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Full text of "The perfect world; a romance of strange people and strange places"

In the fine novel by Ella 
party views the end of the ?]arth, th 
is pictured r.s coming fron internal 
ly rent apart, Rnd whole mountain chi 
so many of thene tales, here again oi 
leaves tno planet- — this time travel! 









PERKINS LIBRARY 

Uuke University 
Kare Dooks 











I 



fcrymsour, The Perfect \7orld (1922), ngain n. 
s time from the- riir^ Disaster in this tr.le 
xplosion, the p.l^.net's crust being litern.1- 
lins collapsing upon one another* And, as in 
ie small f^roup of people escape^ doom and 
jing to farav/ay Jupiter. 



^ 



THE 
PERFECT WORLD 

A ROMANCE OF STRANGE PEOPLE AND 
STRANGE PLACES 



BY 

ELLA SCRYMSOUR 



LONDON 

EVELEIGH NASH & GRAYSON LTD. 

148 STRAND 



FRINTBD IN CR8AT BRITAIN BY 
THE NORTHUMbBRLAND PRBSS LTD., THORNTON STRB8T, NBWCASTI.R-OPON-rVNB 



^ ^Z^P 



To 
MY TWO DEAR ONES 



Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 
in 2010 witii funding from 
Duke University Libraries 



littp://www.arcliive.org/details/perfectworldromaOOscry 



CONTENTS 



BOOK I 

THE OLD WORLD 

{Before the War) 



CHAPTER 

I. STRANGERS COME TO MARSHFIELDEN 
II. THE CURSE 

III. THE LIGHT 

IV. THE OUTLET 



PAGE 
II 
20 

33 

42 



BOOK II 
THE UNDERWORLD 

I. A STRANGE MEETING 

II. THE ORIGIN OF THE PEOPLE 

III. RELATING TO HISTORY . 

IV. OUT INTO THE GREAT BEYOND 
V. A FRIEND FROM THE ENEMY 

VI. THE LAIR OF THE SERPENT 
VII. ON THE WAY TO THE TOMB OF KORAH 
VIII. THE TOMB OF KORAH . 
IX. THE PAPYRUS . 
X. THE ESCAPE 

7 



53 
65 

79 
88 

95 
102 
109 

115 

122 
129 



CONTENTS 



BOOK III 
EXIT THE WORLD 
(After the War) 



CHAPTER 

I. AT WALLA BALLA 
II. HOME AGAIN 

III. THE AIRSHIP . 

IV. THE END OF THE WORLD 



PAGE 
166 



BOOK IV 
THE PERFECT WORLD 

r. IN SPACE 
II. ADRIFT IN THE SOLAR REGIONS 

III. THE VISION OF A NEW WORLD . 

IV. JUPITER AND THE JOVIANS 
V. DEATH IN JUPITER 

VI. THE SACRAMENT OF SCHLERIK-ITATA 
VII. HATRED ON KEEMAR 
VIII. THE UNFORGIVEABLE KISS 
IX. ALAN — THE KNIGHT ERRANT 

X. THE CAVE OF WHISPERING MADNESS 
XI. THE WRAITHS OF THE RORKAS . 
XII. THE FATE OF KULMERVAN 

XIII. THE SENTENCE UPON ARRACK . 

XIV. THE HALL OF SORROWS 
XV. THE TRIUMPH OF AK-ALAN 

XVI. THE PERFECT WORLD . 

ENVOI . : . , . 



187 
194 
204 
211 
223 
232 
244 
256 
265 
270 
282 
292 
296 
302 

307 
316 
320 



BOOK 1 
THE OLD WORLD 

{Before the War) 



i'iui tii'i citiiJ 



THE PERFECT WORLD 

CHAPTER I 

STRANGERS COME TO MARSHFIELDEN 

An English summer 1 The birds sang merrily, and the 
trees bowed their heads, keeping time with the melody. 
The breeze whispered its accompaniment, and all the 
glades and woods were happy. 

Marshfielden was, perhaps, one of the prettiest 
villages in Derbyshire. Nestling among the peaks of 
that lovely county, its surroundings were most pictur- 
esque. Its straggling street, for it had but one, was 
unspoiled by tripper or tourist, for its charms were 
unknown to the outside world. The road was cobbled, 
and boasted of no pavement, and long gardens, shining 
with marigolds and nasturtiums, reached down to each 
side of it, forming frames to the pretty, irregular 
little cottages with their gables and latticed windows. 

The little church at the top of the street finished the 
picture. It was very tiny, holding only about one 
hundred and fifty people; but with its ivy-covered 
towers, and picturesque little graveyard, the vicar was 
a lucky man to have charge of such a place. Unmarried 
and friendless he had come to Marshfielden forty years 
before, and had lodged with Mrs. Skeet, the cobbler's 
wife. Still he remained, having grown old in the 
service of his people. 

It was a well-known fact, that '' our vicar " as Mr. 
Winthrop was called, had during all that time never 
left the precincts of the parish. Children had grown 
up and gone away married; old people had died; but 

II 



12 THE PERFECT WORLD 

still Mr. Winthrop went on in his kind, fatherly 
manner, advising those who sought the benefit of his 
wisdom, helping those who needed his aid, and still 
living in the little rooms he had rented when first he 
came to Marshfielden, a stranger. 

Marshfielden was about seven miles off the main road. 
As they would have to reach it by narrow lanes and 
rutted roads, motorists never came its way, and it 
retained its old-world simplicity. 

Two miles to the south was a coal mine, in which 
most of the villagers toiled. It was quite an 
unimportant one, and not very deep, but it gave 
employment to all the natives who needed work. 
Strange as it seems, however, by an unwritten law, 
not one of the villagers entered Marshfielden in his 
collier dirt or collier garb. Every one of the men 
changed his clothes at " Grimland " as the mine 
district was called, and washed away the coal dust 
and dirt; so in the evening, when they made their way 
in a body to their homes, they returned as fresh and 
clean as they had left them in the morning. 

It was, therefore, an ideal place to live in and as 
old Mr. Winthrop walked down the uneven street, his 
eyes dimmed and his thoughts were tender as he 
acknowledged first one, then another of his flock. 

He stopped at the gate of a pretty, white cottage 
with a well kept garden full of sweet-smelling flowers, 
and greeted the woman who stood at the gate. 

She was quite young and pretty, and maternal love 
and pride glowed in her face as she gently crooned 
over the sleeping babe at her breast. 

And how's Jimmy, Mrs. Slater? " he asked. 
Very well indeed, sir, thank you " 

" And you — how are you feeling? " 

" Quite all right again, now, sir " 

" That's right. And your husband? " 

" Yes, sir, he's had a rise at the mine " 

Mr. Winthrop smiled and was about to pass on, 
when he noticed an underlying current of excitement 
in the woman's manner. He looked at her curiously. 

" What is the matter, Mrs. Slater? " he asked. 
Have you heard the news, sir? " 



STRANGERS TO MARSHFIELDEN 13 

" No. What news? " 

" I be agoin' to have lodgers " 

" Really? " 

" Well I heard only last night, sir. Bill — he came 
home and said as 'ow Mr. Dickson, the manager at 
the mine, had heard from Sir John Forsyth — " 

"The new owner of Grimland ? " queried Mr. 
Winthrop. 

" Yes, sir. Well, he said as 'ow Sir John wanted 
both his nephews to go to the mine and learn the 
practical working of it — and Mr. Dickson was to find 
them rooms near by " 

" Well? " 

" Well, Mr. Dickson knows as 'ow my 'ome is 
clean — " and Mrs. Slater looked around her little 
cottage with an air of pride. 

" And 'e asks Bill if I would take them " 

" And so you are going to ? " 

The woman looked round her fearfully. " I've a 
spare bedroom, sir, which I've cleaned up, and they 
can have my parlour. But fancy, sir, two strangers in 
Marshfielden! " 

" It will liven things up " remarked the vicar 
" we've never had strangers to live here since I came — 
now over forty years ago " 

No, sir, nor before that " went on the woman in 
a low tone " My grandmother used to speak of two 
ladies who came to Marshfielden when she was a little 
girl. Artists they were, and strangers. The clergy- 
man's wife put them up — and — and — " 

" Yes? " urged Mr. Winthrop gently. 

" Well, sir, they were both found dead one day, stiff 
and cold, sir, outside the ruins of the Priory. They 
had been painting, and their easels were left standing 
— but they were dead " 

" What has that to do with the case? " asked the 
vicar with a little smile. 

Don't you see, sir " she went on quickly, the 
same half-scared look coming into her eyes " that 
was the i' Curse ' that caused those mishaps, and I 
am afraid the ' Curse ' will be on the two young 
gentlemen, too " 



U THE PERFECT WORLD 

" Nonsense " laughed Mr. Winthrop " You don't 
really believe that the ' Marshfielden Curse ' as you 
people call it, had anything to do with the deaths of 
those two lady artists that occurred over fifty years 
ago? " 

" Indeed I do, sir " averred the woman " Why ever 
since the Priory was dismantled by Henry the Eighth, 
the ' Curse ' has been on this place, lliat wasn't the 
only case, sir. There are records of many others — but 
that was the last " 

" Let me see " began the vicar " It's so long since 
I even heard it mentioned, that I've forgotten what 
it was " 

The woman's face contracted as if she was afraid of 
something, she knew not what, but of something 
mystic, intangible, uncanny — and she repeated slowly : 

When the eighth Henry fair Marshfielden' s monastery took, 
Its priory as a palace, its vast income to his privy purse, — 
The outcast prior solemnly, by candle, bell and book 
Upon this place for ever laid this interdict and curse: 

From now until the end of time, 

Whene'er a stranger come 

Unto Marshfielden's pleasaunces. 

To make therein his home. 

Troubles — disease — misfortunes — death — 

Upon the spot shall fall. 

So — an' Marshfielden folks ye'd s^nell 

With fair prosperity, and safely divell. 

All strayigers from your gates expel. 

And live cut off from all. 

The vicar laughed. " Yes, it's a pretty legend, Mrs. 
Slater, but remember this is the twentieth century, 
and nothing is likely to happen to Marshfielden, its 
inhabitants or its visitors, because of that. Why, I 
was a stranger when I came, yet nothing very terrible 
has happened to me during these last forty years " 

" Ah, sir, you don't count. I mean, sir, you belong 
to the Priory; you are our priest. You wouldn't come 
under the ' Curse ' sir " 

" And neither will any one else, Mrs. Slater. It's 
a stupid legend. — Have no fear " 



STRANGERS TO MARSHFIELDEN 15 

" But " began Mrs. Slater " How do you account 
for the case of — " But Mr. Winthrop lifted up a 
deprecatory hand. 

" I cannot listen to any more, Mrs. Slater " And 
a note of authority came into his voice " Why, all 
this is against the religion I preach to you — never listen 
to tales of superstition. Have no fear, do the best 
you can for the two young gentlemen, and I think I 
can promise you that no harm will come to them or 
you " 

The woman shook her head, and disbelief shone in 
her eyes. The vicar saw it, and smiled again. 

" Well, well! It remains to be proved that I am 
right " said he. 

" It remains to be proved, which of us is right, sir " 

" Very well, we'll leave it at that. When do they 
arrive ? " 

" About six this evening, sir; the usual time when 
the men come home " 

" I will call in this evening then, and welcome them. 
Good-bye, Mrs. Slater, and don't go listening to or 
spreading idle gossip ! " And the kindly old man went 
away down the street. 

That evening, when the bell rang to denote the 
return of the men-folk, every door was occupied by 
an eager face, anxious not only to catch sight of the 
two strangers, but also to take another look at the 
woman who had dared to defy the " Marshfielden 
Curse " 

For in this little village the " Curse " was a real, 
poignant fact, and was spoken of in the twilight with 
hushed tones and furtive glances. Children were 
quieted and terrified by it, and the fear imbibed by 
them in their childhood grew with them till their 
death. Not one of them but Mary Slater would have 
risked its anger by allowing a stranger to sleep 
beneath her roof; and even Mary, although outwardly 
calm, was inwardly terrified lest her action might be 
the means of bringing disaster and misery, not only 
on her two lodgers, but on the whole little community. 

Dan Murlock, the husband of the little woman at the 
corner house, was the first to arrive. He came along 



16 THE PERFECT WORLD 



at a swinging pace, and waved his cap jauntily as he 
saw his wife's trim httle figure at the doorway. 

" Hullo, Moll " he cried, when he was within 
speaking distance " an' how's yersel' ? 

*' I'm all right " she replied, while their three year 
old, curly haired boy and only child peeped from behind 
his mother's skirts and cried " Boo " to his dad. 
The man looked at them both, with awe as well as 
pride in his glance. Even now he was often heard to 
remark, that he could not make out why a clumsy 
brute like him should be allowed to own such an 
angelic wife and child. 

" Where's the strangers? " asked Moll eagerly. 

" Comin' along, lass. Why? " 

" Oh, the * Curse,' Dan! " 

" Never mind the ' Curse,' lass; that's done with 
long ago! Is supper ready yet? " 

" Yes, Dan. It's ready " But his wife made no 
effort to re-enter their little home, and serve the meal 
her husband wanted. 

" Woman, what are you staring at? " he cried 
" Why do'ant 'ee come in? I'm hungry " 

" In a moment, Dan. I — I — " 

" What's thee lookin' at, lass? " 

" The strangers, Dan. Think the ' Curse '— " ^ But 
Dan only laughed good-humouredly. " Thou'rt a 
fule, lass. Come in and do'ant bother yer head about 
it " and he good-naturedly put his arm through hers, 
and dragged the unwilling woman into the house. 

Most of the women outside, however, were still 
waiting, waiting for the strangers. Then suddenly 
came a buzz of excitement as the news was passed 
from mouth to mouth " They're coming! They're 
coming! " 

The two young men, Alan and Desmond Forsyth, 
were entirely unconscious of all the attention and 
interest showered on them. Of the " Curse " they 
knew nothing, and had they done so, would have 
cared less. 

They were cousins, and on very affectionate and 
intimate terms, and one day would share equally in the 
Grimland Colliery, of which their uncle was now 



STRANGERS TO MARSHFIELDEN 17 

owner. Alan, moreover, would succeed to his uncle's 
title. The future looked very rosy for these two 
young men. 

Sir John was determined that when they left 
Cambridge, they should thoroughly learn the workings 
of the mine. The instructions he gave Dickson, his 
manager, were that he was to " make them work like 
ordinary colliers until they were competent to take 
charge ' 

They had travelled on the Continent for six months 
after coming down from the 'Varsity, and this was 
their first day of real, hard work. It had left them 
both eager to begin another day, for they were anxious 
to learn more of the wonderful workings of the mine 
below the surface of the earth. They had walked 
cheerily toward Marshfiielden, eager to reach their 
apartments and have a good meal. Thev liked Slater, 
and felt that they would be comfortable and happy 
in his home. 

" How do you feel, young gentlemen? " he asked 
them. 

" I'm dead tired " answered Alan, the elder, a man 
of some twenty-five years, while his cousin, Desmond, 
a year younger, yawned lustily, as he asked " How 
much further is that adorable little home of yours. 
Slater? " 

" We're nigh there, sir. There's my Mary at the 
gate" 

"What, the little cottage at the bend?" asked 
Alan. 

" Yes, sir. She's a good lass, is my missus. She'll 
treat you well, and make you comfortable and happy " 

The rest of the short way was trodden in silence, and 
at length the two young men stepped across the 
threshold of Sweet William Cottage, as the Slaters* 
home was called. 

The room they were ushered into was old-world 
and sweet. Tlie lattice ^windows were open wide, 
letting in the soft, fresh air of summer. The ceiling 
was low and beamed, and the furniture was of old 
dark oak; while the bright chintz hangings took away 
all hint of sombreness. The table was laid, and within 

H 



18 THE PERFECT WORLD 



a few minutes of their arrival they were sitting down 
to an appetizing repast. 

Neither of them spoke for some time, and then 
Desmond laid down his knife and fork with a sigh. 

" I'm done " said he. 

" I should just think you were " laughed his cousin 
" Vou've been stuffing incessantly for over half an 
hour " Alan rang the bell for the table to be cleared 
and then they lit their pipes. 

" How do you feel? " asked Desmond. 

" Very tired — very sore — and very bruised " 

*' So am I. I think I shall like the life of a miner, 
though " 

" Rather! What a ripping set of chaps they are! " 

So they chattered on until it was time for them to 
retire. At peace with each other, at peace with the 
world, they slept until a knock at their bedroom door 
awakened them. 

" Yes " sleepily answered Desmond. 

" It's four o'clock, young gentlemen, you'd better 
get up " 

Alan woke up lazily to hear Desmond cry out in 
amazement 

" Surely not yet. Slater? " 

" Yes, sir. You must be at the mine by five fifteen. 
Early shift to-day, you know " 

" All right. Slater " cried Alan, who was now wide 
awake " we'll be down in twenty minutes " 

In a very short space of time they had had their 
breakfast, and were walking across the Grimland fields 
to the mine, to begin once more a day's arduous duty. 

It passed quickly enough, but they were thankful 
when the bell sounded for them to knock off work, 
and they were taken up to daylight again by the cage. 

When they reached Sweet William Cottage, they 
found Mr. Winthrop awaiting them, with profuse 
apologies for his absence the night before. 

" I'm afraid Mrs. Slater omitted to give us any 
message from you " said Alan " In fact we didn't 
even know you had called " 

" I am the vicar of Marshfielden " said the kindly 
old man " and I should have liked to give you a 



STRANGERS TO MARSHFIELDEN 19 

personal welcome. You see the 'Curse' has made 
your position here somewhat strained " 

rhe two boys stared at each other in perplexity. 
The yicar laughed. None of the women have been 
frightening you with their child's stories yet? " 

^ No! "said both boys together, " what is it? " 
Uh, there s a legend connected with this place 
nn .1?"^ strangers m Marshfielden will bring disaste^ 

up thel'fboS h?r'e^' ''''P^ °" ^'^ ''''''' '' ^^^^ ^^^^ 
;' Why? " 

fr." VT.L"^^^ ^^'^ °" ^^^ P^^<^^ by a monk in Henry 
^smanJfed''^ ^^"^' "'^" ^^^ ^"^^ ^-^ -- 

af::s^f^i^^i4^^^t:i^i:ii^^^^ "^^~ 

Mfr^fafr! h^^tt wt^^s^nJU^^r^^^^eToud^^d^ 
?ooTn"i|h?toM'a['y^^^-^' ^^^ — ^ - ^'^^ -^^ 

liv;\;^ee^s^t;ange"rsc;^^^^^^^^^^^ ^^^^^^ '^^ ^-^' ^^^ 



CHAPTER ir 



THE CURSE 

The two men had now been working for three months 
at the mine, and the villagers had become used to the 
sight of strangers in Marshfielden. Indeed, as the 
weeks sped by, and nothing uncanny happened, they 
began gradually to forget the " Curse " in connection 
with the two young Forsyths. 

Summer was now waning. Leaves were beginning 
to fall and folks were making preparations for a hard 
winter. Mr. Winthrop was still going round on his 
kindly errands and had become sincerely attached to 
the two youths who had taken up their residence so 
near him. 

Indeed, there was no one else in the village to whom 
they could go for social intercourse, and nearly every 
evening Mrs. Skeet's little parlour was full of the smoke 
and chatter of the vicar and his two young friends. It 
was now the first Tuesday in October, and the evenings 
were growing chilly. Mrs. Skeet had lighted a nice 
fire, and they all sat round it enjoying the warmth of 
its glow. 

People outside, passing by, heard the sound of merry 
laughter, and Mr. Winthrop's characteristic chuckle, 
and smiled with him. But Moll Murlock passed the 
cottage hurriedly and drew her shawl closer round 
her shoulders, while a slight moan came from between 
her tightly compressed lips. 

Of all the inhabitants of Marshfielden. there was one 
still who had 7iot forgotten the " Curse " 

" Well, boys " said Mr. Winthrop " I suppose you 
feel used to your life among us now? " 

20 



THE CURSE 21 



" Yes " answered Alan " It seems almost like 
home to us " 

" We've never had a proper home " broke in 
Desmond. 

" Ours is rather a romantic story " said Alan " Our 
mothers were twin sisters — they married on the same 
day and went to the same place for their honeymoon. 
A year later my mother died in giving me birth, and 
Desmond's mother died when he was only a few 
months old, so we were both left babies to get on the 
best way we could without a woman's care " 
' ' Poor lads ! Poor lads I ' ' sighed the vicar. 
" When I was five my father died " said Desmond 
" and four years later Alan's father was drowned. 
Uncle John then took us to live with him — but as he 
was a bachelor we were brought up in the care of 
nurses and tutors, and had no real home life " 

" You are fond of your uncle? " queried the vicar. 
" Rather I " answered Alan " Uncle John is the 
dearest old boy imaginable. He's a bit of a crank 
though. He has been working for years on what he 
calls his ' Petradtheolin ' airship " 
" His what? " laughed Mr. Winthrop. 

His ' Petradtheolin ' airship. It's his own inven- 
tion, you know, but up to now he has been unsuccessful. 
He has built a wonderful aluminium airship— most 
beautifully fitted and upholstered — in fact it is absolutely 
ready to Hy, but up to now it won't budge an inch " 
"What? " 

" He is under the impression " went on Alan " that 
in the near future flying will be an every day occurrence, 
and it is his greatest ambition to own the most com- 
fortable, most speedy, and lightest airship of the day " 
Mr, Winthrop smiled. " There is a great deal of 
talk about flying now " said he " but do you honestly 
think it will ever come to anything? " 

" I don't know " said Alan thoughtfully " we have 
conquered the sea — ' Iron on the water shall float, like 
any wooden boat ' " he quoted " We have built ships 
that can submerge and remain under water and 
navigate for certain periods of time. I see no reason 
why the modern man should not also conquer the air " 



22 THE PERFECT WORLD 

Mr. Winthrop shook his head. " I may be old- 
fashioned, but it seems impossible to believe that 
navigable ships could be built for flying, that were safe. 
I don't doubt that airships will be built that up to a 
certain point will be successful — say for a few hours' 
flight, but it seems inconceivable to me that man could 
so com^uer the air, that commerce and travel would 
benefit " 

" Well, Uncle John thinks he will conquer it with 
his ' Argenta ' " went on Alan. 

" Surely that was not what you called it just now ? " 
asked the vicar. 

Alan laughed. " The ' Argenta ' is the name of the 
ship itself, but ' Petradtheolin ' is the name of the power 
he is experimenting on, that he is desirous of using 
to propel it " 

" The machine itself is complete " went on Desmond 
enthusiastically " the balance is perfect, and its engines 
are supposed to be of wonderful velocity, but no known 
power will raise it even an inch from the ground. So 
he is still experimenting on this spirit. It is a formula 
which embraces petrol, radium and theolin; these 
chemicals are blended in some way or other — con- 
centrated and solidified. The engines are made so as 
to generate electricity m the bonnet part. The current 
acts on the solidified cubes, which as they melt are 
sent through metal retorts drop by drop, and then 
being conveyed to the engines should make the 
machine fly " 

" Well? " 

" I know it all sounds very fantastic, but my uncle 
firmly believes in the ultimate success of his experi- 
ments. His ambition is to be able to fly for about 
one hundred hours with about a cupful of this powerful 
matter. He expects each drop of the vaporized spirit, 
as it issues from the retort, to keep the engines going 
about fifty minutes " 

" It all sounds very interesting " said Mr. Winthrop 
" but is is extremely puzzling. I am afraid I would 
rather trust myself to Mother Earth than to your 
uncle's very ingenious ' Argenta ' " 

" So would I " laughed Desmond " But the dear 



THE CURSE 23 



old boy is so keen on his work, we don't like to 
discourage him " 

" And " finished Alan " there in a most wonderful 
shed, rests the ' Argenta ' ; its body of glistening 
aluminium — its interior richly upholstered and wonder- 
fully arranged from engine room to kitchen, but 
absolutely lifeless. And there I expect it will remain, 
for he will never destroy it. It is his biggest hobby 
after us — sometimes 1 think it even comes before us. 
He has the money, he has the brains, he may perfect 
this power, and if he does, he will have conferred a 
great benefit upon humanity " 

" You stayed with him until you came here, 
I suppose? " 

" Yes " answered Alan " We went to Eton — 
Cambridge — " 

"Cambridge?" Mr. Winthrop's face lighted up 
" Dear me! Dear me! What College, may I ask? " 

" Queens " said Desmond. 

" Queens? That was my College " 

" Indeed " cried the two boys together. 

" Yes, I've not been there for over forty-five years. 
I expect the dear old place has changed a great deal? " 

" Yes. We had rooms opposite each other on the 
same staircase in the New Buildings " said Desmond. 

" That was since my time " said Mr. Winthrop 
rather sadly " I've never even seen the New Build- 
ings. I was in the Walnut-Tree Court " Then he 
stopped, and gazed into the fire, his eyes sparkhng 
and a colour coming into his old, worn cheeks, as 
he thought of the days of his youth. Reminiscences 
came quickly. " Do you remember this? " " I 
remember when so-and-so happened " So the conver- 
sation went on until they were rudely interrupted 
by a sharp knock on the door, startling in its 
unexpectedness. All three rose hurriedly. 

" Come in " cried the vicar and Mrs. Skeet appeared 
breathing heavily, with a look of horror in her eyes. 

" Whatever is the matter? " asked Mr. Winthrop in 
dismay, startled out of his usual placidity by her 
frightened mien. 

" Dan— Dan Murlock's baby — it's gone, sir " 



24 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" Gone? Gone where? " 

•' No one knows, sir. He was playing' in the garden, 
safe and sound, only five minutes before, and when 
Moll went to call him in to put him to bed, he had 
vanished " 

" It's impossible for the child to have gone far " 
said the vicar. " Why, he is only a baby I " 

" Three last month, sir " 

" Has any one looked for him? What have they 
done ? " 

" The child can't be spirited away " said Alan 
" Why, there's no trafHc in the village that could 
possibly hurt him " 

Mrs. Skeet looked scared. " If you, please, sir " 
she half whispered " the people do say, as 'ow it's 
the ' Curse ' and that he has been spirited away 

The vicar blinked his eyes. " Nonsense, Mrs. Skeet I 
I'm ashamed of you. Never let me hear such words 
from you again. Spirited away indeed ! I expect he 
has strayed away into the woods at the baek of the 
Murlocks' cottage. Come, lads, we'll go down and 
see Dan and his wife, and do our best to help them " 
Taking up their hats the three made their way down 
the street, usually so quiet and still, but now buzzing 
with excitement. 

As they reached the Murlocks' cottage, they saw 
the front door was open wide, leaving the kitchen and 
garden beyond exposed to view. Curious neighbours, 
sympathetic friends, open-mouthed children were 
surrounding the stricken mother, who was rocking 
herself to and fro in her abandonment and grief. 

" Let us go through " said the vicar, and the two 
boys followed him. 

The woman heard the approaching footsteps, and 
lifted up her tear-stained face to the intruders. She 
held out her hands pathetically to the vicar, and the 
tears rolled down her cheeks unchecked. He took 
hold of the toil-worn hands, and was about to speak 
when she caught sight of the two boys behind him. Her 
eyes dilated and her body stiffened. Suddenly she 
uttered a piercing scream, and pointing a shaking hand 
at them " Go, go I " she cried " You came to 



THE CURSE 25 

Marshfielden unbidden — you defied the ' Curse ' — now 
you have taken my baby — my darhng, darhng baby! " 

Dan put his arm about her tenderly. " Do 'ant 'ee 
tak' on so, lass " said he gently " Sure, we'll find the 
babby. Already John Skinner and Matt Harding have 
gone with search parties to find the wee lad. We'll 
get him back, wife mine " But she only looked 
fiercely at the strangers. " Go — go — the ' Curse ' is 
on us all! " 

Mr. Winthrop silently motioned to the two lads and 
they quickly left the stricken house, and made their 
way back to their rooms in silence. 

The next morning on their way to work, they missed 
Dan Murlock. Some of the miners eyed them 
suspiciously as they asked where he was, and Slater, 
their landlord, was the only one to satisfy their curiosity. 
" With his wife " said he curtly " The wee laddie has 
not been found " 

" Wherever can he be ? " said Desmond in bewil- 
derment. Slater shook his head. 

" Search parties were out all night, but could find 
no trace or tidings of him " 

"Have you any idea what has happened?" asked 
Alan. Slater gave a quick look at each in turn, and 
then muttered something unintelligible under his breath, 
and the boys had to be content with that. 

It was a terrible day at the mine for the two boys; 
they had to partake of their midday meal in silence, for 
not one of the colliers addressed a word to them if he 
could possibly avoid it. They were regarded with 
suspicion mingled with fear, and the " Curse " seemed 
to be on every one's lips. 

Two days passed — a week, a fortnight ; still Dan 
Murlock's baby was not found, and at last the broken- 
hearted parents appeared at church in mourning, thus 
acknowledging to the world that they had given up all 
hope of ever seeing their little one again. 

Murlock was silent about it all, but every one who 
knew him realized that he was a changed man. He had 
idolized his wife and child, and at one blow had lost 
both, for his baby was without doubt dead; and his wife 
had turned from him in the throes of her grief. 



26 THE PERFECT WORLD 

The weeks passed on, Christmas was nigh upon them, 
and the child was spoken of in hushed tones as one 
speaks of the dead. The two boys were treated as 
ahens by the men, and they were beginning to chafe 
under their treatment. Although nothing had been 
said openly, they knew instinctively that they were 
blamed by the superstitious inhabitants for the dis- 
appearance of the baby. 

" Alan " said Desmond one day, as they were sitting 
apart from the rest eating their dinner " I can't stand 
this. I am going to speak to the men " 

" Stand what? " asked Alan wearily. 

" Why the whispers and sneers that are showered on 
us whenever we are near them. They all shrink away 
from us — treat us as if we were lepers; even Slater 
avoids us, and the ' Curse ' is whispered from lip to lip 
as we pass " 

" You'll do no good, Desmond " 

" We had nothing to do with the child's going away, 
yet they treat us as if we had murdered him " 

" Leave it alone " said Alan " I don't know what 
it is, but this place seems uncanny. I think I am 
almost beginning to believe in the Curse ' myself " 

Desmond made no reply, but squaring his shoulders, 
began to walk toward the miners. 

"Look here, you fellows" he began "What's 
wrong with you all ? Why are you treating my cousin 
and me as if we were murderers ? We aren't respon- 
sible for Murlock's little child vanishing away " 

The miners moved restlessly and muttered together, 
each waiting for a spokesman to assert himself, who 
would teach them the line of action they should take. 
Desmond continued " You talk about the ' Curse '! 
We knew nothing about it when we came here, and to 
us it seems ridiculous to imagine there is anything 
supernatural about the whole affair. The river is only 
a quarter of a mile from their garden gate; I know it 
has been dragged, but after all it is full of whirlpools 
and weeds, and if the little chap did fall into it, ten to 
one his little body will never be found " 

Suddenly a leader was found among the men, and 
Matt Harding stood up. 



THE CURSE 27 

" Look 'ere mates " said he " We do'ant suppose 
these young gentlemen actually hurt Dan Murlock's 
baby, or that they know where he went to, but after 
all, the ' Curse ' tells us not to have strangers in 
Marshfielden, or evil will befall. It may befall them, 
it may befall us, but some one will reap ill. Now it's 
really Slater's fault for giving them lodgings. Let 
Slater turn them out, and tnat may break the * Curse ' " 

" Aye, aye I " cried the men in unison. 

" Where is Slater? " asked one burly fellow. 

" With the shift above " came the reply in another 
voice. Then came groans from the rest. " Turn them 
out! Turn them out! " 

" There is no need to turn us out " said Alan with 
quiet dignity " We will find rooms outside Marsh- 
fielden, and leave at the end of the week " 

" Leave now! Leave now! " cried a hoarse voice, 
which they recognized as belonging to Toby Skinner. 

That was the one word needed to make the miners 
obstreperous. " Yes, go now, go now " they cried 
" By the end of the week all our babes may be gone " 

In vain the signal was given for the men to resume 
work; but they were free of their pent up feelings, and 
refused to listen to the strident tones of the bell that 
called them back to their duties. 

Suddenly the manager's voice was heard above the 
din and babel. 

" Get to your work at once " he thundered " or take 
my word for it, there will be a general lockout to- 
morrow " 

Gradually the men quieted, relieved of the strain of 
the past few weeks, and slunk back to work. 

" What's the trouble? " asked Mr. Dickson, coming 
to the boys. 

" They think we are the cause of the disappearance 
of Dan Murlock's baby" explained Alan to the 
manager with some bitterness. 

" Yes " continued Desmond " and now they demand 
that we leave Marshfielden. That damned ' Curse ' is 
driving us mad. These people are like a set of uncivil- 
ized savages, who believe in witchcraft and omens of 
the twelfth century " 



28 THE PERFECT WORLD 

Mr. Dickson smiled as he answered them. " Our 
Marshfielden folk are unique. They are almost a race 
in themselves. As Cornishmcn consider themselves 
' Cornish ' and not ' English ' so Marshfielden men call 
themselves ' Marshfieldens ' It is true they are very 
superstitious for they believe implicitly in the folk 
lore that has been handed down to them from all 
time " 

"What would you advise us to do?" asked Alan 
somewhat impatiently. 

Mr. Dickson thought a moment, and then said quickly 
" The widow of one of our men lives in a little cottage 
not a quarter of a mile from here; it stands on Corlot 
ground — not Marshfielden. She has a hard struggle 
to make both ends meet. I will send round at once and 
see if she is willing to take you two as lodgers. If she 
will — then go to her, for she is clean, respectable, and 
will look after you well. Meanwhile, neither of you 
has had a day off yet, so go and arrange about your 
luggage, and I'll see you are fixed up somewhere with 
rooms " 

" Thanks " said Alan " I shall be very sorry to 
leave Marshfielden though. It is such a quaint, .old- 
world place " 

" Far too old-world for strangers " said Mr. Dickson 
significantly. The little village street was buzzing with 
excitement when they reached Marshfielden. VVomen 
were rushing to and fro across the cobbled stones, 
and the whole place showed signs of some great 
disturbance. 

As the boys approached, a sudden hush seemed to 
pervade the place, and the women huddled together and 
whispered " The ' Curse '! The ' Curse '! " 

Alan shrugged his shoulders. " I'll see to the 
things " said he " You go along to Mr. Winthrop, 
and tell him of the change in our plans " 

" Right, old boy " and Desmond went towards Mr. 
Winthrop's rooms, whistling and doing his best to 
ignore the hostile looks that were directed at him. 

Alan went into the little room that had become so 
dear to them both. The cottage was deserted, Mrs. 
Slater was absent, and as he made his way up to the 



THE CURSE 29 

little bedroom, he sighed as he thought of leaving the 
dear little place. 

In a very short space of time the drawers were 
emptied and the trunks packed; everything was done 
except the putting together of the hundred and one 
odds and ends that invariably remain about. 

" That's good! " said he to himself, as he rose from 
his knees, having finished strapping up the trunks, and 
he surveyed his handiwork with pride, as he realized 
the short time it had taken him to complete it all. 

"Alan I " — He turned round suddenly — it was 
Desmond's voice. 

" Coming, old chap " but Desmond was in the room, 
with a white, set face, trembling limbs and a look of 
horror in his eyes. 

" Good God! Whatever is the matter? " he asked. 

" John Meal — Matt Harding — " gasped Desmond. 

" Have found Dan's boy? " eagerly. 

"No. Their children have disappeared tool " 

" What?" 

" It's true! Mr. Winthrop told me. That's what 
caused the commotion when we arrived here this 
morning. This news had only just become known " 

Alan seemed struck dumb. He looked at Desmond 
with unseeing eyes; his tongue swelled, and his mouth 
grew parched, but his lips would not form words. 
Then suddenly sounds came. " I wonder — is it the 
'Curse' after all?" 

" I wondered that too " 

"When were they missed?" 

" The children were all in school safe and sound. 
Lunch time came and they were seen to enter the play- 
ground with the other little ones. Ten minutes later 
the bell was rung for them all to reassemble. 

" When the children did so, it was found that there 
were five children missing. Harding's three little girls 
and Meal's two had disappeared. 

" The Head Mistress was furious, thinking they had 
all gone off together, and were "playing truant. She 
sent a message round to the parents, so« John Meal 
left his work in the fields, and insisted on a search 
being made. He swore it was the * Curse ' and that if 



30 THE PERFECT WORLD 

he found his children he would find them in company 
with Harding's, and Dan's boy " 

" Do you think it is a band of gypsies at work? " 
suggested Alan. 

" There have been no gypsies near Marshfielden 
for over five years, they say. Besides tliat, the extra- 
ordinary thing is, the children disappeared from the 
playground " 

"Well?" 

"There is a ten foot wall all round it, so it is 
impossible for them to have climbed over. The only 
way out is past the Head Mistress' desk. She was 
sitting there the whole of the break, and declares that 
for the whole ten minutes of the hmcheon time, the hall 
was entirely deserted and no one passed her. It seems 
impossible for them to have left the playground that 
way, and equally impossible by the front entrance " 

" Why it sounds like witchcraft " said Alan. 

A voice startled them. It was Mrs. Slater; her 
eyes red from weeping " I beg of you two young 
gentlemen to go " she sobbed " The * Curse ' is upon 
us" 

" We are going " said Alan gently " but we will 
do our utmost to discover the children. Now let us 
have our account " But the woman threw out her 
hands before her with a cry. 

"No — No — Not a penny, sir" 

" Oh, come, Mrs. Slater, don't be foolish. Let us 
have our bill " urged Alan. 

But Mrs. Slater was obdurate. " It's only two days 
you owe me, sir, and I wouldn't touch a penny. You 
are quite welcome to what you've had, only go — go! " 
It was useless to argue and they left the house with 
heavy hearts, and went toward the blacksmith's in 
order to ask some one to take their luggage away for 
them. 

" Good morning, Jim " said Alan pleasantly as they 
reached the forge. The man looked up and greeted 
them carefully, and as he saw Alan about to step across 
the threshold he gave a cry. 

" Do'ant 'ee put your foot inside, gentlemen, 
do'ant 'ee please I Oh, the ' Curse ' be upon us all! " 



THE CURSE 81 



The boys shrugged their shoulders helplessly, and 
Alan spoke quickly. 

" Send your boy up to Mrs. Slater's, will you, Jim? 
We want our luggage taken from there to Mrs. 
Warren's cottage at Corlot " 

" You be agoin' away? " asked the man eagerly. 

"Yes" 

" I be mighty glad, sirs. I do'ant mean to be rude, 
sirs, of course we shall miss you sorely, but the ' Curse ' 
has hit us sore hard since you came " 

" Then you'll send your boy, Jim? " 

Jim scratched his head. " Couldn't you manage it 
yourselves? " 

" Surely it won't harm you to help us out of 
Marshfielden ? " said Alan bitterly. 

" I do'ant rightly know, sir, but — " 

"Well?" 

"I'd rather lend you my trolley, sir, than my boy. 
I do be mighty feared of the ' Curse ' " 

" All right, Jim, give us the trolley. We'll do it 
ourselves " The blacksmith wheeled it out, and gave 
it with half an apology to Alan. 

" Don't apologize, Jim. I understand " 

But the blacksmith had one more thing to say. 
" Do'ant 'ee trouble to bring it back to Marshfielden, 
sirs, leave it with Ezra Meakin. He'll bring it back 
for 'ee " 

" Oh, don't fear, Jim, we won't return to Marsh- 
fielden once we've left. Ezra shall return it safely. 
We'll pay you now " 

Jim was not too frightened to refuse payment, and 
the liberal amount of silver they showered on him 
touched him. 

" I do'ant mean to be rude, sir " he began — but the 
boys had started on their way and were already wheel- 
ing the lumbering trolley down the uneven street. 

Jim went back into his forge with a shaking hand. 
Had he helped the " Curse " by lending his trolley — 
doubly so, indeed, by accepting payment? And as he 
beat the hammer on the anvil, sparks flew out all 
around him like little red devils thirsting for prey I 

When the miners came home that night they were 



32 THE PERFECT WORLD 

unaware of the double tragedy that had come into their 
midst. The strangers were gone! They rejoiced, and 
Matt Harding was among the merriest. Mr. Winthrop 
and John Meal were away still searching for the miss- 
ing ones, and no one had dared go to the mine to tell 
Matt of his loss. 

He received the news with a set face, and strong 
self control. No word of comfort was given him by 
his comrades; he needed none. Blindly he staggered 
home, his loving, grief-stricken wife comforting and 
consoling him, bearing up herself in order to help the 
man she loved. 

Silently the miners prepared for another fruitless 
search. 

"The two young gentlemen are going to help" 
volunteered a woman in the crowd. 

" We do'ant want no help " cried a man baring his 
brawny arm " We'll find the chillun ourselves " But 
the search proved futile, as they almost expected, for 
as Murlock's boy had vanished completely, so had 
these other five children. But still stranger things 
were happening ! 

Mrs. Skeet possessed a dun cow of which she was 
very proud. Two days after the disappearance of the 
children, she tied it up in its stall in the byre, as it was 
suffering from an inflamed heel. Next morning when 
she entered the byre the cow had gone, and the whole 
of the thatched roof had been burnt away. Rushing 
into tlie cottage she called Mr. Winthrop, but there was 
no reply. She knocked at his bedroom door. The room 
sounded empty. Again she knocked, and fear made 
her open it. In a second she was out, and shrieking 
in her terror, for the window was open wide, and the 
vicar too had disappeared. 



CHAPTER III 



THE LIGHT 

The London papers were burning with excitement. 
Marshfielden had at last become known to the vast, 
outside world, for the disappearance of so many of its 
inhabitants could no longer be hidden under a veil, 
After the vicar was found to be missing, Mr. Dickson 
at the mine made Slater promise to report the matter 
to the Kiltown police — the nearest constabulary to 
Marshfielden. 

The detective officer and his men came over and 
pompously took notes and asked voluminous questions, 
but after a fortnight's search came no nearer solving" 
the mystery. Then one of the constables disappeared 
too, and Sergeant Aiken thought it was high time to 
report the matter to Scotland Yard. 

Detective Inspector Vardon, the shrewdest, cleverest 
man at the Yard, came down immediately, and at once 
sent for Alan and Desmond Forsyth. He had been 
working out a theory coming down in the train and 
these two young men were very closely connected 
with it. 

But after his first interview with them, he realized 
that his suspicions were entirely wrong, and knew he 
must look elsewhere for a clue. Alan told the full story 
without any hesitation whatsoever and explained how 
they themselves had suffered over the " Curse " 

'^Pooh Pooh! " laughed Vardon "We will leave 
the ' Curse ' out of the question. These mysteries are 
caused by no witchcraft, but by a clever, cunning 
brain " 

" Do you really think so? " asked Desmond. 

" Of course " and Alan gave a sigh of relief as he 

33 c 



84 THE PERFECT WORLD 

mumiured " you don't know how that has relieved 
me. I was beginning to get quite a horror of the 
unknown " 

" Of course it's an uncanny case " went on the 
Inspector " but we'll solve the problem yet " Then 
he added laughingly " I came down here prepared to 
suspect you two young gentlemen " 

"Us? Why?" 

" Well, all these mysteries occurred after you arrived 
here, and I found you were none too popular with the 
natives " 

Desmond was indignant, but Vardon soon cooled him 
down. " See here, my dear sir. It's my business to 
suspect everybody until I convince myself of his inno- 
cence. I know, now I was mistaken — therefore I have 
been candid with you " 

The inquiries lasted some time, and every day 
brought some fresh disaster in its wake, filling the 
little village with misery and consternation, and the 
London editors' pockets with gold. Sightseers and 
tourists came galore to the stricken place, and the 
carrier between Marshfielden and Kiltown reaped a 
small fortune from the curious. Every day the papers 
recounted some fresh loss — perhaps a cow or a pig, but 
often a human life. Women kept inside their homes, 
and even the men folk walked about in pairs, so that 
they could help each other should the " unknown " fall 
upon them. 

The two boys still worked in the mine, and the men, 
realizing at last that they were not the instigators of 
all the trouble, admitted them, charily enough at first, 
into their lives again. 

Alan and Desmond were quite happy with Mrs. 
Warren, but missed Mr. Winthrop's kindly advice and 
friendship greatly. No trace of him had ever been 
found, and a younger man now took his parochial 
duties. Amateur detectives swarmed about the place, 
but the villagers in a body refused shelter to every one. 
Even the police officials themselves had to pitch tents 
in fields near by for their own use, as no bribe was high 
enough to obtain accommodation for them. Inspector 
Vardon was beginning to get disheartened; he had 



THE LIGHT 35 



formed many theories during his stay, but upon minute 
investigation they all fell to pieces. 

Walking away from the village one day, his hands 
behind his back and his head sunk upon his breast, deep 
in thought, he was suddenly awakened from his reverie 
by the sound of groans. Hedges were on either side 
of him, but he vaulted over the one from whence the 
sounds came. 

There lay a sheep, its wool burnt away and its body 
scorched. He examined the helpless creature in pity, 
and the poor beast breathed his last. He was distinctly 
puzzled. There was no sign of fire anywhere at all — 
the poor animal alone had been hurt. 

He pondered for a moment, and the thought came 
into his mind that perhaps this was a sequel to the 
strange disappearances and mysteries he had been try- 
ing to unravel — but after a moment, he cast the thought 
aside as being impossible, and decided that the accident 
must have been caused by a passer-by throwing away a 
match or a lighted cigarette, so he hurried across the 
fields to tell the farmer of his loss. That night, 
however, he had cause to think more deeply over the 
mishap to the sheep. 

About six in the evening Ezra Meakin and a com- 
panion set out for Kiltown. They intended to stay the 
night there and come back by the carrier in the morning. 
At eight a shrieking, demented man came flying into 
Marshfielden, and fell in a heap across the steps that 
led up to the church. 

Matt Harding was near and ran to his aid. 

" Good God, it's Ezra! " he cried. 

It was indeed, but a very different Ezra from the one 
who had left Marshfielden only two hours before. His 
clothes were scorched and his hair singed, while great 
blisters, that could have been caused only by excessive 
heat, marred his face. 

"What has come over ye, lad?" asked Matt in 
concern. 

"The fire! The fire! " cried Ezra hysterically 
" It's taken Luke — he's gone " and with the words he 
lapsed into unconsciousness. 

Matt lifted him up in his strong arms, and bore him 



86 THE PERFECT WORLD 

to the nearest cottage. "Fetch the Inspector" said 
he curtly as he busied himself in trying to restore life 
to the inanimate form on the bed. At length he 
succeeded — a tremor passed through the body; the 
hands unclasped; the eyelids fluttered slightly. Then 
the lids slowly moved, and Matt stared down in horror 
at the wide open eyes. Blindly he stumbled out of the 
room, and fell into the arms of the Inspector. 

" What's the matter? " asked Vardon. 

Matt looked at him stupidly for a moment, and then 
gave a harsh, mirthless laugh. " Ezra — he's — he's — " 

" Yes? " 

"He's blind" 

"Blind?" 

Matt Harding could say no more, but sank down on 
to a chair and buried his head in his hands. 

For a week Ezra lay delirious, and it was even longer 
than that before any one could get his story from him. 
When it came, it was disjointed and almost incoherent. 
After he and Luke Wilden had walked about a mile, he 
told them, they suddenly saw in the distance something 
that looked like a red hot wire on the horizon. Danc- 
ing and swaying it drew nearer to them, and fascinated 
they watched to see what it could possibly be. 

Then suddenly, before they realized, it was upon 
them. It swooped down and coiled around Luke's 
body, and carried him off into mid-air. As he tried to 
drag Luke from its clutches, the end of it, in curling 
around Luke still more firmly, struck him, and burnt 
and blinded him. He remembered no more; every- 
thing grew dim, and he fled down the long, straignt 
road towards the village, instinct guiding him in place 
of his sight. 

Every one heard the story incredulously, and it duly 
appeared in the London newspapers, and tended to 
make the " Marshfielden Mystery " as it was called, 
still more complicated and unfathomable. 

Ezra recovered from the shock, but his eyesight was 
gone forever. 

" Destroyed by fire " was the verdict of the 
eminent specialist who was called in to diagnose his 
case. 



THE LIGHT 37 



The story of the " Light " grew daily more terrify- 
ing. School children declared they saw it from the 
windows of their class-rooms, and when closely 
questioned about it, declared it was " a golden streak 
of fire, as thin as wire, that came rushing through the 
sky like lightning " 

Then men began to watch for it, but somehow it 
seemed to evade most of them, and for some time, 
solitary statements were all that could be obtained with 
reference to it. 

" What do you make of it, Alan? " asked Desmond 
one day, after it had been seen by three different wit- 
nesses at the same time and in the same direction. 

" I don't know. Every one is not a liar, and at the 
same time every one cannot suffer from a like optical 
delusion. Every one who has seen this phenomenon 
agrees in every detail about its appearance " 

1^' Yes, even the children " supplemented Desmond. 

" Let's go for a walk " yawned his cousin " I feel 
very tired to-day " 

Mrs. Warren watched them going toward the gate 
with apprehension in her eyes, and just as they were 
about to pass through, she rushed to the door. " Be 
you agoin' out? Oh, do'ant 'ee go— do'ant 'ee— not 
to-night I I be afeared— mortal afeared " 

" Oh, we'll take care of ourselves " laughed 
Desmond " Don't you worry " 

" But I'm afeared " She shivered as she spoke- 
but the boys laughed as they walked toward the Corlot 
Woods, a favourite spot of theirs. 

As they crossed the stile leading to the path across 
the fields, they heard a dog crying pitifully. Alan, 
always tender-hearted towards dumb animals, stopped 
and looked round. Again came the mournful cry. 
" I think it must be across the way " said Desmond. 
Alan crossed the road, and then called out to his 
cousin. 

" It's Slater's pup "—he bent over it closely— 
" Why its leg is broken and its fur is singed " he added 
in an awestruck tone. 

A rustling sounded behind him— an intense heat that 
nearly stifled him; he heard a sudden shriek— a groan. 



88 THE PERFECT WORLD 

Once more the " Light " had found its prey. Alan 
was alone ! 



" Come at once. Something terrible has happened 
to Dez. Don't delay. Alan " 

Such was the telegram that Sir John Forsyth received 
upon arriving at his office the day after Desmond's 
disappearance. The two boys had kept him fully posted 
with all the news at Marshfielden. But as he always 
prided himself upon his strong common sense, he 
laughed with the boys at the suggestion that the 
" Curse " was responsible for the strange happenings 
in the little Derbyshire village. 

His face blanched as he read the message, and 
instinctively he thought of the " Curse " yet put the 
thought aside as quickly as it came. 

Masters, his confidential secretary, almost friend, 
looked at him pityingly. 

" I am going to Marshfielden " announced Sir John. 

" Shall I come with you? " asked Masters. 

" Yes, Masters, I shall need you " 

" An express leaves for Derby in half an hour " went 
on Masters " If we book there, I can 'phone through 
for a car to meet us and motor us direct to Grimland " 

" Yes! Yes! You arrange " and Sir John, who 
had grown as many years old as minutes had passed 
since he had had the news, sat with his teeth chattering 
and his limbs trembling. 

*' A motor car will be waiting for us at Derby " 
announced Masters as they took their seats in the 
train. 

At last the whistle sounded, the flag waved, and the 
great engine snorted violently as it left the station. 

Sir John, in his anguish of mind, was unable to sit 
still; up and down the corridor he walked until the 
passengers began to pity his white, strained face, and 
wondered what his trouble could be. Derby at last! 
Then followed a mad ride to Grimland. Alan was 
awaiting his Uncle at the pit head ; he had not attempted 
to go to bed since the " Light " had taken Desmond 



THE LIGHT 39 



from his side. Silently they gripped hands, and Sir 
John entered the little office and heard the whole 
story. 

Alan wound up by saying " Even as I tell the story, 
it seems almost incredible. As I turned round I saw 
Desmond in mid-air, with, it seemed, a fiery wire about 
him — and as I looked he vanished from sight " 

Sir John was determined not to look upon it as witch- 
craft. 

" It's man's devilry, I'll be bound " said he " I'll 
swear it's not supernatural. Get all the scientists down 
— let them make investigations. I'll pay handsomely, 
but discover the secret I will " 

The men, when they realized that Desmond had dis- 
appeared, were shamefaced, and came to Mrs. Warren's 
cottage to offer their sympathy. They tried to atone 
for their past conduct, by inviting both Alan and his 
Uncle to stay in Marshfielden. But Alan refused, 
" No, we'll stay here " said he " Mrs. Warren has 
made me very comfortable. But perhaps we'll come 
and visit Marshfielden, if we may, and do our utmost 
to discover the perpetrator of this diabolical plot 

" Aye, do 'ee sur, do 'ee " said the men, and Alan 
felt strangely cheered by their friendship. 

Sir John stayed with Alan for a fortnight, but as 
others had disappeared, so had Desmond, and no trace 
of him could be found. It was necessary for Sir John 
to return to town, in order that he might keep his 
business appointments and he asked Alan to accompany 
him. 

" I curse the day I ever sent you to Grimland " said 
he over and over again. 

" Don't upset yourself so, Uncle John! How could 
anyone have foreseen such a calamity. No, I'll stay 
here, and perhaps I may be the means of unravelling 
the mystery " 

Police from the Continent, detectives from America, 
Asiatic wizards and sorcerers all came to Marshfielden 
— but none solved the mystery. For days no one 
stirred out of doors, and when at length they 
did so, it was with faltering steps and bated breath. 
No one knew who would be the next victim of the 



40 THE PERFECT WORLD 

strange power that pervaded the place. Summer came 
again ! A year had passed and left its mark on the 
once peaceful EngHsh village. Many white crosses 
adorned the little churchyard, but of all the new ones, 
few really marked the last resting place of those whose 
names they bore. A tiny tombstone in the far corner, 
under a weeping ash, named the spot consecrated to 
the memory of little Jimmie Murlock, the first victim of 
the " Light " 

Moll Murlock had gone out of her mind. The shock 
had tvn"ned her brain, — and when, one after another, she 
learned of the tragedies that were daily coming on the 
little village, her senses left her entirely, and she was 
taken to the Kiltown asylum. Dan lived alone, in the 
little cottage, his hair snow white, and his features old 
and wrinkled; and none of his comrades dared recall 
the past to his mind. The new vicar who had taken 
Mr. Winthrop's place was very unpopular, and on 
Sundays the church was nearly half empty. Fear had 
turned their thoughts from Heaven, and while men 
openly cursed their God, the women wliispered their 
curses in their hearts. 

Inspector Vardon was still investigating, but his 
reports to the Yard were all the same. " Nothing 
further to hand " and then came the day when he 
added " Fear this is beyond me " and the chiefs looked 
at each other in dismay, as they feared it would remain 
one of the unsolved mysteries of the day. They had no 
shrewder or cleverer man in their employ than Marcus 
Vardon. 

Then the " Light " suddenly disappeared. No more 
losses were reported, things went on more calmly, and 
women began to go out of doors more freely. 
Children returned to school, and Marshfielden had 
become almost normal again. For two months there 
were no casualties, and people hoped that the evil 
influence had departed for good, or burnt itself 
out. 

And the next Sunday the new clergyman addressed 
from his pulpit a full church. The people had once 
more come to the house of God for comfort and to 
return Him thanks for the cessation of the past 



THE LIGHT 41 

horrors. And his voice shook as he gave out his text, 
from the one hundred and twenty-first psalm : — 

" The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil; the Lord shall 
preserve thy going out and thy coming in, from this time 
lorth for ever more " 



CHAPTER IV 



THE OUTLET 

For over six months Marshfielden was unvisited by the 
*' Light " The inhabitants were setthng down and 
work had begun again in earnest. Alan had been 
promoted second overseer at the mine, and as he had 
a firm way with the men, those under him worked 
diligently and well. Traces of sorrow were left on 
every one's face. It was impossible to eradicate them 
in a few months ; years would not wipe away the 
affliction that had come into their lives. 

The little village was opened up now. Motors 
traversed its cobbled streets, and the inhabitants so 
far allowed themselves to become " modernized " that 
the sign " Teas provided here " could be seen in nearly 
every cottage window down the street. 

The influx of so many strangers made them forget 
the " Curse " and as once they believed in it, now 
they believed just as firmly that the disasters that had 
come up(»n them were wrought by some human agency. 
These six months of peace and quiet they hoped were 
precursors of the future. Inspector Vardon left the 
place, and nothing remained outwardly to remind them 
of the terrible past. 

Then suddenly they woke up once more to sorrow. 
Two horses were found to be missing, and with them 
the little stable boy who tended them. The " Light 
had returned ! 

Once more voices were hushed and heads were shaken 
gravely, as every one talked of the tragedy. A week 
passed, then Mrs. Skeet disappeared, and a few days 
later Mary Slater. 1 he place swarmed again with 

42 



THE OUTLET 43 

detectives; the papers were again alive with the 
renewal of the tragedies. 

The men in the mine worked silently; the only thing 
to break the stillness was the sound of the picks on 
the coal seams, or the running of the trolleys up and 
down the roads. Each feared to think of the horror 
that might await him when he reached his home at 
the end of his day's work. 

The dinner hour came round, and each man sat silent 
and glum, eating his bread and meat, and uttering 
only a monosyllable now and again to his particular 
chum . 

Suddenly there came a dull roar; the men rose to 
their feet in haste. They knew only too well that 
ominous sound — it was familiar to them all. 

Mr. Dickson appeared, his face ashen. " An 
explosion in the South Road " said he " Rescue 
parties to work at once " 

In an instant everything was forgotten but the one 
desire to help their brothers in distress. With picks 
and ropes and lanterns they hurried down the main 
road, just at the bend of which a sheet of fiame flared 
out suddenly, entirely enveloping the first man, and 
setting his clothing on fire. 

In vain they played on the flames — it was useless. 
The fire had gained too much power. The rescuers 
were forced back to the cage at the bottom of the shaft, 
and all had to seek refuge above. Another sorrow 
had come upon the people of Marshfielden — their cup 
was full to overflowing as it was, yet Tragedy, the 
Humourist, was not yet content with his handiwork. 

For two days the fire raged, and the willing rescuers 
were helpless in the face of such odds; on the third it 
quieted sufficiently to enable a rescue party to descend. 
Gradually they fought the flames, but not a trace 
remained of the men who had been caught like rats 
in a trap when the first explosion came. So Marsh- 
fielden was again in mourning, and broken-hearted 
widows and fatherless children went to the touching 
little memorial service that was arranged for the lost 
ones. 

Alan was horror-stricken at the calamity that had 



4'4 THE PERFECT WORLD 

befallen the mine. The thought of the men who had 
been burnt to death preyed on his mind; it was his first 
experience of such an accident, and it left upon him 
an indelible mark. 

The mine was once more in working order, and he 
was doing some accounts in the office below, when a 
voice startled him. It was the voice of Mr. Dickson, 
and very grave. 

" Go at once to the third shaft, Forsyth " said he 
" The telephone has failed, and Daniels has reported 
that there is something wrong with the air pumps 
there " 

" What? In the lower engine house? " 

" Yes. We can get no further information. Make 
a careful examination, and if vou suspect any danger, 
order the shift off and close the gates " 

" Very good " and Alan, glad to have something 
to do that would occupy his mind, left the office, and 
jumped on to one of the empty trolleys that was being 
run by the cable to the second shaft, and would take 
him very near his destination. At the second shaft 
there were anxious faces. 

" Something wrong at number three shaft, sir " said 
one of the men " Daniels 'p^^^ned us, but before he 
could tell us anything definite, the connections broke 
down " 

" Thanks " said Alan shortly. " How many men arc 
working there ? " 

" None, sir. They've not been working it fo-day. 
Daniels and two other men have been inspecting a 
bulge that has appeared in the roof, and were arrang- 
ing to have it fixed up with supports " Mechanically 
Alan walked down the low road that led to the third 
shaft. He pushed aside the heavy tarpaulins that hung 
across the roadways, and kept the current of air from 
flowing in the wrong direction, and as he passed 
through each one, he sniffed the air eagerly. 

At last! The sickly, choking smell came up from 
the distance. It was one he knew and feared — a 
noxious gas. The roof became very low. and Alan 
had almost to crawl on his hands and knees, for there 
was no room for him to stand upright. Cramped, 



THE OUTLET 45 

aching, he made his way along the narrow roadway. 
Suddenly he gave a sigh of relief; the roof rose to 
perhaps ten feet, and the road widened out into ja 
vault-like chamber, perhaps twenty feet square. He 
heard a cry in the distance. " Help ! Help 1 " It was 
Daniels — Daniels who came stumbling in and fell on 
the ground before him. 

" Mr. Forsyth " he muttered " run — save yourself — 
Rutter is dead — The gas is terrible. There's 
danger " and even as he spoke there came a dull roar 
and a flash, a terrible sound of falling — and Alan 
realized that the little chamber had indeed become a 
vault, for the force of the explosion had made the 
walls on either side cave in, and the entrance at each 
end was blocked up completely, 

" Too late " murmured Daniels weakly " I couldn't 
get here before " He fumbled at his belt, and Alan 
bent over him gently " Water — water " he cried, and 
Alan unfastened the basket that was slung across his 
shoulders, and took from it a bottle of cold tea. 

But even as he put it to the lips of the sick man, there 
came another roar in the distance, and Daniels fell 
back — dead. 

Once more the dreaded sound was heard — once more 
an explosion had occurred in the mine. This time 
there was little fire — only water — water everywhere. 

•' Where is Mr. Alan? " asked the manager hoarsely 
" Has he returned from the third shaft? " 

" No, sir" 

" Then he is in the midst of the danger. Rescue 
parties at once " But all these efforts were in vain. 
It was water this time— water that drove the men back 
to the mouth of the pit. 

Pumps were put in order, and for hours the men 
worked to clear the mine, but when at last they were 
able to get near the spot where the accident took 
place — ^they, as they feared, found no trace of 
Alan. 

From the second shaft the mine was in such a 
complete state of wreckage and ruin, that it would 
take weeks before it was even possible to get near the 
third shaft and the original scene of the disaster. So 



46 THE PERFECT WORLD 

once more a casualty list was sent out, and this time 
was headed by the name 

" Alan Forsyth " 

Sir John heard the news with a set face. First 
Desmond, now Alan had been taken from him. 

" Don't take it so to heart, Mr. Dickson " said he 
kindly. " The boy was doing his duty when death 
overtook him " 

" I am broken-hearted. Sir John " said Mr. Dickson 
" I feel that it was I who drove him to his doom. If 
I hadn't sent him to the third shaft that day, he would 
be with us still " 

" It is fate " said Sir John simply. 

But when he reached his office next day, he told 
Masters to get him his will from the safe. With 
trembling fingers he tore it across, threw the pieces in 
the fire and watched it burn. Then he said quietly " I 
must make a new will, Masters. But to whom shall 
I leave my money? There is no one to follow me 
now " Suddenly he took up pen and paper and wrote 
hurriedly " Fetch a clerk, Masters " said he, and 
when a clerk appeared he added quietly " I want you 
both to witness my signature to my will " and with 
firm fingers wrote his name, and passed the paper over 
to Masters, making no effort to hide what he had 
written. 

And Masters' eyes grew dim as he read — 

" Everything I possess to the ' Miners' Fund ' for widow.s 
and orphans, rendered such by accidents in the mine " 



When Alan recovered from the shock of the 
explosion, he found his lamp was still burning dimly, 
and felt that he had a dull ache in his legs. He was 
covered with debris from head jto foot and stifling 
from the dust and powdered coal that was all about. 
With difficulty he extricated himself, and realized that 
Datiiels was completely buried. 

Alone in the little chamber, a feeling akin to super- 



THE OUTLET 47 

stition came over him, and he moved away from the 
silent form, now shrouded in coal. Scarcely realizing 
the hopeless position he was in, he leant back, and 
closing his eyes, his worn out nerves gave way, and he 
fell asleep. He woke up with a start some hours 
later; his watch had stopped and he had no idea of the 
time. Madness seemed to be coming over him; his 
face was flushed, his head throbbed. He was raven- 
ously hungry, and crossed to the dead man's side and 
searched about until he found the basket that contained 
Daniel's untouched dinner, and the bottle of cold tea. 
There was not a great deal of food — half a loaf, several 
thick slices of beef, a piece of cheese and some home- 
made apple tart. 

Alan ate sparingly, for although his stomach 
clamoured for more, he realized that not yet was his 
greatest hour of need, and that later on he would need 
the food still more. 

When he had finished, he took up a pick and wildly 
struck at the blocked exit, but only the echoes replied, 
laughing at his impotence. Flinging his tool down he 
buried his head in his hands and sobbed in bitter 
despair. His convulsive outburst left him calmer, and 
he began for the first time to think out a plan of escape. 
He knew that rescue parties would be working hard 
for his release — but could they reach him in time ? 

There was around him a death-like stillness, and he 
realized that the buried cavern was far from the 
bottom of the shaft. Then he suddenly wondered 
where the air came from. There must be an inlet 
somewhere, he thought, for the air he was breathing, 
although stuffy, was quite pure. He walked round 
the walled up chamber — round and round — but there 
was nowhere a weak spot. He sat down and tried to 
think coherently, and laughed aloud in his agony, as 
he wondered whether he would go mad. He looked 
up suddenly, and in his weakness imagined that the roof 
was trying to dance with the floor. He tottered round 
the place, hardly able to keep his feet in his wild fancy 
that the floor was moving, and laughed hysterically as 
he knocked against a jutting piece of coal, and thought 
the roof had got him at last. Then he quieted a little, 



48 THE PERFECT WORLD 

and in the semi-darkness the dead figure of Daniels 
seemed to rise from the place where it lay, and point 
at him a menacing finger. 

In terror, Alan backed to the further side of the 
little chamber, his eyes distorted, his limbs trembling. 
He watched the figure come nearer — nearer — its long 
claw-like fingers were almost on his flesh — " Ah! 
he shrieked — the fingers were touching him with a 
cold, slimy touch. He felt impelled to move forward 
— with the forefinger of the dead man pressed to his 
forehead. He walked fearfully onward — then his over- 
wrougiit brain gave way entirely, and with another 
wild shriek, he fell to the floor in merciful uncon- 
sciousness. 

When he recovered, his dimmed senses hid from him 
much of the past. His fever had abated, but he 
longed for water. His mouth was parched. He 
crawled feebly to the basket where the dead Daniels 
had kept his food, and drew out the bottle of tea. 
There was very little left, but enough to take away the 
first keen edge of his thirst. A torn newspaper that 
had been used to wrap up some of the food rustled 
slightly. It startled him and he looked round 
nervously. Again it moved, and seemed to be lifted 
up by some unseen hand. 

He watched it fascinated, ,then suddenly his face 
lighted up. "A draught " he cried triumphantly 
" Then it is from tliat direction I must try and secure 
my release! " With renewed energy he began to 
pick at the coal, in the fast dimming light of his 
lantern. Tirelessly he worked, until success met his 
efforts and he had made a hole big enough to crawl 
through, whence came the sound of rushing waters. 

He lifted his lantern above his head in his endeavour 
to discover where he was, and its feeble rays shone 
upon a swiftly flowing, subterranean river that dis- 
appeared through a tunnel on either side. The place 
he was in was very small and had no outlet except 
by way of the water. 

The river was narrow, perhaps four feet wide at the 
most, but with a current so strong that Alan, good 
swimmer though he was, would not have dared trust 



THE OUTLET 49 

himself to its cruel-looking depths. Mechanically he 
dropped into the water a lump of coal. There was a 
slight splash — but no sound came to tell him that it 
had reached the bottom. He felt in his pockets, and 
found half a ball of string. Tying a piece of coal to 
one end he dropped it into the rapids, but his arm was 
up to his shoulder in the river, and yet the coal had not 
touched the bottom. 

He looked at the water curiously, and dabbled his 
fingers in the brackish fluid. Suddenly a pain in his 
hand made him draw it out quickly, and by the light 
of the lantern he saw it was covered with blood. As 
he wiped it clean he saw the impression of two teeth 
on his first and third fingers. Slowly his lips moved 
and he murmured — " There is animal life in this river 
then — I wonder whither it leads — can there be 
humanity near too? " 

His lantern was nearly out, and by its dying rays 
he tried frantically to fashion himself a raft, upon 
which he could trust himself to the waters. A trolley, 
smashed by the force of the explosion, lay near him. 
The wheels had been wrenched off and it was all in 
pieces. He looked at it carefully. The bottom 
piece was intact with half of one end still in position. 
He examined it critically. Would it float ? Well he 
must risk that. He thought it would, and the end 
piece would serve as a hold to keep him on safely. 

He was feeling faint — he ate the remains of his 
food, and with a reverent glance at the place where 
Daniels lay, he pushed the plank out on to the 
seething waters. Lightly he jumped on it himself, 
and, with a tight grip on the projecting pieces of 
wood, gave himself up to the mercy of the torrent. 

His lantern went out; the darkness was intense; 
there was no sound but the lashing of the waters 
and the drumming of the raft against the sides of 
the tunnel. The current was swifter than anything 
he had ever known. The water just tore along at a 
breakneck speed, lashed over the frail raft and 
drenched Alan to the skin. He was faint. In a dim 
way he thought of his life — how empty it had been. 
Where was Desmond — and Uncle John? Cambridge 

P 



50 THE PERFECT WORLD 

came before his eyes, and he could almost see the 
serene picture of the " backs " with their quaint 
bridges and fields beyond. 

He felt stiff. Mechanically he held on to the raft, 
even when his senses left him; and the frail wood with 
its worn burden of humanity, rushed on, down into 
the depths, carried by the river that was descending 
lower and lower through the earth. 

Suddenly the raft gave a still more violent jerk, and 
Alan awoke to life once more. The rapids were over 
at last, and he was drifting along in waters that were 
as sluggish now as before they had been fast. 

The tunnel widened, and he was aware that the 
intense blackness had gone, and in its place there was 
a purplish light that was soothing to his aching eyes. 
As the tunnel began to widen out, a path branched off 
at either side of the water. 

The raft drifted on and at last found a harbour in a 
little, natural bay hollowed out in the bank. Alan 
stepped on land at last, his senses reeling. He had no 
idea of the time that had passed since he first started 
on that strange journey, and he felt hungry, weak and 
tired. 

Slowly he (walked along the river bank, and "the 
purple lights grew stronger — then voices came upon 
his ear, and as he eagerly bent forward toward the 
unknown that faced him, above in Marshfielden^ the 
clergyman was saying — 

" And for the Boul of Alan Forsyth — lately dead " 



BOOK II 
THE UNDERWORLD 



CHAPTER I 



A STRANGE MEETING 

The ever present sense of " self-preservation " beats 
within the breasts of men most strongly at some period 
or other of their lives. It showed itself to Alan now. 
A fear of the supernatural came over him, and very 
quietly he stepped into the shelter of a jutting piece 
of rock, from which, all unseen, he could take a view 
of his surroundings. 

He realized at once that it was to no mine that he 
had come, for strange, fantastic figures flitted about 
in the distance, figures that did not belong to the 
upper world. 

Suddenly several of these figures leapt into the water 
and with a peculiar roll came swimming towards him 
at a terrific pace, and with a graceful movement vaulted 
out of the water and sat on the edge of the bank. He 
counted five of them, and saw that they were quite 
naked, and their skins were of a most peculiar purple 
shade, an almost exact match to the purple that 
lighted the place. They were talking volubly in an 
unknown tongue, and Alan leant forward from his 
hiding place to catch a better view of these strange, 
underworld people he had come among in such an 
extraordinary way. Short — he would judge them to 
be no more than three feet six, at the most, but with 
muscles that stood out like iron bands across their 
bodies. Their hair, in contrast to their skins, was of 
an almost flaxen hue, and in the females hung perfectly 
straight to their waists. The men wore theirs cropped 
close, except on the very top of their heads, where it 



64 THE PERFECT WORLD 

was allowed to grow long, and was plaited and braided, 
and fixed with ornaments. 

Their features were extremely pointed, and their eyes 
were small, but of a piercing brilliance. From the 
middle of the forehead, grew a tusk or horn, about ten 
inches long. For some time Alan puzzled over the 
strange horn, but its use was demonstrated to him only 
too soon. It was a weapon of offence. One of the 
women suddenly rose, and began an unintelligible 
tirade against her companion. The man did his best 
to pacify her, but it was useless, and suddenly she bent 
down, and with a viciousness Alan could hardly realize, 
thrust her tusk into the man's face, and with a wild 
shriek dived into the water and swam away. The man 
was left with a gaping wound on his cheek, from which 
flowed a sickly, purply-white fiuid. With hoarse 
chuckles, the remaining three swam off, leaving the 
man alone. Alan watched him intently. Diving to the 
bottom of the river, the creature stayed there an 
incredibly long time, and then reappeared with a bunch 
of purple water weeds in his hand. He laid a handful 
of these weeds on his wound, to which they adhered by 
a secretion of their own, and the man swam away also, 
leaving Alan more alone than before. 

His faintness grew still more unbearable and he came 
out of his hiding place, caring for nothing but to get 
food; but his limbs were weak, and he fell, and found 
that he could hardly drag himself along. As he lay on 
the ground, a sweet smell assailed his nostrils, and look- 
ing round he realized that on little low bushes all about 
him, hung a luscious-looking, purple fruit. 

He picked one and examined it. It was like a grape 
in size and appearance, but was velvet to the touch, 
like a peach. He tasted it — it was sweet and wonder- 
fully refreshing, so he ate his fill, with his last ounce 
of strength pulled himself once more into the friendly 
arms of the overhanging rocks, and fell asleep. When 
he awoke he made another meal off the fruit that grew 
everywhere in such abundance — it was filling and 
seemed nutritious, and the juice appeased his thirst. 
He looked carefully around him. There was no one 
about, and keeping within the shadow of the walls. 



A STRANGE MEETING 55 

he made his way down the path. It was not an easy 
road, for the stones were sharp and the way rough, 
and the constant effort to keep himself hidden tired 
him. At last he came to the end of the passage, and 
saw that the river widened out into a large lake, about 
two hundred yards across. Peculiar craft lay moored 
at either side, and in the centre was an island on which 
grew purple vegetation — short, stunted, purple trees, 
and a peculiar, purple moss, that covered the ground 
like grass. 

It was a weirdly picturesque scene. Purple light 
shone from purple trees that were planted at regular 
intervals everywhere. The light seemed to evolve from 
nothing, as it showed under the large purple leaves 
that acted as shades — yet Alan believed it was partly 
natural, and partly controlled by the power of the 
purple people he had seen. 

A wide passage went to the right, and in front of 
him Alan saw a large chamber, bounded on one side 
by the lake. Branching off in all directions were 
other passages which seemed to open out into other 
chambers and roadways, in fact the whole place seemed 
like a veritable warren. 

Suddenly an awful crash sounded, followed by the 
beating of drums and the clashing of cymbals and 
away in the distance he saw a procession of purple 
folk passing rapidly, all in the same direction. Cloaks 
of the same purple hue fell from their shoulders, and 
the women wore veils on their heads. He watched 
them with interest. The figures passed in quick 
succession, then they became less and less frequent, 
until only one or two stragglers came hurrying up. 
The sound of singing rose on the air, and Alan con- 
jectured that it must be some religious service to which 
they all were bent. After the last one had disappeared 
Alan waited some minutes to see if any more would 
pass, but as no one else came he walked slowly in the 
direction from which the multitude had appeared. 

In a very short space of time he found himself in a 
street. Peculiar huts lined either side of it, huts with 
their doors open wide and no sign of life. He looked 
about him carefully, and ventured inside one. He 



56 THE PERFECT WORLD 

found it was divided into three rooms — all on the 
ground floor. There was a sleeping room, for 
mattresses of that same purple moss, dried, were on 
the floor; there was also a living room and a kitchen. 
Warily he looked about him, and then went out into 
the street. The main street merged into smaller ones 
and at last, at the very end, a large building rose upon 
the scene — larger and more impressive than any of the 
others he had passed on his way. All this time he 
had seen no sign of life — the inhabitants were content 
to rest secure in their belief of inviolability. 

Cautiously Alan crept toward the building and as he 
came close to it, he saw that a sentry had been left 
on guard — a sentry with an evil-looking knife slung 
across his shoulders, and a scimitar-like instrument in 
his hand. The man was looking away into the distance 
and did not hear Alan's approach. " Hullo " said 
Alan pleasantly. The effect was magical. The 
undersized creature swung round and faced the 
strange, white man. For an instant he remained quite 
still, and then, with a sudden movement that Alan was 
unprepared for, sprang at him, and commenced to 
beat his horn in Alan's face. In vain the white man 
tried to free himself from the savage grip; he was no 
match for this strange creature of the underworld. 
His adversary made no sound as he gradually 
weakened Alan, and at length he swung" him over his 
shoulder as if he had been a child, and marched with 
him at a quick pace down the street. 

The shock, the strenuous time Alan had been 
through, took his senses away, and when he came to, 
he found he was lying on a soft mattress and there 
was a stabbing pain in his arm. A fantastic figure 
was bending over him, a figure that licked its lips 
cruelly as it surveyed its victim, and Alan realized at 
once that he was in an enemy's hand. 

The figure spoke to him, but Alan was unable to 
understand the jargon it uttered. Suddenly it issued 
a command, and four men, clad in a kind of armour, 
came up to Alan, and lifting him up carried him once 
more out of the place into the street. Outside they 
placed him on a litter, drawn by four men, and at a 



A STRANGE MEETING 57 

fast trot dragged him through the streets. The air 
grew hotter and hotter, until Alan felt choked; at last, 
however, they came to their journey's end, and Alan 
was rudely hauled out of the litter, and found himself 
standing outside high gates. They were very massive, 
of a gold colour, and heavily barred on the inner side. 
One of his captors struck a gong affixed to the wall, 
and in answer to its strident tones, two women, heavily 
veiled, came running toward them and unfastened the 
locks. Alan was almost too weak to walk, but was 
pushed along a passage until he found himself in a 
place so vast, so wonderful, so awful, that it left him 
breathless and trembling. 

It was a huge temple into which he had been 
brought — so vast that he was unable to see the further 
end of it. An enormous high altar stood near him, and 
at intervals were smaller ones all round the walls. 
Statues and images, both grotesque and beautiful, 
ornamented the place, and the atmosphere reeked with 
a pungent incense that was sickly and overpowering. 
But it was not only the vastness and weirdness that 
left Alan breathless — it was a wonder more terrible, 
more awe-inspiring than his mind had ever conceived. 

The whole of the centre of the temple was composed 
of a fire — a fire that ran down the length of the 
elliptically shaped building, and disappeared in the 
distance in a red glow. A glass-like wall rose to 
perhaps three feet above the level of the flames, and 
through it Alan could see into the heart of a bottom- 
less pit of fire, whose flames of all hues danced and 
swerved and shimmered in a wild ecstasy. The sub- 
stance of the fire he could not guess — but the fire 
possessed a terrifying appearance that alone was 
enough to break the spirit of any mortal man. 

The heat was intense, yet the natives did not seem 
to notice it, and they led Alan to a pillar that rose 
near the high altar, bound him to it by a heavy chain, 
and then left him there, alone. He watched his captors 
disappear one by one. His brain was reeling. He 
wondered whether all he had seen was but the result 
of fever, and he would wake up presently to find 
himself in Mrs. Slater's pretty little cottage at Marsh- 



58 THE PERFECT WOULD 

tielden. But no, he knew he was awake and not 
dreaming, — and looked about him in bewilderment. 
That there were people living in the centre of the 
earth he would never have believed — yet here was the 
proof — for was he not a captive in their clutches ? 

He looked at the fire. Never before had he seen 
anything like it. It seemed to go deep into fathomless 
depths, and its flames danced and sang and crackled 
maliciously. He wondered whether he would be 
thrown into its fiery bosom by the purple folk, and 
shivered to think of it, but then a feeling of relief 
came over him. After all it would be a quick death, 
for nothing could live long in those hungry flames. 

Immediately opposite him was the high altar. Six 
steps led up to it, and he looked with interest at them 
and at the red stains they bore; and with an uncanny 
laugh, asked himself whether these were blood. If 
so, whose ? Round the walls on pedestals were huge, 
grotesque figures; and interposed here and there, an 
image of almost seraphic beauty, that contrasted 
strangely with the insidious cruelty and hideousness of 
the place. 

To the right of Alan was a still more grotesque 
figure. About twenty feet high it stood, with cruel 
eyes looking out across the fire. Its jaws were open 
wide, and attached to the under jaw was a peculiar 
slide made of the same transparent glass-like substance 
that encircled the flames. This slide reached from the 
idol's mouth to the edge of the furnace, and suddenly 
drops of perspiration stood out thick on Alan's brow. 
The meaning of the slide was only too clear. The 
victims of these underground savages were forced 
inside the idol, disgorged by it on to the slide, and 
thrown into the fire — a living sacrifice. Time passed, 
and Alan wondered dimly whether he would ever be 
able to reckon it again. 

Suddenly upon his ear came wild yells and fanatical 
shrieks, the banging of drums, the clashing of cymbals 
followed by discordant singing. Then the din quieted 
a little, only to reassert itself once more as the natives 
reached the door of their temple. Alan gasped in 
horror as a horde of grinning purple men swarmed 



A STRANGE MEETING 59 

into the place, two of whom left their places in the 
procession, and coming to him caught hold of him 
roughly. 

Priests and acolytes took their place in the pro- 
cession, which was brought to an end by a high priest, 
who wore the most wonderful purple robes and purple 
gems; slowly he walked to the high altar, his richly 
embroidered vestments hanging to the ground, and two 
acolytes carried the ends of his cloak, which they kissed 
reverently as they ascended the bloody steps. When 
he reached the top step he turned his back on the altar 
itself, and prostrated himself before the fire, the whole 
company of worshippers following his example. Boys 
arrayed in vestments almost the facsimile of the ones 
worn by the high priest, swung censers aloft, which 
exuded their sickly perfume, and sent tlie faint, blue 
smoke mingling with the smokeless flames of the big 
fire. 

Then they rose and the ceremony began, priests 
intoned; an invisible choir sang; and the congregation 
chanted, while live pigs, oxen, horses and goats were 
thrown alive into the flames. There was a wild shriek 
from each animal as it felt the heat, a crackling — and it 
was reduced to ashes. Alan wondered when his turn 
would come, and longed vainly for the blessed relief of 
unconsciousness. 

Suddenly his captors lifted him- high above their heads, 
and strapped him to the altar. And then in front of 
him was placed a goat, and two priests, disengaging 
themselves from the crowd, disembowelled the animal 
alive, flung the still Hving and tortured creature to the 
flames, and stood over Alan with their ugly knives, still 
dripping with blood, suspended above him. Then the 
steel came flashing down and he wondered that he felt 
no pain, but he realized that his clothes had been deftly 
cut away from him, and he was left on the altar slab, 
naked. Incense was wafted over him, and he was 
bathed from head to foot in sweet smelling oils. Then 
he was released from the altar and had to submit to 
being robed from head to foot in purple garments. 
Sandals were placed upon his feet, and for a moment 
he wondered whether these people really meant him 



GO THE PERFECT WORLD 

well — but even as the thought passed through his mind, 
the back of the great idol swung open on hinges, reveal- 
ing a flight of steps within; and Alan knew the hour of 
his torture had come. 

With incense rising to his nostrils and the noisy 
clang-our of bells in his ears, Alan was led, powerless, 
although resisting, to the open doorway. The steps 
inside were heated until they blistered his feet, and the 
pain caused him to mount higher where he hoped to get 
relief. When he reached the topmost step, and stood 
in comfort, realizing that it was cool, the door below 
swung to. He was alone, and saw that he was stand- 
ing in the head of the idol, looking through its gaping 
jaws into the heart of the fire. Then suddenly he felt 
a jolt beneath him, and realized that his ankles were 
encased in iron bands. Again the idol's body shook, 
and he was thrown on his belly. Slowly the slide was 
coming into position; another convulsive move of the 
idol, and he was half way down it, and smiled as he 
saw in imagination a tank of water below him in place 
of the fire, and himself in a bathing suit, ready to 
descend the water chute I 

Slowly, slowly he began to slip, and wondered why 
he did not go faster. He tried to kick his feet and so 
enable himself to get over with death — but the iron 
anklets were holding him fast, and he knew he would 
reach the flames only when his torturers desired it. 
The heat was now unbearable ; the flames were leaping 
up toward him; he already felt upon his cheek their 
fiery breath. His arms were stretched out before him, 
and he was at too great an angle to draw them up. 
Then came a feeling of excruciating agony, an agony 
almost unbearable. His fingers had reached the fire! 
powerless to take them out, he writhed round and round 
in a vain endeavour to obtain relief. No sound came 
from between his clenched teeth to express the pain he 
was enduring. 

Suddenly above the uproar he heard a woman's voice, 
commanding and imperious. There was a sudden 
silence, and then, with a terrible jolting of the idol, 
Alan once again found the slide rismg and he was safe 
inside the belly of the image. Tears trickled down his 



A STRANGE MEETING 61 

face, tears of pain. Of course the mechanism had gone 
wrong. All that excruciating torture would have to 
be borne again. He held his mutilated hands out in 
front of him. Numbness had set in and intense cold. 

The door in the idol opened and a beautiful girl 
mounted the steps and came toward him. She was 
small, like her companions around her, and of the same 
colour, and the horn in her forehead, painted gold and 
hung with gems, seemed in some weird way to enhance - 
her beauty. Almost of English mould, her features 
were small and pretty, and her wonderful hair hung 
like a mantle of gold far past her knees. Upon her 
head she wore a crown of gold, and Alan thought she 
must be queen of the underworld people, for evidently 
her power was paramount. She placed her cool, firm 
hands on Alan's shoulder, and led him down the now 
cool stairs; and once more he found himself in the 
temple. He was dazed, and could hardly realize that 
this woman had saved him. From a basket an 
attendant carried she took ointments and healing 
lotions, and bathed and bound up his poor, mairned 
hands. The effect was almost magical. The burning 
ceased, and a feeling of relief came over him. She 
then offered him her arm, and led him to the outer gates 
of the temple. There a small chariot was awaiting her, 
pulled by a hideous beast that was the beast of burden 
in the underworld. Small, with an ungainly body and 
short legs — its head small in proportion, it had immense 
tusks and a beard covered the lower portions of its 
face. Indeed, the " Schloun " was a mixture of 
rhinoceros and goat, and had the bulldog's squareness 
of build. It was a hideous animal, and Alan shud- 
dered as he took his place in the chariot. The equipage 
was extremely comfortable, the floor upon which they 
sat was laden with rugs and cushions, and side by side, 
the man and his protector rode through the strange 
streets of this underground world. 

At last they stopped in front of an imposing building, 
even larger than the one where Alan had originally 
been captured. The woman led Alan into it, and took 
him into an apartment that was evidently reserved for 
her private use. A soft, purple carpet lined the floor, 



62 THE PERFECT WORLD 

while purple curtains hung across the door. The 
woman pointed to a cushion and sat down, and Alan, 
understanding her meaning, sat down near her. She 
spoke to him slowly and repeatedly, but he was unable 
to understand her tongue. 

" Kaweeka " she repeated over and over again, and 
at last he understood. It was her name ! 

Then he rose and went to the door and called 
" Kaweeka " and the woman smiled and nodded and 
tapped her heel on the ground to signify her delight. 

Suddenly she rose and stood beside him, and putting 
her arms about him, planted a very English kiss full 
upon his mouth. Alan who had never flirted, never 
cared for any girl, when he was in England, felt his 
pulses leap and a wild thrill pass through him at the 
touch of her lips. Then a sense of shame came over 
him. What was she? Why, hardly human. If he 
succeeded in getting to the upper world again, and took 
her with him, scientists would want to cage her as a 
newly discovered animal ! Could he wed her ? — 
marriage ? — love ? — passion ? — he knew too well which 
sense she had aroused when her lips touched his. 

He drew away from her in loathing, and a hard light 
came into her eyes as she imperiously put her lips up 
to his. Her fascination was undeniable, but there was 
something unholy, almost unclean, about her; and 
although passion shook him from head to foot, he 
turned away and walked to the other side of the apart- 
ment. 

But Kaweeka followed him. She twined her arms 
about his neck and drew his head against her breast, 
and he felt the wild throbbing of a heart next to his. 
" Kaweeka " he cried '■ Kaweeka " And he drew her 
to him still closer, forgetting all else but that a warm 
living thing was lying in his arms, and tliat thing a 
woman. 

Suddenly Kaweeka disengaged herself, and with a 
low laugh intimated to Alan that she wished him to 
follow her. She led the way through a long corridor, 
up a flight of wide and softly carpeted stairs to a room 
on the second floor. It was a wonderful apartment, 
unlike anything he had ever seen, and even as he looked 



A STRANGE MEETING 63 

about him, he heard a low chuckle, and Kaweeka dis- 
appeared through the door, fastening ft behind her. 

Alan drew a breath of relief. The air seemed purer 
for her absence, and he looked round Eim curiously. 
Low divans furnished the room, and on a wonderful 
table of crystal was food and wine. He was hungry 
and faint from his experience in the 'temple, and he fell 
to on the repast that had been provided and felt the 
better for it. 

In one corner of the room stood a large jar of bright 
yellow porcelain, and it was filled with blue, green, 
yellow and purple fungi — flowers they could not be 
called — but as fungi they were almost beautiful. Their 
stems were long and bare of leaf, and the flower 
bloomed at the very top. Some of the " flowers " 
were almost like poppy heads, others like variegated 
mushrooms — while one or two blooms at least reminded 
Alan most forcibly of the pretty pink seaweed he had 
admired when on a holiday at Rozel in Jersey, The 
vividness of colouring made a wonderful effect against 
the purple background and if his position had not been 
so hopeless, he would have thoroughly enjoyed his 
strange adventure. 

There were no windows in the room — at least not 
what the world above would understand by the word — 
but there was an opening overlooking the narrow cause- 
way that served to let in light and air. There was no 
shutter to it, only heavy purple draperies hung at 
either side, which could be drawn across if privacy was 
desired. 

In two corners of the room were tall Braziers, and 
Alan touched the large switch that protruded from 
them. Instantly the room was flooded with the soft, 
purple light that seemed to exude from the trees; and 
Alan felt that his first conjecture was right — the trees 
possessed some natural light which the natives had 
learnt to control, and which they ran along the branches 
much in the same way that we run electricity along 
cables. At any rate the result was very pleasing, and 
the light possessed none of the glare that is character- 
istic of electricity. 

His investigations being' finished he inspected a heavy 



64 THE PERFECT WORLD 

curtain that was draped across the wall nearest the 
" window " opening. He pulled it aside, and behind 
it was revealed a door. It was made on the sliding 
principle, and as it moved slightly he saw revealed 
before him a room that seemed almost an exact replica 
of the apartment he was in. Carefully he stepped 
inside — and there in the further corner he saw a low 
mattress, and in the semi darkness he thought he saw 
it move ever so slightly. He drew back startled, but 
on his ears came the sound of deep breathing : some 
one or something was sleeping there. He moved 
cautiously toward it, and saw the figure of a man 
lying on the couch. Suddenly the sleeper turned over, 
leaving his face exposed to view. Alan uttered an 
exclamation that awoke the sleeping man. For a 
moment there was silence and then a great cry rang 
on the air — " My God — it's Alan " 

" Dez, old boy! " cried his cousin, his sobs coming 
thick and fast " Dez! Thank God I'^ve found you. 
Steady, boy, steady — it's two against those purple devils 
now " and the strong man bent low and sobbed as if 
his heart would break. 



CHAPTER II 



THE ORIGIN OF THE PEOPLE 

For some time after the cousins met again so strangely, 
they could only grasp each other's hands — their hearts 
were too full for words. 

" I'm like a silly woman " said Desmond at last 
" but oh I Alan, I seem to have been in this Hell a 
lifetime " 

" Poor old boy " 

" No one to speak to but Kaweeka — no one to look 
at but Kaweeka — always Kaweeka — until I felt I should 
go mad " 

" How did you get here? " asked Alan at last " We 
were never able to discover the origin of the Light. 
Oh " he shuddered " I shall never forget seeing you 
carried off — whirling through space — it was terrible " 

Then Desmond began his story in a quick jerky way, 
as if eager to get it done. " The Light came upon me 
so suddenly, I didn't realize what had happened. All 
I knew was — that I had a fearful burning sensation 
round my waist — and that I was being carried througii 
space. Then came a descent through darkness which 
seemed to last a lifetime. I seemed to be going on and 
on — and then suddenly I found myself in the presence 
of the high priest in the temple here. I have no 
recollection of how I reached it — I think I must have 
lost consciousness and then — " 

" Well? " 

" Well I felt so ill after the journey that the rest 
seems all hazy. I know I participated m some of their 
vile religious ceremonies. I was forced into the belly 
of Mzata— " 

65 E 



G6 THE PERFECT WORLD 

"Is that the idol ? " 

" Yes. I remember the heat was overpowering. 
Then before I reaHzed anything else, Kaweeka came 
and rescued me. She carried me here, and — well, old 
chap, the rest isn't pleasant. The woman is a fiend. 
Down here there is no one for her to allure, and as I 
believe I was the first white man to get here alive, she 
gave me the benefit of her powerful wiles. She 
admitted me into a kind of harem, in which I am " — 
he laughed bitterly — " her chief husband " 

" My God " said Alan hoarsely " You Iiave married 
her, Desmond? " 

Desmond nodded, " I suppose that's what it is — but 
I don't understand much of what she says. At any 
rate I was taken to the temple and after a long cere- 
mony, she came forward and acknowledged me before 
the congregation. Time after time I've been within an 
ace of killing myself, for the situation is unbearable. 
But she has spies everywhere and every chance has 
been taken from me " 

" Can you understand her tongue? " 

" No, up to now I have only managed a very few 
words. I know her name. I know that Mzata is the 
god of their temple, — but I cannot get further than 
that " 

" What do you do all day? " 

'' Nothing I What is there to do? I go out and 
Kaweeka accompanies me, caressing me the wdiole 
time. Should she not come — then I am followed by her 
spies. The natives watch me with suspicion; they seem 
to lick their lips as I pass, and long to fall upon me 
and throw me to the flames. I've seen sights since 
I've been here, and heard sounds that would make the 
strongest man tremble. Alan " solemnly "*' I've seen 
human beings — human beings that we knew in Marsh- 
fielden — people we respected and loved — thrown to the 
fire through the medium of Mzata. I saw Mrs. Skeet 
brought here — shrieking — sobbing — crying — and I saw 
her thrown into the belly of the idol. I was in the 
temple and rushed forward to save her, even if death 
had been my reward — but Kaweeka gave a signal and 
I was seized and bound and forced to witness her 



ORIGIN OF THE PEOPLE 67 

tortures. She saw me and recognized me, and as she 
was sent nearer and nearer the flames she cried to me 
to aid her. ' Mr. Desmond! Save me! Save me! ' 
she shrieked, and do you know, Alan, as the flames 
closed over her body, I heard ' Mr. Desmond ! Save 
me! ' come wailing up through the fire " 

" Then that is the grave of all the lost ones from 
Marshfielden? " 

" I am afraid so " 

" What exactly is the ' Light '? " 

" I don't know — I've tried to find out — but it is some 
power of their own that they have learnt to control. 
I think it is some force — something to do with the 
natural light that pervades this place. It is sent 
through the earth itself by the aid of some infernal 
mechanism, and when it reaches the world above, it 
attracts a victim which it strikes and brings back — a 
living: sacrifice to this hell down here " 

" It is a very terrible menace to our world " 

" Indeed it is ! Some of the victims arrive mutilated 
and burnt, and welcome the fire to deliver them from 
their pains. In some miraculous way I was unhurt by 
it — at least I was burnt very slig'htly, and soon 
recovered. But, Alan! How did you get here? Did 
the Light bring you too? " 

" No, Desmond! " And Alan told the story of the 
coal mine disaster and how he found the river that 
brought him to his cousin. 

Suddenly their eyes met, and a quick flash passed 
through their brains simultaneously. Alan was the first 
to dispel it. 

It's no good, Desmond, we couldn't possibly 
escape the way I came. We could not battle with 
the current that brought me here. The water is 
too deep to attempt to wade, and there isn't so 
much as a ledge on either side to which we could 
cling " 

** What are we going to do then ? " 

"Of course we must try and escape — but how? As 
far as I can judge we must be somewhere near the 
centre of the earth. How can we get implements to 
cut our way back again — and even if we did, how long 



68 THE PERFECT WORLD 

would it take us to do it? No, we are in a tough 
position, and there isn't even a telegraph pole or tele- 
phone wire to aid us " 

Their conversation was broken by the entrance of 
Kaweeka. Unannounced and without deigning to 
knock she entered the room, and both men rose to their 
feet hurriedly. 

Alan stood with folded arms and a stern expression 
upon his face. The moment's madness of the yester- 
day had passed. He knew the woman, siren, devil, call 
her what you will, to be sensuous and foul — and his 
passion had passed, leaving him firm in his strength and 
with power to resist her. 

Like a serpent she glided up to them, and touched 
them playfully on their cheeks, and then, ignoring 
Desmond entirely, she held out her arms invitingly to 
Alan. Sickened he turned away, but she came up 
behind him, and put her arms about his neck. Brutally 
he pulled them apart and flung her from him with a 
very British " damn " — which, though the word might 
be unintelligible to her, left the meaning clear and plain. 
A look of fury, followed by one of malicious hatred, 
passed over her features, and she turned abruptly from 
Alan to Desmond, and in a low monotonous tone 
crooned in her own language to him. 

Desmond fought against her powerful wiles for some 
time, but he was frail, and her all pervading power drew 
him nearer and nearer. Once more her arms were 
open, and Desmond was drawn into them as a fish is 
drawn into a net. 

Kaweeka gave a low chuckle, and turned in triumph 
to Alan. With a half step forward he raised his hand 
as though he would strike her, then drew back in time, 
turned quickly and left them alone. Up and down the 
outer room he paced and watched from the opening 
the stream of purple people walking up and down the 
street — men, women and children, all bent on work or 
pleasure. In a way they seemed to be civilized, yet it 
was a civilization unknown to the upper world. An 
oppression came over him and he rushed to the door 
and tried it. It was unlocked. That was more than he 
had hoped for, and he hurried down the stairs to the 



ORIGIN OF THE PEOPLE 69 

outer door. But there his progress was impeded, for 
a sentry on guard drew a peculiar kind of spear and 
prevented his passing. 

Alan cursed and swore at him, and then tried more 
pacific measures to get his way; but the man was im- 
pervious to everything, and Alan retraced his steps 
and took refuge in a little alcove not far from the main 
entrance. Suddenly a hand on his shoulder startled 
him, and turning he saw Desmond looking at him in a 
shamefaced manner. 

" We can go out, Kaweeka says, — at least that is what 
I understand her to mean. Will you come now, 
Lanny?" 

As he used the old boyish name, Alan felt a sob rise 
in his throat and he grasped Desmond's hand. 

" Come on! old boy " said he "I want to talk to 
you " 

Kaweeka was standing near the door as they reached 
it, and she waved to them to intimate they were free to 
go out — but as they passed her they heard her issue a 
command to the guard at the door who followed them, 
and although they realized that he was for them a 
protection among the wild people of the under- 
world, yet it stripped them of all hope of ultimate 
escape. 

" Dez " said Alan at last " Do you love 
Kaweeka? " 

" No " in a low voice. 

" Old chap, cut loose from her. When we get to 
the world again — don't let our stay down here have 
coarsened us. The hfe is sordid enough, God knows, 
but don't let us be sordid " 

" She has such power, Lanny " 

" I know, Dez, but fight it down, boy, I'll help 
you " 

" Thanks, old chap " Then suddenly " Do you 
think we shall ever get away from here? " 

I mean to have a try, how, when, or where I don't 
know yet, but there are two of us now and we must 
fight hard for our freedom " 

" I suppose we really ought to try and gain the con- 
fidence and trust of some of the natives? " 



70 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" That won't be easy, but we must make the most of 
any opportunity that may come our way " 

Then they lapsed into silence as they looked about 
them in interest at the quaint places they passed. The 
streets twisted and turned like a veritable maze, and 
the boys wondered how the natives could ever remember 
their way about. There were no shops to be seen — the 
whole community seemed to live on roots that grew 
abundantly everywhere, variegated fungi that grew in 
clusters on low bushes by the water's side, and fruits. 
Fish too was eaten at times, but it seemed as if it was 
only allowed to be consumed during certain periods 
when religious festivals were being kept. 

Every home seemed to possess all the necessaries for 
weaving the moss into garments for wear. There 
was little difference in the men's and women's dress — 
a tunic that was worn wide open at the breast and a 
slightly shorter skirt on the male was all that 
distinguished them, except of course, the training of 
the hair. 

The families seemed to live in intense domestic happi- 
ness, but jealousy made them suspicious of their neigh- 
bours, and members of the bodyguard of the high priest 
and Kaweeka were continually called in to check the 
bickerings and quarrels that were always taking 
place. 

Alan and Desmond walked on heedless of time; sud- 
denly their guard came up behind them, and in no 
gentle manner intimated to them that it was time they 
returned. 

Their life grew very monotonous, but they were 
together — that was their only comfort. Kaweeka had 
grown sullen and silent. She seemed to realize that 
her uncanny power was useless now that Alan had 
appeared on the scene, and she brooded over the slight 
he had put upon her when he scorned her. 

They still lived in her house, but seldom saw her. 
Food was brought them at regular intervals. Some- 
times days passed and they were not allowed to go out. 
At other times Kaweeka would grow soft and gentle 
and would send them out in her chariot, and they would 
take their food and be away all day, wandering by the 



ORIGIN OF THE PEOPLE 71 

underground rivers and lakes, or gathering fruits in 
the quaint dwarf copses, where the tallest tree was not 
more than four feet high. 

Time hung very heavily on their hands, and there 
seemed no hope of their ever being able to extricate 
themselves from their terrible position. 

They learnt to weave the moss into tunics for 
themselves, and they made mats and rugs for their 
apartments. Grasses they plaited into belts — and 
that constituted the whole of their amusement and 
work. 

Their personal guard, Wolta, was a particularly fierce 
individual, who had never recovered from his violent 
dislike of the white strangers. What services he did 
for them he did grudgingly, and their food was often 
ill-served and spoiled through his spite. 

Then came the day when a new man appeared to wait 
on them. They could not understand what he said, but 
Okwa intimated to them that they were to follow him. 
He led them down to the lower floor and out into a 
courtyard behind the house. 

There in a rude coffin, fashioned of cloth stretched on 
poles, lay Wolta — dead. The boys watched in interest, 
for this was the first death they had seen since they had 
been in the underworld. 

No cover was placed over the dead man, no religious 
ceremony was held over the inanimate form. The 
coffin and its burden was carried down the dark street 
by two bearers. On they went until they came to a 
dark lake whose waters were black and evil-lookini^'. 
Without any ceremony the body was pitched out into 
the water. It floated eerily for a few minutes, the eyes 
open wide and the mouth contorted into a grin. Then 
there was the sound of a splash and a large head 
appeared, followed by another and another. There was 
the snapping of teeth and the sound of closing jaws — 
and an ominous purple stain floated on the top of the 
lake. 

The boys turned away sick at heart from the horrible 
sight — and when they did look again — all trace of 
Wolta had vanished — there remained only the same stain 
on the bosom of the water. The two bearers calmly 



72 THE PERFECT WORLD 

folded up the collapsible cofiin and slung it across their 
shoulders ; — it was quite ready for the next victim that 
death might claim. 

" It's horrible " said Desmond with a shudder " 1 
wonder whether they give all their dead to those filthy 
man-eating fish ? " 

" I should think so " answered Alan " Their idea 
of burial seems worse than some of the rites of the 
South Sea Islanders " 

Their days passed in sickening monotony, and their 
lungs ached for fresh air and salt breezes. They spoke 
to no one, saw no one but Okwa, and they were getting 
into such a state of nerves, they could hardly converse 
sanely one with the other. Okwa came in one day and 
intimated that they could go out. Moodily they walked 
down the streets and made their way to a river near 
by — a guard, as usual, following close behind. They 
sat down on the steep mossy banks that led to the 
water's edge; depressed and wretched they remained 
moody and silent. Suddenly there came the sound of 
a scufile behind them — a startled cry and a splash. A 
little girl had stumbled, and rolling down the slippery 
bank was struggling in the water. The current was 
very strong, and the little maid, swimmer though she 
was, was unable to battle with the rapids. Twice her 
head had disappeared from sight. 

In a second Alan was in the river after her, and 
diving down, brought her to the surface; but the whirl- 
pools were strong and treacherous and the water deep, 
and it was only with the greatest difficulty that he 
succeeded in reaching the bank, where Desmond was 
waiting, in whose arms he placed the now unconscious 
child. But the strain he had undergone proved almost 
too much for him, and even as he saw the child into 
safety, he slipped back into the river and the boiling 
waters closed over his head. He rose again to the 
surface and with an almost superhuman effort clung to 
the bank, and Desmond and their guard pulled him 
ashore. 

His first thought was for the child who was lying 
seemingly lifeless on the ground. He knew the 
elements of first aid, and vigorously moved her little 



ORIGIN OF THE PEOPLE 73 

arms above her head, and then pressed them well 
against her ribs. Gradually the air was pumped into 
her lungs, she opened her eyes, smiled, and in a very 
few moments afterwards was able to stand. 

" There, run along, little one " said Alan, kindly — 
but the child put her lips to his and clung to him, and 
he had perforce to hoist her to his shoulder and march 
home with her, ensconced there happily like a little 
queen. The guard prostrated himself before them, and 
bowed and kissed the ground. 

" You've made a conquest " laughed Desmond " I 
wonder who she is " As they neared the' precincts 
of the city they heard the clashing of cymbals and the 
beating of drums. A religious procession was in pro- 
gress. Alan and Desmond stepped aside to allow it to 
pass. A long column of veiled temple virgins led the 
way, followed by priests and acolytes and tiny children, 
consecrated at birth to the temple, who scattered leaves 
on the ground. Then an aged patriarch hove in sight, 
borne on a litter with a canopy of gold. 

The little girl became excited. " Abbil Abbi ! " 
she shrieked, and wriggled to get free from her throne 
on Alan's shoulder. The priest's face grew livid. He 
uttered a cry of rage and gave a swift command to 
two attendants by his side. Instantly the symmetry 
of the procession was broken, and Alan and Des- 
mond were bound with rope and dragged away. 
It was all done so quickly that they nad no time to 
resist. 

The little girl had watched the scene with wondering 
eyes, and when she realized the whole purport, flung 
herself into Alan's arms. The priest issued another 
quick command, and with the little one holding fast to 
her rescuer's hand, she obviously told the story of her 
escape. 

When she had finished the priest kissed her tenderly, 
and then knelt low before the two boys and kissed their 
feet. Then they were given places in a litter behind 
the high priests and were taken to the temple — this 
time as honoured guests. 

They were led to the altar, and very suspiciously and 
timidly seated themselves on the steps, one on either 



74 THE PERFECT WORLD 

side, which the high priest indicated to them. The 
ceremonial service was very long and tedious, but was 
unaccompanied by any sacrificial rites, much to the satis- 
faction of the two boys. 

Then the priest stood facing the people, and held out 
a hand to each of the boys who stood shamefaced and 
awkwardly beside him. There followed an address, and 
the boys knew it was the story being told to the people 
of the rescue by Alan. 

When the priest had finished speaking, he bent down 
and kissed their hands, and wildly the congregation 
flocked to the altar rail to follow his example. They 
were accepted by the whole community as friends. 
Their lives were no longer in jeopardy. Then the boys 
resumed their seats and the ceremony of the temple was 
concluded. 

During the service Alan's eyes were riveted on some 
peculiar characters that were inscribed on the walls, at 
intervals, as far as eye could reach. It was a group of 
hieroglyphics repeated over and over again, and there 
was something oddly familiar about them — yet he was 
unable to guess exactly what it was. Then the people's 
voice rose in song — he listened intently. Again and 
again were the words repeated like a chorus and 
almost unconsciously he committed fhe sounds to 
memory. 

Soon the service was ended and in !riumph they were 
led back to Kaweeka's house. She met them with 
renewed wiles and charm, but the boys were strong and 
she left them alone with rage in her heart. They ate 
the food that was placed before them in silence, a 
silence which Alan broke by saying abruptly " Could 
you make out anything of the last hymn the people kept 
singing over and over again in the temple, Dez? " 

" What do you mean? " 

" Well, could you understand it? " 

Desmond looked surprised. " Of course not " he 
laughed " Could you? " 

Alan did not answer the question, but asked another. 
" Well, they sung it over a good many times — didn't 
you memorize the sounds? " 



ORIGIN OF THE PEOPLE 75 

Desmond thought a minute, " I think I did " he 
rephed " It sounded something like: 

" Har-Ju-Jar! Har-Jii-Jar! Kar-Tharn." 
" Har-Ju-Jar! Har-Ju-Jar Kar-Tharn." 

Alan pulled a scrap of paper triumphantly out of his 
pocket and showed it to his cousin. He had written 
down the exact phonetic spelling of the words Desmond 
had said. 

" All the same, I don't see what you are driving at " 
he demurred " you look confoundedly pleased over 
something " 

" I've been working out a theory, and I don't think 
I am far wrong in the decision I have arrived at. Now 
look at that ' and he handed him another piece of 
paper on which were written the following signs : 

> 



Desmond looked at it quizzically for a moment, and 
then said " Why, you've copied down the si^ns that are 
painted all around the walls of the temple — m the great 
Fire Hall " 

" Right. Now can you translate it? " 

Desmond laughed. " Of course not. Can you? " 

" I think so " said Alan confidently. 

" What? " almost shouted Desmond in amazement. 

" Now " went on Alan " You got your first in 
Theology at Cambridge — translate this " — and he 
passed Desmond a third slip of paper with other signs 
on it : 

Desmond looked at it carefully. " I've almost for- 
gotten " he commenced. Then — " why it's Hebrew — 
Hebrew for Abiram and Dathan! " 



76 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" Now I want you to think carefully, Dez " and Alan 
placed the two slips of paper on which were written the 
characters, before him " Now would you not swear that 
this " pointing to the characters copied from the temple 
" is a corruption of thaf^ " — pointing to the Hebrew. 

" Well it certainly looks as if it might easily be so " 
admitted Desmond. 

" Now think of the few words we picked up of that 
hymn to-day. Isn't it within the bounds of possibility 
that Har-ju-jar is a corruption of Hallelujah, or 
Alleluia? " 

" Ye-e-es " 

" And Har-Barim and Kar-Tharn a corruption of 
Abiram and Dathan? " 

" Ye-es " 

" Well " concluded Alan triumphantly " this is the 
conclusion I have come to. The language of these 
people is a corruption of Hebrew " 

"What?"_ 

" I'm certain of it, and I am surprised we never 
thought of it before. Of course it was our first visit to 
the temple to-day since I came here, and I never noticed 
those signs before — but to-day as I looked at them they 
seemed oddly familiar, and it suddenly dawned on me 
in a flash. Now we ought to find it very easy to pick 
up the patois they speak — we both used to know some- 
thing of Hebrew in the old days at college " 

They were almost too excited to say much more, 
when suddenly Alan brought his hand down on the 
table with a bang that made Desmond start. 

" I've got it, Dez old boy " said he. 

'^' Got what? " 

Why think of your Bible. In the — let me see — oh 
never mind — somewhere in Numbers, I think, we get 
the story of Korah, Abiram and Dathan " 

Oh my dear Alan, I am afraid I have forgotten it 
long ago " 

" Never mind " went on Alan excitedly " It's the 
sixteenth chapter, if I remember rightly. I'll remind 
you of it — Don't you remember the Chosen People rose 
up against Moses — " 

"Well? " 



ORIGIN OF THE PEOPLE 77 

" I can't remember the exact verses but somewhere 
in the chapter it tells you that the ' earth was torn 
asunder, and swallowed up the three men with their 
houses and everything- that appertained unto them, and 
they went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed 
over them " 

Desmond looked bewildered and remained silent. 

" Don't you see the connection, Dez? " 

"No! I do not " 

" Well, here are people living in the bowels of the 
earth, and in their temple they have inscribed in bad 
Hebrew, if I may so put it, the names of Abiram and 
Dathan. What more Hkely than that these people are 
the descendants of those poor unfortunates of the Old 
Testament who perished some fourteen hundred and 
ninety years before Christ? " 

" Is it possible? " asked Desmond breathlessly. 

" Why not? " answered his cousin " The Bible 
story ends there. We're simply told that they went 
into the pit alive — we are never told that they died! 
Now we are convinced that they speak a corrupt 
Hebrew, we ought to find it very easy to learn to speak 
to them, and then we will bid for freedom " 

" Alan " said Desmond suddenly " I wonder 
whether your theory is correct. We've got Abiram 
and Dathan right enough, but what about Korah? He 
was the chief offender and yet there is no trace of his 
name " 

" I expect his name has been lost during the transit 
of time " said Alan " At any rate I am tired now, and 
I shan't bother any more about it for the present. 
Let's go to sleep " and the two boys went into their 
inner chamber and were soon fast asleep. 

There was no night in this terrible underworld; the 
purple lights never went out ; morning and evening were 
unknown. The place was never plunged into entire 
darkness — true, the inhabitants went to sleep, but they 
pleased themselves as to when they slept and for how 
long. The whole world was never at rest at the 
same time — truly, indeed, it was an unholy place of 
unrest ! 

The two men were fast asleep, the purple light shining 



78 THE PERFECT WORLD 

across their faces, and Alan moved restlessly, for his 
dreams were troubled ones. 

Suddenly the door opened gently and a figure 
appeared — it was Kaweeka. Softly she crept across 
their room, and halted by the side of their couches. A 
fierce light came into her eyes as she watched the 
rhythmic rise and fall of Alan's chest as he breathed 
heavily. She bent over him, kissed his lips, and mur- 
mured savagely as she did so — 

" So desired — so desirable — yet I so undesired! " 



CHAPTER III 



RELATING TO HISTORY 

" How long have we been down here, Lanny? " 

" Together do you mean? " 

" Yes " 

" Oh months and months — I can't count time " 

" Neither can I. Days pass — we grow tired and we 
sleep, only to wake to another day like the last, like 
every day here " 

" How far have you got with the translation, Dez? " 

" Nearly to the end " 

" Splendid. What do you make of it? " 

" Just what we expected — It is a very corrupted 
version of part of the Pentateuch " 

" How much of it? " 

" Nearly all Genesis — a minute portion of Exodus — 
and Leviticus " 

Alan gave a satisfied sigh. " That's splendid " he 
remarked. Many months had passed since they had 
made the discovery that the language of the under- 
world was a patois Hebrew, and quickly and diligently 
they set to work to learn it. They first spelt the sounds 
and wrote them down, and then tried to translate them 
into Hebrew where it was at all possible. 

Very shortly after the rescue of the high priest's 
daughter and only child, as the maid proved to be, a 
house was placed at the boys' disposal, and they gladly 
left the protection of Kaweeka, and lived together with 
a couple of servants, who looked after them. They 
were free to go out among the people, and they began 
to feel almost happy. With the aid of a few words 
they picked up they asked the high priest for " read- 

79 



80 THE PERFECT WORLD 

ing- " and he had given them copies of the " Kadetha " 
which proved to be the Bible of these strange people. 

It was very difficult to read as it was written on 
parcliment in a purple ink that had faded considerably 
through time. The characters, too, besides being 
different from the Hebrew they knew, were written 
from top to bottom of the page instead of from right 
to left, as are most Asiatic languages. 

From what they could gather the " Kadetha " was 
divided into two parts — the Moiltee — which proved to 
be part of the first three books of Moses — and 
" Jarcobbi," five books written by one of the first 
priests of the people after their descent into the bowels 
of the earth. That these strange people were really 
descendants of the rebels against Moses, the boys had 
not the slightest shadow of doubt — the proof in the 
" Kadetha " was only too conclusive. Tliey were 
now able to converse fairly freely with the people, 
and were able to understand many of their strange 
beliefs. 

The true meaning of the Light they were so far 
unable to fathom, but " Har-Barim " the high priest, 
told them there would be no more offerings to the Fire 
from " Above " as he called the world. The people 
began to take more kindly to them, but Kaweeka 
remained watchful and brooding, and they realized that 
she was indeed a bitter enemy, and the person most 
g'reatly to be feared in the underworld. Little 
Myruum, the high priest's daughter, spent many hours 
with them, and they learnt much of the language from 
her baby prattle. 

They were admitted to all the services and religious 
rites in the temple, and the boys noted with surprise 
that the fire seemed to be daily losing its power. Its 
flames grew smaller and smaller, and they noticed the 
difference in it when they had not seen it for several 
days. 

" Jovah " they said to Har-Barim one day " Tell 
us your history, now we understand your language " 

The old man smiled at them. " There is little to 
tell " he said " It is true we were once of the earth 
above — once white people like yourselves; but for over 



RELATING TO HISTORY 81 

three thousand, three hundred and three years we have 
Hved in the darkness of the earth. Our skins are 
changed — they have taken the hue of the land we are 
forced to dwell in. Our forefathers burrowed in the 
earth to make streets and houses and shelter for their 
families, and they left us the heritage of their labour " 
He pointed as he spoke to the short horn that pro- 
truded from his forehead. 

" What became of Korah ? " they asked him. 

" Coorer? " he pronounced the word differently 
" Korah " lie told them, was their bad angel. It was 
Korah, with the devil in his soul who urged them to 
stand up against Moses, and it was Korah they shut 
away from their lives when the pit had closed in upon 
them, revealing to them no more the light of the 
sun. 

" How do you mean? " asked Alan " How did you 
shut him out of your lives, my Jovah " 

Jovah signified " Father " and was the term by which 
all the people addressed Har-Barim. 

" Why, my sons, when the pit closed down upon our 
forefathers, all turned upon Korah as the father of all 
their woes. He was stoned and left half dead — then 
a wall was built up in front of him and all his family, 
together with all his possessions, and there he was left 
to perish. One of his daughters escaped, however, and 
her descendants have been Princesses of Kalvar, as we 
call our country, ever since " 

" Then Kaweeka — " began Alan. 

" Yes, my son. In Kaweeka you see the Princess of 
Kalvar, and direct descendant in the female line of the 
unfortunate Korah himself " 

" Where is Korah's burial place? " asked Des- 
mond. 

Har-Barim shook his head. " No one knows — in the 
generations of time that have passed the secret has been 
lost, and the exact position forgotten. No one knows 
— no one ever will know, until— but there, read from 
the fourteenth line of the sixth part of our prophet, 
Zurishadeel " and taking a small parchment from his 
voluminous pocket he handed it to Alan and left them 
to translate it for themselves. 



82 THE PERFECT WORLD 

Laboriously they copied out the translation — 

" For the body of Korah the devil is hidden with 

" those of his household. Their flesh shall rot 

" and their bones become powder, and in a 

" t^eneration their last resting place shall be 

" forgotten. But on the day the secret is no more — 

" for behold a virgin shall in a dream learn the 

" way — the fire shall consume quickly, strange 

" people shall enter the land of Kalvar, and 

" desolation and destruction shall come to all 

" those that inhabit the earth. Yea, the people 

" that are in the belly of it, and they that 

" have been disgorged from it — when the Fire 

" grows less — when the Tomb of Korah is found 

" then shall all in due time perish " 

" Cheery old chap, isn't he? " laughed Desmond. 

But Alan was thoughtful. " I wonder what the 
secret of the fire is. They seem to worship it, although 
they pray to the ' Lord of their Fathers.' It certainly 
is getting less — I can't help feeling that something 
terrible will happen if it does ever go out entirely " 

For some time they gazed meditatively at the trans- 
lations they had made when a shadow crossing Des- 
mond's paper made him look up. It was Kaweeka — 
Kaweeka w'ho had not visited them for months it 
seemed, and whose presence now seemed to denote 
some evil. Quietly she watched them for a few 
minutes, and a curious light came into her eyes. They 
glittered and shone with an almost fanatical glow — 
and in fact her w-hole being was one of suppressed 
excitement and almost maniacal fervour. 

" Come " said she at last, and held out a hand to 
each. They felt impelled to obey her, and she led them 
straight to the temple which was curiously deserted. 
The great fire was burning in fits and starts. Sud- 
denly a flaming tongue would leap out, blazing brightly 
as if refusing to be killed, and a moment later it would 
lie dead and dormant among the embers. Then 
suddenly the fire would emit a passion of sparks which 
flew upward in a fury, only to fall back within its folds, 
dull and lifeless. 

It was still enormous of course, but the boys realized 



RELATING TO HISTORY 83 

that its life was Hearing the end, and that its power was 
nearly gone. 

Kaweeka suddenly turned on Desmond and in a whirl 
of passion addressed him. 

" Desmond " she cried " I loved you — I would have 
made you happy, but he " — pointing to Alan — "he 
came between us. He tore my heart from its resting 
place within my breast — he made me love him also, and 
then stamped on my love and spurned me " 

" That is hardly fair, Kaweeka. I never made over- 
tures to you — " 

" No " said Desmond, doing his best to conciliate 
her, 

" Enough " she cried and then began a frenzied 
tirade to which the boys listened in horror, as they 
realized that almost a madness had come upon Kaweeka 
— the seed of Korah. 

Falling to her knees she clung to Alan and begged 
him to marry her according to the custom of his world 
and hers. She offered to make him Prince of the land 
of Kalvar and possessor of a thousand fortunes if he 
would but love her — be it ever so Httle. And when he 
gently lifted her up and put her away from him, she 
looked him fully in the eyes, and for a full minute there 
was silence. Then with a queer gesture of finaUty, she 
outspread her hands and accepted the inevitable. Then 
in a monotonous voice and with carefully chosen words 
she began to speak again — 

" In the world you came from, O Men of the Sun, 
you saw strange sights and heard strange things. A 
light appeared in the sky — a light that was the fore- 
runner of tragedy. I propose to show you the Light, 
O Strangers. I will unfold the secret of its being 
before your wondering eyes. Know you now, that 
this Fire is next in honour to the God of our Fathers. 
It is the Fire that gives us air to breathe, and light by 
which we can see. From the Fire we obtain our 
strength, and when it dies out our power will be gone. 
But know you also, that when our Fire dies and we 
perish, so will your world die also. You above are 
dependent for your very existence on the Fire in the 
Earth's belly — with our extinction will come also the 



84 THE PERFECT WORLH 

consummation of all mankind. See " — and she pointed 
to a coil of metal that looked like a silver rope — " See 
— this is the Light — the Light that brought sacrifices 
we could offer to our God of all, and that fed our 
Fire " 

Then she began a weird dance. Grovelling on the 
floor in apparent worship of the Fire, she drew nearer 
and nearer to the shimmering metal, and taking up one 
end of it, undid it until it lay in shimmering folds out- 
spread upon the floor. Still, with rhythmic grace, she 
continued, now advancing, now retreating, until she 
had coiled part of the writhing mass about her body, 
and the boys realized that one end was firmly embedded 
in the heart of the Fire itself. And as they watched 
they realized that Kaweeka was dancing away from the 
Fire — away down the length of the great Fire Hall, to 
where a little door was half hidden behind cherubim 
of gold. 

The boys felt impelled to follow the strange witch 
woman. Through the little door they went, down a 
dark passage which ended suddenly in a small chamber 
that was bright with light. But the whole of the cave- 
like place vibrated and shook with a force that was 
terrifying in its magnitude. They looked around 
curiously and saw in one corner a large clock-like 
instrument from which the sound came. 

With almost loving care Kaweeka freed herself from 
the shimmering metal and placed the end of it in the 
machine. Instantly they saw it gain in strength and 
brightness — it seemed to quicken and show signs of 
life. 

The two boys gave a cry — "The Light! The 
Light! " they cried, for this indeed was the mysterious 
Light that had stricken Marshfielden, and now they 
were seeing its wondrous power from below. 

Kaweeka leaned over the burning metal, and touched 
a lever on the clock-like instrument's face. Suddenly 
with a roar and a flash, the Light soared upwards. 
Through the roof of the cave — onwards — onwards — 
forcing an outlet for itself by its own power, through 
rock and earth it tore, — until the watching eyes of the 
boys were rewarded by a speck of blue. " The sky! " 



RELATING TO HISTORY 85 

cried Desmond in amazement. The Light had once 
more visited the outer world ! Tliis then was the 
horror of Marshfielden ! 

The boys watched the quivering metal in silence. In 
its deadly folds it had embraced Dan Murlock's baby. 
Mr. Winthrop had suffered from its caress. Mrs. Skeet 
— Mrs. Slater — it was impossible to name all the victims 
of its diabolical power. Some element, mightier even 
than electricity, had been discovered by these purple 
savages, to be used by them only for the purpose of 
destruction. 

Long the boys watched until their eyes ached from 
the intense brightness. Their hearts were heavy 
within them as they thought of the victim it might 
bring back. Kaweeka sat in one corner mumbling and 
muttering to herself, and the boys seemed powerless 
to leave the place. 

Voices rose in song — cymbals clashed — drums rolled 
— the evening service was being held in the temple. 
Still they waited I The sounds died away and the 
temple emptied, yet the Light had not returned. 

They were growing cramped, their limbs ached, and 
then the Light trembled more violently than before. 
The vision of the sky grew clearer for an instant; they 
knew the Light was returning — but it was not return- 
ing alone ! Rigid in every muscle the boys waited as it 
travelled through the bowels of the Earth. 

The heap of metal grew larger on the floor as it made 
its descent — then the end appeared in sight — a sheep, 
burnt and dead, was within its grasp. Silently Kaweeka 
came forward and touched a lever on the vibrating 
clock in the corner. 

The noise ceased. The Light grew shadowed. The 
aperture leading to the world above closed, leaving 
only a scar to mark where it had been ! 

Kaweeka bent over the stricken sheep and unwound 
the Light from its body, leaving exposed the singed 
wool and burnt flesh, and as if it had been a child 
gathered it up in her arms and still holding to the end 
of the Light danced back into the empty temple. 

Without an effort she tossed the dead sheep into the 
Fire, and the flames devoured it savagely. Then she 



86 THE PERFECT WORLD 

began again her. wild dance and gradually wound the 
Light up into its original coils until it lay in a heap by 
the side of the Fire. " According to the prophecy of 
Zurishadele I speak. Behold, he writes ' Whosoever 
shall cause the seed of Korah to die shall be hunted 
by the people of Kalvar — yea until their blood gushes 
forth through their eyes and they are blind — until their 
limbs crumple up beneath them and they fall — so shall 
they be hunted that the people of Kalvar may deliver 
them up to the Fire ' " 

" Well? " asked Alan. 

Kaweeka smiled evilly. " It is true I am of the seed 
of 'Korah, and you, my Alan, have scorned me. I have 
given you my love — I would give you all — but you have 
laughed at me and mocked me. I would have given 
you my body — but now I give you more — I will give 
you my life. The Fire is burning low — more fuel is 
needed to keep it alive. I will give myself for fuel — 
but in giving my life, I offer two more to the God of 
our Fathers. For as you are the instrument of my 
destruction — so will the people fall upon you, and 
through the mouth of Mzata the Great, will you be 
offered a sacrifice to the Fire " 

Lightly, gracefully, she stepped onto the transparent 
wall that surrounded the Fire, and then with a piercing 
cry tore off her jewels and her raiment and flung them 
into the flames, that were waiting eagerly for the food 
that was offered them. 

Then, naked, her hair falling about her, her dark skin 
shimmering in the light, she flung herself into the centre 
of the Fire. 

Alan rushed forward, but it was too late — the cruel 
tongues of fire had wrapped round her, and all that was 
left of the seed of Korah was a skull, stripped of its 
flesh, grinning at them for an instant through the 
flames, before it disappeared. 

It was all so unexpected, so sudden, that the boys 
had not realized what she purposed doing, and now, 
speechless and bewildered, they stared at each other in 
horror. 

Suddenly a hoarse whisper broke through the silence. 
■" Flee, flee " it said, and they recognized the voice of 



RELATING TO HISTORY 87 

Har-Barim " I cannot save you " he continued 
" My people will fall upon you and slay you — for 
although they loved not Kaweeka, yet the prophecy 
will have to be fulfilled. To-day is the vigil of the feast 
of Meherut — to-morrow the great feast itself. Till then 
and then only can I hide the manner of Kaweeka's 
death. As you saved my Myruum, so will I try to save 
you. This much can I tell you. Make for the waters 
that are turbulent and wild, where they narrow to the 
space of a foot and dash against a rocky wall. Look 
for the stones that are red. — Now — go " 

" But where shall we go ? " cried Alan. 

" Take always the centre path, my son, and avoid 
the waters that are tranquil and smooth. The way is 
rough — thy path must of a surety be rough also, but 
with courage victory will come to you. Farewell! " 

And Har-Barim left them alone in the temple. 

Quickly they made their way to their house, there was 
no time to be lost. Plans had to be made and made 
quickly. Once more they were in a strange land, where 
through no fault of their own, hostility and enmity 
would meet them once more. 



CHAPTER IV 



OUT INTO THE GREAT BEYOND 

The boys had no packing to do. They possessed 
nothing but the clothes they stood in, and a sailor's 
clasp knife that belonged to Alan ; but they put together 
a store of dried elers, a fruit that was sustaining, and 
that, down below, took the place of the bread of the 
upper world. 

There were very few of the purple people about; it 
was the vigil of Meherut, — the most solemn feast day 
of their strange religion, and all were shut up in their 
houses with their curtains drawn spending their time in 
fasting- and prayer. 

On, on the boys went, always choosing the middle 
path if a choice was offered them, if not, then taking 
the path to the right. Gradually they left all sign of 
habitation and entered a most desolate region where 
the purple moss grew only in patches, and the purple 
lights were only few and far between. They stumbled 
on blindly; they dared not wait for food; every moment 
was precious to them. Suddenly Desmond stumbled 
and fell. " I can't go a step further " he cried 
" How long have we been walking, Lanny? " 

" About ten hours I should think " 

" Then for Heaven's sake let us rest! We have a 
fair start of them — let us rest and have some food " 
The elers refreshed them, and they drank of the water 
that rolled treacherously at their feet. It was not very 
wide, perhaps three feet at the most, but the current 
was strong and the whirlpools more torrential than 
ever. 

Stretching themselves out on the ground the boys 
slept, and woke some five or six hours later feeling 



OUT INTO THE GREAT BEYOND 89 

greatly refreshed. Then they continued their march, 
now leaving the river behind them, now coming upon 
it again and walking by its banks. 

They had no idea of where they were going. 
They had only one goal in view — to put as big a 
distance as they could between themselves and the 
purple people whom they knew would already be 
following them. Suddenly the road ended. They had 
turned a sharp corner and the way had opened out into 
a small cave, which was bounded on one side by a 
narrow strip of bubbling, foaming water, that dis- 
appeared at either end in a dark tunnel. " What shall 
we do? " asked Desmond " Shall we go back? " 

" We can't " said Alan decisively " The road that 
brought us here was at least five miles long, without a 
turn in it. By the time we retraced our steps, the 
purple devils would have caught up to us. No, old 
boy, I think this is a tight fix we are in, and at the 
moment I can't quite see how we are to get out of it " 

They walked round the little cave examining it care- 
fully. It had only the one exit — the path up which 
they had come. The tunnels at either end through 
which flowed the waters were too low to admit the 
passage of a body, and the walls on the other side of 
the little river rose sheer from the water itself. " It 
looks pretty hopeless " said Alan at last " but at all 
costs we must not go back " 

" How red the walls are " said Desmond suddenly. 
Alan started, for in his mind he could hear a voice say- 
ing " Look for the stones that are red " It had been 
Har-Barim's advice to them, and he had said — " make 
for the waters that are turbulent and wild — where in 
the space of a foot — " A foot I why the water couldn't 
be wider than that here. He looked round hurriedly — 
was it his fancy or were the stones on the opposite side 
even redder than those about him ? 

To Alan's strained nerves it seemed as if just opposite 
him a stone had been worn away by the constant 
passage of feet. Slowly a thought came into his mind 
— if that was a footprint then surely it must lead some- 
where. His eyes travelled up the rock eagerly — again 
his quickened senses discovered another foothold a little 



90 THE PERFECT WOKLD 

higher up, and still another and another. Four in all, 
at perhaps a stretch of a little over two feet. Upward 
his glance wandered, and in the rugged rock he saw a 
flat piece of red stone that looked as,' if it had been 
inserted there at some time or other, for some specific 
purpose. He stretched across the raging torrent and 
with a mighty effort clung to the jagged rock. " Don't 
touch me, Dez " he commanded " 1 think I can manage 
best alone " 

With an almost superhuman effort he placed his foot 
in the first little cleft, and gradually worked up to the 
little red stone that had so aroused his curiosity. 
Desmond watched him in breathless horror. Although 
the water was so narrow, Alan would stand little chance 
of saving himself if he fell in. for it was dashing wildly 
against the sides and sending its spray even higher than 
where Alan was clinging. He touched the stone — it 
moved ever so slightly. " God I A secret way! " he 
cried, and worked feverishly to open it. But although 
it trembled and shook, it would not disclose its secret. 

Then, away in the distance, came the sound of fierce 
shouting and the beating of drums. 

" The people know " cried Desmond " They are 
coming up the long passage " Already they could 
hear the name of Kaweeka used as a battle cry, and 
they realized that they could expect little mercy if they 
were caught by the purple savages. 

With beads of perspiration on his brow, Alan worked. 
His fingers were torn and bleeding from his exertions. 
Still nearer came the cries of the infuriated people, and 
Alan had not yet succeeded in moving the stone, which 
he was convinced hid a secret way of escape. Desmond 
ran down the passage a little way — in a second he was 
back. " r can see them " he cried " There are 
hundreds of them! Oh, what shall we do? " 
_" Ah! " Alan gave a cry of relief, for suddenly the 
stone had rolled back, reveahng a small cavity beyond, 
just big enough for the passage of a man's body. 

" Follow me in, Dez " he cried " no matter where it 
leads — it can't be worse than if we remain here " 

Their pursuers were now in full view, and it seemed 
that only a few yards separated them. Quickly 



OUT INTO THE GREAT BEYOND 91 

Desmond climbed the steps and reached the hole, and 
Alan drew him in, and even as he turned to make fast 
the opening", a head with an evil-looking horn appeared. 
Alan doubled his fist and gave a mighty blow, and like 
a log the man dropped into the water, was sucked under 
and carried out of sight. 

They rolled the stone back into its place, and panting, 
leant against it. The execrations and cries of the 
natives came faintly on their ears; the great stone 
trembled, and they knew it was being forced from 
without. One hurried glance round revealed to them 
great boulders of rock lying on the ground. Feverishly 
they piled them up in front of the stone, and they were 
strong enough to resist the furious onslaught that the 
purple people kept up. After a time, the cries of the 
people grew fainter, gradually they died away 
altogether, and the underworld folk made their way 
back to the temple to pray that the white men might be 
handed over to them, and that they might be allowed 
to punish the slayers of the seed of Korah. 

Spent and tired the two boys sank to the ground, for 
many hours had passed while they were defending their 
retreat from the underworld people. A faint, natural, 
ground light shone around. It was like the same 
purple light that lit the whole of the underworld, but 
here it was in its natural condition, and was so faint 
that it scarcely showed them each other's face. 

"Go to sleep, Dez " said Alan " I will keep 
watch " 

" But you are tired too " demurred his cousin. 

Alan smiled. " Sleep first, old man " said he, and 
even as he spoke, Desmond dropped his head upon his 
breast, and his eyes closed in slumber. 

It was a great strain for Alan to sit there in the 
darkness — in a weird and unknown place — soundless 
except for Desmond's heavy, regular breathing. His 
own breath seemed to his quickened senses like the 
blast of heavy artillery, and the slightest sound was 
magnified a hundredfold. Nobly he fought against 
sleep — but he was worn out, and at last his eyes closed 
— and he too, slept. 

Time meant nothing to these imprisoned men. 



92 THE PERFECT WORLD 

Science they could laugh at, for, from a scientific point 
of view, their very life was impossible. How in the 
centre of the earth could mankind live ? Yet it was 
true they had lived, fed, and breathed for months and 
months in the very belly of the earth. Science said the 
centre of the earth was impenetrable — that the intense 
heat of its inner fire would prevent man even seeing that 
fire. Yet they could prove that they had seen and they 
could tell the scientists that the fire was waning. 

Still they slept. 

Pantastic dreams came into their minds, yet there 
was not so much as the scuffling of a rat or the squeak- 
ing of a mouse to awaken them. All was silent and 
still, with a stillness that cannot be expressed by words. 

Desmond woke first — the light did not seem so dim 
— or had they become used to it ? His e3'es rested on 
Alan sleeping soundly by his side, and a tear dropped 
on his cousin's brow as he leant over him. It was a 
tear not to be laughed at, nor to be ashamed of, but the 
tear of a strong man shed in the bitterness of his 
oppression. 

He rose to his feet, stretched his limbs, and wandered 
round the place where he found himself. It was a 
.cavern, very similar to the numberless others he had 
passed through on the further side of the rapid river. 
Its floor was rugged, but was covered with the purple 
moss, and a few bushes which bore fruit were growing 
there. Round and round he walked, but the cave 
seemed to have no outlet at all. Alan woke and 
watched Desmond in silence for a short while, and then 
said " Don't worry, Dez, I'm sure we shall find a way 
out. This must lead somewhere " But although he 
too, examined the cave very carefully, there seemed fo 
be no outlet. 

How long they stayed there they did not know — 
fortunately they found some roots which were edible, 
and whose long bulb-like ends were filled with a 
pleasant fluid which quenched their thirst. They played 
games with each other, did everything in fact to prevent 
the madness they were afraid would come over them. 

Nearer and nearer it crept like a beast of prey wait- 
ing to spring and devour his victims. With their 



OUT INTO THE GREAT BEYOND 93 

forced inactivity their limbs became cramped and 
although the air was pure, their lips were dry and their 
throats parched. They began to give up speaking 
aloud; they would sit for hours in silence, only uttering 
occasionally a croaking whisper, one to the other, as if 
they were afraid of being overheard. Then the day — 
but no, it cannot be called that — the time came when 
Desmond lay quiet and still, and Alan awoke to the 
consciousness tliat something was radically wrong with 
his cousin. He bent over the inanimate figure, and 
touched him gently with his hand. The eyes were 
closed and the fists clenched and had he been able to 
see clearly, he would have noticed the purple lines round 
the cold mouth, and a pinched look upon the face, that 
boded nought but ill. 

" I must do something " he muttered wearily, and 
then he burst out into a paroxysm of weeping. That 
saved his life, for when he came to himself it was as a 
fresh man. 

Plucking some of the purple foliage, he squeezed the 
stalks and let the cool liquid pour gently on Desmond's 
brow, then tenderly chiding and imploring him, he 
managed to bring back a sign of life to his cousin's 
face. Nor did he stop then, but continued, until 
Desmond woke to reason and called him by his name. 

When Desmond had fallen into a refreshed and tran- 
quil sleep, Alan wandered round and round the little 
cave, looking still for some weak spot. 

Suddenly there came a sound in the distance — a thud 
that shook the very ground upon which he was stand- 
ing. With every nerve wound up to concert pitch 
he waited — listening intently to see if he could hear 
again the sudden sound that had broken the stillness. 

" It's my fancy " said he aloud, but even as he spoke 
the noise began ag'ain with greater fury. The cavern 
shook — pieces of rock came hurtling down, broken off 
from their parent wall by the vibrations. Then sud- 
denly came a sound almost like an explosion, and a 
piece of rock, larger than the rest came tumbling down, 
and revealed behind it a small passage. 

" Dez " cried Alan " Dez, a way of escape has 
come " 



9i THE PERFECT WORLD 

Desmond opened his eyes and looked round vacantly, 
and indeed it was some time before he realized the 
wonderful thing that had happened. 

The underworld folk had made one last mighty effort 
to reach them, and the boys could have gone down on 
their knees to thank the purple people, for their 
machinations had given them hope once more. 



CHAPTER V 



A FRIEND FROM THE ENEMY 

Desmond, still weak, raised himself up, and looked 
about him; and even as he did so, a huge boulder fell 
from the blocked secret entrance that led to the city of 
the underworld. 

" They are bombarding the place " said Alan look- 
ing startled " let us go through there " and he pointed 
to the little passage that had been revealed to them so 
strangely. 

" We can blockade it from the other side " said 
Desmond " and at least it will give us more time " 

A close examination revealed to them a hinged slab of 
stone that swung easily to and fro, and the spring that 
fastened it in place was plain to see on the inner side. 
They crept into the passage, closed the stone after them, 
and piled rocks and stones in front of it as an extra 
protection. Again came a weary time of waiting — a 
time when the cave was filled with wild laughter and 
hideous ravings — when the furies of Hell itself seemed 
let loose on the other side. The purple fiends had 
forced an entrance, but too late. Their prey had 
escaped them. 

Alan and Desmond lay and listened to the babel of 
their voices, for strangely enough the slightest sound 
from the other cave was magnified in this inner one. 
Then a silence fell, and they realized that the purple 
savages had once more gone. Hungrily they 
gathered roots and ate them greedily — when a woman's 
cry, clear and distinct, startled them. Again and again 
it came — " Ar-lane I Jez-munI " 

Their names were called in the quaint pronunciation 
of the underworld folk. 

95 



9G THE PERFECT WORLD 

*■* Who is it? " asked Desmond. 

" I'll see "— 

" No don't go — don't go — it's some trick — " but 
Alan had already pulled down the stones in front of 
the hinged stone. 

" Ar-lane. Jez-mun " Again the cry came 
" Open — open I beg. I come to aid you " 

'' I am going to speak to her " said Alan grimly, and 
he put his lips close against the stone. 

" Who are you and what do you want of us? " 

A glad cry was his answer, and then followed quickly 
— " Let me through, O Ar-lane — I have come to seek 
thee " 

" What do you want of us? " 

" Listen, O Ar-lane, I have fled from my home in 
the temple of Fire, and have come to thee. Years ago 
whetfi a tiny child, I found the cavern and knew it well. 
But Am-rab the Wise, my tutor and priest, forbade me 
with threats of torture to wander there again. Since 
then I have not set eyes upon the place. Let me in, 
O Ar-lane, for the spring is broken on this side, and I 
cannot find it " 

Desmond was listening suspiciously. " What are you 
going to do? " he asked. 

And again came the pleading voice " Let me in, O 
Ar-lane, Oh, let me in " 

Alan looked questioningly at Desmond and he gave 
his cousin a quick nod. " If it's treachery we're 
done " he remarked, as he touched the spring and the 
stone moved. 

As soon as it was wide open the woman entered. 
They did not know her, but her eyes were swollen from 
weeping and her face drawn with emotion, and they 
realized that she had suffered. 

" Waste no time " she commanded imperiously 
" My flight is already spoken of in the temple. Should 
they seek me, it will need all our strength, all our 
cunning to hide from them. Close the door, O Ar-lane, 
and build up a wall of stones in front, that is strong, 
and then let us hasten on " So once more the place 
was barricaded, and only when the barrier was com- 
plete did she deign to explain her presence. 



A FRIEND FROM THE ENEMY 97 

" You know me not, O Men of the Upper World, 
for you have never set eyes upon me before; but I have 
seen you often. Behold, I am Jez-Riah, seed of the 
house of Bin-Nab, and hereditary Keeper of the Hall 
of Fire. It is the custom, know ye, in this land of 
ours, for the female seed of Bin-Nab to keep veiled 
after they have reached the age of ten. I cast aside 
my veil yester-eve, and immediately came to seek thee 

" Why? " asked Alan curtly. 

The woman was fair to look upon — her eyes were 
deep and luminous, and her tear-stained cheeks filled 
them with pity. Yet to be hampered with a woman 
seemed to take from them every chance of their ultimate 
escape. 

Jez-Riah seemed to read their thoughts. " No, 
harden not your hearts against me, for I can help you " 
said she earnestly. 

" Why have you sought us? " asked Alan, this time 
less curtly. 

" I know a road in here — a secret road, said to be a 
thousand and ten miles long; a stream of unknown 
depths, races along by the side of it — a stream that is 
swifter by far than the fastest of waters — there " and 
she pointed in the direction from which she had come. 
" It leads to the tomb of Korah, so they say, but 
torture was threatened to all who would have ventured 
in search of it. O Ar-lane, you know not what our 
tortures are " 

" I have seen some " said Alan grimly. 

Jez-Riah laughed. " Nay, Ar-lane — you have never 
seen what I have seen. You have never witnessed the 
Curse of Fire " As she spoke her eyes grew big and 
her expression distorted as she lived again the scenes 
she had so often witnessed. " I have seen men roasted 
alive. I have seen acid juices poured on the sufferers' 
wounds. I have seen — " but Alan stopped her. 
" Enough! /' he cried " It's horrible " 

She continued " But tortures even worse were 
threatened for those who would seek the tomb of 
Korah. So none tried. I knew you would be safe for 
a while in these caves — but I knew too, that with some 
one to guide you, you might go farther even than you 

G 



98 THE PERFECT WORLD 

dared hope. I am weary of my life, I am an eighth 
child of a priestess of the direct line of Bin-Nab; but I 
have the blood of the living in my veins. I want to 
live the life of the People of the Sun — your people. 
That is the reason I cast my veil from me, O Men of 
the Outer World, and sought you. Oh cast not Jez- 
Riah from thee, but keep her as thy slave, for she will 
by of much use to thee " 

Jez-Riah had cast herself at the boys' feet, and her 
tears and sobs were coming fast. Desmond and Alan 
felt strangely moved at the sight of thisi woman, so 
different from the women they were used to in the 
world above. 

" I don't think it's trickery, Alan, do you? " said 
Desmond. In his heart Alan believed in the truth of 
the strange woman's story, yet he knew from past 
experience that it was impossible to believe the 
inhabitants of the underworld. 

He looked Jez-Riah up and down. " Any 
weapons? " he asked suddenly. 

Jez-Riah held up her head proudly and her eyes 
flashed fire and she stamped her foot. " I come 
' feula-ri ! ' Is it likely I am traitor, O Men who 
Doubt? " 

Now the boys knew enough of the customs of the 
strange world in which they found themselves, 
that if the sacred word " feula-ri — " was spoken, no 
treachery was contemplated; for that word meant more 
to them than does the white man's flag of truce. For 
in times of war, has not even the white flag been 
violated ? 

I believe you, Jez-Riah " said Alan suddenly 
" Show us Korah's tomb and perhaps we in turn may 
find a way to show you the sun and moon and stars. 
And green trees — and grass — and the sea — " He 
drew his breath sharply. His imagination had run 
away with him, and for the moment he could almost 
believe he heard the thunder of the waves as they came 
dashing in on some rocky shore; he saw the foam and 
the sundecked beach. The birds seemed to be singing 
— and above it all came the unmusical cry of the gulls. 
He sighed. 



A FRIEND FROM THE ENEMY 99 

" Don't Lannie " said Desmond affectionately " I 
feel it too; shall we ever see those things again — shall 
we ever feel the breeze on our faces and the burning 
sun—" 

Jez-Riah stood looking at them hungrily. " You 
speak your own tongue " said she " not mine. What 
say you each to the other that makes the lines of sad- 
ness on your faces grow so deep? 

" It's nothing, Jez-Riah " answered Alan. 

" You are sorry I am here? " 

" No, we are glad — and you must help us with your 
knowledge of the secret ways " 

" See, I will show you at once " and she rose and 
crossed the cavern. She pressed a stone in the wall in 
front of them, and a boulder revolved on a hidden 
spring and showed a yawning cavity beyond. The 
noise of troubled waters came upon their ears — loud 
and thunderous. 

" It is true " she cried in triumph " behold all I have 
said is true. The waters are calling — come " and she 
went through into the blackness without a tremor of 
fear. And Alan and Desmond followed their strange 
companion without any misgivings for the future. 

Providence had sent tliem an unlooked for guide. 
Hope, the star they had almost lost in the clouds of 
darkness that had overshadowed them, came back, 
shining in all the glory and radiance of renewed 
fervour. With a muttered " Thank God " the two 
boys stepped forward, lighter of step and gladder at 
heart than they had been for some time. 

" Ar-lane — Jez-mun " came a voice from the dark- 
ness " I am Jez-Riah — Child of the future — Gate of 
Hope — Guide of Strangers. Fear nothing — the black- 
ness will pass and we shall find the way easy to tread " 

And it was even as she had spoken. In a very little 
time they found themselves in a maze of natural lighted 
pathways similar to the ones from which they had come. 
The sound of the water grew louder. It thundered in 
their ears; it shrieked and roared as if some evil spirit 
was shaking the very earth itself. Jez-Riah was 
radiant. 

" The stream of Korah is not far. I have heard it 



100 THE PERFECT WORLD 

told that whoever braves that stream and finds the 
tomb of Korah, will live to see the sun. The sun that 
our prophet Zurishadeel sings of, the sun that the God 
of our forefathers created. The thought puts new life 
into me — Come " 

On, on they went, the noise getting louder and louder 
every moment, until, upon turning a corner, a 
wondrous sight met their eyes. Belching forth from 
the rocks themselves, forcing itself out from regions 
unseen, falling like a waterfall from some high 
precipice, the torrent rushed, making a lake of con- 
siderable dimensions, which was overflowing its banks 
— a wild, mad, boiling liquid. The spray rose a hundred 
feet in height, and splashed all round and the whole 
place was fearsome and ghostly. 

At one end of the turbulent lake was a tiny outlet, 
perhaps two feet wide, throug'h which the waters ran at 
breakneck speed. The fearsome noise, the sight of the 
rushing waters, the intense weirdness of the scene, 
kept both boys speechless with awe at their surround- 
ings, but Jez-Riah was on her knees, bathing her face 
in the water, letting it trickle over her hair, drinking it 
from cups made of her two hands. And above the din 
and clamour they heard her singing a weird hymn of 
praise to the accompaniment of the music of the waters. 
The boys listened eagerly, and again and again they 
heard the refrain — 

" Korah — Korah — father of our people — the waters will 

lead us to where thy bones lie, 
" Korah — Korah — ^thou ha.st not forsaken us — I am 

bathing iu the waters of faith and purity " 

Then Jez-Riah flung off her draperies and plunged 
into the boiling waters. The boys watched in breath- 
less amazement as she battled with the whirlpools, but 
she proved stronger than they, and swam on until she 
reached the mighty waterfall. Round and round she 
was carried and whirled but she reached her goal at 
lasl — a tiny slab of rock protruding out of the waters 
and under the shadow of the mighty cascade itself. 
Standing upon it she began a weird dance — a fanatical 



A FRIEND FROM THE ENEMY 101 

dance of joy. The foaming waters almost hid her from 
their gaze, the spray rose in front of her hke a filmy 
gauze. At moments, however, her lithe body was 
exposed to view, and the boys marvelled at her agility. 
She did not seem to tire, but danced on, her voice 
raised in a strange hymn of praise. Praise of the 
waters, praise of the light, praise to the God of the 
Sun. Then came a mighty prayer that the secret ways 
might be opened to her — and that she might lead the 
strangers to safety. And even as she sang and prayed, 
her limbs were moving fast in dance and the waters 
were dashing over her and chilling her. 

When she had finished her prayer she sank to her 
knees in an abandonment of grief and asked pardon for 
her one great sin — the sin she committed in leaving the 
temple, where she was Watcher to the Fire. 

There was a long silence — only broken by the voices 
of the torrent raised in its ceaseless dirge. 

Alan moved. " Is she safe? " he asked " What 
will happen to her? " — but even as he spoke the lithe 
body had dived once more info the waters and was 
swimming almost with ease to the shore. Jez-Riah 
stood proudly before them, her dripping hair a mantle 
that covered her. " Go — rest " she commanded " I 
commune with Korah " and f^eet of foot, strong in 
purpose, she darted down one of the passages near by, 
and was soon lost to sight. 



CHAPTER VI 



THE LAIR OF THE SERPENT 

" KoRAH ! Korali ! " the words grew fainter and fainter, 
until at length, worn out with religious fervour, Jez- 
Riah flung herself on the ground and fell asleep. Alan 
and Desmond gazed after her for some time and then 
Alan said " Let's lie down, Dez. We are both worn 
out, and it is useless to follow her. She will return to 
us only when the spirit moves her " 

" Then for Heaven's sake let us get away from this 
infernal din " 

They walked down one of the widest passages until 
they came to a place where the moss was thick and 
soft and the noise of the water rose faint upon their 
ears. 

" Ar-lane — Jez-mun " The cry came low and clear 
and Alan rose quickly to his feet. He had been asleep 
and his limbs felt rested and his head was clearer. 

" It is I, Jez-Riah " came the soft tones again, and 
silhouetted against the wall he saw the shadowy figure 
of the strange woman. 

" We must go on " she urged " We have far to 
go and much to do " 

" Where have you been? " he asked her. 

" I have been in communication with the Spirit of 
the Waters, O Ar-lane; soon the mysteries of Korah 
will be unfolded before thine eyes. Come! Cornel 
Tarry not too long " In a second Desmond was 
awake, and Jez-Riah showed all impatience to start. 

*' Have you been here before? " asked Desmond 
curiously of Jez-Riah. 

" No, O Jez-miun, but the water of Korah has given 
me the gift of sight. Before I was blind — now I can 

102 



THE LAIR OF THE SERPENT 103 

see. Come bind up my eyes, O Ar-lane, that clearness 
of vision may be mine " 

" What do you mean? " 

" Bind up my eyes " she commanded again. 

Alan tore a strip from his purple mantle, and tied it 
across her eyes. 

She gave an exclamation of joy. " O Ar-lane " she 
cried " Before I trod in darkness; now my path is 
lighted brightly, and I can lead you to many strange 
sights, and strange things " As she spoke, she 
stretched out her hands before her and started off at a 
quick pace. In silence the cousins followed her. In 
their position as prisoners in the earth, buried so far 
down that they had little hope of ever seeing the sun 
again, they had no choice but to follow the strange, 
half mad creature who had constituted herself their 
leader. 

The aspect of the road they were now traversing 
changed. The sides of the passage were no longer 
smooth and earthy, but consisted of a hard, rocky sub- 
stance — the floor, too, was jagged and rough. The 
passage narrowed until it left only room for them to 
walk in single file, and the air was musty and stifling; 
indeed there was a pressure in the atmosphere that 
made the boys from the upper world stumble as they 
felt the noxious gases going to their heads. 

They made brave efforts, however, and staggered 
blindly on, one after the other, following Jez-Riah who 
never hesitated a moment in the course she was taking. 
For perhaps five miles they walked until they entered a 
large cavern, the replica of the many others they had 
been through. They noticed the change in the air 
immediately. It was purer, fresher, even cooler and 
the boys revived under its effect. 

Jez-Riah tore the bandage from her eyes. " The 
place of my dreams " she cried. 

" I feel faint " said Desmond in a low tone, but not 
so low that Jez-Riah could not hear. " He needs 
food? " she questioned " Here is plenty " and going 
to the furthermost corner of the cave she pulled up roots 
by the handful — roots like the ones they had had in the 
lower world itself. 



lOJ. THE PERFECT WORLD 

All the time they had been walking they had been 
continually ascending — at times the passages were 
almost like mountain passes, they rose at such a 
gradient — at other times the ascent was not so notice- 
able, but all the same they realized that they were 
mounting upward, and the thought cheered the two 
white men. 

They sat and ate the roots and felt refreshed, when 
suddenly Desmond rose with a cry. " My God — what's 
that? " There on the opposite wall, high above their 
heads, a light shone down upon them, a light that 
gleamed baleful in the semi-darkness. 

" It is the sacred serpent of the Tomb " cried Jez- 
Riah " I have heard of it often when I was a child. 
It has existed throughout the ages — it will always 
exist " 

" Nonsense " said Alan. 

" You cannot kill it " she wailed " It is the 
Guardian of the Tomb " 

" What, are we there, at the Tomb of Korah, 
already? " asked Alan in amazement. 

*' No ! No ! But we must cross its path if we would 
reach the Tomb. In my conceit I thought I was all 
powerful. I was over-confident, O Ar-lane ! I heeded 
not the snake that is large enough to slay an enormous 
anny and yet retain its power " 

The gleaming eyes grew nearer, and already they 
could see the writhing body as it moved along a rocky 
ledge. 

" How big is it? " asked Desmond. 

" I cannot see its length " whispered Alan " but it 
seems as thick round as a man's body. Let us get out 
of this cursed place. Which is the way. Jez-Riah ? " 

" Through that narrow opening yonder " said she. 

Flattening themselves against the wall they crept the 
way she directed, and were but a few steps from it when 
there came the sound of a terrible hissing, and a long 
evil-looking shape dropped in front of them, and hung 
pendulum-wise blocking up the opening. 

" We can't go that way now " said Alan " I am 
afraid it's too large to tackle. Why it must be thirty 
feet long at least. We shall have to go back " Then 



THE LAIR OF THE SERPENT 105 

came the most horrible experience the cousins had ever 
had. The most awful. The most terrifying. 

" Run " cried Alan " If we can get into the passage 
beyond we may be able to block up the way and prevent 
it coming through after us " 

They reached the narrow opening, and all around 
were huge blocks of rock and stone which they piled 
up one on top of the other. 

" Only one more is needed " cried Alan triumphantly. 
But he spoke too soon — a large, flat head, perhaps a 
foot and a half in length, with ugly eyes glowing like 
live fire, shot through the opening, and watched them. 
The mouth was open wide and the forked tongue shot 
rapidly in and out in venomous fury. The smell was 
terrible, whether from its breath or permeating through 
its skin from its body, they could not tell, but it made 
them feel giddy, sick and ill. For perhaps ten minutes 
(if time could be measured in that awful place) it 
remained there motionless, and then gradually the 
stones came tumbhng down as it forced its way through 
the barricade. 

The boys watched their horrible foe. They were 
powerless. Escape was impossible, for behind them 
was a narrow passage, perhaps a mile in length, that 
offered no shelter. 

Would it never attack them? Why keep them in 
this awful suspense ? 

" Knife " came suddenly from between Alan's 
tightly compressed lips. Then after a moment, during 
which time he opened the well worn blade — " There 
are plenty of stones behind? " 

" Plenty " 

Swiftly followed the instructions. " Pick up the 
largest you can handle — both of you — when I give the 
word dash them at the brute's head. It is our only 
chance — tHen rush past the head " 

" But — " commenced Desmond. 

" Don't argue — it's our only hope. The thing 
is too big to turn round in this small space. It 
must go on. Once we get past it we may stand a 
chance " 

Alan never relaxed his watchful gaze. Suddenly the 



lOG THE PERFECT WORLD 

reptile lowered its head and an ugly hiss came from its 
mouth. 

" Now " cried Alan, and as he hurled the knife, 
harpoon-like into the open mouth two heavy stones 
came crashing down on its skull. 

The sudden onslaught dazed the creature, and its 
head dropped to the ground. Quickly they rushed past 
it, but they all realized that they were not yet out of 
danger. The passage they were in was very narrow 
and the serpent was so immense that it was impossible 
for them to stand without feeling the clammy skin next 
to them. 

Jez-Riah shuddered. " What will become of us? " 
she moaned " It is too big to kill " And indeed, it 
seemed to be, for Alan had not exaggerated. The 
length was quite thirty feet, and the girth of its middle 
was perhaps ten feet, narrowing to two at the tail. 

" You can't kill it " cried Desmond " Why we 
haven't even the old clasp knife now " A sudden con- 
vulsive movement passed along the serpent's body, and 
it made them retch to see the tremor coming from its 
head in undulating movements to its tail. Then it 
raised itself up, and Alan was right — it was impossible 
for it to turn — it was far too big and cumbersome. For 
some time, with its head raised perhaps six feet from 
the ground, it writhed to and fro in growing anger that 
its prey should so elude it. As its anger grew greater, 
its body rolled and moved in convulsive heaps, and the 
trio sickened as the malodorous mass pressed itself 
against them and pinioned them to the wall. 

" Lannie, what can we do? " asked Desmond. 
Jez-Riah was almost unconscious with the awful 
pressure, and the strain was telling on the two boys. 
The strength of the beast was enormous, and they 
realized that it had the power, even when at a dis- 
advantage itself, to press the very life out of them 
against the wall. 

Then came a sudden sense of relief, as the serpent 
contracted itself, but gave way to horror as they 
realized that it was backing through the opening, 
and its filthy head would soon be on a line with 
them. 



THE LAIR OF THE SERPENT 107 

" Stones " urged Alan hoarsely " Hurl them at the 
head. Jez-Riah, you must help too " 

Feverishly they worked throwing rocks and stones 
with force at the monster's head. It withstood the 
onslaught valiantly for a time — its strength was 
enormous — but at last a well directed shot of 
Desmond's caught it full between the eyes, and the 
head dropped like a stone. 

" The serpent — it is dead? " asked Jez-Riah " But 
alas, no. The body is twitching all over — it has life 
still " 

A sharp piece of stone jutted out above Alan's head. 
" Help me " he said feverishly to his cousin " This 
is our last hope — this is as shai*p as a knife. If we can 
but loosen it you must help me to imbed it in the 
brute's head. It is stunned now — we must try and 
overpower it while it is in that condition " All the 
time they were talking they were working hard to 
loosen the stone and at last it fell into Alan's hands. 
It was not very large, but it had an edge like a 
bayonet, and was of intense hardness. 

Cautiously they forced their way on either side of 
the twisting mass, until they were on a level with its 
head. " There " whispered Desmond " Just between 
the eyes " 

The stone was raised; the huge beast was motionless 
— then, with almost superhuman power, Alan brought 
the stone down and imbedded it deeply in the flesh, 
while as Alan let go, Desmond hurled a heavy piece of 
stone hammerwise on the top of the stone, and buried 
the sharp edge still deeper in the gaping wound. The 
great snake woke to consciousness, and the boys had 
only just time to get out of the way of its gaping 
jaws. " Press yourself close to the wall, Dez " com- 
manded Alan, and they reached Jez-Riah's side in 
safety. Their eyes dilated with horror as they watched 
the great reptile die, for the boys between them had 
given it its death blow. 

How long the death struggle lasted they never 
knew. Alan thought an hour, Desmond said two. 
Blood poured from the wound in its head and a sickly 
smell rose from the liquid. For some time the stone 



108 THE PERFECT WORLD 

remained fixed in the flesh of the serpent, but its 
writhings at last loosened it, and it fell to the ground 
with a horrible thud, while the blood rushed out of 
the open wound like a miniature fountain. 

Fascinated the three watched its last movements. 
The body rolled from side to side, dashing first against 
one then against the other of the unlucky prisoners, 
but by flattening themselves against the walls, they 
escaped any big injury — only bruises left their mark 
to show what they had been through. 

The movements became more irregular. For a long 
time the mighty snake remained quite still, only to 
wake up again after a rest with renewed energy. At 
last its spasms became less frequent and less powerful. 
It was dying. Its breath came like huge sobs that 
travelled down its body. The stench was almost 
unendurable. " I think it's safe now " said Alan at 
last. Slowly they moved from their cramped posi- 
tions. Their hearts throbbed and their limbs ached. 
Fearsomely they gave a last look at the head of the 
dying, if not already dead, monster. A shudder ran 
through them all. The strain through which they had 
passed had been terrible, but for Alan, who had 
engineered the defeat, it had been terrific. His limbs 
ached, his head swam, and he reeled as he walked on 
the free ground, unpolluted by the serpent. He 
laughed a wild unnatural laugh; it sounded strange 
even in his own ears, and he repeated it, as he 
wondered whether he was indeed going mad. He felt 
suddenly unaccountably frightened. Everything faded 
from him but the memory of the serpent behind. 
With another peal of almost senseless laughter, he 
ran madly away into the distance, until the darkness 
swallowed him up, and only the sound of his wild 
laughter broke the stillness. Jez-Riah clutched at her 
throat and spoke to Desmond. " Ar-lane — he is ill 
— come " said she, and the two followed Alan avvay 
into the blackness as he sped on, laughing — laughing 
— laughing. 



CHAPTER VII 



ON THE WAY TO THE TOMB OF KORAH 

Time passed — time that had no measure — time that 
seemed an eternity. They bad all recovered from their 
encounter with the Sacred Serpent, but the adventure 
had left them nervous and irritable. There was food 
in plenty, and the luscious roots gave them both meat 
and drink. Always upward they mounted — and as 
they saw the mountainous paths rise before them, 
hope held out her encouraging hand, and whispered 
that one day they might even see the stars. Jez-Riah 
still led them on, through untold paths and a labyrin- 
thine maze. She always maintained that she knew the 
right path to take. 

Sometimes they had to crawl on their hands and 
knees through narrow and low passages that seemed 
to have no end. At other times they found themselves 
in wide, airy by-ways with a height almost beyond 
computation, for far above their heads they could just 
catch the faintest glimmer of light on the purple 
growth that covered the roof. Now and again springs 
bubbled up from the earth and ran along beside them, 
burying themselves as suddenly as they had appeared. 
The atmosphere was very sultry and fetid — very 
different from the air on the other side of the under- 
ground river that separated the underworld people 
from the desolate region they were now in. " How 
long, Jez-Riah? " they asked her over and over again 
" How long before we reach the Tomb of Korah ? " 
And her answer was the same each time. " Oh Men 
of the World Above, I do not tarry, I am leading you 
to the Tomb as fast as I can. Be content with that " 

109 



110 THE PERFECT WORLD 

So the days passed — so the nights came round again. 
Days which had no night, nights which had no day. 
Time was measured by sleep. When they were all 
weary they lay down to rest and sleep. This they 
called night — when they awoke they called it day. 
But they had lost count of the times they had slept 
since Jez-Riah had come to them, they had lost count 
of everything. They had only one object before them 
— to reach the Tomb of Korah. Their plans ended 
there; they had no idea what their next move would 
be after they reached it. They had grown accustomed 
to their strange, purple companion — in fact she had 
become almost a necessity to them both. It was she 
who passed many weary hours for them, by recount- 
ing stories of the life of her people since they had 
lived below. It was she who told them even more 
fully than Har-Banm had done, how her people's 
forefathers had risen up against Musereah, and Har- 
Raeon, and how they had consequently suffered 
throughout the ages. And both the boys translated 
•Musereah as Moses, and Har-Raeon as Aaron, and 
were more than ever convinced that strange as the 
story was, this new race was indeed descended from 
the Israelites of the Old Testament and could claim 
Korah, Abiram, and Dathan as its progenitors. 

It was Jez-Riah who told them that behind a barred 
gate was built a golden tomb wherein had been 
deposited the remains of their first priests — " Har- 
Barim and Kartharn." It was at their shrine that the 
ceremonies attached to the feast of Meherut were 
performed. It was their Holy of Holies, and it was 
over the bones of Har-Barim and Kartharn that the 
priests made their vows. 

They asked Jez-Riah about the fire and she grew 
solemn as she answered them — "Ah, Men _ from 
Above, Our Fire is sacred — it is Holy. It is the 
symbol of our Jovah. — It is almost our God. The 
God of our forefathers took on one occasion the form 
of fire, so fire is sacred to us " 

" The Burning Bush " said Alan in an undertone. 

" But " she added sorrowfully " the power of the 
Fire is waning. According to one of our prophecies, 



ON THE WAY 111 

when the Fire shall die, then, also shall all the seed of 
Korah die too. In all the ages that have passed since 
the earth closed against us, no fuel was needed for 
the Fire — it burnt of itself and never grew less. Then 
one day noises were heard in the earth — our land shook 
and trembled, and men fell on their faces in fear. 
From that day we knew the Fire was growing less. 
Our priests knew it — all our people knew it and terror 
was in all our hearts. Then our high priest looked 
up all the old laws and in the fourth book of Rabez-ka, 
Queebenhah the Seer writes — 

' When the Fire shall shrink, then is the time ripe for 
the people of Kalvar to rise. Live sacrifices must be 
offered to appease the God of Anger. Send forth a 
Light to the world above, and let it bring back men and 
animals and birds to feed the furnace of Light. Live 
sacrifices alone will keep the fire quickened — live 
sacrifices alone will prevent calamities falling on the 
Children of Kalvar ' 

" So our wise men gathered together " she con- 
tinued " and by the wisdom of all, the Light was 
made. The wise men of the temple and Kaweeka 
alone could handle it — for they were possessed of 
Holiness, and the Light was made from the Fire itself. 
Chemicals were drawn from the recesses of the earth, 
and in secret the Light was made " 

" How did they use it, Jez-Riah? " 

" When it was sent out into the earth above, it was 
sensitive only to life. When any warm living thing of 
the world was near, it swooped down, and coiled 
round and carried its prey back to us " 

" I understand better " said Alan to his cousin 
" The Light is some magnetic electrical current with 
abnormal power. Ugh! It's horrible " 

" But why did they stop sending out the Light for 
fodder to feed the flames? " asked Desmond. 

" Because we realized that our time is short. 
Nothing vv^ill keep the Fire alive. The end is near " 

So they travelled — and then depression overtook 
them as their journey seemed endless and they got no 
nearer to their goal. Even Jez-Riah herself seemed to 



112 THE PERFECT WORLD 

lose hope, and with tears in her eyes she would say 
pathetically " O Ar-lane, my senses seem dimmed — the 
way is dark. Surely we must come there soon! " 

The monotony of the way drove the white men 
nearly \,mad. The monotony of the food sickened 
them. They felt half dazed; they forgot the reason 
of their march; they forgot, even, what the goal was 
toward which they were going. They knew only that 
some power within them urged them to go on and 
on and always on. 

At "last Jez-Riah's eyes grew bright and her step 
alert. "Don't speak" she urged "don't speak! " 
So they went, until all the passages merged into one 
long tunnel — darker than the others through which 
they had come. The natural light shed from the earth 
itself, grew still more feeble, and they found it difficult 
to walk for fear of hidden pitfalls. Suddenly the 
passage ended and Jez-Riah gave a glad cry. 
" Behold, O Men of the Sun, this is the entrance to 
the Tomb of Korah " 

" Are you sure? " asked Alan. 

" Quite, O Ar-lane. The paths we have been 
traversing were made by our forefathers long aeons 
ago. After they had fastened Korah and all that 
appertained to him fast within the bowels of the earth, 
they had to fight their way through to make a place 
of habitation. They cut paths as they marched along, 
and when they found the Fire — there they made their 
home. I knew that when all paths merged into one, 
the way was near to Korah's tomb " 

The place in which they found themselves was very 
disappointing. Their way just ended — it did not widen 
out at all, and the end was piled with stones and earth 
that had fallen through the ages. Their quest was 
over at last, and they took their first untroubled rest. 
They slept long and quietly, and it was Jez-Riah who 
awakened them and placed before them the food they 
were so heartily sick of. " Nay, eat " she commanded 
" your strength is neededl more than before " &nd 
feeling the truth of her words, they ate until they were 
satisfied and felt all the better for the food. 

" The earth has fallen " said Jez-Riah " If we are 



ON THE WAY 113 

to find the entrance to the tomb we must clear away 
all that rubble " 

Feverishly they set to work tearing their hands to 
pieces on the jagged stones until the passage behind 
them was nearly closed with the mass of rock and earth 
that they had displaced. Twice they slept, and then 
success came to them, for a solid slab of rock appeared 
in the wall — a rock that had been made smooth and 
upon which were carven hieroglyphics. 

" I cannot read it " said Jez-Riah, but Alan was 
already translating, for it was the Hebrew he knew, 
and not the corruption that had come down through 
the ages to the purple people. 

" Read it aloud " said Desmond, and Alan spoke 
the words of the inscription reverently. 

" BY THE WIIX OF THE EXILED CHILDREN OF 
ISRAEL. 

" Korah, son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of 
Levi, and his wives and his children and all that apper- 
tains unto him and to them, lie buried in this cave. For 
the wrath of Jehovah fell on his people who sinned against 
the Lord, tempted by the Evil one — Korah. This is his 
Tomb — cursed be the ones who open it before the day 
appointed is at hand. 

" Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, the son of Peleth, 
son of Reuben; Shedur, son of Helon, son of Abira, the son 
of Simeon. Priests, chosen by the banished Children of 
Israel in their new land of Kalvar — in the bowels of the 
earth " 

The cousins did little else but talk about the 
discovery until the time came for them to rest. Their 
labours had been rewarded; the Tomb of Korah had 
been revealed to them. 

They worked hard when they awoke to move the 
massive block of stone. There was no secret spring 
to assist them — the stone had been placed in position 
some three thousand years before, and now seemed to 
defy all the efforts they made to move it. With rocks 
and stones used leverwise they worked until after many 

days " they succeeded in forcing the solid block of 
Stone to the ground, but behind it was a wall closely 



114 THE PERFECT WORLD 

built of stones and earth bound together with a rude 
cement. Their fingers were torn and bleeding in their 
attempt to pull the stones apart. " At last " cried 
Alan in delight. For as he worked his hand had gone 
into space — the tomb was laid open before him. 



CHAPTER VIII 



THE TOMB OF KORAH 

The Tomb of Korah ! They had reached their goal 
at last ! The boys stood back awed at the thought of 
what might have passed in that selfsame cavern 
thousands of years before. 

" You go first, Jez-Riah " said Alan at last, and 
slowly, reverently the two boys followed her in. The 
natural light had grown stronger and allowed them to 
see quite plainly the mysteries the cave was to unfold. 
They discovered it to be a cavern perhaps forty yards 
square. The roof rose above them perhaps a hundred 
feet, and was marked by a deep, zigzagged line 
running across it from one side to the other. It was 
like a scar! 

" Dez " said Alan suddenly " is that where the 
earth originally opened, when it deposited Korah and 
the other Israelites within its bowels? " 

" If so we ought to be somewhere in the neighbour- 
hood of Palestine " replied Desmond. 

The cave had no outlet, and on the fioor lay precious 
stones of every kind and colour; — diamonds, rubies, 
pearls, emeralds, sapphires — as large as Barcelona 
nuts — lay strewn about in fabulous quantities. In one 
corner of the cave were the remains of furniture and 
household goods, mostly rotted away and eaten by 
worms; and mingled with the precious stones were 
human bones — human bones in such quantities that it 
was impossible to avoid treading on them. Here was 
a thigh bone, there a skeleton hand or a skull. Every- 
where the bones of men and beasts mingled together 
in a heterogeneous mass. 

Quietly, slowly they made a round of the place. 

115 



116 THE PERFECT WORLD 

There were skeletons of horses, asses and camels lying 
together in a corner, and piled on top of each other 
in such a way as proved it had been done by the human 
agency, were the remains of little children. 

Skeletons of females with the remnants of clothing 
on their whitened bones, adorned with anklets of gold 
and bracelets set with gems, were everywhere, and 
the whole scene was like a ghastly wonder story of 
the East. They picked their way through a bed of 
grinning skulls to where they saw something shining. 

Alan picked it up. " A censer " said he " one of 
the most beautiful I have ever seen " And indeed it 
was of wonderful workmanship. Even their little 
knowledge told them it was of pure gold; it was most 
wonderfully fashioned to represent on the one side a 
cherub — a cherub so perfect that even the finger nails 
were represented, and on the other, bunches of grapes 
and vine leaves — symbols of the promised land. 

Precious stones gleamed cunningly everywhere, and 
the chains from which the censer swung were studded 
with diamonds. They could scarcely bear to put it 
down, but gazed at it entranced with its beauty. 
Every moment they found in it some greater glory. 

*' I have seen nothing modern even resembling 
this " said Alan at last " Why, it is exquisite — think 
of its value! " 

" Its history alone would render it priceless " said 
Desmond " apart from its precious metal and work- 
manship " 

" Yes, but of what use is it to us down here? " 
questioned Alan " And even if we ever do get out, 
who will believe our story? " 

" I wonder where we shall find ourselves if we do 
discover a way out " said Desmond " We have lost 
all sense of direction down here — of distance; and of 
time. Why we haven't even any idea of how far we 
have walked since we left the purple people — how far 
do you think, Alan? " 

Alan shook his head. " It's impossible to say, Dez. 
How many times have we slept ? We counted three 
hundred times and then forgot — three hundred times 
is a long while, old boy. We must have walked at 



THE TOMB OF KORAH 117 

least fifteen miles each ' day ' we have been on the 
march — perhaps even more — so we have done a 
considerable distance " 

"Then where shall we find ourselves? Africa? 
America? Asia? " 

" Well, we shall not be penniless when we do get 
to the world again " and Alan pointed at the wealth 
of jewels at their feet. 

" It is those that make me feel we shall never get 
out " said Desmond despondently. 

" Why? '\ 

" Because it is only in books of romance that such 
an adjventure as ours would culminate successfully, 
and it would only be in a Romance of Romances that 
adventurers would come back from the very centre 
of the earth, laden with such untold wealth ! 

" Don't be so depressing, Dez " laughed Alan. 

" But it's true, Lanny. With wealth like this in 
our hands we could command the trades of the entire 
world. Why, with this we could corner wheat — corner 
cotton — corner millionaires themselves — if we were 
permitted to use it " 

" Why permitted? " 

" Well, it depends on the government of the country 
we eventually land in; they will want their share. If 
it's France we may get one half — if it's Spain perhaps 
an eighth — Russia? — well, nothing at all and the salt 
mines into the bargain " 

" You are very cheerful " laughed Alan " but as a 
matter of fact, I've been planning what I mean to do 
with my share if we do get out " 

Jez-Riah had been listening to the two boys speaking 
and sighed deeply. They were talking in their own 
language and had forgotten all about their strange 
companion. 

" What will happen to her if we ever do reach the 
upper world? " said Desmond suddenly. 

Alan looked soberly at the quaint little purple 
creature who had so grown into their lives, who had 
been so useful to them, who had become almost a 
friend. They treated her as they would some great, 
faithful hound who was devoted to them alone. She 



118 THE PERFECT WORLD 

was like a dumb animal in her unwavering loyalty to 
them, and indeed would have laid down her very life 
for her friends. 

" She'll have no easy time, poor thing " said Alan 
" but I'll use every scrap of my energy to prevent an 
Earl's Court Exhibition for her " 

Again Jez-Riah sighed and a tear rolled down her 
cheek. 

" What ails thee? " asked Alan in her own language. 

" I am sad and sorrowful, O Ar-lane " she replied 
** The memory of a prophecy has come to me. I sTiall 
see the stars of Heaven — the Sun in the Sky — but with 
pain alone will such sights come to me " 

" We'll keep pain from you " said Alan kindly " If 
you are to see the stars, then that means we shall all 
find a way out from here " 

The boys set to work to try and find Korah's 
remains and an outlet to the world above. Many times 
they slept, and their last waking thought was — " Shall 
we find a way out to-morrow? " They counted the 
skeletons and piled them reverently in one corner. 
Tbey counted the remains of twenty-two women, 
forty-nine men and about thirty children, some of 
whom appeared to be but newly born. 

They gathered the precious stones, and placed 
perhaps a gallon measureful in a basket Jez-Riah had 
plaited out of the roots of the mautzer — her fingers 
were busy the whole time they were exploring the 
cavern and its contents. 

She had made a covering for the censer, and that 
had been put carefully aside. The furniture and tent- 
ing was all valueless. It fell to pieces at a touch and 
only small scraps of tinder-like material remained to 
prove the glories of the silken coverings that had 
been buried with the Israelites of old. Harness made 
of leather, and trappings bound with gold lay on the 
ground mixed up with the bones of the animals they 
had adorned; chariot wheels lay among the wreckage, 
and the whole scene was one of utter desolation and 
carnage. 

" Do you know of a way out? " asked Alan of 
Jez-Riah over and over again, and always she answered 



THE TOMB OF KORAH 119 

" I have brought you in safety to the tomb of KoraH, 
O my friends. Further the way is hidden from me. 
Now I trust to you " 

There was no apparent outlet from the cavern, and 
the boys hunted for any written record that might have 
been left behind by Korah or his company. " I want 
a proof of our statements " said Alan " When we 
get to the upper world we shall be looked upon as 
madmen if we are unable to substantiate our story " 

But Jez-Riah would say " Give up hunting for 
records of my forefathers, I beg you, and turn your 
energies to find a way to the sun — " 

Alan was thinking deeply on the situation they were 
in, when his eyes were caught by the scar on the roof. 
" I wonder " said he suddenly " I wonder if there 
is a way out — there " 

" Where? " asked Desmond. 

Alan jerked his head in the direction of the scar. 
" It would be madness to try and find out " said he 
" The ledges of rock are mot strong enough to bear 
one — don't think of risking your life in such a foolish 
adventure " 

And indeed it seemed almost impossible. The walls 
of the cavern were jagged and rough, and in many 
places overhung in a dangerous manner. To climb 
to the roof would have made even .an experienced 
Alpine climber think twice before he attempted it, and 
to one inexperienced in such feats it seemed like 
courting death. 

" You wouldn't try " Desmond urged. He knew 
Alan of old, and feared for him. 

Alan laughed. " Is it likely? " was all he said. 
But 3,11 the same the thought remained in his mind, 
and his brain was working. 

It was time to go to sleep. They had supped off 
the roots of mautzer, and had drunk the liquid from 
the stems of the elers, and felt refreshed. Jez-Riah 
was already breathing softly, and Desmond was talking 
in fitful fgusts with drowsy interludes between. Of 
the three, Alan alone was wide awake. He answered 
Desmond quietly, and he at last dropped off to sleep too. 
For some time Alan remained quite quiet, afraid lest 



120 THE PERFECT WORLD 

a tiny movement of his might awaken either of his 
companions. Then Jez-Riah's breath came in deep, 
indrawn sighs, and Desmond lay with one hand over 
his head and his hps shghtly apart. Alan looked at 
them both closely — they were fast asleep. 

Stealthily he rose and stepped past the sleepers 
through the low way into the Tomb of Korah. He 
moved with purpose, for his plans were all carefully 
thought out. High up in the roof, at the farthest 
right hand corner, the scar seemed its widest. Quickly 
he walked toward it, and without a backward glance 
began a long, dangerous and arduous climb. The 
rocks were slippery, and the foothold almost nothing, 
yet with tenacious pluck he kept on until his fingers 
were lacerated and his limbs ached. Pulling himself 
up by the jagged pieces of rock, he came closer to the 
roof. Once only he looked below, and his heart 
pumped and his head swam as he saw the depths 
beneath. After that he kept his eyes bent upward, 
and he did not stop until he could touch the roof itself. 
There was a little ledge, three feet from the top, which 
was big enough for him to sit on fairly comfortably, 
and his breath came in hard gasps as he rested. 

Then, as his strength came back to him, he carefully 
put his hand inside the fissure. A stone moved, and 
as he withdrew his hand, it dropped into the cave 
beneath, and the sickening thud made him tremble. 
He heard the sound of rushing waters. Gradually he 
wormed his way until he was seated in the fissure 
itself, and looked down on a swiftly flowing river 
twenty feet below him. It was very swift — he could 
not tell its depth, neither could he get down to it — 
for the water had neither bank nor ledge to stand 
upon. High walls reared on either side of the water 
as it raced on its mad journey. He watched the swirl- 
ing depths. The spray at times reached his face, and 
cooled him. The water was of a different colour from 
the rivers in Kalvar — it looked cleaner, fresher. " I 
wonder whither it leads " he muttered, and then he 
examined his position. 

He w^s inside the fissure on a ledge perhaps three 
feet wide. There was a sheer drop into the waters 



THE TOMB OF KORAH 121 

below of twenty feet. There was no other outlet at 
all. If they were to escape it would have to be by the 
water. It was impossible to go back. Then a daring 
plan came to him. " If we liad the pluck " said he 
to himself " Well, it will be do or die " and slowly 
he turned his attention to the descent. 



CHAPTER IX 



THE PAPYRUS 

Desmond had slept well; he woke lazily and looked 
round him. Alan had already gone. He turned 
sleepily over, but raised himself quickly as Alan hailed 
him from Korah's tomb with an exultant shout. Even 
Jez-Riah realized that something' of import had 
happened as she watched Alan enter, bubbling over 
with excitement, and his eyes bright and shining. 

" What is it? " asked Desmond eagerly. 

" I've found the remains of Korah " Alan made 
the announcement quietly, but his cousin saw the 
undercurrent of excitement that lay beneath his 
words. 

" You've found Korah? " he repeated stupidly. 

" Listen " went on Alan eagerly, and speaking in 
the quaint Hebraic dialect, so that Jez-Kiah might 
share his news, he told them of his adventure to the 
roof of the cave, and of the river beyond. " Well " 
he concluded " as I neared the bottom my foot slipped 
and I clutched at a piece of jutting rock to save me, 
and I had to use all my strength to keep from falling. 
My foothold gone, I had to worm my way round the 
rock to find another place easy of descent. You know 
the wall is full of cracks and crevices. I came upon 
a crevice larger than the others. It was big enough 
to get through, and I wondered why we hadn't noticed 
it before. I realized, however, the tricks the lighting 
of this place plays upon us, and I could see that the 
hole simply looked like a shadow on the wall, so 
cunningly is it hidden. I scrambled easily through, 
and found it to be a cave, quite small, in the middle of 
which is a deep pond of water, and fastened on the 

122 



THE PAPYRUS 123 

wall by the aid of rude nails was this — " and he held 
out a roll of parchment that crackled at his touch. 

Desmond examined it curiously. " Why it's a 
papyrus " he exclaimed. 

" Yes I and written by Korah himself, and placed 
there just before he died " 

" Have you read it? " 

" Yes, it's quite easy in parts. Listen " and Alan 
translated from the old and faded Hebraic characters 
the following 

" WRITING by KORAJI, knowu henceforlh to all genera- 
tions as KORAH THE ACCURvSED 

Know, then, these four months, as far as it is possible 
to judge time in this accursed spot, I and all my belong- 
ings have remained in this cavern. Abiram and Dathan 
have sealed the doors of stone against us. Escape is 
impossible. There is naught for us to do but die. Be 
it known — I — Korah the Accursed — am sore at heart for 
my sins of rebellion against Moses and Aaron. Jehovah 
has inflicted upon us all a grievous punishment. His 
name be praised. Food there is none except that which 
came down with us into this pit of terror. Lord of 
Hosts, I tremble at what I see. Mothers tearing their 
little ones, women in childbirth crying to the God in 
Heaven that they may die before they are delivered. I 
— Korah — alone have remained fasting. It is the only 
reparation I can make for my sins, and for the un- 
worthiness I have shown as one of Jehovah's chosen 
ones. I Korah — " 

Then came a space that was unintelligible. Time 
had worked its will and the writing was indistinct, 
and in parts entirely erased. " How awful " said 
Desmond, shuddering " Think — half these skeletons 
here were perhaps murdered by their brothers for food. 
What agonies, what pangs they must have suffered! " 

" Wait — there is more " said Alan, and he went on 
translating 

" Forty days and forty nights fasting is as nothing to 
the fasting here. It seems forty times forty since food 
passed my parched and cracked lips. My people turn 



124 THE PERFECT WORLD 

not upon me and slay me. Oh that they would ! Dead 
flesh is rotting all around me — the air is heavy with 
the stench. There are none now left alive but myself. 
I will fasten this to the wall of the inner cave, and then 
lay me down to die. Of what use are gold and riches 
to us here? Poorer am I than the most disease-laden 
beggar of the world above. O God of Hosts forgive 
Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of 
Levi " 

For some time after Alan had finished reading the 
boys remained in silence. The whole scene rose up 
in their minds like a picture, and the horror of 
it nauseated them. The terrible hunger and thirst of 
the captives — the scenes of cannibalism afterwards — 
the child murder — it was revolting. " Now " said 
Alan " Come to the real tomb of Korah. This is 
the tomb of his people — but he lies yonder " So the 
three of them mounted the rough steps in the rock, 
and ten feet above their heads was the little opening. 
Just a little cleft through which they passed, and down 
a short but steep path into the cave below. 

The centre of the cave was taken up by a deep pool 
of water, but a narrow path ran all round. A huge 
block of stone lay immersed in the water and round it 
the water bubbled and sang showing the place w'here 
the pond had its birth. 

But Desmond saw no sign of the bones of Korah. 
He looked puzzled. " There is no skeleton here " 
said he. " Where is Korah? " Silently Alan pointed 
to the grey rock over which the water was lapping. 
Desmond looked at it intently — and then understood. 
In the course of time a spring had bubbled up and the 
waters had covered the body of Korah. Some 
chemical property in the water had preservecl the dead 
body and turned it to stone, and in the ages that had 
passed deposits of lime and other minerals had been 
secreted on the body, until it was now of gargantuan 
size. Still plain, however, were the features. A 
rather long nose, Semitic in shape, protruded from 
a face that had possessed prominent cheek-bones and 
deep, sunken eyes. The liair which had been long 
was now a mass of stone that mingled with the shape- 



THE PAPYRUS 125 

less body. They could just trace the semblance of 
arms that were folded across the stone chest, and there 
was the suspicion of feet protruding from a kilted 
tunic of cold grey stone. 

In all, just a shapeless boulder in which could be 
traced the likeness of what had once been a living man. 
The waters of the centuries had preserved Korah 
alone of the Israelites of old who had been imprisoned 
in the pit. 

Jez-Riah had listened in silence. With one finger she 
had traced the outlines of the once handsome face — 
now she spoke. 

" He killed himself — in the water? " she asked. 

" No " said Alan " I think the cave was dry in those 
days. He just came here to die; and in the place where 
his dead body lay, before time could rot the flesh, a 
spring broke through the floor of the cave and pre- 
served him — a memorial to all time of his sin " 

" Praise be to Jovah " said Jez-Riah in a hushed 
jtone. 

" Requiescat in pace " said Alan as they turned to 
leave the place. " Amen " whispered his cousin — and 
Korah was once more left alone. 

" Now " said Alan some time later while they were 
having their meal " now we must make some arrange- 
ments about leaving this place. The only way is by 
the river, yonder " 

" Can we make a raft strong enough to bear us? " 
asked Desmond. Alan shook his head. " I've already 
investigated " he said " There is absolutely nothing. 
The wood in there is rotten with age. I doubt whether 
it would even float. There is only one possible way " 
and he looked at them intently. " We can all swim 
pretty well. Our only hope is to throw ourselves on 
the mercy of the waters. The knowledge we have of 
swimming will enable us to keep our heads out of the 
water — we must trust the current to do the rest. It 
may mean death — but are we not in a living death 
already? At any rate are you willing to try? " They 
walked into the big cave and Desmond looked fear- 
fully at the terrible ascent which they would have to 
make in order to reach the river, for it flowed on a 



126 THE PERFECT WORLD 

much higher level than that on which they were 
themselves. 

" Yes, it's pretty stiff " said Alan grimly " But it's 
that or nothing. Are you ready to risk it? " For a 
moment only, Desmond hesitated, then his mind was 
made up and his hand gripped that of his cousin. 

*' Yes " said he " What about you, Jez-Riah? " 
And they were both surprised at the calm way in which 
she took the suggestion. 

" It is very high " said she " How easy it would be 
to fall! " 

They rested and slept and ate before they attempted 
the ascent. Also they had many preparations to make. 
There was certain of the jewels to be taken with them 
— the papyrus and the censer. Jez-Riah plaited a water- 
proof case for the parchment, and with a plaited rope 
fastened it to Alan's shoulders. The jewels were 
divided out between them and placed in little bags that 
Jez-Riah wove from the root tendrils that grew out- 
side the large cave. The censer proved the greatest 
difficulty. It was not only heavy, but exceedingly bulky 
and cumbersome. It was Alan again who decided to 
carry it. " But it will drag you down " objected his 
cousin. " I'll manage it " he replied, and he had it 
fastened securely to his back with the strong rope that 
Jez-Riah could make so quickly. 

So they began their arduous climb. Alan went 
first, followed by Jez-Riah, and Desmond brought up 
the rear. " On no account look down " Alan kept 
urging " It \v\l\ be fatal if you do " At last they 
reached the tiny platform. Alan looked at it doubt- 
fully. Would it hold three grown persons ? He 
shivered — it would be a tight squeeze. His hand went 
down and met Jez-Riah's. He pulled her on to their 
resting place in safety, and then Desmond reached it, 
and for a while they sat in silence. The rushing of the 
waters could be plainly heard. Time was passing — 
Alan dared not move, for Jez-Riah, worn out with the 
climb, w^as leaning heavily against him, and he knew 
that the slightest movement from one or the other of 
them might send them to their death, for the seat was 
none too safe. " I think the time has come for 



THE PAPYRUS 127 

action " said he quietly at last " It is useless to wait 
here any longer " 

Jez-Riah moved restlessly. " What your will is, O 
Ar-lane, that will I do '' said she. 

" I am going to plunge in the water " announced 
Alan " If you see my body rise — follow me quickly. 
Do not struggle, let the current do its will with you. 
Safety lies in submission " 

" Why wait to see if you rise? " asked Desmond. 

" Because I do not know what whirlpools may be 
hidden there. If you do not see me after I have 
plunged in, then you must do as you think best. But 
surely death is preferable to a lifetime here? " 

" Then I shan't—" 

" Don't argue, old man. Do as I bid you. God 
bless you " 

The cousins solemnly shook hands, lingering 
pathetically. It was like a good-bye to the dying. 

" Ar-lane, O Ar-lane " came from Jez-Riah. 

" Have courage, little sister, be brave and follow 
me " And before they could say another word, he had 
swung himself over the edge and had dropped into the 
foaming water. 

The water hissed and roared with fury as it felt the 
presence of the foreign body — then it quieted a little. 
Alan's head appeared, his face deathly pale, and before 
they realized it, he was out of sight, borne on the swift 
current. 

Jez-Riah was trembling. " Be brave, little sister "' 
Almost unconsciously Desmond repeated his cousin's 
words. _ She clung to him for a second, and then with a 
little frightened moan that went as soon as it was 
uttered, she too dropped into the water below, and was 
carried out of sight. Suddenly a great fear came over 
Desmond. He was alone. The cavern seemed to ring 
with laughter — the laughter of dead men. He hovered 
at the edge of the little cleft and looked deep into the 
boiling mass below, but he dared not drop in. 

I can't, I can't " he moaned, and the awful loneli- 
ness came upon him and enveloped him in a cloak of 
terror. 

He looked behind him at the yawning chasm below, 



128 THE PERFECT WORLD 

If he lost his foothold — he shuddered. And then with 
a mighty spring and a muttered " God help me " he 
followed in the wake of his cousin. The water closed 
over him — he held his breath until his lungs felt as if 
they would burst with the strain. Relief came at last, 
the waters had calmed a little, and he was floating 
gently on the current. He was conscious of intense 
inky blackness, of icy waters and a fetid air above; of 
a swiftly moving stream, that, although not rough, was 
running fast; of strange shapes that seemed to hover 
about him, and long, clammy hands that tried to pull 
him out of the water. He knew it was death himself 
he was fighting, and he fought to evade the fingers that 
were now so near, almost clasped round his throat. 
Then his senses forsook him and he was only an atom, 
tossed about on the bosom of the unknown river, a 
nothingness in a world of mystery and wonder. 



CHAPTER X 



THE ESCAPE 

And the seventh day was the Sabbath! The Lord 
rested on the Sabbath! Sabbath! Seventh! 
Seventh! Sabbath! These words kept ringmg in 
Alan's ears as he lay quiet and tranquil in the darkness. 
He wondered where he was, but was too tired to make 
much effort to find out. His senses were dulled and 
his whole body ached; he could see nothing, for total 
darkness surrounded him. Then unconsciousness again 
overtook him, and he dreamed again of the Marsh- 
fielden fields and the ripphng brooks. 

When he awoke it was with a healthy feeling of 
hunger, and gradually his senses returned and he 
wondered where his cousin and Jez-Riah were. He 
called them by name, but there was no reply. He 
reached out on either side of him, but could feel 
nothing — he seemed to be alone. The silence was 
oppressive, the air heavy, and he found a great difficulty 
in breathing. He tried to think of the mad plunge for 
freedom into the swift underground river; he remem- 
bered feeling the cold waters close over him, followed 
by an interminable time under water when he could not 
breathe, when his lungs were bursting, longing to dis- 
gorge the used up air within him. Then he remem- 
bered a feeling of relief as he drew in a long breath of 
air, and afterwards — no more. He seemed to have 
fallen into a never ending dream. Now at last he 
reahzed he was safe again, and in his heart he thanked 
God for having watched over him and brought him 
once more to safety. 

As the past events became clearer, Alan rose up 

129 I 



180 THE PERFECT WORLD 

cautiously, but his head came in contact with the roof 
of the place he was in. He went on all fours and 
groped his way round the place. It was very small, 
perhaps twenty yards in circumference, and perfectly 
dark. Suddenly his hand touched something, some- 
thing warm. It was Jez-Riah, and, close beside her 
lay Desmond. He spoke to them each in turn — shook 
them, but they showed no sign of having^ heard him. 
He listened for their heart beats, but neither showed 
any sign of life. 

The water that had carried them all to this new 
abode ran near, and Alan dragged the two bodies to 
the water's edge. He dipped his hand in the cool 
liquid and found that it was only an inch or two deep 
at the most. He made a cup with his hands and dashed 
the water into his companions' faces in turn, and at last 
was rewarded by a heavy sob from Jez-Riah and a 
groan from Desmond. 

" Dez, old man, how are you feeling now? Jez- 
Riah, are you better? " 

So from one to the other he turned, his only thought 
to bring them back to life and hope. 

Suddenly Desmond spoke. " That was a near shave, 
Lanny " 

" How are you? " 

" I feel beastly " 

" Where are we? " suddenly asked Jez-Riah. 

" I've no idea. The river has either disappeared 
underground or we've been brought up a little side 
creek and left the main channel itself. There is very 
little water here — only a few inches at the most and it 
is running very sluggishly. There is a tunnel to the 
right up which we must have come, but it is very low; 
I can hear the sound of swiftly running waters, but I 
don't feel strong enough to investigate in the dark " 

" Of course not, Alan " answered Desmond, and 
then Jez-Riah said pathetically "I am hungry, O 
Ar-lane " 

Alan shook his head wearily. " There is no food 
here. The purple light has gone. I am afraid we are 
far from the vegetation of the underworld " 

They talked in low tones for some time — they all felt 



THE ESCAPE 131 

ill and weak. The papyrus and all their treasures were 
so far safe, and the censer still remained fast on Alan's 
back. Their clothes were nearly dry, so they realized 
they must have been thrown up by the water for some 
considerable time. While they talked they suddenly 
heard the sound of heavy blows from somewhere above 
their heads. Then the sounds increased and they heard 
that which it was impossible for them to mistake — 
they knew it too well — the dull roar of blasting opera- 
tions in a mine! 

Alan's eyes were shining. " Did you hear that? " he 
asked excitedly " You know that sound? Haven't 
you heard that dull roar in the pit at Grimland ? " 

Desmond spoke huskily. *' You mean that we 
are — 

" We are immediately below a mine. White men are 
not far away, I am sure. They may be Britishers like 
ourselves — oh, how can we get to them? " 

Wildly they hacked at the roof above them, but the 
sounds they made were puny and little and made no 
impression in the distance. Tired and weary they all 
fell asleep, and when they awoke there was silence 
everywhere. They were suffering terribly from 
hunger; could they have seen themselves they would 
have been shocked at their appearance. Pale, 
emaciated, with hollowed eyes and deep furrowed 
cheeks, they looked almost like old men, instead of 
youths still in the glory of their manhood. 

They fell into^ a stupor, and hardly roused themselves, 
so weak and tired were they, when all at once there 
came upon their ears a mighty explosion which shook 
the place they were in and sent stones and rocks hurt- 
ling all about them in the darkness. Then came a 
rumbling deep and terrible. 

" It's all right " whispered Alan " They are only 
blasting again " But neither Desmond nor Jez-Riah 
answered him. Weak and hungry they lay inert and 
senseless upon the ground. The throbbing overhead 
began again, and^ Alan alone in his agony beat at the 
roof with his hands, but realizing his weakness fell on 
the ground beside his cousin and gave vent to dry, hard 
sobs. 



132 THE PERFECT WORLD 

He listened to his cousin babbling meaninglessly in 
the throes of fever, and he heard the pitiful cry of the 
purple woman as she asked for water to moisten her 

E arched mouth. Then he too gave way. Strong and 
rave he had been through all their privations, but he 
cried and chattered insanely to the figures he conjured 
up in the darkness. Death was hovering near them; 
the Black Angel was standing by them, and the Reaper 
had his scythe in his hand only waiting for the oppor- 
tunity that he hoped would come, and that would enable 
him to cut down three more sheaves for his well stocked 
granary. 

" I can't think where the water comes from, Mr. 
Vermont. There must be a hidden spring somewhere. 
Can I have the pumps going and make preparations 
for an excavation? " 

" Certainly, Mennell, when you like " and William 
Mennell, foreman of the Westpoint Gold Mines in 
Walla Balla, Australia, started his preparations. 

The part of the mine he was working on at the 
moment was overrun with water, which made the work- 
ing very difficult, and was causing a great deal of 
anxiety about the ultimate safety of the mine. The 
pumps were made ready, a shaft was sunk, and they 
began to work. 

" The trouble is there, sir " said he, indicating the 
ground under his foot " I'll have it all up to-morrow " 
By six the next morning the men were hard at work, 
and merrily they shovelled the earth aside, cracking 
jokes meanwhile. Suddenly one of the men lurched 
forward and gave a cry as he threw himself backward 
on the ground behind him. 

" What's up, Bill? Tea too strong this morning? " 

" Take care " he shouted " There's a landslip or 
something. My spade went right through. There's a 
hole there " 

Carefully they examined the place, and found that the 
ground was not solid beneath, but below yawned a 
pitch dark cavern. 

"Where is Mr. Mennell? What had we better 
do? " 



THE ESCAPE 133 



Mennell came up. "Got a lantern, boys?" he 
asked " Let's see how deep it is " They tied a 
miner's lantern on to the end of a red neckerchief and 
let It down. " H'm, only about eight feet— during 
the blastmg the land must have slipped. My God " 
he shouted. "Ropes! Ladders I I'm goin;^ 
down " ^ * 

Wliat's wrong? " asked Ferrers, one of his pals 
" You look as if you have seen a ghost " 

Mennell wiped the sweat off his forehead. " Look 
down there, p'errers " said he hoarsely " Can you 
see anything? " 

Ferrers took hold of the lantern and peered down into 
the blackness. Then suddenly he stood up and looked 
closely mto Mennell's face. " There is something 
there " said he in an awe-struck voice " Something 
that looks like men " 

" You saw too ? " 

" Aye, William " 

" Then it was no ghost " 

Down the rope ladder went Mennell, followed by 
Ferrers. They bent over the inanimate forms of Alan 
and Desmond Forsyth and gently carried them up into 
the mine. 

" What's that? " Ferrers pointed to a far corner 
of the cave. 

It s a woman 

Tenderly also was Jez-Riah carried up the swaying 
ladder. The miners were all speechless. How was it 
possible for three human beings to have got into such 
a position ? 

Reverently they were carried to the office at the 
bottom of the shaft where jthe manager was busy 
writing. Mennell told him what had happened, and 
the boys were laid side by side upon the floor. But 
when they looked at Jez-Riah they could not repress a 
shudder. She looked almost inhuman with her purple 
skin and protruding horn. They overcame their repug- 
nance, however, and forced brandy between her parched 
lips. 

Desmond opened his eyes first. " Is this Marsh- 
fielden? " he asked. 



134 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" It's all righl " said Mr. Travers, Ihe manager, 
kindly, and he offered him some more of the 
stimulant. 

" Then I am alive? " He touched Mr. Travers' 
hand " God, I am among white people at last " and 
he fell back again unconscious. 

" The doc's above " said a man. " I've been on the 
'phone. Beds are all prepared for them " 

So the two boys, wrapped in miners' coats, were 
carried out into the sunlight once again. Alan, how- 
ever, did not recover consciousness at all. He was 
worn out from hunger, fatigue and worry. Always 
the one to have a comforting word to cheer his com- 
panions, this last experience had been too much for him 
and he lay so still and quiet and cold, they feared it 
would be impossible to save him. And Jez-Riah ? She 
had come to her senses and had called for Alan but the 
miners did not understand her, and drew away from 
her in fear. 

" What shall we do with — it — her? " asked Mennell 
at last. 

" Take her above and put her in Dr. Mackintosh's 
care " said Mr. Travers kindly. 

" Right, sir " 

The day was perfect, the sun shining brightly, the 
sky was blue, a transparent blue, and the birds were 
singing gaily. The warmth of the sun's rays came 
through the coat that was wrapped round Jez-Riah, and 
she struggled to be free of it. The men put her on 
the ground, and she stood, hands outstretched and 
gazed at the sun. 

" Jovah. Har-Barim " she cried, and smiled at the 
brightness all around. 

Suddenly a change came over her features and she 
stepped out on to a grassy patch. A crowd of men 
watched her, and their expressions showed horror and 
intense fear. There was perfect silence for a moment, 
and suddenly a voice cried out in tones so hoarse as to 
be unrecognizable, " My God " and a man turned and 
fled. All the rest of the miners followed him, their 
faces white and strained, and little work was done that 
day at the mine. 



THE ESCAPE 135 

And in a little saloon near by, half the men were 
drinking deeply, drinking to forget the horror they had 
just witnessed; and they laughed brazenly and made 
coarse jests in their fear, but not one of them spoke to 
the other of what he had Seen, 



BOOK III 

EXIT THE WORLD 
(After the War) 



CHAPTER I 



AT WALLA BALLA 

Nurse Mavis Wylton looked after her patients cheer- 
fully; she was glad of something to do. Life had been 
very dull in the little township and although the advent 
of the two Englishmen had made her unaccountably 
homesick, it had done a great deal toward breaking the 
monotony. 

In the firs! year of the Great War she had taken up 
nursing, had tended the suffering on the muddy battle- 
fields of Fjanders, had seen service under the scorching 
sun of Salonica, had continued her labours in Malta, 
Gibraltar and Egypt. She was in Cairo when the 
Armistice was signed, and applied for a pos! in 
Australia at the conclusion of the War. 

An orphan, she had no ties in the dear old Mother 
Country; her only brother was sleeping in the company 
of thousands of others in the battle-scarred region of 
Ypres. She was interested in her two patients — they 
had come from the mine in an unaccountable manner : 
she heard the story of the strange woman who had 
accompanied them and only half believed it — it sounded 
so very improbable. How could it be true ? What 
was it Mr. Travers had said ? She remembered his 
exact words. 

" Nurse, it was horrible " he told her " As we 
watched, it — the woman's face — seemed to dry up and 
wrinkle until it looked like parchment. The out- 
stretched arms grew thin and bony; the body trembled 
violently and crumpled up and fell to the ground, — and 
when I went closer all trace of the woman had vanished 
and there was only a little patch of brown dust on the 

139 



140 THE PERFECT WORLD 

ground and a little purple package that she had been 
wearing fastened to her back " The nurse could 
hardly believe anything so horrible, so uncanny. Yes, 
poor Jez-Riah had had her wish. She had seen the 
sun, had drunk in God's pure air. But the atmosphere 
was too rare, and she had died. Died? Nay, withered 
up, and returned to the dust from which she had 
sprung, and nothing remained of the strange, under- 
world creature, but a little powdery matter that was 
blown away to the four winds of the heaven she had 
just existed to see. 

Both Alan and Desmond lay in a semi-comatose con- 
dition for many days. Their hardships had been so 
great, their experiences so terrible, that it was marvel- 
lous that they had returned sane to the upper world. 
As it was, both suffered from brain fever, and were 
now being nursed back to health and strength. The 
crisis over, both boys were on the high road to conva- 
lescence. Side by side in little narrow beds they lay, 
and gradually the knowledge of their adventures came 
back to them,. 

Mavis had just entered the room one day when Alan 
broke the silence. " Nurse, what day is it? " 

" Tuesday " 

" What month, Nurse? " 

" It's Tuesday the twenty-fourth of June " 

" Midsummer day? " 

" Yes " she smiled " Now you mustn't ask a lot 
of questions, but I'll tell you this — both you and your 
friend—" 

*' My cousin " corrected Alan. 

" Well, you and your cousin have been very ill. 
You were brought here four weeks ago and at first we 
despaired of your lives. You are both much better 
now, and we hope to have you up very soon. Now 
don't talk any more — " 

" Nurse " he pleaded " Just one more question " 
He pondered a minute " It was June at Marshfielden 
when — Why it must be 1915! " he finished quickly. 
Nurse Wylton frowned. Was this a new form of 
delirium ? 

" Now don't ask questions — " 



AT WALLA BALLA 141 

" Nurse, Nurse — I must know! We've been away 
a long- time. If this is June, then it must be 191 5 " 

" We are a long way past 191 5," said the nurse 
quietly. " This is June, 1920. You must have mis- 
taken the date " 

Alan looked at her in blank amazement. " 1920 " 
he muttered " Desmond " — hoarsely — " did you hear 
that? " 

" Now don't talk any more " commanded the nurse 
— and she drew the green blinds across the window, 
and shut out the brilliant sunlight. 

As soon as she had gone, Desmond spoke. " Six 
years in that Hell ! I can't realize it. Over six years 
cut right out of our lives! " 

" I don't know how we are to explain our presence 
in the mine " said Alan thoughtfully " I don't think 
it will be altogether wise to tell our whole story. I'd 
rather Uncle John knew first. He would, perhaps, get 
old Sir Christopher Somerville to organize an expedi- 
tion to 'Kalvar " 

" Yes " said Desmond " a properly equipped explor- 
ing party would find it comparatively easy to prove the 
truth of our story. Why we have made one of the 
biggest racial discoveries of the century. Historically 
and scientifically we shall have benefited the whole world 
by our experience " 

" Poor Jez-Riah " said Alan suddenly " What an 
end! " 

The first day the boys were coherent, they had asked 
about their little purple companion, and it was Nurse 
Wylton who had broken the news of her " death." 
The boys had taken it very quietly — and the nurse was 
unable to form any ideas on the relation she bore to 
them. But they really felt towards her as they would 
have done to a domestic animal. They scarcely realized 
she was human. 

In fits and starts the cousins recounted their 
adventures to each other — even yet they could scarcelv 
realize they had come through safely. Daily they both 
grew stronger, and the marks of privation and suffer- 
ing which had so disfigured their features were nearly 
wiped away. They were afraid to cable old Sir John 



142 THE PERFECT WORLD 

and tell him of their miraculous escape, " We must 
break the news gently to him — for he has mourned us 
both, and it may be too much of a shock for him to 
learn we are both alive and in Australia " said 
Alan. 

Desmond chuckled. " Australia I Fancy coming 
out at the other end of the world! It's almost like a 
fairy story, isn't it ? Do you remember we wondered 
where we should eventually land? " 

Nurse Mavis entered — her arms full of flowers. 
" Now " said she briskly " There's too much talking 
going on. I am sure you will both overtax your 
strength. Besides I have a visitor for you this 
afternoon " 

" A visitor? " echoed both boys. 

" Yes, Mr. Travers, the Mine Manager, is very 
anxious to see you, and he wants to return you your 
property " 

" What property? '* 

" Some packages you had when you — came — in 
Walla Balla " 

The boys looked at each other blankly. Tliey had 
entirely forgotten the papyrus and censer and jewels 
they had brought from the Tomb of Korah. They had 
been worrying about their financial position, and now, 
if the jewels proved to be real, they could raise enough 
money and to spare for their expenses and their fares 
back to England. 

" Mr. Travers will be here in about half an hour " 
went on the nurse " Do you feel well enough to be 
wheeled out in chairs to the garden? " 

" Please " said Desmond "I'm sick of this room " 
But they felt very weak as they walked across the 
corridor to where the bath chairs were awaiting them 
with many comfortable cushions and rugs. 

One of the under nurses wheeled Alan out first, and 
as Mavis tucked the rugs round Desmond, he whispered 
" Wheel me once round the garden first, Nurse " 

The hazel eyes smiled down at the blue ones, and a 
touch of colour came into the nurse's pretty cheeks. 
Of the two strangers, Desmond was her favourite. 
He reminded her of her brother — in many ways he was 



AT WALLA BALLA 143 

so helpless, and she mothered him and cared for him, 
until love had overtaken her unawares. 

She wheeled him along the grassy paths, and he asked 
her to stop and pick him a rose, but when she offered it, 
he saw only the roses in her cheeks — smelt only the 
perfume of her hair. 

" Mavis, Mavis " he whispered " will you come back 
to England with us — with me — when we go ? It seems 
too soon to speak — I'm an old crock — old before my 
time — but you have brought me back to life and hope. 
I can't tell you what we have been through, Alan and 
I. Some day you shall know the whole story. Mean- 
while may I hope ? I love you with my whole soul. 
Come back to England with me as my wife! " 

The hazel eyes grew tender as Mavis bent over the 
chair and smoothed the thin hand that lay on the cover- 
let. "I do care " she whispered tremulously " I 
have grown to care a great deal — but are you sure ? I 
know so little of you both. I realize you have been 
through some terrible experiences. I won't question 
you, I will trust you, but isn't it wiser to wait ? Wait 
until you are stronger. Perhaps in England there was 
a girl once " the pretty lips trembled " a girl you once 
cared for. She may be waiting still — but you have been 
ill, and have forgotten " 

" No " said Desmond firmly " There has never been 
a woman in my life. I swear it — never " Suddenly as 
he spoke there came before his eyes the picture of a 
purple woman leaping into the flames — Kaweeka. 
" My God I " he cried " listen,^ Mavis I I'm not 
worthy of you. One day I will tell you everything. It 
is true there was a woman once — " Mavis stifled a cry 
" Listen. She wasn't a woman of this world, but like 
Jez-Riah, the woman who was with us when we came 
here. I did not love her — I think I loathed her, but she 
was like a siren. She exercised an unholy power over 
me. Mavis — she asked me to marry her " 

" Did you? " in a whisper. 

A flush of shame came over the white face. " Yes, 
Mavis " hoarsely " For weeks I lived in her house — 
until my cousin found me. When he appeared she did 
her best to \!voo him also. She cast me aside, but he 



144 THE PERFECT WORLD 

was strong where I had been weak. No overture she 
made was strong enough to tempt him. He it was 
who brought me to my senses and saved me from ever- 
lasting shame " 

" You loved her? " 

" No! A thousand times no! Mavis — it's difficult 
to explain. Our whole story is\ so improbable, so 
fantastic, that without certain undeniable proofs which 
we hold, it would be considered as the phantasy of a 
disordered brain. This woman was nothing to me 
really; when we were together I loathed and hated her 
— almost feared her, but I was clay in her hands. It 
was a difficult situation — at that time I did not under- 
stand her language or the ways of her people. Oh, 
how can I make you understand ! She wanted me as 
a new kind of toy. She knew nothing of morality 
or life as we know it. Her power was almost 
mesmeric " 

" Is she living still? " 

" No. She died — oh years ago " passing his hand 
wearily across his brow " I am sorry, Mavis. I had 
forgotten. I had no right to speak to you, but all 
recollection of Kaweeka had faded from my mind until 
you spoke of another woman. Will you forget what 1 
said? I beg of you, don't despise me too much " 

" Dear — I hardly know what to say. I forgive you 
freely. I nursed you back to life, Desmond. I devoted 
my whole time to you. While Matron and Nurse Fan- 
shaw attended to your cousin, I watched over you. 
You grew dear to me. I wanted to see your eyes look 
at me with recognition in them. I — I — wanted you to 
— to like me — a little. Then when you first became 
convalescent I loved to talk to you. Dear, T can forget 
the past. Life since 1914 has changed. Women have 
changed. We are no longer the narrow minded stay- 
at-homes we were before the War " 

" The War? " asked Desmond wonderingly. 

" Yes, the Great War. The war with Germany " 
He looked puzzled, but asked no questions, only lay 
back with his eyes closed, thinking. " We understand 
the temptations of sex " she went on " and can for- 
give. You asked me just now to marry you. I'll 



AT WALLA BALLA 145 

marry you most gladly whenever you like, and I'll do 
my best to make you forget your terrible experiences. 
Wait — " as Desmond would have spoken " I'll ask no 
questions. When the time is ripe you can tell me all. 
Meanwhile I'll be content to love and trust " There 
was no one in sight; a tall hedge on either side of the 
garden walk gave them shelter. 

" Kiss me, Mavis " said Desmond hoarsely " Oh 
my darling, how I love you " And so the old, old 
story was told once more. 

"Nurse Wylton I Nurse WyltonI" Matron's 
voice was calling and it was a rosy cheeked nurse who 
answered. 

" Nurse, wherever have you been? Mr. Travers has 
been waiting over half an hour to see the patients " 

Half an hour ! Mavis offered no excuse — indeed she 
had none, and she wheeled her charge to Alan's side. 
As she turned away to fetch Mr. Travers, she heard 
Alan say petulantly " Wherever have you been all this 
time, Dez ? " but she didn't catch Desmond's reply. 
If she had it would have set her thinking, for he said 
in an awe-struck tone " Lanny, old boy, do you know 
there has been a war — a war with Germany ? And 
we've missed it, old chap, we've missed it " 

Mr. Travers was a genial soul and loved by all the 
miners. He came forward and greeted the boys 
cheerily. 

" Well, I'm glad to hear you are both better. A 
nice fright you gave every one to be sure. We 
wondered at first how you had got into such a 
position " He laughed heartily at the recollection. 

" However, the explanation was quite simple after 
all, wasn't it? " 

The cousins looked at one another with questioning 
eyes. In their opinion the explanation could hardly 
be called simple! Mr. Travers, however, went on. 

After you had been rescued, Mennell, our foreman, 
gave orders for the men to cease work at that point. 
He wanted investigations to be made, after consulting 
me. The following day. however, we found the cave 
had filled with water, and the pumps were kept very- 
busy, I can tell you. Then part of the flooring caved 



14G THE PERFECT WORLD 

in, and the walls gave way. Oh, it was a horrid 
mess ! However, it was eventually cleared away, 
and we discovered the subterranean passage. Very 
ingenious indeed " And he rubbed his hands together. 
The boys were frankly puzzled. 

" When did you leave Karragua? " asked Mr. 
Travers suddenly. 

" Karragua? " asked Alan. 

" Yes, Karragua " 

Desmond opened his mouth as if about to speak, but 
Alan was the first to recover his wits. 

" Before we tell you our story, won't you tell us 
what you discovered? " he asked shrewdly. 

" Certainly, my friend. I suppose it was some bet 
you had on? " 

" Something of the sort " agreed Alan, now wholly 
puzzled. 

" I thought so. I knew I was right. I shall take a 
bottle of rum off Old Man Paterson now. I told him 
it was the result of some freakish wager — he would have 
it you had discovered it by accident " 

" Do go on " urged Alan. The situation was becom- 
ing desperate. Neither of the boys had the slightest 
idea of what Mr. Travers was talking about. 

Well " continued the cheery manager " you may 
be sure it took some time to clear away the debris after 
the cave-in. When it was clear we saw a passage lead- 
ing out of it, and followed it about a mile, when it 
became choked up; and as we had made no prepara- 
tions we returned and decided to continue our investiga- 
tions another day " 

" Well? " from both boys. 

" It was a Thursday. John Cornlake, Bill Watson 
and one or two other good, all round pick hands came 
with Mennell and me. It was a long road — two and 
three quarter miles by our pedometer — pitch dark, as 
you know. Suddenly we saw a speck of blue in the 
distance. We moved the boulder aside — how cleverly 
it is hidden among the rocks and undergrowth ! and 
we realized at once it was the exit of 'Red Mark's 
Tunnel ' " 
Neither of the boys spoke — they saw the humour of 



AT WALLA BALLA 147 

the situation, but were afraid lest by a word they might 
give themselves away. 

" It must be a hundred and twenty years since it wa3 
used. How did you come to discover it? " 

" A fellow told us about it " said Alan vaguely after 
the fraction of a pause, and Mr. Travers was content. 

" Of course when the shaft of our mine was sunk, 
the workmen searched for the entrance to the tunnel, 
but it was never discovered, and I don't suppose it ever 
would have been except by a lucky accident. I suppose 
you were unable to find your way back to Karragua — 
was that it? You were in a pretty bad condition wnen 
you were found. We have already informed the 
government of the discovery " he went on " and agents 
have been sent down to inspect it. We are not sure 
what the result will be. Every one in Walla Balla 
wants to have it opened up as a sort of showplace. It 
would certainly do the township an immense amount 
of good. Red Mark and his fellow convicts who 
escaped through it have certainly left a wonderful 
monument behind them " 

So! It flashed on Alan's mind at once. In some 
miraculous way the entrance to the passage by which 
they had come from Korah's tomb was again blocked 
up. Their secret was still their own, but a subterranean 
passage made by early eighteenth century convicts had 
been unearthed instead. 

" Did Red Mark dig the passage himself? " asked 
Alan. 

" The story goes that Red Mark and a fellow convict 
escaped and commenced a passage. Walla Balla was a 
large farm estate at that time, and was employing- nearlv 
sixty convicts. Escape was almost impossible, the place 
was so well guarded, and such brutal treatment was 
inflicted on those that attempted to escape that few 
tried. Red Mark and his companion were lucky, how- 
ever, and they managed to elude the bloodhounds. 
Their friends helped them with food. Feverishly they 
worked at the tunnel. It was their plan to burrow to 
the sea. It took them several years to complete it, 
but they accomplished their stupendous task at last. 
The night it was finished fifty convicts vanished. They 



148 THE PERFECT WORLD 

had ransacked the larders and had taken plenty of food 
with them. Those that were left talked vaguely about 
having: heard of a subterranean passap^e, but it was 
never found — at least not until now. Those convicts 
were never seen ag^ain. But at Karragua Creek a small 
sailing craft disappeared, and on it doubtless went Red 
Mark and his friends. But of course you've heard 
the story before. How did you find the place — by 
accident ? And then I suppose you wagered you'd find 
your way through to the other end " 

Alan smiled. Mr. Travers was extremely helpful. 
He talked so much himself that he gave no one else 
the chance of speaking, and he considerately answered 
all the questions that he put to the boys — himself. 

" Yes " said Desmond, who had taken his cue from 
his cousin " We told a friend about it, who wagered 
us one thousand pounds we would find our way 
through. Unfortunately our lanterns went out, we 
lost our way, we had no food and — " 

" And I suppose you were a week or more in that 
cave — hungry and worn out? " finished Mr. Travers 
helpfully " Now I've brought you your property 
back " and he handed them the packages they had 
brought from the Tomb of Korah " Oh you might 
give me an official receipt for them " and he handed 
the boys a paper for them to sign " By the way " he 
continued, as he put the receipt away " that woman " 
His genial face grew solemn " What was it — ? Was 
it some — some joke you had prepared, or was it — " 

" I can't explain yet " said Alan shortly " We are 
going home to England where we have a very strange 
story to tell. I cannot explain the phenomenon you 
saw, but I may have to call upon you to repeat the storv 
of her death. I suppose I may use your name? " 

" By all means. I shall be only too pleased to assist 
you voung gentlemen in every way I can, but I shall be 
glad to hear about that woman — it was damned strange. 
By the wav, I sealed your parcels with our office seal. 
I should like you to examine them to see they are 
intact " 

" We won't bother pow, Mr. Travers. thank vou. 
We have absolute confidence in you, By the way " he 



AT WALLA BALLA 149 

added, as if in afterthought " could you put me in touch 
with any one who would buy one or two unset gems ? 
I have some with me, and am anxious to convert them 
into cash for our immediate use " 

" That's easily done " said Mr. Travers " Our 
general manager is connected with Messrs. Frimpton, 
Long and Beauchamp of Melbourne. They are, I 
think, the biggest dealers in gold and precious stones 
in Australia. I will get an introduction for you " 

" Thanks very much " 

" Don't mention it. Now I think I have stayed quite 
long enough for a first visit. Good-bye, Mr. Forsyth. 
Good-bye, Mr. Desmond. Take care of yourselves, 
and don't get over tired " and the kindly man left them. 

" We got out of that pretty easily, thanks to you " 
said Desmond as they saw him disappear down a bend in 
the garden " I couldn't think what he was driving at " 

" It's extremely lucky the way to Korah's tomb has 
been hidden again. That heavy fall of rock and earth did 
us a good turn " Alan remained silent a few minutes, 
and looked at his cousin quizzically. Then quietly — 

" Haven't you anything to tell me? " 

" What do you mean? " 

" Oh my dear chap — don't think I am merely 
inquisitive, but we've been like brothers all our lives. 
I've watched our pretty nurse; I've watched you too. 
Have you spoken? " 

" Yes. My God, Alan I I'm not worthy. Think 
— Kaweeka — " 

" That is past. It's no good worrying over what is 
done. You were not responsible down there, alone, in 
that Hell. Have you told Mavis about it? " 

" I've tried to make her understand about Kaweeka 
— but I've told her nothing about our adventures and 
our discoveries " 

" I'm glad of that. I should like Uncle John to be 
at the first telling of our experiences. I'm glad about 
Mavis for your sake. I like her very much — in fact I 
might say I've grown to be almost fond of her. All 
happiness, old boy " 

" I should like to be married before we start for 
England " 



150 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" Will she agree? " 

" 1 think so " 

" Well I'll be best man. Ah, Mavis "—as she 
appeared — " there is to be no formahty now, you know. 
You are going to marry one of the best, and you've 
got to like me too " 

Mavis bent down and kissed his cheek. "There! 
Alan, see how cousinly 1 can be " said she laughingly 
" Now it's time you both went to bed — you've been 
up quite long enough for one day " 

That night before the lights were extinguished she 
told them the story of the Great War. " Where have 
you been? " she asked in bewilderment " Why every 
one in the world knows of it. It's been horrible — 
terrible; white fighting against white; white employing 
black to help them. Every nation in the world suffered 
in one way or another " 

" I know it sounds improbable, dear, but neither 
Alan nor I knew the long talked of war with Germany 
had really come to pass until you spoke of it to-day. 
Don't ask any questions — just trust me " 

" It's all very mysterious and strange " said she 
ruefully " But I will possess my soul in patience " 

As soon as he was able, Alan sent one magnificent 
diamond and half a dozen emeralds to Messrs. Frimpton, 
Long and Beauchamp and received in return banknotes 
to the value of five thousand pounds. The boys had 
also chosen some diamonds for Mavis, and had had 
them set into an engagement ring for the woman 
Desmond loved. 

Already they were well enough to leave the hospital, 
but as Walla Balla vvas only a very small mining town- 
ship, there was no accommodation for visitors, so the 
cousins remained at the hospital as paying guests. 

One day, late in July, a very pretty wedding took 
place. The bride was dressed in her nurse's uniform 
and the bridegroom and best man were arrayed in un- 
conventional white duck. The ceremony was per- 
formed by the local clergyman, and there was a big 
spread afterwards at the hospital, to which everybody 
in the township had been invited. 

Alan felt rather sad as he stood waiting on the plat- 



AT WALLA BALLA 151 

form for the train to come in that would carry off the 
happy pair to their honeymoon. No woman had ever 
entered his hfe. His great ideal was a dream still; and 
he wondered if the time had passed for her ever to 
materialize. 

" You'll arrange for everything, won't you? " said 
Desmond. 

" Rather. Now don't worry. The boat leaves 
Sydney at noon on the seventh of next months — eleven 
days from now. It's the Clan Ronald. I'll book your 
berths and await you there " 

" Good-bye " 

" Good-bye " 

Their farewells were said, and Alan was left alone. 
He stayed a few days longer at Walla Balla among the 
friends he had made, and then travelled by easy stages 
to Sydney. The country was very beautiful but he 
longed to get home. He longed to see the smoky 
chimneys of London, the bustling streets, to hear again 
the noisy traffic, and at last to enjoy the truly rural 
beauty of the English lanes and woods. He longed to 
see his uncle. Was he still alive? he wondered. He 
was afraid to cable; he was afraid to write. Suddenly 
an idea came into his head and he wondered why he 
had not thought of it before. He would write to his 
uncle's confidential clerk and friend — Masters. He 
could trust him to break the news gently. 

" Hotel Majestic, 
" Sydney. 
" Dear Masters {he wrote) 

" You'll be surprised to hear from one whom 
you no doubt have long mourned as dead. 
Don't be afraid — it is no ghost who is zvriting 
you, but a living man. I cannot explain every- 
thing in this letter, but I am catching the next 
boat home, and I zvill telegraph on reaching 
Plymouth the exact time we expect to arrive in 
London. Yes — it's ' we,' Masters, for I have 
found my cousin Desmond. It all sounds 
mldly impossible I know, and I am writing you 



152 THE PERFECT WORLD 

that you may break the news to my uncle that 
we still live. Tell him we are longing to see 
him. Tell him Desmond has found a wife and 
is bringing her home. I can say no more — my 
hand is trembling with excitement as I write. 
We have seen strange things, been to many 
strange places since we left Marshfielden, but 
impress upon Sir John, that had we been able 
to communicate with him we should have 
done so. 

" With our renewed wishes to Sir John and 
yourself, 

" Yours very sincerely, 

" Alan Forsyth." 

" There I I think that will meet the case " and Alan 
fastened up the letter and posted it. 

The seventh at last I All the luggage was on board ; 
Desmond and his wife drove up radiantly happy to the 
quay and waved excitedly as they saw Alan leaning 
over the bulwarks. The bell clanged, the sailors gave 
vent to their sonorous cry, "All ashore I All 
ashore I " The siren sounded. Gradually the great 
vessel glided away; the smoke belched out in volumes 
from her funnels; the landing stage grew smaller and 
smaller until it was out of sight altogether. The vessel 
had started on her journey to England. 

That night after dinner, when Mavis had gone to 
her state-room, the two cousins had a heart to heart 
talk in the moonlight. 

It seems impossible we are really going home af 
last " said Desmond " I feel like a child again. I 
have so much to learn. When we disappeared aero- 
planes were only beginning to be used — now they are 
almost perfect, and are vehicles of every day use. The 
whole world seems to have progressed a century in 
these last few years " 

" There certainly is a great deal for us to learn " 
agreed Alan " but we must leave it to Uncle John. 
He will put us right about everything " 

" I wonder how he has progressed with his airship '* 



AT WALLA BALLA 153 

said Desmond after a pause " We used to laugh at 
the dear old chap; he has the laugh on us now " 

" He always said that the future of commerce was in 
the air " 

"Have you the papyrus safe?" asked Desmond 
suddenly. 

Alan laughed. " Rather I Or at least the Purser 
has. I bought a strong deed box in Sydney and packed 
everything in it; here's the key. When next we open 
it, please God, it will be in the presence of Uncle John " 

Alan looked sadly at the scene in front of him. A 
brilliant moon had risen and was sending its beams 
across the phosphorescent waters. The air was sweet 
and balmy — the Southern Cross was discernible and the 
whole scene was like a wonderful painting. The chud- 
chud of the engines and the swish of the water was the 
only sound to be heard. Somehow, Alan felt very much 
alone that night. Desmond, his childish playmate, his 
boyhood's chum, and later his companion in adventure, 
seemed lost to him. He had married a wife. That 
was the trouble in a nut-shell. Things would never be 
the same again. He was fond of Mavis — she was a 
dear girl, and would be a splendid wife for his cousin — 

" (jood night, old chap " said he huskily " I'm 
tired. I'm going to bed. I've been keeping you too 
long from Mavis " 

" Good night, Alan. I think I will turn in now. I 
shall tumble to sleep as soon as my head touches the 
pillow " he added boyishly. 

" Good night " 

But it was early morning before Alan went lo sleep. 
He wondered what the future had in store for him. 
Would it prove as adventurous as the past? Or would 
he remain a lonely old bachelor, a wanderer on the face 
of the earth? No fixed home of his own — a favourite 
uncle, perhaps, to Desmond's sons. Yes, he was 
getting morbid. He was still young, barely thirty and 
had his life before him. Somewhere, perhaps, a mate 
was waiting for him. Somewhere, some time he would 
find his ideal, — and then — 

The clock struck five; he yawned, turned over and 
fell asleep. 



CHAPTER II 



HOME AGAIN 

In a lovely part of Perthshire, deep in a valley among 
the mountains, lonely and hard of access, stood a 
curious building. Any one with a knowledge of 
aeronautics would have recognized it as a hangar for 
an airship. A narrow track led from it to a tiny 
cottage in which lived three men — Sir John Forsyth, 
Abel Masters and Hector Murdoch, the latter a trusty 
and faithful mechanic. Shortly after Alan's supposed 
death, Sir John gave up everything to the last 
remaining object of his life — the completion and 
success of his giant airship. He had grown very 
secretive about it. He had it dismantled and taken to 
pieces, and in pieces it was sent to Scotland to await 
further experiments. A hangar had been built, the 
workmen had gone — and then the 'three men set to 
work to build up the " Argenta " once again. Sir 
John had disposed of his interest in the Marshfielden 
collieries, and his London offices had been taken over 
by the new owners, hence he had no tie to keep him 
in the great metropolis. 

For over five years he had worked, and now success 
had come. The powerful spirit he had perfected as a 
motive power was unexcelled and on the morrow they 
were going for their first trial flight in the great 
machine. 

Sir John rubbed his hand affectionately over the 
shimmering metal. It meant everything to him since 
his nephews had gone. 

" It's beautiful. Masters! " said he, and there was 
a note of triumph in his voice " It's perfect " 

154 



HOME AGAIN 155 



" Yes, sir. Three hundred miles an hour we ought 
to do comfortably, that is the minimum, and from four 
hundred and fifty to five hundred at express speed " 

" You've worked with me very faithfully, Masters. 
It was good of you to pander to the whim of an old 
man, and bury yourself up here " 

" I was only too glad to come, Sir John " answered 
Masters. " For forty-five years I worked in your 
office— your father's it was then, sir. I was the first 
to congratulate him after Victoria, God bless her, had 
made him a baronet. For over twenty years I was 
your confidential servant — " 

"Friend! Masters, friend! " gently corrected Sir 
John. 

" Well, friend, if I may say so. I was always 
interested in electricity and mechanics, and when you 
started experimenting, it was me you asked to help 
you. I have never forgotten that. Sir John, and now 
I am proud to have been the one to see the work of 
years rewarded by such success " 

Where is Hector this morning? " 

" He has motored to Arroch Head for the letters " 

]' Is it the day? " 

" Yes, Sir John, it's Friday " 

" Ah, of course, so it is " 

Since Sir John had been living at Dalmyrnie, no 
one had his address except the Poste Restante at 
Arroch Head — the nearest village fourteen miles away. 
No persuasion was strong enough to make him reveal 
his hiding place. He seemed to live in dread of his 
secret being snatched from him. No precaution was 
too great to take to prevent such a catastrophe. 

" Lunch is ready, Sir John " came a voice from 
behind him. It was Hector who had returned. The 
three men all had meals together in the little 
honeysuckle-covered cottage that had once been a 
gamekeeper's. There was no ceremony — they were all 
workers together. 

The leather Post Office bag was on the table, and 
Sir John unlocked it with the key that hung so 
prominently on the wall. 

" What a budget " said he testily " Why do people 



156 THE PERFECT WORLD 

bother me ? " He began to sort the letters " One 
from Freemantle and Goddard — their account, I 
suppose. That's from Armstrong's with their invoice 
for those aluminium screws. A wire for you " tossing 
the little orange envelope across to Masters. 

Masters picked it up gingerly. " Who ever can it 
be from? Oh " as he read it " I don't understand it 
I think it must be meant for you, sir " 

Sir John looked up. " Why? " he asked. 

" It was handed in at noon yesterday at Plymouth. 
It was redirected on from the old London offices. It 
says ' Landed quite safely. Leaving Plymouth this 
morning. Arrive Paddington 5 : 20. Will come 
straight to you. Forsyth ' ' 

" Forsyth! " repeated Sir John. " Who on earth 
can it be? And if it's for me, why did they address 
it to you? " 

" I don't understand it at all, sir " said Masters 
" Haven't you a cousin — Dr. Forsyth who went to 
Canada some years ago? " 

"Yes, yes! Malcolm Forsyth! Of course, of 
course. Well, I can't see him. I won't see him. I 
don't want to see anyone. But why did he wire you, 
Masters? He didn't even know your name " 

" I can't understand it at all, Sir John " then his 
face brightened " unless the clerk who redirected it 
put my name on by mistake " 

" Ah, perhaps that was it. Oh well, never mind " 
said Sir John testily " You must write and say I 
can't see him. Here's a letter for you, too " he 
went on. 

" I expect it's from the Stores " said Masters " I 
have been expectmg their list of concentrated foods 
with the highest caloric value. We want them in our 
flights " 

He opened the letter casually. " My God! " he 
cried and it dropped from his nerveless fingers. 

" For Heaven's sake control yourself " said Sir 
John sharply. Now his airship was complete, his 
nerves were all on edge waiting for the trial. " What 
is it? What is it? " 

" I'm sorry " said Masters penitently " but I've had 



HOME AGAIN 157 

a shock. I've heard from some one I thought was 
dead years ago " 

Sir John showed Httle interest. " Well let us now 
get on with lunch " was all he said. 

" I don't think I'll have any if you don't mind " 
said Masters. " I must go into Arroch Head at once 
and send a telegram. I may have the car I suppose? " 

" Why, of course, but do have your meal first " 

" No — no I can't wait. I must go at once " 

Masters had had a shock. He had received Alan's 
letter from Svdney, and the meaning of the telegram 
was clear. Alan and Desmond were safe and had 
arrived in England. He must wire them at once, and 
give them Sir John's address. He scarcely knew how 
to break the news to him, and it worried him as he 
went into the little village. 

" Have you wired your friend? " asked Sir John 
when he got back. 

" Yes " 

" Do vou want to see him — if so you had better take 
a short holiday after the trial " 

" Thank you all the same. Sir John, but I've wired 
them to come to Arroch Head " 

"The devil you have! " roared Sir John. "I 
suppose the next thing will be that you want them to 
come over here and see the Argenta " 

" I was going to suggest it to you " answered 
Masters imperturbably. 

" Have you taken leave of your senses? Show 
my work — the child of my brain to strangers ? 
Never! " 

" They are not quite strangers, Sir John. The fact 
is — " he hesitated, " I told you I had mourned them 
as dead — so have you. Sir John " 

" What? " 

" I have given them your address and — " 

" You've given them my address? " spluttered the 
old gentleman in rage. 

"Yes, Sir John — don't you understand now? I 
told you that you too had mourned them as dead " 

Sir John looked sharply at Masters, and as he gazed 
deep into his eyes he read there the truth. " Alan — 



158 THE PERFECT WORLD 

Desmond " he said hoarsely. Masters nodded his 
head and Sir John sank back into his chair. 

" Alan! " he whispered. " Is it true? " 

" Yes " 

" Don't joke, man, for God's sake! Don't fool 
me ! It can't be true. It's six years since the accident. 
Why the mine has never been in use since — not that 
part " 

" Don't you understand the telegram now, sir? " 
Masters held it out " They have been away, but now 
they are back in England " 

" Was that the letter this morning? " 

"Yes! Read it " 

Sir John was plainly overcome. "I'm sure it's a 
joke " he muttered over and over again " It can't 
be true. The thing's impossible " 

All that day work was at a standstill. Hector alone 
saw to the bodily requirements of the men, and meals 
as usual were served at their proper times. 

" They will be here for the trial " whispered Sir 
John excitedly " Oh my God! " and the old man 
burst into tears. His grief at the loss of his two 
nephews had been so great, his affection for them so 
sincere that he could scarcely realize that in some 
miraculous way they still lived. 

" Will you meet the train? " asked Masters as they 
retired for the night. 

" Yes! Yes! Of course! Take the large car. 
Are you sure everything is ready for them ? You see 
there will be a lady, too. Desmond's wife — my niece " 

" Everything is quite all right. We have made the 
place quite comfortable — we will occupy the two 
rooms there, and that will leave three bedrooms in the 
cottage free. Yours, Mr. Alan's, and the largest, at 
the front, for Mr. Desmond and his wife " 

" Splendid, Masters, splendid " It was a glorious, 
late September mprning when the Scotch express 
steamed in. Alan was out of the train first. 

" Uncle " said he " dear old uncle " 

" My boy — my boy! How are you? Oh, how 
you have changed! Desmond, my boy, welcome 
hornet " 



HOME AGAIN 159 

" This is Mavis, Uncle John " 

Sir John held her by the shoulders and looked into 
her eyes. She could see that suffering had left its 
mark on the old man's face, so she impetuously flung 
her arm round his neck and kissed him. " Uncle 
John " she whispered " I've heard so much about 
you from Desmond and Alan. I've been just longing 
to come home — to you! " 

It was a very merry party that drove home to 
Dalmyrnie. 

" Eat your breakfasts " commanded Uncle John 
" You shall tell me your story afterwards. But have 
a good meal first " After breakfast, they sat in the 
old-world garden, among the trees — Sir John and 
Masters, the two boys and Mavis, and their wonderful 
story was told. 

Desmond began by telling how he was caught by 
the Light, omitting nothing, and Alan concluded the 
story. " Now here is the papyrus and here are the 
jewels and the censer. These, I think, will prove the 
truth of our strange story " 

" And you mean to say there is a race of people 
living in the centre of the Earth? " 

" Yes, indeed, where we have been actually living 
for the past few years " 

" They are actually descended from Korah, Abiram 
and Dathan? " 

" Yes, as I told you, they still speak a patois Hebrew 
— they possess a copy of part of the Pentateuch — they 
worship the God of the old Testament, Jehovah, the 
great 'I am ' " 

" And yet you say they are savage? " 

" I don't think my description can be good, if I 
left you with that impression " said Alan thoughtfully 
" They are not like the black, savage natives of the 
present day. I should say rather, that they still 
possess the savage instincts of our forefathers. The 
sacrifice of living creatures, even humanity, does not 
revolt them. They are impervious to great pain 
themselves, and can watch it in others without flinch- 
ing. The living sacrifices they offered to the Fire must 
have suffered agonies before life was finally extinct 



160 THE PERFECT WORLD 

in them; but to their mind the pain they were inflict- 
ing made the sacrifice still more acceptable to their 
Almighty. They inflicted terrible tortures on their 
Virgin Watchers of the Temple — they were cruel, 
cunning, vile — yet in other ways they were too cultured 
to be called savages. Savage yes, but not savages " 

" I see the difference you mean, my boy. But didn't 
you say they worshipped the Fire? " 

" Yes. It is itself a part of their religion. I don't 
think I ever understood it properly myself. They 
looked on the Fire almost as God himself — not 
a diflFerent God, but just God. Yet at the same time 
they believed that the God of their Fathers exists in 
the Heaven above tne Upper World, It sounds very 
complicated, I am afraid " 

" No, no, my boy. I understand quite well what 
you mean " 

" They beheved they had to offer living sacrifices 
to the Fire to keep it burning. The strangest part of 
their belief is, that when the Fire does die out, then 
will come the consummation of the entire world — not 
only theirs but ours too " 

Then they know of our world? '' 

" Oh yes. Dathan and Abiram left written histories 
about the world they had left — the world they had 
once inhabited " 

" Going back to the Fire " said Sir John " Is it 
large?" 

" Enormous. We never saw it in its entirety. It 
seemed to stretch away into the distance for miles. It 
was walled in with a glass-like substance, and was 
absolutely unlike any fire we had ever seen before. It 
seemed to have no real substance — was all leaping, 
brilliant flames — yet the heart of it seemed solid and 
firm. During our stay we could see that the Fire was 
really growing less and less. Imperceptibly at first, 
but latterly by leaps and bounds " 

" I wonder what ivill happen when the Fire does 
go out " said Desmond thoughtfully " It has existed 
on itself for these thousands of years. The only 
fuel that was ever given it latterly was human or 
animal life. Surely that could hardly feed a Fire " 



HOME AGAIN 161 

" I think some world-wide catastrophe will come 
when the Fire dies out, if ever it does " said Alan. 

" And Jez-Riah just fell to dust " went on Sir John 
slowly. 

" Yes " 

Mavis was very excited. " Why our fortunes are 
made " she cried *' Of course you'll write to the 
papers? " 

" We didn't know what to do " said Alan " Des- 
mond and I talked it over and came to the conclusion 
we would tell Uncle John first and get his advice " 

" No one else knows at all? " 

" No one but us five " 

Masters looked up and gave Alan a grateful look. 
" It was good of you to include me " said he. 

" Why, you are part and parcel of ourselves, 
Masters " laughed Alan " Nothing would be com- 
plete without you " and he shook hands heartily with 
his uncle's trusty friend. 

" We must go back to London " said Sir John at 
last " I will wire Sir Christopher Somerville — he's 
President of the Geographical Research Society you 
know — and Professor Chard of the Geological Society 
to meet us in town. I will put the whole matter before 
them and take their advice. But, my dear boys, I 
can scarcely yet realize I have you back with me 
again " 

" Have you done any more with your Argenta? " 
asked Desmond suddenly. 

Sir John's eyes shone. " Come with me " said he 
and he took them to the hangar " She is complete 
and I think perfect " said he simply. Very beautiful 
indeed looked the Argenta. There was a perfect 
grassy incline leading from the hangar to a large, 
flat field. 

" I shall run her down the slope " he explained 
" and the field in the hollow is splendid for both 
ascending and descending " 

" Have you tried her yet? " 

" No. We were going to try her yesterday, Mr. 
Alan " said Masters " but Sir John postponed it until 
your arrival " 

L 



162 THE PERFECT WORLD 

And vvc must postpone it again, I am afraid " 
said Sir John, rather sadly. 

" Is it necessary, Uncle John? " asked Mavis. 
I think so, my dear. Your story is too wonder- 
ful to keep back a moment longer than is necessary. 
We will go to London to-morrow, and after all 
formalities are done with, will come back, try the 
Argenta, and if she is as I think she is, we will go for 
a long holiday in her " 

" Shall I accompany you? " asked Masters. 

Just as you like " answered Sir John " Come 
with us by all means, or stay with Hector and watch 
over the Argenta " 

" I would rather stay here, sir, if you have no 
objection. I've no ties that take me back to town, 
and I would rather remain by the Argenta " 

Forty-eight hours later Sir John, Alan, and Desmond 
and his wife arrived in London. Sir John had let 
his town house, so they chose a quiet hotel at the 
back of Berkeley Square for their domicile. 

Sir Christopher Somerville and Professor Chard 
kept the appointment made, and once again the boys 
recounted their adventures. "Wonderful! Mar- 
vellous! Miraculous! " the professors kept muttering 
to themselves, as the improbable story was unfolded 
to them, piece by piece. 

" Now " said Sir John, when it was at last told. 
" There are seven people only that have heard this 
story. What do you advise us to do? " 

" I will see the Home Secretary " said Sir 
Christopher at last " This is a Government affair, 
of course. England's to the fore again; lucky they 
found their way out on British territory. The 
question will be brought up in the House — an 
expedition must be formed, and the two young 
gentlemen would probably like to accompany us, and 
help us with their knowledge of the place " 

" Don't go again " cried Mavis, her face blanching 
" Oh you wouldn't take him from me? " 

" Don't be afraid " said Alan kindly " Nothing 
is done yet, and when it is they will be probably quite 
contented with me alone " 



HOME AGAIN 163 

" Would you go again? " eyes wide open in horror. 

" Of course, Mavis, but I'll see that Desmond 
doesn't go " and he laughed cheerily. 

The professors called a general jneeting of their 
associations upon the matter of " THE DISCOVERY 
OF A NEW AND HITHERTO UNSUSPECTED 
PEOPLE " and the two boys came in for a great deal 
of congratulation and applause. Everything was 
settled at last, however; matters were directed through 
the right channel and a statement was brought up in 
the House of Commons. The only point that was not 
made public was the exact place of the entrance to 
Kalvar. That was kept entirely secret — the Home 
Secretary having pledged his word that until the 
necessary arrangements had been made between the 
two Governments, that of the Mother Country, 
together with the Commonwealth of Australia, most 
stringent secrecy should be kept, so that no one could 
possibly know that Walla Balla was the favoured spot. 

All the papers were full of the new discovery. 
Reporters, ordinary newspaper men, big newspaper 
correspondents, all found their way to the little hotel. 
Alan and Desmond Forsyth had become famous ! 
Kings and princes, — commoners and dukes, all vied 
with one another to meet and entertain the two men 
who had had such remarkable experiences. 

At last the expedition was complete and was due 
to sail in a fortnight's time. Meanwhile, Alan, who 
was to accompany it, was to take a fortnight's entire 
rest. Geologists, historians, geographers, all wanted 
representatives sent. Mechanics, electricians and a 
small armed force had to be provided. The Govern- 
ment had already made a large grant to the Mining 
Company at Walla Balla, and had the entire rights for 
excavating a mile each way from the Second Pit. 

The whole expedition was a voluntary one, and 
once again Britain and her Colonies came to the fore 
as the greatest pioneers in the world. 

The golden censer had been offered to the British 
Museum, and had been gratefully accepted. The 
papyrus had been placed in the hands of experts who 
pronounced the document to be genuine. Anti- 



164 THE PERFECT WORLD 

quarians from all parts of the world came to see the 
relics, and the newspapers had paragraphs in them 
every day, relating to the " Kalvar Expedition " 

" Phew! " said Alan one day as he leant back in 
a taxi. " That is the last public speech I shall make 
for months, I hope " He and Desmond had been 
guests of honour at a luncheon given by the Society 
of Antiquarians. " Thank goodness we leave 
to-night for Scotland. To-morrow we shall see the 
Argenta. Nine months since we were there. What 
a lot we have crowded into our lives these last few 
months " 

" I think we've made up for our lost six years " 
laughed Desmond. 

Masters met them at Arroch Head and was frankly 
glad to welcome them back. 

" Nine months since we were here " said Sir John 

You've seen the news in the papers, of course? " 

" Of course, Sir John. The Cavalier sails in a 
fortnight, I believe " 

" Yes " answered Alan " and I am going to take 
fourteen days real rest, and then — well, off to Kalvar 
again, only this time of my own free will " 

The longed-for moment had come ! Hector was in 
the mechanic's seat, while Masters navigated the 
great ship down the grassy slope. Gracefully she 
slid out of the hangar, and down the incline and 
stopped on the level. Sir John was very excited. 
" You are sure you want to test her? " he asked. 
" Remember she has never been up before — you have 
only my word for it that she's safe. Desmond, don't 
you think you had better stay with Mavis, in case — " 

But Mavis interposed. " Nonsense, Uncle John. 
This is the day of my life. Now give me your hand " 
and she gracefully swung herself up the ladder and 
on to the lower deck. Sir John followed suit, and 
they stood side by side, watching the cousins ascend 
the ladder. 

At last ! They were all aboard and the six persons 
entrusted themselves to the aluminium bird that shone 
brightly in the sunshine. They hauled the grappling 
irons in, Masters touched a lever, and they started. 



HOME AGAIN 165 

Slowly they ascended at first — but climbed higher and 
higher, faster and faster until the hangar was lost to 
sight and they saw only broad expanses of country 
below them. 

"Oh! " said Mavis breathlessly "We're off. 
Where are we going? " 

" I want to make a circuit of the British Isles, and 
then home to Dalmyrnie " 

" But shall we have time? " 

" At express speed we ought to do it in about four 
hours " 

" Only four hours? " in amazement. 

" Well we shall only go from Dalmyrnie — we 
shan't touch further north to-day " 

" Now " went on Mavis impatiently " I want you 
to take me all over this wonderful ship. I want to 
see everything. I want to know how it is possible to 
navigate and propel such a tremendous vessel by the 
work of only two men " 

" Then we'll start right now " laughed Sir John 
" Come, boys, we'll explore the Argenta, and then 
have some tea " 



CHAPTER III 



THE AIRSHIP 

" It's wonderful, Uncle John! It's almost beyond 
belief! " Mavis had walked the whole length of the 
vessel on the under deck in silence. Her husband's 
arm was about her waist, her face was radiant, flushed 
with excitement. Alan, too, was bereft of w^ords; even 
his wildest dreams had never imagined a vessel so 
perfect, so magnificent, so sensitive to touch that two 
men could manage it with comfort and ease, and should 
necessity arise, even one man could manipulate the tiny 
levers and navigate it. 

With a torpedo body some nine hundred feet long, 
its nose narrowed to three feet, giving it a grace 
unusual in such a monster aircraft. The entire body 
was composed of an alloy of aluminium, the formula 
of which was discovered by much hard work and 
research by Sir John and Masters. An upper and lower 
deck ran roimd the entire ship, about six feet wide, 
which was covered with a fibre, and had bulwarks of 
aluminium. 

At intervals round the deck, hatches were open, lead- 
ing to the hold, which contained the tank for the 
reserve propelling spirit, the water-tank, larders and cold 
storage. Three ladders on each side and one at either 
end led to the upper deck. The bow of the vessel was 
covered with a kind of thick glass and formed a com- 
fortable smoking room where one could sit in comfort 
in wet or windy weather and gaze into space. There 
was a dining room, a drawing room, and five bedrooms; 
all most beautifully upholstered and furnished with the 
maximum of comfort. The inside walls were polished 

i66 



THE AIRSHIP 167 

like burnished silver, and the windows of the same thick 
glass were hung with pale blue silk to match the 
upholstery. There was everything for use and com- 
fort; telephonic communication from every room to 
every part of the ship — electric light — electric fans — 
electric stoves — a pianola and there was even a gramo- 
phone on board. 

Sir John had also remembered a good library of 
books, novels and serious works, and a wonderful 
supply of writing materials. 

" Why, you have forgotten nothing " said Mavis 
" Uncle John, I think you have been wonderful " 

Perhaps the kitchens furnished Mavis with most 
interest. They were so well planned out. In one 
corner stood an electric cooking stove, and on the wall 
hung everything necessary for the success of the 
culinary art. A pipe led from the water tank to the 
kitchen and there was a very ingenious arrangement by 
which all waste matter was emptied into an electrically 
heated tank which reduced everything first to a pulp 
and then to steam, which escaped through a pipe to the 
outer side of the ship. 

" How much water can we carry? " asked Mavis. 
Well, in cubic feet, my dear — " commenced Sir 
John. 

" No! no! Uncle John! I don't understand cubic 
feet. Tell me how long our water would last " 

" With the utmost care we can carry enough water 
to last six people two months " 

" As long as that? " 

" Yes, and then, should any unforeseen circumstances 
arise, by which we were unable to renew our water 
supply, I could fall back on a wonderful discovery I 
have made. See, my dear " and he opened a small 
press. There on shelves, were packed row upon row 
of transparent blocks, perhaps an inch square. 

" What ever is it? " said Mavis laughing " Why 
it's camphor! " Alan picked a piece up and examined 
it. It was certainly like camphor to look at, 
but was odourless and of an intense coldness. " It's 
done me. What is it? " 

Sir John made no reply but took from a little stand 



168 THE PERFECT WORLD 

a small electric heater. Upon this he placed a quart 
metal bowl, into which he put the little cube. " Very 
gentle heat at first, my dears " said he " Ah! " as it 
beg-an to melt " Now I think it's safe to put on full 
pressure " 

Fascinated they watched until the vessel became full 
of a sparkling, bubbling liquid. Turning on another 
electric switch, he plunged a metal needle into the 
fluid. It belched forth a cloud of steam, hissed 
violently and then calmed down. 

" What ever is it? " asked Mavis. For answer Sir 
John poured the liquid into three glasses and handed 
one to each. 

" Try it " he suggested " It's quite cold. That 
was an electric needle which generates a coldness below 
freezing point " 

" Another invention? " this from Desmond. 

" Yes " 

" There's no smell " said Mavis, as she delicately 
wrinkled her pretty nose. 

" And no taste " averred Alan. 

" It reminds me of something " said Desmond 
" I'm sure I've tasted something like it before " 

" What is it, Uncle John? Do tell us " pleaded 
Mavis. 

Sir John laughed. " Water, my dear, just plain 
water. Desmond is quite right, he has tasted it 
before " 

" Water " said Alan in bewilderment " but surely- 
frozen water has a greater bulk than when it is in a 
liquid form ? " 

" So it has, my boy. But I call this ' concentrated 
essence of water.' There is enough in that cupboard to 
last eighteen months. Of course we should never want 
such a quantity, but the experiments pleased and 
cheered an old man in his loneliness " 

He then opened another press and showed that it was 
packed with concentrated tea, concentrated essence of 
beef and chicken, concentrated essence of milk; it had 
everything in it that had been devised for reducing food 
bulk to the minimum with a maximum amount of caloric 
value. 



THE AIRSHIP 169 

" Eighteen months' provisions " he chuckled " The 
Argenta could withstand a siege " The boat was sail- 
ing beautifully, ten thousand feet up; it was a glorious 
day, cloudless and fine. 

" Now for the chef d'ceuvre " said Sir John " Why 
where is Masters? This is his work " He telephoned 
through: " All going well? " he asked. 

" Splendidly, Sir John " 

" What speed? " 

" About three hundred an hour. We've just sighted 
Plymouth " 

" Plymouth " said Mavis in amazement " Why we 
have only just left Scotland " 

" Come along to us, Masters. I want you to demon- 
strate the working of the atmospheric shutters " 

" Will you come into the compressed air room? " 
said Masters as soon as he arrived. 

They found it was quite a small room which held no 
furnishings of any kind. Levers and switches and 
strange electrical contrivances were everywhere, and 
on one side of the room were twelve levers, very like 
those in a signal box on the railways. 

" My idea was this " began Masters " We have 
ten engines on board, of which we use only one at a 
time; the others are reserve stock, as it were, or would 
be useful if we came up against very nasty weather and 
needed a stronger power to use against the elements. 
At the time I worked out my theory, Sir John had no 
interest in life. You two young gentlemen we believed 
were dead, and I have neither kith nor kin. It struck 
us, that one day we might try and reach the outside of 
the earth's atmosphere for experimental purposes. I 
needn't go into exact figures now, it would not interest 
Mrs. Forsyth, but you all know after a certain distance 
up life becomes impossible. Should we ever reach that 
height, we should have recourse to these levers " and 
as he spoke he pulled them down one after the 
other " Now we will put the electric light on, and I 
would be glad if you would step out on to the upper 
deck " 

Mavis gave a cry of amazement. Gone was the view 
of the sky; gone the heavens above and the earth 



170 THE PERFECT WORLD 

beneath. The entire ship was covered in with an 
awnins^ of metal. 

" Do explain " said Alan. 
This covering works almost on the principle of a 
Venetian blind " went on Masters " There are really 
two coverings, with a space of thirty inches between. 
The levers release the metal and it unfolds and clips 
into position by means of strong clasps. By means of 
another lever we fill the cavity between with a mixture 
of gases — ether is the chief component, and this makes 
our little home absolutely air proof and rain proof; and 
above all it makes the inner vessel impervious to atmos- 
pheric pressure or gravitation. We hope later on, by 
the aid of an electrical device we are still working upon, 
to generate an atmosphere of our own, outside the 
vessel, which will enable us to propel ourselves through 
infinite space, and thus we should be independent of the 
atmospheric peculiarities around us " 

" But how can we breathe? " asked Mavis the 
practical. 

" Masters thought of that contingency also " said 
Sir John. 

" In the little room we have just left are dynamos for 
generating our own electricity; there is also another 
dynamo for generating an inexhaustible supply of air " 

" You have left nothing to chance " said Alan. 

" Nothing, my boy. Remember this is the culmina- 
tion of over thirty-five years of study and experiment, 
and the last five years have seen us progress by leaps 
and bounds " 

" Our absence had its good side, after all " said 
Alan " Had we been allowed to remain, you might 
never have got this machine to such perfection " 

" I'd rather not have had those years of sorrow, all 
the same " said Sir John softly " I'd rather have 
destroyed the Arg'enta with my own hands, and never 
built her up again, than you should both have left me 
for those long years " and the old man turned away 
with a sigh " Now about our air supply " he went 
on, recovering himself " As the used up air sinks to 
the ground, it is attracted into pipes, and by the aid of 
tiny electric fans is driven to a large cylinder. There it 



THE AIRSHIP 171 

undergoes a kind of filtering process. The purer 
portions go into circulation again, while the carbonic 
acid gas is taken down pipes which run along the whole 
side of the ship to an outlet where it can escape into 
space. To guard against the extrance of any unknown 
noxious gases, this pipe has a trap in every foot, which 
closes mechanically as the gas passes through. The 
mechanism of these traps makes it impossible for any 
foreign air to enter. No matter where we are, or 
through what poisonous air we may pass, we are pro- 
tected from its entrance by this device; while it is im- 
possible for the ship to collapse while it is protected by 
its envelope of ether " 

" Then you could live as long as your provisions 
lasted on the Argenta? " asked Desmond " You are 
not dependent on the outer world for anything? " 

" We are dependent only on ourselves " replied Sir 
John. 

" Why, it's like a fairy tale " said Mavis. 

" Tea " said a voice from behind them " Tea, Mrs. 
Forsyth " It was Hector. Masters had unobtrusivelv 
left while they were all talking, and Hector had turned 
cook. 

*' Tea is served in the Bows " said Hector again. 

Masters had drawn back the shutters, and once again 
the little room was flooded with sunshine. The tele- 
phone bell tinkled. " Well, Masters? " 

" We are passing over Whitby, sir. Do you wish 
to cut across country direct for Dalmyrnie, or will you 
go right round by the coast? " 

" Time is getting on. I think we had better make 
straight for home " 

" Very good, sir " 

" It's been a wonderful success " said Alan ** More 
wonderful than I could have dreamed possible " Sir 
John beamed at the praise " But, Uncle John, leave 
your atmospheric experiments until I come back from 
Kalvar. I'd love to accompany you on your 
adventures " 

" Would you really? " 

" Nothing would give me greater pleasure " 

" Look " said Mavis presently " We are over Loch 



172 THE PERFECT WORLD 

Tay. How beautiful it looks from here. Why there 
is still a suspicion of snow on Ben Lawers " 

" We are very near home, now " said Desmond, 
looking at her fondly. 

Within a very few minutes the great vessel tilted ever 
so slightly, and then with a graceful movement, slanted 
her nose to earth. There was only the faintest sus- 
l)icion of a jolt as she touched the ground, and then 
ran smoothly along the field, coming to a standstill at 
almost the very spot she had left a few hours before. 

The trial was over ! The machine had proved her 
worth. 

Science had won yet another brilliant victory. 



CHAPTER IV 



THE END OF THE WORLD 

Four days had passed, four days of glorious sunshine. 
Every day the whole party had been for a trip in the 
Argenta. They never landed anywhere, however, for 
Sir John was still jealous of his secret; he wanted to 
test her in every kind of weather — he wanted to leave 
nothing to chance, so that finally her worth could not 
be questioned. 

It was nothing for them to circle over the Outer 
Hebrides in the morning, come home for lunch, and 
then run over as far as Paris before dinner. Scarcely 
any motion was to be felt in the boat. 

Alan had made arrangements with Sir Christopher 
Somerville to accompany the expedition to Kalvar. 
Desmond was to stay behind and look after Mavis, who 
intended staying at Dalmyrnie until her baby was born. 
Her fingers were busy fashioning tiny garments for the 
little newcomer, whose arrival was expected very soon. 

" What shall we do to-day? " asked Sir John 
" Mavis, my dear, would you like to rest? You look 
very tired " 

" No, nothing does me as much good as a sail in the 
Argenta, Uncle John. Let us go up after lunch for a 
couple of hours " There was a curious stillness in the 
air, as the Argenta climbed up to six thousand feet, — 
hardly a breeze, in fact. 

" Oh I'm stifling " said Mavis. 

" My poor darling " murmured Desmond lovingly 
" Are you sure you are not overtiring yourself? Your 
fingers never seem still. Always working at something 
or other, aren't you? " 

173 



174 THE PERFECT WORLD 

She blushed prettily. " I can't let — him — come into 
the world and find we've not prepared for him, can 
I? " and she hid her face on her husband's shoulder. 

" You've made up your mind it's to be a — 
' him ' — ? " he laughed. 

" Of course, Dez. I must have a son first " He 
laughed at her naive remark. 

" Well if you feel tired be sure and tell me, darhng, 
that's all " 

" I shouldn't be surprised if we had a storm later " 
remarked Masters " Although the sky is clear, there 
is the curious oppressiveness that usually precedes a 
storm " 

" Then let us get back " said Mavis " I am terrified 
at thunder " 

Majestically the Argenta sailed, gracefully she 
skimmed along the sky. Now above the level of the 
clouds, now close down above the waters of the 
Atlantic. 

" How beautiful the islands look, dotted about in the 
water " said Alan " It is indeed a pearl-studded sea " 

Hector came up to Sir John with a puzzled frown 
" I don't quite like the look of the weather " said he 
" The compass won't work, and the altimeter is frisk- 
ing about in a most unaccountable manner. There's 
a bad storm brewing, and I think we shall be wise to 
turn her nose round and go back " 

" If you think it is best " agreed Sir John, and as he 
spoke the sun burst out in all its glory from behind a 
fleecy cloud. At the same moment, away on the 
horizon, where angry blueblack clouds had gathered, 
came a vivid flash of lightning. 

" Oh " cried Mavis as she covered her eyes " what 
a terrible flash " In a few minutes the sky was black 
and gloomy, the wind rose suddenly to a hurricane, and 
the big craft was spinning and twisting in a most unsafe 
manner. 

" We'll go back, sir " said Hector " Now go 
inside, Mrs. Forsyth. Believe me, there's no danger " 

Then followed a most awful experience. The light- 
ning never ceased, but lit up the ship from end to end, 
the thunder crashed and the Argenta rocked violently. 



THE END OF THE WORLD 175 

Gradually they steered her round, and to the accom- 
paniment of a most vivid flash of lightning and a 
deafening roar of thunder, the ship started on her 
homeward journey. At last they came safely to anchor 
outside the hangar and Mavis, always nervous in a 
storm, was now in a state of semi-unconsciousness. 
Desmond lifted her tenderly out of the ship and carried 
her to the cottage. Her nerve had completely gone. 

That night a son was born to Desmond, and old Dr. 
Angus, who had been fetched in haste by Alan, spoke 
very gravely of the chances of saving both mother and 
child. The slightest shock would be fatal to her, he 
announced, as he took his leave. 

" I'm glad you had a nurse in the house " he added 
" a very wise precaution when so many miles separate 
doctor and patient " 

" You'll come again? " said Desmond hoarsely. 
I will be round again in the morning " 

Desmond, white faced, his hands twitching con- 
vulsively, stood on guard outside his wife's room. The 
ordeal was terrible, and the perspiration stood in beads 
upon his forehead. Once he heard a tiny cry, then 
stillness. He dared not knock — there was a nurse 
behind that closed door, and he knew he could trust 
her. Still—. 

A hand touched him. " Go to bed, Desmond, and 
try to get a little sleep " It was Alan " I'll watch 
for you, and I'll give you my word I'll call you if you're 
wanted " 

" No, no, Alan. I'll stay here. If she wants me, I 
want to be near " 

So the hours wore on, and no sound came from the 
sick-room. Dr. Angus motored up, and without a 
word disappeared within. An hour later he came out 
and saw Desmond's hag-gard face. 

" You may go in for two minutes only " said he 

Both your wife and son will live " 

It was a white-faced Mavis who greeted him. Her 
face was lined with pain ; her hazel eyes were sunk deep 
into her head. In her arms she held a bundle, a little 
bundle that was everything to the man and woman 
beside it. " Dear, he's like you " whispered Mavis 



176 THE PERFECT WORLD 

weakly, and then, with an almost roguish smile " I 
said it would be a boy " Her eyes closed, and with her 
husband's hand in hers, she gave a contented sigh and 
fell asleep. 

" Whew! " said Sir John, a few days later " I 
wouldn't go through last week again for a king's 
ransom " 

" Thank God she has pulled through " said Alan 
fervently. The two men were sitting at breakfast, the 
first square meal they had had for a week. 

" Any news? " asked Sir John, as Alan was devour- 
ing the Post. 

" Not much, Uncle John. There was a new 
Housing Bill brought up in the House last night. The 
Government seems very rocky. There are hints of a 
General Election. H'm. H'm — A bad earthquake 
in South America, I see. Five thousand people killed. 
Oh, and a landslip or something in New Zealand. How 
shocking " he went on " ten thousand casualties there. 
Why, it's as bad as a war! " 

" No, it's the States where the earthquake is " said 
Sir John who had unfolded the Scotsman. 

" No, South America " contradicted Alan " Listen — 

" A tremendous earthquake has been felt at Lima, 
Valparaiso, and; Buenos Aires. These three cities have 
suffered great damage. Over five thousand people have 
been killed outright, while the casualty list is considerably 
greater. The shock was felt in Bermuda, New Guinea and 
even as far north as Kentucky " 

" Then there has been one in the States as well " said 
his Uncle. And he read from his paper 

" The Meteorological office at Pimenta states that a serious 
earthquake has occurred in New Jersey " 

" Later. 

" News has now come through that Tennessee and Vermont 
have suffered considerable damage also. The loss of life is 
comparatively small considering the damage done to 
property. The tallest buildings have toppled over, shaken 
from their foundations. The electrical supply is cut oS, and 
in many places severe fires are burning " 



THE END OF THE WORLD 177 

" It seems all over America " said Alan lightly " I 
am glad we don't go in for those merry little sideshows 
in this country " 

" Your time is growing short " said Sir John with a 
sigh. " I shall miss you very much, my lad " 

" I shall miss you too, sir. But of course I am rather 
looking forward to the expedition " 

The weather had been quite settled since the time 
when the Argenta had encountered the terrible storm, 
on the day preceding the birth of Desmond's son. 
SHghtly sultry, perhaps, but an occasional cool breeze 
tempered the heat. 

The next day all the papers were full of the 
epidemic of earthquakes that were occurring in different 
parts of the world. Work in many places was dis- 
organized, and a fear was expressed that influences 
were at work round Southern Europe which might 
mean that the earthquakes would be felt nearer home. 

Alan was due to sail in two days, arrangements had 
been made for him to leave Scotland the following 
morning, when a wire came from Sir Christopher 
Somerville. " Postponing departure of Cavalier 
indefinitely. Fear unsafe to sail south. Awaiting 
favourable report from Greenwich. Will advise you at 
earliest of arrangements " 

" Well, it gives us a little more of your society, my 
boy " said Sir John, and there was a pleased look m 
his eyes. 

Alan picked up the paper. " My God " said he 
suddenly, and his face blanched. 

Following the news of the disastrous earthquakes 
that have been scourging America and the islands of 
the South American coast " he read " come accounts 
of further appalling phenomena. In all parts of 
America, after violent cyclones, the land has in manv 
places opened up, and swallowed men, animals and 
buildings. The loss of life is abnormal — rough 
estimates are given as high as 900,000 lives. Internal 
rumblings and coastal waterspouts in Tasmania have 
caused a panic among the population. The sea is too 
rough for even the largest boat to sail upon. Natives 
are rushing hither and thither with no real idea of where 

M 



178 THE PERFECT WORLD 

to go for safety. Volcanic eruptions are taking place 
in districts where for thousands of years the volcanoes 
have been extinct. Scientists are at present unable to 
account for this extraordinary outbreak of nature. As 
we go to press, news has come through that Sydney 
has disappeared entirely. San Francisco is in ruins. 
The whole of Cape Colony has sunk below sea level — 
and the water has poured over the whole country, 
sweeping everything before it. A later edition of this 
paper will be issued at noon, and at intervals during 
the afternoon and evening with news as it comes to 
hand " 

" It is the worst scourge nature has ever given us " 
said Sir John. 

" What I cannot understand " said Alan " is why it 
is in so many places at once. Different latitudes seem 
to have suffered and different lands " 

All that day a deep depression had taken hold of the 
occupants of the little cottage, and they were all very 
quiet. " Masters, motor over to Arroch Head " said 
Sir John, about six in the evening " and if you can get 
no further news, ring up the offices of the Scotsman. 
Tell the Editor you are speaking for me. He will give 
you the latest news, I am sure " Masters was back 
within the hour, his face blanched, his hands trembling. 

" Well? " asked Sir John "Is it as bad as all 
that? " 

" It's terrible " replied Masters " It's coming 
nearer home. Rome has gone entirely — so have 
Naples and Athens. Spain and Portugal are under 
water. Authentic news is hard to get, as telephonic 
and cable communication in many places have failed. 
Some air scouts were sent to investigate, and witnessed 
the destruction of Spain. The air disturbances were so 
great that it was with the greatest difficulty they 
managed to reach England in safety " 

" Do they think this visitation will reach us ? " asked 
Desmond, the picture of his wife and child coming 
before his eyes. 

" The Scotsman says that so far the Meteorological 
Office reports no disturbances within eighty miles in all 
directions of our coast. They hold out a hope, that 



THE END OF THE WORLD 179 

being an island, we may escape " said Masters 
brokenly. 

There was no sleep for any one that night; but the 
morning came and brought with it a blue sky and a 
gentle wind. There was not even a hint of disaster in 
the clear atmosphere. Hector got the big Napier out, 
and all but Desmond motored in to Arroch Head. He 
stayed behind with Mavis, to keep all breath of dis- 
aster from her ears. The little village street was full 
of white faced men, women and children, children 
frightened because their parents were frightened, yet 
realizing nothing of the danger ahead. 

" Any news? " asked Sir John, of old Weelum Mc- 
Gregor, the hotel keeper. 

** Aye, sir, an' it's no verra guid. Paris is on fire 
the noo. There was an internal explosion in the neigh- 
bourhood of Versailles yestere'en, and soon the roads 
were running with molten lava. Paris caught fire, and 
every one is powerless to suppress it " 

Three days passed. England and Scotland were 
isolated — entirely cut off from the outer world. They 
had just to wait and pray that their time of tribulation 
would not come. The night was extraordinarily dark, 
the wind moaned and rose in mighty gusts. The rain 
came down in torrents. The thunder rolled in the 
distance, and occasionally flashes of lightning lit up the 
horizon. 

Mavis was very restless. " Is anything the matter, 
Dez ? " she asked, as he sat by her bedside. 

" Why, dear? " _ 

" You look worried. You make me feel anxious " 

" I've been worried about you, my darling, that's 
all " and he lied glibly to the sick woman. 

Then there suddenly rose on the air a terrific sound, 
worse than the loudest peal of thunder, and the room 
was brilliantly lighted from without as though by a 
mighty fire. Mavis rose up in bed; her limbs were 
shaking and she drew the sleeping babe still closer to 
her breast. " What is it, what is it, Dez? No, no. 
don't leave me " as Desmond was about to leave the 
room. He put his arms about her and crooned to her 
as if she had been a baby. The noise was terrible — 



180 THE PERFECT WORLD 

one long, mighty roar. The room shook with the 
vibration, and the Hght from without grew brighter and 
brighter. 

Sir John entered. " Mavis, my dear, you mustn't 
be frightened. Hector and Masters are launching the 
Argenta — we are going to take you up in her " 

" What is happening? " 

" I don't quite know, my dear, but Ben Lawers has 
broken out in flames. Schiehallion and Ben More in 
the distance are belching out heavy, dark smoke — I 
think it's volcanic action. Now, we've talked the whole 
matter over, and we feel that the safest place is inside 
the airship " 

" But listen to the wind — could it live in such a 
storm? " 

" It is the safest place " said Sir John firmly " We 
will carry you and baby down in a hammock. Nurse 
has already packed you a goodly store of clothes, and 
then we'll all sail away to a more healthy spot " 

" Are you sure there's no danger? " 

" No, my dear! It's a magnificent sight to see the 
grand old Ben belching out smoke and flames. Lava 
is pouring down his sides into the Tay, and Killin is 
lighted up so that you can see the houses as if it was 
day " 

Gently Mavis was carried to the ship, and tenderly 
lifted aboard. There was no time to waste. Sir John 
had only told half the truth to the invalid. The lava 
from Ben Lawers was already spreading towards 
Dalmyrnie. The hot ashes were being carried on the 
mighty wind, and the men were scorched and burnt 
while they were launching the airship. 

Feverishly Masters hauled aboard packages, and 
bundles, hasty provisions to supplement those on 
board. A crash sounded behind them — the pine woods 
at the rear of the cottage had caught fire ! It was an 
unearthly sight. Ben Lawers roared and hissed and 
spluttered, the pine trees crackled — the whole country- 
side was lit up with flames. In the distance tne 
surrounding peaks and Bens were beginning to show 
signs of fire, and the whole scene was like a page of 
Dante come true. 



THE END OF THE WORLD 181 

" Everything aboard? " asked Sir John hoarsely. 
" Yes " said Alan. 

" Where's Nurse? Isn't she coming? " 
" No! I tried to persuade her, but she wanted to 
get to Arroch Head to her mother. I told her to take 
the runabout — she's a fairly good hand with the car " 

The flames drew nearer. Already their cruel tongues 
were licking round the house. The hangar was 
smouldering. Suddenly there came on their ears a 
deafening explosion — the reserve petrol had caught 
fire! The heat was unbearable. " It's no good" 
panted Sir John " Let's leave the rest and get off " 

" Please God we shall soon be out of here, and shall 
be able to land in safety " said Alan. 

Scorched, blackened with smoke. Masters made one 
more superhuman effort. He shipped his whole cargo 
in safety! He swarmed up the ladder, the grappling 
iron was drawn in, and the great ship slowly moved, 
travelling upward with her human freight. 

The Argenta pitched and tossed, but Masters and 
Hector worked steadily at the deUcate levers. Now 
they headed her right, now left; now she climbed above 
the average ten thousand feet, now dropped low to 
avoid the nasty air patches. Mavis was in her bed, her 
eyes wide open in terror. Above the roaring of the 
engines, came claps of thunder, deafening and awe 
inspiring. 

" I don't understand " she moaned " What is 
happening? " 

"It is impossible to say " said Desmond " But I 
feel we are safer here than we should be on earth 
to-night " And the night of horror passed. 

Below, as they hovered to and fro, the whole country 
was blazing. Dawn came, but an angry dawn. Dark 
clouds scudded across the sky; the thunder grumbled 
in the distance, and occasional flashes of lightning 
illuminated the angry heavens. 

" Where are we ? " asked Sir John. 

" Over Edinburgh '' answered Masters from the 
other end of the 'phone, " we have scarcely moved for 
the last four hours " 

" What? " 



182 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" The engines seem disinclined to work. I can't 
make it out at all " 

The ship suddenly swerved to one side — a terrific 
explosion filled the air, and they saw the Castle Rock 
suddenly shiver, crumple up, and fall a shapeless ruin 
on to the railway line beneath. In a few minutes, 
Edinburgh, the Modern Athens, Edinburgh the Fair, 
was a mass of flames ! They watched the populace, 
mad with fear, running aimlessly along the streets. 
" This is awful " muttered Alan " Make south if you 
can. Let us get away from this desolation " 

With a great amount of patience and skill, Masters 
at length managed to get the engines to work. But 
they came upon havoc and destruction whichever way 
they went, — indeed, the whole world seemed to have 
turned upside down. They circled Londpn, but the 
first metropolis of the world had been the first English 
city to suffer from the terrible scourge. Blackened, 
charred, lifeless, London was a city of the dead. 

As they swung in space over the dead London, they 
tried to pick out the familiar landmarks, but in vain — 
The Houses of Parliament were but a mass of bricks 
and dust; gone was the Abbey of Westminster, levelled 
to the ground was the mighty Tower of St. Edward, 
belonging to the Catholic Cathedral — gone was the 
Tower of London. There was not a sign of life in the 
once great city. 

Aimlessly they flew in all directions. The whole of 
England was a flaming mass. They headed for the 
Continent. It was true, Paris had gone; Brussels was 
no more; there was not a city left. Denmark was 
wiped out, — and the sea washed up noisily and angrily 
over a barren rock that had once been Norway. At 
short intervals terrific explosions rent the air, and the 
vibration caused the Argenta to perform many nerve- 
racking aerial gymnastics. 

" Head for the Atlantic if you can " cried Alan in 
despair. For ten days they had hovered over dead 
cities, dying lands, and waste voids. Navigation was 
almost impossible, the hurricanes drove the craft this 
way and that ; now forcing her high, now bringing her 
low. It was all very fearsome, very terrifying. Mavis 



THE END OF THE WORLD 183 

was up, and with her baby in her arms she followed the 
men about, a forlorn pathetic figure. Landing was 
impossible — there was no place where they could land. 
They had plenty of water, plenty of provisions, but they 
ate mechanically, scarcely realizing what it was that 
Hector placed before them with unvarying regularity. 

They watched Europe sinking — the vast Atlantic was 
slowly but surely washing over lands and countries that 
had once been great empires. 

The Argenta was wonderful; no matter what the 
atmospheric disturbances were, she always righted 
herself. The heat, at times, was terrific, and the 
Argenta was forced to climb out of the reach of the 
burning wastes below. Then the water of the ocean 
seemed to rise like steam — the Atlantic itself was 
boihng, and as it grew hotter and hotter, the ocean 
seemed to grow less in size. 

The heat was so intense that the Argenta rose to a 
great height and remained among the clouds. After 
some days she descended, but seemed to be in a new 
world altogether. There was a large tract of barren 
land stretched out before them — gone was the Atlantic 
in its vastness. Dead bodies lay strewn about — the 
remains of great ships were embedded in the earth. 
Animals, humanity, fish, lay mixed together in that 
arid waste. 

Suddenly Alan spoke, very reverently " And the sea 
shall give up its dead " 

" The Atlantic? " whispered Sir John. 

" I think so " answered Alan. 

And as they watched there came a mighty sound, 
greater than any they had heard before. The whole 
world shook, and for one moment was a living ball of 
fire. Then it shivered violently, split into a thousand 
pieces, and from its gaping wounds belched forth smoke 
and flames. Once more came the terrible sound, the 
sound of a world's death cry; there was a mighty crash, 
the flames went out and where the world had been — 
was nothing. 

All was black, all was gone; the earth had returned 
to its original state; the sea had disappeared entirely; 
shapeless, dark, — the earth was dead ! And in her last 



184 THE PERFECT WORLD 

convulsive hold on life, she shook the very heavens. 
The Argenta was whirled round and round in a 
maelstrom of agony, and then was shot into space. 

With a mighty effort Masters released the shutters, 
and filled the intervening cavity with the ether. It was 
his last conscious act. On, on went the Argenta, at a 
terrific speed. The fury of the heavens seemed let 
loose, and the atom in the firmament was like a wisp of 
wool in its grasp. Turning, twisting, rolling, the 
Argenta was borne on the bosom of the whirlwind, 
and carried with its seven souls of Terra; seven souls 
that had escaped from, but had witnessed The End Of 
The World. 



BOOK IV 

THE PERFECT WORLD 



CHAPTER I 



IN SPACE 

Space — infinite space! On, on, swept the Argenta 
through the heavens at frightful speed. The engines 
were useless; the levers refused to work, and the 
occupants of the airship sat within the shuttered vessel, 
helpless. 

For days they had eaten nothing — they were unable 
to move; terror had them fast within its grasp. 

" Sir John " said Masters at last "I'm going to 
make a cup of tea. Here we are, and here we must 
remain until our food gives out. Mrs. Desmond, — 
won't you come and help me? " Mavis rose from an 
armchair, and tenderly laid the sleeping babe on the 
cushions of a settee. 

" My baby " she murmured " to think I bore you 
for this " 

" Come, Mrs. Desmond " and Masters led the way 
to the tiny kitchen. 

All sense of direction had gone, and the occupants 
of the giant airship, had simply to accept the extra- 
ordinary conditions that had been thrust upon them, 
and remain helpless in the Argenta, carried they knew 
not whither, adrift in the heavens. They had ceased 
to reckon time, minutes had no meaning; hours and 
days passed as one long whole. They were just 
atoms, existing in space, which is infinite — where time 
is infinite — where life itself is infinite ! 

Mavis entered with a tray laden with tea and 
biscuits — the exertion had done her good, and already 
there was a slight colour in her cheeks. 

The airship was ploughing along at a terrific rate, 

187 



188 THE PERFECT WORLD 

but its motion was steady, and they could walk about 
in comfort. When first the explosion that had 
accompanied the end of the world sent them spinning 
into the infinite unknown, the Argenta had behaved in 
a most erratic way. Broadside she skimmed like an 
arrow, throwing them from side to side, then she 
reared up on her tail, and climbed the heavens almost 
perpendicularly; then she would roll over and over, 
porpoise-like, until the frail mortals lost all sense of 
everything except that a great calamity had come into 
their lives. 

*' Where are we? " asked Mavis suddenly. 

" I intend to try and find out " said Masters grimly 
" Whatever happens we can't be in a worse position 
than we are at this moment. I intend to move the 
shutters from the bows and then we may get some 
idea of where we are " 

" But is it safe? " objected Desmond, looking first 
at his wife and then at his child " So far we are safe. 
This mad journey must come to an end some time or 
other. Why jeopardize all our lives for the sake of 
a little curiosity? " 

" Must it come to an end? " said Sir John 
thoughtfully. 

" Of course " answered Desmond " We can't go 
on forever " 

** Why not? " continued his Uncle " Space is 
infinite. Now time is eternity. We, when in the 
world—" 

" How strange that sounds " interrupted Alan. 

" As I was saying, when we were in the world, 
we often used the expression ' For ever and ever ' If 
we thought what it really meant, it dazed our brains; 
we wanted to probe further, and find out what it was 
that came after that ' ever and ever ' We puzzled 
our intellects by pondering on the infinity of time. I 
realize now, what Eternity is I Since we have been 
here, I have ceased to count the minutes; I have 
ceased to think of days, or night, or weeks. Time 
is! That is enough for me " 

" Then you really think we may go on forever? " 
asked Desmond in horror. 



IN SPACE 189 



" I don't know. I certainly think it is as likely as 
not " 

" Oh God " Desmond muttered between his clenched 
teeth. 

" Come, dear " said Mavis bravely " We ought 
to be thankful that the promptitude of Uncle John 
and Masters saved us from an awful death below " 

" Are you sure it was ' down below ' ? " asked Alan 
quizzically. 

" Why, of course " Mavis began. Then she 
stopped. " Oh I don't know. That is all so strange 
and puzzling " 

" Now, Masters " said Sir John " What were you 
going to do ? " 

" I was going to release the shutters from the bow. 
I can close the patent traps, and leave the ether 
protection all round the ship " he explained to the 
others " But it is possible to leave a small portion 
of the glass in the bows, exposed, through which we 
shall be able to see the course we are taking " 

" I think it's worth making the experiment " said 
Sir John, and they all followed him into the comfortable 
front cabin. 

" Now if you see the slightest sign of danger, 
'phone me " said Masters, who was going into the 
lever room. 

" How can you tell if danger is near? " asked Mavis 
with interest. 

" This way " said Masters. He pointed to a portion 
of the glass wall, now covered with the outer sheet of 
aluminium. 

" That portion of the glass is of extra thickness and 
strength. If the outside air pressure is too great, or 
the gravitation or any unknown element too powerful 
for it, that glass will bulge, either inwards, or out- 
wards. Only slightly at first, but it will get bigger 
and bigger until it bursts asunder. Now. if you see 
the sHghtest suspicion of that happening, 'phone 
through to me, and I will close the shutters again. 
At any rate, we shall have done no harm, and at least 
we shall have tried to do something to ease our 
position " 



190 THE PERFECT WORLD 

In breathless silence they waited, watchful in the 
dark. Suddenly a tiny ray of light lit up the stygian 
gloom. Bigger and bigger it grew, until the whole 
of Masters' wonderfully planned " look-out " was 
exposed to view. Breathlessly they watched. There 
was not the slightest sign of strain upon the glass. 
It was certainly capable of protecting them for the 
present at any rate. 

" All serene " cried Alan through the 'phone. 

" Everything safe? " from Masters at the other end. 

" Quite safe " 

" Oh-h-h-h " It was Mavis " How wonderful! " 
They were looking into endless space at last! They 
had no sense of location — no ordinary sense of North 
or South — East or West. They were m the heart of 
the Solar system, with no horizon to act as a guiding 
line! The vastness of space overwhelmed them; there 
was no landmark to direct them. There was no 
comforting horizon, with mighty arms outstretched, 
embracing the world. There was nothing to give 
them a feeling of security. Here space just " went 
on " for ever and ever, beyond human comprehension. 

Wherever they looked, there was just — no end. 

But the scene was beautiful beyond comparison. 
Away to their right, in the dark recesses of the 
firmament, was a wonderful brightness. 

" It's the Milky Way " said Mavis clapping her 
hands in ecstasy. 

" I don't think so " said Alan " But all the same, 
I think that gives us an idea in what direction we 
are flying. That brightness must be the Greater 
Magellanic Clouds in the Southern Constellation " 

" What, are they only clouds, then? " 

" No, just stars. Stars of all magnitudes, richly 
strewn in the heavens. Even the faintest of the nebulae 
are more abundant than in any other part of the 
firmament " 

" It's wonderful " said Sir John " The illuminat- 
ing brightness is almost overpowering " 

They were unable to take their eyes from the cloud- 
like condensation of stars — one of the glories of space. 

" We don't seem to be getting any nearer to 



IN SPACE 191 



it, although we are going at such a pace " said 
Mavis. 

" My dear " answered her uncle " We are too 
many miles away to see any appreciable lessening of 
distance between us " 

" What is that bright star there " asked Mavis 
pointing " Just a little to this side of the Magellanic 
Clouds? " 

" I don't know. It certainly is wonderfully bright " 
answered Sir John. 

Alan was searching the heavens. " Isn't that the 
Constellation of Draco — the Dragon — ? " he asked 
suddenly " I think it must be. If so, that star, as 
you call it, which lies between the Greater Magellanic 
Cloud and Draco must be Jupiter " 

" Jupiter? " 

" Yes. One of Jupiter's poles lies in the heart of 
Draco, and the other is close by the Greater Magellanic 
Clouds " 

Mavis puckered her brows. " Jupiter " she almost 
whispered " the Prince of all the Planets? " 

" Yes " 

" We don't seem to know much about him, do 
we? " she went on. 

" No " said her husband " The astronomers seem 
much more interested in Saturn and Mars " 

" I've often thought " said Alan " that such a 
magnificent orb could not have been created just to 
have shown our old earth light. Its beauty, its 
grandeur, its magnitude, suggests to us the noblest 
forms of life " 

" You think it is inhabited? " asked Desmond. 
Why not? Surely its beauty and magnitude alone 
are a convincing proof of the insignificance of our 
earth. If Terra was inhabited, populated with many 
fine races of human beings, possessed of glorious 
scenery, and full of nature's wonders, surely if such a 
puny world as ours was peopled, why should a far 
finer planet be debarred from possessing and nurturing 
higher forms of animal life? " 

It sounds very interesting " said Mavis laughing 
" but I wonder whether it's true " 



192 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" If people are on Mars, or Saturn, or Jupiter, they 
would hardly be like us " announced Desmond, 
grandiloquently " They would either be like the 
Mechanical Martians that Wells wrote of, or just 
animal life of some gelatinous matter as favoured by 
Wolfius " 

" Oh you egotistical, egregious Englishman " 
laughed Sir John. 

" Can you beat him? " said Alan " No one but 
a Britisher could have made that remark! " 

There was a laugh at Desmond's expense, and then 
Alan went on " Personally, I feel convinced that ours 
was not the only inhabited planet. Even our feeble 
knowledge of the solar system, individually and in 
bulk, has proved the wonder of Jupiter, the symmetry 
and perfection of the system that circles round him, 
the glory of his own being, and he should rank as 
the world of worlds. I should be inclined to believe 
that Jupiter is not only capable of producing the 
highest forms of life, but that his humanity surpasses 
in intelligence the most cultured, most brilliant, most 
learned of our earth's philosophers " 

" No, no, I won't have that " said Desmond 
" Look at the brilliant men of letters Britain alone 
has given to the world. Think of her eminent 
scholars, dauntless pioneers — why no other country or 
world could compete with Britain " 

"As I remarked before, the egregious English- 
man! " said Sir John " I admire your courage, my 
boy, in sticking to your guns. I admire your loyalty 
to the country that gave you birth. But we are not 
in the world now, my boy. Our beautiful little planet 
has vanished, has disappeared into the void from 
which it came; yet here, before our eyes, we see 
Jupiter still existing, still a brilliant orb in the sky. 
Surely now, Desmond, you are convinced of the 
minuteness of the planet upon which you were bred 
and born? " Sir John put his hand on Desmond's 
shoulder " While you were upon it, it was every- 
thing. Now it is nothing — gone — while other planets 
still exist and shed their brightness over space " 

" I think " said Mavis thoughtfully " that if our 



IN SPACE 193 



own little world possessed such a higfi form of life, 
and we measure a planet by its bulk, then surely the 
Jovians must be the most highly favoured race in the 
Solar Kingdom? " 

A tiny cry came from the cabin behind. " Baby " 
she cried " Oh, I'd forgotten him " and she fied to 
her nursling who had missed his mother's care. 

" Such are the wonders of the heavens " said Sir 
John, thoughtfully " It's so grand, so massive, so 
unbelievable, that it makes even a mother forget, in its 
contemplation, her first-born, her little son " 

" Why he is not named yet " said Desmond " I 
had forgotten all about that " 

" Well, we have no parson here " said Alan 
" Now our world has gone, can we call ourselves 
Christians?^ How do we rank with the Almighty? 
Have we become atoms tossed about on an endless 
sea, or Christians to whom eventual release will 
come? " 

"We are still in God's Hands " said Sir John 
reverently " In the absence of an ordained priest, 
a layman may administer the Sacrament of Baptism. 
I am getting very old. I have one foot very near the 
grave. Shall I do it? " 

" Please " said Desmond. 

And whirling through the Solar system, belonging 
neither to earth nor heaven, was performed surely the 
strangest rite ever known from time immemorial. 
And it was in this strange place, in this strange manner 
that Desmond and Mavis' son — John Alan — was 
named. 



CHAPTER II 



ADRIFT IN THE SOLAR REGIONS 

Life in the Argenta became very monotonous. After 
the first throes of despair, the ghmpse of the glorious 
expanse of the Heavens served to cheer the prisoners 
within the ship. They had no clocks that were going. 
During the terror of the first few days time had 
mattered so little to them that they had let them run 
down. They now arranged to set all the clocks, and 
judge the time accordingly, and plan out their days. 
Rise at eight; lunch at one; tea at four; and dinner at 
seven and then to bed. The "night" would pass 
and they would begin another " day " 

They reckoned they had sufficient food to last the 
twelve earth months, and they could exist in comfort 
for three hundred and sixty-five days. And with the 
minutest care, perhaps even longer. " We can't live 
in space for more than twelve months, surely " said 
Mavis, but Sir John did not answer her. They had 
consumed perhaps an eighth of their water supply, 
and had the supply of concentrated water essence 
untouched. Still, they were afraid to waste any for 
washing purposes, and considered it a treat to be 
allowed to dip their fingers in any fluid that was left 
over from cooking; even a drop of cold tea proved a 
boon to them, and they gratefully damped cloths in 
it and wiped their hot and dry faces. 

Alan fixed a piece of paper on the wall of the front 
cabin, and every night before they retired, he would 
tick off the number of the day from the time they 
had reset their clocks and begin to count again. 
Thirty, forty, fifty, so the " days " passed, and little 

194 



ADRIFT IN SOLAR REGIONS 195 

John Alan grew enormously. The few garments that 
had been packed in their hurried flight were now too 
small for him, and Mavis was forced to use some 
of her own dresses, and cut them up for the 
growing child. He alone was unconscious of the 
danger of their peculiar position, and he crowed and 
gurgled and bit his toes, in complete babyish happiness 
and dehght. If anything. Mavis had grown more 
beautiful after the arrival of her child. Her eyes 
glowed with maternal pride, and her cheeks were 
flushed with joy as she watched her baby, born into 
such a strange life, grow day by day fairer and more 
loving. 

The library aboard, which Sir John had had the 
foresight to install in his giant Argenta, proved a 
godsend to the weary travellers. Every day they read 
aloud some old literary favourite, and renewed their 
acquaintance with Sam Weller, Pip, the Aged P, and 
Little Nell; laughed over the experiences of the 
" Innocents Abroad " enjoyed again the story of 
" Three Men in a Boat " But even with these 
diversions, with chess, dominoes, and draughts; with 
singing and playing, they grew tired ol their enforced 
inactivity, and chafed at their surroundings. 

Their air supply was excellent; the mechanism never 
failed in its work; certainly the air grew hot and fetid 
at times but by the aid of electric fans it was freshened 
and purified. Every day they looked out of the little 
glass window, and drank in the glories of the heavens. 
One day, it was the ninety-eighth according to 
Alan's chart, Mavis startled them all by a sudden 
exclamation. 

" What is it, my dear? " asked Sir John, looking 
up from an interesting game of chess he was enjoying 
with Alan. 

" Look at Jupiter! Isn't he large to-night? " said 
she. " Why, yesterday he looked Hke a big .star, 
to-day he is like the moon at harvest time " 
They all crowded round the little window. 
" By Jove, you're right " said Alan " We must be 
sailing in a direct line toward him " 
" How plain the clouds are upon him " said 



196 THE PERFECT WORLD 

Desmond " You can see them plainly right across 
hi« face " 

The belts across the face of Jupiter were certainly 
very plain; across the surface of the planet they 
floated pearly white, like masses of " snow-clouds " as 
seen in England on a hot summer's day. From the 
equatorial region they merged, both north and south 
from a glorious coppery colour, becoming a deep, 
ruddy purplish tint at the poles. 

" Are they clouds like ours? " asked Mavis wonder- 
ingly. 

" I don't think it has ever been proved what they 
really are " answered Alan ** I think the general 
theory is, that those clouds as you call them are, in 
reality, a vapour-laden atmosphere that floats across 
the orb " 

" I should love to go there " said Mavis. 

" Well, it looks as though we were making for that 
part of the firmament " said her uncle. 

" It certainly does " she retorted " But when 
shall we reach there? " 

At that moment Masters and Hector came in, in 
great excitement. 

" The engines are working " announced Hector 
enthusiastically. 

" What! " from all. 

" It's true. Masters and I were tinkering at them 
this morning, when suddenly the little starting cog 
flew round, there was a roar, a flash of sparks, and 
they started properly " 

This was indeed good news, for ever since the end 
of the world the airship had been propelled through 
space by some unknown outside influence; her engines 
not only refused to work but her steering apparatus 
refused to act. 

" I intend navigating straight ahead " announced 
Masters " I'll have eight engines going, and then we 
ought to get up a speed of over four hundred and 
fifty miles; that together with the pace we are already 
travelling should help us considerably in reaching 
somewhere, if there is anywhere for us to get " 

Eagerly they all went into the engine room, and 



ADRIFT IN SOLAR REGIONS 197 

watched first; one, then another of the powerful 
engines set going. They were however surprised to 
find that they felt no difference in their speed; yet the 
speedometer registered four hundred and twenty miles, 
and all eight engines were working merrily. 

They went back to the bows, and watched the 
universe stretched out before them. They passed close 
to a star, whose name they did not know, and its 
radiance lit up the little cabin for fourteen days, that 
were marked off religiously on Alan's calendar. Then 
came another terrible time, when depression took hold 
of them all again, and they would sit, silent, staring 
into space. Their eyes were dull and lustreless; their 
limbs cramped from lack of exercise, and their brains 
torpid and sluggish. 

Perhaps Alan felt the deprivation of air and exercise 
most, but he continued to be the cheeriest of them all. 

" Oh, for some green vegetables " sighed Mavis 
one day. John Alan had been particularly restless, 
and she felt more than usually miserable. 

" And plenty of nice rabbit food " went on Alan 
cheerfully " Crisp, long lettuces, the rosy radish, 
juicy tomatoes, and above all the cool, refreshing 
slices of the unwholesome cucumber " 

" Oh, Alan, I'm so miserable " she sobbed " Will 
this awful existence never end ? Shall we just die 
here, and this ship become the meteoric tomb of seven 
unfortunates of the world ? A tomb always spinning 
on, on, through endless space, through endless time, 
like some lost soul " 

" Lost world, you mean " corrected Alan " You 
are mixing your metaphors, and when a lady does that, 
it's a sure sign she wants a cup of tea! " 

" I don't want a cup of tea, Alan. I just want to 
get a breath of air. Alan, couldn't you persuade 
Masters to open the shutters? Couldn't we just go 
on to the deck for five minutes — only five minutes? " 
she pleaded. 

" My dear " said Alan gently " It's quite 
impossible. Now listen carefully to what I am 
saying. Long, long ago, we were out of the atmos- 
phere and the gravitation of our earth. In some way 



198 THE PERFECT WORLD 



or other, the tornado that accompanied the end of 
our world drove us through space where nothing is! 
Oh, I know it sounds compHcated, dear, but by all the 
knowledge of science, as taught by the most advanced 
astronomers, long ago we should have been suspended 
in space, unable to move or be moved, outside the 
gravitation of other worlds; just atoms, motionless, 
still. That hasn't happened. We have defied the 
great authorities, and are being whirled through the 
heavens by some power unheard of by the scientists 
of the earth. Still, dear, we do not know whether 
there is air outside. Should we lift the shutters that 
protect us, we might find we were unable to exist " 

" That's the word " cried Mavis " We aren't 
living now. We are only existing. We don't know 
from hour to hour what terrible fate may await us. 
If by lifting the shutters we kill ourselves, surely that 
is better than this lingering death " 

" Mavis, Mavis, don't " 

" Do you know we have only a month's supply 
of food left? " 

Alan looked at her in horror. " You don't mean 
that. Mavis? " said he incredulously. 

" My dear Alan, you are just like all men. Sufficient 
for the day! That's your motto. You never 
enquired about the food. Since I took over the 
culinary department, none of you have worried a bit, 
while day by day I've seen our stock of provisions 
grow less and less. In a month's time, Alan, our food 
will be totally exhausted " 

" What about the condensed foods? " 

" Oh we still have some of them — perhaps with 
extreme care they would last another four weeks, and 
then — the end " 

" Why didn't you tell me before, Mavis? " 

" Oh I couldn't " hysterically " You were all so 
contented. Besides I didn't realize the seriousness of 
it myself until to-day. Our flour is nearly gone. 
You yourself said the bread wasn't as good this 
morning. Of course it wasn't. It was just mixtures 
of every cereal I could think of to try and make it 
last out " 



ADRIFT IN SOLAR REGIONS 199 

This news was indeed serious, and Alan walked 
thoughtfully to his chart. Yes, he ought to have 
known. It registered five hundred and fifty-five days. 
Over eighteen earth months they had been flying 
through the heavens. Their food had lasted 
magnificently. 

" Water? " he queried. 

" We finished the tank water long ago. I'm pretty 
well through with the cubes " 

" Let me come and see the food supply " 

Carefully he went over every item. Even yet, there 
seemed to be enough to feed an army, but he knew how 
little there was in reality. " I think if we have one 
good meal a day, we ought to make it last longer " 
said he " After all, one good meal is better than 
three small ones, and incidentally, we save over the 
one transaction. We must sleep longer, that's all. 
We will get up at noon, and have a cup of tea and a 
biscuit. At four we will have dinner, and if we retire 
at eight, a cup of cocoa then should suffice us. The 
longer we remain in bed the less food we shall require. 
Come, let us tell the others " 

Sir John took the news very quietly. Not a 
muscle of his face twitched — he might have been 
receiving a most ordinary announcement. Masters 
shrugged his shoulders indifferently, and Murdoch 
went on with his work as if he had not heard. 
Desmond took the news badly, however. His face 
grew ashen. " Why should this have come upon 
us? " he cried " We had been through so much. 
Happiness came my way at last, and now — " He 
drew Mavis fiercely to him " I won't lose you. 
There must be some way out " 

" There is none, my boy " said Sir John " so you 
had better make up your mind to that at once. Here 
we are and here we must remain, till by some merciful 
intervention, we die, or are given release " 

"Where shall we ever find release? " from 
Desmond. 

" In some new world, perhaps " 

" How big Jupiter is " said Alan, looking out into 
the vastness. 



200 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" He is certainly a wonderful planet " said 
M^^is. 

" Is it my fancy or are we slowing down? " asked 
Sir John. 

" I've wondered the same thing myself " said 
Masters " For the last few days I have noticed an 
appreciable difference in our speed " 

But although the difference was so slight as to be 
almost undiscernible, the new topic of conversation 
gave the prisoners new life. 

The days passed — the quantity of the food they 
consumed grew daily less and less, and they were 
growing weaker and weaker every day. At length 
they gave up their cup of tea in the mornings — their 
tea had gone. Then they halved their dinner portions 
making one day's share of food last two I But all the 
same the dreaded day came only too soon, and five 
hundred and ninety-five days after Alan had put up his 
calendar, they found they had only a few tins of con- 
centrated food left. They were all hungry. Little 
John Alan ^rew fretful, his mother feverish. There 
was silence m the little front cabin, the silence of the 
grave. The little party were all half asleep, when 
suddenly Alan rose. " What's the matter? " he 
asked quickly. 

" What is it? " asked his uncle. 

" Don't you realize — we've stopped 1 We've 
stopped I " It was true, the Argenta was stationary 
at last I At the same moment Masters came rushing 
in. 

"We've stopped! " he cried "The engines have 
refused again to work " 

They all crowded round the little " lookout," but 
could see nothing. For the first time for nearly two 
years their vision was limited. Gone was the bright- 
ness of Jupiter, gone the glorious Megallanic Cloud — 
gone, too, the many thousand points of light that 
enriched the heavens. All about them was a moving 
vapour. It was unlike clouds, but surged and swirled 
like heavy snow flakes. It was a whitish vapour that 
looked like steam — that altered again and took on the 
hue of thick yellowish smoke. 



ADRIFT IN SOLAR REGIONS 201 

" Where are we? " asked Mavis " Can't we get 
out? " 

" We'll see " said Alan soothingly. 

But still Mavis went on pleadingly. " Oh surely our 
chance has come at last. If we opened the shutters 
now, we might get free altogether " 

The next morning, Murdoch was missing. His bed 
had not been slept in. " Where's Murdoch? " asked 
Alan of Masters. 

" I don't know. I've been expecting him to relieve 
me in the engine room every minute. Is he in the 
kitchen? " 

" No. I can't find him anywhere " 

" Good God! Then I know what he has done " 
said Masters brokenly " He was very upset over Mrs. 
Desmond yesterday. She wanted me to open the 
shutters. Come " 

At the stern of the ship and on the lower deck was a 
little trap door in the metal covering. " He's gone 
through there " said Masters hoarsely " He asked me 
a lot of questions about it last night. I told him 
about the mechanism of this trap and he suggested we 
should go out on deck, and see if it was possible to 
breathe out there. I laughed at him and thought no 
more about the matter " 

As he was speaking he deftly wound a scarf about his 
nose and mouth, and stufiFed his ears with cotton wool 
saturated with oil. He touched a spring and a sheet of 
metal unfolded and when it rested at last in position, it 
formed a tiny air tight closet outside the trap. " I 
shall open the trap as quickly as I can " said he quickly 
" On the other side the deck is opened up and there is 
a space left large enough to test thoroughly the outer 
air. But by the aid of this " cubby-hole ' we still have 
our ether protection kept safe all round the ship. Now 
I am going out to see if Murdoch is there. If I don't 
come back, don't search for me. It will be too late " 

" Masters, don't go I " urged Alan. 

" I must go " grimly " but I beg of you, if I don't 
return in ten minutes, forget I ever existed " 

Without another word he slipped into the Httle box- 
like chamber, and the door snapped to after him. They 



202 THE PERFECT WORLD 

heard the sound of a dick, rushing air, and then, 
silence. 

Five minutes passed— six — seven — eight. Sir John, 
Desmond and Mavis had come up in time to hear the 
trap close, and quickly Alan explained the position. 

" Why did you let him go? " cried Mavis. 

" Murdoch w^ent for you, my dear " he answered 
sternly " Masters went to save him " 

Mavis covered her face with her hands, and the tears 
trickled down her face. 

" My dear, don't take it to heart " went on Alan 
kindly " If anything happens to Murdoch, he will 
have given his life for his friends " 

Then a muffled cry came from within the little 
chamber. Quickly Alan touched the lever, the folds of 
metal rolled back, and two figures fell forward on their 
faces. 

" Water " commanded Alan, and Mavis rushed to 
get some. 

" Have you any brandy left? " asked Sir John. 

*' A very little " 

" Bring some too " he cried as Mavis disappeared 
into the kitchen. Tenderly they wiped blood and sweat 
from the faces of the unconscious men. 

Masters opened his eyes. " Out there " said he 
hoarsely " Terrible smell — sulphuric — can't breathe 
properly — whirHng clouds — eyes smart — don't go 
again " 

" He'll do " said Sir John " How's Murdoch? " 

" He's so terribly cold " said Mavis. 

Alan took his place by the still form. " Brandy " 
said he. He looked at the man on the floor. Thick 
veins like whipcords stood out upon his forehead. 
Blood trickled from his nose, his ears, his mouth. His 
lips were swollen, and were blue in colour and 
cracked. 

" He's gone " said Alan. 

" Dead? " cried Mavis in horror. 

" Quite dead " Gently they carried the dead man, 
who had risked his life for his friends, to his little 
sleeping cabin. Tenderly they laid him on his bed, 
covered up his face, and closed the door softly behind 



ADRIFT IN SOLAR REGIONS 203 

them. Then they went back to Mavis who was watch- 
ing over Masters. 

" How is he? " asked Desmond. 

" Better, I think. He asked for water. I think he 
is sleeping now " 

Alan bent over their old and valued friend. The 
look of pallor had vanished, the veins subsided, he was 
breathing" naturally. 

" Poor Murdoch " sobbed Mavis " I feel it was my 
fault. I was always worrying you to open the shutters 
and let us go outside " 

" Don't worry, little one " said Sir John " He died 
like an EngHsh gentleman " 

" Oh how terrible everything is " she sobbed 
hysterically " There seems no end to our torment. 
Oh this horrible place, this horrible ship of doom! " 



CHAPTER III 



THE VISION OF A NEW WORLD 

Perfect silence, perfect stillness, and the clouds whirled 
round and round outside. 

In vain they tried to move the ship. The engines 
worked smoothly, and with perfect rhythm, but were 
powerless to propel the Argenta. 

The death of Murdoch had a terribly depressing effect 
on every one — they all missed his kindly brusqueness, 
his forethought and stolid help. 

When Masters was sufficiently recovered he told his 
story. " I got through the ether all right " said he 
" I was through in a second and was standing on the 
exposed deck at the mercy of the elements. The cold 
was intense — I've never before experienced anything 
like it. In those few seconds it just cut through me. 
I could hardly see — my eyes filled with water, and 
smarted terribly as the gaseous vapour touched them. I 
lowered my handkerchief for the tiniest fragment of a 
second, and drew a very slight breath. The effect was 
terrible. My lungs felt as if they would burst — my 
mouth felt as if it had been seared with hot irons — my 
senses reeled; I felt as if I should fall. Then I became 
conscious of Murdoch lying huddled at my feet. I 
pulled him into the cabin after me, and well, — you know 
the rest. Poor Murdoch — I was too late " 

The excitement following the loss of Murdoch and 
Masters' adventure after him, had made the hungry 
prisoners forget the emptiness of their larder. They 
all sat down to a hearty meal, and it was only at the 
end they realized it meant their being on still shorter 
rations in the future. And only too soon the larders 
were indeed empty! Mavis grew too weak to move, 

204 



VISION OF A NEW WORLD 205 

and lay helpless on her bed, her baby at her breast. 
Masters was the last to give in, and as he walked 
unsteadily to his cabin, he had visions of Sir John on 
one chair and Alan on another, each vainly trying to 
whisper words of comfort to the other. 

Still the ship remained motionless — the stillness was 
of the grave. 

Suddenly a whitish beam of light shot out through 
the clouds, and Alan saw a new moon rising. And as 
he watched he saw another skim the heavens, and 
another, and yet another. He looked at them in per- 
plexity — four pink tipped crescents in the sky I 

"Four Moons I God! " he cried. "The four 
satellites of Jupiter ! Or should there be eight? Four 
— eight — eight — four " His brain muddled. Four 
Moons visible at once! Jupiter! He was witnessing 
the rise of four of the planet's moons! He was watch- 
ing them through the misty clouds — then came a blessed 
sense of oblivion, and he too, lost consciousness. 
When he awoke again, it was with a feeling that the 
Argenta was again moving through space — moving 
slowly, but with a speed that was gradually quickening. 
He stagg'ered to his feet, and bent over his uncle. Sir 
John was still breathing, but there was a curious grey- 
ness in his face, and Alan moistened his lips with a 
drop of brandy. The old man moved, and opened his 
eyes. " Drink a Httle " said Alan kindly " It will do 
you good " 

Sir John managed to swallow a little of the burning 
fluid, and sighing naturally, closed his eyes in sleep. 
With difficulty, Alan managed to reach Desmond's 
room, for he was very weak. He found Mavis lying 
on her bed, hardly breathing : the babe lay in her arms 
sleeping peacefully. She had given the very essence of 
her strength to her child, and he had scarcely suffered 
at all. 

Desmond was breathing heavily, jerkily, the breath 
came like sobs from between his clenched teeth. Alan 
forced some of the brandy between his lips and said 
huskily " Dez, old boy: don't leave me, old chap; 
we've been through some tight corners, don't give up 
yet " 



206 THE PERFECT WORLD 

Desmond struggled to a sitting position. " Good 
old Lanny " he muttered. 

" I must see Masters " said Alan " Keep up, if you 
can, till I return " 

Alan reeled from side to side in his weakness as he 
struggled on to Masters' cabin. It was empty 1 He 
was almost too weak to think or act coherently. 
" Masters " he moaned " Where are you? " Slowly 
he made his way back to the little room in the bows, 
and as he neared it, a brilliant beam of light shot across 
his path. The unexpectedness of it threw him off his 
balance, and he would have fallen, had not Masters 
rushed forward and put his arm about him. 

The light was strong. So strong that they could 
feet the heat of its rays through the little glass 
window. 

" What is it? " he asked. 

Masters could hardly speak. His lips were swollen 
and blackened, and his tongue parched. " Help " said 
he thickly. " That light is like a magnet — it is drawing 
us somewhere. It's sent out by human agency I am 
sure. See how it flutters and fades, only to come 
bright again " They watched the ray — it was focussed 
directly on the bows, and it seemed to be drawing them 
closer and closer to some harbour of refuge. Still they 
were going through the encircling clouds, which had 
suddenly turned to a most beautiful roseate hue. Then 
without any warning they emerged and found they were 
gazing on the most wonderful scene they had ever 
beheld. 

It was more wonderful than their thoughts could have 
expressed. Imagine hovering over the most wondrous 
piece of natural scenery — double — treble its beauty, and 
even then you could have no idea of the grandeur, the 
poetry of the picture they gazed upon. 

They were, perhaps, three thousand feet up. 
Mountains rose all round with rocky crevasses, and 
wonderful waterfalls dashing down their sides. Foam- 
ing waters trickled and bubbled and laughed by the 
sides of grassy paths. An inland lake glowed in the 
glory of the sunshine. Trees of all kinds nestled in the 
valleys and climbed the hillsides. 



VISION OF A NEW WORLD 207 

A sea — a glorious azure sea — with dancing waves and 
white flecked foam rolled merrily in and out on wonder- 
ful white sands. There were rocks and caves, and 
velvety grass slopes along the sea shore; babbling 
brooks merged into the blue, blue waters; tall lilies, 
virginal white, mingled with roses, red like wine, and 
grew in clusters at the water's edge. All was nature at 
her best — unspoiled by man. 

Wooded islets were dotted about in still more wonder- 
ful bays; birds white as snow, birds with plumage 
rainbow-hued floated idly on the waters, and added to 
the picturesque beauty. They could see little buildings 
nestling among the trees here and there, buildings that, 
like the chalets of Switzerland, only added to the beauty 
of the scene. 

The airship had stopped suddenly, and they were 
unable to move her, and still they hovered over the 
wonderful land. Sea — sky — both of a most glorious 
blue; the verdure of this new land was green — " The 
same as our world " murmured Alan. 

" But with what a difference " whispered Sir John. 

" I never knew what the sea was until now " said 
Alan " I never realized what ' colour ' was — what blue 
or green meant, until I looked down yonder " 

New life was born in the three men. " I'll call 
Desmond " said Alan. Mavis was lying as he had left 
her — white, inert, silent. " Leave her " he told his 
cousin " She will be quite safe; but we've news at 
last — we are in sight of land " 

When he reached the bows again, he snw they had 
dropped a few hundred feet, and were now well below 
the summit of the mountains. 

Below them, in a fertile valley, they saw what they 
thought were six giant birds running along a field. 
They rose, soared straight up, and flew directly toward 
the Argenta. They were like swans with outstretched 
wings, and necks like swans; but never had they seen 
birds of such a monstrous size. 

" They are as big as a small plane " said Sir John 
wonderingly. 

" By Jove, T believe that's what they are " said 
Alan. 



208 THE PERFECT WORLD 

As the " birds " drew nearer, they could see that the 
body was in reahty the car of the plane. Soon six were 
circling round the Argenta, and the prisoners within 
could see figures standing in the cars of the strange 
looking aeroplanes. 

The Argenta gave a jolt, and quivered from stem to 
stern, and they felt themselves sinking. The newcomers 
had thrown out some kind of grappling rope and were 
pulling them to earth. They were nearer to this 
wonderful country. Already they could see the brilliant 
flowers — trees laden with wonderful fruit and bright 
plumaged birds fluttering about without any sign of 
fear. 

" Release the shutters " said Alan hoarsely. 

" No " said Sir John with decision " Remember we 
have on board a defenceless woman and her child. We 
don't yet know if we are in the hands of friends or 
enemies. I'll get my revolver. Dez, my boy, I'll give 
it to you. Stay in your cabin and be prepared. You 
understand? " 

" Shoot — her? " asked Desmond hoarsely. 

Sir John bowed his head. " Surely you would rather 
do it than me? " 

" Yes— but— " 

" There is no * but,' my boy. Rather death than 
horrors unnameable. Stay in the cabin with your wife 
and child. If I think we are in good hands I will call 
you. Otherwise, I will give our whistle — the one we 
used when you were boys — the three sharp calls, and a 
long minor note " and he illustrated it softly " If you 
hear that, — don't hesitate, my boy " They gripped 
hands, and Desmond, dazed, speechless, walked 
unsteadily out of the room, and they heard the click of 
his cabin door as it closed behind him. 

Slowly, but surely the Argenta was being dragged 
down to the field below. At last they touched solid 
ground — there was a scrunch and a grating — they 
were on some earth at last. 

" Alan " said Sir John grimly " I have two other 
revolvers on board. Masters, if the worst comes to 
the worst, and I give the warning whistle for Mr. 
Desmond, go in to him. If he does not turn the 



VISION OF A NEW WORLD 209 

weapon on himself do it for him — and keep a spare 
bullet for yourself " 
" I understand, sir " 

The six white " birds " had also reached land, and 
from out of the bodies they saw strange figures appear. 
The figures were like themselves— yet how different ! 
The men approaching were perhaps under average 
height, but they were beautifully moulded, muscular 
with a symmetry of form that was glorious to behold. 

All but one wore white — a garment that reached to 
their feet, and which resembled in shape a Roman toga. 
This white garment was embroidered with richly 
coloured silks at the neck, wrists and hem. On their 
heads, they wore fillets of gold. The leader was garbed 
in a garment of the same shape, but of a glorious blue 
bound with gold, and his fillet was studded with gems 
that shone and flashed in the sunlight. All walked up 
to the Argenta and smiled through the little window at 
the occupants. Then the leader opened his hands — 
held them up empty, and with a charming smile, bowed 
low before them. Then he seemed to issue a command, 
and all the others, there were altogether perhaps thirty 
of them, followed his example, and bowed before them. 
" They look friendly " said Sir John " Masters, let 
the shutters be raised — then stand near Mr. Desmond's 
cabin. If I shout — ' view halloo! ' bid him to come 
out on to the upper deck, but — " 

" But if I hear the whistle, sir, I shall know what to 
do " 

" Keep your revolver hidden, Alan " said Sir John, 
and they made their way to the upper deck. 

They waited in silence for the ether to be pumped 
back into its cylinders, and for the shutters to lift. 
Gradually Hght came creeping in through chinks here 
and there — higher and higher was lifted the moving 
metal, until at last the two men drank in fresh air and 
bathed in glorious sunshine once again. They found 
they could scarcely move along the deck — in fact it was 
with the greatest difficulty they could keep their 
balance. They felt horribly material and gross. 
" What is it? " whispered Alan. 
" The law of gravity, my boy. Wherever we are, I 

o 



210 THE PERFECT WORLD 

should say it is about three times the strength of that 
we were used to when we were on Terra. I think we 
have about trebled our weight " 

The strangers had advanced — the leader was smiling 
graciously. He gave another command, and his band 
of followers came to a sudden halt, and he approached 
the Argenta — alone. He addressed them in a language 
they did not understand. 

" I do not understand — " commenced Sir John, but 
before he could say any more the stranger spoke — 
haltingly it is true, and as if unused to it, but he spoke 
in English. 

" Where are we? " cried Sir John in amazement. 

" You are on, what I think you would call — Jupiter " 

" Jupiter? " 

" Yes. And may I welcome you strangers to our 
land of plenty. I know not who you are or whence you 
come — but you are welcome — very welcome. But you 
look tired — " 

" You are not enemies, then? " cried Sir John. 

" Enemies? " repeated the Jovian " I understand 
not the word " 

" You are friends? " 

" Friends of course — we are all friends. Can you 
find a more beautiful word than friendship? " 

" Thank God I Thank God! " cried Sir John, and 
with a wild " View Halloo " issuing from his lips, he 
fell senseless to the ground. 



CHAPTER IV 



JUPITER AND THE JOVIANS 

The sweet toned bell in the Observatory at Minnaviar 
rang violently, and startled the students out of their 
usual calm and placidity. 

Kulmervan looked up from his studies. " What is 
it, my Waiko ? " said he in his own lang'uage to his 
friend. 

" I know not, my Kulmervan. Let us go to the 
Turret Room, and see " The two astronomical 
students at the most important meteorological college 
on the whole of Keemar, went swiftly up the wide, 
marble stairway to their Djoh's room. Before they 
were half way up, the bell rang louder than before. 

" Haste, my Waiko " said Kulmervan " The Djoh 
is anxious " As they reached the archway leading into 
the experimenting room, the Djoh met them. 

'' At last " said he testily " At last you are come. 
I summoned you as there is a most remarkable 
phenomenon registered by the sensitive disc. After we 
recorded the destruction of the planet ' Quilphis,' you 
will remember, we discovered a new comet or meteor 
that seemed to have separated from the planet itself. 
We witnessed this extraordinary • star ' whirling toward 
us, daily nearer and nearer. Our learned Ab-Djohs 
consulted together as to the meaning of this extra- 
ordinary thing. At last I was consulted, and by the 
aid of every scientific means we possessed we tried to 
discover the substance of this new moving orb. You 
recollect? '' 

" Yes, my Djoh " answered Kulmervan, the senior 
student. 

211 



212 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" Look " said the Djoh triumphantly, and he led the 
way to a large disc that stood in front of the large 
window. This disc was of glass, and was connected by 
etheric pipes to a large telescopic tube fixed outside the 
window. It was by the aid of this that the Keemarnians 
studied the solar system, and learnt about the other 
worlds in the sky. 

As Kulmervan looked into the disc, he saw, by 
reflection, a peculiar body suspended in the heavens — 
stationary it rested near Wirmir and Kosli, the twin 
stars of Gorlan. " What is it? " he asked eagerly, 
while Waiko, the younger student, stood silent, listen- 
ing eagerly to the conversation. 

" It is the meteor of Marfaroo " said he " It is the 
strange body that detached itself from Quilphis, when 
the life of that unfortunate planet was run " 

" But it is still now, my Djoh " 

'' The four Meevors have not yet risen, my son. In 
fourteen permos from now, they will be bright and 
shining. When they are at their full, they will draw 
that orb within our surrounding vapours. Then we 
must direct our light rays upon it, and draw it within 
our atmosphere. It is a wonderful thing, my son, and 
will aid us in our knowledge of science. My theory is, 
that it is a minute portion of the planet Quilphis itself. 
Oh, very small, hardly as big as the Rorka's palace; but 
the knowledge of its composition will help us in our 
research. Take turn and watch with me, my sons, and 
at the right moment we will direct our Ray upon it " 

Eagerly the students watched. The honour was 
great the Djoh had put upon them, and they were eager 
to be present when the light of the four full Meevors 
should shine upon the strang-e presence in the sky. 

" But the time the Kymo sinks to rest, my sons, the 
fourth Meevor will be at the full, and we will watch the 
developments with interest " 

The three surrounded the little disc; the pale beams 
from the Meevors shone distinctly on the glass; there 
was a movement — the foreign body moved slowly 
toward them. 

" The Ray " cried the Djoh " Summon the Ab- 
Djohs" 



JUPITER AND THE JOVIANS 213 

Ten Ab-Djohs appeared at Waiko's call. They were 
all dressed in the green tunic and vest and short cloak 
— the symbol of their calling as the highest astronomers 
in the land, bar one, the Djoh himself, who wore a 
voluminous cloak and tall, conical hat in addition. The 
wise men adjusted the focussing apparatus and directed 
the nozzle toward Wirmir and Kosli. A whirring noise 
sounded — and then suddenly shot out a most glorious 
ray. " When Kymo has risen but four thoughts, the 
orb will be here " announced the Djoh *' Waika, go 
call Waz-Y-Kjesta. Tell him the Djoh has words of 
import to utter " 

Soon Waz-Y-Kjesta appeared. He was a handsome 
man, fair-haired, long-limbed. He wore his blue toga 
as became him as Waz of the air birds, the vessels which 
were used by the inhabitants of Keemar to journey by 
the sky. 

" Fetch in that strange star, O Waz " said the Djoh 
" Bring it to earth, and I will await its arrival here " 

Waz-Y-Kjesta bowed low. " Your will shall be 
done, my Djoh " said he, and he went swiftly to the 
place where his air birds were housed. " Mashonia " 
said he to his Waz-Mar, or Lieutenant " Order out 
six air birds, we go on a mission for the Djoh " 

In a very short space of time, six beautiful " birds " 
rose from the ground and skimmed toward their goal 
which was now approaching very rapidly. 

" My Waz " cried Mashonia suddenly "It is part 
of no planet that we are approaching. See, there is 
glasis in front, and men like ourselves are looking 
toward us ! " 

" They are like us, yet unlike us " said Waz-Y- 
Kjesta. " They are habited in sombre clothing — 
they look dark and gloomy " 

" Where can they come from? " asked Mashonia 
wonderingly. " All sons of Keemar would signal us. 
They are strangers from another world, I fear " 

Gradually they circled round the Argenta, and 
brought her safely to the ground. They watched the 
lifting of the shutters curiously. This was indeed the 
strangest " air bird " they had ever seen. When Sir 
John gave his wild cry, Ihe Keemarnians realized that 



214 THE PERFECT WORLD 

the strangers who had come in so wonderful a manner 
to their land, had suffered acutely. " Send for six 
Bhors " said Waz-Y-Kjesta quickly " these friends are 
ill " 

In the shortest space of time, the Bhors, the 
Keemarnian carriages, appeared. They were comfort- 
able litters like vehicles, laden with rugs of silk and 
downy cushions. Above were canopies of silk which 
shaded the occupants, who swung hammock wise from 
a wheeled frame, into the shafts of which were 
harnessed magnificent colis — beasts very similar to 
Shetland ponies, only with long curly hair. 

At a command from Waz-Y-Kjesta, Mashonia and 
another leapt nimbly over the bulwarks of the Argenta, 
and without a word, in turn carried all the erstwhile 
prisoners of the airship, and placed them on cushions 
in the comfortable 'Keemarnian equipages. As Alan 
was carried past the Waz, he murmured feebly " A 
guard for the Argenta, please " 

A look of surprise passed over the Keemarnian's face. 
"'What meanest thou? " he asked. 

" A guard " urged Alan " The Argenta contains 
all our possessions " 

" A guard? " answered Kjesta " Nay, why should 
we do tliat ? It is safe there. It does not belong to us. 
Fear not, no one will touch it, my friend " 

Gently the colis stepped out, drawing easily the Bhors 
and their occupants. " Drive to the palace of the 
Jkak " said Waz-Y-Kjesta " We must acquaint 
him first with the news of the arrival of these 
strangers " 

The weary travellers saw nothing of the country 
through which they passed. They were too weary and 
worn to raise themselves on the cushions and look 
around. The cool breeze swept across their faces and 
refreshed them, so they were content to remain as they 
were and not think or worry about the future. 

A runner was sent before to acquaint the Jkak of 
their near approach, and as they stopped at his beauti- 
ful palace, men came out, unhooked the hammock part 
of the Bhors, and carried the occupants into the Jkak's 
presence. He was awaiting them in the cool reception 



JUPITER AND THE JOVIANS 215 

hall, and regal and patriarchal he looked, in his robe of 
loose green silk, with his golden fillet low upon his 
brow. 

" My brothers " said he in a low musical voice 
" Welcome to Keemar, the land of all good. Eat first 
from yonder viands. They will revive you " 

Trays daintily laden with food and wine were placed 
before the hungry travellers. The Jkakalata, consort 
to the Jkak, attended to Mavis. " A child " said she 
" and a woman, too. Come, Persoph " to her 
husband " give me that glass of friankate — it will revive 
her " She moistened Mavis's lips with the fragrant 
wine — Mavis opened her eyes, and as she looked at the 
kindly woman's face, she burst into tears. " Who are 
you? " she cried. 

" I am Mirasu, the Jkakalata " she replied " Drink 
this, it will do you good " 

Mavis drank long of the sweet liquor, and ate the 
strange fruits that were placed before her. Alan, as 
usual, was the first to recover and made a movement as 
if to rise from the Bhor. 

" Nay " said Persoph " Do not move, I beg you. 
Rest, and later you can tell us your story " Then he 
turned to Desmond " She with the babe — she is 
yours? " 

" How did you know? " asked the perplexed 
husband. 

" By the look in your eye when my Mirasu handled 
your babe " said the wise old man sagely " It was the 
look of possession " 

" Yes, she is my wife " said Desmond. 

" Wife — ah I that is the word. Now rest among the 
cushions of the Bhors. Rooms are prepared for you. 
Sleep, my friends, until the Kymo rises twice again. 
Then refreshed and strong we will welcome you among 
us, and listen with interest to your story " 

The Jkak's palace was of a glorious green marble, 
highly polished. In the entrance hall was a huge 
fountain. Six beautiful maidens, their garments 
chiselled out of coloured marble, held large shells from 
which poured water into the basin beneath. The figures 
were life size, and gracefully moulded. Lovely water 



216 THE PERFECT WORLD 

flowers grew all around, and coloured fish swam in and 
out among the pebbles and plants. 

Up a wide stairway, which branched out into large 
galleries, the strangers were carried, the Jkak himself 
leading the way, as if he were doing homage to the 
Rorka himself. They wended their way through a 
narrower passage which widened out again into a 
spacious loggia. In the very centre of this space four 
malachite pillars, highly polished, supported a crystal 
shell out of which poured sparkling waters into a pond 
beneath. There were six doors round the loggia; at 
the first the Jkak stopped, opening it himself, led 
the way in. With gentle hands Desmond and Mavis 
were transferred to soft, downy beds. " Rest, my 
friends, and sleep until Morkaba brings you wine and 
food " Then the other three were taken to separate 
sleeping apartments, where their weary limbs rested in 
contentment on the soft, downy cushions. 

Desmond and Mavis's room was perhaps the largest 
— a glorious room with a wide balcony upon which 
were growing the most beautiful creepers and plants — 
with wonderful perfumes and flowers. An enormous 
four poster bed stood in the centre of the room, with 
its back immediately in front of the door. A canopy of 
silk was overhead; there were no sheets or blankets 
upon it, but there was an abundance of cushions, and 
silken rugs of all hues. Easy chairs, plenty of mirrors 
and a dressing table furnished the room. The walls 
were of a polished pale pink marble, and the fittings, 
tapestries and silken hangings were all of colours that 
blended and made one harmonious whole. All the other 
rooms were similar, except in the colouring, and on the 
polished marble floors were spread rugs of exotic 
colours. 

A silver bell tinkled ! To Mavis, it sounded like the 
Angelus on a summer morning. She opened her eyes; 
again the bell sounded. " Where am I? " she cried, 
and with sudden remembrance " Baby — where's 
Baby? " 

Desmond woke. " Where's Baby, Dez? " she asked 
again piteously, and even as she spoke she heard the 
sound of a tiny chuckle, and by her side on a bed, the 



JUPITER AND THE JOVIANS 217 

miniature of the one she was on, lay her baby, croon- 
ing with dehght. The bell tinkled again. Desmond 
went to the door and opened it slightly. A smihng girl 
was outside with a table on wheels. " Your mushti " 
said she wheeling it toward him. 

" To eat? " queried Desmond. 

" Of course. It is pleasant on the ' vala,' outside 
among the flowers — have it there with your friends " 

" Thank you. It's breakfast, Mavis " said Desmond 
" Look out on the balcony and see if Uncle John is 
there " 

Mavis was almost too bewildered to ask any 
questions, and obeyed. There was a tiny gate dividing 
their balcony from the next, and she went through. 
" Uncle John " she called softly. 

Sir John, Alan, and Masters appeared at the window 
of the next room. 

" You're awake then? " laughed Alan. 

" Yes " 

" Have you had any food? " asked Desmond. 

Alan laughed. " A table each — and chock full. 
Shall we wheel ours along and all have it together? " 
In a trice the six were sitting down to the first real meal 
they had had since they had so miraculously escaped 
from the end of the world. 

The tables were of different coloured glass, and were 
laden with food very different from that to which they 
had been accustomed. There were jugs full of steam- 
ing liquid, neither tea, cofFee, nor cocoa, but with a 
reminiscent flavour of all three, and extremely refresh- 
ing. There were wines — fruits whole, and fruits 
compote. There were cereals served almost like 
porridge, and there was bread too. Bread and tiny^ 
crisp rolls, biscuits sweet and biscuits plain, and pats of 
golden butter. It was a deHghtful meal, refreshing, 
invigorating, and so different from the stodgy, unwhole- 
some tinned meats they had been living on for so long. 
There was also a tiny tray for the baby — a bowl of fresh 
new milk and some rusks. A plate of a kind of arrow- 
root mixture was greatly appreciated by little John 
Alan, who cried out " More — pese, mum, more " 

" The little beggar likes it " said Sir John " He 



218 THE PERFECT WORLD 

appreciates the change too. Well, here we are all on 
land again at last, and among friends " 

" What are you going to do ? " asked Mavis. 

" We'll throw ourselves on the mercy of the Jovians 
of course; make up our minds to settle down in a new 
world, and hve the remainder of our lives in peace and 
contentment " 

" Shan't we ever go home again? " Mavis's eyes 
widened, and she looked imploringly at the others. 
The truth was forced on her mind at last. She had no 
home I Gone were all her pretty possessions — gone 
her trinkets, her books, her silver. Gone also her 
delicate trousseau — her frocks, lingerie, jewels. 
Everything was gone. The world itself had vanished. 

" Now, my dear " said Sir John " We must 
acclimatize ourselves to this new life. After all, we 
can easily do that. We have been treated as honoured 
guests, so I must speak to the Jkak, and find out our 
future standing in this world " 

" They speak EngHsh " said Alan wonderingly 
" How is that? Surely we are the first English people 
who have found their way here ? There can't be a 
colony of Britishers in Jupiter! " 

The bell sounded again, and Alan went to the door. 
Waz-Y-Kjesta stood outside. " The Jkak is eager to 
see you " said he " If you feel strong enough and 
sufficiently rested, come with me and I will lead you to 
him " They followed him down the stairs to the 
entrance hall, and through into a spacious apartment. 

" The Reception Room " said the Waz " The Jkak 
wishes not to be on formal terms with you — he bade me 
bring you to his garden room " 

Through a doorway they went and out into the most 
glorious garden they had ever seen. Fountains 
splashed in the sunlight — tiny brooks gurgled over 
white stones, as they wound round beds of flowers. 
There was a riot of colour in this wonderful garden — 
glorious, flowering trees and shrubs abounded — 
creeper-covered archways were everywhere, and at the 
further end they could see a creeper-covered arbour, 
hung with exotic blooms. Inside tITis were easy 
chairs, settees and comfortable lounges. The Jkak, 



JUPITER AND THE JOVIANS 219 

and Mirasu, his Jkakalata, were seated there awaiting 
their arrival, and rose to greet them. 

" Now tell us your story " said the Jkak " for 
wonderful it must be " 

" First " said Alan, who at Sir John's request, acted 
as spokesman " how is it you can understand our 
language? Surely English isn't spoken here? " 

" English? " 

" Yes. We are EngHsh. We come from that part 
of our world that was known as England, you know " 

" We have the ' gift of tongues ' my friend " said 
the Jkak. " Until we spoke to you, we had never 
before heard your tongue, but the moment you spoke 
we understood. I cannot describe our gift — it just — 
is. We of Keemar all speak one tongue. No con- 
fusion is here. Until you came, we had never had the 
opportunity to benefit from this gift we all believed we 
possessed. To-day, all ICeemarnians are thanking 
Mitzor, the Great White Glory and Tower of Help, for 
His graciousness in having conferred upon us this gift, 
and for allowing us to have the means given us for 
using the ' gift of tongues ' We understand, all of 
us. We may not understand every expression you 
utter, for things are different in other worlds, and we 
ourselves no doubt possess peculiarities of our own — 
still we can converse freely with you " 

" It is a wonderful gift to possess " said Sir John. , 

" Now your story " insisted the Jkak gently. 
' So Alan told the whole story of his life since the time 
when he and Desmond first went to Marshfielden. He 
told of the Light, and the people of Kalvar — of their 
wonderful escape from the bowels of the earth, and of 
Ihe end of the world. 

" So Quilphis is no more " said the Jkak " Indeed, 
we witnessed its destruction, and thought that your air- 
ship was part of the planet itself. And so " he went 
on " you believe that the end of the world was caused 
through the failure of the fire in the centre of the 
earth? " 

" I feel sure of it " said Alan " During our stay in 
Kalvar, we noticed that the Fire grew daily less and 
less. And the purple people prophesied that when the 



220 THE PERFECT WORLD 

Fire went out, then would come the end of the world. 
I thmk that, in its last dying gasp, it tried to get a new 
lease of Hfe. In its gigantic death struggle, it burst its 
bonds, and eartliquakes, volcanoes, and water spouts 
were the result " 

" Oh, it was horrible " said Mavis shuddering. 

" And your ship — the one you sailed in — you must 
invite me to see it " said the Jkak. 

" Why, of course " said Sir John " Have you not 
been? " 

" It is not mine " replied the Jkak. " It would be an 
impertinence to pry into your affairs without an invita- 
tion. Now, with regard to yourselves. I must see that 
you go to Hoormoori and pay your respects to our 
Rorka. Hoormoori is the chief place in this world of 
ours; it is there that our Rorka has his palace " 

" Rorka? " asked Mavis " What is that? " 

" Our Rorka rules over the whole of Keemar " 

" Have you only one Rorka or King over the whole 
of Keemar? " asked Sir John. 

" Why, of course. Why should we have more? " 
asked Mirasu smiling. " Keemar is one world — ^with 
one Rorka. Then we have one hundred Jkaks, and one 
thousand Moritous — that is enough, surely, to govern 
a world? " 

" Are you only one nation then? " 

" Naturally. We are all Keemarnians — jusi one 
great nation, divided into manv families. We all speak 
the same language — all worsliip in the same fashion 
Mitzor, the Great White Glory and Tower of Strength, 
and all Uve in peace, friendship, and harmony, one with 
another. But now my friends, strangers though you 
are, you are welcome here. I will put at your disposal 
houses and serving men " 

" We possess nothing " said Sir John " We have 
no property, no valuables — nothing but the Argenta. 
How shall we repay your kindness to us? " 

" Repay? " said the Jkak " nay, that is another word 
I know not the meaning of " 

" But " began Alan. 

" Nay, you are strangers in a strange world. It is 
our duty to make you all feel at home nere. I can see 



JUPITER AND THE JOVIANS 221 

you were of high estate in your own country — ^you must 
be of high estate here also. Know you, we are wise in 
this land. Our Rorka is first, and his spouse, the 
Rorkata, ranks second. Their offspring and nearest 
blood relations come next; then come the Jkaks and 
Moritous; our Djohs and Ab-Djohs; the Wazi, 
Captains of our air birds, our learned men and students, 
down to the serving men and maids, and the builders of 
our homes and our ships. From highest to lowest, all 
share ' pro rata ' in the good things of the world. We 
are all satisfied — the laws of our land have fixed the 
rates that are to be paid to each household from the 
common fund. I assure you, there will be enough 
and to spare for you " 

Masters spoke for the first time. *' I am Sir John's 
servant " he began. 

" No " corrected Sir John " Masters is my faithful 
friend and adviser " 

" Then you would like him to dwell in the same house 
with you ? " 

" Please " said Sir John " and my nephew Alan, 
also " 

" And you, no doubt " went on the Jkak turning to 
Desmond " you would like to have apartments to your- 
selves " 

" Thank you " answered Mavis for her husband and 
herself. 

" Good. I will summon Waz-Y-Kjesta. There are 
several new houses near at hand. Go with him — you 
can take your choice " and with a wave of the hand 
and a smile, they realized that they were dismissed 
from the presence of the Jkak and his charming 
wife. 

Waz-Y-Kjesta was hovering near and came toward 
them. He had received his full instructions before- 
hand. " Come " said he " The houses that are un- 
occupied are quite close- -come and take your choice " 

" How is it " asked Alan " that we can walk so 
easily now. When we first came out on to the open deck 
of the Argenta, our limbs were as heavy as lead. We 
could not walk an inch, and we were so top-heavy we 
could hardly stand " 



222 THE PERFECT WORLD 

*' That is easy to explain " replied the Waz " Eight 
•Kymos have risen since you arrived here " 

" Kymos? " asked Mavis The Keemarnian names 
puzzled her. 

" Sun? " suggested Alan. 

" Ah, you call it — sun. Yes, since you first came, 
the sun has sunk seven times. You have slept — 
breathed in our air. While you were sleeping, our men 
of science administered medicinal gases through your 
nostrils. These gases lightened you — took from you 
the heaviness of your earth. You will find no difficulty 
now " and he led the way through the garden to the 
most glorious street it was possible to imagine. 

" Now you will see our country " he continued " and 
compare it with your own. You are not too tired? " 
he asked Mavis. 

" No, of course not. I feel too excited. I want to 
see your beautiful city — your beautiful country. May 
I first see that my baby is all right? " 

He gave the necessary permission, and soon she 
returned. " He is sleeping peacefully " said she 
" Morkaba is watching over him. Now I'm ready " 
and they all went down the marble steps of the Jkak's 
palace, eager for their first sight of this new, strange 
land. 



CHAPTER V 



DEATH IN JUPITER 

They walked down a lovely avenue to the outer gates. 
It was grass-covered, soft and velvety and cool. Birds 
with the gayest plumage hopped among the branches of 
the trees, and came fearlessly up to the strangers. One 
bird, perhaps as big as an English bullfinch, of many 
colours and with a fan-shaped tail, perched on Mavis' 
shoulder, and chirped prettily to her. 

" How wonderful! " said she. 

" Did not your birds do that? " asked Waz-Y- 
Kjesta. 

" No, they were too nervous " 

" Nervous? " 

" Yes — frightened — terrified " she explained. 

" I understand the meaning of the word you utter " 
said he " but you will not find the sensation of fear 
known on Keemar. We live in harmony with our birds, 
our animals, and even our fish. They are all our 
friends " 

At the end of the avenue they found themselves on a 
broad road. Hills rose up at the side, steeply in some 
places, while in others the rise was more gradual, 
leaving moorland and valley in view. Houses were 
built at intervals along the roads, all of wonderful, 
coloured marbles, but they were all surrounded by 
beautiful grounds, and added to the scene. 

" Oh " said Mavis suddenly " There's a shop " 

Waz-Y-Kjesta looked puzzled, and followed her gaze. 
" Oh yes, you mean our Omdurlis. How else should 
we get food to eat and clothes to wear? " 

223 



224 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" How then do you manage about your coinage? 
Do you have money? " asked Alan curiously. 

" I know not the word " 

" How do you buy things — what do you give in 
exchange? " 

" Oh, we have laika — royla, suka and minta " said 
he; and he drew from his purse that hung satchel-wise 
across his shoulders, some coins. The first was square, 
as large as a five shilling piece, and green in colour. 

" This will purchase the most " he said " Five 
roylas make a laika " The royla was exactly the same, 
but no bigger than a florin. " Then there are ten 
sukas to a laika, and twenty mintas " The last two 
coins were of a bronze hue and as big as a shilling and 
a sixpence. 

" I expect those five coins are equal to a fiver, a 
sovereign, a two shilling piece and a sixpence " said 
Mavis thoughtfully. 

" How do you get your money? " asked Sir John. 

" Oh, from the Rorka " explained the Waz " I am 
a Waz — I receive one thousand roylas or two hundred 
laikas a murvin. The Jkak will get a thousand laikas, 
while little Morkaba, who is born of the workers, gets 
but ten and her food " 

" I suppose the shopkeepers make a lot of money " 
said Desmond. 

" Oh no. All members of the Omdurlis get one 
hundred laikas. All that they make above that they 
are bound to send to the Rorka. He places all the 
surplus in the general fund which is held in reserve for 
all Keemarnians. As each male Keemarnian reaches 
the age when he has seen the Kymo rise three thousand 
and thirtv times, he journeys to Hoormoori, makes his 
bow to tne Rorka, and receives from him his manhood. 
According to the station in life in which he has been 
bom, and from which he has sprung, so he learns to 
take his part in life " 

" It is a wonderful system in theory " said Sir John 

But how does it work in practice? " 

" It is our custom " was all the reply the Waz made. 

" But don't you sometimes find you get dissentient 
spirits? Don't they rebel against this formality? 



DEATH IN JUPITEK 225 

Don't they want to make more money than is allowed 
by custom ? Don't you sometimes have trouble from 
these spirits ? " 

Waz-Y-Kjesta smiled. " In our books of science we 
have read that in other places than ours — there were 
troubles like those you name. That man fought man — 
brother hated brother — women sorrowed, and children 
were rendered homeless. We, in Keemar, know not 
the meaning of such things. We are happy; we are 
content with our life; why should we complain? " 

There were no ugly streets and lines of shops in this 
wonderful city ; but the Omdurlis were to be found here 
and there at the edge of the grass covered paths, while 
the houses lay further back. Everywhere were to be 
seen happy-faced men and women, and laughing 
children. Bhors driven by colis, and bhors driven by 
the etheric power that was used for lighting and pro- 
pelling purposes, thronged the streets, and the whole 
scene was gay and beautiful. 

Although the sky was a wonderful blue, and all the 
buildings were of white and brilliant coloured marbles, 
the whole effect had none of the tawdry or bizarre 
appearance of the cities of the East, in the world; but 
the whole was soothing and pleasing to the jaded nerves 
of the earth folks. They turned a comer and found 
themselves in a short road ending in a cul-de-sac formed 
by high gates and marble pillars. 

" This is one of the houses " said Waz-Y-Kjesta 
" Come, and see it " The garden entranced Mavis 
before she saw the house. It was like a picture out of 
the fairyland she had dreamt of as a child — the fairy- 
land she had dreamt of as a woman I For are noti all 
true women half fairies at heart? Is not the mysticism 
of life itself a fairy gift to a pure woman's mind ? Mavis 
had lived her life among the fairies. As a child she had 
played with them in bluebell woods and primrose glades : 
and when she renewed her own childhood in her baby, 
she renewed through him her acquaintance with the 
fairies. 

Trees overhung the grassy path which was on a 
gradual upward slope. Burns ran down on either side 
— rushing, laughing, maddening burns. Tiny flowers 

p 



226 THE PERFECT WORLD 

peeped out among the grass; lichen-covered rocks 
reared up majestically from the centre of still pools. 
Gnarled trees lined the way, and their twisted roots 
formed steps up the hillside. The top spread out 
plateau-wise, and a blue marble house was built in the 
very centre. It was not very large; a verandah ran 
all round it on both floors, and the foliage and creeping 
plants added to its beauty. The door was open wide, 
and the splashing fountain in the entrance hall looked 
inviting and cool. Apart from the kitchen and servants' 
quarters, there were on the ground floor only two 
living rooms and the entrance hall. Each of the six 
bedrooms on the upper floor had magnificent bathrooms 
leading from them. They were like miniature swimming 
baths, shallow at one end, deepening to six feet, and 
the water was hot and cold in the pipes. Tlie whole 
house was decorated in a delicate shade of blue, and 
was absolutely ready for use. Mavis was entranced. 
" May we stay here? " she asked. 

" I will acquaint the Jkak with your decision " 
answered the Waz " Now " turning to Sir John 
" through the garden yonder, and down a short wood- 
land path is a garden house. Would you care to see 
it ? It might suit you, and you would be all near to one 
another " 

" It sounds most attractive " said Alan. 

They walked through the garden and down the hill 
on the other side of it, and saw, nesthng among the 
trees, the tiniest house they had so far seen on Jupiter. 
It was an absolutely perfect bachelor establishment, and 
the three men decided at once that it was an ideal spot 
to live in. 

" The Jkak is eager to see your air bird " 
announced Waz-Y-Kjesta " When may he go? " 

" Why I'd forgotten all about the Argenta " said 
Alan " Can't we go now? " 

Mavis looked from one to the other. " Do you want 
Dez? " she asked pathetically " I seem to have seen 
so little of him lately. Dez come — come home, and 
Baby, you and I will have a long, happy day together " 

So it was decided that Sir John, Alan and Masters 
should go back lo the Jkak's with the Waz, and arrange 



DEATH IN JUPITER 227 

about the trip to the Argenta. " Waiting men and 
maids have already been dispatched to your houses " 
announced the majordomo, Marhnok by name. 

" Is the Jkak at hbcrty ? " asked the Waz. 

" He is, my Waz " 

" Tell him, if it is his desire, the strangers will show 
him their air bird now " 

A few minutes passed and Marlinok returned. " The 
bhors are ready and waiting, my Waz. The Jkak has 
already started " 

Outside they found two double bhors ready, and Sir 
John and his faithful Masters travelled in one, while 
Alan and Waz-Y-Kjesta occupied the other. Alan 
was now able to enjoy the scenery through which he 
passed. The path by which they travelled ran by the 
side of an island lake, with tall mountains towering on 
the further side of the water. The woodland nature of 
the scene with the twining paths and overhanging 
branches reminded Alan forcibly of the bank of Loch 
Lomond between Tarbet and Ardlui; yet the almost 
tropical colouring of the flora — the wonderful bright- 
ness of the birds' plumage, the waving palm-like trees 
that were interpersed here and there, were unlike any- 
thing he had ever beheld. This place seemed to possess 
everything to make it perfect — mountain — moorland — 
water — and woodlands. Nothing was missing from 
this panorama of glory. 

At last the Argenta hove in sight, and somehow its 
beauty seemed to have lessened in this land of glory. 
The silver brightness of its aluminium looked dim in 
the golden sunlight; the torpedo-shaped body seemed 
ugly and sinister in comparison with the beauty and 
symmetry of the Keemarnian air birds. The Jkak 
waited for the strangers to alight, and the Waz 
whispered his instructions. " Welcome the Jkak, my 
friend " said he "It is our custom. Ask him to 
honour you by boarding your craft. Let him bring 
peace and prosperity to your house by stepping across 
the threshold of your boat " 

" My Jkak " said Alan, going to the side of the state 
bhor " will you honour us all by boarding our Argenta, 
and bring us joy and peace? " 



228 THE PERFECT WORLD 

** You have learnt your lesson quickly and well, my 
son " said the Jkak in reply " I will come with 
pleasure " He walked aboard and was extremely 
interested in the vessel " But how do you move it? " 
he asked " How does it rise into the heights of the 
heavens? " 

" This is the spirit " said Alan " but alas, it will not 
work in your atmosphere. There seems no power in it. 
Perhaps later on, we might experiment with your 
etheric current ? " 

The Jkak and his suite were enchanted with the 
fitting's of the Argenta — the electricity, the furniture, 
the hanging-s. As they made their way toward the 
sleeping caljins, Masters suddenly spoke. 

" Poor old Murdoch — he's in there " said he " I am 
afraid I forgot all about him " 

" Poor chap " said Alan " so did I " and he quickly 
barred the way " May I suggest, my Jkak, that you 
do not go in there " said he "A very dear comrade 
of ours risked his life for us all. He is in there — 
dead " 

" Dead? " asked the Jkak. 
Sir John bowed his head sadly. " Dead " he 
repeated " and one of the truest servants that man ever 
had " 

" But if he is in there " said the Jkak with a puzzled 
frown " why does he not come out? " He looked at 
the others in turn " Why does he not enjoy life with 
you ? Ah I He thinks the Argenta would not be safe 
without him? That is foolish. I will enter — I will 
assure him he has nothing to fear " 

" But he is dead " urged Alan. 

" Dead? " 

" Yes, he died before we reached Keemar " 

" I know not the meaning of the word. The ' gift 
of tongues ' fails me here. Explain — dead " 

Alan looked at him in amazement. Death was such 
a common word in the world; one met with it at every 
turn ; it was strange that it should remain unknown to 
the Jovians with their wonderful " gift of tongues " 

" His life has gone " said Alan simply. 
But life is eternal, my son " 



DEATH IN JUPITER 229 

" Surely you do not live for ever on Keemar? " 
asked Alan incredulously. 

" Ah, no. We do not live for ever on Keemar it is 
true — but our life is eternal " 

It was impossible to explain — they had no knowledge 
of death — yet they, on their own showing, seemed to 
expect to leave Keemar at some time or other. Surely 
death alone could remove them? 

" I beg of you, do not go in there " urged Alan, and 
he barred the door of the death chamber. 

" My son " said the Jkak " I must know all things 
in my country. If what you call ' death ' has entered 
— then I beg" you, acquaint me with it " 

" But it is horrible — " 

" Let me meet it face to face — " 

It is loathsome " urged Alan " I pray you, do not 
go inside " 

The Jkak made no reply, but raised his right hand 
high above his head — palm outwards, and even as he 
did so, Waz-Y-Kjesta and his suite bent low on one 
knee. 

" The sign of the Jkak " said the Waz " His wishes 
must be honoured, his commands obeyed " 

Alan moved away from the door, his head bowed in 
acquiescence, and Marlinok turned the handle of the 
door, and stepped back to allow the Jkak to enter. 
There was a tense silence for a moment, then from the 
darkened chamber came a startled cry, a cry full of 
poignant horror, and with an ashen face the Jkak 
appeared at the door. 

" I have seen Death " said he "I have seen the 
horrors of sin. Death, until now, has never entered 
Keemar. Death brings its own punishment. Death 
brings horrors and adversity. Death! Oh Great, 
White Glory, Tower of Help, Mitzor of our Fathers — 
I have seen Death in its hideousness. Mitzor the 
Mighty, grant preservation to thy people — grant help 
to thy faithful " Persoph the Jkak was trembling. 
His face was white, his hand was shaking as he pointed 
to the door. 

" What will you do with — with — that? " he asked, 
almost inaudibly. 



280 THE PERFECT WORLD 

Alan answered him. " Bury him, poor chap " 

" Bury? " 

" Yes. Do you not dig graves for your dead? 

" We liave no dead, my son. I pray Mitzor, that the 
entrance of this — soul — may not bring disaster on our 
land. But how do you bury? " 

Alan explained, and as he finished the Jkak's face was 
more horror-stricken than before. " Nay, my son. 
bury you cannot. That would be impossible here 
He turned to the Waz. " Does not the Sacrament of 
Schlerik-itata take place within eight Kymos ? " 

" Yes, my Jkak " answered Y-Kjesta " Ak-Marn 
sent cards for all to attend it. It wiW be the biggest 
feast I have ever known. His seed is mighty, his seed 
is great. Five thousand and ten cards have been issued, 
and yet five thousand and more still clamour for 
admittance " 

" Good " answered Persoph " This " pointing 
about him " all this must go. Summon me Misrath, 
the High Priest. Bid him bring his ' waters of purity ' 
and his smoke of sweet odours. Bid him bring his 
choir of young voices, and bid all prepare. A sacrifice 
will be offered to Mitzor; the Great White Glory must 
be appeased " 

Alan and Sir John were very mystified over the whole 
scene. These Jovians did not seem to understand 
Death — yet they spoke of sacrifice ! 

" I am sorry, my son " said the Jkak " I can save 
nothing for you. All must be burnt and offered to 
Mitzor. Come now, I will draw a ring around the 
contaminated spot, and we will witness the destruction 
from without " 

Sir John and Alan were both loth to have the Argenta 
burnt— but being dependent on the Jovians for their 
entire future, they were unable to demur. With a silent 
prayer for the friend who had given his life for them, 
they leTt the ship and stood some way off. After an 
interminable time of waiting, a mighty blast of music 
burst on their ears, and they saw a procession of etheric 
bhors coming towards them. The first stopped, and 
Misrath the High Priest alighted, followed by priests 
and acolytes in quaint garments of ecclesiastical cut. 



DEATH IN JUPITEB 231 

A procession formed — two acolytes with censers led 
the way, and wafted the glorious perfume from side to 
side. Then followed one of the most mystical and 
picturesque ceremonies it was possible to imagine. 
Almost of Mosaic grandeur, it thrilled the watchers. 
They were unable to understand what was being said — 
all was in the language of the Keemarnians — but the 
meaning was plain. The Hig-h Priest offered the 
Argenta and its contents to Mitzor, the Great White 
Glory. He offered it, with its fine workmanship, its 
precious metals — and its body of sin. He asked that 
through the mediation of the sacrifice, any evil might 
be averted, that the entrance of Death might bring. 
He consecrated the Argenta to Mitzor — he consecrated 
the ground it contaminated. He poured the " waters 
of purity " across its bow, and named it " Mceka " the 
Bringer of Knowledge. 

Then the Argenta was sprayed from stem to stern 
with a milky fluid that dried like little curds all over the 
vessel. A torch was lighted and apphed to the ship. 
Little flames ran along meeting each other until they 
merged into one great whole; there was a roar and a 
noise like thunder, and the Argenta, the hobby of a life 
time, the fruit of patient labour, was no more! 

Sir John watched with a set face, but as the fire died 
out, and he saw that the whole had been swallowed up, 
had consumed itself entirely, — he crumpled up, and lay 
inert upon the ground. 



CHAPTER VI 



THE SACRAMENT OF SCHLERIK-ITATA 

Alan bent over his uncle, but the High Priest waved 
him away. " Touch him not " said he sternly, and 
such command rang in his tones, that Alan stepped 
back involuntarily. 

Again the scene was repeated — Sir John was prayed 
over, sprayed with the " waters of purity " and 
incensed. As the sweet fumes found their way up his 
nostrils, he stirred. Alan rushed to him and embraced 
him. " It was only foolishness, Alan " said he 
brokenly " But the Argenta — my ship — I was so proud 
of her. Masters, you know how I felt? She was my 
all in my days of sorrow. And in my days of joy, when 
reunited we sailed in her, she was my joy " 

" I understand. Uncle John. But try not to mind — 
when one is in Rome — you know the rest. We are in 
Jupiter and we must do as the Jovians wish " 

Persoph the Jkak, came up to them. " Nay, grieve 
not " said he kindly " We have cleared this place of 
sin. An air bird to take the place of the one that has 
gone shall be placed at your disposal. Go you home. 
Cards will be brought you for the Sacrament of 
Schlerik-itata. I beg of you all — attend it. Nay, I 
command you. We will meet again within eight 
Kymos. Farewell. Farewell " 

Waz-Y-Kjesta, motioned to their bhor. " Come, my 
friend " said he " I will drive you back another way 
^we will drive along the shores of the secti, and watch 
the breakers roll in " The sea shore was wonderful; 
the sea was blue, a deep, deep blue, and the breakers, 
flecked with foam, rolled in to a golden shore. They 

232 



SCHLERIK-ITATA 233 



passed bays, promontories, caves and rocks — and they 
found the drive of bewildering beauty. 

Alan asked " What is the Sacrament of Sch — " 

" Schlerik-itata ? " supplemented the Waz. 

" Yes " 

" My friend, you must wait until you witness it. 
You will understand us more fully when you have been 
to the home of Ak-Marn. Now to-night, there is a 
small party being given by Kulmervan and his fellow 
students at the Observatory. I have been asked to 
bring you all. Will you come? " 

" With pleasure " said Alan, 

" The Jkak is sending you all a complete outfit, my 
friend. Your clothes are old, travel-stained and torn — 
they are sombre too. If you accept his present, wear 
to-night your brightest garments " 

" Will you help me to adjust them? " asked Alan. 

The Waz drew himself up with a haughty air, but it 
as soon passed. " I was forgetting, my friend, that 
you know not our customs. The serving men will assist 
you. When you reach home, you will find your house 
fully staffed, and Quori, a most efficient steward and 
adviser " 

" What about meeting to-night for the party? " 

" I will call for you as the Kymo sinks. You will 
have bhors sufficient for your use " 

When they reached home they found a note awaiting 
them from Mavis, asking them to come over and have 
lunch with her and Desmond, and they walked through 
the garden to the other house. Mavis was waiting for 
Ihem, her cheeks dimpling and her eyes sparkling. 
" It's a wonderful country " said she " I've nothing to 
do all day; the cooking and cleaning seem to go by 
clockwork. Morkaba is Baby's personal attendant and 
mine; she has arranged my frock. How do you like 
it? " and she twirled round on one foot showing the 
soft draperies of Keemarnian dress. 

It was of a soft green, embroidered with coloured 
silks and her hair was left loose flowing around her 
shoulders, and caught above her ears by a narrow fillet 
of gold that gleamed as she tossed her head. 

" I like it much better than the frumpy old English 



234 THE PERFECT WORLD 

fashions " said she " Desmond is not quite ready yet 
— he will look splendid " 

" We shall change later " said Sir John " and I shall 
be glad to get out of these stuffy and dirty garments. 
All the same I don't fancy myself a cross between an 
imitation gladiator and a stained glass twelfth century 
saint " 

They thoroughly enjoyed their meal; eggs served in 
a wonderful salad of fruit and vegetables proved to be 
the staple part, and this course was followed by a baked 
grain, similar to barley, but of a bright green colour, 
deliciously creamy and sweet. There was milk to 
drink, and plenty of heavy cream. 

" They seem to be almost vegetarians here " said 
Mavis ' for although we have had plenty of milk, 
eggs and cream, I have not seen a sign of fish or 
meat " 

" All the better " said Sir John " after all that tinned 
stuff while we were on the Argenta — ugh I " 

They drove in state to the students' party. The Waz 
had constituted himself their guide, and they were very 
thankful for his services. The large ground floor of 
the Observatory had been converted into a veritable 
bower of roses. At one end, almost hidden by flowers, 
were the musicians — playing dreamy music on soft- 
toned, stringed instruments. 

The Host in Chief, Kulmervan, with Waiko, stood on 
a raised dais at one end and received their guests, who 
were all announced by an usher who wore a kilt-like 
shirt and a flowing cape. As the strangers entered he 
announced from a card they gave him, first in his own 
language and then in English " Sir John, Alan, 
Desmond, Masters, and Mavis " No surnames were 
known on Jupiter, and so far they possessed no 
Keemarnian title. To Sir John they gave his prefix, 
although they did not quite understand it. 

A great silence reigned when the announcement was 
made — Kulmervan left the dais and advanced toward his 
guests, and this mark of homage was acknowledged by 
clamorous cheers from all the others who were present. 

" Welcome " said he "I witnessed your descent 
upon our land. Indeed, it was I who helped to focus 



SCHLERIK-ITATA 235 

our ray of attraction upon your vessel and helped to 
draw you into our atmosphere " 

" What are your rays? " asked Alan " Surely you 
had never any cause to use one before? 

" Indeed, yes, my friend. Some time ago, some of 
our Keemarnians, while experimenting in the Heavens, 
found themselves outside our atmosphere. They never 
returned. Across the roadway between the red planet 
' Mydot ' — Mars I think you call it — and ourselves, are 
many rapidly moving meteoric bodies. We fear that 
our gallant brothers met one of these, and were 
destroyed. Many men of science went after these lost 
ones but none ever returned. Through our wonderful 
glass, we saw one of our air birds in space; it was 
unable to reach home. Then was the great magnetic 
ray discovered. In the shortest space of time it was 
perfected, and played on the silent air bird. Gradually 
it was drawn nearer and nearer to our shores until it 
was within our atmosphere, and was able to land in 
safety. Since that time, if air birds venture too high, 
we have nearly always been able to save the adventurous 
spirits, and in your case, we brought you safely here 

" It's a wonderful invention " said Sir John " and I 
can imagine would have been of immense value to our 
airmen on earth " 

Kulmervan then presented them to Waiko, and Mavis 
was led to a seat of honour on the dais. 

They spent a most enjoyable time, and the whole 
entertainment was very like what they were accustomed 
to on earth. Games were played, — games with balls 
and racquets, and balls and hoops, and between the 
games there was singing and dancing. 

Refreshments were served in a hall adjoining, and 
consisted mainly of luscious fruits and dainty cakes and 
pastries. The many Keemarnians they met, invited 
them in turn to parties and entertainments, and they felt 
they had more invitations than they could safely accept. 
" Never accept " whispered Waz-Y-Kjesta to them all 
" unless you mean to honour your host with your 
presence. A refusal never offends, but to accept and 
then to disappoint, is unforgiveable " Suddenly in the 
middle of the dancing a trumpet blew loud and clear. 



23G THE PERFECT WORLD 

The band ceased and the couples stood still. Then 
rang out a fanfare of royal welcome, and the guests 
rushed to the entrance hall in great excitement, waving 
and cheering. " It must be some one of importance 
who is coming " said Desmond. " Perhaps it is the 
Rorka " suggested Mavis. There was a roll of drums, 
and then, on a litter carried by six stalwart men, entered 
a girl of perhaps eighteen years. The cortege stopped 
and Kulmervan bent low before her, and kissed her 
proffered hand. She bowed ever so slightly, and he 
assisted her from her cushioned throne. She stood 
beside him, and proved to be quite small, not more than 
five feet in height, but of a beauty almost indescribable. 
She was very fair and fragile. Her eyes were 
purple-blue fringed with long, black lashes. Her fillet 
was of gold, and was enriched with gems the colour of 
her eyes, while her robe of blue hung in folds about her. 
Perhaps it was her lips that impressed the watchers 
most. A perfect bow — they were of a vivid scarlet that 
contrasted strangely with the delicate pink flush of her 
cheeks. Self possessed, calm and regal she looked as 
she graciously acknowledged the plaudits of the 
guests. 

" Who is she, Alan? " asked Mavis. But he was 
unconscious of her question, he could only gaze and 
gaze at the beautiful apparition who had come so un- 
expectedly upon the scene. 

Waiko bent in turn before the stranger who 
whispered something to him. Immediately he came 
toward Mavis. " We are honoured to-night " said he 
" The Ipso-Rorka Chlorie has journeyed from Pyrmo 
to welcome you. She heard of your presence and came 
at once " 

" Who is she? " asked Mavis. 

" Wliy the highest lady in the land — the only child of 
our Rorka " 

Mavis went toward where the girl stood, and the 
Ipso-Rorka held out both her hands to the English girl. 

Welcome " said she, in a voice musical and low " I 
hear you start soon to honour the Rorka, my father, 
with a visit. May I welcome you first? " In turn the 
others were presented to her, but her attention was all 



SCHLERIK-ITATA 237 

for Mavis — it was Mavis the woman she wanted to 
know. 

And Alan? He had seen his ideal! Years before, 
he Wiondered whether he would ever meet her — and now 
he liad. And a King's daughter ! And he_ a stranger 
in a strange world! How dare he even lift his eyes 
toward her. Yet he dared — and his pulses leapt madly 
as his eyes feasted on her beauty. Not once did she 
address him — not once did she even seem to notice him. 
Chloric put her hand lightly on Desmond's arm. " I 
will dance with you " said she smiling, and Alan 
watched them lead the merry throng of dancing couples. 
The demon of jealousy, earth jealousy, was in his heart. 

" Why are you looking so — how can I put it — so 
sad? " asked Kulmervan. 

Alan laughed. " He has a wife " he muttered 
" Why does he take her from others? " 

" But she has honoured him. It is not for us to 
choose for the Ipso-Rorka " said Kulmervan. 

" Yes, but she is so beautiful, so sweet, so glorious " 
began Alan. Then he stopped suddenly. " Oh " he 
continued " what do you people of Jupiter know of love 
or hate? Your hves are too quiet, too humdrum to 
know aught of passion — " 

" Teach me ! Teach me I " cried Kulmervan leaning 
toward him " Your face is drawn — your eye hard. 
Yet you look as if you could battle with the world. 
What is it? " 

" Love and hate " said Alan grimly. " Then he 
laughed, " What a fool I am. Desmond is my 
cousin; we love each other like brothers. He has won 
Mavis — why should he not dance with the Ipso-Rorka ? 
Mavis does not mind " 

But Kulmervan turned away in silence. Knowledge 
had come to him in a curious way. He saw passion, 
love, hatred, anger, jealousy all raging within a human 
heart. Unconsciously the feelings were photographed 
upon his too sensitive mind. Love that had only 
smouldered was now born in all its fury for the Princess 
Chloric, the fair. And with love was born the twin, 
hate — hate for Alan, the man he feared might supplant 
him. 



238 THE PERFECT WORLD 

It seemed as if death, although burned and purified, 
had brought into Keemar unrest and sin. The prayers 
of the High Priest himself were unable to wash it away, 
until scourged and purified the earth folk themselves 
became less material and more godUke and true. 

The day for the Sacrament of Schlerik-itata arrived at 
last and the strangers found themselves on the way to 
Ak-Marn's palace. 

Although the Aks had no administrative powers, as 
had the Jkaks, they were held in the highest esteem, 
for they were princes of royal blood. 

Ak-Marn greeted them warmly. They saw that his 
dress was different from the usual male costume. He 
was in unreHeved white, and wore neither jewel nor 
ornament. The material of his robe, which hung with 
a long cloak to the ground, was almost like plush and 
there was something almost bridal about the costume. 
Yet Ak-Marn was an old man, with a beard of white, 
and grandchildren in plenty. Surely Schlerik-itata could 
not be the same as matrimony, thought Mavis. 

The guests were eight thousand in number, and all 
wore their brightest jewels and their finest raiment. 

There was singing' and dancing and much gay chatter, 
and the whole scene was one of wonderful gaiety and 
joy. Refreshments were brought in, and Ak-Marn 
began to speak. The English people could now under- 
stand the Keemarnian language fairly well. It was 
easy, its grammar simple, and its pronunciation almost 
Latin. 

" Friends " said Ak-Marn " I break bread with 
you. Two and ten Kymos have sunk since I quenched 
my thirst or satisfied my hunger. I've prayed to 
Mitzor, the Great White Glory and Tower of Help, to 
prepare me for my journey. My call came eighty and 
five Kymos since — I saw the figures in fire. I heard my 
call, and am prepared. I go with hope in my heart — 
with jioy in my breast. I am to be envied, my friends, 
for my days have been long upon Keemar. I leave my 
loved one, Viok, and our children, and our children's 
children in your care, my friends. When I am gone, 
cheer her with loving words — help her with kind 
counsel. I leave you with love in my heart. I leave 



SCHLERIK-ITATA 239 

you with the knowledge that our parting is not for long. 
Soon you will join me in the home of the Tower of 
Help. Remember that the eternities of time cannot 
be measured " 

Then bread was broken, and there followed the 
" Feast of the Sacrament " and the most intimate 
friends of Ak-Marn drank to his " future " — drank to 
his coming " joy " And Alan and Sir John were no 
longer mystified. They realized that what they in their 
m,aterialism knew as " Death " was nigh — but not 
Death, the slayer of happiness, Death, the dread reaper, 
but Death in a kindly form, a death that gave life — a 
death that was glorious. 

" I thought at first that the Jovians were of a finer 
nature than ours " said Alan. 

"If they have conquered Death, they must indeed be 
high " said Sir John thoughtfully. 

" Who is Mitzor? " asked Mavis. 

" The God of our Fathers, my dear. The God of 
Abraham and the God of the New Testament. What- 
ever their religion and ritual is, they worship the same 
God as we do " said Alan. 

" Are you sure? " 

" Quite " 

When the feast was ended, the guests, one by one, 
bade farewell to their host. It was a long tedious 
business, as no one was permitted to pass without at 
least a few personal words from Ak-Marn who was 
seated on a raised chair near the doorway. And as 
each wornan passed out, she was crowned with a wreath 
of beautiful, freshly cut flowers, from which hung a 
filmy white veil, while the men were given long white 
cloaks with hoods which they drew over their bare 
heads. Mavis bent her knee, and held out her hands 
to the kindly old man. " Mv child " said he " Our 
beautiful ceremony is so far meaningless to you. Go 
home— pray to Mitzor the Mighty that He may refine 
and cleanse you, that when your time comes you may 
be reincarnated to Him, through the medium of his 
Sacrament. Farewell " 

To Alan he spoke long and quietly. " My son " said 
he " you are in a strange world, you are young, you are 



240 THE PERFECT WORLD 

carnal. Ah " as Alan would have protested " we of 
Keemar, my Alan, are not as of your world. We know 
not sin as you know it. Our first parents, Menlin and 
Jorlar, were placed in a garden — " Alan started — 
" Yes, my friend, as your parents were. They 
succumbed not to temptation — so they lived in happy 
solitude for many years. Then Mitzor in His great 
kindness gave them the knowledge of Love — Love with- 
out sin. They mated. Their love grew. Children of 
love were born sinless into our world. Child bearing 
was a glory; motherhood the highest estate. They 
knew neither sin nor sorrow, and so in love our 
populace grew " 

" Do you mean to say you are sinless here? " asked 
Alan incredulously. 

" My son, it is not an estate for us to glory in, for 
the merits do not belong to us, but to our first parents. 
No — real sin has never entered here, but we live in 
dread of its coming. In a far off country — in Fyjipo — 
there is built a larg-e palace behind high walls. If 
ang'er, or lust, or impatience is shown by any one of 
us, an order is given and the offender is taken to the 
Hall of Sorrows to purge away his sins. Should a 
madness come upon us, for such we reckon these fail- 
ingfs to be — we are kept safe until it has passed, and 
until we can no longer contaminate our fellow 
creatures " 

" It's a wonderful country " said Alan " Where we 
come from, is all sin and misery and — " 

" Nay, tell me not. I go on a journey. I shall 
face my Mitzor. I charge you, should you or your 
friends feel this madness coming on you, hide 
yourselves, I beg, in the Hall of Sorrows. Stay there 
until it has passed, and preserve the purity and 
happiness of this land. Farewell " The cloak was 
fastened round Alan's shoulders, and he too left the 
kindly presence. 

Waz-Y-Kjesta was waiting for them at the outer 
hall. " Go home " he whispered " Your bhor 
awaits you. I beg of you. eat no more this night, 
but in the early dawn, wliile Kymo still sleeps, put 
on your cloaks, and the Lady Mavis her veil, and go 



SCHLERIK-ITATA 241 

you to the Temple of Mitzor. Farewell " It was a 
very solemn party that retired to their rooms that 
night, yet the full mystery of the Sacrament had not 
been unfolded to them. 

It was dark when they arose, and in a dim twilight 
they drove to the Temple. They had never before 
been inside it, and it was with much trepidation that 
thev waited on the threshold. It was a very beautiful 
building of pale blue marble — the colour of the sky. 
An enormous dome rose up in the centre of the 
square body of the Temple, and at the four corners, 
minarets with gilded tops ^nished the picture. A 
flight of fifty steps led up to the doors which were 
of a burnished metal, and studded with precious gems. 
Just inside was an antechamber, where the guests 
waited in silence until they were ushered to the seats 
that were allotted to them. The inside was wonderful. 
Mosaic walls representing allegorical tales gleamed 
in the dim light; the roof was of gold, and marble 
pillars supported it down the long aisle. Ani enormous 
altar rose up at the further end upon which were 
carved in marble cherubim and seraphim. In the 
sanctuary, if such it could be called, was a small 
white throne of marble, with heavy, white curtains 
draped at either side. It was placed in such a 
position that although it did not intercept the view 
of the altar, which was high above the nave, yet it 
could be seen by every one in the building. 

The seats allotted to Alan and his party were very 
near the front where rails of gold separated the 
Sanctuary from the people's part of the Temple. 
Music floated on the air — soft like babbling brooks 
and the song of birds; now bursting out into 
thunderous praise and mighty worship. 

Suddenly there came a solemn hush; a bell tinkled; 
the organ played softly, and there came the sound 
of boys' sweet voices raised in ecstasy; from a door 
at the side of the choir a dozen acolytes walked 
dressed in their garments of white. The procession 
started down the nave. After these boys came priests 
and deacons, and then Misrath, the High Priest 
walked in front of a raised throne. On this sat 

Q 



242 THE PERFECT WORLD 

Ak-Marn, his eyes closed and his hands clasped in 
prayer. Behind him walked his wife and their 
children. Their faces were radiant, it is true; yet 
there was a touch of sadness in his wife's gait. Then 
followed more priests and acolytes, all singing hymns 
of joy. 

The procession wound round the Temple, and back 
through the middle aisle, and through the rails into 
the Sanctuary. Ak-Marn was led to the marble 
throne; his wife alone of his family had followed close 
behind, and now his arms were around her. Their 
lips met in one long kiss, then with a bowed head she 
left his side, and took her place with her family in 
the very front seats. 

The organ thundered. Voices rang in a mighty 
p?ean of praise. Then silence I Misrath came 
forward and offered prayers to Mitzor — prayers of 
offering, prayers of supplication. A mighty wreath 
of freshly cut flowers was placed upon the altar. It 
was to be a burnt offering, and as the smoke of the 
sacrifice arose on the air, the white curtains were 
drawn around the figure of Ak-Marn and he was 
hidden from view. Then singing rent the air; 
the acolytes incensed the throne, until it was entirely 
covered by the perfumed smoke, covered like a pall. 

Alan watched in wonder. The grandeur of the 
prayers, the singing, the mystic curtains drawn 
around Ak-Marn appalled him. Misrath's voice rose 
above the music. 

" Children of Keemar " he intoned " One more 
brother has been caught by the mantle of Mitzor, 
and has left this world for ever. He has gone to 
Glory, gone to Happiness — gone to Mitzor Himself. 
Peace be unto his house. Peace be unto his wife. 
Peace be unto his seed for ever. We bid him — 
farewell " 

There was a great silence. The censers were stilled. 
Gradually the smoke of the incense cleared away from 
the marble throne, now gleaming in the rising rays 
of the Kymo. 

Misrath touched the cords of the enveloping curtain, 
a.nd drew them back. The little white throne w3^-5 



SCHLERIK-ITATA 243 

empty! Ak-Marn had returned to the bosom of his 
Creator! But stay! On the floor, as if shed in the 
hurried flight of its owner, lay the bridal robe of 
Ak-Marn. The High Priest raised it, blessed it, 
sprinkled it with the waters of purity, and Ak-Marn 's 
wife received it in her arms. Then the mighty 
congregation rose and sang one last song of praise, 
and at the end, quietly left the building. And the 
last view Alan had of Ak-Mam's wife was of a solitary 
figure, dressed like a bride, clasping the little white 
throne that was the last resting place of her loved one. 

" I don't understand " whispered Mavis hoarsely, 
as they were being driven back to their home. 

" My dear, he is dead " said Sir John. 

" Dead? If that is Death, then it is something to 
welcome and not to dread " she answered softly. 
There was a faraway look in her eyes " What a 
wonderful Sacrament I Death that is no sorrow — 
only a parting for a little while, and then — reunion " 
She clasped tier husband's hand " Beloved " she 
murmured " if Death comes to us like that, then can 
we have no real sorrow any more. Its shadow 
cannot cause us pain or grief. What do you think, 
Alan? " 

But Alan did not answer. He was thinking of two 
deep blue eyes, a laughing mouth, wilful golden curls 
that flirted on two soft, pink cheeks. He was longing 
to crush the lithe and sweet body close to his, and 
smother her roses with kisses. The knowledge and 
fear of Death had lapsed; Jupiter had eradicated it, 
— but with its extinction had come love. Love, 
stronger a thousandfold than Death. He looked 
upward to where the Sun, Kymo in all his glory, was 
shining. The whole world was bathed in a glory of 
light. Yes, Jupiter had conquered death, and before 
him lay life and love I 



CHAPTER VII 



HATRED ON KEEMAR 

Marlinok, the Jkak's majordomo, called on Sir 
John and Alan a few days after they had witnessed 
the Sacrament of Schlerik-itata. " Will you be 
ready " he asked them " when the Kymo is at the 
full, to start on your journey to Hoormoori to render 
homage to the Rorka ? " 

" Are we all to go? " asked Alan. 

" But one of you need go " he answered. The 
Rorka will visit Minniviar later, and then the other 
strangers may make their bows " 

" I am glad of that " said Sir John " for I should 
like to stay here in quietness and retirement for a 
little while. I am begmning to feel the burden of my 
age, and am worn out with the strain of the last 
few years " 

" I will go to Hoormoori " announced Alan " I 
can start at whatever time the Jkak thinks best " 

" He has prepared incense and jewels for you to 
take as gifts from the absent ones "said Marlinok 
" if you will now see Waz-Y-Kjesta all your 
arrangements can be made " 

" I'll go now " said Alan. 

Alan was going down a pretty lane toward where 
the air birds were housed when he suddenly became 
aware of footsteps behind him. He turned^ — 
immediately the footsteps ceased, and he could see 
no one. Thinking he must be mistaken, and fearing 
nothing from the Keemarnians, he went on his way 
blithely. The air was deliciously warm, and the fresh 
breeze, balmy with the scent of flowers, tempered it. 
Still the footsteps followed with monotonous 

244 



HATRED ON KEEMAR 245 

regularity; as he hastened, so they became quicker; 
as his died down, so they ceased altogether. Yet he 
had no sense of fear, no feehng of impending evil; 
the thought of peril on Keemar was impossible to 
imagine. The Keemarnians were of a breed as 
different from the earth to which he belonged, as he 
was from Heaven I He passed delightful homely 
fields, gleaming with buttercups and daisies. Friendly 
cows chewed the cud in sleepy enjoyment. They did 
not rise as he drew near, but only raised their sleepy 
heads, and looked at him out of their liquid eyes 
with interest and friendliness. A pip^ grunted in a 
corner as she suckled her squealing young; a donkey 
brayed; a couple of goats were nibbling the grass 
while their kids frolicked near them. He saw strange 
animals too. There was the gorwa of the deer family, 
a beautiful creature, the colour of a Scottish stag, and 
its counterpart in miniature, but with none of its 
brother's timidity. All the animals on Keemar were 
of a smaller build than those he had been accustomed 
to. The cows were even smaller then the little fawn 
Jerseys so valued in England. He had seen terriers 
and bull dogs, dalmatians and spaniels in this strange 
world, and the bigger breeds were all represented on 
a smaller scale. The Jkak had a dog — a Borzoi, 
Alan would have called it, yet perhaps it was no bigger 
than a small Irish terrier; but strangely enough, its 
beauty was not diminished by its minuteness. So 
Alan went on. The way was strange to him, but he 
was enjoying the calmness of the scene, and he knew 
his excellent bump of locality would sooner or later 
lead him to Y-Kjesta. Again the footsteps beat time 
with his own, and anxious for companionship, he 
stepped into the shadow of a tree, and hoped to 
waylay a shy, but friendly stranger. A second passed. 
The footsteps had ceased — then came a rustling, and 
the head of Kulmervan the Student appeared over a 
honeysuckle bush. Silently he came forward, alert 
and watchful until he was on a level with Alan. 

" Hullo! " said Alan amiably " Where are you 
going, Kulmervan? " 

The effect was magical! Kulmervan jumped as 



24>G THE PERFECT WORLD 

though he had been struck, and his face whitened. 
He remained silent. "I'm going to see Waz-Y- 
Kjesta " went on Alan " Are you coming my way? " 

Kulmervan did not reply, but a baleful light gleamed 
in his eyes, and his mouth twitched. 

" What's the matter? " asked Alan curiously. 

Suddenly Kulmervan spoke, and there was a wealth 
of passion in his tones. "' Why did you come here, 
you strangers ? I was happy until you came. I was 
contented. You have made me want — want the 
unknown. You have stirred my heart and fdled it 
with longings that I cannot yet fathom. Why have 
you come to stir up misery among a happy and 
contented race? " 

" I don't know what you mean " said Alan " I 
have done nothing " 

" You've done everything. You dared to raise 
your eyes to the level of Chlorie, our Ipso-Rorka. 
You put thoughts about her into my head. Oh — " 
as Alan would have broken in — " I read your 
thoughts, it was easy, my friend. You dared to 
think of her as a woman — even your woman. It was 
an impertinence, I tell you. I love Chlorie with my 
whole soul, and before Mitzor the Mighty, I'll carry 
her away into some far off land, before she can look 
with a favourable eye on a man, not only of another 
world, but a man of a coarser nature than our 
own " 

Kulmervan was breathless when he finished, for 
his words had come thick and fast, tumbling over 
themselves in hi^ great excitement. Alan was 
speechless, and looked as he felt, absolutely uncom- 
fortable and ill at ease. " Why your vei-y pose 
proves guilt " continued Kulmervan. 

" Why should I not love Chlorie? " demanded Alan 
" Why should my love for her cause strife between 
us?" 

" Because, my stranger, I am a Prince of the 
Rorka's House. I am not only Kulmervan the 
Student; but Taz-Ak of the House of Pluthoz. Why 
else would Chlorie have honoured my party — why else 
come to the dance of a student ? There are but four 



HATRED ON KEEMAR 247 

Keemarnians that Chlorie can marry, and I rank 
second " 

Alan wondered at the time why the Princess should 
come in so natural a manner to the Student's recep- 
tion. He wondered at the time at her familiarity with 
Kulmervan, She had patted his hand, smiled into his 
eyes, and had honoured him more than once with 
a dance. 

But Alan, too, was in love. Idiotically, insanely in 
love with a woman ,who had not even troubled to 
raise her eyes to his, at his presentation. His pulses 
throbbed at the remembrance of the touch of her 
fingertips as he raised them to his lips. He loved 
her, and in that moment was born a desire to over- 
come all obstacles, and princess or no princess, to win 
her. But he knew too that in this pleasant land of 
Keemar an- enmity had come upon him, and 
wondered whether the Curse of Death had brought it. 
He wondered whether the dead and decomposed body 
of their faithful Murdoch had indeed brought sorrow 
to this fair land. 

" I've spoken to your Ipso-Rorka only once " said 
he " The night of your party. She has called on 
my uncle and Mavis. Mavis has been out driving 
with her several times. But I, unfortunately, have 
missed her each time. Surely you are not jealous 
because I — " 

" Because you love her? I am " said Kulmervan 
thickly " and I say this — if you so much as dare to 
raise your eyes to her, if you dare to address her, 
I'll make you suffer for it — aye, even though I also 
suffer eternally for it " and with that he turned on 
his heel and walked quickly away. 

Alan was very perturbed about this meeting, and 
felt inclined to tell the story of it to Waz-Y-Kjesta, 
— yet the sacred feeling he had for Chlorie was not 
to be spoken of, or bandied about from man to man. 
No, he would keep it to himself, and trust to time 
and common sense to cure Kulmervan of his strange 
hatred. 

He walked quickly on, and already could see the 
air birds in the distance, circHng above their houses. 



248 THE PERFECT WORLD 

rhe little lane turned quickly at right angles — there 
was a steep descent, and hedges rose at either side 
to a height of six or seven feet, while the overhang- 
ing branches of the trees met in the middle and 
formed a leafy arch. The grassy banks were 
carpeted with flowers, and the scent hung sweet on 
the air. Again the narrow path turned sharply to 
the right, and before Alan realized it, there almost at 
his feet, stretched across almost the full width of the 
path, lay a lion, full grown, with his shaggy mane 
stirring in the breeze. Alan stopped suddenly, and his 
heart beat quickly. The lion's eyes were closed— he 
was sleeping. 

The Englishman' was almost afraid to move lest 
the savage beast should spring upon him and devour 
him. He looked round to the right, the bough of a 
tree hung low over the path. He leapt up the bank, 
and with one mighty spring caught hold of it, and 
s wanned up to a topmost branch. 

He was safe — but the sudden sound had startled the 
lion, who rose up and with a low growl prowled 
backward and forward beneath the tree. 

It was an uncomfortable position to be in — the tree 
bough was very thin, and bent and twisted and 
crackled ominously. Still the King of Beasts 
remained sentinel underneath. Alan felt the perspira- 
tion on his face as the limb shivered and bent, yet 
there was no other to which he could move. Still 
the animal remained nea,r, his quickened senses no 
doubt wondering at the noise he heard, and waiting 
to see what had caused it. 

The minutes dragged by — the branch was weaken- 
ing perceptibly — he could already see the wliite of the 
inside where the branch was gradually tearing away 
from the parent trunk. There was no one in sight, 
and still the hon walked restlessly to and fro. 

The Kymo was sinking rapidly. It was already 
low down on the horizon, and Alan knew he had been 
about two English hours in his perilous position. He 
saw a branch above his head, and he wormed his way 
along to see if he could in any way reach it. 
Carefully he went — slowly — suddenly with a scream 



HATRED ON KEEMAR 249 

and a crash the branch gave way, and Alan felt 
himself being" hurled to the ground. 

The distance was not great, and he landed in the 
centre of some sweet-smelling, soft bushes. He was 
dazed, and wondered when the lion would pounce. 
He knew he was powerless to help himself. He 
heard the pad, pad, of its feet; he could hear the sharp 
intake of its breath — then the thing was upon him. 
He shut his eyes and waited. — Nothing happened 
but the snuffing of the wild beast, and a gentle nosing 
as it examined the stranger. 

Alan opened his eyes. The animal was sitting on 
its haunches surveying him, and he felt there was 
amusement in the beast's eyes as it watched him. He 
moved slightly — still the beast watched motionless. 
He raised himself up from the encircling bushes and 
clambered down. He knew he would have to face 
the inevitable. • 

Suddenly a voice hailed him, and he saw Waz-Y- 
Kjesta coming round the bend in the lane. " Stand 
back " he cried " There's a lion here — he may 
spring! " But the Waz came on fearlessly. Alan 
was petrified, his tongue was parched, no sound came 
from his lips. He watched the Waz in frozen horror. 

The Keemarnian was smiling. " Where have you 
been, my friend? You are late — very late. I thought 
you had missed your way, so I came to seek you " 
He was now within three feet of the lion " What is 
the matter? Why are you so grave? Has aught 
affrighted you? " 

Alan pointed to the tawny beast. His hand was 
shaking. Surely the farce must end soon, the lion 
spring, and tragedy culminate the play. 

" Why Maquer .said the Waz affectionately " what 
are you doing here ? You seldom visit us, you know " 

The lion moved toward him, and rubbed his great 
head against the Keemarnian's leg, while Y-Kjesta 
talked to him and petted him. 

" He's tame then? " gasped Alan with a rush of 
relief " You know him r " 

" No, my friend. I've never seen this Maquer 
before — they generally stay in rocky places " 



250 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" But he is so friendly " 

" All beasts are friendly here, my Alan. What — 
would Maquer have hurt you on your Earth? " 

And Alan laughingly told of his fright at the lion. 
He had learnt one more truth about Keemar — there 
were no savage animals upon it. Of a truth, it was a 
perfect land ! 

Waz-Y-Kjesta was highly amused at his friend's 
story, and together they went toward the air birds. 
The Keemarnian airships were indeed wonderful 
creations. White and gold, they were shaped like 
swans, with graceful wings outspread, gleaming in the 
light. They were made of a mixture of wood and 
metal, and contained accommodation for perhaps forty 
passengers, as well as the Waz in command, and a staff 
of ten. Although not as big as the ill-fated Argenta, 
the Keemarnian airship was possessed of a speed 
nearly thrice as great. 

" This is the Chloric " said Y-Kjesta " and our 
fastest bird. The Jkak has given orders that you are 
to choose your own vessel, so perhaps you would like 
to see over some others? " 

" No " said Alan, looking at the blue hangings, and 
seeing in them the reflection of his love's eyes " No, 
this one will do beautifully " And the Waz was 
impressed by the easy way in which his friend was 
pleased. He little realized that it was the name of 
the vessel — the Chloric — that attracted him. And in 
the strangeness of it Alan tried to read his fate. 

" We'll go for a short cruise " said the Waz " and 
go back to the landing stage Minniviar " 

There was not a cloud in the sky, and the warmth 
from the sun's rays was pleasant. 

" I can't understand how you benefit so considerably 
from the sun, your Ivymo " said Alan " Let me see, 
you must be at least Ave times further away from the 
sun than we were on our earth, yet instead of your 
light and heat being reduced to about one twenty- 
fifth of our supply, you appear to benefit to exactly 
the same degree " 

" Ah, my friend, that is easy to explain. Dark 
clouds hover outside our globe — " 



HATRED ON KEEMAR 251 

" Yes, bands of vapour " corrected Alan. 

" Well — vapour. These bands completely encircle 
our world. They are saturated with a composition 
of gas, sulphuric ether I think you would call it. Well, 
this gas acts as a trap to the sun's rays. It admits the 
solar rays to our planet but prevents their withdrawal. 
Therefore it permits the heat to enter, but prevents 
its escape " 

" Well? " 

" Consequently we get the maximum of light, and 
an equable temperature " 

" Do you then, have no seasons here? " 

" Seasons ? " 

" Yes, Spring or Winter " 

" Oh yes, it is cold at the poles — very cold, but as 
we get nearer to the equator it becomes warmer, and 
hardly varies. You see, my Alan, our world differs 
from yours. The axis of rotation is almost per- 
pendicular to our orbit, consequently we are not 
subject to seasons as you were in Quilphis " 

" I didn't know that before " 

" We too, are more flattened at each end — indeed, 
there are many differences between our world that is, 
and yours that was " 

" Do you ever have rain here? " 

" Yes, my Alan. How else would plants live and 
crops thrive ? But again, we do not suffer from 
excesses " 

" But don't you have hurricanes that last from six 
to seven weeks? Surely those are excesses " 

" Hurricanes? I do not know the word " 

" Hurricanes — winds — tornadoes " 

" Why they affect only the polar regions, and 
nothing lives there " 

" Well " laughed Alan " I think your world is a 
great improvement on ours " 

The scenery they passed on this pleasure trip was 
very varied, but very similar to the world he knew at 
its best. Here he could imagine he was in the high- 
lands of Scotland with its crags and hills and torrents. 
There in Southern France with its vineyards sloping to 
the river's edge. Again, the warmth of colouring 



252 THE PERFECT WORLD 

suggested the tropics, and the next moment they were 
flying over great inland arms of a sea, that were 
reminiscent of the fjords of Norway. 

They descended at last, and went to the Jkak to 
bid him farewell. There a surprise awaited Alan. 

" My son " said the Jkak " Our Ipso-Rorka has 
decided to travel in the Chloric to Iloormoori. She 
desires to reach her father's side without any more 
delay. Taz-Ak Kulmervan has obtained permission 
from his kinswoman to attend her on her journey. 
But you need have no fear, my Alan. I doubt whether 
you will even see the Princess. She will keep within 
the precincts of her apartments, and will be attended 
exclusively by her maid " 

Alan felt distressed. Should he tell the Jkak of 
his encounter with Kulmervan ? Had he obeyed his 
first impulse and confided in the kindly old man, he 
would have saved both himself and Chlorie from 
much suffering. As it was — well, who can tell 
which is always the right course to take ? Errors 
are made, and paid for in suffering, even in a Perfecfi 
World. 

" Is it far, my Jkak, to Hoormoori? " 

" Forty Kymos will take you there " 

" Forty Kymos — about twenty of our earth days I 
It is quite a long way then? " 

" Ah, my friend, you have no idea of the size of 
our planet ' 

" And yet you are all one nation — with the same 
customs and religion and speech ! It is hard to 
comprehend, my Jkak, for at home on our little 
islands, we were composed of four distinct races " 

" The Ipso-Rorka will board the Qilorie immedi- 
ately " said the Jkak " Now Mitzor be with you. 
Farewell " 

There was no sign of the Princess when Alan 
boarded the ship, neither was Kulmervan to be seen, 
but he was surprised to find Waiko lounging on the 
deck. He gave Alan a cursory nod of recognition as 
he passed, but did not rise or offer any greeting. 

" Don't you know Waiko? " asked Y-Kjesta in 
some surprise. 



HATRED ON KEEMAQ 253 

" Why of course. I met him at Kulmervan's 
party " 

" Then why does he not rise and greet you according 
to Keemarnian custom ? You have broken bread with 
him—" 

" Please, Y-Kjesta, don't say any more. I — I think 
I understand, and perhaps it's my fault. Let it pass " 

" As you will, my Alan " The Chloric rose, soared 
gracefully over the marble buildings of Minniviar, then 
tilting her nose, climbed swiftly. 

The Princess remained in her cabin, her doors 
were closed, and the balconies round her apartment 
shuttered. 

" Ought I to pay my respects to the Ipso-Rorka? " 
asked Alan. 

Waz-Y-Kjesta looked 'at him in horror. " Nay, 
my friend. It is not seemly to address our Ipso- 
Rorka unless she summons you first. She has given 
strict orders that she is not to be disturbed " 

So ! Kulmervan had begun his work of revenge. 
Darkness fell, and Alan retired to hig little cabin. 
There were few on board, ten souls in all, and the 
whole place was wrapped in stillness. All the same he 
felt very restless — the four moons of Jupiter were 
shining brightly; they were now passmg over a sea, 
and the moonbeams were playing on the rippling 
waters. He rose, dressed himself, and was about to 
leave his cabin, when he heard a faint movement out- 
side. His senses were quickened, he felt for the first 
time since his entrance into this new world, a feeling 
of impending danger. 

In a second his mind was made up — quickly he 
placed a cushion on his couch and covered it over with 
rugs : in the semi-darkness it almost showed the curves 
of a living body. The door latch rattled softly, and 
Alan slipped behind the folds of a heavy silken curtain. 
Softly the door opened, until it was just wide enough 
to permit the passage of a man's body. Alan peered 
through the curtain opening and saw that it was 
Kulmervan who had entered. 

The Keemarnian stepped over to the couch and 
touched the coverlet. " He's asleep " he whispered 



254 THE PERFECT WORLD 

in his own language, and Waiko entered softly 
" Have you the spray? " 

" Yes, my Kulmervan — but is it necessary? I'm 
afraid—" 

" Fool " hissed Kulmervan " The spray " 

Waiko handed him a long piece of tubing, the end 
of which was fastened to a small bulb. Kulmervan 
laid the nozzle end on the bed — there was a slight 
hissing sound, and the room became sweet with a 
subtle scent. 

" Quick " whispered Kulmervan to his accomplice 
" hasten, lest the fumes overpower us " and the two 
hurriedly left the chamber closing the door tightly 
behind them. 

The air was already heavy, and Alan felt a 
drowsiness coming over him. With a mighty effort 
he opened the window and leant out. It was a battle 
royal between the fumes and the fresh air. Alan felt 
his head reel and his senses swim, but the pure night 
air conquered, and the little cabin was soon free of 
its poison. 

Silently Alan sat until the dawn broke, thinking over 
the strange problem that had presented itself to him. 
He had made an enemy, unwittingly it is true, but an 
enemy who would stop at nothing in order to further 
his ends. He wondered what effect the powerful 
fumes would have had upon him. In a land where 
there was no death, could life be taken? What would 
have happened to him had he inhaled them ? He was 
determined to ask Waz-Y-Kjesta at the first oppor- 
tunity. Suddenly from without a cheery voice hailed 
him. It was the Waz, 

" How did you sleep, my friend? " and he entered 
the cabin. 

" Very well indeed " said Alan, glibly lying. 

" I slept badly, my Alan. I had evil dreams of you. 
I saw you lying — serquor — oh! " 

" What is serquor? " 

" It is the worst thing that could befall us on 
Keemar, my friend. Seldom it happens — but once in 
a lifetime. The body stiffens, sleep comes from which 
one never awakens. Life is, to all intents and 



HATRED ON KEEMAR 25 5 

purposes, extinct. Yet the body does not melt into 
nothingness, as at the Sacrament of Schlerik-itata. 
It remains on earth, cut off from the Hving, cut off 
from those already in glory,- — useless, desolate, 
alone " 

" What causes it? " asked Alan eagerly. 

" Sometimes a blow or a fall — or it can be produced 
artificially by inhaling morka, a gas used in the weaving 
of our silks. The workers wear shields over their 
mouths when using it, and are very careful. Never 
have I know such an accident to occur, but it could. 
It was thus I dreamt of you, my Alan " 

Alan smiled. He had come across as strange proofs 
of telepathy as in the old world between kindred spirits. 
Whatever happened he knew Waz-Y-Kjesta was his 
friend. " Perhaps I am in danger, my friend " said 
he " If so can I count on you? " 

My Alan, I would suffer even serquor for you " 
he answered fervently. And Alan knew he spoke 
truly. 



CHAPTER VIII 



THE UNFORGIVEABLE KISS 

The day passed slowly. Still the Princess remained 
in her cabin. Alan passed Waiko with his usual 
cheery smile, and the guilty student trem.bled and 
turned white at sight of the healthy man, who he 
thought had been doomed to serquor. Kulmervan 
remained in his cabin near the princess, and had his 
meals served him there. Waz-Y-Kjesta realized that 
something was wrong, but as Alan did not confide in 
him, he made no effort to find out the cause of his 
friend's restlessness. 

" My Waz " said Alan suddenly " is it possible for 
me to see the Ipso-Rorka? I wish to speak to her " 

" Not unless she sends for you, my friend. It is 
impossible else " 

" It is a matter of grave import " said Alan 
earnestly " To me, to her — " 

" Nothing can alter custom, my friend. If she 
sends for you — well. Otherwise — " and he shrugged 
his shoulders expressively. Alan, however, was 
determined to speak with Chlorie by foul means or 
fair. Her cabin was situated in the front of the ship, 
and round it was a tiny balcony railed in just above the 
level of the deck. 

He paced round this portion of the ship the whole 
day, resting only at mealtimes from his self imposed 
watch. Never once did the Princess appear. The 
Kymo was setting, the sky was bright with sunset 
colours; the sea was unruffled and calm. A fish leapt 
out of the water leaving rings of glistening fluid, 
roseate in the glow. Alan sat, out of sight, still 

256 



THE UNFORGIVEABLE KISS 257 

watching the cabin door. Suddenly it opened and 
Morar, the Princess' personal attendant appeared. 
She looked around hastily. " All is quiet, my 
Princess " she cried " No one is in sight. The 
sinful stranger is in his cabin, no doubt plotting ill 
against you and yours " Chlorie came through the 
doorway. Her hair was gleaming, and her flowing 
draperies of blue showed up the fairness of her skin. 

"I am stifled, Morar. 'Tis ill to spend so many 
hours without a breath of air. Watch you the other 
side, and should you see the evil one appear, appraise 
me, and I will again take shelter within " 

With a low bow Morar vanished, closing the cabin 
door behind her. The Princess paced up and down 
the tiny balcony, singings a Keemarnian lullaby. Still 
Alan remained silent and watchful, hidden from sight 
beneath the covering rail. Morar returned. " There 
is no sign of Alan the evil one " said she " but 
Taz-Ak Kulmervan begs an audience '' 

" Bid him come hither " said the Princess with a 
sigh " Tell him I am weary, and must beg of him to 
be quick about his business " She seated herself on a 
swinging lounge, just above Alan, who could almost 
feel the sweetness of her presence, the fragrance of 
her breath. 

'^ Sweet Cousin " said Kulmervan entering. 

" Nay, Kulmervan, say what you have to say 
quickly. My head is tired — my eyes weary " 

" You have not been out to-day, my Chlorie? " 

" Not until this evening. I have carefully obeyed 
your instructions. Were my father here, I should not 
care. But I dare not run any risks in his absence. 
How is Waiko? " 

" Still very weak, my Princess. This evil one, this 
Alan, had contrived his evil work well. When I dis- 
covered Waiko a bandage was drawn tightly round his 
mouth, his nostrils were plugged with wool, and had I 
not entered when I did, serquor would have set in and 
Waiko would no more have laughed and played " 

" Oh, it's terrible " breathed the Princess " Why 
has sin thus entered our beautiful land ? I have heard 
of treasons, and plots and miseries; but so far we 

R 



258 THE PERFECT WORLD 

have escaped. What is this stranger's object, my 
Kulmervan ? " 

" I know not all his treachery, my Chlorie, but — " 

" Why bring sorrow on Waiko's family, and upon 
you, his friend ? " 

" I do not understand, but his intentions are evil 
throughout. I heard him tell his kinsman Desmond, 
that even the person of Chlorie herself was not sacred 
to him, provided he worked his will " 

" That is enough, Kulmervan " she interrupted 
haughtily " I will keep my cabin as you advise. 
Had I known in time, I should not have travelled home 
in his company. The Rorka, my father, wall deal 
with this stranger, and the Hall of Sorrows will hold 
him safely, until lie has been purged clean. Now 
good night " 

" Chlorie " said Kulmervan passionately " I dare 
say much to you to-night. Will you not offer me the 
flower of love ? I dare not ask you to wed me — you 
are Ipso-Rorka — 'tis for you to choose. But know I 
love you, love you with all my soul. Will you not 
honour me by choosing me for your mate? " 

" Kulmervan " said the Princess gently " Why 
make me sad by all this useless talk ? It can never be. 
I can place my hand in only one man's — him- I love. 
Him, alas, I have not yet met, but I do not love you, 
my Kulmervan. I never shall. Think, we played 
together in Hoormoori as babes, built palaces of sand 
by the sea, picked flowers and fondled our pets. We 
grew as brother and sister until you went to study 
with the Djoh, and I had to learn the lesson of 
royalty. No, my kinsman. I love you 'tis true, but 
not as a maid should love the man she mates, not as 
wife for husband, lover for lover. Let this be the last 
time you speak of such things, my Kulmervan. I 
will forget, and — " 

" But I want you — you — you — " and Kulmervan 
strode close to her and placed his arms about her. 

" Let me go " breathed the girl — but his lips were 
seeking hers. 

" No — no — no " she cried " Not my lips — 
Kulmervan be merciful. My Hps are sacred until T 



THE UNFORGIVEABLE KISS 259 

wed — spare my lips " But Ktilmervan's reason had 
gone. " My beautiful one " he murmured, and ran 
his fingers through her glorious mantle of hair. He 
held her head between his hands, and drank in the 
glory of her face. Her eyes were open wide in terror, 
her lips tightly compressed, her power of movement 
gone. Nearer, nearer he drew. His breath came in 
hot gusts upon her cheek. Her eyelids quivered under 
his scorching kisses. Her cheeks reddened as his 
lips touched them. With one mighty effort she tried 
to release herself. 

" In the name of Mitzor the Great, leave my lips " 
she cried, but the madness of passion was upon him. 
He revelled in his power, laughed at her struggles, 
mocked at her impotence. Roughly he clasped her 
still closer to him, but the Princess was inert in his 
arms — the strain was too much for her, and blissful 
unconsciousness had come to soothe her. There was 
the slightest of sounds. Alan, the athletic still, vaulted 
over the rail, and swinging Kulmervan by the scruff of 
his neck threw him on to the ground. Tenderly he 
lifted the Princess in his arms — she was as light as a 
feather — and went into her cabin. 

" Morar " he called " Morar " The serving maid 
appeared, trembling as she saw her beloved mistress 
in the arms of " the evil one " 

" Your mistress has had a fright " said Alan 
thickly " Show me her couch " Without a word 
the little maid led the way into the tiny sleeping 
apartment, and tenderly he laid his burden on the 
silken coverings of blue. " Look after her " said 
he " she has fainted " With arms folded across his 
chest and his breath coming in spasmodic jerks, he 
waited outside the door. Presently Morar appeared. 
" The Ipso-Rorka has recovered " she said " and has 
now fallen asleep. What shall I do ? " 

" Allow no one to enter her apartments at all. I 
will send a letter to her in the morning. Can I depend 
on your giving it to her? " 

" Yes. I can see you are not evil " said the little 
maid " Some mistake has been made. You are 
her friend " 



2()0 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" I am her friend " said Alan grimly " Remember, 
Morar, no one is to enter these apartments without 
the Ipso-Rorka's permission. You understand?" 
and he strode out on to the balcony. Kulmervan had 
gone, and he vaulted lightly over the balcony rail and 
went straight to his cabin. As he opened the door 
he recognized ;the sweet, sickly odour that he had 
smelt once before. So! He must be on his guard. 
Kulmervan and Waiko would stop at nothing — a 
madness had indeed come over them, a madness of 
the earth ! 

Holding his breath he went swiftly across the 
room, and opened the windows, then shutting the 
door behind him, went into the big saloon. Waz-Y- 
Kjesta smiled as he entered. " Where have you 
been, my friend? I looked for you everywhere " 

" Resting' " said Alan grimly. That night he never 
went to bed, but waited grimly for what might 
happen. He was left in peace, however, and toward 
dawn slept fitfully. When he woke, he wrote this 
letter to Chlorie 

" Chloric— The Ipso-Roiha. 

I beg of you, see me, just once before we alioht at Iloor- 
moori. I overheard the convcrsatiou of Kuhnervan, and 
implore you to see me, if only to clear myself of the imputa- 
tions your kinsman lias made against me. In any case, 
believe that I am your devoted servant always. Command 
me — I will obey. 

Al.AN " 

He took the letter to Morar himself. " I will wait 
while the Ipso-Rorka reads it " said he. 

In a moment she had returned. " She will answer 
you later " There were only four more nights to be 
spent on board the Chlorie, but much might happen 
in that time. There was no sign of the enemy — all 
Alan could do was to wait patiently for their next 
move. 

That night, again, he had no sleep. Soon after he 
retired, the same sickly odour permeated the cabin. 
Again he leant out of the window until the fumes 
had passed; this time they were stronger and took a 



THE UNFORGIVEABLE KISS 261 

longer time to dispel. He smiled — it was to be a 
duel to the end, and he needed all his wits about him. 
Certainly, Keemarnians possessed of the " madness " 
were more formidable, more crafty, more callous 
enemies, than men belonging to Terra. Another night 
passed — no communication had come from Chloric. 
Alan, weary of his vigil, tried to keep awake, but 
drowsiness overcame him, and his last conscious effort 
was to drag himself to the window, and rest with his 
head breathing in the pure air. Again the sweet fumes 
entered the room, but Alan had safeguarded himself. 
The next night passed twithout the enemy showing 
their hand. They doubtless thought him proof 
against " serquor " and would take other methods 
to rid themselves of his presence. Suddenly in the 
darkness of the night, a noise interrupted his musings. 
There was a jerk — a crash — and the vessel shivered. 
Alan flew out of his cabin and met Waz-YT<jesta. 

" What is it? " he cried. 

" Nothing to be alarmed about, my friend. Some- 
thing has happened to the engine. I have not 
discovered what, yet — we shall be forced to make a 
descent. Luckily there is an island near; we will 
anchor there, and put the matter right. We shall 
be delayed only a very short time, I think " 

The machine descended in jerks and jumps with 
many creakings and groanings, but reached the 
ground in safety. 

" I will seek Morar, and tell her to acquaint the 
Ipso-Rorka with this news " said the Waz. The 
whole day passed, and the Y-Kjesta called Alan in 
dismay. " I cannot understand it " said he " There 
is a screw missing here, and that waste pipe has been 
filled with refuse. It means taking the whole of the 
mechanism to pieces, and two days delay at least " 
But Alan guessed who had planned this sinister work, 
and that night he kept vigil — not in his own room, 
but outside the Princess'. 

Waz-Y-Kjesta was frankly puzzled. " Yesterday 
I fixed up the screw for the outer valve " said he 
" yet to-day it has gone again. Surely I couldn't 
have dreamt it — yet it could not go without hands " 



262 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" Perhaps some one has moved it, purposely, for 
spite " suggested Alan. 

Y-Kjesta laughed. " Not in Keemar. Besides 
what for? Who could do such a fooHsh thing? " 

True, the faith of a Keemarnian was wonderful. 
Alan longed to confide in him — yet dared not. For 
the second time he made a mistake. Alan saw Morar 
and asked her if the Princess' apartments were quite 
safe from intruders. 

" Quite " said she " There is only a very small 
window, and the doors have heavy bars " 

" She always keeps them locked? " 

" Always " 

That night Alan remained in his own cabin, and 
worn out with continual watching, fell asleep at his 
open windpw. He had a dream so vivid that he 
thought it was real, and awoke with a start. Chloric 
— the lady of his heart had appeared to him, arms 
outstretched, eyes swimming with tears — '' My 
Lord "> she whispered " The Cave of Whispering 
Madness — the Cave — " Her voice trailed away, 
something dark came before his eyes, there was the 
sound of a scuffle, a small cry, he felt a stabbing pain, 
and he awoke. It was broad daylight, and his door 
was flung open wide and Waz-Y-Kjcsta, usually so 
placid and calm, was staring at him and calling him 
in excited distress. 

" My Alan! Awake! I beg of you — " 

" What is it? " 

" The Ipso-Rorka — is gone " 

" Gone? " 

" Gone! She has disappeared" 

" Are you sure? " 

" Morar, her maid, left her as usual last night. 
This morning she knocked as usual for the Princess 
to open the door, which by the way, she always keeps 
barred, but she could get no answer. Thinking- her 
mistress had overslept she went round to look in at 
the window. The bed was empty — Chloric was not 
there " 

" Where is Kulmervan? " asked Alan thickly. 

" Kulmervan? " 



THE UNFORGIVEABLE KISS 263 

" Yes. Is he on the boat? " 

" I do not know " 

" Go and see at once, and I'll go to Morar " 

The Ipso-Rorka's little maid was crying bitterly. 
Without any ceremony Alan forced the door. The 
bed was rumpled and rough; the silken coverlets 
twisted and torn — Chloric had not gone without 
a struggle ! 

Waz-Y-Kjesta came to Alan, with consternation 
written all over his face. " Three are missing 
altogether " said he " Can some evil spirit have 
taken them ? Kulmervan and Waiko are nowhere to 
be found " 

" I thought as much " said Alan savagely. He 
glanced rapidly round the room. A pile of papers lay 
on a desk. He smoothed them out. There, in a 
little blue envelope addressed to himself, was a letter 
from his dear one. He opened it quickly. 

" My Lord, (it rau) 

vSince you saved me from my kinsman, Kulmervan my 
cousin has once more forced himself into my presence. He 
is possessed of a madness. I beg of you save me from him. 
I have looked at you often and I know now I was deceived 
by him when he whispered tales of your evil doing. I trust 
you implicitly. I do as you bid me. I command your help. 

Chlorie " 
Then underneath was written, 

" He has spoken to me again through my window. He 
threatens me with dishonour — disgrace. He talks of the 
Cave of Whispering Madness. Come to me on receipt of 
this " 

" The cur " muttered Alan. He turned to 
Y-Kjesta. " Where is the Cave of Whispering 
Madness? " 

" I have never heard of it, my Alan " 
" Listen. I am going to find Chloric. Wait for 
me here with the air bird. Should I fail to come by 
the time the Kymo has sunk ten times — go at once to 
the Rorka, and ask him to send his aid here " 
^'^ Where then, is Chloric? " 



2G4 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" I don't know, but I'm going to do my best to 
imd out. This island isn't very big — ten miles square 
at the most, and I intend to search every bit of it if 
necessary, to find her " 

" What about Kulmervan and Waiko ? " 

" Should you see them, put them under restraint. 
Bar their windows, and prevent their escape. They 
are both possessed of the madness — but there, I doubt 
if you'll see them. Where Chloric is — there shall I 
also find Kulmervan and Waiko " 

" Can I come too ? " 

" No, my friend. You stay here and watch in case 
Chloric comes. I go now — I shall take no provision 
with me — fruit will be my meat, and the sap of the 
water tree my drink. Farewell " and Alan leapt over 
the bulwarks and disappeared from sight in the thick 
brush and undergrowth of the island. 



CHAPTER IX 



ALAN — THE KNIGHT ERRANT 

As Alan leapt over the bulwarks, his quick eye caught 
sight of footmarks, two going one way, and two the 
other, with perhaps five feet between them. " So " 
said he grimly to himself " they were carrying her 
between them. Poor little Chlorie " The tracks were 
easy to follow, they led down to the sea and along the 
seashore. Steadily they went on and Alan followed 
dauntlessly. There was no attempt made to cover their 
traces. On they went, carrying their burden between 
them. 

They had about ten hours start, and although night 
was falling, Alan continued at his self imposed task. 
Darker and darker it grew, until at length it was 
impossible to see the footmarks, so he sat down 
hopelessly to wait for the dawn. 

The night was chilly and the rain poured down, so 
Alan was soaked to the skin, and shivered violently 
as the grey dawn rose. The rain had almost obliter- 
ated the marks, but they showed up faintly here and 
there on the wet sand. He had no time to look at 
the scenery through which he was passing — his one 
thought was Chlorie — not the Princess, but Chlorie 
the woman, Chlorie his love. 

On, on he went all day, and still the footprints showed 
here and there. Night came, and again he was forced 
to rest and wait for the light. He was colder than 
ever, he shivered violently, and longed for the warmth 
of the sun. That night he never slept at all, and he 
rose in the early morning light stiff and tired. His 
head felt light, his limbs ached, and the one thing he 
could think of coherently was Chlorie. 

265 



266 THE PERFECT WORLD 

Suddenly all traces of the marks vanished. He 
hunted high and low, but all to no purpose; they 
ended as abruptly as if the pursued had been, snatched 
up into the heavens. 

Two nights and two days he wandered to and fro. 
He was chilled to the bone, and was in a high fever. 
At last he had to g'ive in, and lay under the shelter 
of a tree. The warmth of the sun revived him, and 
he crawled weakly to a bush on which grew luscious 
plums, ate his fill and slept. When he awoke he felt 
better and stronger. Perhaps he had been dreaming 
— the footprints must go on. But no, they came to 
an end at a grassy edge, and there was no mark to 
show that human beings had passed that way. He 
spent that day hunting for a sign of the fugitives, but 
was unsuccessful, and wearily retraced his way to the 
air bird. 

The scenery was beautiful. The island rose to a 
chain of peaks in the centre, and beautiful passes and 
wooded valleys led through the mountains to the 
further side. The vegetation was purely tropical. 
Palms, breast high, grew to the edge of the sea shore; 
the undergrowth showed no sign of any animal 
inhabitants; not a twig was broken, not a leaf trampled 
upon, to mark the passage of a foreign body. Alan 
made the return journey quickly, and soon found 
himself at the edge of the bush. But the " Chloric " 
had gone ! There were the signs of where she had 
rested; the mark on the sand of her wheels; an oily 
patch on the ground showing where her engines had 
been lubricated — but all sign of her had vanished. 
Had Waz-Y-Kjesta failed him, or had Chloric 
returned ? He felt in his pockets — there was a scrap 
of paper and a pencil. " I am going inland " he 
wrote " li you come back, search for me. Alan " 
He pegged it to the ground close to where the 
Chloric had been anchored, and turning his face 
westwards, retraced his footsteps. 

Time passed without his reckoning. When the 
nights came he lived for the day; and in the day time 
he dreaded the coming of the night. He reached the 
place where the footsteps ceased at dusk, and for the 



THE KNIGHT ERRANT 267 

first time for days, slept through the night peacefully. 
His fever had abated, but he still felt curiously weak. 
Yet his brain was clear, and he set to work again to 
hunt carefully for the missing ones. Yard by yard 
he worked, and at last his patience was rewarded. 
There, on a bush low on the ground, he saw a piece 
of something blue that fluttered on tVie breeze. He 
stooped and picked it off the twig — it was blue silk, 
and with a thrill he recognized it as a piece of 
Chlorie's dress. Feverishly he looked round him; 
alas, there was no other piece to act as a further 
guide. A thought came to him, and he lay flat on 
the ground and peered under the bush. There, a 
grassy avenue unfolded itself before his wondering 
gaze — it had been completely hidden by the dense 
woody undergrowth. So it was under this bush they 
had made their escape, and it was probably in 
dragging the unconscious girl through, that her dress 
was torn. 

Alan wormed his way under the bushes, and gasped 
in wonder at the vista opened out before him. A 
straight avenue — bordered on either side by thick 
bushes and overhanging trees, ran perhaps two miles 
in a straight line. The grass underfoot was soft and 
velvety, and a narrow streamlet ran over white stones 
at one side. The bushes were laden with fruit, but 
even a cursory glance showed that a quantity had 
been picked quite recently. Twigs bearing fruit had 
been roughly broken off, and trampled under foot. 
On went Alan until he reached the end of the avenue, 
where four paths branched out in four different 
directions. He hesitated for a second — all four 
looked like virgin ground. But his eyes were 
quickened by love, and only love could have noticed 
a small patch of damp earth close to the water's edge 
from where a stone had been kicked aside in a hasty 
transit. He looked round and saw the stone, its 
under side still damp — and knew that the fugitives 
were not too far off. 

Down the path he went which twisted and turned, 
now narrow now wide again. Suddenly the path also 
came to an end, and thick bushes and low growing 



268 THE PERFECT WORLD 

vegetation barred his way. Profiting by his past 
experience, he tried to peer under the buslies, but 
could find no sign of an outlet anywhere. All at once 
there came the sound of voices so close that he turned 
quickly, expecting to see figures behind him. But 
there was no one in sight. He listened intently — the 
voices came again — the Keemarnian tongue which he 
could understand quite well by this time — " — will 
leave you here " " — spare me, I beg " — " leave you 
here " — " Kulmervan have mercy — mercy " 

It was all very disjointed, and the sounds seemed 
to come from every direction. Again he heard his 
loved one's voice — distorted it is true, but even in the 
hoarse tones, he recognized that it was Chloric speak- 
ing. " — get away. — help me. Waiko help — my 
father will reward — Waiko — " The voice trailed off. 
Alan was frankly puzzled. The voice came first 
behind, then before him — then it seemed to come 
from Heaven itself. A hoarse laugh sounded — 
Kulmervan's. Alan was on the near track at last. 
Again the maniacal laugh came, fading away in the 
distance. Alan realized the trick nature had played 
him. He was listening not to the tones of his loved 
one, or her abductor, but to an echo. The originals 
might still be many miles away. 

Madly he tried to force his way through the under- 
growth. It was impossible. All night long he stayed 
in the little cul-de-sac, and at intervals caught 
fragments of conversation. 

" prevent her escaping. — torture her if need be " 

" — love me Chloric, just love me " " — save me, 
Waiko! " 

" — keep you with me always " 

The madness indeed possessed Kulmervan and his 
friend. 

When the sun rose Alan made one more attempt 
to leave the enclosure. Crawling on his belly, he 
wormed his way round the roots of the bushes. At 
last he discovered an opening. He crept through it, 
low upon the ground. When he got through, a 
network of pathways confronted him, but it was 
quite easy to discover the pathway Kulmervan had 



THE KNIGHT ERRANT 269 

taken. Feeling secure in his flight, he now refrained 
Ironi attempting to cover his tracks. By the broken 
grass and branches, the general upheaval of the soil, 
Alan was convinced that through this part of their 
retreat, they had dragged their unwilling victim along 
the path, so he ground his teeth and swore softly 
under his breath. 

Twisting and turning the path opened out into a 
valley — a valley of rocks and stones between two 
mighty mountains. The scene was desolate, awe 
inspiring, dreary — almost terrifying in its grandeur. 
For perhaps two miles he followed it, until again it 
narrowed and the character of the scene changed. 
Once more it was a leafy lane he was traversing, that 
mig-ht have been in Devonshire, with its -red earth 
and dainty ferns. 

At intervals during" the day he heard the echo, and 
it led him on — on — to his love. 

A sound came upon his ear; it was that of voices — 
real voices, this time — no longer an echo. Cautiously 
he crept from tree to tree. There in the centre of a 
clearing sat Kulmcrvan. His robe was torn, his skin 
scratched— his eyes held a look of madness. At his 
feet stretched Waiko, listening eagerly to his friend's 
counsel. And tied to a tree, her fair hair covering 
her, her garments lying strewn on the ground beside 
her, torn from her body by her half mad kinsman, 
Kulmervan — was Chloric. Her head was sunk on 
her breast. She was breathing heavily. 

Alan dared not move — it was two against one, and 
he had to save himself for her. Silent as a sleuth 
hound, he watched and waited; and even as he did 
so Chloric lifted her head and gazed across the bodies 
of the two Keemarnians. Through the leafy spaces 
their eyes met. Into hers came recognition, followed 
by a flush of shame, as she shook her hair closer still 
aboiit her gleaming body. Then she smiled a 
trustful smile, and dropped her head once more upon 
her breast. 



CHAPTER X 



THE CAVE OF WHISPERING MADNESS 

Throughout the night Alan watched. Never did 
Kidmervan move from his place in the clearing — never 
did his eyes close nor did he show the slightest inclina- 
tion to sleep. Towards morning VVaiko raised himself 
from the ground. He was pitiable to look upon. Led 
on by a stronger will the madness had come upon him 
also. But it was a weaker madness than that which 
affected Kulmervan — it was a madness that chattered 
and gibbered in the sun, that laughed and cackled 
insanely — a madness that was pitiful to behold. 

Alan watched through the leafy branches, and as the 
dawn rose, many times he met Chlorie's questioning 
gaze with looks of encourag"ement and help. And 
she knew that when the time was ripe, this strange 
Lord from another world would save and deliver her. 

As Kulmervan still made no attempt to move, Alan 
wondered whether it would be possible to overpower 
him. He made a movement and the slight sound was 
heard. Kulmervan sprang to his feet and looked 
round, and Alan saw he was clutching the huge limb 
of a tree — a formidable weapon in a madman's hands. 
He was evidently not satisfied, and peered round the 
tree trunks carefully. Quietly Alan crept behind a 
large bush, and dropping on his belly he wormed him- 
self underneath it until he was completely hidden. 

The crackling of a twig was heard by the madman, 
who, with his dormant passions aroused was a 
dangerous enemy. He spoke sharply to Waiko. 
" What sound is that, my Waiko? Is it the stranger 
that tracketh us? " 

" I know not " said Waiko shuddering " Oh, 

270 



CAVE OF MADNESS 271 

Kulmervan, my friend, let us leave the Ipso-Rorka 
here, and flee from the wrath of her father " 

" Nonsense, my Waiko ! When the Rorka is told 
that his daughter, Chloric the Fair, Chlorie the Pure, 
has spent forty and one nights with us in the darkness, 
he will be glad to give his soiled goods into my keeping 
for ever. Then in good time, 1 shall become Rorka. 
Shall I not punish my Chlorie then, for her indifference 
and insults? " 

Waiko shuddered. 

" My Chlorie " cried Kulmervan suddenly, his 
manner changing " Will you not promise me your 
hand ? Oh, my darling, forgive me — I love you so — 
I love you. Give me your hand — swear before Waiko 
that you'll take me for your mate. I'll be so good to 
you — I'll love you so " His voice was pleading. His 
earnestness could not be doubted, yet Alan knew it 
was but a moment's lull in the disordered brain. 

Chlorie never answered a word, and her silence 
drove Kulmervan again to threats. Tearing a handful 
of withes from the side of a running brook, he lashed 
the captive Princess across her legs with the stinging 
rushes. With an oath Alan burst from his hiding place, 
and was on the back of his enemy, before Kulmervan 
could recover from his astonishment. 

Then followed a terrific fight. Alan with all his 
knowledge of the scientific sport was unable to get 
in a knockout blow. He parried and thrust, and 
landed Kulmervan a heavy blow under his jaw. His 
opponent tottered for a moment, but the blow had 
no lasting effect, and the heavy Keemarnian struck 
mightier blows still at his enemy. Waiko was entirely 
demoralized. He stood watching the fight — his breath 
coming in gasps, his blue eyes staring, his teeth 
chattering. As an ally, he was useless to Kulmervan; 
as an enemy he counted as naught to Alan. 

Chlorie, tied tightly to the tree, was unable to move. 
Her wide open eyes followed the fighters in an agony 
of spirit; but not a sound came from her lips. True 
to the tradition of her land, the daughter of the Rorka 
gave no audible sign of her terror. Alan knew he 
was weakening. Imperceptibly at first he lost ground, 



272 THE PEllFECT WORLD 

but gradually he realized that his blows had no effect 
upon the Keemarnian. His hasty rush into the field of 
battle was worse than useless — he could no longer help 
his love. The Keemarnian gave him one terrific blow 
in the stomach. His wind went — he gasped, choked 
for breath, crumpled up and sank to the ground. 

Kulmervan left his vanquished enemy's side and 
went to Waiko who had been stupidly watching the 
scene. 

" Watch him " he commanded '' If he show any 
sign of awakening, give him a blow wifli this. It will 
be sufiicient to put him to sleep again " and he tossed 
the heavy stick beside the prostrate body. 

Brutally he untied the ropes that bound Chloric. 
She was stiff and weak, and the agony as the blood once 
more coursed freely through her veins, was almost more 
than she could bear. Still she remained silent, and 
with a noble gesture of majesty, stooped, and drew 
her mantle of blue about her naked body. Two other 
garments still lay on the ground — with a sudden 
thought she caught one up, and drew it within the 
folds of her cloak. She had a plan ! I.ove had been 
born to her, in that exquisite moment of agony when 
she saw Alan knocked down. Her soul cried out 
within her that here was her mate at last. Her fine 
sense of belief and trust told her that it was impossible 
that he was sleeping the sleep of serquor. Some- 
time he would rise again — bruised, bleeding, torn, 
perhaps, but rise he would, and come to her aid. 

Kulmervan took her roughly by the arm. " Come " 
said he " Waiko wait until the Kymo is full in the 
Heavens — it is but a short time. If Alan the Evil has 
not moved by then, follow me quickly. Always to the 
East, my friend. Always take the most easterly path, 
and you will find me " 

" Wliere are you going? " asked Waiko in horror. 

" To the Cave of Whispering Madness " said he, 
and involuntarily Chlorie shuddered. 

" Do you know where it is, my Kulmervan? " asked 
Waiko. 

"Yes. Have I not been there often? Ah, my 
friend, I arranged that the engines should fail. Ah, 



CAVE OF MADNESS 273 

oft times should I have been in the Hall of Sorrows, 
but I came here instead, and of my own free will. I 
know the place I intend taking you to — I will show you 
sights — sights I have seen — ha! ha! ha! " and with 
a wild burst of laughter he dragged his unwilling 
captive through the bushes, and made his way 
Eastward. 

Waiko remained silent, watching his vanishing friend. 
His mind was working strangely. The madness had 
left a deep sense of fear in the heart of Waiko. The 
inanimate body of Alan seemed to point to his undoing. 
The blood trickled slowly down the unconscious man's 
face till there was a little red pool shining wickedly 
on the green grass. With a cry, Waiko picked up the 
club and swung it once, twice round his head. But as 
he would have swung it a third time, it slipped out of 
his nerveless fingers, and went spinning a hundred 
feet away. With a cry at his loneliness, Waiko turned 
and fled after Kulmervan. In a short space of time 
he had caught them up, and noticed with surprise that 
Chlorie was walking almost willingly with her captor. 
There was a rope passed round her body, it was true, 
but it was slack in the centre, and although she 
lagged somewhat behind, there was no need to drag 
her along. 

" Alan? " questioned Kulmervan, as Waiko reached 
him. 

" Is serquor " 
" Good " 

" I struck him, as he rose to hurt me. With one 
mighty blow I felled him to the ground. The heavy 
weapon you left with me I dashed on his head. — • Now 
he lies quiet, and cold and bloody " Waiko almost 
believed his story, and as he recounted it, he looked 
upon himself as a hero. 

" 'Tis well, my Waiko " said Kulmervan " What 
say you to that, my Chlorie ? Alan is serquor — never 
more will Kymo rise upon his smiling face. Never 
more will he force his presence upon the people of 
Keemar. He is gone for ever from our sight " 

But Chlorie made no reply — only from beneath her 
mantle could be seen a slight convulsive movement, 

s 



274 THE PERFECT WORLD 

and from underneath came a tiny tatter of blue, that 
caught on a rose bush and fluttered in the breeze. 

Birds singing — sweetly smelling flowers — a sense of 
hunger and thirst. These were the first conscious 
thoughts Alan had, as he opened his eyes on the world 
once more. He rose from the ground. His head was 
sore, but the bleeding* had ceased. He plucked some 
luscious fruit that grew low to the ground. It revived 
him. Then he tried to think. Chlorie had been taken 
from him once more — but he would find her yet. He 
tenderly touched the tree to which she had been bound 
— and stooped and picked up the silken garment she 
had left behind. It was just a piece of soft, blue 
drapery that crumpled into nothingness in his hand. 
He kissed it reverently — it was part of his love. 

He looked round wearily — there, attached to a bush 
was a piece of something blue — he bent over it — it was 
part of her gown. Further down, in the very centre 
of the path was another piece, while in the distance 
he could see yet a third. It was a sign. Chlorie was 
directing him the way she had gone. The trail was 
difficult to follow. The breeze had blown many 
pieces away altogether — others it had carried away 
playfully into a wrong direction, but by careful 
w^atchfulness, he discovered the right way, and there 
were always the little pieces of blue to guide him. 

Then he lost the trail altogether. The last piece of 
blue was caught on a stone at the bottom of a mighty 
face of rock. No matter where he looked, there was 
no shred of blue to cheer him. He ran his hand over 
the surface of the rock, it was of a reddish sandstone 
and quite smooth. All around was a low-lying 
valley with neither a stone nor a tree behind which any 
one could hide. He could see for about ten miles, and 
there was no sign of the fugitives. Backward and 
forward he walked by the mighty wall of rock, and 
always his journey ended by the last little flutter of 
blue. The cliff rose sheer perhaps three hundred feet, 
and the solid wall extended as far as eye could reach. 
It was unthinkable that Kulmervan had scaled the 
wall — yet whither had he gone ? 

Suddenly he heard a rumbling noise; the sound of 



CAVE OF MADNESS 275 

a thousand people whispering, and in front of him a 
huge slab of rock swung back, revealing a cavity 
within. The whispering grew louder and louder. 
He looked round for a hiding place. There was none- — 
so without a moment's hesitation he leapt inside the 
darkened cavern. A narrow path led downwards, and 
it was up this path the whispering seemed to be 
coming; whispering that sounded like a veritable army 
speaking in hushed tones. There was a piece of rock 
jutting out — Alan slipped into its embracing shadows, 
and waited. The sounds came nearer and nearer — 
then Kulmervan appeared with Waiko at his side. 
" The voices whispered that a stranger was coming. 
The voices are never wrong. See, my Waiko, see 
yonder if Alan the Evil is approaching " The voice 
whispered and rolled in the darkness. The whole 
place was unwholesome and terrifying, 

Kulmervan followed Waiko into the sunlight. 
Immediately they were out of sight, Alan slipped from 
his hiding place and ran swiftly down the narrow 
passageway. The faster he ran, the faster he drew 
in his breath, and it seemed as if a thousand men were 
mocking him. He sighed as his breath caught in his 
throat — immediately there were a thousand sighs 
behind him. Quicker, quicker he tore down the 
passage, to where he hoped, somewhere he would find 
his love hidden. The path was steep and narrow and 
was in total darkness, and he risked his life in his mad 
rush through the whispering horrors. He heard the 
voices again! Kulmervan and Waiko had returned. 
Blindly he rushed on — stumbling here, tripping there, 
in his haste to reach the Ipso-Rorka. 

The path took an upward turn — he tripped over 
something. Putting his hands out before him, he felt 
on the ground. Rough steps had been cut out of the 
rock. Steadily he mounted upwards — upwards — the 
darkness was intense — the whispering shadows terrify- 
ing; but he never ceased his mad pace, so eager was 
he to reach Chloric. 

Steadily he ascended the stairs — they seemed inter- 
minable. Then in the distance, he saw a yellowish 
spot of light. As he rose higher, it became bigger, 



276 THE PERFECT WORLD 

until it ended in a blaze of brightness. He had 
reached the top and was in an enormous cavern lit 
by torches in sockets all round the walls. The awful 
grandeur of the place startled him. In the very 
centre was a huge figure, twenty feet high. It was 
seated on a throne and had its hands outspread as if 
in benediction. It possessed a terrible face, cruel, 
hard, sensual, — and the incongruity of the posing of 
the hands struck Alan at once. Round the cave, at 
equal distances, were other figures, all enormous in 
stature, and possessing in their features the same 
bestial cruelty and lust. Stalactites hung from the 
roof. Stalactites forty feet long — Stalactites fifty feet 
long. Stalactites glorious, yet like deadly serpents 
with heads outstretched ready to strike. In one corner 
of the place was a huge beast in stone. Once it had 
lived, no doubt, now it was fossilized and cold. It 
was similar to the ichthyosaurus of prehistoric days — 
an evil-looking beast in its life, but infinitely more 
terrible in its stone period. 

Every movement Alan made was intensified a 
thousand times in this Cave of Whispering Madness. 
He realized what the name meant. It could indeed, 
drive the sanest man mad. He realized that he had a 
fair start of the two Keemarnians, and hurriedly hunted 
for his lost love. Softly he called, but although her 
name reverberated from floor to roof, no answering 
cry took up his challenge. Then whispering voices 
sounded nearer. Silently he slipped behind the stone 
monster that had once lived and mated. He was only 
just in time. Still louder grew the whisperings, and 
Kulmervan and Waiko appeared at the top of the stair- 
way. With the greatest difficulty Alan was able 
to distinguish their words. The whisperings were so 
loud, so sibilant, that the voices sounded like one long 
hiss. 

The two Keemarnians came close to the big carved 
figure in the centre of the cave. Kulmervan bent low 
on both knees before the hideous figure. " Spirit of 
our Fathers " he cried out " Humbly I pray, take my 
soul into thy keeping. It is thine — thine for ever — but 
in return, I pray you, grant me Chlorie's love. See, 



CAVE OF MADNESS 277 

I sprinkle thee with my blood in ratification of my 
bond " and with a short knife he severed a vein in 
his arm and sprinkled the statue with the warm, red 
fluid. 

Waiko was whispering- " Mitzor the Mighty, have 
mercy ! Have mercy ! ' 

" Fool " cried Kulmervan " Why mention that 
name here ? I have bargained with Pirox the Killer — I 
belong to him. Chloric shall be mine. You have 
come thus far with me, my VVaiko, but further thou 
shalt gO'. Down, down on thy knees before Pirox — 
admit that he is great — greater than Mitzor I Ask a 
favour — nay demand a favour — seal it with thy blood " 

Waiko went down on his knees. His face was ashen 
— he was trembling in every limb. Then came a 
strange duet, intensified a thousand times by the 
whisperings. " Mitzor the Mighty " " Pirox the 
Killer " " Pirox " " Mitzor " " Mitzor " " Pirox " 

In a passion Kulmervan arose, and struck Waiko, 
down " Lie there, thou dog " he cried " May thou 
sleep for ever in serquor. I alone am mighty. Pirox 
alone is great " Waiko never moved, he showed no 
signs of breathing. Had he indeed fallen into the 
trance-like state that the inhabitants of Keemar so 
dreaded ? It seemed hopeless to Alan, that he would 
ever find Chloric in this cavern of horror. He 
realized at last that Kulmervan was a degenerate. 
The entrance of poor Murdoch had not caused the 
madness. No doubt he had posed as a good 
Keemarnian, but he suffered from the madness, and 
deep in his heart even denied the existence of Mitzor 
the Mighty, the Great White Glory, and indulged in 
devil worship and fetish honour. What this Cave of 
Whispering Madness was Alan could not conjecture — 
perhaps in some far gone age, fallen Jovians had met 
here; made the Temple for their abominable worship, 
and lived a second life, unsuspected by their friends. 

That the image in the centre was their god, Alan was 
convinced. But how had Kulmervan discovered it? 
Had it been handed down to him from his childhood, 
or had he in some way found it for himself? It was 
pitiful to see — a young Keemarnian of noble lineage, 



278 THE PERFECT WORLD 

saturated with heathen mythology and heretical 
dogma. In truth he was a menace to his companions, 
living a life of deceit and sin. His was a complex 
character, for there was much that was sweet and 
lovable about him, and he was much to be pitied, for 
when his secret was discovered he would indeed 
become a pariah and an outcast. At the moment 
he felt he was safe, and continued his " Black 
Sacrifice " 

For Chlorie's sake, Alan was forced to witness in 
silence the horrors that followed. At the foot of the 
statue was a slab of stone — raised perhaps ten inches 
from the ground. Upon it were ominous red stains. 
Quickly Kulmcrvan set about his business. In one 
corner of the cave were piles of brushwood — these 
he piled high under the stone slab. With a mighty 
effort he lifted the senseless Waiko upon it, and rested 
his head in a tiny curve at one end. Alan shuddered 
to see how it fitted the neck. The use of the slab was 
plain to see. He set fire to the wood by one of the 
torches, and the smoke curled up and the wood hissed 
and sizzled. 

When the fire was safely alight, Kulmervan went to 
a corner of the cavern, and touclied a hidden spring. 
A door opened, and revealed a flight of steps inside, 
leading below. As soon as he -was out of sight, Alan 
rushed from his hiding place, lifted Waiko from the 
altar and hid him behind the mammoth fossil. 

But the noise of his movements was magnified a 
thousandfold by the hideous whispering echoes of the 
place. Waiko was still and quiet — he scarcely breathed, 
and Alan dared not try to revive him. Kulmervan 
returned bearing in his arms a precious burden in 
blue. Alan started, and leant forward; his darling was 
not unconscious, but was submitting to the indignity 
put upon her with her usual patience. At the altar 
he stopped in frozen amazement. The stone was 
beginning to show red, — the deadly fire should have 
begun its work — but the altar was empty. He 
looked round — there was no one in sight. With a 
cry of rage he let go the rope to which Chloric was 
fastened, put her to the ground, and darted to the head 



CAVE OF MADNESS 279 

of the stairway leading to the cave's entrance. And 
the yells of his curses and imprecations rose on the 
air, m volumes of sinister whisperings. 

Alan was but six feet from his dear one. With a 
mighty rush he leapt from his hiding place, and caught 
Chloric in his arms. He made for the secret door 
through which Kulmervan had brought her; Kulmer- 
van heard the sounds and was just in time to see two 
figures disappearing through the little door. With 
another oath he strode across the cave — but the figures 
had a big start. They had closed the door behind 
them, and his fingers hesitated over the secret lock; 
so he was delayed by his own impatience and anger. 

Chloric had given herself up for lost, and when she 
felt two strong arms encircle her a vague terror came 
over her, but even as she was lifted up, a voice 
whispered in her ear — " Have no fear. 'Tis I — 
Alan. Trust yourself to me and I will save you " 
Her emotion was too great for her to speak, but she 
let herself nestle in comfort in the arms of the powerful 
stranger. 

The door clanged behind them — more stairs, very 
narrow. Down Alan went, and the darkness gave 
place to a faint light. 

" Where are we? " asked Alan. 

" I don't know — but there is a cave down here which 
is kept padlocked — it was there I was imprisoned " 

Alan looked round quickly; the passage had widened 
and openings led off on either side. Immediately in 
front of them seemed to come the daylight. 

" Can you run? " he asked tenderly. 

"Yes — yes. Oh, to be free of Kulmervan! " 
Through the dim Hght they went. The whisperings 
were not quite as bad as in the upper cave, but still 
they were quite fearsome enough. They seemed to 
people the place with dead men — men who laughed, 
and jeered, and pointed their clammy fingers at their 
victims. But upon the whisperings came a more 
fearful sound — Kulmervan's laughter! 

" Hurry — hurry, my Princess " 

" I cannot " she breathed " My heart beats — it 
hurts me to talk " Without a word he picked the light 



280 THE PERFECT WORLD 

burden again up in his amis and made off at a still 
greater pace; she flung one arm round his neck and 
clung to him confidingly. Nearer came the laughter. 
It was so close that it seemed almost on the top of them. 
Alan never forgot that journey; with his precious 
burden in his arms he hurried onward, always follow- 
ing the light. And nearer and nearer came the foot- 
steps of the madman. At last they turned a corner — 
the cave opened out and they saw Kymo, shining in 
all his glory; the sea was breaking gently on the 
golden shore. 

There was plenty of shelter near; rocks abounded 
and the vegetation was thick. Alan ran to where a 
dozen rocks, man high, rose from the seashore. There 
was in one a crevice that was wide enough to admit 
Chloric. 

" Stay there " he whispered. 

" Oh, don't leave me " 

" I won't leave you for long I promise you — but I 
want to watch for Kulmervan " 

" Take care of yourself " she pleaded " Oh, run 
no risks, I pray " 

With a quick glance round Alan left the shelter of 
the rocks. No one was in sight — Kulmervan had not 
shown himself. Quickly Alan made his way to the 
cave from which they had emerged. He entered it, 
and to his amazement found it had no exit. Solid 
walls blocked his way — it was just a hollowed out rock 
on the sands, going inland, perhaps ten or twelve feet 
only. Alan was perplexed. He had marked it as he 
thought by a big coloured boulder at its entrance; but 
upon careful examination he found there were dozens 
and dozens of such boulders all over the beach. 
Stepping from his hiding place he walked to the next 
cave; that upon examination proved to go deep into 
the earth, but it was not the cave from which they had 
escaped into the open. Wildly he rushed up and down. 
Twenty, thirty caves he encountered all like, very like, 
the one he was seeking. Some had narrow passages 
that twisted and turned and ended in a cave next door. 
Others went further, and after many serpentine 
turnings, brought him back to the place from which 



CAVE OF MADNESS 281 

he had started. He knew he was in a dangerous 
position; any one of these caves might hold Kulmervan 
— an observer, but unobserved. Rapidly Alan made 
up his mind. With Chlorie he would leave the cave 
district altogether — they would strike inland. If 
they were still on the island, they would endeavour to 
find their way back to where the air bird had been 
anchored. That Waz-Y-Kjesta would return Alan 
was convinced — and when he did so, they would be 
saved. 

Having made up his mind, he began to retrace 
his footsteps — but a hoarse burst of laughter startled 
him. He rushed to the mouth of the cave. There, 
sailing away to sea in a frail craft, was Kulmervan. 
It was just a raft he was on, with a tiny makeshift sail. 
But it was not at Kulmervan that Alan was staring 
horror stricken — incredulous. But at a blue figure near 
the helm — a little blue figure that was tied to a post to 
which the main-sail was fastened; a little blue figure 
that held out her arms imploringly to the shore. 
Alan could only stare and stare, incredulous, 
unbelieving — but the little craft grew smaller and 
smaller as it was tossed on the waves. Alan rushed 
to the rocks — the crevice was empty — Chlorie had once 
more been snatched from his arms. 



CHAPTER XI 



THE WRAITHS OF THE RORKAS 

Alan remained motionless, watching the little craft 
vanish from his ken. He was thinking hard. 'Kul- 
mervan had so far got the better of him, but the game 
was not yet won. It might be check to the King, but 
Alan was far from being mated. His eye searched the 
beach — there was nothing in sight ; neither boat, nor 
sailing craft. He looked behind him at the many yawn- 
ing cavern entrances. He was still in doubt as to the 
one which led to the Cave of Whispering Madness. He 
clenched his hands together till the knuckles showed 
white — there he w^as, alone on an island, impotent, use- 
less — while the woman he loved was in the hands of a 
madman, and in danger, not of death as he knew it, 
but of dishonour, disgrace, and perhaps serquor itself. 

There was a mist at sea, and already the little barque 
had been swallowed up in its grey folds — nothing was in 
sight on the broad expanse of water. He looked above 
him — he saw no air bird in the heavens, its body gleam- 
ing in the light. On the island there was no trace of 
humanity but himself. Hope seemed far away. Then 
suddenly he remembered Kulmervan's words. " Take 
the most easterly path, my Waiko. Always to the 
East " Unconsciously he turned to the left, and 
walked quickly across the sands. A great promontory 
of rock stood out before him, hiding from sight the 
next little bay. He strode towards it, and found it was 
impossible to get round it. Already the water was too 
deep, so he made up his mind to scale it. Clambering 
up the slippery rocks, he at length reached the top. 
There before him lay the whole stretch of coast line. 

282 



WRAITHS OF THE RORKAS 283 

Tiny bays; little rivulets coming down narrow valleys 
and emptying themselves at last in the sea; rugged 
headlands, and grassy slopes all took their place in the 
picture. None of these things, however focussed them- 
selves upon his mind; one thing only he saw, and one 
thing only drew him helter skelter over the rugged 
rocks. A tiny boat, almost like the Rob Roy canoe he 
favoured in his 'varsity days, lay drawn high up on the 
beach, and near it, a little log cabin was built at the 
water's edge. 

Hurriedly he made his way to the little hut, and 
knocked loudly on the door. There was no reply and 
he tried it; it opened at his touch. He entered it — it 
was deserted, but he soon had proof of its owner. 
Upon the wall hung a beautiful painting of Chloric — 
and it was signed " Kulmervan, from his kinswoman. 
Chlorie " On a table by the window was a pile of 
books, and on the fly leaf of nearly every one was 
written in a strong hand " Kulmervan, Taz-Ak of the 
House of Pluthoz " Mostly the books were on 
Astronomy and Alan noticed with amusement one was 
called " Quilphis, or the most important unimportant 
Planet " Quilphis — Terra I His world, once his all — 
now nothing. 

He looked round the room, a door led on one side to 
the sleeping apartment, and on the other to the kitchen 
and offices. The whole place was tastefully furnished 
and showed signs of frequent use. Alan hurried to the 
seashore — the little craft was called the Chlorie. He 
sprang into it, and pushed off. In the bow he saw a 
tiny engine with three levers. He was already slightly 
acquainted with the simple Keemarnian machinery, so 
he pulled one down with assurance. Instantly the boat 
skimmed along the water at a terrific speed. Hastily 
he touched the second, a slower pace resulted, and the 
third stopped the boat altogether. With the first speed 
on, he ploughed out to the horizon. He could see no 
trace of Kulmervan. The sea was desolate and bare. 
He felt hopeless. Had Kulmervan swamped the boat, 
and were he and Chlorie now lying dead at the bottom 
of the sea? Death! He knew the Jovians had no 
death — yet surely they were not immune from drown- 



284 THE PERFECT WORLD 

ing ? Perhaps they would remain on the sea's bed — 
serquor. The thought maddened him, and savagely he 
turned the boat first this way, then that, in his hopeless 
endeavour to find the fugitives. Kymo had sunk, dark- 
ness was setting in — he could see the faint outlines of 
the hut. Suddenly two beams of light shone out from 
its windows, which were as suddenly obscured. Kul- 
mervan had doubtless returned. Quickly he turned the 
boat towards shore; he drew close in and beached her 
without a sound. Quietly he crept up to the open 
window and moved the heavy curtain ever so slightly. 

There was Kulmervan in his easy chair, reading a 
book — but he was alone. A knock sounded and a man 
appeared. 

" Do you want refreshment now, my lord? " he 
asked. 

*' Yes, Arrack. At once " 

" Shall I take refreshment to the lady, your mate? " 

" No, Arrack. But stay — take her a glass of wine, 
and " fumbling on his table — " melt this pellet in it. 
She will fall asleep. When she is asleep, carry her 
hither and place her in my room. 'Tis my wedding 
night, Arrack. I have an unwilling bride it's true, but 
before Pirox the Killer, my mate shall she be this 
night " 

Arrack smiled evilly. " 'Tis well, my lord. I will 
do thy bidding " 

" When you have brought her hither, stand sentinel 
at the rocky ledge. If Alan the Evil should appear, 
strike hirq down, bind him and acquaint me. vShould 
that happen to him, then Pirox the Killer again will 
have a victim " 

Silently Arrack left the room to return almost 
immediately with a tray laden with food. 

" Where did you go this mid-day, Arrack? " asked 
his master. 

" To the Cave of Whispering Madness, my master. 
I built the sacrificial pyre beneath the altar. Every- 
thing is in readiness. I hardly expected you so soon. 
Two Kymos should have passed before you came " 

" The pyre is ready? Good! But what did you 
with the Chlorie? " 



WRAITHS OF THE RORKAS 285 

" 'Tis on the beach as it always is " 

" Nay " said Kulmervan " when I landed at the 
covered bay, I dragg-ed my unwilling bride by way of 
the beach. The Chlorie was not there, and I thought 
you must have sailed to the mainland for food " 

" It is there I swear, my lord " 

Kulmervan looked puzzled. " Could Alan have 
found it and — " he began — then — " Go quickly. 
Arrack, and see " 

Alan slipped round the corner of the hut, and in the 
darkness stood flush with the wall, completely hidden. 
He saw the figure of Arrack run lightly down to the 
beach, heard him get into the boat, and as quickly 
return. He reached his coig"n of vantage in time to 
hear Arrack say "It is there, my lord. I saw and 
touched it. It has moved its position slightly, but the 
wind has been rather high to-day; otherwise it was as 
I left it " 

" That puling girl has taken my senses away " 
grumbled Kulmervan " I can think of naught but 
her. Go, Arrack, fetch her here. But remember, give 
her the wine first. When she awakens, she will have 
become my mate " and he chuckled hoarsely. 

Alan was in a quandary, he scarcely knew what to 
do. Was the secret way into the place where Chlorie 
was hidden, in the cabin or not ? He wormed his way 
round the hut, and as he did so, he saw a door open, 
and in the ray of light a figure cross to a little lean-to 
shed, that had been built against some high ground. 
He gave Arrack a moment or two of grace and then 
followed him in. There on the floor was an open trap 
door with some steps leading from it into the unknown 
below. A length of cord was in a corner of the shed, 
Alan picked it up and then followed Arrack. At the 
foot of the steps, a subterranean passage led for 
some distance, and then opened out into a large 
cave. He remembered it — it was the one immediately 
under the secret exit in the Cave of Whispering 
Madness. 

He saw Arrack in front of him — he had taken a key 
from his waist and had undone a heavy, metal door. 
Silently Alan crept nearer and nearer to him. He 



286 THE PERFECT WORLD 

heard the sound of liquid being poured into a glass. 
He heard Chlorie's gentle word of thanks. Now he 
could see the grim tragedy. Chlorie had finished the 
wine, and was now swaying to and fro ; she tottered 
and fell on to a low couch in a corner of her prison. 
Arrack watched her until he was convinced she was 
fast asleep, then he put the wine bottle down and bent 
over the prostrate girl. He remembered no more — a 
mighty blow rendered him unconscious, and Alan tied 
up his unresisting foe, and left him helpless upon the 
ground. 

Tenderly he raised Chlorie and bent over her — he 
was aching to kiss her sweet lips, but he remembered 
her anguished cry, " Not my lips, Kulmervan, not 
my lips " No, until she offered them of her own free 
will, they should remain sacred to him. He knew she 
would sleep deeply for some time, so he examined his 
quarters. Chlorie's cell was hewn out of the solid 
rock, with nothing in it but a chair, a table and a 
settee. There was the passage leading to the log 
cabin; the one with the glimmer of light that led he 
knew to the sea shore; and the one to the cave above. 
To the right, there was a tiny passage that looked 
almost like a crack in the rock. He peered through — 
it led on into the distance, and he was determined 
to try that. Arrack had carried a lamp which gave 
a good light. Alan picked it up, lifted Chlorie gently, 
and started down the passage. He wondered whether 
it would lead to safety, or to adventures even more 
horrible than many of those he had been through. 
He held Chlorie tightly; he was determined not to 
lose her again. Again the passage opened out into 
a cave — narrowed, and a still larger cave came into 
view. He saw a niche high up in the wall, and with 
his precious burden, he managed to reach it in safety. 
He found himself on a high narrow ledge, where they 
could rest in safety from the machinations of 
Kulmervan. 

Chlorie woke to find her head supported by a strong 
arm, and her hands held between two firm ones. She 
looked up " Alan " she breathed, and made a tiny 
movement towards him. " My Chlorie " he murmured, 



WRAITHS OF THE RORKAS 287 

and their lips met in one warm long; kiss. " Oh, my 
darling, you really love me? " he said brokenly at 
last. 

" My Alan, I know not the customs of your world. 
In mine, it is shame to a maid who offers her lips 
before she is wed. Indeed, a maid would never be 
thus " and she slipped from the circle of his arm — 
" even were she sworn to wed. I know not your 
customs, my Alan, but I am Ipso-Rorka, and my 
father's child. I — I love you, Alan — " 

" And you'll be my wife? " he asked tenderly. 

Shyly she hid her face on his breast " In truth, 
my Alan, — 'tis sweeter far to be asked, than ask. I 
am glad you are of a different world — for your wooing 
is stronger and yet more sweet than ours. Oh, 
willingly, willingly, Alan, will I marry you " 

Alan had at last met and won his ideal, and he 
caressed and murmured sweet nothings to her, until 
they forgot they were fugitives — forgot that a madman 
would soon be on their trail — forgot aught but the 
joy of the present, and the hope of the future. 
Chlorie recovered herself first. Shyly she slipped her 
little hand into Alan's " My loved one " said she 
" My father the Rorka knows naught of Kulmervan 
and his sin. We must escape, reach him, and for the 
safety of the community, for the traditions of our 
dear land, we must send Kulmervan to the Hall of 
Sorrows " 

" My Chlorie, nothing will purge him of his sin. 
He is mad — quite mad " 

" But he must go away all the same. See what 
unhappiness he has caused already — see what he may 
do in the future! " 

" You are right. He must be puf away. He has 
money, position and cunning " 

" Where are we, my Alan? " 

" I know not where this leads " said Alan " but it 
is the only road I dared take " 

Hungry, tired and worn, they crept on along the 
little narrow ledge. Suddenly a cave, lighted from 
without through slits in the wall, burst on their view, 
and Chlorie gave a startled exclamation " The Hall 



288 THE PERFECT WORLD 

of our Fathers " she cried " I have been here 
before " 

" What is it?" 

" This is the place where the regalia of each reign- 
ing Rorka is placed, together with his throne, when he 
has left the fair land of Keemar, through the Sacrament 
of Schlerik-itata " Round the cave were thrones of 
all descriptions — some in heavy marble — others in 
gold adorned with precious jewels; others just simple, 
wooden thrones, that showed their antiquity. 

" Down, down on your knees " cried Chlorie, and 
Alan realized that the cave had become alive with 
living figures. The thrones were occupied by men 
who wore crowns of gold and jewels, and who carried 
sceptre and orb in their hands. The cave that had 
been dead and cold only a minute before, was now 
alive. But there was no sound; all was hushed and 
still, and the figures were shadowy and unreal. " Oh 
my Mitzor " breathed Chlorie " The joy I To think 
I should have been permitted to witness this scene — to 
see the wraiths of my forefathers. My Alan, watch — 
read a meaning in this visitation, for it augurs well " 

Alan felt unable to move. He was petrified at the 
sight before him — at the ghostly pageant of years 
gone by. Slowly the Rorkas — kings of seons past — 
rose from their thrones and walked in single file to 
the end of the cave. There they ranged themselves 
on either side of a slightly raised platform of rock. 
They prostrated themselves, and Alan saw a thin 
vapour rise and like a curtain shut out from sight the 
little stage. Then it lifted, and through the shadowy 
film he saw strange figures disporting themselves amid 
the strange scenery. Then, all at once, he realized that 
he was watching shadowy figures of himself and Des- 
mond and Mavis. He saw their little cottage at Arroch 
Head; he witnessed their hasty flight in the Argenta; 
once more he saw the destruction of the world, his 
world. But this time it was different. Like a tiny 
star it shone white and bright, then it shivered, turned 
red like a tiny ball of fire in the sky, burst into a 
thousand different pieces, and then disappeared from 
sight. And as it disappeared the scene clouded again, 



WRAITHS OF THE RORKAS 289 

and the filmy curtain of haze shut out the picture from 
his sight. The scene changed — once more he saw 
himself as an actor on the stage, but this time he was 
a minor character in the drama. Kulmervan was the 
villain, and played the chief character. He witnessed 
their meeting in the little lane — he watched the flight 
of the air bird, Chloric — the descent, and the abduction 
of the Ipso-Rorka. So the play went on until one 
more picture showed clearly before him. He saw 
Chloric — Chloric in a gown of diaphanous white with 
a crown of gold upon her head. By her side he stood, 
crowned and with orb in hand; and between them 
stood a child — a man child who bore traces of his 
mother's beauty and his father's strength. Then 
darkness came upon the scene, and Alan drew his 
trembling love still closer beside him. 

Then the wraiths of the Rorkas became faint and 
misty, and when next he looked, they had vanished 
from sight. 

" We shall win through, my Alan " said Chloric 
" The wraiths of our Rorkas never show themselves 
except to the favoured few '' 

" Do you know the way out from here? " 

" Yes. Straight through yonder archway a passage 
leads to the sea. We are not far from Hoormoori. 
The island is Waro — the Isle of Joy. It is a safe place 
for Kulmervan to have chosen for his madness— no 
one would have sought for evil here " 

" How far is Hoormoori then? " 

" From where we emerge into the light, we shall 
see the citadels and towers of my home. Oh Alan — 
the joyous moment when I can take you by the hand 
and lead you to my father — my chosen one — my love 

" How shall we reach the mainland? " 

" We must light a beacon on the shore. Fire is a 
signal, and some one will row across to us " 

In a short while they emerged through a tiny door 
out on to the beach. They gathered sticks and laid 
them crosswise upon each other until they were man 
high, and then set the pile ablaze. At length came a 
sign from the distant shore where white minarets 
gleamed in the light, and golden cupolas rose high 

T 



290 THE PERFECT WORLD 

in the air. There rose against the whiteness of the 
scene tall tongues of flame and curling smoke. 

Their answer " said Chloric " Some one will 
soon come now " 

They watched a craft put out to sea — they saw the 
pale green sails grow clearer and nearer. Soon they 
could distinguish the crew. Chloric ran down to the 
sea's edge, and stood gaily clapping her hands. 

The little launch beached with a groan and a rattle 
and a Waz stepped out. " We saw your signal " he 
began, then a look of recognition came over his face 
and he fell on one knee and clasped the Princess' hand 
and impressed a loyal kiss upon it. " Oh my Ipso- 
Rorka " he cried " We have mourned you as serquor. 
No tidings could we get of you. Mournings and tears 
have been in Hoormoori for ten and one Kymos. Tlie 
Rorka has shut himself within the precincts of his 
palace, and neither eats nor drinks; but sits always 
alone — silent, and quiet, and drear " 

" Thank you for your welcome, my Waz. I have 
had strange adventures since I left my father's house. 
These I will tell my people when the right moment 
arrives. But first lead me to my father " 

The journey to the mainland occupied a very short 
space of time, and Waz Okoyar obtained a bhor for 
the Ipso-Rorka. 

" I shall not forget you, Waz Okoyar " said Chloric 
" Reward shall be given you for your speedy 
assistance to me " 

" Nay, my Princess, it is a joy to have served you " 

Hoormoori proved to be even more beautiful than 
Miiiniviar — the streets were wider and the buildings 
more magnificent. The bhor stopped outside a marble 
building. " I told him to stop here " whispered 
Chloric "It is better that I break the news to my 
father myself, of my safe return " They passed 
through a noble courtyard into a lovely garden 
" Our own private apartments. I shall be able to get 
to my father unnoticed " 

Through a little door, up a short flight of stairs, 
and down a narrow corridor. A heavy curtain of blue 
hung outside a doorway. Chloric lilted it gently. 



WRAITHS OF THE RORKAS 291 

Alan drew back. Much as he loved her, he could not 
intrude at such a sacred moment. 

" Father I " 

" My child! My child! " 

There was the sound of kissing- — a whispered 
conversation, and then Alan heard his name. Slowly 
he entered the room, and at last was face to face with 
the Rorka — King of all Jupiter, but above all, father of 
his loved one. The majesty of the Rorka overwhelmed 
him, and he bent his knee in homage. 

" Nay, rise '' said a g-entle voice, musical, benign, 
soothing " Rise and greet me, oh my Alan, for 
Chlorie has told me you are to be my son " 



CHAPTER XII 



THE FATE OF KULMERVAN 

HooRMOORi was rejoicing! Their Princess, Chlorie 
the Ipso-Rorka, was found. Not only was she aHve 
and well, but she had found her mate. True he was 
from another world, but she loved him, and the 
Jovians, like the men of Terra, dearly loved a 
romance. The wedding day was fixed, telepathic 
messages had been sent to Sir John, and he and his 
party were coming to Hoormoori as guests of the 
Rorka. 

The Rorka was very troubled over Kulmervan. 
Never, in the history of Keemar, had such a terrible 
tale of iniquity been told. His cunning, his audacity, 
his double life was a terrible blow to the proud old 
Keemarnian. 

Waz-Y-Kjesta was thankful to welcome Alan back. 
Day after day he had circled over the island, and sent 
search parties to find the missing ones. The Isle of 
Waro, which was joined to the larger isle by a narrow 
strip of sand, they left unexplored. It was holy 
ground — consequently they missed the log cabin of 
Kulmervan. Waz-Y-Kjesta, Alan, and a staff of 
twenty men embarked on the Chlorie and flew to 
Kulmervan's retreat. They landed close to the hut, 
and although firearms were unknown on Keemar, 
they, on Alan's advice, protected themselves with 
heavy sticks and carried thick silken ropes. 

They found the hut empty and signs of a hasty 
retreat. From the little house they crossed to the 
" lean-to " and descended into the subterranean 
passage. They ascended the steps to the Cave of 

292 



THE FATE OF KULMERVAN 293 

Whispering Madness, and forced the door open. The 
Cave was empty. Alan looked behind the huge fossil 
animal and hoped to find the body of Waiko— but it 
had gone. Ominous foot prints on the sandy floor 
proved that his body had been found, and Kulmervan 
and Arrack had dragged him back to the Altar. As 
they reached the slab of stone Y-Kjesta gave a cry of 
horror. 

" See, my Alan. Mitzor have mercy! " 

There on the Altar were the charred remains of what 
had once been a man. The bones were twisted into 
horrible forms, as if, in their last convulsive agony, 
they had writhed in vain on the table of fire. One 
bony arm hung over the side. Every scrap of flesh 
had been burnt from it — even the tips of the finger 
bones were missing. The skull was hairless — the eyes 
had been scorched from their sockets. It was a 
horrible sight and Alan shivered. 

" Who is it? " asked Y-Kjesta. 

" I am afraid it was Waiko. Heaven grant he was 
serquor when that madman found him " 

Gentle hands attempted to move the charred remains 
from the bed of pain— but they fell to powder as they 
were touched. The whisperings in the Cave served 
to make the horrors more intense, and the Keemar- 
nians turned their heads as they passed the human 
sacrifice. 

Down the steps they all travelled, but no trace of 
Kulmervan could they find. They forced the outer 
entrance to the cave, but although they hunted through 
the leafy byways and hidden avenues, he continued to 
evade them. Again the cave was searched, and the 
Waz was inclined to give up the task. 

"Is it possible " asked Alan at last " that he is 
hiding in the place of the Wraiths of the Rorkas ? " 

" No. Nothing evil could live in the presence of 
our holiest men " 

" Nevertheless, I'd like to go there " suggested 
Alan. 

The Waz shrugged his shoulders. " As you will, 
my Alan. Remember, of all Keemarnians, only the 
Rorkas can visit again the home of their life. They 



294 THE PERFECT WORLD 

would not show themselves to such a thing of evil as 
Kulmervan has become " 

But at ,the entrance to the Holy Place they saw 
Kulmervan. Stiff he was standing, and upon his face 
was a frozen look of horror. Y-Kjesta fell to his 
knees. " The Wraiths " he cried. 

A cloud of haze had passed away, and upon the little 
stage was being enacted a drama. High in the air a 
great white cloud hovered. It was pink tipped with a 
golden glory shining through; at either side were 
lesser clouds, but all tinged with the glorious roseate 
hue. And in chains beneath them stood the astral 
figure of Kulmervan, surrounded by Keemarnians who 
had gone before. And as they watched, his clothes 
melted away, and naked and ashamed he stood before 
his judge — the great white glory. Gradually a dusky 
shadow seemed to come over the gleaming body, 
darker and darker it grew until it was jet black. Not 
the black of an African native, but a cruel black; a 
thick black that was horrible to look upon, so evil 
was its appearance. Then all the Keemarnians shrank 
away from the solitary evil figure standing alone before 
the glory. The shadowy figure of Kulmervan looked 
round him wildly, and threw out his hands in supplica- 
tion. It was no use. His prayers were too late. A 
yawning pit showed up bright with flames. Yellow 
tongues of flame licked round the mouth — long, red 
flames danced together in riotous harmony. Then out 
of the terrible place appeared a figure, so terrible that 
Alan closed his eyes and strove at once to forget it. 
A figure that was neither man nor animal, but part 
of both. A creature with bloodshot eyes and a baleful 
smile, with teeth that looked like fangs, with arms 
that twisted and twirled like evil serpents. Nearer and 
nearer the figure drew, until, radiating with heat,_ it 
drew close to Kulmervan. There was a migiity noise 
— the Great White Cloud vanished leaving the scene 
in a pitchy darkness — only the fiery cavern gleamed 
and glistened. The venomous figure put a sinewy arm 
about the form of Kulmervan — there was a crackling 
noise — the hideous smell of burning flesh, and the 
picture vanished as the two figures disappeared into 



THE FATE OF KULMERVAN 295 



the fiery jaws. Then Y-Kjesta spoke. . The Great 
White Glory has judged. We cannot punish now 

There was a fearsome shriek, and Kuhnervan rushed 
from the cave, and fell prostrate on the ground outside. 
Y-Kjesta stooped over him. The body was rigid— the 

eyes fast closed. -a ^u wt 

" Serquor has descended upon him said the Waz. 
" Righteousness has spoken " , , , . i 

Wfth an awed feeling, Alan watched them pick up 
the body and carry it to the air bird, and as they did 
so a mighty roar filled the air. There was a sound as 
of thunder-a blinding flash— then silence The Cave 
of Whispering Madness had gone! Shivered to 
atoms, there was nothing but a hillock of rocks and 
sand to mark the last resting place of Waiko the 
Unfortunate. The little passage to the Sacred Cave 
alone remained perfect. When the last shock of the 
earthquake had subsided, Arrack the servant came out 
from his hiding, and threw himself upon the mercy 
of Alan. Firmly he was bound, and taken to the 
Chlorie, there to await the judgment of the i<orka 

" My son " said the Rorka, when he had been told 
the whole story " Kulmervan was. shown his future 
punishment. He may not be suffering now for he is 
in the unhappy state of serquor-but_ some day, when 
he leaves this world, his time of pam ^^ 1, 3^;. ^^ 
rase of dass shall be made to hold his cold and rigid 
body In the Hall of Sorrows shall it be placed as a 
living testimony of the fruit that is garnered by evil. 
To Fyjipo the accursed shall be taken-there to remain 
until he changes the state of serquor, for his lastmg 
punishment " 



CHAPTER XIII 



THE SENTENCE UPON ARRACK 

Sir John, with Masters, Desmond and Mavis arrived 
at Hoormoori in time for the trial. They were much 
interested in Alan's adventures, and were looking 
forward to witnessing the spectacle of Jovian justice. 
Mavis and Chloric were already warm friends, and the 
Rorka insisted on the strangers occupying suites of 
apartments in his palace. Baby John Alan had grown 
into a tine boy. Now nearly four, he toddled about 
the palace and chattered away in a quaint mixture of 
Keemarnian and English. The grown-ups seldom used 
English now — their past life seemed to be fading away 
entirely; they were already acclimatized to Jupiter and 
looked upon it as their home. Mavis at the bottom 
of her heart, however, did not forget all the pretty 
customs in which she had been brought up from child- 
hood and she it was who introduced a trousseau as a 
necessary adjunct to a wedding. Chloric took up the 
idea with fervour, and in future all society weddings 
had trousseaux, cakes and honeymoons as essential 
parts of their festivities. 

Chlorie's mother had heard the call of Schlerik-itata 
when she was but a small child, and possessing no 
near feminine relatives, the Keemarnian Princess was 
glad to have Mavis helping her at the happiest time 
of her life. All was bustle and rush at the palace. 
The wedding was to be a grand affair, but before it 
took place. Arrack had to answer publicly the charges 
that were brought against him. In the large Justice 
Hall, on the day appointed, the Rorka took his seat 
wearing his purple robes of Justice. 

A fanfare of trumpets announced his arrival, with 

296 



SENTENCE UPON ARRACK 297 

his postillions and servants and attaches. All wore 
full court dress, and the whole scene was picturesquely 
brilliant. Alan had not yet been admitted to the 
highest circles in Jovian society; his honour was to 
come on his wedding day — so to meet the exigencies 
of the case, a special raised seat had been placed at 
the right hand of the Rorka, and there Alan sat in 
state and watched the proceedings. There were 
neither lawyers nor barristers in this wonderful land 
of harmony. The case for the defence, if so it could 
be called, was taken by the High Priest — and for the 
prosecution by the highest Djoh in the whole of 
Keemar. 

The Rorka listened to the statements made on both 
sides, and gave his sentence as he thought fairest. No 
appeal could be made afterwards; his judgment was 
final. Never had there been such a case as this one. 
Arrack had broken the traditions of his land. If the 
Rorka adjudged him guilty, he would take his punish- 
ment stoically. The Rorka rose, and the silence in 
the court was profound. " Bring in Arrack the 
Miserable " he cried, and Arrack appeared in the 
prisoner's garb of an ugly neutral tint. This garment 
of shame was worn only by prisoners, when charged 
with some heinous offence. It was something of the 
shape of a Jewish gaberdine. About his waist the 
prisoner wore a hempen rope ; his head was covered 
with a hood, and there were sandals upon his feet. 
" O Arrack " said the Rorka " take your seat upon 
the Penitent's Chair, for you are accused by this court 
of most grievous dealings. If you are found guilty, 
a terrible fate awaits you. Speak first, Lamii, Djoh of 
all Keemar, read your charge first " And Djoh 
Lamii, a dignified old greybeard, stepped forward and 
read from a parchment 

" Rorka, most mighty, by the grace of Mitzor, 
Keemarnians one and all, I charge Arrack the Miser- 
able with grievous sins. Whether he alone is 
responsible or whether responsibility rests with another 
— unnamed, but now in a state of serquor — remains 
to be proved. First, I charge Arrack with idolatry 
and devil worship, ^ — nay more, I charge him with the 



298 THE PERFECT WORLD 

greatest offence of all against Mitzor — the offence of 
offering black sacrifices, the sacrifice of living bodies, 
to Pirox the Killer, a graven image of hideous aspect. 
I charge him with acting as assistant in that Temple 
of Sin and Death. I charge him as a heretic and a 
heathen. He, a born believer in the one and only 
Creator, is a deserter from his faith. I charge him 
with aiding the unnamed, now serquor, in his horrible, 
nefarious practices. All these charges are with regard 
to his sins against Mitzor. Now I charge him with 
attempting to lay hands on the precious person of our 
loved Princess, with offering her wme that was 
drugged, and being a party to keeping her a captive 
against her will. Above all, I charge him with trying 
to aid the unnamed, now serquor, to soil her purity, 
and thus to cause her to wed one she did not love. 
These, O Rorka, are the sins in brief, and a more 
hideous category of evil, I have never before had 
to repeat. Although I am old, and mv call must 
come soon, this is the saddest day of my life to think 
I have to utter such things against a true Kee- 
marnian " 

He sat down, and then rose up Misrath the High 
Priest. " O Rorka. the mighty and the just. I cannot 
deny the charges that Lamii has brought. Long have 
I talked with Arrack the Miserable, and it is hard to 
offer even a word in his favour. Yet because of thy 
justice I beg of you to hear me out, and I will tell 
the tale of sorrow and shame. Arrack and the 
unnamed, now serquor. were foster brothers. The 
mother of the unnamed received her call while her 
babe was yet a suckling, and these two babes, suckled 
from the same breast, drew the food of life from the 
same woman. As toddling mites thev flew their kites 
together, and threw their balls. Then the sire of 
Arrack. Meol. now serquor. took these suckling babes 
to the Temple of Pirox the Killer. It is he I blame, 
not the innocent ones. He. with two others, lived a 
life of lies. Respected Keemarnians. wise fathers, 
loving husbands, they lived unsuspected of their 
evil practices; for they were all devil worshippers and 
offered up the black sacrifice. But serquor took them 



SENTENCE UPON ARRACK 299 

all into his bosom. These tender nurslings grew in 
the ways of sin. He, the unnamed, possessed brains 
and cunning. He was the leader. He it was who 
took Arrack the Miserable on to our Isle of Holiness 
— made him build him a hut, and left him there, a tool 
to work his will and prepare his heathen rites. Since 
he was of tender years he has led this life — hating it, 
yet loving it; fearing it, yet welcoming it. Then the 
time came when he, the unnamed, whispered words 
that affrighted even Arrack the Miserable. Whispered 
words of passion for a Princess. The Ipso-Rorka was 
named — and even to that length of degradation would 
Arrack have assisted, so deep was he in the toils of 
sin. Then the day of reckoning came. Mighty 
thunders shook the Cave of Darkness. The wrath of 
Mitzor tore it asunder; no more shall these perfidious 
practices be handed down from father to son. No 
longer shall sin creep out unseen in Keemar. The 
Great White Glory has spoken. The Temple of Sin 
is in ruins, and under the mass of rock and stones lies 
the tortured body of Waiko. Whether he, too, had 
practised the sins of the unnamed also, we know not. 
But we do know his character was weak. We pray 
that his suffering on the Black Altar may have purged 
his soul and that soon he will be sitting in the warmth 
of the Tower of Help " 

Misrath sat down, and the Rorka rose. " I have 
heard your case, O Arrack, in silence. I have listened 
to your tale of shame. One thing only is in your 
favour. You sought not an evil life, but sin and its 
sorrows were taught you when you were yet a child. 
But — " he paused " You lived the life of Keemar. 
You attended our services of joy that were offered to 
Mitzor. You knew sin was abhorrent to us. From 
the time when; our first parents populated our world, 
we have fought to keep Keemar perfect. Thanks to 
Mitzor we nearly succeeded. It is to prevent the 
occurrence of sins like yours that I pronounce 
sentence. Misrath, High Priest of our Temples — our 
Mediator on earth between Mitzor and man, robe the 
sinner in the garments of shame 

Immediately the grey tinted gaberdine was torn 



SOO THE PERFECT WORLD 

from Arrack, and in its place was put a long robe of 
black. The covering was taken from his head, and 
the sandals from his feet. His head was bowed in 
shame, aed in shame he was led to the Sentence Bar, 
there to hear his fate. 

" Through the streets of Hoormoori shalt thou be 
led " said the Rorka " A rope round thy middle shall 
direct thee the way to go. Neither man nor woman 
shall speak to thee. Neither beast nor bird shall be 
permitted to fawn upon thee. Alone and an outcast 
shalt thou be sent upon thy way. Lonely shalt thy 
days be. Lonely shalt thou be taken to the Hall of 
Sorrows af Fyjipo. There thou shalt live until thy 
beard grows and turns white with age. Should thy call 
come early, alone wilt thou have to meet the Great 
White Glory. No Sacrament shall help thee on, thy 
way. Neither incense nor prayers shall assist thee in 
thy last moments here. Alone and wretched thou shalt 
leave this world. But should thy call not come soon, 
then shalt thou stay in the Hall of Sorrows until thy 
beard covers thy face and thy middle, then — when that 
time arrives, shalt thou be free to leave the place of 
sorrow. But thy life will be lonely all thy days for 
the sins thou hast committed " 

Misrath rose. " Oh my Rorka, thy wisdom is 
sound, thy judgment just. May I ask but one favour 
for the guilty Arrack ? During his time of sorrows, 
should he perform two noble deeds wouldst thou 
reconsider thy verdict and allow him freedom? " 

" Yes, Misrath. Should he perform two noble 
deeds, deeds that mark him as a true son of Kecmar, 
then publicly shall his punishment be remitted him, and 
once more shall he take his place among the people 
he has wronged. I have spoken " 

The Rorka rose from his seat of justice, and with 
another fanfare of trumpets took his place in. his state 
bhor and drove to the palace. Alan waited to see the 
end. The wretched Arrack was led from his place, 
and taken through a side entrance out on to the 
highway. There a rope was twisted round his waist, 
a rope that had six ends. Six men took hold of each 
end, and dragging it taut, led him through the streets. 



SENTENCE UPON ARRACK 801 

On he went, a misery to himself, and to those that 
saw him. 

An air bird was made ready for the journey to Fyjipo. 
Alan begged that he might accompany it. He wanted 
to see for himself what the Hall of Sorrows was really 
like. He had no conception of it. Was it like a 
Pentonville or Portland in England, or did it possess 
some horror that no ordinary human mind could 
conceive ? 

" Go then " said the Rorka to Alan " Swift be thy 
journey there, and as swift return. Just time shalt 
thou have before the day arrives when Misrath shall 
make my child and thee — one. One on earth and one 
in Heaven " 

" Farewell " said Chloric, when Alan told her of 
the journey he was to make " 'Tis customary in 
Keemar for a bride to withdraw herself frorn all for 
twelve Kymos before her wedding day. During that 
time she thinks and meditates on her future state. I 
go into silence to-morrow, Alan, and my prayers will 
be all for you. May you return to me in safety. 
Farewell " 



CHAPTER XIV 



THE HALL OF SORROWS 

The air struck cold and Alan was glad of the heavy 
cloaks that the Rorka insisted on his taking for the 
journey. They had passed through glorious scenery, 
but now it was changing. No longer was the air 
sweet and balmy; no longer were the fields below 
covered with beautiful flowers. Great stretches of 
bare and rocky country took the place of the fields, 
and snow-topped hills looked down on the desolation. 

Then Fyjipo hove in sight. One great building 
dominated the scene. Of a dark grey stone it looked 
gloomy and forbidding. Kulmervan, still in the state 
of serquor, had been brought in a cofiin of glass, and 
Alan felt the awful loneliness of the place, when he 
saw the cofiin being unshipped, preparatory to being 
placed in the Hall of that dreadful abode. The Waz, 
who was in command of the journey held the only key 
to the heavy gates, and as he unfastened them, a drear 
wailing rose from within. 

Arrack was dragged along, pushed inside the gate, 
and then left — to learn how to fend for himself in 
that gloomy place. Carefully was Kulmervan placed 
upon a huge pedestal in the hall. His face had lost 
its youthful candour, its beauty of outhne and its 
peace. The visage seen through the glass, was the 
face of an old man worn with sin; evil and sinister. 
Alan shuddered as he turned away from the coarsened 
form. The state of serquor as known by the 
Keemarnians was a very dreadful thing. Struck 
down in life, the victims assumed a trance-like form 
from which they never recovered. Real death the 

302 



THE HALL OF SORROWS 303 

Jovians knew not; a far happier parting was permitted 
them. As in a dream a voice told the sleeper that 
his time had come — that so many more Kymos would 
pass before he would have to bid his world good-bye. 
Then in the Sacrament of Schlerik-itata his body and 
soul were rendered astral, and in a cloud of smoke 
the favoured one disappeared from sight, and entered 
into dwelling with his God. It was a wonderful end; 
there could be no great sadness at such a departure; 
no corruption was to be the lot of the departing Jovian 
— he was just carried into glory. But those poor 
souls that suffered serquor remained in their comatose 
condition. Alive yet dead I Dead yet alive I Useless 
to themselves, and of use to no one I No wonder it 
was the one dreaded thing in this land of all good. 

There were but fifty bodies in the condition of 
serquor on the whole of Keemar, and most of them 
had been there for many ages. None could remember 
some of them as creatures full of life; their names 
were written on tablets and placed above them — their 
only connection with the generation of the present. 
In a small, underground chapel in the Temple at 
Hoormoori were these poor ones kept. Niches, 
cushion-lined were made in the walls, and in these the 
victims were laid. There they would remain until 
Jupiter itself returned to its first void, and emptied 
its population into the lap of Heaven. 

" I beg you stay not long here, my Lord " said the 
Waz to Alan " 'Tis an evil place, and I would fain 
hurry and leave it far behind me " 

" Nay, my Waz. Stay until the Kymo rises full in 
the Heavens — 'tis but a short time now, and then I 
shall be ready to accompany you " 

There were no separate degrees of punishment in the 
Hall of Sorrows. The real punishment lay in its 
awful loneliness. The Keemarnians who were there 
were paying dearly for their faults. Utter loneliness 
— comfortless — cheerless — it was desolation personified. 
Those were the first impressions that Alan received. 
Food was let down from the air at certain intervals. 
There was no division, and only just sufficient to go 
round. It was a question of first come, first served, 



304 THE PERFECT WORLD 

and the man who appeared la'st received little if any 
of his portion. No lighting was arranged in the place, 
and as it was near the Pole, half their time was spent 
in total blackness. There was no warmth; it was cold 
and draughty; no privacy; no comfort. 

The Keemarnians who offended purged themselves 
clean in this dread place of sorrow. Once they were 
free of it, they never put themselves into the position 
to be sent there again. Their terms of incarceration 
varied. For some it might be for only six Kymos; 
for others sixty or even six hundred ! The worst 
sinner there had nothing on his conscience one 
quarter as bad as Arrack the Miserable; but he was 
sent there too, to consort with them. 

Alan could not bear to stay in the place. The 
atmosphere stifled him — the sight depressed him. His 
last view of Arrack, was of a lonely figure in a gown 
of black, sitting drearily in a corner of the big Hall, 
watching intently the still form of his late master. 
His hands were clasped, his expression hopeless — his 
whole attitude one of despair. 

" It's very terrible " said Alan to the Waz as they 
sailed away from Fyjipo. 

" What is, my Lord? " 

" Your Hall of Sorrows " 

" But why, my Lord? " 

" Surely it must do more harm than good? " The 
Waz looked amazed. " I know if I were sent to such 
a place, I should come out hardened and defiant " 

The Jovian smiled. " That is where we differ, my 
Alan. The Keemarnian hates evil of every kind. 
This dread is born in him. He offends — ever so 
sHghtly. The Priest remonstrates with him. He 
makes promises to atone, but offends again. No 
second chance is given him. Straight to the Hall of 
Sorrows he is sent, there to live in discomfort, cold 
and solitude. He is too ashamed to mix with his 
fellow creatures; so his sin is purged and he comes 
out a better man " 

Alan laughed slightly at the Keemarnian's earnest- 
ness. " I am afraid, my friend, that the world I 
came from was more material than yours. A life in 



THE HALL OF SORROWS 305 

such a place would have led to worse sin — it would 
not have cured it " 

" Then I am glad I belong to Keemar " said the 
Waz simply. 

They made the return journey in record time, and 
Desmond and Mavis were waiting for Alan on the 
roof station when the air bird sailed in. 

" Welcome home " said Mavis " We have missed 
you badly. However everything is ready for you, and 
in three more Kymos we will have you safely married " 

" Are you so anxious to get rid of me? " laughed 
Alan. 

" No " answered Mavis with a happy smile " but 
I've tasted the joys myself, and I want you to find 
your happiness also, my brother " 

" That's very nicely put. Mavis " said Alan tenderly 
" I could wish for no one but you for Desmond. At 
first I was a little jealous when I thought his affection 
for me would be halved " 

" Not halved, Alan " 

" No, that's not the right word. But Desmond and 
I had been everything to each other from our 
childhood, and then you came — " 

" Well? " 

" Now I understand what it means, and am glad 
I am going to partake of the same kind of happiness 
that Desmond enjoys " 

"I'm sure you'll be happy, Alan. Chloric is so 
sweet — so human, so understanding. But — " there 
came a perplexed note into her voice " I'm afraid of 
only one thing, Alan. You are sure you are not too 
— too material — for these Jovians. You are going to 
mate with a girl almost — spiritual, if I may so put it. 
Now — the time is drawing near, I'm so afraid — " 

" Don't be afraid, little woman. I've learnt a great 
deal since I came here. The past is growing dim. 
My love for Chloric is so great that I think it is can- 
celling all my earthly senses. I have only one fear for 
the future " 

" And that is? " 

" My inborn dread of death. Not that I fear death 
for myself, but dread its coming and separating me 

u 



306 THE PERFECT WORLD 

from my love. She will not have that fear. Until I 
can comfort myself in the belief of Schlerik-itata, I 
shall have that fear always with me " 

" Death! " Mavis looked dreamily into the 
distance where her son and his father were romping 
together. " I think I, too, have a tiny bit of fear 
left " said she " but I am trying to put it away. We 
have left the old world behind us. I was wrong to 
put doubts in your heart, Alan. You've chosen wisely, 
I am sure. Good luck and good fortune be yours! " 



CHAPTER XV 



THE TRIUMPH OF AK-ALAN 

The populace of Hoormoori were wildly excited, for 
the time had come when their Princess, the Ipso-Rorka 
of all Keemar, was to wed. Every place was full, the 
streets were thronged with visitors, for people had 
come from all parts of Jupiter to witness the long 
ceremonies and jubilations that preceded the actual 
wedding. Parties came from the warmth of Xzor, 
from the heat of Paila, from the temperate breezes 
of the Isles of Kaloe. Every dwelling house in Hoor- 
moori was full; every public guest house had used 
every available space for their overflowing guests. 
The streets were gaily decorated; the trees were 
adorned with coloured lights, and across the wide 
boulevards silken flags were hung. There were 
festoons of flowers and leaves everywhere. Every 
window was bright with silken rugs; the whole scene 
was gay and brilliant. 

The first ceremony of interest was the admittance 
of Alan into the bosom of the Rorka's family. In a 
wonderful golden robe Alan stood at the foot of the 
Rorka's throne in the great white Throne Room in 
the palace. The whole apartment was thronged with 
guests, and by the Rorka's side sat the Princess. She 
had on her face a grave, sweet smile, and in her court 
robes of blue and gold she made a regal figure. 

A majordomo handed the Rorka a golden fillet of 
beautiful workmanship studded with diamonds. This 
was placed on Alan's head by the Rorka himself, who 
said — " Oh Alan, known hence forward by the 
Royal prefix of Ak — I salute thee. Thou hast taken 

307 



308 THE PERFECT WORLD 

the oaths of allegiance to me, your Rorka. Thy 
fidehty and love thou hast offered me. I salute thee, 
Oh Ak-Alan " and he took him by both hands, and 
kissed him on either cheek, and raised him to the 
topmost step of the throne. Then Alan faced the 
people. 

" Behold him " said the Rorka " Ak-Alan, a noble 
of the House of Pluthoz. Acclaim him as your own, 
for he is indeed a Prince of the House of your Rorka " 

How the people cheered ! With one accord they 
shouted and surged forward to the foot of the throne, 
and stretched out their hands 'to their newly made 
prince. Alan was delighted with his reception, and 
had an individual word to say to nearly every one who 
came near him. The story of his adventure for 
Chlorie had been widely told; Kulmervan's treachery 
was known; and every one welcomed the newcomer 
royally. But this was only the beginning. Ak-Alan 
had to become a Djoh of the Outer Shelter, and 
to receive the blue ribbon of his office. The Golden 
Circle of Unity of Keemar was placed on his finger 
— The Star of Joy — The Order of Hope — all these 
ceremonies took their time. But they were all 
picturesque and interesting. 

Many times had he looked upon Chlorie, but never 
had an opportunity been given to him to speak with 
her alone. But at his ardent gaze, the shy colour 
would mount her cheeks, and her eyes would drop in 
sweet embarrassment. 

Waz-Y-Kjesta had been appointed to the Royal 
Household of Ak-Alan, and was delighted to have the 
opportunity to remain by the side of the friend he had 
made. Persoph the Jkak, and Mirasu the Jkakalata 
had sent handsome presents to Alan and Chlorie, and 
had expressed their sorrow when Desmond had 
announced his intention of settling down in Hoormoori. 
" We want to be near Alan " explained Sir John. 
" We shall miss you of course. We are grateful for 
your kindness to us all since we arrived so strangely 
in your land. But we should miss the society of our 
kinsman, we must stay near him " 

'• We understand " said Persoph " But visit us, 



TRIUMPH OF AK-ALAN 309 

my friends, and allow us to visit you. Your friendship 
is dear to us — your esteem we prize " 

Several orders had been offered Sir John, but he 
stuck to his prefix throughout. " My father earned 
it " he explained " I honour him by using it. Please 
allow me to keep it " and the Rorka gave his 
permission. During all this time Masters had scarcely 
left Sir John's side. A devoted friend, a loyal servant, 
he remained always at hand in case the old man needed 
him. And when Alan had been appointed Ak of the 
House of Pluthoz, Masters received the shock of his 
life. Suddenly the majordomo cried out " And I 
command Masters of the household of Sir John to 
kneel at the foot of the Rorka's throne " 

Masters turned dead white, and looked appealingly 
at Sir John. 

" Go forward, my friend " said Sir John, and 
Masters obeyed him. 

The Rorka rose, and touched him lightly with the 
Silver Staff of Office of a Waz. " I promote thee 
henceforward, Waz, to the house of Sir John. Waz- 
Masters shalt thou be, with all that appertains thereto. 
Accept this staff, Waz-Masters, for thou art a faithful 
friend " 

Masters was unable to express his gratitude, the 
honour was so unexpected that it rendered him 
speechless; but a few moments later Alan smiled as 
he saw him talking earnestly with Zyllia, a kinswoman 
of Y-Kjesta's. And as Alan watched the luminous 
eyes that smiled at Masters, watched the parted lips 
and the colour that came and went in the olive tinted 
cheeks of the beautiful Keemarnian, he foresaw, and 
foresaw truly, that soon Masters would forsake the 
lonely role of bachelor; and another love match would 
be made in Keemar — the land of all good. 

Then came the feasts and banquets; a pageant and 
procession through the streets of Hoormoori. Bhors 
gaily decorated, fancifully costumed bands, dancing 
children dressed like wood nymphs, fair-headed, slim 
youths with pipes like the pipes of Pan, woodland 
fairies, ladies in court attire, all took part in this 
wonderful procession. 



810 THE PERFECT WORLD 

And Alan sat on a balcony in the Royal Palace and 
watched it. But half the time his eyes were feasting 
on the features of his bride of the morrow. Occasion- 
ally, under cover of the cheers and the darkness, his 
hand would stray out, and for a moment clasp hers 
in the darkness. But no chance had he of speaking 
with her alone, and her nearness maddened him with 
passionate longings. He longed to be alone with her, 
away in the woods and fields, along the seashore, just 
they two together, communing with nature in all her 
glory. 

" May I not speak to Chloric a moment alone? " 
he begged earnestly. 

The Rorka smiled. " In your world, perhaps, it 
would be allowed. But I cannot sanction it. To-day 
she belongs to me — to the people. To-morrow she 
will be yours for ever. It is custom, my son. But 
to-morrow — " he stopped, and looked shrewdly at 
Alan. " I have been converted to your — ' honey- 
moon ' It is a strange idea to us of Keemar, but 
a beautiful one, and will, I think, prove popular with 
my countrymen. To-morrow you take her away 
— alone. No duenna's guiding eye will follow you. 
The House of Roses in the Wyio Forest is at your 
disposal. It is ready — prepared. I have given way 
on many points, my son, but on this one I am finn. 
You cannot speak alone to Chlorie to-night. Now I 
wish to speak to Sir John " Alan bowed his head and 
moved away, so that his uncle could take his place. 
He was further away from his love, but sat in the 
shadow and gloried in her as the light shone brightly 
on her profile. 

" Sir John " said the Rorka " I have heard much 
about your wonderful airship that carried you safely 
to our world. Would you be prepared to build another 
as like it as possible? I will place men. material and 
means at your disposal. You need want for nothing, 
and I should esteem it a personal favour if you would 
at least consider my proposal 

Sir John's eyes shone. " O Rorka, you have put 
new life into me by your suggestion. I felt I was 
growing old — but my heart is still young. To be of 



TRIUMPH OF AK-ALAN 811 

use in your world will make my last years happy; 
to feel I am not wasting my time will strengthen my 
life. Masters and I were planning another Argenta 
on paper only to-day. He has been examining the 
metal you use, and he says it is even lighter and 
stronger than our aluminium. My whole time is at 
your disposal, and Masters' as well " 

" Speak for yourself, Sir John " smiled the Rorka 
" But unless 1 am much mistaken, Zyllia will have 
more to say about Waz-Masters' affairs than you have 
dreamt of " 

" Zyllia? " repeated Sir John looking puzzled. 

" Look behind you " said the Rorka. In the room 
behind were two figures — Masters and a woman. The 
woman was delicately beautiful. Darker than most 
Keemarnian women, with blue black hair and flashing 
eyes. 

" So he has found a mate " said Sir John softly 
" I never thought of Masters and marriage. He 
seemed too mature. In our world he would have been 
called ' middle-aged ' He has seen forty and three 
summers " 

" But Zyllia is mature " said the Rorka " She looks 
a girl, but although her soul is young, she and Masters 
are not far apart in years " 

" You will not object to the match? " 

" Nay. I have a great opinion of Waz-Masters, but 
I like not his name " He touched a bell " Waz- 
Masters and the Lady Zyllia. I desire them here at 
once " The girl bowed, and in a moment the two 
were standing before him " My friend " said the 
Rorka kindly " I like not your name. Waz-Masters 
sounds crude and harsh. In our language we have a 
far softer word that means ' Master Henceforward 
shall you be known by that. Waz-Aemo, for now and 
ever " Masters remained silent. He was embarrassed 
and hardly knew what to do. "So you are going to 
mate with Zyllia? " said the Rorka. Zyllia bent on 
one knee, her hands extended in supplication. " Oh 
Rorka, most noble. Have I thy permission? Him 
have I promised to wed, if I have thy permission. For 
E love this stranger dearly " 



312 THE PERFECT WORLD 

My consent was given long ago. I have watched 
your play with pleasure, my child. Tell Waz-Y-Kjesta 
he can give you the use of an air bird for your — 
your honeymoon " 

" Oh how can I thank you — " 
That is enough. See, the procession has resumed 
— how beautiful are the flowers — the silks — " and 
taking these words as their dismissal, they bent on 
one knee, and then passed from the balcony to the 
room beyond. 

The last vehicle had passed, the last burst of music 
had died away, night fell. But one more ceremony 
remained to conclude the time of rejoicing — the 
wedding on the morrow. 

Alan woke early on the morning of his wedding day. 
His personal attendant had placed all his wedding 
clothes ready for him, and he donned the golden robe 
and swung from his shoulders the blue velvet cloak. 
It was lined with gold, and caught up at one corner 
with a beautiful jewelled buckle. His fillet of gold 
was on his head, and as he looked at himself in the 
long glass he saw the romantic robes fade away, 
leaving in their place a worn and shabby, but never- 
theless very comfortable golf jacket. The shadowy 
figure was carrying a bag over his shoulder — ^olf 
clubs. Alan sighed. It was a very long time smce 
he had teed up, and with a mighty drive seen a little 
white ball sent skimming along at a terrific pace. He 
could see the ascent to the approach of his favourite 
green; the green itself, smooth and velvety, resting in 
a little hollow below. Well, he would get his game 
of golf on Jupiter. He would plan a course, have 
clubs made, and he and Chloric would — No, he didn't 
regret giving up the old and ugly garments of the 
earth. He regretted nothing. He wouldn't have 
altered his fate if it had been in his power to do so. 
Life held nothing for him but Chloric. Life and love 
were before him, and he felt fitted for and happy in the 
new world. 

His golden, sandal-like boots were on. The ring for 
Chloric was in his satchel purse. The Crown of 
Wifehood with which he would presently crown her 



TRIUMPH OF AK-ALAN 813 

was in Y-Kjesta's possession. The Waz also had 
taken care of the gifts, which according to the rites 
of the Temple he must present to his wile. The coins, 
to represent that he endowed her with his wealth. 
The loaf divided in two — to denote that she would 
share in everything. The fresh cut flowers, a symbol 
of the joys they would find in each other, and lastly the 
basket of fruits that were to be laid on the Altar and 
offered as a burnt offering to Mitzor the Mighty. As 
they were reduced to ashes, the High Priest would 
waft them to the four winds of heaven, and the nuptial 
pair would swear to love each other until such time 
arrived as the burnt fruits regained their virgin 
freshness. A poetical way of vowing their eternal 
fidelity each to the other. 

Waz-Y-Kjesta entered. He was plainly nervous at 
the thought of the part he was to play in the day's 
ceremony " The time has come, my Alan. Your 
bhor awaits you " 

" I am ready " Alan smiled at the Waz " I don't 
know how I should get on without you to-day " The 
streets were thronged with people. Alan sat alone in 
the State Bhor which drove slowly down the decorated 
streets, and immediately in front of the bridegroom's 
equipage rode Y-Kjesta, on a magnificent white coli. 

Sixteen Keemarnians, appointed by the Rorka for 
his personal staff, rode behind him. Sir John and 
Desmond were already in the Temple. A beautiful 
blue carpet spread from the door to the street, and the 
whole way was lined with flowers. Slowly Alan 
walked up the flowered aisle and took his place at the 
altar rails. The organ was playing softly. Suddenly 
it burst out into the Ipso-Rorka's personal air — The 
Bride had arrived. On the arm of the Rorka she 
walked up the long aisle. Her bridal gown of blue 
brought out the colour of her eyes. Upon her hair 
was draped a thin veil of gold, and her long train 
was carried by little sturdy John Alan I At the altar 
rails they stopped, and the High Priest demanded — 
" Who giveth permission, that this woman shall leave 
her home and her people, and live in peace with the 
mate of her choice? " 



314 THE PERFECT WORLD 

" I do " said the Rorka. 

" You are convinced that happiness and joy will be 
the woman's lot? " 
" I am" 

" Thanks be to Mitzor. I am content " There- 
upon the Rorka took his seat upon his throne, and the 
ceremony commenced. 

Mavis, who had followed the bridal procession, now 
took her place on Chlorie's left, to assist the bride. 
It was a beautiful ceremony, and the incense, the 
priest's vestments, the music, all helped to make it 
awe inspiring and impressive. The gifts were offered 
— Chloric accepted them — the moment was almost at 
hand that would make them one. Alan was repeating 
softly after the priest — 

" May this ring, with which I encircle thy finger, be 
a lasting proof of the unity of our affection. May the 
circlet with which I crown thee, prove that 1 honour 
thee as my loved one, and install thee as Queen of 
my House " 

And Chloric answered softly " I accept this ring, and 
from my finger it shall never slip. I accept the crown 
that thou offerest me, and in return I pray Mitzor the 
Mighty, that I may rule my household wisely and well " 
'riien came the vows of love and fidelity; each 
repeated the words with hands clasped. 

" Before Mitzor the Mighty, the Great White Glory, 
I promise to let naught come between my chosen 
spouse and me. I promise to love him (her) and 
honour him (her), share his (her) troubles, and smooth 
away his (her) griefs. Lastly, I ask Mitzor, the Tower 
of Strength, to crown us both with the glory of our 
union " 

Then, kneeling, the High Priest blessed them. 
" May Mitzor, the Great White Glory, bless you 
both, and keep you both in the paths of righteousness. 
May he make thee, Oh Ak-Alan, a tender husband; 
and thee, Chloric, a loving wife. Thy vows are made 
— kneel and pray while the sacrificial fires are lighted, 
and the dust of thy offering is thrown to the winds " 

Hand in hand the newly married pair knelt. Into a 
tiny tabernacle the offering of fruits was placed — the 



TRIUMPH OF AK-ALAN 815 

doors closed upon it. A second passed, and by the 
aid of etheric heat there was nothing left but a little 
powdery dust. 

Slowly the priests and the acolytes walked down the 
aisle, the bridal pair following. With prayers and 
exhortations the dust was scattered, and wafted out 
of sight by the breeze. The ceremony was over — a 
hymn of joy was sung, and Alan and Chloric were led 
to their bhor that was waiting. 

They drove together in the open bhor, and Chloric 
could not speak — her heart was too full of emotion. 
The excitemenit, the cheering, the crowds tired her — 
and yet there was still the reception to get through. 

Not a word had she spoken to her newly made 
husband, but as they alighted he whispered — " You 
don't regret, my darling? " 

She gave him a quick, shy glance, but it satisfied 
him. They had to wait for the congratulations of the 
intimate friends and guests, but at last Mavis whispered 
" Come, dear, it is time for you to change into your 
other frock " Quietly the bride left the reception 
and changed into her other gown. Tenderly she bade 
her father good-bye. 

" Good-bye, my little one " he murmured " Mitzor 
take care of you. In forty Kymos I shall come for 
you. Be happy in your new life " 

" Good-bye, my father " 

" Good-bye " 

" You will find everything in readiness at the House 
of Roses " said Waz-Y-Kjesta. 

There were renewed cheers, the band played — and 
the comfortable equipage drove off, bearing the 
happiest couple in all Keemar. 

" My darling " murmured Alan, when they were 
at last outside the town, and running swiftly through 
quiet country roads. *' Are you sure you won't regret 
this day? " 

" Never, my Alan " she replied, her eyes smiling 
as she nestled close to her husband — " but Alan, I 
think I am a little frightened all the same " 

For answer he crushed her in his arms, and rained 
passionate kisses on her unresisting lips — and it sufficed 
her. She was content. 



CHAPTER XVI 



THE PERFECT WORLD 

Many hundred times the Kymo rose and set, and 
Ak-Alan and his wife, beloved of all tKeemarnians, 
lived in peace and happiness. A son and daughter had 
been born to them, and now the time had come when 
the Rorka had received his call, and through the 
Sacrament of Schlerik-itata would make his exit from 
the world, and enter into glory. 

" My son " said he " the voice came in my sleep 
last night. My room was bathed in a wonderful 
whiteness when the messenger from Mitzor called me. 
' When the Kymo reaches the full for thirteen days 
make ready — for on the fourteenth thou shalt meet 
the Great White Glory ' I must now set my house 
in order. You will reign jointly with Chloric. I can 
safely leave my country in your hands " 

" Father " said Alan " must you really leave us? " 
He was troubled " Oh it's terrible " 

" But why? " said Chloric " I shall miss my father 
it is true — for I love him dearly. But how can I wish 
him here, when his happiness lies yonder? " 

" I don't understand " said Alan miserably " Death 
is so sad " 

" But it is not— death— " said the Rorka "I am 
simply — ' going away ' " 

" That's just it. You are going away, and you are 
never coming back " 

" That is true, my son. / am never coming back — 
but you will eventually come to me. Why mourn? 
To mourn is selfish " 

" It's no good " said Alan " I suppose I am of 
316 



THE PERFECT WORLD 817 

coarser clay. I can't believe that I could ever ' pass 
yonder ' through the Sacrament of Schlerik-itata. I 
come from another world. Suppose I die — oh you 
don't know death as I do — but suppose it comes to 
Keemar through me, and afterwards through my 
children " 

" Have no fear " said the Rorka " that day will 
never come " And so the last few days had passed, 
and Alan saw him enveloped in the incense, and vanish 
from sight, 

Alan marvelled at nis wife's fortitude. He had felt 
the knife of death on Terra; this glorious parting was 
so different. He longed to believe that he, too, one 
day, would vanish thus, material and earthy though 
he was. And so Alan the Rorka, and Chlorie his 
wife were crowned, and occupied joint thrones in the 
land of Keemar. 

Their joy in their unity, in the completeness of their 
life, was a constant wonder to them. They renewed 
their joys in their children — their life was almost 
perfect. Sir John was growing feeble. Part of the 
time he spent with' Mavis and Desmond, and part with 
Alan. But wherever he went, Masters and Zyllia 
always accompanied him. 

Mavis' three children and Alan's two, grew up like 
brothers and sisters; indeed, their parents were all like 
one big family. Alan had not long been on the throne 
of Keemar, when an urgent message was brought him, 
that Waz-Mula, humbly begged an audience. 

" Who is he? " asked Alan. 

" He is holder of the key to the Hall of Sorrows " 
answered Y-Kjesta " and sails the air bird, that plys 
to and fro from Fyjipo " 

" I remember him well. Bring him in " 

" O noble Rorka, I beg a favour of you " said Mula. 

" What is it that troubles you? " 

" You remember Arrack the Miserable? " 

" Well? " 

" He has done a most noble thing, O Rorka. A 
most terrible scourge has come upon the Hall of 
Sorrows. A fire broke out. How or where it started 
no one can tell, but when I reached the place, it was 



318 THE PERFECT WORLD 

a raging furnace, and the poor captives were beating 
against the gates in their frenzy to get out. The heat 
was intense — their skins were bhstering. I landed 
safely, and rushed to undo the gates. But even as I 
did so, great tongues of fire curled out and licked 
round me. See, O Rorka, my hands are burnt — my 
hair is scorched. Three times I essayed to unlock the 
padlock, but the flames drove me back. Suddenly I 
heard a cry, and Arrack burst through the flames. 
* Throw me the keys ' he cried, and his tone 
commanded and I obeyed. I watched him as he 
touched the red hot metal — the flames were fiercer than 
before. He never trembled or grew hasty. Although 
his clothes were in flames, and the flesh burnt from his 
fingers, yet still he strove to open the prison door. 
At length he succeeded. Five figures fell out on to 
the ground, burnt and still. I called to Arrack to save 
himself, but his only answer was to beat his way 
through the avenue of fire. Minutes passed and he 
did not return. We looked at the poor burnt things 
at our feet — their souls had departed, but as we looked 
their mutilated bodies disappeared. Then through 
the smoke and grime Arrack appeared bearing in his 
arms a burden which he laid at my feet. He returned 
again and again, and yet again. Five women's lives 
he saved, and he returned again to save the life of a 
pet animal. Then, O Rorka, he fell at my feet. His 
face was burnt beyond recognition; his poor hands 
useless; his body one mass of blisters. He, and those 
he saved we brought to Hoormoori. The women are 
now in safety, but Arrack says his call has come. Oh, 
my Rorka, this then is my prayer. His one wish now, 
is to enter into glory through the Sacrament of 
Schlerik-itata. Will you grant him pardon, and answer 
his prayer? " 

Alan was much moved. " Go, return to Arrack. 
Tell him Misrath shall come and administer the 
Sacrament himself " 

" May I say that? " 

" Yes. Where is he now? " 

" On board the air bird. He is in great pain, but 
T think I could get him taken to the Temple in safety " 



THE PERFECT WORLD 319 

" See to it at once, my Waz " 

Hurriedly Alan sent for Misrath, and told him the 
news. 

" He has purged his sins indeed " said he. 

So, with the rites of Schlerik-itata, Arrack left 
Keemar. He bent and kissed the hem of Alan's 
garment, and sank back exhausted in his chair. And 
as the incense covered him, his voice could be heard 
murmuring — " Great White Glory, I come — I 
come " 

" And so there is to be no more Hall of Sorrows " 
said Chloric softly. 

" No, my darling " 

" It's gone for ever? " 

" Yes. It has served its purpose, but I don't think 
its omission will bring more sin into Keemar " 

" I believe you are right, Alan. It was a terrible 
place, and sometimes I think the punishment was too 
great for the sin " 

A blue-eyed curly-haired girl ran into the room. 
Breathless and flushed, she clasped a doll in her arms, 
and hugged a pink-cheeked apple. She was followed 
by a bright, eager-faced boy of twelve or thereabouts. 

'' No, John Alan, I won't marry you " said she " I 
am Acuci, and Ipso-Rorka, and you are only Ak " 

The children did not see the grown ups who were 
hidden by a curtain, and their childish chatter went on 
unheeded. 

" You must marry me, Acuci — I love you, and papa 
says that love is everything" " 

The little maid pouted. " I love you, John Alan, 
and I think I'll marry you after all " 

The two children embraced fondly, and ran out of 
the room hand in hand. 

" My wife " said Alan " Don't ever leave me. 
Teach me to know the real meaning of Schlerik-itata — 
teach me to believe " 

Chlorie offered her beautiful lips to her husband. 

Love teaches everything, my husband. Love is 
powerful — love is mighty. Love will teach you even 
that " 

He strained her to his breast. " My wife — my wife 



820 THE PERFECT WORLD 

— I love you so. The terror of parting is always with 
me. Teach me to believe — you see, dear, even in this 
Perfect World, there is a grain of sadness — of earthly 
discontent " 

" My husband — I have no fear — Hsten — " And 
from outside came the merry laughing voices of their 
children at play. " In your children you will learn 
belief " 

Envoi 

The time came when Sir John himself heard the 
Call. Half believing, half fearing, he bade farewell. 
The prayers were said, the incense rose about him, 
and he, like the Jovians themselves, was taken to the 
Great White Glory and was seen no more. And in 
that moment, Alan believed and was content. 

" My wife " he cried " no longer is there any sad- 
ness in my life. I believe. Jovians we have become 
in body and in soul, I no longer fear — death " 

And hand in hand they sat, married lovers ever, and 
watched their children at play. 



'HE KN'D