THE PROFESSOR AND THE AZTEC.





Fortunately for all concerned, there proved to be no serious

difficulty attached to that same holding. So far as outward

semblance went, Ixtli was very well content with both present

quarters and present companionship.



He likewise enjoyed the supper that, aided by a small fire

kindled in a depression so low that the light could by no means

attract any unfriendly eye, Bruno prepared for them all. And

just prior to taking his first taste, the young warrior bowed his

head to murmur a few sentences which, past all doubt, had first

come to his mind through the wonderful Victo: a simple little

blessing, which certainly did not add to the dislike or

uneasiness with which the brothers regarded their guest.



"He's white, even if he is red!" confidentially declared Waldo,

at his first opportunity. "More danger of our spoiling him than

his doing us dirt; and that's an honest fact for a quarter, old

man!"



Bruno felt pretty much the same, yet his added years gave him

greater discretion, and, in spite of that growing liking, he kept

a fairly keen watch and ward over the Aztec.



After supper there came further questioning and answers, Waldo as

a rule playing inquisitor, eager to learn more anent the strange

existence which these people must live, so completely hemmed in

from all the rest of the world as they surely were in yonder

valley.



Without at all betraying the exile, Gillespie spoke of the lake

and its mighty whirlpool, then learned that the Indians really

made semi-annual trips thither for the purpose of laying in a

supply of dried fish for the winter's consumption.



As the night waned, preparations were made for sleeping, although

it was agreed between the brothers that one or the other should

stand guard in regular order.



"Not that I really believe the fellow would play us dirt, even

with every chance laid open," Waldo admitted. "Still, it's what

uncle Phaeton would advise, and we can't well do less than follow

his will, Bruno."



"Since we broke it so completely by tackling the grizzly," with a

brief laugh.



"That's all right, too. Of course we'd ought to've skulked away

like a couple of egg-sucking curs, but we didn't, and I'm

mightily glad of it, too. For Ixtli--what a name that is to go

to bed with every night, though!--for Ixtli is just about as

white as they make 'em, nowadays; you hear me blow my bazoo?"



And so the long night wore its length along, the brothers taking

turns at keeping watch and ward, but the Aztec slumbering

peacefully through all, looking the least dangerous of all

possible captives. And after this light even the cautious Bruno

began to regard him ere the first stroke of coming dawn could be

seen above the eastern hills.



Not being positive just where the air-ship would put in an

appearance, since Professor Featherwit had, perforce, left that

question open, to be decided by circumstances over which he might

have no control, each guard in turn devoted considerable

attention to the upper regions, hoping to glimpse the aerostat,

and holding matches in readiness to raise a flare by way of

alighting signal. But it was not until the early dawn that Bruno

caught sight of the air-ship, just skimming the tree-tops, the

better to escape observation by any Indian lookout.



After that the rest came easily enough. A couple of blazing

matches held aloft proved sufficient cue to the professor, and

soon thereafter the flying-machine was safely brought to land, so

gently that the slumbers of the young Aztec were undisturbed.



Bruno gave a hasty word of warning and explanation combined, even

before he extended a welcoming hand towards Mr. Edgecombe, who

certainly appeared all the better for his encounter with people

of his own race.



Professor Featherwit took a keen, eager look at the slumbering

redskin, then drew silently back, to whisper in Bruno's ear:



"Guard well your tongue, lad. I have told him nothing, as yet,

and we must consult together before breaking the news. For now

we have had no rest, so I believe we would better lie down for an

hour or two."



Mr. Edgecombe appeared to be perfectly willing to do this, and

soon the wearied men were wrapped in blankets and sleeping

peacefully.



Long before their lids unclosed, Bruno had an appetising meal in

readiness, although the others had broken fast long before, and

Ixtli, his hands tightly clasped behind his back, as a child is

wont to resist temptation, was inspecting the air-ship in awed

silence.



Taking advantage of this preoccupation, Bruno quickly yet clearly

explained to his uncle all that had happened, showing that by

playing a more prudent part the young warrior must inevitably

have perished.



Then, making sure Cooper Edgecombe was not near enough to catch

his words, Bruno told in brief the information gleaned from Ixtli

concerning the Children of the Sun, whom he and Waldo more than

suspected must be the long-lost wife and daughter of the exiled

aeronaut.



As might have been expected, Professor Featherwit was deeply

stirred by all this, fidgeting nervously while keeping alert

ears, with difficulty smothering the ejaculations which fought

for exit through his lips.



After satisfying his craving for food, the professor led the

young Aztec apart from the rest of the party, speaking kindly and

sympathetically until he had won a fair share of liking for his

own, then broaching the subject of the Sun Children.



After this it was by no means a difficult matter to get at the

seat of trouble, and little by little Featherwit satisfied

himself that Ixtli would do all, dare all, for the sake of

benefiting the woman and maiden who had treated him so kindly.



At a covert sign from the professor, Bruno came to join in the

talk, and his sympathy made the young Aztec even more

communicative. And Ixtli spoke more at length concerning

Tlacopa, the paba, and another enemy whom the Children of the Sun

had nearly equal cause to fear, one Huatzin, or Prince Hua,

chiefest among the mighty warriors of the Aztecan clans.



This evil prince had for years past sought Victo for his bride,

while his son, Iocetl, tried in vain to win the heart-smiles of

the fair Glady, Victo's daughter. And, through revenge for

having their suit frowned upon, these wicked knaves had joined

hands with the priest in trying to drag the Sun Children down

from their lofty pedestal.



It did not take long questioning, or shrewd, to convince the

professor that in Ixtli they could count upon a true and daring

supporter in case they should conclude to interfere in behalf of

his patroness and teacher, adored Victo.



The professor led the way over to the air-ship, there producing

the clothing and arms once worn by another Aztec warrior, which

he had carefully stowed away in the locker, loath to lose sight

of such valuable relics; truly unique, as he assured himself at

the moment.



Bruno gave a little exclamation at sight of the articles, then in

eager tones he made known the daring idea which then flashed

across his busy brain.



"We ought to make sure before taking action, uncle Phaeton. Then

why not let me don these clothes and steal down into the valley,

under cover of darkness, to see the ladies and--"



"No, no, my lad," quickly interrupted the professor, gripping an

arm as though fearful of an instant runaway. "That would be too

risky; that would be almost suicidal! And--no use talking," with

an obstinate shake of his head, as Bruno attempted to edge in an

expostulation. "I will never give my consent; never!"



"Or hardly ever," supplied Waldo, coming that way like one who

feels the proprieties have been more than sufficiently outraged.

"Give some other person a chance to wag his chin a bit, can't ye,

gentlemen? Not that _I_ care to chatter merely for sake of

hearing my own voice; but--eh?"



"We were considering whether or no 'twould be advisable to take a

walk over to the observatory," coolly explained the professor.

"Of course, if you would rather remain here to watch the

aerostat--"



"Let Bruno do that, uncle. He grew thoroughly disgusted with

what he saw over yonder, yesterday," placidly observed the

youngster.



"Waldo, you villain!"



"Well, didn't you vow and declare that you could recognise grace

and beauty and all other varieties of attractiveness only

in--dark brunettes, old man?"



Professor Featherwit hastily interposed, lest words be let fall

through which Mr. Edgecombe might catch a premature idea of the

possible surprise held in store; and shortly afterwards the start

was made for the snug covert from whence the Lost City had been

viewed on prior occasions.



Naturally their route led them directly past the scene of the

bear fight, where the huge carcass lay as yet undisturbed, and

calling forth sundry words of wonder and even admiration, through

its very ponderosity and now harmless ferocity.



Professor Featherwit deemed it his duty to gravely reprove his

wards for their rash conduct, yet something in his twinkling eyes

and in the kindly touch of his bony hand told a far different

tale. His anger took the shape of pride and of heart-love.



In due course of time the lookout was won, and without delay the

savant turned his field-glass upon the temple which appeared to

appertain to the so-called Sun Children; but, not a little to his

chagrin, the azotea was utterly devoid of human life.



But that disappointment was of brief existence, for, almost as

though his action was the signal for which they had been waiting,

mother and daughter came slowly into view, arm in arm, clad in

robes of snowy white, with their luxuriant locks flowing loose as

upon former occasions.



Both lads--three of them, to be more exact--gave low exclamations

of eager interest as those shapes came in sight, while even

Cooper Edgecombe gazed with growing interest upon the scene,

wholly unsuspecting though he was as yet.



A slight nod from the professor warned the brothers to stand

ready in case of need, then he offered the exile the glass,

begging him to inspect yonder fair women upon the teocalli.



The glass was levelled and held firmly for a half minute, then

the exile gave a choking cry, gasping, ere he fell as one smitten

by death:



"Merciful heavens! My wife--my child!"





THE PRODIGAL SON. THE PROFESSOR'S GREAT ANTICIPATIONS. facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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