The following particulars of the loss of this vessel are copied from a letter dated Boulogne-sur-mer, Sept. 1, 1833. The shocking event which is announced by the title to this letter, has, I assure you, filled the town with dismay, and must... Read more of Loss Of The Amphitrite Convict Ship at Sea Stories.caInformational Site Network Informational
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from The Lost City





It was with stronger forebodings than he dared acknowledge even
to himself, that Professor Featherwit watched the two young men
out of sight in the early gloom, and scarcely had his nephew
passed beyond hearing than uncle Phaeton would gladly have
recalled Bruno.

Waldo made light of all fears, prophesying complete success, and
even going so far as to predict Bruno's return accompanied by the
Children of the Sun; enthusiastic words which set the exile to
trembling with excess of joy and anticipation.

What, then, was the blank dismay of all when, floating through
the night, came the hollow throbbing of yonder mighty war-drum,
fetching each person to his feet and holding him spellbound for
the first few seconds.

Cooper Edgecombe turned sick at heart, even while ignorant as to
the method of sending forth that alarm, his hollow groan being
the first sound to follow the simultaneous exclamation which
burst from three pairs of lips as the surprise came. And but a
breath later Waldo broke forth with the excited query:

"What is it? What's broken loose now? Surely--thunder?"

Only Professor Phaeton at once recognised the sound, through
description, and each one of those swiftly succeeding strokes
seemed falling upon his heart, bidding him mourn for his beloved
nephew, upon whom his aged eyes had surely looked their last in
this life!

Yet it was the professor who took prompt action, speaking sharply
as he darted across to where the air-ship rested:

"Come; get aboard, and let us do what lies in our power. It was
criminal to send the poor lad into the jaws of death, but
now--hasten, there may be a chance, even yet!"

The call was still hot upon his lips when his two companions
entered the aerostat, gripping tight the hand-rail as Professor
Featherwit sent the vessel afloat with reckless haste. As by a
miracle they escaped disaster through rushing into a bushy
treetop, and that fact served to steady the aeronaut's nerves.

"On guard, uncle Phaeton!" cried Waldo, making a lucky snatch at
his cap, which one of the stiff boughs brushed off his head.

"Ay, ay, lad," responded the man at the guiding-gear, as the
air-ship shot onward and upward, now heading, as directly as was
practicable, for the Lost City of the Aztecs. "That was the very
lesson I needed. I am steady of nerve, now, and will show no
lack,--heaven grant that we may not be for ever too late,
though!"

"What do you reckon could have kicked up such a bobbery, uncle?
And what--ugh!" as the wardrum's throbbings again swelled forth
in grim alarm. "What in time is that, anyway?"

As briefly as might be, the professor explained, and almost for
the first time Waldo felt a thrill of dread.

"If they've got Bruno, what will they do with him?"

That very dread was worrying uncle Phaeton, and already through
his busy brain were flashing horrid pictures of punishment and
sacrifice, of hideous scenes of torture, wherein the eldest son
of his dead sister played a prominent role, perforce.

He dared not trust his tongue to make answer, just then, and sent
the aeromotor onward at top speed, leaning far forward to win the
earliest glimpse of--what?

He caught sight of blazing beacons fairly encircling the Lost
City, forming a cordon through which no stranger could hope to
pass unseen. He beheld hundreds of armed shapes rushing to and
fro, plainly looking for some intruder or other enemy, yet almost
as certainly failing as yet to make the longed-for discovery.

Not until that moment had uncle Phaeton dared indulge in even the
shadow of a hope. The awful alarm seemed proof conclusive that
poor Bruno had been taken, through the treachery of Ixtli.

Naturally enough, that was his first belief, but now, as the
air-ship slackened pace to circle more deliberately above the
valley, all eyes on the eager watch for either Bruno or something
to hint at his fate, Professor Featherwit lost a portion of that
conviction.

If Bruno had indeed fallen victim to misplaced confidence, and
had been craftily lured into this den of ravening wild beasts,
why all this confusion and mad skurry? Why had not the traitor
first made sure of his victim? Why such a general alarm?

Although such haste in getting afloat had been made, some little
time had been thus consumed, and, before the aerostat was fairly
above the Lost City, Bruno and Ixtli had dropped by stages down
the shadowed side of the Temple of the Sun God, to burrow
underneath the ground as their surest method of eluding pursuit.

Only for that, the end might have been different, for, once
sighted, Gillespie would have been rescued by his friends, or
those friends would surely have shared death with him.

And so it came to pass that, circle though they might, calling
ears to supplement their eyes, swooping perilously low down in
their fierce eagerness to sight their imperilled one, never a
glimpse of the young man could they obtain, nor even a definite
hint as to where next to look for him.

"Surely they cannot have captured Bruno, as yet?" huskily
muttered uncle Phaeton, hungrily straining his eyes without
reward. "If the poor boy had actually fallen into such evil
hands, why such crazy confusion? Why--oh, why did I permit his
coaxings to overpower my better judgment? Why did I send him
into--"

The words stuck in his throat and refused to issue. Phaeton
Featherwit just then felt himself little less than a cold-blooded
assassin.

Mr. Edgecombe was but little less deeply stirred, although his
feelings were more of a mixture. He grieved for Bruno, and would
willingly risk his life in hopes of doing the young man a
service, yet his gaze was drawn far more frequently towards
yonder temple, on the top of which he had--surely he HAD caught
sight of his wife, his daughter!

"Let me down and try to find him," he eagerly begged, as one
might plead for a great boon. "I promise to save him if yet
alive, and--let me try, professor; I beg of you, give me this
chance to show my heartfelt gratitude."

But Professor Featherwit shook his head in negation.

"That would only add to our trouble, friend. Knowing nothing of
the dialect, you would be wholly at a loss. And, looking so
entirely different in every respect, how could you hope to pass
inspection?"

"All seems so confused, that I might--surely it is worth trying."

"It would be suicidal, so say no more on that score," almost
harshly spoke the usually mild-mannered aeronaut, sending his
vessel upon another circuit, only with stern vigilance choking
back the appealing shout to his lost nephew.

This time the aerostat was brought directly above the Temple of
the Sun, where there appeared to be some unusual disturbance, a
number of armed guards fairly driving a gaily arrayed Indian down
to the lower levels, and that greatly against his inclinations,
judging from the harsh cries and ringing threats which burst from
his lips.

Recognising the building, and unable to hold his intense emotions
longer under stern control, Cooper Edgecombe called aloud the
names of his wife and daughter, begging that they might come to
him; but then the air-ship was sent onward and upward, with a
dizzying swoop, and Professor Featherwit gripped an arm, sternly
speaking:

"Quiet, sir! Another outbreak like that and I'll lock your lips,
if I have to send a bullet through your mad brain!"

"I forgot. I could not wait longer, knowing that my loved
ones--"

"You forgot that the lives of all depend upon our remaining at
liberty," coldly interrupted Featherwit. "Without this means of
conveyance, how can your loved ones escape? Now, your solemn
pledge to maintain utter silence, or I will take you back to
yonder wilderness, leaving you to shift for yourself as best you
can. Promise, sir!"

"I will,--I do. Forgive me, for I was carried away by--'twas
there I saw--after so many horrible years!" huskily muttered the
exile, fairly cowering there, before his saviour from the
whirlpool.

"Enough; bear in mind that the rescue of your loved ones depend
on our efforts. If discovered by yonder snarling beasts, and the
machine is injured,--farewell, all hopes! Now, quiet, and look
for Bruno!"

Again the air-ship circled over the valley, in spite of the
moonlight passing wholly unseen and unsuspected by the Aztecs,
whose energies were bent on ferreting out mortal foes, not demons
of the upper world.

Waldo leaned farther over the hand-rail as they floated closer to
an excited group of warriors, the central figure being Lord Hua
himself, fiercely denouncing Aztotl and his son, Ixtli, as
traitors to the common welfare, and calling upon all honest
braves to mete forth befitting punishment.

Professor Featherwit caught one name indistinctly; that of the
young Aztec in whose company Bruno had set forth on his
ill-starred venture; and hoping to learn more of importance, he
caused the aerostat to hover directly above that particular group
of redskins.

Waldo, never stopping to count the risk he might thus fetch upon
them all, silently lowered the grapnel, by means of the
drag-rope, giving a boyish chuckle as the three-pronged hook
descended amidst that gathering, the sight causing more than one
superstitious brave to leap aside, with cries of amazed affright.

The air-ship gave a sudden swoop, and the grapnel caught Huatzin
by his girdle, jerking him fairly off his feet, and swinging him
into air, pretty much as a youngster might land a writhing fish.
But no fish ever sent forth so wild a screech of mingled rage and
terror as split the air just then.

Although hardly realising what was happening, Professor
Featherwit sent the aeromotor upward with a mighty jerk. The
shock proving too much for that sash, Lord Hua fell back to
earth, literally biting the dust, although he met with no bodily
harm beyond sundry bruises.

"Caught a sucker, and--I'll never do it again, uncle!" exploded
Waldo, as he swiftly hauled in his novel fish-line; but he had to
take a severe lecture from the professor before the subject was
finally dropped.

And, worse than all else, the air-demon was now the target for
both eyes and arrows, and, perforce, sailed swiftly away into the
night.





Next: DOWN AMONG THE DEAD.

Previous: THE SUN CHILDREN'S PERIL.



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