.From a back road constructed far up the side of the mountainrange we were able to look down on the bay beneath, with the citycovering all its shores. The proportions of its noble buildingsstood out in bold relief against the abundant green foliagevisible everywhere. Entrancingly beautiful was the view which metour gaze, of ocean, mountain, city, and verdant plains coveredwith crops of various kinds, the contrasts in colour being sovivid, yet so subtly harmonious with the beauty of the picture inits entirety.

I will not describe the splendour of the Pantheon, of theColiseum, of the theatres, of the Hanging Gardens, all of whichwe visited. The latter were formed on the face of a cliffoverlooking a deep ravine, through which rushed a brawling streamon its way to the ocean. So precipitous was the cliff, and sonearly vertical the side of it, that the gardens veritablyappeared to hang in air. They were kept in perfect order, thearrangement showing great taste and artistic skill, though alittle strange and bizarre to my severe Europeanideas.

At last Clodia seemed to divine from my silence that theplaces we had as yet visited did not sufficiently interest me.Ah! if only she knew, an object of greater beauty and interestwas seated beside me in the chariot, from which I could scarceremove my gaze for a moment to view the places she was goodenough to point out to me. I felt it pleasanter to watch thesmiles and blushes coming and going on her beautiful face as somenew feature of interest presented itself. She seemed but a childyet in her innocent glee and unrestrained mirth. Nay, when atlast I had to admit that the Hanging Gardens surpassed anything Ihad yet seen in all my travels, she clapped her hands and criedaloud:

"I am so glad we have something here that excels Europe."

She had evidently been reserving her best surprise for thelast. After we had admired the gardens to satiety, I heard hertell Quintus, the charioteer, to drive to the Golden Mountain andthe "Cave of Gems," and the heads of the horses were turnedtowards a gloomy defile, the mouth of which was situated abouthalf a mile from the gardens.

"You will see something now that will delight you. I heard yousaying to my father you wondered how the people here set solittle store on gold and precious stones, and how even thepoorest wore splendid ornaments."

"Yes, I did say so, and your father told me you would tell methe reason, Clodia."

"I prefer to show it to you in place of telling."

Her language was so simple and her articulation so clear anddistinct that I had very little difficulty in grasping themeaning of all she said. I fear she had more trouble in gatheringmy precise meaning from my lame attempts to make myselfunderstood. Nevertheless, not by the faintest approach to a smiledid she betray any amusem*nt over my efforts to talk Latin. Butit is wonderful how love sharpens the faculties. I had not beenmore than an hour or so in Clodia's company before I had learnedmore than from all the previous intercourse I had had with herfather and the two philosophers. Certainly the language of theeye is intelligible among all races. When a man allows his gazeto rest fondly, yet respectfully, on a pretty girl's features, itis a thousand chances to one that she understands perfectly wellthat he admires her. The unspoken language of love is very muchthe same in all parts of the world.

We advanced into the darksome defile already referred to. Itwas formed by two spurs of the great volcanic peak, which ran outlike the prongs of a fork from the side of the parent mountain.At no place was the pass more than fifty yards in width. So deepwas it also that the light of the sun never penetrated into manyparts of it. Melancholy funereal-looking pines clothed its sides,while ever and anon jagged shafts of rock, twisted into the mostfantastic shapes, reared themselves high above the surroundingwood. In sooth, it was a wild spot; so much so, that I said toClodia:

"Are you not afraid to visit such a desolate and drearyplace?"

But for answer she only allowed her beautiful eyes to rest onme a moment and said, "Not with you."

Deeper and deeper we pierced into the heart of the mountaingorge, the scene at every step becoming more awe-inspiring andterrific. The defile also began to narrow rapidly, until we sawit ended at the mouth of a huge cavern which yawned in front ofus. Never in my life had I beheld a spot that seemed to realizemore vividly the awful descriptions in Dante'sInferno.

"Here we are at last," said Clodia. "We have not far to gonow, but we shall have to leave the chariot here."

As soon as we reached the entrance the driver pulled up and wedescended from the vehicle, Quintus being told to wait beside anancient spring just outside the cavern, the inscription on themasonry round which gave evidence of great age.

The vast cliffs towering around on all sides, the aspect ofutter desolation stamped on every detail of the scenery, thedreary forest of pines, through which a melancholy wind moanedsadly like the wail of a lost spirit, and the yawning blacknessof the great cavern, all impressed me so vividly that Iinvoluntarily shuddered.

"What is wrong?" said Clodia, looking up into my face with acoquettish grace. "Are you afraid now?"

"I may give the same answer as you did—'Not with you.'But what about torches to explore the depths of the cavern?"

"Proceed, my friend; you will find all ready for us."

As we seemed living amid a world of wonders, I asked no more,but followed my beautiful guide into the cavern.

A Mystery of the Pacific (10)

We enter the Cave of Gems.

As soon as we entered I observed that the cave was of immenseheight and of well-nigh endless length. Chamber after chamberopened the one off the other, and ran seemingly into the veryheart of the great mountain range. Our eyesight had scarce timeto become accustomed to the dim light around us, when the wholeinterior was illuminated in the most wonderful manner. I noticed,far up in the face of the mighty walls of rock surrounding us,what seemed to be the figures of men, walking along gallerieshewn out of the cliff-side. They did not, however, seem to carrywith them any torches. What, then, caused the illumination? Atlast I detected the trick. High up in the cavern there blazed onegigantic torch whose light was thrown all round the cavern, butit* glare was multiplied and intensified a thousandfold by thesparkling and glitter of millions of precious stones, wherewiththe walls of the place seemed to be studded. Diamonds, rubies,opals, sapphires, all seemed to have a place in this weird caveof jewels; while, go where one might, on all sides wasperceptible the dull yellow gleam of gold, reefs of the solidmetal actually present to the touch, while solid knobs or nuggetswere imbedded in the clayey strata which broke at intervals themighty cliffs of quartz wherewith we were surrounded. This, then,was the "Golden Mountain" and the wonderful "Cave of Gems" ofwhich Clodia had spoken. Here was wealth incalculable to be hadfor the mere picking up. It was to this Captain Webster hadreferred in his "message from the sea," which had come to usthrough "Big Jake." Here was the explanation of the mystery whyso little value was attached to gold and precious stones in NovaSicilia. That which all men can have for the taking is valued bynone. I stooped down and picked up a diamond almost as large as apigeon's egg—perfect, without a flaw. How priceless wouldbe its value in Europe, how worthless it was in Nova Sicilia! Thefact was a screaming satire upon wealth and the standards ofwealth. Were the contents of this cavern thrown upon the Europeanmarket, gems would be as common as marbles, and gold would sinkin price below lead.

I feasted my eyes on this strange spectacle. My very reasonreeled as I contemplated the millions upon millions of poundsthat would be represented by a few square yards of thisextraordinary storehouse of wealth. The riches of the worldappeared to have been deposited here. Yet so little did the NewSicilians value the treasure lying so near them that ironconstituted their standard of currency.

I suppose Clodia must have read some of my thoughts in myface. She said smilingly, "Why do you seem so muchsurprised?"

"Why, there is as much wealth here now as exists in the wholeworld at the present time."

"Well, what of it? What good is it to us? If it were an ironmine, it would be a find worth having."

"But look what you can buy with the wealth that liesthere."

"Buy what—we have all we need—and where could webuy save from our own people?"

"No, in Europe; and you would have the benefits of Europeancivilization brought here to you."

Clodia shook her head. She did not grasp my meaning. She couldnot understand a different unit of value from the iron one towhich she had always been accustomed.

She saw my surprise, and hastily added, "We don't want to beknown in Europe, my father says. Our safety lies in not beingknown. Were we known we might be conquered by the Romans, our ownkinsmen."

I smiled at the curious ignorance of the maiden of all thehistory-making that had taken place since this last and greatestof the Roman colonies had sailed from the shores of the OldWorld.

"Why do you smile? Because we despise gold? We cannotunderstand your fondness for it. It is so plentiful, yet souseless. What can you do with gold? You cannot make an axe out ofit. It won't cut. You cannot make knives out of it. It won't takean edge. What can you do with it? Then, those gems you covet somuch. You can fill your galley with them from our yard at home.They line our walks. What is the good of them?"

Never had I realized how arbitrary a notion is that of"value." Here was a part of the world where gold was accounted asdross, and precious stones as rubbish. I felt completelynonplussed.

"Why, Clodia, this one stone I hold in my hand now would makeme a wealthy man for life in Europe. It is a diamond of thefinest water. It cannot be worth less than £50,000."

"How much is that?" was Clodia's naive response.

I shook my head and gave up the attempt.

"If you would bring out a galley load of iron to us, or oflead, which I hear father say is the most valuable of metals, youwould be a wealthy man here."

"What do you mean?"

"Listen and I will tell you as well as I can, but you mustn'tlaugh at my blunders. We have only two places where iron ore isfound, and the supply is limited. As to lead, it is exceedinglyscarce, save among the Ariutas. As for that yellow dross—itis useless. But, come, let us go farther into the cavern. Youhave not seen half its wonders."

I followed Clodia in a very stupefied state. Amongst whatstrange and unaccountable people had I fallen?

"Then do these men we see up there, work at the gold andprecious stones to bring them out for any purpose?"

"Well, you see the poor people have to use gold utensils,because they cannot afford iron ones, and our earthenware onesare very dear, because the clay is so scarce. But it is not nicehaving to use golden dishes. They soon get bent andshapeless."

"Then what do they do with the diamonds and preciousstones?"

"Many of them are built into our dwellings. They save oil tothe poor people, because the light of one small lamp whenreflected by several large diamonds will illuminate a wholehouse. But the workmen who labour here are mostly unskilled men,who cannot get employment elsewhere."

"Dear me, Clodia, the world seems upside down here."

"No, no; it is upside down with you people in Europe, whocould be so foolish as to run after gold and diamonds, and placeany value on a red ruby."

The deeper we went into this wonderful cavern, the moreextraordinary appeared the evidence of the treasures scatteredabout on all sides. Here were blocks of opal and sapphire, rubiesas large as beans, and diamonds rivalling those I used to readabout in the Arabian Nights.

Then we approached a hot geyser which was throwing up itswaters into the air. There was a piece of stick lying at myfeet.

"Take that stick," said Clodia, "and hold it in the water fora few moments." I did so.

"Now, draw it out and look at it."

I obeyed. To my profound surprise it was thickly coated withgold. Here was one of those thermal springs, actually inoperation, about which colonial geologists are always talking, asbeing the chief factor in throwing up such mountains of gold asMount Morgan. I was struck dumb with amazement.

Proceeding a little farther on, we found evidences around usthat the waters of the spring had once upon a time flowed overthe greater portion of the cavern, in place of escaping back intothe bowels of the earth. The cliffs of the chamber, the rocksround about us, nay, the very pebbles at our feet, were allcoated with thick layers of gold. The experience of King Midascould not have been more strange than mine.

On we pressed until we came to what appeared to be an immensemolten sea of gold mixed with lava. It was boiling, fretting, andseething, as though it were an immense pot set on the fire toboil.

"We always consider this lake as the feeder of the greatvolcano overhead. There is a gigantic vent or funnel that runs upthrough the mountain, and the lava is drawn up through it to thetop of the crater."

"O, Clodia, Clodia, what a world of wonders you have here!" Isaid. "It will be hard to leave all these extraordinary sights,and go back to tame, commonplace Europe."

"Why should you go back?" was Clodia's naive reply. "Why notstay here with me?"

Ah! those beautiful eyes were looking into mine with apleading fascination in them, when suddenly we seemed caught in aviolent whirlwind, which eddied through the cavern with a low,booming sound, like the distant noise of surf thundering on someunseen shore.

We had just time to ensconce ourselves in a cleft in the rockyside of the cavern, to avoid being blown into the molten lake,when the full fury of the subterranean storm was upon us.

Louder than the yell of countless siren whistles the tempestwailed up the vent leading to the awful mouth of the volcano.Then came a glare of fire as though a sheet of liquid flameenveloped the whole place. It threw every rock and cliff intostartling relief. Though the vent was more than a quarter of amile distant, the sound seemed at our very ears.

To this succeeded crash after crash of the loudest artilleryfiring. The whole lake became a fretting, seething sea oftumbling, tossing fire. Then some omnipotent force seemed to drawthe liquid flame towards the funnel with a roar like thunder.

"Jove be our protector!" cried Clodia, with a shriek ofanguish. "The volcano has broken out, and we are doomed."


YES, it was true! The volcano had remained semi-active forsome years, but an eruption on a grand scale had now commenced.Peal after peal, louder than the loudest thunder, broke over us.Then there would be a cessation for a few minutes, during whichthe horrible sucking sound of the great funnel, drawing up thelava like the suckers of an immense pump, was all we heard.

So far we had been perfectly safe. We had run for shelter intoa small cave hollowed out some few feet up the side of the maincavern. Clouds of fiery steam were rising from the lava basin, onwhose surface tongues of bluish, sulphurous flames wereconstantly playing. Ever and anon the same mournful, wailing windwould pass through the cavern, with a sigh like that of departingTime passing into the bosom of measureless Eternity. Then theroar of the crater would resound as with a note of defiance, andthe terrible drama would be finished with the muttering sound ofthe suction, which seemed to go on ceaselessly.

Clodia was pale, and trembling with terror, but the pluck ofher ancestors was in her. She only slipped her hand into mine,and together we awaited our terrible death. The opening wherebywe had entered the caverns seemed completely obliterated. Noteven in the strong light which arose from the boiling lava andthe eternal fires below could I discern it. To our horror weobserved also that the Titanic force of the eruption had alteredthe shape of the mountain. We were to be buried in a livingtomb.

Oh, what were all the wretched mockeries of gold and jewelsnow, when death stared us in the face? What good would all thewealth of the world avail us? It would not buy us a moment'srespite from the pitiless forces of nature. It was an awfulsituation. Yet I felt far less anguish over my own fate than Idid over that of this peerlessly lovely girl, who, to do me akindness, and to show me the wonders of her land, had thussacrificed herself.

"Oh, Clodia, I am so sorry! Had it not been for me, you wouldnot have been caught in this frightful death-trap."

"Never mind that, my friend. We are here. It is the will ofthe gods. The might of necessity cannot be resisted."

Once more a terrible convulsion seemed to rend the entiremountain. I noticed that the lava covering the floor of thecavern below us was sensibly rising. A few hours, and it wouldflow into our little cave of refuge. At this moment, during alull in the awful tempest of sound, we thought we heard humanvoices calling to one another in distant parts of the cavern. Welistened, for we could see nothing.

"Oh, that they could find us out! They might save us."

"Perhaps they are, like ourselves, lost and inextremis."

"No, the sound seems to come from some gallery far up in theroof of the cavern. The caves are intersected by workingsextending for miles and miles. Remember, this mountain has beenworked for over sixteen hundred years."

"Clodia, might not this little cave connect with some ofthem?"

A look of hope flashed into Clodia's face, and by the fitfulglare of the burning lava I could see that my suggestion was notwithout probability. The lava meantime was rapidly rising, andere long we should have to move out of the cave or be burned likerats in it. But where were we to go?

The cave was narrow, but it seemed to stretch farther backinto the side of the great mountain. I noticed several pieces ofstick lying at our feet, the remains probably of broken tools andstaves. They were all thickly coated with sulphur. Bending downtowards the lava covering the floor, I succeeded in lighting oneof the pieces of stick.

"Come, Clodia," I cried, "let us explore this cave while wehave time. If you will carry a few of these sticks I will do thesame, and they will last us for some time."

Clodia eagerly consented. She took my hand, and we plungedtogether into the deep, dense darkness of the passage, which shutus off by walls of rock from the crater and the lake of moltenlava.

The passage, as I suspected, extended right up towards theroof of the cavern. The track was steep, but it was not rough,and we rushed on with the resolution of despair. Like distantthunder, we could hear at intervals the roar of the eruption, butwe seemed to be receding from it, as the sound was becomingfainter. On we pushed, ascending ever higher and higher. At last,in the distance, a light appeared, gleaming fitfully. Westruggled towards it. As we approached, we saw it must be thelight from the molten lake, as it waxed and waned in the mannerwith which we were, alas! so familiar.

At last we issued upon a broad, open gallery, about a hundredfeet above the floor of the cavern, from which we could look downon the scene below.

"We are saved, Clodia, for the time being, but what better arewe?"

"Never despair!" replied the intrepid girl. "We'll make abrave struggle for life, and then, if we cannot get out, well,we'll die like Romans."

There was a pride, mingled with a magnificent courage, visiblein her features as she uttered these words, that went far toinstil hope into my breast that we should yet escape.

"Is there only one means of egress from the caverns?" Iasked.

"Only one known to me. They say there are two others known tothe natives of the country, but which they will never reveal, asthey lead to the sacred temples of their gods."

"Do they worship in the caverns, then?"

"My grandfather, long, long ago, had an adventure with them.He got lost in the cavern, and, it is said, discovered the secretpassage leading into the temple of the Ariutas—that is thename we give the natives. They have a high civilization forsavages, and are very tenacious in clinging to their religiousrites," said Clodia. "My grandfather appeared amongst theirpriests in their sacred temple just when they were in the middleof celebrating some very mysterious rite, upon which not even thecommon people may look without death. He would have been killedat once, to avenge the offended majesty of the god, but suddenlya strange thing happened. A thunderbolt seemed to flash from thehand of the statue of the deity, and the priest, who was about toslay him, rolled over dead. My ancestor was dismissed, boundunder the most solemn promises never to reveal what he had seen,or the means whereby he had discovered the temple. He never didso."

"Clodia, might we not discover that passage, and soescape?"

"But a miracle would not happen twice to save those who werein such danger. The Ariutas would kill us without pity, becauseno miracle would occur to save us."

"But I tell you it would! For here are the very means toproduce it."

With these words I pulled out my revolver and fired it. Clodiawas overcome with astonishment.

"You people of these latter times are verily sons of thegods," she remarked, in an awe-stricken tone.

While we were standing on the gallery over-looking the eternalfires below, we became conscious that the same sounds of distantvoices we had heard before were audible again. They seemedapproaching us, however; and presently two men stepped out intothe gallery. On observing us they uttered a cry of horror, andwould have fled, had not Clodia stopped them with a call. Onhearing their own tongue they stayed their steps.

"What do you here?" they cried. "Are you mad to be in themountain at such a time?"

"The eruption occurred when we were viewing the cavern, and weare imprisoned within it. We cannot get out."

"Jove befriend you! You are in as evil a case as ourselves.Our companions all fled at the first sound of the eruption. Wereturned to get our tools. When we sought the entrance it wasblocked up."

"And is there no way of getting out?" I asked.

"None that we know of. We are searching for the entrance knownto the natives, but as yet we have not met with any passagelikely to lead us to it."

"But it is death to be discovered by the natives, Icilius,"said the other man, who had not spoken.

"Never fear regarding that," I replied hastily. "I have themeans to rescue us from them, if only we could get out into theopen air again."

"Who are you, who speak so loftily?" remarked the firstspeaker, whose name his companion had disclosed as Icilius. "Whocan he be, Marcus? He is not one of us."

Then Clodia stepped forward, and said: "Icilius, you are theson of Titus Flaminius, and you know me, the daughter of theConsul Piso. This is one of the strangers whose vessel is in thebay, 'the Sons of the Thunderbolt'."

"What! Clodia, the daughter of Piso the Consul, here, with oneof the mysterious strangers whom we heard of last night! This isextraordinary. What does it mean?"

"My good fellow, don't waste time bandying words. If you canfind the entrance leading to the temple of the Ariutas, I'll doall the rest. If you are sceptical, look!" and once more I pulledout my revolver and fired it, to satisfy the doubts of thegem-seekers.

The two men shrank away in alarm at the report. But Clodia,laying her hand on the arm of Icilius, said: "He will do you noharm. He is your friend, as he is mine."

I thanked her for these words with an expressive look.

"I suppose you know all the passages which connect with themain galleries in the cavern?" I asked hurriedly, anxious to loseno time in getting Clodia out of the horrible surroundings intowhich she had been cast.

"Ah, no! there are many, constructed over a thousand yearsago, that are well-nigh choked up now. The more modern passageswe do know."

"And where do you think the passage leading to the entrance ofthe Ariutas is likely to lie?"

"My idea is," said Marcus, "that it lies away to the west ofthe molten lake, and that it is in some way connected with theRiver of Death."

"What is that?"

"It is a mysterious underground river, dark and deep, whichseems to flow underneath the entire range of mountains. I believeit enters the ranges away to the west, in the heart of amountainous, impenetrable tract of country covered with denseforests. But for miles and miles this river flows underground. Itmust go somewhere."

"Has it ever been traced to its mouth, or at least to where itleaves the mountains?"

"Never. At least I have never heard of any one who followed itup so far, that returned to tell his experiences," was thesomewhat alarming remark of Icilius.

"By the way, have you any food here?" said Clodia.

"Yes, plenty; our week's supplies for the whole of the workerswere only brought in yesterday. There was sufficient to serveforty men. We are only four."

"That should last us, with care, for some time," I said. "Now,I would advise that Icilius and Marcus go first as guides, andthat you and I follow, Clodia. But I think, before we doanything, we should refresh ourselves with some food, and thentake with us what should supply each of us for a week."

My companions, one and all, fell in with the suggestion. Wewere not long in reaching the chamber where the food supplieswere stored.

Here we ate heartily of some cakes, not unlike the oatcakes ofScotland, but sweet, some raisins, olives, and mangoes, washeddown with a cup of light wine that was most refreshing.

Clodia enjoyed her repast, and would fain have had a fewminutes' sleep, as she felt thoroughly worn out. But I had to becruel enough to deny her, as I knew she would only have feltworse on awakening.

After our meal we packed our supplies, and tied themknapsackwise with light rope across our backs. I insisted oncarrying Clodia's share also, as the poor girl had enough to doto drag herself along without burdening her with anythingelse.

Then we commenced to descend the long passages and galleriesleading towards the River of Death. We explored several otherpassages by the way, in the hope that some of them would give usa due towards finding the Ariuta entrance; but one and all seemedonly to lead towards the main cavern, and to the molten lake. Onwe pushed. Oh, how weary we were! The journey was excessivelytedious, and we never seemed to be getting any nearer to theriver.

At last poor Clodia broke down. With a faint cry she stumbled,and would have fallen had I not caught her.

"Go on, go on," she said faintly, "I cannot go farther. I feelas if I were dying. Just let me lie down here, and leave me todie."

"Clodia, Clodia," I said, throwing my arm round her, andsupporting her, "you must not let such despairing thoughts takepossession of you. We will rest here for a few hours. A sleepwill restore you, and we will push on again refreshed."

Marcus and Icilius were kindness itself. They insisted ontaking off their outer blouses and forming a rude couch for her.The air was warm and pleasant, although slightly impregnated withsulphur.

With a long sigh of relief Clodia threw herself down. I madeher rest her head against my breast, while I leant my backagainst the wall of the passage. Within a few moments, I believe,none of us were awake.

I must have slept very heavily. When I awoke I felt asuffocating sensation in my lungs, and I had considerabledifficulty in breathing. I looked hastily around. To my horror Isaw that the fiery lava stream had invaded the passage wherein wewere, and was now not more than twenty yards from us. It hadslowly pursued us, creeping along the way we had come.

I awoke my companions with no little difficulty. They werenearly overpowered with the fumes. A few mouthfuls of wine,however, restored us, and, gathering up our belongings, wehastily proceeded along the passage. After we had walked fornearly an hour we suddenly entered another large chamber wherethe air was sensibly cooler, and more free from the sulphurousfumes. A dim light, as of day, illuminated it also, and onlooking up we observed, about 150 feet above us, a huge fissurein the mountain side, through which dim daylight was entering. Asfar as I could gather, the night was nearly spent, and dawn wasbreaking over the world. Oh, what would we not have given to bestanding outside that fissure! But it was too high up to bereached; besides, the cliffs on all sides were very precipitous.Nothing remained for us but to struggle forward.

We now began to advance into the older workings of the cavern,which some centuries before had entered the mountains at adifferent point. We saw relics of the artistic taste of workerslong dead. Their very names were forgotten, but their memorialssurvived in huge monoliths, roughly-executed butvigorously-conceived statuary, faces carved out of the solidrock, and figures of human beings so lifelike in their pose thatagain and again we mistook them for some of ourfellow-creatures.

In one chamber we came upon a statue of Tisiphone, the Fury,before which we all stopped in sheer fascination of horror. Thesubtle skill whereby the most peerless earthly beauty of featurewas wedded to the most diabolically malicious and pitilesslycruel expression of face, awed us so much that to this day Ishudder when I think of it. For some time we lingered round it,like birds spell-bound by the gaze of some snake, until anexclamation of horror from Marcus caused us to gaze in thedirection whither he pointed.

"What is it, Marcus?" I asked.

"A heap of skulls—scores of them."

"Skulls? how did they get there?—what does it allmean?"

Icilius it was who replied.

"I may be wrong, but I believe we have stumbled on the secretchamber of the League of Light."

"The League of Light—what is that?" I inquired.

"Oh I it does not exist now. It was a secret society which,about 200 years ago, was very powerful in Nova Sicilia. It wasprofessedly formed to resist the intolerable oppression of thepatricians, which had become just as grinding here as in Rome.The society, which was plebeian in origin, avenged itself onthose who were cruel or harsh oppressors of the poor. It struckterror into the patrician order, when one and another and anotherof their class disappeared and were never heard of again."

"But did the authorities make no attempt to put it down?" Isaid wonderingly.

"I only speak from what I have read and heard; I believeseveral attempts were made to stamp it out, but they all failed,owing to the support the society received among the poor. Thosewho made the attempt invariably became its victims."

"And how long did it last?"

"For over a hundred years at least; then it became a purelypolitical organization, and was in turn guilty of the grossestacts of tyranny and oppression."

"It is always so. But who suppressed it?"

"Well, I believe internal dissensions crept in; some of themembers became traitors, and acted as spies for the Government,until during the Consulship of Marcus Titurius Balbus and SpuriusLartius, the latter, by a clever stroke, captured the whole ofthe members while they were in meeting, and thus caught them inthe act. A number of very incriminating tablets were found, andthe whole of the officers, without exception, were executed. Noone ever knew where they conveyed their victims. Tisiphone wastheir patron, and probably this is the statue which, in some way,was associated with the death of the League's victims. Do nottouch it, or approach too near. There are hidden springs in it, Ibelieve."

"Hidden springs!" I added; "and what effect do theyproduce?"

"I do not know. I have only heard a rumour that the victim wasordered to grasp the outstretched hand of the statue which yousee there, and that his death followed."

"Let us try the effect with this long pole," I remarked, goingto a corner where I saw a wand leaning against the wall.

Marcus and I took the pole and pressed the palm of the hand.Suddenly the hand of the statue gripped the pole and dragged ittowards its bosom, which at the same time opened up on eitherside, showing within a deadly arrangement of daggers all pointingoutward, against which the body of the luckless victim would besqueezed.

"O horrible," shrieked Clodia, "that such iniquities shouldhave existed!"

The contrivance was much the same as that in the dungeons ofthe Inquisition at Naples, but the Roman invention showed agreater refinement of cruelty than its analogue in the possessionof the Holy Brotherhood. Singular indeed it was that two minds indifferent hemispheres of the world should have developed similarideas for torturing poor humanity almost at one and the sametime.

"Here's an altar," cried Icilius, who had been searching thechamber; "it is all splashed with some dark substance, evidentlyblood. Ha! what's the inscription? Diti DeoAcherontis—to Pluto, God of Hell!"

"O, let us get away from these horrors!" said Clodia, clingingto my arm, "they chill me with dread."

"Yes, we will go, this is no place for you, Clodia. Come,Marcus and Icilius."

"One moment. There is a recess here containing a number ofthings. For instance, what are these, and these, and these?"Saying this, to my exceeding surprise he dragged out from therecess an old flint-lock pistol rusty with age, a sailor's knifewith the name "J. Smith" distinctly cut upon it, and finally, alittle book, "The Shepherd's Calendar of Edmund Spenser,imprinted for Thomas Rowe, and are to be sold at the Golden Key,in St. Paul's Churchyard. Anno 1656." On the fly-leaf was written"John Smith, Bristol, 1662". Eagerly I seized upon thesememorials. "Would they could speak," I murmured, "what a talethey would tell!" It seemed probable at least that somecountryman of my own had been done to death in that awful chamberof torture. I thought of his last moments, how his mind would flyback to "Merry England," where mayhap his friends were waitingand watching for the ship that never came home, for the voicethey were never again to hear.

I was aroused from my reverie by Clodia again pulling my armand begging me to leave the terrible chamber.

"Yes, Clodia, we will go," I said, hastily gathering up themementoes of my dead countryman; "the associations here are notpleasant, but I am glad those villains of the League caught theirdeserts in the end."

"That they did," said Marcus; "our historian Tertius Fabriciusspecially mentions the terrible revenge the Consul Balbus took onthe members of the League."

"I am glad to hear it. Those who could devise cruelties likethese were not men, but fiends."

We left the silent chamber, with its awful memorials of bygonebloodthirstiness and cruelty, and recommenced our journey alongthe passage. The workings now ceased, and we were whollydependent upon the successive caverns for furnishing us with themeans of pushing onwards towards our salvation. Our progress wasvery slow. So rough and dangerous was the track, which, however,seemed still well marked, that it took us over an hour to advancetwo or three hundred yards.

Poor Clodia was unable to travel rapidly. Again and again shebesought us to leave her to die. I told her that come what mightwe would never desert her, and that if she had to die, we wouldall die together.

After struggling along the best part of another day we wereonce more obliged to encamp in one of the numerous littlechambers that opened off the main caverns. After we had refreshedourselves with food we lay down, though, alas! the hope ofextrication from our awful predicament seemed growing weaker withthe lapse of every hour.

The others fell asleep almost at once, but I could not,although I felt utterly exhausted. The hours passed heavily by. Istruck my chronometer watch and found it was after midnight.

Then in the silence strange weird sounds began to forcethemselves on my attention. Grotesque and terrible facesprojected themselves out of the semi-darkness upon my gaze, butvanished the moment I looked intently in their direction. Shadowyflitting forms seemed to pass and repass before the entrance tothe chamber where we were resting—forms that cast lingeringlooks of mingled sadness and hate upon me as they were swallowedup by the primeval gloom. Never-ending friezes in pompousprocessional order appeared before the doorway, the stories inthe mythology of Greece and of Rome unfolded themselves inmysterious dramas, without beginning and without end. The figuresof the great ones of ancient story gazed upon me with eyes out ofwhich an eternity of horror seemed united to a universe ofwoe—Hector and Achilles, Ulysses and Agamemnon, Apollo thegod of youth, and Venus the goddess of beauty, all mingled insome hideous masquerade. Then there fell upon my ears, as thoughit had been the whispering of some vast multitude, a softsibilation of words sounding like the rustling of leaves in theintercalary lulls of some Titanic storm.

Voices I certainly did hear, of that I was assured, and layingClodia's head gently on a pillow formed of my coat, I started outto discover the cause.

But I had scarcely risen to my feet when there fell upon myear, ravishingly beautiful as the distant songs of angels, or ofa multitude of Aeolian harps swept by the west wind, the swellingstrains of the most divine music it had ever been my fortune tohear. Spell-bound I stood listening. The voices of males and offemales were subtly intermingled, while like an undertone ofbliss sounded an accompaniment of stringed instruments evidentlyplayed by master-hands.

Like the cadences of the heavenly choir the music rose andfell, now swelling loud and overpowering, now sinking into awhisper like the murmur of many distant waters in the leafy monthof June. To venture out I dared not, lest I should lose some ofthe bewitching harmony.

Then the sounds began to recede. Fainter and yet more faintthey grew, as though vanishing into infinite distance. Then theydied on the air, though that very air seemed tremulous withharmony for many a moment after all actual sounds weresilent.

Yet somehow I felt comforted by the very fact of havinglistened to these ravishing sounds. I realized that sooner orlater we should be saved. With these ideas in my mind I resumedmy seat by Clodia's side, and soon slept like my companions.


WE slept long and heavily. Exhaustion sealed our eyes, and itwas far on in the succeeding morning when I awoke, to discoverMarcus and Icilius endeavouring to prepare a light meal for usbefore we set out once more on our weary way.

We ate a few cakes, some raisins and olives, and washed themdown with a draught of Massic wine, occupying the time the whilewith pleasant conversation. At last, all being in readiness, weonce more began our journey, full of determination to use everyendeavour to save our lives from this living tomb.

On we pushed along the track, Clodia now the most eager of usall to reach our destination. Passage after passage we traversed,now in doubt whether we were wandering from the main track orwere straying in a circle round the path, now encouraged by signsof previous travellers along the same road. Sometimes the pathwaywas narrow, so that two could scarce walk abreast: sometimes itexpanded into a magnificent chamber, capable of containing twothousand people. Birds and bats at length began to fly around us,showing that we were not far from the life of the great gladworld without.

At length we entered a spacious cavern, where the stalactitesand stalagmites on roof and floor conveyed the impression to usof being within some vast cathedral. The air was cool, and in thedistance we seemed to hear the murmur and the music of manywaters. Frequent fissures high up in the roof of the cavernadmitted a dim light.

At last, on turning a huge projecting cliff we saw beforeus—dark, sullen, and silent—the almost motionlesswaters of the River of Death. What a dreary spectacle itpresented, yet how glad we were to see it! The track for a timeseemed to run alongside the bank of the river, but stopped onreaching what appeared to be a primitive landing-place,—foran old stone quay stood there, evidently long disused. The widthof the river at this place might be from twenty to thirty yards,but its depth was well-nigh fathomless.

Here we were at a stand-still. The track seemed to stop, andwe were in ignorance how to proceed, when Icilius gave a cry ofsurprise and delight, and pointed to a dark object lying on thesurface of the water close in to the quay.

"What is it, Icilius?" I inquired eagerly.

"A canoe, the gods be thanked—we are saved!"

Poor Clodia was so overcome with delight that her feelingsgave way, and, hiding her face in her hands, she wept aloud.

I endeavoured to moderate Clodia's almost hysterical joy, andthen, turning to Icilius, I said:

"Is it fit to travel in?—will it hold us all?"

"I think so—so far as I can see, it would hold fivetimes as many. It may even prove too unwieldy."

"There's not much chance of that, Icilius. However, see whatyou can make of it, and whether we might, with safety, embark init in place of so wearily footing it along the shore."

"We'll soon put that beyond a doubt," cried Marcus, going tothe assistance of Icilius.

Yes, there was no doubt about the fact. Here was an old canoe;it was large, heavy, and roomy, and had evidently been used toconvey articles of no small bulk from place to place. Icilius atonce leaped into it and began to test it. He found that, althoughit had probably been disused for many years, it was perfectlywater-tight and fit for use. The paddles still lay by its sides,where they had been laid down by the unknown rowers a long timebefore.

It was evidently a canoe of Ariuta construction, the characterand richness of the carving placing this beyond a doubt; and thisseemed to hint that we were on the right track to discover theentrance to the cavern known to the natives.

We accordingly got into the canoe, and our combined weight didnot seem, in any respect, to overload it.

"The gods are propitious, O my friend!" said Clodia, as we sattogether in the stern of the boat, while Marcus and Icilius,allowing the current to carry us onward, merely used the paddlesto keep us in the centre of the channel. I gently pressed herhand, but did not venture on replying. My heart was too full.

We were evidently far away from the crater, whose roar onlyfaintly reached us. As we passed along from cavern to cavernunder the mountains, we saw the same evidences of gems past allcompare, and gold in quantities absolutely inexhaustible, meetingus everywhere.

The river seemed to flow through subterranean valleys andplains, through narrow gorges and beneath the frowning face ofsheer impending cliffs. A dull semi-twilight prevailed, amidstwhich we could discern objects at a great distance both beforeand behind us. Gems of a value almost incalculable sparkled hereand there, and by their sheen, even in the dull light, lent theirquota to the illumination of the gloom.

Now and again we would pass on the left-hand bank the faces ofgigantic figures sculptured in the rock. Also mysterious blocksof masonry, showing that mankind had been there before us. Boththe sculpture and the architecture were different from anythingwe had seen at the New Sicilian end of the great caverns.Different entirely were these from Roman art in any of itsphases, resembling early Egyptian carving of the third and fourthdynasties.

This betokened, however, that we were now within the sphere ofinfluence dominated by Ariuta art and Ariuta civilization.

For hour after hour we steadily progressed down the course ofthe River of Death. We were all strangely silent. The spirit ofreverie had fallen upon us. I had been sitting beside Clodia, andperhaps had allowed my thoughts to stray away homeward to OldEngland's shores, wondering if I ever should see the chalk cliffsof Dover again, when suddenly my attention was drawn to a clusterof diamonds imbedded in the soil of the cliff-side, whichliterally blazed with brilliancy, even in their rough state. Theywere almost within my reach, and involuntarily I put out my handto see if I could touch the place. Clodia observed the action,and smiled sadly. She misinterpreted my motives in the matter,and thinking I was sorrowing over being compelled to allow suchwealth to slip through my fingers, she remarked:

"Do not trouble yourself over them; you will get more than youcan carry away in Nova Messana."

"My dear Clodia, I was scarcely thinking about them."

"Ah! my friend, think no more of them," said Clodia, layingher hand caressingly on my arm. "We are escaping with our lives.Thank the gods, thank the gods! What does our Horace say in twoplaces in his Odes?—Carpe diem et permitte diviscetera."

"My dear Clodia, I am too thankful for our escape to think ofaught but the goodness of Heaven to us."

"Who are your gods to whom you can show your gratitude?" sheasked naively.

"Ah! Clodia, it makes little difference. The same Providencetakes watchful care over us all, under whatever form we mayrender adoration to it."

"What do you mean? Have you no gods? Have you not deities thatyou worship as we do?"

"Ah! yes, Clodia, we worship the same great Power under thename of God as you do under the name of Jove. What I mean is,that it is immaterial under what name we worship the great Fatherof all, whether as Jove, or God, or Siva, or whatever else; ourthankfulness for mercies can be the same."

"I vow a kid to Proserpine for snatching us from her gloomyhusband's power," replied Clodia, smiling.

Onward the stream bore us, Marcus and Icilius at timeschanting in a low tone a boating-song familiar to the NewSicilians. The water was black as ink, and as oilily smooth asthe wells of Baku; while a dead silence brooded over all, likethe quiet of a desert solitude.

Onward we passed. At last a hasty exclamation from one of ourcompanions induced us to raise our eyes. Immediately ahead of us,with its towers and pillars, its columns and obelisks,imperfectly discernible in the dim light of the cavern, was asubterranean city, evidently of vast extent. We were as yet aconsiderable distance from it, but every yard we travelled madethe wonder seem more mysterious.

Nearer and nearer we drew to it; its Cyclopean masonry andtowering battlements, its minarets and gigantic buildings,frowned down upon us. Then a blaze of light flashed before us,and we saw hundreds of dim white-robed ghostly presencesthronging the banks, and calling to us in a strange, unknowntongue.


A SCENE more extraordinary than that wherein we now wereplaced could scarcely be conceived. Here were we being bornealong on the bosom of this mysterious river, a party of asdiversely-constituted human beings as could well be supposed, theorbits of whose lives a day or two before were as unlikely tointersect each other as that Jupiter and the earth should crosseach other's course when revolving within their own planetarypaths. Yet now the anomaly had been brought about that I, astranger from England—a terra incognita to most ofthe others—with Clodia, the daughter of one of the Consulsfor the year, and finally with Marcus and Icilius, thegold-seekers and gem-gatherers, should have floated down to thisweird, unknown city in one another's company. What asingularly-assorted gathering we were! what a mysterioussituation was that wherein we were placed!

The banks of the River of Death were crowded with thesestrange, white-robed figures, ghost-like in the gloom, whichflitted hither and thither, uttering peculiar cries, andbeckoning us to draw in nearer to the shore. The towering andmassive battlements of the great subterranean city, the domes andminarets and obelisks rising on all sides of us, the stupendousarchitecture, and the evidences of splendour present on everyside, all seemed to imply that we were on the threshold of someremarkable discovery, perhaps the remains of a dead or a dyingcivilization.

Meantime the cries of the white-robed figures on the bankincreased as the current seemed to bear us more rapidly onward.The crowd followed us along the shores. Then it was I felt that,if an impression was to be made on them that would guard againstour ill-treatment in the future, now would be the time. Standingup, therefore, in the canoe, I shouted several words aloud so asto attract the attention of the strangers, and then fired off twochambers of my revolver into the air. The effect was electrical;the whole multitude of ghostly figures fell prostrate on theirfaces, and low cries and wails, evidently of supplication, brokefrom them.

Marcus knew the Ariuta language through having learned it manyyears before, when as a prefect's assessor he had been stationedin the northern part of the island. He therefore addressed thesuppliant crowd by my instructions.

"Fear nothing. We come in peace. The great gods of the NovaSicilians have spoken; ye have heard their voice; so do, then, asmay be required of you, lest the wrath of these gods bekindled."

The people rose from their humble posture, evidentlyencouraged by the friendly words of Marcus.

One who was seemingly a man of authority among them steppedforward and spoke as follows, Marcus acting as interpreter:

"O strangers, since ye come in peace, ye are welcome. Deathwould have been your portion under ordinary circ*mstances,because ye have intruded upon the secret worship and meditationsof the Hidden Disciples of Motuala, the Almighty God of gods; butyou evidently are His children. This is His city and temple,tenanted alone by us, His servants and priests. It is calledChimalo. I am Kisho, the chief priest here, and director of theworship in this secret temple, whose mysteries no unhallowed eyeever looked upon save one."

"Kisho, you have spoken wisely. We are your friends. We desireyou well. We come from the city of Messana; and, owing to thegreat eruption that has taken place in the mountain, we could notget out by the ordinary entrance, and had to seek this one, whichwe knew existed, but which we had never been able to find tillnow. Will you assist us?"

"Why should the Sons of the Gods need help from those who arechildren of men? Have you not come unto us in the canoe of theSacrifices?"

"Because we are wandering through strange lands we come, andthe Spirits of Evil are striving with the Spirits of Good. Thegreat Motuala himself is anxious, and hath sent the Son of theThunderbolt to war against his enemies, and to subdue them untohimself," I replied thus through Marcus, feeling that our safetydepended on keeping up the illusion.

"Land, then, O Sons of the Gods, and we will give unto youwhat we have for the sake of the great Motuala," said Kisho.

Our canoe was therefore headed for the shore. Along the bankswere certain ancient landing-places built of masonry, with stepsleading down to the water. We landed, and were assisted up thestairs by the Ariuta priests. Their dress consisted of one long,white garment, with a hood attached to it, a richly-wroughtgirdle, and shoes of a very peculiar pattern.

As we ascended the steps at the landing-place, I insisted onClodia taking my arm, and determined to show her in the presenceof the Ariutas such marks of honour and respect, that any attemptto steal her from us might be prevented by the feeling of dreadwhich the Ariutas themselves would entertain for her.

I dropped a hint of my intentions to Marcus and Icilius, andalso to Clodia. The latter was much opposed to it.

"We should kneel to you, not you to me. Oh, my friend, you aretoo thoughtful for me. The gods alone can reward you. But let mepay the homage to you."

"No, Clodia, that would not serve the end in view."

"Why not? You look much more like a person to be reverencedthan I, a feeble girl."

Alas! poor Clodia could not realize the danger wherein shestood. Her beauty was so surpassing that the Ariutas might wishto retain her amongst them as one of the wives of their monarch,or, on the other hand, as an acceptable sacrifice to the gods. Ihad caught a whisper of something of this kind in the talk ofMarcus and Icilius. I determined to prevent it.

Therefore the moment I reached the bank of the river and stoodon the landing-place, I fell at Clodia's feet, and with greatshow of humility requested her blessing. She gave it with a sweetassumption of dignity that was very captivating. Marcus andIcilius followed my example. To our surprise, the old priestKisho, whose long white beard and venerable aspect gave him theappearance of a Biblical patriarch, fell on his knees beside us,in which act he was imitated by all the attendant priests.

"Why do you kneel?" I asked in surprise.

"Do not forbid us," murmured the aged priest. "Down with youthere," he cried to some of the priests, "down and implore theblessing of the maiden."

"But why should you do so?" I urged; "your own gods are yourprotectors, although we also worship Motuala, or God, under adifferent name."

His answer has often recurred to my recollection as being fullof that calm wisdom that comes alone from the experience ofa*ge.

"O, strangers," he said, "if the maiden be of such surpassingpower, let us unite our prayers to yours, that she may take oursacred city under her protection!"

While all were kneeling before Clodia, I quietly reloaded myrevolvers, and at the close of the ceremony fired off two moreshots, as though to stamp with the seal of Heaven our devotions.Through the kneeling multitudes a long shiver as of dread passed,when the report of the shots pealed through the mightycaverns.

Then Kisho conducted us from the banks of the river throughthe gates into the mysterious sacred city of the Ariutas.Everything appeared to have been done on a gigantic scale. Marcusacted as our interpreter with Kisho, and from him we learned thatthe city was at least 10,000 years old, dating back to the timeswhen the whole of the South Sea Islands were populated by thatmysterious race which hailed from Atlantis, whose marvellousworks are still traceable on Easter Island. He informed us thatthe people had records reaching back over 6000 years, when agreat king and warrior, Kauwaristanai by name, had flourished. Hewas a mighty lawgiver and social organizer, and to him was duethe constitution, sacred and secular, of the Ariutas, which hadprevailed all over the island, until the advent of the Romans1800 years before had slightly altered the character of thepolity, and of the civilization. Only in the centre of theisland, and in this sacred city of Chimalo, did the worship ofMotuala and his inferior divinities still exist in its pristinepurity.

The architecture of the buildings in this subterranean cavernwas Cyclopean in its massiveness. The temples, the palaces, thehalls, the pyramids, the sphinxes, the colossal statues, were allexecuted in a style of great artistic beauty and power. Yet thewhole circ*mstances of the case were so strange as to impress mewith a vivid sense of the unreality of the scene. The city wassituated not far from the mouth of the cavern. The light,therefore, reaching its inhabitants was that of a mellowedtwilight. Yet was it most suitable to the sacred character of thecity in the estimation of the Ariutas. The garish light of daywould have been out of place.

With Clodia hanging on my arm, and attended by Kisho, thechief priest, Marcus, Icilius, and I pursued our way through thecity until we reached the house of Kisho, who had insisted onentertaining us. The streets of the city through which we passedwere unlike anything I had ever seen. They were gloomy, dark, andfunereal-looking, and were lighted by lamps day and night. Nowheeled vehicle was visible in the town: Mules and asses were thebeasts of burden, and everything that required to be transportedwas carried on the backs of pack-mules.

The inhabitants wore a grave, absorbed, sorrowful expressionof countenance, due in large measure to their sacred character.The majority of the residents of the town were priests, theirwives and families, only a few merchants and traders beingallowed to take up their residence in the sacred city.

When we were seated in Kisho's house, in a lofty room of whichthe sole furniture was a low table about eighteen inches high andsome mats with rich cushions, and after we had partaken of therefreshment he set before us—fruits, cakes, andwine—the old priest inquired whither we intended to go.

"Back to Nova Messana, of course, as quickly as possible."

Kisho shook his head. "You will have many difficulties toovercome before you reach there."

"Difficulties—of what kind?—of men?"

"Both of men and of the country. The roads are known to few,and I fear if you fall into the hands of King Ranamea, deathwould be your only portion."

"His death would follow on the slightest injury beinginflicted on one of the party before you. You know I carry thethunder of heaven with me: it would be awakened instantly againstanyone who attempted to wrong us."

"But King Ranamea is surrounded by thousands of guards."

"No matter, the thunderbolt seeks its goal through ringsinnumerable of armed retainers. It is the great defender of thefeeble. Under its protection the weak are equal to thestrong."

Kisho was thoughtful for a moment, then, turning to me, hesaid:

"I believe you are all you say. I feel the voice of Motualaspeaking to me through you, and I pledge my word to assist you inevery way possible. Perhaps the influence of this fair maiden,whether she be beloved of Motuala or not, may have had somethingto do with my decision."

Was I deceived in thinking that for one moment a scintillationof humour seemed to gleam in his eyes as he spoke? Clodia wasvery tired, and was easily induced to retire into an innerchamber and rest, while Icilius, curling himself up where he sat,was speedily fast asleep. This left Kisho and me to enjoy a chat,though Marcus had still to act as our interpreter.

I was anxious to learn something of this mysterious people,and, therefore, my first question to him, after he had declaredhis willingness to afford me any information I desired, was howthey believed themselves to have come from Atlantis, or "Aztlan,"as he called it.

"I do not pretend to know where 'Aztlan' was; all we know isthat it was destroyed in a frightful earthquake. But in ancientdays there was a great deal more land in the world than there isnow."

"Oh! I see, you believe in the theory that Atlantis was unitedto South America, and that all those islands in the South Seasonce formed a part of the South American Continent. The theory isnot a new one.

"My son, you confuse me: I do not know any of the names youmention: they are all strange to me. All I know is that we hadland communication from 'Aztlan' to Ariuta, but it took many longmoons, over seven or eight, to traverse the distance."

"Quite so; the Aztecs had the same tradition, and the Quicheshold it to-day."

But Kisho shook his head. My speech was as Greek to him, and Ilet him tell his story in his own way.

"It is about a hundred thousand moons ago, according to therecords of our priesthood, since Priwastra, the son of Tau, setout for the farthest confines of the world, where the greatMotuala or Ra foretold he should found a mighty empire. Hebrought 500 companions of both sexes with him, and establishedhere our sacred city. Five hundred moons after their arrival thegreat convulsion or strife between the upper and the nether worldtook place, in which Aztlan was destroyed, and land communicationbetween the two places broken up. A band of men, who had escapedthe terrible rain of fire that overwhelmed Aztlan, reached hereafter travelling over twenty moons, seeking our country. Thus welearned about Aztlan, and here we have abode until this day."

While Kisho had been speaking, my eyes had been wanderinground the apartment, the walls of which were covered withpaintings. Suddenly I started with surprise unutterable. Thedesigns on the walls had seemed strangely familiar. No wonderthey should be so. In every particular they were the same asthose of Egypt. In other words, the art of Egypt and of theAriutas was absolutely identical. On the walls wererepresentations of the pyramid, the obelisks, the sarcophagi, thehieroglyphic writings, so familiar in the cities of the Nile.There, too, I saw the figure of Ra, the bird-headed, ofPtahsocharis-Osiris, of Pasht, of Mut, of Isis and Horus, ofAnubis and Thoth. In every particular they were exactly alike.What did it mean? I determined to ask Kisho.

"Have you ever heard of Egypt—Aegyptus, Kisho?" Iinquired.

For a moment the old priest looked puzzled. Then hiscountenance cleared.

"I remember seeing in one of the New Sicilian books, which wastranslated into our tongue by my predecessor in the highpriesthood, a reference to it. It is one of the countries in thatdivision of the world you call Africa, is it not?"

"Right. It is the oldest country known to our Westernscholars. Its history, its civilization, its science, itsreligion, all date back to a period so distant as practically tobe unknown. In other words we have no reliable informationregarding its beginning as a nation."

"Humph! how far does it go back?" replied Kisho almostcontemptuously.

"That I cannot say. Hundreds of thousands of moons! But what Iwish to bring under your notice is, that its architecture, itsart, its religion, its natural customs, nay, its system ofhieroglyphic writing, all were identical with your own."

Kisho seemed startled. He gazed at me incredulously.

"I am not deceiving you, Kisho; what I say is absolutelytrue," I continued. "But the writers of Greece, of whom you havedoubtless heard, Plato and Plutarch, both mention the fact thatthe priests of Sais had informed certain travellers that theEgyptians were descended from a colony sent out from Aztlan orAtlantis, an island far out in the Atlantic Ocean. The accountwas long regarded as mere fable. I believe, Kisho, there was nofable in the matter, but that the account in question representedabsolute truth."

The effect on Kisho was not a little wonderful. Rising to hisfeet, he seized my hands in his. "It is truth, absolute truth!"he cried. "I myself can show you in our ancient tile libraries,which contain information dating back to the beginning of things,that such an expedition did leave Aztlan about three hundredmoons before Priwastra started on his journey hither. Theexpedition went east, and, after much travelling, settled on thebanks of a fertile river, where a great empire was founded. Twicethey sent embassies to Aztlan to acknowledge the authority of ourlord and master Meru. That is the country you call Egyptto-day."

"Did you say you had records in your tile libraries datingback so far?" I inquired eagerly.

"Assuredly. They were used long before we discovered thesecret of making paper from the fibres of the bark that is foundon the trees here."

"What a treasure that would be!" I rejoined. "The history ofthe world might be written with some approximation to truth."

While we were conversing together, some of the subordinatepriests who were friendly to us had come in and had beenlistening to the discussion. During a lull in the conversation,one of them remarked to Kisho:

"Ktando has been trying to work mischief."

Kisho's face became clouded. His eyes blazed with wrath.

"What is that arch-mischief-maker doing now?" he cried.

"He says the strangers ought to be offered as a sacrifice toMotuala: that they have broken the laws of the order andcontaminated the sacredness of the city with their presence."

Marcus repeated what had been said to me. "Let him come andtake us," I said in reply to the young priest who had brought theintelligence. "We have come to you under the protection and bythe will of Motuala, and he who is the great Ra will shield uswith his buckler. Let Ktando put a hand on us and that day willbe his last."

But while I was speaking I noticed that Kisho's face grewmomentarily sadder. He seemed oppressed by a secret melancholythat weighed upon his spirits. I observed it, and the thoughtsuddenly flashed across me that perhaps in defending andprotecting us the good old man was endangering his own life. Itaxed him with it. He appeared very confused.

"My son, do not harbour any such ideas in your mind. Myauthority here is still supreme."

"But, Kisho, is it not the case that your enemies are usingyour protection of us as a handle against you?" I was distressedthat I had not thought of the contingency before.

"Well, even though it is so, what of it? What can theydo?—nothing."

But that was not sufficient for me, and turning to Kisho Iinquired:

"Who is Ktando, and what power has he?"

"He is the brother of the king's favourite wife, and has greatinfluence among the younger priests. He is deeply versed in ourreligious customs and traditions."

"Then, Kisho, you must risk no more for us. Whatever his partymay wish us to do we will accomplish, but I warrant that if hemeans to do us any injury he will come off second best."

"Do not be alarmed," replied the grand old man calmly, raisinghis eyes to heaven. "The Supreme One knows I have alwaysendeavoured to glorify Him at all costs, and to do His will. If Iam to die, I die in a glorious cause, in protecting His childrenfrom wrongs that would be put upon them."

While we were speaking Ktando suddenly entered the apartment,and made a profound obeisance to the High Priest. He was abeetle-browed, evil-visaged man, on whose features all the worstpassions of human nature were written large. Yet there was apower and a dynamic fascination about the man's mien andpersonality that could not fail to have an effect on weakermen.

Approaching Kisho, and again saluting him, Ktando said, asMarcus informed me: "Oh, father, wherefore is it that thestrangers who have contaminated the sacred city with theirpresence are not to be offered up as usual to assuage the wrathof the offended deity?"

"Because they are under the direct protection of Motuala."

"But how do we know that?"

"Did you not see the sacred fire from heaven proceeding fromtheir hands, or at least from the hand of him who now honours myguest-chamber with his presence?"

"I did so; but are we to believe that it proceeded from thegreat Motuala, and was as deadly as it is represented?"

Kisho turned to me appealingly.

"Would you like to try whether or not it could stretch youdead on the spot where you now stand?" I said to Ktando angrily,through Marcus.

Ktando drew himself up. His hood was wider in its borders, hisgirdle richer, and his tunic more flowing than those of any ofhis companions. He evidently knew himself to be a person ofconsideration, and he wished to make an impression on me by theforce of his own individuality. But my proposal staggered him. Hedrew back. But the smile of scorn which I permitted to rest on mylips for a moment seemed to sting him into ungovernable rage.Springing forward he shook his fist in Kisho's face:

"You are dishonouring the gods of your nation. You are afraidof these accursed foreigners, and Motuala is to be contemnedbecause of your craven heart. At least, the foreigners shouldundergo the ordeal of touch to see what is Motuala's willconcerning them."

It was now Kisho's turn to draw himself up with dignity, andwith calm, cutting sarcasm to rebuke Ktando for his violence. Theproud priest writhed under his superior's condemnation, as it wasso public. But I considered the scene had gone far enough. InKisho's interests, it was time to stop it, lest the kindly oldman should suffer. Therefore, as soon as Marcus had informed mewhat Ktando had said, I stood forward and remarked:

"I am willing to undergo any such ordeal as you maydemand."

Over the faces of Ktando and his friends I saw a gleam oftriumph pass when they understood my words. They appeared toimagine that my very consent to undergo the ordeal they spoke ofwas a victory for their party. They went away in great glee tomake preparations.

On inquiring what they desired us to do, Marcus turned to meand said, "Ktando and some of the priests insist on us undergoingthe ordeal by touch, that is, to touch the forehead of theirsacred statue with our finger. If the god is displeased with us,he would signify it by striking the daring intruder dead on thespot; if not, no change will follow."

"Well, Marcus, do you think all is fair and square?"

"Oh, I think so! I don't see how they could injure us in anyway. It is merely some superstition they have with regard to thestatue."

"If I thought we ran any danger by consenting to undergo theordeal, I would make short work of Ktando and his friends withoutdistinction."

"Of course it is well to be prepared against everything; but Ido not think any treachery can be accomplished against us inconnection with the ordeal, and it is as well to satisfy them. Itwill please Kisho also, for I fear the poor old fellow is in abit of a hole over us."

"True, Marcus; we owe it to Kisho. Let us rouse Clodia andIcilius and tell them. I will be guided by what they think."

After having the situation explained to her, Clodia wasstrongly in favour of agreeing to it. In her idea a refusal wasnot to be thought of.

"Oh, no! there would be nothing gained by that," said she."Let us consent and undergo it. We will thereby render theAriutas more ready to assist us, and to furnish us with guideshome again. Although the direct road through the mountain is onlysome twenty miles, I have heard that the distance from Chimalo toMessana is fully fifty miles by very rugged and tortuousroads."

That decided us. Poor Kisho had been very much put out whenhis colleague Ktando, next in rank in the priesthood, proposedthe trial, and referred to their sacred writings, where it wasinculcated that every stranger must touch the forehead of Motualaso as to learn his pleasure about him. But the High Priest wasimmensely relieved when, on his excusing himself regarding it, Ilaughed, and said:

"Oh, certainly; there is nothing to object to in that. Ourmotives are pure, and the gods who see the heart will recognizethat."

Kisho smiled in turn, and said, "Motuala will never injurethose who love the good. But the impure in heart will be sweptoff the face of the earth."

We accordingly prepared to set out at once to the place wherethe trial was to be made. From the residence of the High Priestwe walked slowly through the streets of this mysterious town. Thesilence and the awe brooding over all seemed oppressive. Thestrange, dim light of the semi-subterranean city presentedeverything to us as though viewed in a dream.

Oh, the wonder and dread of impending disaster which hang overme during all that time! Every hour of the time I had been inClodia's company had served to impress upon me her beauty, herunselfishness, and the winning gentleness of her nature andmanners. More and more I realized how much she had become to mein those few days, how deeply her image had imprinted itself onmy heart. Dear little Clodia! the very idea of her being indanger thrilled through me as if with a sensation of acute pain.I solemnly vowed that her safety should be guarded with the lastdrop of blood in my body.

At length we reached a wide, open square, in the centre ofwhich stood a colossal stone statue. The features of this figurewere of a calm, majestic beauty, singularly impressive andawe-inspiring.

"That is the statue of the great god Motuala. It is 4000 yearsold, and has more than once proved the salvation of the Ariutasin the day of trouble," was Kisho's remark.

"That is the statue which my ancestor had seen," said Clodiain low tones to me. "Surely they will respect their promise tous, and let us go in peace."

"Do not fear anything, beautiful Clodia," I replied warmly."You have played your part well, and Kisho and his priests aresufficiently impressed with your appearance and actions to bevery glad to show us all the kindness they can."

But Kisho and his attendant priests at this stage of theproceedings exhibited unmistakable signs of uneasiness over somematter. Ktando was in evidence everywhere. He seemed to havetaken over the office of master of ceremonies, and the suggestionof the trouble seemed to proceed from him. To Icilius and MarcusI confided my suspicions, but found they did not share them, andthought Kisho's agitation proceeded from Ktando's usurpation.However, I let them know that if any treachery were intendedagainst us, and especially against my beautiful companion,Clodia, I had determined to empty my revolver into the body ofthe villainous-looking priest, who, I was convinced, was at thebottom of the business.

At last Kisho advanced to give us our instructions.

"All you have to do is to ascend, one by one, to the platformaround the features of the statue, and to touch its forehead withyour fingers. Motuala will do all the rest, and in his grace youmay safely rely, though not in the good faith of wicked men."

Something in Kisho's tone seemed to give me a warning, but Idismissed the thought as unworthy. The ceremony was only a formalone; what could there be to object to in it?

It was evidently desired that I should touch the forehead ofthe statue first. This I declined to do; not from fear, but withthe determination that if anything happened to Clodia I might beable to fly to her rescue, while if I were rendered hors decombat at the outset she would be at the mercy of theothers.

It was therefore arranged that Marcus and Icilius should leadoff with the trial of the ordeal. They advanced one after theother to the mighty head of the statue—the features aloneof which were about eight feet in height—and ascending thesteps that wound up behind the neck of the great bust, and thenin by the ear to the eyes and the forehead, they touched thelatter reverently. A deep silence prevailed while this was takingplace. When all was over a shout of satisfaction went up from thesurrounding priests.

So far all had gone well. There was not even a suspicion offoul play, and the joy the priests evinced at the success ofMarcus and Icilius seemed genuine.

"Now, Clodia, you go next," I said.

Clodia left me standing at the foot of the great statueearnestly watching her progress upwards. I saw her attain theopen gallery at the foot of the forehead and immediately underthe eyehole. I saw her stretch out her hand as though to touchthe forehead of the statue. Then I received a smart blow fromsome unseen source. I looked away from the platform for aninstant, to see who was my assailant. My attention was recalledto the spot by a low murmur of excitement. When I looked againClodia had disappeared, as though by enchantment, from theplatform.


I COULD scarcely believe my eyes. That Clodia should havedisappeared in so mysterious a manner was incredible! In aninstant I had bounded up the steps until I reached the foreheadof the statue. On my way up I had noticed a heavy hatchet lyingbeside a coil of rope. In a moment I had possessed myself of theformer. Then, when I had reached the forehead of the greatstatue, in place of reverently touching it as the others haddone, I swung back the heavy axe over my shoulder, and struck atthe features of Motuala with all the force of which I wascapable. From the interior came a hollow, twanging sound, showingme that the statue was not solid throughout. A yell of horrorgreeted my action. The white-robed priests swarmed up the stepsof the statue, but halted when they saw me standing with myrevolver presented so as to cover those who should approach.

With them came Marcus, who at once ranged himself by myside.

"Where is Icilius?" I cried.

"Gone. He disappeared at the very moment when we saw Clodiadisappear."

"But where can they be?"

"That I know not. Icilius was standing by my side, leaningagainst the wall of the gallery, when suddenly, when I lookedagain, he was no longer with me."

"Marcus, we are evidently surrounded with pitfalls. We muststick together, and rescue our friends. Now, you tell them,please, that if they do not surrender Clodia and Icilius withoutdelay, the thunderbolts of heaven will kill every one of themwithout exception."

The priests meanwhile had been talking earnestly amongthemselves. Kisho was no longer present. The leader of those whowere so hostile to us was the evil-visaged priest, Ktando. He wastalking and gesticulating to the others, evidently inciting themto rush forward and seize us. The old scoundrel did not lackcourage.

Then Marcus stepped forward, and, beckoning with his hand forthem to keep silence, said:

"You have offended the gods by laying hands upon the 'LightMaiden', whose beauty is the beauty of the morning; also byseizing my comrade. Now, therefore, the Son of the Thunderbolthath spoken, and it shall be done, namely, that all you shall bekilled by the unseen bolts of the gods, which the Son of theThunderbolt carries. Deliver up our companions if you wish toescape."

A yell of defiance was the only reply to our demands.

As Marcus finished speaking I again raised my revolver, andtook steady aim.

Ktando saw I was determined to single him out as my firstvictim. With remarkable agility for so old a man he rushed acrossthe intervening space, brandishing a dagger, and shouting thewords, afterwards translated for me by Marcus,—"Death!death! Motuala has been desecrated! The Son of the Thunderbolt isa demon!" He had nearly reached me when I fired. The bulletstruck him a little above the heart, and he rolled over and overin his dying agonies.

Yet even then his courage did not desert him. In a moment heraised himself on his elbow and shouted to his followers:

"Cowards, rush on them: they are only two: do not fear death:avenge Motuala and me."

There seemed a disposition on the part of the younger prieststo adopt Ktando's dying advice. But again Marcus proved ofinvaluable service. Raising his voice once more he shoutedaloud:

"Why will you rush on your death? The Son of the Thunderboltdoes not wish to slay you, but you compel him to do so: down onyour knees and entreat mercy, ere worse befall you."

The words of Marcus struck terror into the crowd, especiallywhen they saw me once more preparing to take aim. They becameparalysed with fear. One by one they fell on their kneesimploring mercy. "Spare us, O spare us, Son of the Thunderbolt:we have been misled and deceived."

"Where are our companions?" shouted Marcus in reply.

"Spare us, O spare us, we are not guilty," was the onlyresponse we could get from the terrified priests.

In my agony of suspense over the fate of Clodia, there is nosaying what might have happened to the unfortunate priests, whomI believed guilty of at least plotting against the life andliberty of her who had now become so dear to me. But at thismoment Kisho and his friends rapidly mounted the steps andadvanced towards us, just in time to witness Ktando's dyingagonies. Once more I prepared to fire; this time over the headsof the priests. But at the same time I pointed to Kisho, to showthem that it was to him alone they owed my forbearance.

Kisho advanced to me, and, beckoning to Marcus to interpret,said, "O Son of the Thunderbolt, spare our priests. They are notto blame. He on whom the blame lay has met with his death.Motuala hath willed it. Great is Motuala!"

"But will you restore the maiden and the man whom you havetaken?" I asked through Marcus.

"The man certainly, but the maiden is now—"

A great horror seized on me. Had they sacrificed poor Clodia?I sprang forward, and with a yell of defiance, shaking myrevolver the while, I cried, "What have you done with her? Giveher up at once—at once, or I will serve all of you as Iserved that dog there."

Kisho looked at me with a look of intense surprise for amoment, then he said with great dignity:

"The maiden is uninjured; how came you to think she would beinjured? Come with me." And, taking my hand, he led me forward tothe eye of the statue. To my infinite surprise I saw that the eyewas in reality a door, very convex in shape, which slipped upinto a recess in what represented the eyelids. The workmanship ofthe statue had been so exquisitely true to nature, that, close asI had been to the place, I had failed to detect the presence ofthe door.

Kisho led Marcus and me through the door, and down amagnificent staircase of pure gold. Down we went, deep into thebowels of the earth. Suddenly we stepped from semi-darkness intoa glorious blaze of light. Brighter and yet brighter it grew.Kisho drew aside a drapery that seemed to veil a doorway, and wewere ushered into the sacred shrine of Motuala. Seated before itwere Clodia and Icilius, who exhibited signs of the greatest joythat we were reunited.

Kisho pointed sadly to them, and said, "Couldst thou not havehad a little more faith, O Son of the Thunderbolt? 'Twas I whostole your maiden away, 'twas I who caused your companion to beconcealed, knowing that you and your interpreter would be able torescue yourselves."

I was speechless with surprise. But, recovering myself, Icrossed over to where Kisho was standing, and, taking his hand,said warmly:

"Forgive me, Kisho, I too have been misled, but I feared thatKtando and his men had seized them."

"So they had plotted to do, and not only these two, but all ofyour party. Motuala forgive me, but I had to slay one of our ownpriests before I could beat Ktando's faction back and secure thecaptives myself. It was the only way to save their lives."

"We can never be sufficiently grateful to you, Kisho. But mayMotuala bless you and keep you!"

"Ah! my son, the rescue has been effected at a terriblesacrifice; my own fate is, I fear, sealed."

"How is that?" I inquired anxiously.

"King Ranamea will hear of the occurrence, and will avenge thedeath of his favourite wife's brother."

"Nay, he will never know. We will slip away quickly, andKtando's faction are now so thoroughly broken that they will giveno further trouble."

"Let us hope so; only in his ignorance lies my safety."

"But dare he put forth his hand against a priest?"

Kisho shook his head. "He cares little for our ancientreligion."

"By the way, why did Ktando conceive such a dislike tous?"

"Because you were protected by me. He hated me because I washigh priest, and was over him. He tried to thwart me in everyway, and to undermine my influence. He was well read, and deeplyversed in the ancient religious customs of the Ariutas, and thismade it easy for him to assert that anything he wished was thewill of Motuala, because it had been the custom long ago. We haveabolished human sacrifice. He wished to revive it; and the maidenand your companion would have been the first victims. Let us begrateful unto the gods that I was able in the end to outwit themalice of Ktando. For years he has been a sharp prick in my side.Now I am free from him."

The shrine where we were standing was a small one underground,lighted with myriads of lamps that were never allowed to go out.The sight was one of the most magnificent I ever saw. The wallsof the temple were literally 'faced' with gold, studded here andthere with precious stones. Rich vestments and clothes curiouslyinwoven were visible on all sides. The altar stood in the middleof the temple, and on it were piled fresh fruits and flowers, forMotuala was God of the Living Principle, and the Ariutasconsidered, like Pythagoras, that in fruits and flowers we getthe Principle of Life most in evidence.

Kisho said to us after we had thanked him for preservingClodia and Icilius, "Within a day or two, as soon as theexcitement cools down, you must be far hence. I will send twofaithful guides with you; but you must promise never to revealwhat you have seen here, neither the way in nor the way out. Youmust forget you have ever been here. Were it known that I savedyou alive, I should probably forfeit both my position and mylife. Will you swear?" By the eyelids of Motuala we gave ourpledge never to reveal aught that had passed during the last fewhours.

"And now, my children," said Kisho sadly, "we have only ashort time together before we part, never to meet each other inlife again. You, my daughter, will return to your father, theConsul; you, my son," he continued, turning to me, "will have along journey before you reach your home, and when you do you willdiscover many changes."

We started in abject astonishment at the old man. Never in onesingle instance had we dropped a hint to him as to who we were,yet he seemed to know all our affairs familiarly.

"How do you know who we are?" I inquired quickly.

"That, my son, is part of our religion. The study of magic andof insight into the future and the past was one of the greatestglories of Aztlan. Very few amongst us keep it up. I have alwaysdone so."

Perhaps I allowed a smile of a slightly contemptuous characterat what I considered the old man's credulity to appear on mylips. He saw it, and added:

"I see you do not believe me. Will you believe your owneyesight?"

With these words he brought forward a small iron brazier, onwhich he placed some resinous gums and spices. Then from one ofthe lamps around he set fire to the heap. A thick vapourdiffusing a delicious odour diffused itself throughout theshrine. Then the smoke seemed to roll together into heavy masseslike the cumuli we see in the shapes of the clouds. These,in turn, parted, disclosing, as in a frame of vapour, a clearspace, wherein we observed figures beginning to form themselves.Gradually these became clearer and more distinct, until we wereable to recognize the harbour of Nova Messana and the deck of theFitzroy. There, seated on the poop, we saw Piso theConsul, the Professor, Captain Anstey, and Mr. Rodgers, the mate.They were evidently discussing some subject with greatearnestness, for their faces were grave and anxious-looking. Themoment poor Clodia saw the representation of a scene so familiarshe cried aloud, "Oh, my father, my dear father, shall I neversee you again? Come to me, father!" Then, realizing how vain wereher entreaties, she hid her face in my breast, even as a littlechild, and wept bitterly. The vapour-pictures slowlydissolved.

Kisho's powers having been so triumphantly demonstrated inthis particular, he next turned to us and said:

"You will soon be leaving me, my children, but I warn you outof the love I have conceived for you, not to set foot in anyvessel until you reach home. If you do, the death of the dearestof you will, I fear, follow."

"I don't think there will be any necessity for embarking inany boat whatever," said Icilius. "We can reach Nova Messana bythe land route just as well."

"By all means let us take the route that is the safest," Ireplied anxiously, for in some dim, inexplicable way I realizedthat Kisho's warning pointed to Clodia. The very thought ofdanger threatening Clodia thrilled me with dread. With her naivechildish ways, and her lovable nature, she had so endearedherself to me that already the idea was slowly taking shape thatI would settle in Nova Messana for her sake. Her innocent trustin me, her manifest pleasure in being near me, all stirredreciprocal feelings in my breast.

Meantime strains of the most delicious music were softlyrising and falling, seemingly in the far distance. The cadencesreminded me of what I had heard in the caverns, and I inquiredfrom Kisho what it meant.

"You probably heard the Weird Singers of the Seven Peaks, atribe living far away to the west, among the caverns there, butwho come here to bury their dead. They are a people whose worshipconsists in Music, and they are supposed to be an offshoot of theearly settlers that came to Nova Messana long, long ago. Theywere probably carrying their dead down the river when you heardthem. They are a strange race, very fierce when attacked, butwhen left alone the best of neighbours."

I was obliged to accept this explanation, though it was veryfar from explaining all I had heard and seen on the eventfulnight in question. At last, Kisho, observing that Clodia lookedworn and tired with the exciting events of the day, and as thenight was now far advanced, said:

"Rest yourselves here, and I will send you in some food by atrusty priest; then, when evening again falls in the forest, yourguides will come for you, and you will start at once. I will seeyou again."

With these words he stole quietly away, and we lost sight ofhim, leaving us in the quiet temple rejoicing in our escape.

It was evident that the liberalizing influence of Kisho andhis friends had not penetrated far into the innate superstitionof these murderous-minded priests. The religion of the Ariutasseemed remarkably akin to that which we believe to have existedamong the early Egyptians, among the Toltecs of Mexico andCentral America, and the later Aztecs of Ecuador and Peru. Therewas the same colossal architecture, the prevalence of thepyramidal shape, the worship of the horned deity, and thepresence of flowers and fruit on the altar as a peace-offering.But there was an alien element in their worship, this desire forhuman sacrifices, which I could only account for through thedesire to pacify the gods, so that the eruptions might not burythe people and their mysterious city.

Before long a door was opened in the temple, and threeacolytes entered, bearing a plentiful supply of food—fish,fowl, fruits, daintily served on plantain leaves, and wine inskin bottles. The white-robed novices quietly arranged thembefore us, and then glided away. Once more we were left alone.Nothing impressed us more than the great silence which prevailed.Not a sound reached us. Presently Clodia, at my desire, wrappedherself up in her mantle, and, leaning her head against mybreast, went to sleep. The others also lay down, theunderstanding being that, as I alone knew how to use therevolver, I should watch now, while they would do so afterwards,when danger was less imminent.


WHILE the others slept I had abundant time for meditation. Ourposition was even now far from being enviable. We had manydifficulties to overcome before we reached our destination. I hadno reason to doubt Kisho's good-will, but the hints I had hearddropped of King Ranamea's disposition caused an anxious dread totake possession of my mind. Clodia's attractiveness was itself amatter of apprehension to me, owing to the fact that a beautifulwoman would be a prize past all price in the amorous king's eyes.How, then, was I to convey the poor girl into New Sicilianterritory, in the face of such a danger? But presently my fearspassed away. I realized how Heaven had assisted us in the past,and somehow the advice of Cromwell to his Ironsides flashedacross my recollection, "Trust in God, and keep your powder dry."It gave me strange consolation, and I determined to follow outit* counsel to the last.

Hour after hour passed. The deep silence around me, brokenonly by the regular breathing of my companions, proveddangerously soporific. I must have been dropping off to sleep,when somehow my faculties became acutely awake once more by thesubtle consciousness that someone was near me. I found that myeyes had closed, and it was with a sensation of supreme horrorthat I saw, on opening them, a sight that chilled my blood in myveins. Hanging down from the roof of the shrine was an enormousserpent. It was suspended head downwards, and was slowly swingingitself to and fro within a few inches of my slumberingcompanions. The light from the lamps showed the glisteningcolours on its scaly skin, beautifully marked in green and redand black. From out its mouth played its forked tongue like afiery dart. I was speechless and spell-bound with terror, ableneither to cry nor to move to the succour of my friends. Then,too, my eye fell upon the features of an old crone, whosesnow-white hair and withered, parchment-like face betokened greatage. On arresting my gaze, she smiled and nodded her head, thensaid, in fairly good Latin, while she pointed to the serpent:

"No fear. He not hurt: he tame: he sacred snake ofMotuala."

With these words she passed her hand over the body of thereptile, which presently descended from the roof and curleditself round her. It was evidently so tame and harmless as to bethe pet of the habitués of the shrine, yet the sight ofthe old woman encircled by the coils of the enormous creature,and peeping out like another Laocoon from its folds, thrilled mewith horror. However, as it would not do to seem afraid in herpresence, I smiled, and nodded, with the remark: "It is very fondof you."

"Ah, poor thing! it is all I have left now to love."

With these words she nodded again to me, and disappeared fromthe building with his snake-ship, for which, I must confess, Iwas devoutly thankful.

After this I fear I must have proved unfaithful to my trust byslumbering in reality. At least I was not aware of the approachof anyone until a hand was laid on my shoulder. I started,awakening Clodia with my exclamation of surprise.

Before us stood an old man, or rather a man prematurely old.His hair and beard were white as the driven snow, and fell intangled masses over his shoulders and breast. His eyebrows, too,were white and bushy, but beneath them glowed the burning lightof the most startling eyes it had ever been my fortune to see.They were like fires. He was literally clothed in rags, but asingle glance showed me that I had to do with a European. But themystery was, how did he get there? I sprang to my feet and drewmy revolver. A contemptuous smile flitted across his face like awintry gleam of sunshine over untrodden snow. Then, to mysurprise, he said in excellent English: "What—will oneEnglishman fire at another? Fie—fie!" My arm fell by myside. I rushed forward and clasped my fellow-countryman'shand.

A Mystery of the Pacific (11)

"What—will one Englishman fire at another?"

"Who are you?—what are you doing in this terribleplace?"

"Hush! I escaped from Nova Messana, and have wandered throughthe caverns, coming out here;" and with these words, he pointedto a slab in the temple floor which was raised, and beneath whichwe could see the commencement of a flight of stairs descendinginto the bowels of the earth. "But oh, what I have suffered!"

"Joannes Websterius, can it be you?" cried Clodiawonderingly.

The look of terror which overspread the old man's face waspitiable to behold. "The Consul's daughter!" he cried, in utterdumbfounderment.

"John Webster, you are safe with us. Right glad am I to seeyou. Your brother-in-law, Professor Barlow, has been at NovaMessana looking for you."

"What!" cried Webster despairingly to me, on hearing my words,"and has he left?"

"Not that I know of. Nor will he leave, I expect, until we getback."

"O, take me with you! If a frenzied man's gratitude will carryany blessing with it, let mine call down every good gift on youif you will save me from certain death, and help me to return toNova Messana."

"Captain Webster, it was to save you that we came into theselatitudes at all." And in a few sentences I recounted to him thefinding of his letter by the villain Jake Huggins, his attempt toseize the vessel, and finally, Professor Barlow's determinationto bear down into these seas and look for him. Webster's emotionwould not suffer him to interrupt me while I was speaking.

When I stopped, all he could say in broken tones was: "Godbless him—God bless Ernest!" Then burying his face in hishands, he sobbed aloud.

Clodia's eyes were likewise full of tears when she learned thesad history of the poor old castaway.

"Yes, Joannes Websterius, you shall go back with us; and ourfriend there, the bearer of the thunder of the gods, will protectyou as he protects us."

Captain Webster cast his eyes up to heaven as she spoke, and Idistinctly saw his lips moving in prayer. Then, taking Clodia'shand, with old-fashioned courtesy he carried it to his lips,"May the sun of thy prosperity never set, may the moon of thygood fortune never withdraw itself, and may that Mighty Powerwhom we all worship, be his name Zeus or Motuala or Jehovah, keephis everlasting arms around you even until the end!"

"Yes, Captain Webster, keep your mind at rest. Within a veryfew days I hope we shall all be back at Nova Messana, and youwill find your brother-in-law, hale, hearty, and well. As far asa human arm can, I will protect you."

Just as I said these words I heard a low expression of terroruttered near me, and turning hastily round I beheld Kishostanding open-mouthed gazing at Webster.

"How came he here?" the old priest murmured; and Marcuspointed to the raised slab in the floor of the temple.

"Oh, close it, close it! Do you know him?" he inquired of me,through Marcus.

I nodded, and briefly recounted the facts in Captain Webster'slife, to which Kisho listened with eager attention.

When I had finished the narrative he said quickly, "He must besaved, but oh, it will be hard. He has come to us by the sacredpathway of Motuala, which it is death for any sons of men totread. You must come with me—quick, quick!" he cried. "Iwill not harm you," he added, seeing that Webster hesitated. TheCaptain trusted him, and disappeared with him in perfectconfidence.

About fifteen minutes afterwards we were surprised to seeKisho enter the shrine once more alone with a complete stranger.The latter was clean shaven, and seemed to be a man well up inyears despite his youthful appearance. I was just about to greetthe new-comer respectfully, though distantly, when something inhis mien seemed familiar. The truth flashed upon me.

"Captain Webster, can it be you?"

"Well, I've doubts myself, I can assure you," replied theCaptain.

Kisho, in the short space of time during which they wereabsent, had caused one of his confidential assistants in thepriesthood to shave Webster's beard off and to clip his locks. Hehad also clothed him in the dress of the country. Had anyone seenhim lurking about, he would never connect the vagabond and thewhite-robed acolyte who now stood before us.

"You must not speak, and above all keep out of sight until thetime of departure comes round. Remember, every priest would thinkit his duty to kill you for profaning the sacred way."

Webster clasped the old man's hand and kissed it. "God blessyou for all you have done for me!" he murmured, as Kisho movedaway, after placing some food before Webster, which he greedilydevoured.

We then lay down once more to rest until the time of ourdeparture arrived. Kisho was arranging everything for us, and allwe had to do was to fall in with his plans. Perhaps it was thesense of this dependence on another that made me so anxious. Itwas long before I slept, and when I did so I was again tormentedwith terrible dreams. I seemed to have been only a few minutesasleep when I felt a hand touch me. Once more I sprang up,inquiring what was wrong. Kisho stood before me. "Nothing, myson," he said, "only the hour has come. I have been twice in tosee you before, but each time you were all so fast asleep Ithought it a pity to disturb you, considering the difficultjourney before you. You have slept over four hours, and theevening is fast falling outside the cavern. The hour for yourdeparture has come."

"Has it? Well, I must say I am sorry. We have been quietlyhappy and comfortable here."

Kisho smiled once more, then raising Clodia, he said, "Yourguides are now awaiting you. Everything is in readiness: you willfind horses, provisions, and all you require with the guides. Go,my children. I am sorry it must be so, but there is no help forit."

"I am very sorry to leave you, Father Kisho," said Clodia,looking up into his face.

"And I to part with you, my daughter; but this life is nothingbut a succession of meetings and partings. Go, my children, but Ipray you, avoid the city of King Ranamea. It is about seven milesdistant, and is called Chichihua. Thence it is only about twelvemiles to the seaport you call Brundusium."

"There we shall be safe," cried Clodia, gleefully clapping herhands after she had heard the interpretation given by Marcus ofthe priest's words.

"Even so; but you have many dangers to overcome beforereaching that point. One thing you may rely on—the absolutefidelity of your guides. They are my own sons, and belong to thebodyguard of the king. They are at home just now on leave."

We thanked the kindly old priest warmly for all his exertionson our behalf, and took a warm farewell of him; I said we mightmeet again. He shook his head.

"Our race is disappearing—yours is increasing. Soon theAriutas will be a name of the past. But when you conquer us,remember to be merciful, for the sake of old Kisho, the HighPriest."

As we were moving off, he said to Marcus, "If by any chanceyou meet with the king's party and have to go to Chichihua, donot mention anything of having been here." Finally, turning toCaptain Webster, he placed around him a heavy mantle whichcompletely concealed his acolyte's dress. "Be prudent," he saidin a low tone.

Then the old man, having thrown around Clodia's neck a chainformed of some exquisitely beautiful stones, raised his handsover us in token of blessing, and turning away from us we saw himno more.

Many great and good men I have met in life, men whosecharacters have been as noble and beautiful as they could wellbe. But for sheer Christ-like humility and holiness of life Ihave never met the equal of that grand old priest of the Ariutas,whom I shall ever regard as one of the elect of God. Trulyamongst those I hope to meet in that divine apocalypse of blissthat awaits us hereafter, one at least will not be absent fromthe general assembly of the just above, and that is Kisho, theHigh Priest of Chimalo.

And so we bade farewell to the mysterious city of Chimalo, thelast surviving link uniting the world of to-day with the gloriesof the lost Atlantis.

Our guides were waiting for us at the door of thetemple—two noble-looking youths, Lano and Perizal by name.They were seemingly deeply attached to each other, and theircontest each to exhibit the virtues of the other—not hisown—in a favourable light, was very interesting andbeautiful.

Both of them had learned to talk Latin, and though they mademany mistakes, about which Clodia smilingly rallied them, it wasa great matter to have men with us who could understand ourinstructions, so that everything had not to be done throughMarcus. The latter, I could see, was beginning to give himselfairs over his indispensability. It was therefore a needed checkto him to discover that his services were no longer required.

We left the temple, and after traversing a long undergroundpassage we suddenly emerged into the open air. Oh, how delightfulit was to feel the cool breezes playing on our cheeks after wehad been cooped up for so long in a living tomb! We regained theopen air on the banks of a noble river, which issued from sometowering cliffs a little farther up the valley.

"What river is this?" I asked.

"The River of Death—the one you came down to us by. Thisis the part of it after it escapes from its long subterraneanjourney." Although night had fallen, and the moon was not yetrisen, I could detect the luxuriant foliage with which the bankswere clothed. Nature herself was still vocal with manifold formsof life. The crickets and the locusts still whirred and sang inthe balmy air of the night. The frogs were croaking in themarshes, the bitterns were booming on the river banks. Oh, theluxury of sound after the death-like stillness we had so longexperienced.

Our way lay along the banks of the river, but it was merely atrack, not a road. I commented on it to Lano as we were mountingour horses.

"Ah, yes! we cannot make roads like the New Sicilians. Theirroads last for centuries," said he sadly; "ours, like ourselves,last only for a day."

"True; but as the descendants of the Romans, the road-makersof the world, they would do little credit to their ancestry ifthey did not excel in that particular," was my reply.

"That does not make our roads any better, or our negligenceany the more excusable," interjected Perizal smiling.

Then I remembered that one of the first things I had noted onlanding in New Sicilia was the excellence of the roads. Thesecret of constructing them was one which the early colonists hadbrought with them from Rome and communicated to theirposterity.

Behind us now, like a vast towering barrier, lay the mightymountain chain in whose inmost recesses we had been travelling solong. As I looked back on its gigantic peaks, seeming to piercethe very heavens with their spire-like points, I felt thankful toHeaven that our lot had not been to be buried in the heart ofthem when the eruption took place, but that we had been able todiscover the Ariuta entrance. Far away to the south-east we couldsee the lurid glare of the volcanic peak, and could even hear thelow rumbling of its eruption. Clodia's mind seemed running on thesame subject. Our eyes met. Clodia's were moist with tears.

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We could see the lurid glare of the volcanic peak.

"The Queen Mother of the Gods has been truly gracious to us,has she not, oh friend?" said the maiden, as she once moreslipped her hand into mine, her familiar action so expressive ofconfidence.

"Indeed, Providence has been good to us, Clodia, underwhatever name we worship it; and no after-gratitude on our partwill be a whit too great in such circ*mstances."

"Let us unite our thanksgiving to the gods that have been sobeneficent to us. We are saved!—we are saved!"

"Nay, my Clodia, let us wait. Thanksgiving never loses bybeing delayed until all our dangers are past. When we reach NovaMessana you and I will render our grateful vows to Heaventogether."

Meanwhile we pushed on, Lano and Perizal beguiling our journeywith pleasant converse, and with comparisons of the customsamongst the Romans and the Ariutas. Poor Webster, however, wasterribly depressed and anxious. He feared that his brother-in-lawwould have gone before he reached Nova Messana. I assured him ofthe opposite, and endeavoured to cheer him.

Before long the moon rose, and we were able to see our waymore clearly. The face of the country seemed covered with heavyforests, cleared away here and there to give space for some tinyfarm or vineyard. Like the Romans of old, the New Sicilians werein the habit of styling all other races "barbarians." A glance,however, was sufficient to show that the Ariutas were no savages.Far from it. They possessed a culture and a civilization evenmore complex and more advanced than that of the New Sicilians,who represented Rome. Their architecture, their sculpture, theirpolity, their worship, their music, their habits, conversation,and dress, all proved to me beyond a doubt that though thedescendants of the Romans had proved their superiors in arms andwarfare, the Ariutas had greatly modified the stern Roman customsthrough intermarriage and constant association. Singular indeedit was that I should be able to study side by side two existingphases of life so diverse yet so alike as the Roman and those ofAtlantis, of which race I had now no doubt the Ariutas were thesurvivors. "Oh that Professor Barlow were here!" I murmured tomyself.

Meantime we were pushing onward. Lano had attached himself toWebster and to me, while Perizal was entertaining Clodia. Marcusand Icilius rode on our right hand, conversing with one anotherin low tones, and often casting sidelong glances at us. With allhis conceit and vanity, Marcus was a sterlingly good fellow, butIcilius had in him all the fire and heroism and steady courage ofhis ancestors. At last Icilius stopped and beckoned me to rein inmy horse for a moment also, while Marcus rode on with Lano andWebster.

"Well, Icilius, what do you think of things now?"

"I wish to talk to you seriously, and, believe me, it is onlyout of my desire to serve you that I do speak. Will you forgiveme?"

"My dear fellow, say what you please. I know you speak as afriend."

"I do not know your name," he began, "but I love you. You area true man, and we must reverence truth and honour wherever itmay be found."

I smiled at his strange speech, and inquired of him what hewanted with me.

"Just to warn you that we are in great danger from more causesthan one."

"Indeed, I thought we were pretty well through our dangers,unless the king intercepts us."

"That is it, and the danger from that is extreme. This is thehunting season, and Ranamea is always on the move."

"But how does that affect us?"

"In this way, as you will see. If any of the king's troopsfrom Chichihua chance to be out, we shall be caught to acertainty; and what shall we say? what story can we make up?"

"Cannot we say we are a party of New Sicilian officials; thatwe have lost our way, and so forth?"

"Yes, that is very good, and might be believed if well carriedthrough. But, remember Ranamea is a man of great naturalacuteness and keenness of perception. He will not be easilydeceived."

"Humph! Is that so? Then what do you propose? I will fall inwith anything."

"Will you? Then that is all that is required. You will admityou are not very well up in our customs. You have not seensufficient of us."

"That is true."

"Then there is another thing that would betray you. You cannotspeak our language well enough to pass as an official in theservice of the Republic of New Sicilia."

"That is true," I said; "my attempts at your language areterrible failures, I admit."

Icilius smiled, but did not contradict me. He then went on:"If you would not mind exchanging some parts of your clothingwith Marcus, who speaks both the Ariutan and the rural dialectsof the peasantry in New Sicilian territory fluently, and would becontent to pass as his servant, I think we might get through.There is a village a little farther on where the road diverges toChichihua, and if we get past that we shall be safe."

I agreed at once, and gave Marcus my naval cap, and also mycoat with the brass buttons indicative of my connection with theGovernment of Queensland, in whose service I was.

"That should do splendidly. Now we can pass ourselves off asone of our survey parties, and I think there is little doubt weshall get through all right," said Icilius, smiling.

Marcus donned my cap and coat, and gave me in exchange his ownbrown canvas coat, and the light skull-cap worn in the mines.Clodia laughed and clapped her hands when the exchange was beingeffected, and declared I looked like an escaped slave. I fear Iwhispered to her that I was her slave, but had no wish to escape.A bright blush and a meaning glance showed me my shaft had gonehome. Lano and Perizal, though affecting to disguise the risk ofan interruption, were very glad to see the exchange made, as Ihad been their only difficulty in the way of passing off theparty as one engaged in road survey that had lost its way.

"I will keep by you, slave," said Clodia. "I cannot afford tolose you now we have got so near home."

"I don't think, my dear Clodia, there is much chance of youlosing me unless you yourself desire it," was my reply, whileCaptain Webster shook his head at me meaningly. But Clodia seemedstrangely silent and happy.

We had now ridden about three miles from Chimalo. But, as theroad was rough, our progress was slow. We were approaching thevillage of Braglondia, the point where all the roads diverged. Itwas a village near the frontier line, dividing the territories ofthe Republic of Nova Sicilia from those of King Ranamea, ruler ofthe Ariutas. Before long we heard the barking of dogs and theshouts of men in the distance. Lano stopped, and said:

"I do not like that noise. It betokens the presence of manymen, and our friends will be in all the greater danger."

"But what are we to do? We cannot remain here. We must eithergo forward or back, and I hate to go back when we are so near ourgoal," I remarked earnestly.

"That is true; but what if we are stopped and carried toChichihua?" said Marcus.

"There comes in the danger. There is risk whichever course wetake."

"Could we not wait until they retire to rest?" saidClodia.

"Or make a detour so as to escape the village," suggestedIcilius.

"We can do neither. The officers of Ranamea, if he is there,will be on guard all night; and we could not strike off the road,because the country is impassable through marshes."

Here was an awkward barrier to our progress. What was to bedone?

"Let us ride forward and put a bold face on it," retortedPerizal, who was the dashing warrior of the two lads, his brotherdelighting more in peaceful pursuits.

"I fear there will be nothing else for it; but if any of thepalace officials should be here?"

"We must risk it. Come, let us ride on."

Without further parley we did so. Marcus, wearing my uniform,with Clodia on his right hand and Perizal on his left, rode oninto the main street of the little town. Lano, Icilius, and Ifollowed.

No sooner did we get into the street in question than webecame aware that something unusual was occurring. There was aroyal residence in the town—for it was in the heart of anexcellent hunting district—and it was around that buildingthat the bustle seemed to be centring. Crowds of men, somemounted and some on foot, were standing in front of the gate ofthe house. Heavy wagons, piled high seemingly with householdrequisites, were waiting for admission, while a small body oftroops were drawn up around an open litter, which likewiseawaited admission. As we advanced through the crowd we seemed tobe quite unobserved by any one until we had reached a pointalmost opposite the open litter. Then a man of dignified andnoble presence leant forward in the litter, and said in deep,commanding tones some words in the Ariuta language. In an instantwe were surrounded and stopped. An officer stepped up to Marcus,and in polite tones addressed him in Latin with the words:

"The king hath observed the travellers; will they have thegoodness to appear before him?"

Kisho's worst fears never took account of this. King Ranameahad met us face to face.


KING RANAMEA sat in his litter eyeing us with eager curiosity.The gold lace and brass buttons on the coat, which Marcus wasthen wearing, naturally led the king to address him as the leaderof the party.

Ranamea's fine, intelligent features glowed with interest andexcitement when we ranged ourselves before his litter.

"Whence come ye, and whither go ye?" was his first question toMarcus, couched in excellent Latin.

Marcus did not hesitate a moment.

"We belong to a party engaged in road-surveying, but,unfortunately, we mistook the track, and followed one which ledus far out of our way into your dominions."

The king glanced at him keenly, then swept his gaze over thefaces of the others. None of them, however, flinched in theslightest.

"Good! Were my people kind to you during your travels?"

"Those we saw were very good to us, but we met with scarcelyany of them."

"Humph! Then you cannot have penetrated very far into thecountry. Are ye all of one party?"

"All, your Majesty—my companion, my sister, and ourslaves," he added, pointing to Webster and myself.

"Your sister—she is but young to endure the fatigues ofthe road."

"She is, your Majesty, and it is principally on her account Iam anxious to return home as quickly as possible."

"Ah! that is not wise. Will you not rest with me here untilthe morrow, and then when you have seen our hunting, whichperhaps the maiden may never have witnessed, you can resume yourjourney? Is not that advice wise, my friends?" he continued,addressing his courtiers.

"True, O King, live for ever! The maiden needeth rest."

Marcus was in a quandary; he did not know what to reply. Helooked at me, then at Clodia, and finally back to Ranamea.

"We are much behind our time as it is, and our friends inBrundusium will be very anxious over us. I crave permission ofyour Majesty to proceed on our way."

A deep frown as of displeasure mounted to the king's brow. Hiswhole features changed. Fortunately Clodia observed this, andsaid in a pleading tone to Marcus, as though desirous ofpersuading him: "I would so much like to see the hunting, and,besides, I am very tired with the journey, Marcus."

Ranamea's features lost their displeased expression in amoment; he became all smiles and kindness.

"And stay you shall, my daughter. I am sure your brother wouldnot be so hard-hearted as to drag you away. In fact, we will notallow him to rob you of the sight on the morrow."

"Your Majesty is very kind to your servants, who acceptgratefully your offer," said Marcus. "Perhaps after my sister hasenjoyed the hunting scene, you will allow us to leave in time toreach Brundusium before nightfall."

The king smiled, and as at this moment the gates leading intothe grounds swung open, we were compelled to follow him into thecourt of the building. Ranamea gave orders that we should be wellattended, and that our wants should be supplied. As soon as wewere rested, we were to be conveyed back to the presence of theking.

I had noticed Ranamea casting glances I did not at all like inClodia's direction. It was evident that her presence amongst uswas an enigma to him. We had to concoct some excuse, and the bestone was that she was the sister of Marcus, had been very anxiousto see the country, and therefore had been allowed to join thesurvey party.

Clodia was attended by two female slaves in the next apartmentto ours. After having bathed and partaken of what was known asthe hraskaria or greeting-cup, a sweet wine not unlikecuraçoa in taste, we proceeded once more into thepresence-chamber of the king. Lano and Perizal had beeninstructed to remain in attendance on us until we returned intothe presence of Ranamea.

We were conducted into Ranamea's presence-chamber, a small,richly-furnished apartment in the back portion of thehunting-lodge. Here, seated on rich carpets and cushions,reclined Ranamea, the king of the Ariutas. Over his head on thewall immediately behind him, blazed in colours of fiery red andwhite the mysterious symbols, a triangle within a circle, the Tauor Key of the Nile, also found in Egypt. We saw now what asplendid-looking man he was. Although past the middle age, everylimb and muscle betokened strength and agility. He eyed us keenlyas we entered, then, when his eye rested on Clodia, it softenedinto a look of admiration, and he made some remark regarding herto his courtiers.

"You are rested and refreshed?" he inquired of her kindly.

"We are, O King, and to thy goodness we owe it," was Clodia'sreply.

Ranamea seemed pleased, and ordered a rich cushion to bebrought that Clodia might sit near him.

"It is not often that our court is illuminated with the lightof a beauty so rare," he said gallantly, as he passed his handcaressingly over her luxuriant tresses.

Meantime the presence-chamber was being filled with courtierswho continued to arrive, momentarily, having been distanced bythe king's cavalcade. A brilliant assemblage it was, and althoughthe hour was now late, no one seemed to think of retiring torest.

At length the monarch espied our guides among his guards, andrecollecting that they had been in our company when we met him,he called on them to approach him. I felt an apprehension thatsomething might escape them that would implicate them in themovement for our escape.

Lano and Perizal knelt before him, and awaited hiscommands.

"Tell me, O sons of Kisho, how you met with thesestrangers?"

"We met them wandering towards the sacred city of Chimalo.Your servants were on their way back to the sunshine of yourpresence, O Ranamea, king of kings and lord of lords. They hailedus, and inquired of us if we could direct them back to theboundary-line of thy territories, O king, and we were doing sowhen it was our happiness to meet the glory of thy countenance, Ogreat Ranamea," replied Perizal boldly.

"But how came it you should do so, when you know it is astanding rule in the kingdom that all strangers must be broughtto me?"

"Hear, O king of kings, and if thy servants have transgressed,let their lives pay for it. Didst not thou grant unto thenew-comers permission to make roads on condition that they made onerunning to the city of Chichihua?"

"I did, my children."

"Didst thou not order that they should receive all manner ofsupplies from thy subjects, O light of the universe?"

"Yea, verily, that is so."

"And moreover did not thy gracious majesty grant unto thesem*n immunity from all hinderance by thy servants? Nay, didst thounot publish an edict ordering all to assist these road-makers? Weimagined we were fulfilling thy behests, O king, be thy dayseternal as the hills."

"Ah! yes—you did right, my children, only I would fainyou had brought them to Chichihua, where I could have inquired ofthem respecting the road."

"That we knew not, O great Ranamea, or it would have been ourjoy to fulfil it. We were hastening their return to their worksin the belief we were doing what would be well-pleasing in thesight of our lord."

"You did well, my children, you did well," returned the kingkindly. "You were not to know my secret mind in the matter. Youhave done no wrong."

"Thy servants kiss the dust on thy feet."

"But stay," cried Ranamea gaily, "can you resolve me thismystery? Whence this rose of the wilderness? By the grave of myfathers, rarely have I seen her equal in beauty. Tell me howcometh the maiden among them. Of a truth she is fair as thesweet-scented glolo that blooms in the gardens ofAmera."

"For that information the Light of the World will require toask of the Roman lord who standeth there."

Ranamea turned to Marcus with a smile, who, however, had hisanswer ready.

"The maiden, O king, whose days be as everlasting as the sun,moon, and stars, is, as I already told you, mine only sister,"said Marcus. "She is but a child yet, and has long been anxiousto see the country through which the road was to run. I promisedto take her with me some time, and on this occasion had to fulfilmy promise."

"She is fair, O stranger, passing fair."

"Thy servant praises the Giver of all Good that she hath foundfavour in the eyes of one so great and so good as King Ranamea,"replied Marcus with ready flattery, "But she is only a child; sheis very young."

"Humph! according to the customs of your country perhaps, notaccording to ours. What is her age?"

Marcus hesitated, then made a bold guess at the truth. "Twiceone hundred moons have not waxed and waned since she saw thelight. As their only daughter she is her parents' treasure."

"Stranger, according to our customs she is marriageable. Sheis fair as the full moon when it shineth over the slumberingocean. Say, O stranger, wilt thou wed her to me? She shall be myqueen, and will be regarded as the apple of mine eye, as the rareperfume that is distilled from the blossoms of themornola."

Marcus betrayed his confusion, so that we all detected thatsome untoward turn in our fortunes had taken place. "O Ranamea,thy servants are utterly unworthy of thy notice!" he stammeredout.

"I will raise you to be the leading arax or noble in mykingdom."

"The maiden herself is not fitted for an honour sosupreme."

"That is not so; she is fitted to adorn the noblest station.Say, wilt thou accept my offer?"

Meantime poor Clodia, conscious that something was wrong,beckoned me to come close to her. I did so, bowing with aprofound obeisance. Marcus gave me one glance of despairingentreaty, then replied:

"Your Majesty's goodness exceeds all possibility of gratitude.The offer stuns me. But, alas! I cannot answer."

"Why so? Are you not her brother?"

"Only her parents can decide. With them must lie the response.The maiden comes of the noblest lineage in Nova Sicilia. She isthe daughter of Piso the Consul, and therefore, as far as lineagegoes, is not inferior to thee."

Ranamea's eyes flashed fire to think that any of thenew-comers could claim a lineage equal to his, but he controlledhimself, and said: "Then let the maiden remain at my court whileyou go and ask permission from her parents. You and yourcompanions could start to-night and return in two days'time."

"Ah! great Ranamea, be not harsh with us; if we returnedwithout the maiden it would be as the death-blow to the agedpair."

"Do you not think the offer good enough for your sister?"cried Ranamea, an angry frown on his brow.

"Alas! O king, far more than we have any right to expect."

"Then why not accept it?"

"Because by Roman law only a father can give his assent to anysuch proposal."

"That means you will remove the girl, and I shall never seeher again."

"Nay, not so; but surely a parent has a right to be consultedin the disposal of his daughter."

"Why do you vex me by rejecting, when I have stooped to askwhat I have the power to take?" retorted Ranamea fiercely, whilea murmur of assent broke from his subservient courtiers.

"Because by Roman law I have no power to do anything withoutthe permission of the father of the maiden."

"Why not leave her here, and go from me to the Consul, bearingthe rich presents which I will send, and tell him that Ranamea,King of the Ariutas, desires his daughter to wife?"

"I dare not appear before him without her," said Marcus.

Clodia seemed to have some idea that the above conversationhad reference to her. She looked from one to the other of thespeakers, then sinking on her knees, with a pleading gesture,instinct with winning pathos, she held out her hands to the king."See, she kneels to me, she holds out her hands to me," criedRanamea rising, and taking Clodia by the hand he led her up tothe divan, and seated her next himself.

"Oh, your Majesty, she only pleads you would show her someconsideration by permitting her to return to her parents!"replied Marcus.

"Look you here. I have a hundred wives, but she shall be myqueen consort, a dignity never shared by any woman yet."

"Your goodness is past telling, but I beg you to let themaiden return to her parents for the present. She is very youngyet," entreated Marcus.

Then Ranamea rose up again in wrath. He half drew his swordand said, "I will not give her up; she is mine, and I mean tokeep her." A low wail broke from Clodia as Marcus translated thepurport of Ranamea's words.

"O save me, save me, my friend!" she cried bitterly, andlooked at me with horror and dread imprinted on her features.Marcus also turned to me with consternation and alarm in hisexpression. The time apparently had come when, whether I would orno, I had to drop the character of the slave. Therefore graspingmy revolver, and meeting Ranamea's looks with glances as haughtyas his own, I ranged myself by the side of Marcus.

"Let him understand that if he does not allow Clodia to go,and our party to leave his dominions in peace, the most direfulconsequence will follow. We do not wish to shed blood needlessly,but we will not scruple if it is forced on us."

"But if he will not listen to reason," urged Marcus nervously,with consternation imprinted on every feature.

"Then tell him," said Webster, "that his death will be on hisown head, that the thunder of the gods will awake if he does notwithdraw his absurd claim. The idea of our being your servantsmust, I fear, be given up. Tell him that Markham here is the Sonof the Thunderbolt. It is the only way to make himunderstand."

Marcus did so. Ranamea looked at me uneasily, but seeminglydid not consider me as a person of whom he need stand in fear. Acontemptuous smile played round his lips for a moment as thoughhe thought very little of our wisdom in expecting him to bedeterred by so foolish a menace.

Clodia it was who, in her dread, spoilt our little fiction.Leaping from the divan, she rushed toward us, but in place ofclasping her supposed brother's arm she took hold of mine.Ranamea's suspicions were at once aroused.

"What is this?" he cried, turning to Lano and Perizal. "Hereis a lady of high lineage throwing herself into the arms of asupposed servant. What does it all mean?" With these words hedrew aside a curtain which hung behind his seat, and there,inscribed in jewels, was the same mysterious device as waspresent on the walls around us, of the triangle inside a circle,which had puzzled us so much at Chimalo. We gazed upon it for amoment before Ranamea continued: "There is the symbol of thegreat Motuala, otherwise called by his sacred name, Ra. I invokehis protection, and I demand that the maiden be handed over tome, otherwise your lives will pay the forfeit."

The contemptuous smile on my lips seemed to enrage Ranamea."Do you not respect the sacred name of Ra, who from his palace atAztlan looks down and beholds your impiety?" he cried in Latin tome.

Even at this critical moment a flash of surprise vibratedthrough me to discover here, in this remote part of the Pacific,so emphatic a confirmation of the old legend of the destructionof Atlantis. The theory of the existence of a continent extendingfrom the Atlantic Ocean far out into the Pacific, of which theSouth Sea Islands were the remains, seemed to receive as strangea confirmation as from the historical record of Kisho.

"Even the name of Ra will not protect you from theconsequences of ill-doing," I said. "The great God will nottolerate that, and I swear to you that if you do not let thisgirl go, I will kill you by the thunderbolt of heaven."

For an instant Ranamea hesitated. Then the native courage ofthe man returned. He threw back his head with a haughty gesture,and clapped his hands. In an instant some of the guards rushedinto the hall.

"I have no wish to proceed to extremities with you," he cried."Consent to leave the girl with me, and not only shall you gofree, but you shall be advanced to high honour in my dominions;refuse, and you seal your death-warrants. This girl is in mypower, and I mean to claim her for my own."

"You will only lay hands on her, King Ranamea, across my deadbody. I will protect her with my life. I swear to you also thatif you put forth a finger to touch her, the next moment you willbe a dead man. I am equally averse to proceeding to extremitiesand to shedding blood, but if you force me, on your own head bethe consequences."

My words seemed to goad Ranamea into madness. Turning to theguards:

"Seize those men," he cried, "and take them away for instantexecution. Take the maiden to my own apartments. I swear sheshall be mine." These were his last words. In another moment Itook steady aim at him and fired. He fell, casting at me an awfullook of terror. Then I faced the guards; but they were appalledby the sound of the firearms, and, throwing themselves on theground, besought me, as Marcus stated, to have mercy on them. Ihad no wish to take more life than was absolutely necessary. Imotioned them to rise. They did so. Then I gave orders for themto raise Ranamea from the position into which he had fallen.

He was still living, but it was evident that his hours werenumbered. We laid him on the divan and endeavoured to staunch thebleeding, but in vain. Twice he made an effort to speak, butfailed. To the last, inextinguishable hate blazed in his eyestowards us. In a few minutes he had ceased to breathe. Ranameathe Great was dead. Then went up the wail throughout thepalace—"O Ranamea—Ranamea—our father, isdead!"

As we stood watching the life ebb away from him who only aminute or two before had been the dreaded lord of the Ariutas,Clodia burst into tears, and, turning away, sobbed out:

"O why was I born? this is the second life that has beensacrificed on account of me. Already I feel the Eumenidesbeginning to lay their fiery scourges of remorse on my soul.Would to Mother Cybele I had died before causing suchtrouble."

"My dear Clodia, it was the will of God. What sacrifice oflife has taken place has been only in defence of our own. Thatcould not be laid at our charge."

Still she mourned with all a woman's tenderness and sympathy,that on account of her any of her fellow-creatures should havebeen hurled into eternity.

Meantime one of the old courtiers, who introduced himself asAldomoro, the brother of Kisho, came up to me, and addressing mein Latin, said: "Pardon me troubling you, but I have somewhat ofgreat importance to say to you. Give me your attention. I livedsometime in Nova Messana on my master's business, and therelearned to admire the strict sense of justice and respect for lawgoverning the people. But the same sentiment does not exist here.When the people come to hear that Ranamea is dead, unless asuccessor is immediately appointed the most terrible outbreaks oflawlessness will ensue. How are you going to provide againstthat?"

I was appalled. I had no desire to have the responsibilitiesof a kingdom thrust upon me, and therefore said to Aldomoro:

"I do not know what is to be done. Has Ranamea left nosons?"


"Who then are the heirs to the throne?"

"There are none of Ranamea's line. But he was himself ausurper. He dispossessed Glandover—Kisho's father andmine—of the throne. Our father was a peaceful man, with noheart for warfare, and Ranamea, who was his greatest warrior andgeneral in the campaign against the New Sicilians, easilyovercame him."

"Then you or Kisho ought legitimately to be the king," Isaid.

"Nay, neither of us would care for the throne now. But Kisho'syoungest lad, Perizal, is one of the grandest of our youngmen."

"Would he take the position?"

"Verily he would, and do honour to it withal."

"That is enough. Why, then, do you not proclaim him king?"

"Nay, not so; but as you have brought about the crisis byslaying Ranamea, why not supply the cure by proclaimingPerizal?"

"But I have no right to do so."

"You have the right of the strongest, and you are the only manwho would be listened to at the present time."

Seeing, therefore, that Ranamea had left no sons, and feelingconvinced that the country would be plunged into the horrors of acivil war by divers claimants unless something were done at once,I agreed to act as old Aldomoro advised. First of all, I informedPerizal of what I intended to do. Both he and Lano seemedoverwhelmed by the news. Then I suggested to Aldomoro that whenPerizal was proclaimed king, he and his party should at onceraise the cry hailing him as monarch. The old courtier was notlong in obtaining support in all quarters, and informed me thatall was in readiness. Therefore, taking Perizal by the hand, Iled him forward to the soldiery, and, having placed the tiara ofRanamea on his head, I caused Marcus to announce, "There is yourking—a descendant of the true blood royal; obey him." ThenI retired to the background again. Immediately thereafterAldomoro and his friends broke forth into the cry: "Long liveKing Perizal!"—a cry which was speedily taken up by allpresent. Then all the guards who were present, amounting in allto two or three hundred, also echoed the cry, and declared forPerizal. Within an hour he was the acknowledged king of theAriutas.

And thus was a revolution accomplished in the land of thedescendants of the Atlantides, and the original line of kingsrestored to the throne.

After all was over, and Perizal had been firmly seated on thethrone of his fathers, his brother and he came to me where I wassitting, with Clodia and Webster, quietly watching theproceedings. After embracing me with deep emotion, Perizal said,"My brother, to thank you for all you have done for us were vain.You have done us the greatest service man could do, by restoringus to our ancient honours. Command us, therefore, to theuttermost for all you may need."

I thanked Perizal warmly, but added that all we required wasto be sent to our destination as rapidly as possible. Perizalpromised that this should be done. Then, as the night was farspent, we all retired to snatch a few hours of sleep beforeday.

In a cellar, damp, dirty, and noisome, lay a dead body,well-nigh naked, and covered with a piece of coarse sacking. Itwas that of Ranamea the Great. Ah, the mutations that attendhuman destiny!


ON the following morning, by the advice of Aldomoro, whomPerizal had appointed his minister, we waited until the chief menof the State had arrived from Chichihua, to which placemessengers had been sent the night before to acquaint thecitizens of the capital with all that had transpired. By the nextevening we were surrounded with thousands of persons attracted bycuriosity from the city to see the man who had been commissionedby the great Ra to restore the original dynasty to their honours.I gave them some exhibitions of fire-arms to increase theirfidelity to their new monarch. Two days passed in this necessarywork, and then we prepared to resume our journey towardsBrundusium.

"I am about to leave you, Perizal," I said, as the time drewnear for our departure, "but I cannot go without saying somethingthat is on my mind. You will pardon me, I know, as you are awarethat I only speak to you in love."

"My brother, say what you please. I would hear anything andeverything from you with the deepest respect, as I know you loveme."

"Well, Perizal, we may never meet again; in fact it is veryunlikely that we shall, unless something happens in Nova Messanathat I fear may never take place."

Perizal smiled, and grasped my hand.

"My brother, I think I know, but do not fear; she loves you asfondly as woman ever loved man, and only awaits the declarationof your love."

"Ah, Perizal! there are others to be considered besides her.Her parents may have other destinies in view."

Perizal shook his head. "Consul though he be, he will only behonoured by such an alliance. O, my friend," he continued, "Iwould I had you beside me here. Then I should fear nothing."

"Nay, Perizal, that will never do. You have your duties toperform to your people. You are placed where you are by God.Realize that fact, and remember the gods will love you andcontinue to prosper you in your undertakings only so long as youpractise truth, justice, and impartiality to all men."

"I thank you for the advice. When you are far hence I willremember it, and in the years that are to come, be they long orshort, I will strive to act as though you were with me to counselme."

"Stop, stop, Perizal, that will never do! I am only a man likeyourself, and a very weak one at that. You must have a highermodel than any poor fellow-creature on which to mould yourself.You read Latin, I know. I will give you one of my greatesttreasures; it is a little book, and I pray you to let thecharacter of the Man called Jesus Christ, therein presented toyou, be your model, as He is the model for us all." With thesewords I placed in his hand my pocket copy of Beza's NovumTestamentum, that had been with me all over the world. "Thanthat I could give you no greater proof of my love."

"Believe me, my friend, I will read it and study it, and, asyou say, model my life on that of Him whom you mention asdescribed therein. But I assure you that your own life will haveas weighty an influence with me as any. How many men would haveresisted the temptation to make themselves king of this country?One in ten thousand."

I shook my head and expressed vigorous dissent, but Perizalonly stuck to his point the closer.

"You are leaving us," he continued, "and we shall miss yousorely, my brother; but oh! return unto us, that we may see yourface again and hear the words of wisdom from your lips. Nay, Iwill not let you go until you promise to return."

"Well, perhaps, Perizal, but not at present; and you, Lano,see that you support your brother in all things; be hisright-hand man, and, above all things, cultivate a friendshipwith the Senate of Nova Sicilia that will result in good to bothsides."

"And where are you going?" said Lano.

"Than what I have already told you I can say no more. After Ihave restored Clodia to her parents I shall see how my fortunesshape. If they go not as I desire, I shall disappear from theseclimes and visit my countrymen that live far away over thesea."

"But you will return to us?"

"That will depend on many chances. But now, Perizal and Lano,I leave you with the opportunity of your life before you: seethat you do not cast away so magnificent a chance."

Our leave-taking was a very impressive ceremony. But beforethat took place I went to see if Clodia were ready. I found herstrangely sad and tearful.

"What is wrong, Clodia? Now that we are so near our journey'send, surely you are not going to break down."

"No—no—" she replied hesitatingly; "but—itis the very fact we are so near our journey's end that makes meso sorrowful."

I was surprised at her words, and said gaily: "Why—wouldyou like to go through it all again?"

To my astonishment she rejoined, "I should, indeed. I havebeen so very—very—happy."

"What has made you so happy? Dangers and difficulties do notusually produce that feeling."

Clodia turned away, but I noticed the tears trickling down hercheeks, which she vainly sought to hide, but she spoke not aword.

"My dear little Clodia, do tell me what is the matter? Have Idone anything that has vexed you?"

A look of deep reproach was my only reply.

"Then, Clodia, what is wrong? I must know in order to remove,if possible, the cause of your grief. Is it anything concerningme?"


"Then tell me what I have done?"

"It is not concerned with anything you have done, but aboutsomething you are going to do."

"My dear child, what can that be?"

"Cannot you guess?"

"I have not an idea."

"Oh, I cannot tell you, you will think me so foolish!"

"I can never think of you otherwise than as I do now, as thedearest little friend a man ever had."

"Then why are you going away from me when we get home toMessana?"

Ah, poor little Clodia, the cat was out of the bag now! Butjust as I was about to say something that would have dried thetears upon her cheeks, Marcus and Icilius entered the room, andwhen I looked again Clodia had mysteriously disappeared.

"The horses and everything are now in readiness for us," saidIcilius, with a peculiar smile, "and if we wish to reachBrundusium by the morning we most start at once."

"We are all ready, Icilius."

Yet somehow there was a feeling of deep disappointment anddissatisfaction in my heart. In the cool of the evening wecommenced our journey towards Brundusium. We were attended to thefrontiers by both Perizal and Lano, and a large number of thechief men of the Ariutas, from whom we took leave with manyexpressions of regret. Before dawn next morning we were enteringBrundusium, the next seaport to Nova Messana. While there weheard of the strange occurrences that had taken place at thecapital.


BRUNDUSIUM, though not so old a town by any means as NovaMessana, was an exceedingly interesting one. Situate on a broadand noble river, about half a mile from its mouth, it wasconnected with its harbour on the seashore by substantial tramlines. Even at that early hour the wharves were crowded, andbusiness was being briskly prosecuted. The city rose insuccessive terraces along the banks of the river, but at theseaport another town had already sprung up. The scene was one ofgreat natural beauty; the blue, heaving ocean, the deep-greenfoliage around the town, with the white houses peeping out fromamongst it, forming a picture not easily excelled. Then themagnificent river wound its way like a gigantic snake into theheart of the country, to be lost finally in those terriblemountains in connection with which we had undergone an experienceso wonderful. Of a truth, the picture was passing fair, but whenI looked towards the mountains I shuddered with horror. Only aweek ago Clodia and I had left Messana, so full of life and hope,to see the Hanging Gardens and the Caverns of Gems, and what hadhappened since then? More than once we had been face to face withdeath. Yet our star had always been in the ascendant, and now wewere well-nigh in sight of home. But we were not home yet, and,alas! although we knew it not, were not destined to see homeagain without passing through the direst danger in all ourexperiences.

The sun rose in all its splendour, and poured a flood ofsplendour over stately temples with their Doric or Corinthianpillars, over a magnificent amphitheatre where already athleteswere beginning to practise for the games in honour of JupiterCapitolinus, over circuses and hippodromes, over statelydwelling-houses and long lines of streets filled with shops forthe sale of all conceivable commodities, over the shipping in theharbour, representing the ebb and flow of commerce. Brundusiumwas the commercial or manufacturing centre of Nova Sicilia. Tall,black chimneys and curious, conical-shaped firing-houses denotedthe pursuit of pottery and glass-making, while a purple cloth,little inferior to that of Tyre—despite the absence of itsmurex—was woven and dyed here. Armourers' stithies,vast ship-building yards, where the quinquereme galley of war andthe bireme of commerce were being built, met our gaze on allsides. In a word, we were introduced into a busy commercial townfrom the quiet and the silence of the country.

We were entering the city by the great eastern thoroughfare.Already chariots and horsem*n were passing us, some on pleasurebent, some on business.

"Where are we to go, Clodia?" I asked.

"Why, we will go to the house of the Prefect. He is an oldfriend of my father's. He will gladly do all for us we need."

"But, my dear Clodia, what claim have I on him? I do not knowhim. I am not a citizen of the Republic, nor am I in the serviceof the State."

"Hush! you make me angry. You have the claim of every honestand true man who has assisted a woman when she was inextremity."

"But what of that? Every man would do the same, I hope, if hegot the chance."

"Would they?" replied Clodia, with a contemptuous look. "Ishould not like to trust them. Nay, if it comes to that, I shouldnot have cared to trust even Marcus and Icilius in the hours ofextreme danger. They would have looked to themselves, and haveleft me to shift for myself. But you, oh my friend, have beengoodness and devotion itself! A brother could not have been moretruly considerate."

"Please do not talk like that, Clodia; I have only done myduty."

"Your duty!" she retorted, smilingly; "has it been a veryunpleasant one, then? Your duty!" she added, laying emphasis onthe words.

"I shall always look back on this week as the happiest of mylife. When I am far away from you, I shall recall the incidentsof it with a melancholy pleasure."

I fear my voice was very tremulous and husky as I utteredthese words.

Clodia turned very pale, and the tears welled once more intoher eyes. She turned aside, and said in low tones, so that theothers might not hear:

"You are talking again of leaving us. Why will you go away?Why will you not stay with us, and we will be so happy?"

Was it an accident that her hand rested so pleadingly on mine,as I smoothed involuntarily her horse's mane.

"Ah, Clodia, there are many things taking me away! Forexample, you will have your own friends that are near and dear toyou, and besides, I must return to my home; my father and motherare aged, and they long to see me again before the great endcomes."

"But will you not return to us and live amongst us, and teachus the ways of that new Europe which are so different from thatof the days of our fathers?"

I shook my head sorrowfully, and walked on with her insilence, for my pride could not bear to contemplate beingpatronized by her family. Once more she spoke, looking at me fromout her wonderful eyes with a wistful pleading.

"My friend, you must not go from us for ever."

"Why so, Clodia?"

My heart throbbed painfully. Strange new sensations began tovibrate through every fibre of my being. My deepest heart-springswere stirred at the thought that perhaps this glorious creaturecared for me—for me, the lonely, reserved, unsociableexile, whom men had sneered at and women pitied for my seemingdislike of female society and for my taciturn ways. Was itpossible that I, who had yearned for love as the salvation of mymoral nature, but had never found it, was to be blessed with awoman's love at last? The reflection of a great joy even nowentering my life, coloured all my thoughts. I turned eagerly toClodia as we were advancing towards the town, and ranging myhorse alongside hers, I said:

"Clodia, what does it matter to you whether I go or stay?"

Her head sank upon her breast; her face was suffused withblushes; the hand holding her horse's bridle-rein was tremblingwith agitation. Then, faint as the rustle of leaves gently movedby the summer's breeze, she replied:

"Everything in life. If you go, I shall feel as though thelight of my life were gone out," was her answer, spoken amidgreat agitation. Then, turning to me with a gesture of infinitegrace and fascination, she drew my hand in hers with thewords:

"Think me not unmaidenly in what I do, oh my friend! But ifyou go from me, I die, for I love you—I love you,carissime."

Low I bent over my saddle-bow, and kissed the fair little handthat lay in mine. "Clodia," I said in ecstatic tones, "you havemade my life—that life henceforth is yours."

"And you will not leave us now?"

"Not unless you accompany me."

And into the expression on Clodia's face there flashed theglory of an infinite joy lighting up its features, andbeautifying every detail of its composition.

"I am very, very happy," she murmured, as we rode on to jointhe others.

We were not long in reaching the house of the Prefect AulusMamertius Afer—a palatial edifice overlooking the town.

Clodia sent a message in by the porter, and in a moment thePrefect came running out, his arms spread out, and joy imprintedon his countenance. He was an elderly man, whose face had themost benevolent cast of expression of any I had ever seen.

"Welcome, daughter of mine ancient host! What a joy to yourfather to know you are alive! I will send off a messenger at onceto relieve his anxiety. The story of your supposed death duringthe eruption of Mount Titicala reached us here. Your father wasnearly frantic when the charioteer returned with the news of whathad happened. Much sympathy has been expressed for him, but notso much as would otherwise have been the case had not nearlyevery one in the quarter of the city abutting on the mountainlost some members of their family."

"Why, what has happened?"

"The eruption has been terribly desolating; hundreds have losttheir lives. Then it appears that the 'Sons of the Thunderbolt',whose ship was lying in the harbour, seemed to think the Consuland the Senate had made away with one of their number who hadaccompanied you. They awoke their thunder, and before the mattercould be explained immense damage had been done to the quarter ofthe town where the poorer classes live."

"Oh dear, dear, what madness!" I cried, unable to restrain myvexation. Afer looked at me curiously. In a few words, spoken ina low tone of voice, Clodia recounted all that had passed sinceour departure. When she concluded, Afer approached me, and takingmy hand said:

"I honour a man who acts as you have done. It gives one arenewed faith in human nature. I will let your companions know ofyour safety."

I bowed low in response, while Afer passed on to greet Marcusand Icilius. In a few moments we were comfortably seated atbreakfast in the house of the hospitable Prefect. That day wespent in resting and in seeing Brundusium, but Clodia could notrest until she had once more seen her father. She begged Afer todevise means whereby she might be able to return home with thegreatest expedition.

"My father must be undergoing tortures of anguish. Why shouldhe be kept so?" she said to me.

"You are right, my dear Clodia; the sooner now we can returnto Messana the better for all concerned."

"Alas! no, I have only one on board who would sorrow forme—my cousin, the captain of the vessel," I replied. "Letus get away as soon as possible."

"The Prefect tells me there is a state trireme leaving forMessana to-night, which would land us home to-morrow about thesixth hour (noon)."

"Why, then, let us go in it, carissima."

"Ah! but do not you remember old Kisho's warning—not togo by sea anywhere until we reached home?"

"The old man's magic is, I fear, not much worth, Clodia. Ifthat is all that holds you from accepting the offer to go, Ithink it is a mistake."

Oh, how often have I remembered the look of supreme affectionwherewith she gazed up into my face, saying, "If you are with meI care not where or how we go!" Alas, alas! and it was I whoadvised her to go.

Clodia therefore agreed to go by the trireme, if passagescould be secured for us. The Prefect at once repaired to thecommander of the vessel, and explained the situation to him. Hewillingly agreed to convey us back to Messana, although his wasnot a passenger galley.

We visited the Forum or market-place that afternoon, and heardthe cases being tried before the judges. Some of the oratory wasvery fine. One pleader, Crispus by name, as he stood up in hisfluttering toga, and called upon the gods to reveal the justiceof his client's contention, had quite a Ciceronian look abouthim, and not a little suspicion of Ciceronianism about hisrolling periods. Then we visited the public library. The NewSicilians had independently discovered printing many yearsbefore. If their craftsmanship was not equal to the best British,still it was very fine, though the lack of steam in printingthese volumes was painfully perceptible. In the public librarythere were over 40,000 volumes, while a museum attached containedmany curious relics regarding the early history of theisland.

The people of the town showed us every kindness, though theylooked at us a little strangely at first. But the story of ournarrow escape from death acted as a charm, and the difficulty wasto decline their hospitality without offending them.

At length the hour came for us to leave. The wind had beensteadily rising all day, and at night was blowing strongly fromthe south-west. This would mean a head-wind for a part of theway, but we hoped it would lull before we needed to run in itsteeth.

The worthy Prefect and his friends, as well as many of thechief citizens of Brundusium, accompanied us down to the wharf,and introduced us to the captain of the trireme, Ancus Hostiliusby name. They had evidently been awaiting us, for the moment wearrived the order was given to let go the moorings, after whichwe heard the voices of the hortatores encouraging therowers to bend to their work. Then arose the chant of the oarsmenas they began to pull in concert, farewells were shouted fromboth sides, and we bade good-bye to Brundusium and its kindlyPrefect. The night was fast falling as we drew out from theshore. The wind was momentarily increasing in violence, but itwas as yet rather a help than anything else, and all went merrilyas a marriage bell. Small cabins branched off from the maincabin, and into one of the former Clodia had been conducted torest after her fatigues. The captain, a jovial, good-naturedsalt, had been much interested in questioning me about the kindof vessels we had in Europe at the present day. He could notrealize the idea of a steamer, and I fear the description I gavehim of a warship only made him think I was a colossal liar.

The time, however, passed quickly enough as we sat together inhis cabin; and I obtained a great deal of useful information fromhim regarding the customs of the country. There was aconsiderable difference in details between the New Sicilians andthe ancient Romans, but substantially they were the same. Forexample, the New Sicilians had developed the use of the mariner'scompass, though the needle with them, as with the Chinese,pointed towards the south. They had also discovered the knack oftacking and of running "close to the breeze," so as to lose aslittle as possible by a head-wind.

It was late when I retired to rest that night, but we seemedto be spinning along right briskly. I was tired out, and glad tolay myself down. It was not long before I fell into a deepsleep.

An hour or two afterwards I was aroused by someone shaking me.I sprang up; it was Marcus.

"Come on deck, for the sake of Heaven; we are wrecked, and theship is sinking."

I rushed up with Marcus. The vessel was tossing and pitching,but I could not hear the rhythmic beat of the oars. Only criesand shrieks were to be heard. Through the gloom of the thicknight I could see that we had struck on a reef jutting out fromthe shore. Overhead towered the frowning mass of jagged,perpendicular cliffs, against which the sea broke with a hiss anda wail that was unspeakably horrible.

"We have struck on Pluto's Portals, about fifteen miles fromMessana. No power on earth can save us," cried Marcus.

"Good God! and where is Clodia?" I cried.

Yes, where was she? The vessel was rapidly going to pieces,but I could not see her anywhere. Back I rushed to the cabin, andhastily calling her name, received no answer. There was no timeto lose; every moment was of value. I opened the door of hercabin. She was sleeping as peacefully as a babe. I caught her upin my arms, and threw her cloak around her.

"What is wrong?" she asked faintly, yet surrendered herselfwith perfect trust into my arms, as though the very fact of mybeing beside her was sufficient source of confidence to her. Sheclung to me as I carried her on deck, but not a cry or anexpression of terror broke from her. If death were inevitable, itwas sufficient that we were to die together.

I lashed us both to a portion of the bulwarks in as sheltereda spot as I could find, but the sea was breaking over uscontinually, and the cold was intense. Around us were Webster,Icilius, and one or two of the rowers that had not been washedaway.

O the horror of that terrible night! Bravely my Clodia bore itwith all that grand Roman fortitude that inspired a Horatius, aRegulus, and the other heroes of story.

At first she talked at intervals as though to keep up mycourage. Then her words became fewer and fewer, and at lastceased altogether. I tried to protect her with my body as much aspossible, but the pitiless waves baffled all my endeavours, andas the night wore on towards dawn I felt my darling was growingcolder and colder.

At last, when the first ruddy streaks of morn were running upin the eastern horizon, and the early labourers of Messana wouldbe turning out to work, Clodia said faintly, as she wound herarms in a last embrace around my neck:

"Kiss me, carissime, that I may die with your lips onmine."

Wildly I kissed her lips and strove to infuse warmth into herframe; passionately I called on her to take heart of courage, forthe morn was breaking. But answer I got none, and ere long thequeenly little head drooped forward on my bosom, andthen—the rest was silence. My senses reeled;unconsciousness mercifully supervened.

A Mystery of the Pacific (13)

But answer I got none.

When next I remembered anything I was lying in a room, throughthe lattices of which the afternoon sun was gloriously streaming.For a moment I was puzzled to recall my surroundings; all seemeda blank. I saw Piso the Consul, the Professor, Anstey, and otherssurrounding my bed, but their faces were grave and anxious. ThenI remembered all—the terrible shipwreck, the slow death ofmy darling, and the sufferings we had both undergone.

Presently a curtain was drawn aside, and Stolo entered,accompanied by a man whom I recognized as one of the most skilfulphysicians in Nova Sicilia. He gazed at me compassionately, butin answer to a remark by Stolo, he shook his head, murmuring,"There is no hope now, I fear."

Then I found my voice, and, in feeble quavering accents cried:"No, I am glad there is no hope. Clodia is gone, and I am goingtoo. I shall not be long behind you, Clodiacarissima."

A look of surprise was exchanged between them. The physicianstepped hastily forward and laid his finger on my pulse. Stolowhispered something to Piso, then to the doctor, after which thelatter said hesitatingly: "Well, it might be tried as a lastresource; it can do little harm if it does no good, for he is sonear the end."

Thereafter I saw Stolo leave the room, apparently at Piso'sdesire, then a great weariness seemed to come upon me. I closedmy eyes, and endeavoured feebly to think of nothing but the end Ifelt to be so near. Then a sound caused me to open them once morewith a start. Was I dreaming? Was not that the voice of Clodiapronouncing my name? I gazed upward, and looked straight into theglorious eyes of Clodia carissima gazing into mine with aglance of unspeakable affection.

I started once more. Was I dead, and were we re-united indeath?

"Clodia—Clodia," I murmured.

"Yes, carissime, I am here," came the reply.

In another moment my arms were thrown around her, and our lipsmet in a kiss that brought me back from the gates of the grave.Clodia carissima was not dead!

When, on the day after the wreck, the rescue-party, amongwhich were Piso the Consul, the Professor, and Anstey reached thevessel, they discovered evident signs of life only in Webster andmyself. All the others were dead, save the few, Icilius andMarcus amongst them, who had reached the shore, after fightingfor hours with the waves.

Piso found the body of his daughter clasped in my arms, andthereby sheltered from a part of the violence of the storm. Atfirst they thought she was dead, but by and by, under theapplication of proper remedies, she recovered, little the worse.On me the worst of the tempest had spent itself, and when theysucceeded in restoring animation in my frame, it was to find thatI was suffering from a severe attack of brain fever. For weeks Ihovered between life and death, nursed in the house of Piso, witha tender care that lacked nothing of being paternal.

The meeting between the Professor and Webster, hisbrother-in-law, was affecting in the extreme. He fell on Barlow'sneck, sobbing for sheer joy. "O, thank God, thank God, I shallsee my Mary once more!" When the Professor heard of all we haddone for Webster his gratitude knew no bounds.

* * * * *

THERE is little more to tell. I soon recoveredfrom my illness when tended by such a nurse as Clodia, and thenone day, when my lucky star seemed in the ascendant, I begged thegift of my darling from her father.

"Take her, my son, you are well worthy of her, for you havepurchased her with your life," were the old man's words as heplaced her hand in mine.

We came home, my fair young wife and I, to England, partly toaccompany our friends and comrades to their fatherland and mine,partly to show her the mighty difference between the Europe ofthe Caesars and the Europe of to-day, and also to obtain manyarticles which were not procurable in Nova Sicilia. We had somelittle difficulty in working our way through the narrow straitsbetween the banks of algae, until we got two or three ofthe strongest quinqueremes in the New Sicilian navy to take theFitzroy in tow, and at last we reached the open bosom ofthe blue Pacific. When next we passed through the straits it wasto return again no more.

My beautiful wife excited much admiration in England, and herpresence, as well as our own, awakened the utmost interest inscientific and geographical circles, to the members of which thediscovery of a terra incognita on the surface of the globewas the event of their lives. Soon exploring and commercialexpeditions were fitted out to proceed to Nova Sicilia—foramong the last and best things we achieved before leaving, was todissipate the dread the New Sicilians entertained of beingoverrun by Rome. Piso even longed to see some others of mycountrymen, and he soon had his wish gratified.

After a stay in England of some months, during which we mademany friends, having obtained all that we required in the way ofmodern necessaries of life, we set sail in our own steam yachtfor our home far away in the sunny Pacific. From then till now,our life has been one of idyllic peace and happiness. Littleprattling tongues and tiny pattering feet came ere long to blessour home. I am writing these lines after years of bliss such asit has fallen to the share of few to enjoy. Never have Iregretted taking farewell of Old England, dear though it shallever be to me, nor of severing all ties of race and kindred inthe land of my fathers, to take up my lot under the cloudlessblue of New Sicilian skies, with Clodia Carissima.


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