THE PROFESSOR'S UNKNOWN LAND.





There was neither time nor opportunity for taking notes, for that

long rope straightened out in the fraction of a second, throwing

all prostrate as the flying-machine was jerked upward with awful

force.



All around them raged and roared the mighty winds, while missiles

of almost every description pelted and pounded both machine and

inmates during those few seconds of extraordinary peril.



Fortunately neither the professor nor his nephews could fairly

realise just what was taking place, else their brains would

hardly have stood the test; and fortunately, too, that ordeal was

not protracted.



A hideous experience while it lasted, those vicious currents

dragging the aerostat upward out of the air-chamber by means of

grapnel and rope, then casting all far away in company with

wrecked trees and bushes, and even solider materials, all

shrouded for a time in dust and debris, which hindered the

eyesight of both uncle and nephews.



Through it all the brothers were dimly aware of one fact uncle

Phaeton was shrilly bidding them cling fast and have courage.



All at once they felt as though vomited forth from a volcano

which alternately breathed fire and ice, the clear light of

evening bursting upon their aching, smarting eyes with actual

pain, while that horrid roar of warring elements seemed to pass

away in the distance, leaving them--where, and how?



"We're falling to--merciful heavens! Hold fast, all!" screamed

the professor, desperately striving to regain full command of

their air-ship. "The tiller is jammed, but--"



To all seeming, the aerostat had sustained some fatal damage

during that brief eruption caused by the professor's little

experiment, for it was pitching drunkenly end for end, refusing

to obey the hand of its builder, bearing all to certain death

upon the earth far below.



Half stupefied with fear, the brothers clung fast to the

life-line and glared downward, noting, in spite of themselves,

how swiftly yonder dark tree-tops and gray crags were shooting

heavenward to meet them and claim the sacrifice.



With fierce energy Professor Featherwit jerked and wrenched at

the steering-gear, uttering words such as had long been foreign

to his lips, but then--just when destruction appeared

inevitable--a wild cry burst from his lungs, as a broken bit of

native wood came away in his left hand, leaving the lever free as

of old!



And then, with a dizzying swoop and rapid recovery, the gallant

air-ship came back to an even keel, sailing along with old-time

grace and ease, barely in time to avoid worse mishap as the crest

of a tall tree was brushed in their passage.



"Saved,--saved, my lads!" screamed the professor, as his

heart-pet soared upward once more until well past the

danger-line. "Safe and sound through all,--praises be unto the

Lord, our Father!"



Neither brother spoke just then, for they lay there in half

stupor, barely able to realise the wondrous truth: that their

lives had surely been spared them, even as by a miracle!



That swooping turn now brought their faces towards the tornado,

which was at least a couple of miles distant, rapidly making that

distance greater even while continuing its work of destruction.



"And we--were in it!" huskily muttered Bruno, his lids closing

with a shiver, as he averted his face, unwilling to see more.



"Heap sight worse than being in the soup, too, if anybody asks

you," declared Waldo, beginning to rally both in strength and in

spirit. "But--what's the matter with the old ship, uncle

Phaeton?"



For the aerostat was indulging itself in sundry distressing

gyrations, pretty much as a boy's kite swoops from side to side,

when lacking in tail-ballast, while the professor seemed unable

to keep the machine under complete control.



"Nothing serious, only--hold fast, all! I believe 'twould be as

well to make our descent, for fear something--steady!"



Just ahead there appeared a more than usually open space in the

forest, and, quite as much by good luck as through actual skill,

Professor Featherwit succeeded in making a landing with no more

serious mishap than sundry bruises and a little extra

teeth-jarring.



As quickly as possible, both Bruno and Waldo pitched themselves

out of the partially disabled aeromotor, the elder brother

grasping the grapnel and taking a couple of turns of the strong

rope around a convenient tree-trunk, lest the ship escape them

altogether.



"No need, my gallant boy!" assured the professor, an instant

later. "All is well,--all IS well, thanks to an over-ruling

Providence!"



In spite of this expressed confidence, he hurriedly looked over

his pet machine, taking note of such injuries as had been

received during that remarkable journey, only giving over when

fairly satisfied that all damage might be readily made good,

after which the aerostat would be as trustworthy as upon its

first voyage on high.



Then, grasping the brothers each by a hand, he smiled genially,

then lifted eyes heavenward, to a moment later sink upon his

knees with bowed head and hands folded across his bosom.



Bruno and Waldo imitated his action, and, though no audible words

were spoken, never were more heartfelt prayers sent upward, never

more grateful thanks given unto the Most High.



Boy, youth, and man alike seemed fairly awed into silence for the

next few minutes, unable to so soon cast off the spell which had

fallen upon them, one and each, when realising how mercifully

their lives had been spared, even after all earthly hope had been

abandoned.



As usual, however, Waldo was first to rally, and, after silently

moving around the aerostat, upon which the professor was already

busily at work by the last gleams of the vanished sun, he paused,

legs separated, and hands thrust deep into pockets, head perking

on one side as he spoke, drawlingly:



"I say, uncle Phaeton?"



"What is it, Waldo?"



"It'll never do to breathe even a hint of all this, will it?"



"Why so, pray?"



"Whoever heard it would swear we were bald-headed liars right

from Storytown! And yet,--did it really happen, or have I been

dreaming all the way through?"



Professor Featherwit gave a brief, dry chuckle at this, rising

erect to cast a deliberate glance around their present location,

then speaking:



"Without I am greatly mistaken, my dear boy, you will have still

other marvellous happenings to relate ere we return to what is,

rightfully or wrongfully, called civilisation."



"Is that so? Then you really reckon--"



"For one thing, my lad, we are now fairly entered upon a terra

incognita, so far as our own race is concerned. In other

words,--behold, the Olympics!"



Both Bruno and Waldo cast their eyes around, but only a

circumscribed view was theirs. The shades of evening were

settling fast, and on all sides they could see but mighty trees,

rugged rocks, a mountain stream from whose pebbly bed came a

soothing murmur.



"Nothing so mighty much to brag of, anyway," irreverently quoth

Waldo, after that short-lived scrutiny. "It wouldn't fetch a

dollar an acre at auction, and for my part,--wonder when the gong

will sound for supper?"



That blunt hint was effective, and, letting the subject drop for

the time being, even the professor joined in the hurry for an

evening meal, to which one and all felt able to do full justice.



Although some rain had fallen at this point as well, no serious

difficulty was experienced in kindling a fire, while Waldo had

little trouble in heaping up a bounteous supply of fuel.



Through countless ages the forest monarchs had been shedding

their superfluous boughs, while here and there lay an entire

tree, overthrown by some unknown power, and upon which the

brothers made heavy requisition.



Professor Featherwit took from the locker a supply of tinned

goods, together with a patent coffee-pot and frying-pan, so

convenient where space is scarce and stowage-room precious.



With water from the little river, it took but a few minutes more

to scent the evening with grateful fumes, after which the

adventurous trio squatted there in the ruddy glow, eating,

sipping, chatting, now and again forced to give thanks for their

really miraculous preservation after all human hopes had been

exhausted.



Although Professor Featherwit was but little less thankful for

the wondrous leniency shown them, he could not altogether refrain

from mourning the loss of his camera, with its many snap-shots at

the tornado itself, to say nothing of what he might have secured

in addition, while riding the storm so marvellously.



More to take his thoughts away from that loss than through actual

curiosity in the subject offered by way of substitute, Bruno

asked for further light upon the so-called terra incognita.



"Of course it isn't really an unknown land, though, uncle

Phaeton?" he added, almost apologetically. "In this age, and

upon our own continent, such a thing is among the

impossibilities."



"Indeed? And, pray, how long since has it been that you would,

with at least equal positivity, have declared it impossible to

enter a tornado while in wildest career, yet emerge from it with

life and limb intact?"



"Yes, uncle, but--this is different, by far."



"In one sense, yes; in another, no," affirmed the professor, with

emphatic nod, brushing the tips of his fingers together, as he

moved back to assume a more comfortable position inside the

air-ship, then quickly preparing a pipe and tobacco for his

regular after-meal smoke.



A brief silence, then the professor spoke, clearly, distinctly:



"Washington has her great unknown land, quite as much as has the

interior of Darkest Africa, my boys, besides enjoying this

peculiar advantage: while adventurous white men have traversed

those benighted regions in every direction, even though little

permanent good may have been accomplished, this terra incognita

remains virgin in that particular sense of the word."



"You mean, uncle?"



"That here in the Olympic region you see what is literally an

unknown, unexplored scope of country, as foreign to the foot of

mankind as it was countless ages gone by. So far as history

reads, neither white man nor red has ever ventured fairly within

these limits; a mountainous waste which rises from the level

country, within ten or fifteen miles of the Straits of San Juan

de Fuca, in the north, the Pacific Ocean in the west, Hood's

Canal in the east, and the barren sand-hills lying to the far

south.



"This irregular range is known upon the map as the Olympics, and,

rising to the height of from six to eight thousand feet, shut in

a vast unexplored area.



"The Indians have never penetrated it, so far as can be

ascertained, for their traditions say that it is inhabited by a

very fierce tribe of warriors, before whose might and strange

weapons not one of the coast tribes can stand."



"One of the Lost Tribes of Israel, shouldn't wonder," drawlingly

volunteered Waldo, stifling a yawn, and forced to rub his

inflamed eyes with a surreptitious paw.



Professor Featherwit, though plainly absorbed in his curious

theory, was yet quick to detect this evidence of weariness, and

laughed a bit, with change of both tone and manner, as he spoke

further:



"That forms but a partial introductory to my lecture, dear lads,

but perhaps it might be as well to postpone the rest for a more

propitious occasion. You have undergone sore trials, both

of--Hark!"



Some sound came to his keen ears, which the brothers failed to

catch, but as they bent their heads in listening, another noise

came, which proved startling enough, in all conscience,--a

shrill, maniacal screech, which sent cold chills running races up

each spine.





THE PROFESSOR'S LITTLE EXPERIMENT. THE PUBLISHER facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

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