WALDO GOES FISHING.





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.





VIOLA ROSEBOROUGH WATER-LILIES facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Feedback