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WHERE LOVE IS, THERE GOD IS ALSO

GRAPPLING A QUEER FISH.

from The Lost City





At nearly the same moment both Bruno and Waldo caught a glimpse
of water, shining clear and distinct amidst that sombre setting;
but as yet a tree-crested elevation interfered with the prospect,
and it was not until after the course of the air-ship had been
materially changed, and some little time had elapsed, that aught
definite could be determined as to the actual spread of that body
of water.

This proved to be considerable, although it needed but a single
look into the professor's face to learn that his eager hopes and
exalted anticipations fell far short of realisation.

"Well, it's a sea all right," generously declared Waldo, giving a
vigorous sniff by way of strengthening his words. "I can smell
the salt clear from this. A sea, even if it isn't quite so large
as others,--what one might term a lower-case c!"

If nothing else, that generous effort brought its reward in the
dry little chuckle which escaped the professor's lips, and a
kindly glow showed through his glasses as he turned towards Waldo
with a nod of acknowledgment.

"Barring the salty scent, my dear boy, which probably finds birth
in your kindly imagination. So, on the whole, perhaps 'twould be
just as well to term it a lake."

"One of no mean dimensions, at any rate, uncle Phaeton."

"True, Bruno," with a nod of agreement, yet with forehead
contracting into a network of troubled lines. "Naturally so, and
yet--surely this must be merely a portion? Unless--yet I fail to
see aught which might be interpreted as being--"

Promptly responding to each touch of hand upon steering-gear, the
aeromotor swung smoothly around, sailing on even keel right into
the teeth of the gentle wind, by this time near enough to that
body of water for the air-voyagers to scan its surface: a
considerable expanse, all told, yet by no means of such magnitude
as Professor Featherwit had anticipated.

Too deeply absorbed in his own thoughts to notice the little
cries and ejaculations which came from the brothers, he caused
the aerostat to rise higher, slowly sweeping that extended field
with his glasses.

He could see where several streams entered the body of water,
coming from opposite points of the compass, and thus confirming
at least one portion of his explained theory; but, so far as his
visual powers went, there was no other considerable body of water
to be discovered.

"Yet, how can that contracted basin contain all the drainage from
this vast scope of country? How can we explain the stubborn fact
of--What now, lads?"

An abrupt break, but one caused by the eager cry and loud speech
from the lips of the younger Gillespie.

"Looky yonder! Isn't that one o' those sour-us dictionary
fellows on a bender? Isn't that--but I don't--no, it's only--"

"Only a partly decayed tree gone afloat!" volunteered Bruno, with
a merry laugh, as his eager brother drew back in evident chagrin.

"Well, that's all right. It ought to've been one, even if it
isn't. What's the use in coming all this way, if we're not going
to discover something beyond the common? And my sour-us is worth
more than one of the other kind, after all; get it ashore and you
might cook dinner for a solid month by it; now there!"

It was easily to be seen that Waldo had been giving free rein to
his expectations ever since the professor's little lecture, but
his natural chagrin was quickly forgotten in a matter of far
greater interest.

Professor Featherwit had resumed his scrutiny of yonder body of
water, slowly turning his glasses while holding the air-ship on a
true course and even keel.

For a brief space nothing interfered with the steady motion of
the field-glasses, but then something called for a more thorough
examination, and little by little the savant leaned farther
forward, breath coming more rapidly, face beginning to flush with
deepening interest.

Bruno took note of all this, and, failing to see aught to account
for the symptoms with unaided eyes, at length ventured to speak.

"What is it, uncle Phaeton? Something of interest, or your
looks--"

Professor Featherwit gave a start, then lowered the glasses and
reached them towards his nephew, speaking hurriedly:

"You try them, Bruno; your eyes are younger, and ought to be
keener than mine. Yonder; towards the lower end of the--the
lake, please."

Nothing loath, Gillespie complied, quickly finding the correct
point upon which the professor's interest had centred, holding
the glasses motionless for a brief space, then giving vent to an
eager ejaculation.

"What is it all about, bless you, boy?" demanded Waldo, unable
longer to curb his hot impatience. "Another drifting tree, eh?"

"No, but,--did you see it, uncle?"

"I saw something which--what do YOU see, first?"

"A great big suck,--a monster whirlpool which is hollowed like--"

"I knew it! I felt that must be the true solution of it all!"
cried uncle Phaeton, squirming about pretty much as one might
into whose veins had been injected quicksilver in place of
ordinary blood. "The outlet! Where the surplus waters drain off
to the Pacific Ocean!"

"I say, give me a chance, can't you?" interrupted Waldo, grasping
the glasses and shifting his station for one more favourable as a
lookout.

He had seen sufficient to catch the right angle, and then gave a
suppressed snort as he took in the view. Half a minute thus,
then a wild cry escaped his lips, closely followed by the words:

"Now I DO see something! And it isn't a drifting tree, either!
Or, that is, something else which--shove her closer, uncle
Phaeton! True as you live, there's something caught in yonder big
suck which is--closer, for love of glory!"

"If this is another joke, Waldo--"


"No, no, I tell you, Bruno! Shove her over, uncle, for, without
this glass is hoodooed, we're needed right yonder,--and needed
mighty bad, too!"

Little need of so much urging, by the way, since Professor
Featherwit was but slightly less excited by their double
discovery, and even before the glasses were clapped to Waldo's
eyes the aerostat swung around to move at full speed towards that
precise quarter of the compass.

"What is it you see, then, boy?" demanded Bruno, itching to take
the glasses, yet straining his own vision towards that as yet
far-distant spot.

"Something like--oh, see how the water is running out,--just like
emptying a bathtub through a hole at the bottom! And see what--a
man caught in the whirl, true's you're a foot high, uncle!"

"A man? Here? Impossible,--incredible, boy!" fairly exploded
the professor, not yet ready to relinquish his cherished belief
in a terra incognita.

The air-voyagers were swiftly nearing that point of interest, and
now keen-eyed Bruno caught a glimpse of a drifting object which
had been drawn within the influence of yonder whirlpool, but
which was just as certainly a derelict from the forest.

"Another floating tree-trunk for Waldo!" he cried, with a short
laugh, feeling far from unpleased that the intense strain upon
his nerves should be thus lessened. "Try it again, lad, and
perhaps--"

"Try your great-grandmother's cotton nightcap! Don't you suppose
I can tell the difference between a tree and a--"

"Ranting, prancing, cavorting 'sour-us' right out of Webster's
Unabridged, eh, laddy-buck?"

"That's all right, if you can only keep on thinking that way, old
man; but if yonder isn't a fellow being in a mighty nasty pickle,
then I wouldn't even begin to say so! And--you look, uncle
Phaeton, please."

Nothing loath, the professor took the proffered glasses, and but
an instant later he, too, gave a sharp cry of amazement, for he
saw, clinging to the trunk of a floating tree, swiftly moving
with those circling waters, a living being!

And but a few seconds later, Bruno made the same discovery,
greatly to the delight of his younger brother.

"A man! And living, too!"

"Of course; reckon I'd make such a howl about a floater?" bluntly
interjected Waldo. "But I'll do my crowing later on. For now
we've got to get the poor fellow out of that,--just got to yank
him
out!"

Through all this hasty interchange of words, the aeromotor was
swiftly progressing, and now swung almost directly above the
whirlpool, giving all a fair, unobstructed view of everything
below.

The suction was so great that a sloping basin was formed, more
than
one hundred yards in diameter, while the actual centre lay a
number
of feet lower than the surrounding level.

Half-way down that perilous slope a great tree was revolving, and
to this, as his forlorn hope, clung a half-clad man, plainly
alive,
since he was looking upward, and--yes, waving a hand and uttering
a cry for aid and succour.

"Help! For love of God, save me!"

"White,--an American, too!" exploded Waldo, taking action as by
brilliant inspiration. "Hang over him, uncle, for I'm going--to
go fishing--for a man!"

Waldo was tugging at the grapnel and long drag-rope. Bruno was
quick to divine his intention, and lent a deft hand, while the
professor manipulated the helm so adroitly as to keep the
flying-machine hovering directly above yonder imperilled
stranger, leaning far over the hand-rail to shout downward:

"Have courage, sir, and stand ready to help yourself! We will
rescue you if it lies within the possibilities of--we WILL save
you!"

"You bet we just will, and right--like this," spluttered Waldo,
as he cast the grapnel over the rail and swiftly lowered it by
the rope. "Play you're a fish, stranger, and when you bite, hang
on like grim death to a--steady, now!"

Fortunately nothing occurred to mar the programme so hastily
arranged, for the drift was drawing nearer the centre of the
whirl, and if once fairly caught by that, nothing human could
preserve the stranger from death.

"Make a jump and grab it, if you can't do better!" cried Waldo,
intensely excited now that the crisis was at hand.

The long rope with its iron weight swayed awkwardly in spite of
all he could do to steady it, and as each one of the three prongs
was meant for catching and holding fast to whatever they touched,
there was no slight risk of impaling the man, thus giving him the
choice of another and still more painful death.

Then, with a desperate grasp, a death-clutch, he caught one arm
of the grapnel, holding fast as the shock came. He was carried
clear of the tree, and partly submerged in the water as his added
weight brought the flying-machine so much lower.

"Up, up, uncle Phaeton!" fairly howled Waldo, at the same time
tugging at the now taut rope, in which he was ably seconded by
his brother. "For love of--higher, uncle!"

Then the noble machine responded to the touch of its builder,
lifting the dripping stranger clear of the whirling currents,
swinging him away towards yonder higher level, where a fall would
not prove so quickly fatal. And then the eager professor gave a
shrill cheer as he saw the man, by a vigorous effort, draw his
body upward sufficiently far to throw one leg over an arm of the
grapnel itself.

Knowing now that the rescued was in no especial peril, uncle
Phaeton left the air-ship to steer itself long enough for his
nimble hands to take several turns of the drag-rope around the
cleat provided for that express purpose, thus relieving both
Bruno and Waldo of the heavy strain, which might soon begin to
tell upon them.

"Hurrah for we, us, and company!" cried Waldo, relieving his
lungs of a portion of their pent-up energy, then leaning
perilously far over the edge of the machine to encourage the
queer fish he had hooked.





Next: RESCUED AND RESCUERS.

Previous: A DUEL TO THE DEATH.



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