Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership




A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      The Maracot Deep (1929)
Author:     Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
eBook No.:  0603271.txt
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          July 2006
Date most recently updated: July 2014

This eBook was produced by: Barry Haworth.

Project Gutenberg of Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg of Australia License which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html



Title:      The Maracot Deep (1929)
Author:     Sir Arthur Conan Doyle




Contents:

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7



Chapter 1

Since these papers have been put into my hands to edit, I will begin
by reminding the public of the sad loss of the steamship _Stratford_,
which started a year ago upon a voyage for the purpose of oceanography
and the study of deep-sea life. The expedition had been organized by
Dr. Maracot, the famous author of Pseudo-Coralline Formations and The
Morphology of the Lamellibranchs. Dr. Maracot had with him Mr. Cyrus
Headley, formerly assistant at the Zoological Institute of Cambridge,
Massachusetts, and at the time of the voyage Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.
Captain Howie, an experienced navigator, was in charge of the vessel,
and there was a crew of twenty-three men, including an American
mechanic from the Merribank Works, Philadelphia.

This whole party has utterly disappeared, and the only word ever heard
of the ill-fated steamer was from the report of a Norwegian barque
which actually saw a ship, closely corresponding with her description,
go down in the great gale of the autumn of 1926. A lifeboat marked
_Stratford_ was found later in the neighbourhood of the tragedy,
together with some deck gratings, a lifebuoy, and a spar. This,
coupled with the long silence, seemed to make it absolutely sure that
the vessel and her crew would never be heard of more. Her fate is
rendered more certain by the strange wireless message received at the
time, which, though incomprehensible in parts, left little doubt as to
the fate of the vessel. This I will quote later.

There were some remarkable points about the voyage of the _Stratford_
which caused comment at the time. One was the curious secrecy observed
by Professor Maracot. He was famous for his dislike and distrust of
the Press, but it was pushed to an extreme upon this occasion, when he
would neither give information to reporters nor would he permit the
representative of any paper to set foot in the vessel during the weeks
that it lay in the Albert Dock. There were rumours abroad of some
curious and novel construction of the ship which would fit it for
deep-sea work, and these rumours were confirmed from the yard of
Hunter and Company of West Hartlepool, where the structural changes
had actually been carried out. It was at one time said that the whole
bottom of the vessel was detachable, a report which attracted the
attention of the underwriters at Lloyd's, who were, with some
difficulty, satisfied upon the point. The matter was soon forgotten,
but it assumed an importance now when the fate of the expedition has
been brought once more in so extraordinary manner to the notice of the
public.

So much for the beginning of the voyage of the _Stratford_. There are
now four documents which cover the facts so far as they are known. The
first is the letter which was written by Mr. Cyrus Headley, from the
capital of the Grand Canary, to his friend, Sir James Talbot, of
Trinity College, Oxford, upon the only occasion, so far as is known,
when the _Stratford_ touched land after leaving the Thames. The second
is the strange wireless call to which I have alluded. The third is
that portion of the log of the Arabella Knowles which deals with the
vitreous ball. The fourth and last is the amazing contents of that
receptacle, which either represent a most cruel and complex
mystification, or else open up a fresh chapter in human experience the
importance of which cannot be exaggerated. With this preamble I will
now give Mr. Headley's letter, which I owe to the courtesy of Sir
James Talbot, and which has not previously been published. It is dated
October 1st, 1926.

I am mailing this, my dear Talbot, from Porta de la Luz, where we have
put in for a few days of rest. My principal companion in the voyage
has been Bill Scanlan, the head mechanic, who, as a fellow-countryman
and also as a very entertaining character, has become my natural
associate. However, I am alone this morning as he has what he
describes as 'a date with a skirt'. You see, he talks as Englishmen
expect every real American to talk. He would be accepted as the true
breed. The mere force of suggestion makes me 'guess' and 'reckon' when
I am with my English friends. I feel that they would never really
understand that I was a Yankee if I did not. However, I am not on
those terms with you, so let me assure you right now that you will not
find anything but pure Oxford in the epistle which I am now mailing to
you.

You met Maracot at the Mitre, so you know the dry chip of a man that
he is. I told you, I think, how he came to pitch upon me for the job.
He inquired from old Somerville of the Zoological Institute, who sent
him my prize essay on the pelagic crabs, and that did the trick. Of
course, it is splendid to be on such a congenial errand, but I wish it
wasn't with such an animated mummy as Maracot. He is inhuman in his
isolation and his devotion to his work. 'The world's stiffest stiff,'
says Bill Scanlan: And yet you can't but admire such complete
devotion. Nothing exists outside his own science. I remember that you
laughed when I asked him what I ought to read as a preparation, and he
said that for serious study I should read the collected edition of his
own works, but for relaxation Haeckel's Plankton-Studien.

I know him no better now than I did in that little parlour looking out
on the Oxford High. He says nothing, and his gaunt, austere face--the
face of a Savonarola, or rather, perhaps, of a Torquemada--never
relapses into geniality. The long, thin, aggressive nose, the two
small gleaming grey eyes set closely together under a thatch of
eyebrows, the thin-lipped, compressed mouth, the cheeks worn into
hollows by constant thought and ascetic life, are all uncompanionable.
He lives on some mental mountaintop, out of reach of ordinary mortals.
Sometimes I think he is a little mad. For example, this extraordinary
instrument that he has made ... but I'll tell things in their due
order and then you can judge for yourself.

I'll take our voyage from the start. The _Stratford_ is a fine seaworthy
little boat, specially fitted for her job. She is twelve hundred tons,
with clear decks and a good broad beam, furnished with every possible
appliance for sounding, trawling, dredging and tow-netting. She has,
of course, powerful steam winches for hauling the trawls, and a number
of other gadgets of various kinds, some of which are familiar enough,
and some are strange. Below these are comfortable quarters with a
well--fitted laboratory for our special studies.

We had the reputation of being a mystery ship before we started, and I
soon found that it was not undeserved. Our first proceedings were
commonplace enough. We took a turn up the North Sea and dropped our
trawls for a scrape or two, but, as the average depth is not much over
sixty feet and we were specially fitted for very deep-sea work, it
seemed rather a waste of time. Anyhow, save for familiar table fish,
dog-fish, squids, jelly-fish and some terrigenous bottom deposits of
the usual alluvial clay-mud, we got nothing worth writing home about.
Then we rounded Scotland, sighted the Faroes, and came down the
Wyville-Thomson Ridge, where we had better luck. Thence we worked
south to our proper cruising-ground, which was between the African
coast and these islands. We nearly grounded on Fuert-Eventura one
moonless night, but save for that our voyage was uneventful.

During these first weeks I tried to make friends with Maracot, but it
was not easy work. First of all, he is the most absorbed and
absent-minded man in the world. You will remember how you smiled when
he gave the elevator boy a penny under the impression that he was in a
street car. Half the time he is utterly lost in his thoughts, and
seems hardly aware of where he is or what he is doing. Then in the
second place he is secretive to the last degree. He is continually
working at papers and charts, which he shuffles away when I happen to
enter the cabin. It is my firm belief that the man has some secret
project in his mind, but that so long as we are due to touch at any
port he will keep it to himself. That is the impression which I have
received, and I find that Bill Scanlan is of the same opinion.

'Say, Mr. Headley,' said he one evening, when I was seated in the
laboratory testing out the salinity of samples from our hydrographic
soundings, 'what d'you figure out that this guy has in his mind? What
d'you reckon that he means to do?'

'I suppose,' said I, 'that we shall do what the Challenger and a dozen
other exploring ships have done before us, and add a few more species
to the list of fish and a few more entries to the bathymetric chart.'

'Not on your life,' said he. 'If that's your opinion you've got to
guess again. First of all, what am I here for, anyhow?'

'In case the machinery goes wrong,' I hazarded.

'Machinery nothing! The ship's machinery is in charge of MacLaren, the
Scotch engineer. No, sir, it wasn't to run a donkey-engine that the
Merribank folk sent out their star performer. If I pull down fifty
bucks a week it's not for nix. Come here, and I'll make you wise to
it..'

He took a key from his pocket and opened a door at the back of the
laboratory which led us down a companion ladder to a section of the
hold which was cleared right across save for four large glittering
objects half-exposed amid the straw of their huge packing-cases. They
were flat sheets of steel with elaborate bolts and rivets along the
edges. Each sheet was about ten feet square and an inch and a half
thick, with a circular gap of eighteen inches in the middle.

'What in thunder is it?' I asked.

Bill Scanlan's queer face--he looks half-way between a vaudeville
comic and a prize-fighter--broke into a grin at my astonishment.

'That's my baby, sir,' he quoted. 'Yes, Mr. Headley, that's what I am
here for. There is a steel bottom to the thing. It's in that big case
yonder. Then there is a top, kind of arched, and a great ring for a
chain or rope. Now, look here at the bottom of the ship.'

There was a square wooden platform there, with projecting screws at
each corner which showed that it was detachable.

'There is a double bottom,' said Scanlan. 'It may be that this guy is
clean loco, or it may be that he has more in his block than we know,
but if I read him right he means to build up a kind of room--the
windows are in storage here--and lower it through the bottom of the
ship. He's got electric searchlights here, and I allow that he plans
to shine 'em through the round portholes and see what's goin' on
around.'

'He could have put a crystal sheet into the ship, like the Catalina
Island boats, if that was all that was in his mind,' said I.

'You've said a mouthful,' said Bill Scanlan, scratching his head. 'I
can't figger it out nohow. The only one sure thing is, that I've been
sent to be under his orders and to help him with the darn fool thing
all I can. He has said nothin' up to now, so I've said the same, but
I'll just snoop around, and if I wait long enough I'll learn all there
is to know.'

So that was how I first got on to the edge of our mystery. We ran into
some dirty weather after that, and then we got to work doing some
deep-sea trawling north-west of Cape Juba, just outside the
Continental Slope, and taking temperature readings and salinity
records. It's a sporting proposition, this deep-sea dragging with a
Peterson otter trawl gaping twenty feet wide for everything that comes
its way--sometimes down a quarter of a mile and bringing up one lot
of fish, sometimes half a mile and quite a different lot, every
stratum of ocean with its own inhabitants as separate as so many
continents. Sometimes from the bottom we would just bring up half a
ton of clear pink jelly, the raw material of life, or, maybe, it would
be a scoop of pteropod ooze, breaking up under the microscope into
millions of tiny round reticulated balls with amorphous mud between. I
won't bore you with all the brotulids and macrurids, the ascidians and
holothurians and polyzoa and echinoderms--anyhow, you can reckon that
there is a great harvest in the sea, and that we have been diligent
reapers. But always I had the same feeling that the heart of Maracot
was not in the job, and that other plans were in that queer high,
narrow Egyptian mummy of a head. It all seemed to me to be a try-out
of men and things until the real business got going.

I had got as far as this in my letter when I went ashore to have a
last stretch, for we sail in the early morning. It's as well, perhaps,
that I did go, for there was no end of a barney going on upon the
pier, with Maracot and Bill Scanlan right in the heart of it. Bill is
a bit of a scrapper, and has what he calls a mean wallop in both
mitts, but with half a dozen Dagoes with knives all round them things
looked ugly, and it was time that I butted in. It seems that the
Doctor had hired one of the things they call cabs, and had driven half
over the island inspecting the geology, but had clean forgotten that
he had no money on him. When it came to paying, he could not make
these country hicks understand, and the cabman had grabbed his watch
so as to make sure. That brought Bill Scanlan into action, and they
would have both been on the floor with their backs like pin-cushions
if I had not squared the matter up, with a dollar or two over for the
driver and a five-dollar bonus for the chap with the mouse under his
eye. So all ended well, and Maracot was more human than ever I saw him
yet. When we got to the ship he called me into the little cabin which
he reserves for himself and he thanked me.

'By the way, Mr. Headley,' he said, 'I understand that you are not a
married man?'

'No,' said I, 'I am not.'

'No one depending upon you?'

'No.'

'Good!' said he. 'I have not spoken of the object of this voyage
because I have, for my own reasons, desired it to be secret. One of
those reasons was that I feared to be forestalled. When scientific
plans get about one may be served as Scott was served by Amundsen. Had
Scott kept his counsel as I have done, it would be he and not Amundsen
who would have been the first at the South Pole. For my part, I have
quite as important a destination as the South Pole, and so I have been
silent. But now we are on the eve of our great adventure and no rival
has time to steal my plans. Tomorrow we start for our real goal.'

'And what is that?' I asked.

He leaned forward, his ascetic face all lit up with the enthusiasm of
the fanatic.

'Our goal,' said he, 'is the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.'

And right here I ought to stop, for I expect it has taken away your
breath as it did mine. If I were a story-writer, I guess I should
leave it at that. But as I am just a chronicler of what occurred, I
may tell you that I stayed another hour in the cabin of old man
Maracot, and that I learned a lot, which there is still just time for
me to tell you before the last shore boat leaves.

'Yes, young man,' said he, 'you may write freely now, for by the time
your letter reaches England we shall have made the plunge.'

This started him sniggering, for he has a queer dry sense of humour of
his own.

'Yes, sir, the plunge is the right word on this occasion, a plunge
which will be historic in the annals of Science. Let me tell you, in
the first place, that I am well convinced that the current doctrine as
to the extreme pressure of the ocean at great depths is entirely
misleading. It is perfectly clear that other factors exist which
neutralize the effect, though I am not yet prepared to say what those
factors may be. That is one of the problems which we may settle. Now,
what pressure, may I ask, have you been led to expect under a mile of
water?' He glowered at me through his big horn spectacles.

'Not less than a ton to the square inch,' I answered. 'Surely that has
been clearly shown.'

'The task of the pioneer has always been to disprove the thing which
has been clearly shown. Use your brains, young man. You have been for
the last month fishing up some of the most delicate Bathic forms of
life, creatures so delicate that you could hardly transfer them from
the net to the tank without marring their sensitive shapes. Did you
find that there was evidence upon them of this extreme pressure?'

'The pressure,' said I, 'equalized itself. It was the same within as
without.'

'Words--mere words!' he cried, shaking his lean head impatiently.
'You have brought up round fish, such fish as Gastro-stomus globulus.
Would they not have been squeezed flat had the pressure been as you
imagine? Or look at our otter-boards. They are not squeezed together
at the mouth of the trawl.'

'But the experience of divers?'

'Certainly it holds good up to a point. They do find a sufficient
increase of pressure to influence what is perhaps the most sensitive
organ of the body, the interior of the ear. But as I plan it, we shall
not be exposed to any pressure at all. We shall be lowered in a steel
cage with crystal windows on each side for observation. If the
pressure is not strong enough to break in an inch and a half of
toughened double-nickelled steel, then it cannot hurt us. It is an
extension of the experiment of the Williamson Brothers at Nassau, with
which no doubt you are familiar. If my calculation is wrong--well,
you say that no one is dependent upon you. We shall die in a great
adventure. Of course, if you would rather stand clear, I can go
alone.'

It seemed to me the maddest kind of scheme, and yet you know how
difficult it is to refuse a dare. I played for time while I thought it
over.

'How deep do you propose to go, sir?' I asked.

He had a chart pinned upon the table, and he placed the end of his
compasses upon a point which lies to the south-west of the Canaries.

'Last year I did some sounding in this part,' said he.

'There is a pit of great depth. We got twenty-five thousand feet
there. I was the first to report it. Indeed, I trust that you will
find it on the charts of the future as the "Maracot Deep".'

'But, good God, sir!' I cried, 'you don't propose to descend into an
abyss like that?'

'No, no,' he answered, smiling. 'Neither our lowering chain nor our
air tubes reach beyond half a mile. But I was going to explain to you
that round this deep crevasse, which has no doubt been formed by
volcanic forces long ago, there is a varied ridge or narrow plateau,
which is not more than three hundred fathoms under the surface.'

'Three hundred fathoms! A third of a mile!'

'Yes, roughly a third of a mile. It is my present intention that we
shall be lowered in our little pressure-proof look-out station on to
this submarine bank. There we shall make such observations as we can.
A speaking-tube will connect us with the ship so that we can give our
directions. There should be no difficulty in the mater. When we wish
to be hauled up we have only to say so.'

'And the air?'

'Will be pumped down to us.'

'But it will be pitch-dark.'

'That, I fear, is undoubtedly true. The experiments of Fol and Sarasin
at the Lake of Geneva show that even the ultra-violet rays are absent
at that depth. But does it matter? We shall be provided with the
powerful electric illumination from the ship's engines, supplemented
by six two-volt Hellesens dry cells connected together so as to give a
current of twelve volts. That, with a Lucas army signalling lamp as a
movable reflector, should serve our turn. Any other difficulties?'

'If our air lines tangle?'

'They won't tangle. And as a reserve we have compressed air in tubes
which would last us twenty--four hours. Well, have I satisfied you?
Will you come?'

It was not an easy decision. The brain works quickly and imagination
is a mighty vivid thing. I seemed to realize that black box down in
the primeval depths, to feel the foul twice-breathed air, and then to
see the walls sagging, bulging inwards, rending at the joints with the
water spouting in at every rivet-hole and crevice and crawling up from
below. It was a slow, dreadful death to die. But I looked up, and
there were the old man's fiery eyes fixed upon me with the exaltation
of a martyr to Science. It's catching, that sort of enthusiasm, and if
it be crazy, it is at least noble and unselfish. I caught fire from
his great flame, and I sprang to my feet with my hand out.

'Doctor, I'm with you to the end,' said I.

'I knew it,' said he. 'It was not for your smattering of learning that
I picked you, my young friend, nor,' he added, smiling, 'for your
intimate acquaintance with the pelagic crabs. There are other
qualities which may be more immediately useful, and they are loyalty
and courage.'

So with that little bit of sugar I was dismissed, with my future
pledged and my whole scheme of life in ruins. Well, the last shore
boat is leaving. They are calling for the mail. You will either not
hear from me again, my dear Talbot, or you will get a letter worth
reading. If you don't hear you can have a floating headstone and drop
it somewhere south of the Canaries with the inscription :

'Here, or Hereabouts, lies all that the fishes have left of my friend,
CYRUS J. HEADLEY.'

The second document in the case is the unintelligible wireless message
which was intercepted by several vessels, including the Royal Mail
steamer Arroya. It was received at 3 p.m. October 3rd, 1926, which
shows that it was dispatched only two days after the _Stratford_ left
the Grand Canary, as shown in the previous letter, and it corresponds
roughly with the time when the Norwegian barque saw a steamer founder
in a cyclone two hundred miles to the south-west of Porta de la Luz.
It ran thus :

Blown on our beam ends. Fear position hopeless. Have already lost
Maracot, Headley, Scanlan. Situation incomprehensible. Headley
handkerchief end of deep sea sounding wire. God help us! S. S.
_Stratford_

This was the last, incoherent message which came from the ill-fated
vessel, and part of it was so strange that it was put down to delirium
on the part of the operator. It seemed, however, to leave no doubt as
to the fate of the ship.

The explanation--if it can be accepted as an explanation--of the
matter is to be found in the narrative concealed inside the vitreous
ball, and first it would be as well to amplify the very brief account
which has hitherto appeared in the Press of the finding of the ball. I
take it verbatim from the log of the Arabella Knowles, master Amos
Green, outward bound with coals from Cardiff to Buenos Aires :

'Wednesday, Jan. 5th, 1927. Lat. 27.14, Long. 28 West. Calm weather.
Blue sky with low banks of cirrus clouds. Sea like glass. At two bells
of the middle watch the first officer reported that he had seen a
shining object bound high out of the sea, and then fall back into it.
His first impression was that it was some strange fish, but on
examination with his glasses he observed that it was a silvery globe,
or ball, which was so light that it lay, rather than floated, on the
surface of the water. I was called and saw it, as large as a football,
gleaming brightly about half a mile off on our starboard beam. I
stopped the engines and called away the quarter-boat under the second
mate, who picked the thing up and brought it aboard.

'On examination it proved to be a ball made of some sort of very tough
glass, and filled with a substance so light that when it was tossed in
the air it wavered about like a child's balloon. It was nearly
transparent, and we could see what looked like a roll of paper inside
it. The material was so tough, however, that we had the greatest
possible difficulty in breaking the ball open and getting at the
contents. A hammer would not crack it, and it was only when the chief
engineer nipped it in the throw of the engine that we were able to
smash it. Then I am sorry to say that it dissolved into sparkling
dust, so that it was impossible to collect any good-sized piece for
examination. We got the paper, however, and, having examined it and
concluded that it was of great importance, we laid it aside with the
intention of handing it over to the British Consul when we reached the
Plate River. Man and boy, I have been at sea for five-and-thirty
years, but this is the strangest thing that ever befell me, and so
says every man aboard this ship. I leave the meaning of it all to
wiser heads than mine.'

So much for the genesis of the narrative of Cyrus J. Headley, which we
will now give exactly as written :

Whom am I writing to? Well, I suppose I may say to the whole wide
world, but as that is rather a vague address I'll aim at my friend Sir
James Talbot, of Oxford University, for the reason that my last letter
was to him and this may be regarded as a continuation. I expect the
odds are a hundred to one that this ball, even if it should see the
light of day and not be gulped by a shark in passing, will toss about
on the waves and never catch the eye of the passing sailor, and yet
it's worth trying, and Maracot is sending up another, so, between us,
it may be that we shall get our wonderful story to the world. Whether
the world will believe it is another matter, I guess, but when folk
look at the ball with its vitrine cover and note its contents of
levigen gas, they will surely see for themselves that there is
something here that is out of the ordinary. You at any rate, Talbot,
will not throw it aside unread.

If anyone wants to know how the thing began, and what we were trying
to do, he can find it all in a letter I wrote you on October 1st last
year, the night before we left Porta de la Luz. By George! If I had
known what was in store for us, I think I should have sneaked into a
shore boat that night. And yet--well, maybe, even with my eyes open I
would have stood by the Doctor and seen it through. On second thoughts
I have not a doubt that I would.

Well, starting from the day that we left Grand Canary I will carry on
with my experiences.

The moment we were clear, of the port, old man Maracot fairly broke
into flames. The time for action had come at last and all the
damped-down energy of the man came flaring up. I tell you he took hold
of that ship and of everyone and everything in it, and bent it all to
his will. The dry, creaking, absent-minded scholar had suddenly
vanished, and instead there emerged a human electrical machine,
crackling with vitality and quivering from the great driving force
within. His eyes gleamed behind his glasses like flames in a lantern.
He seemed to be everywhere at once, working out distances on his
chart, comparing reckonings with the skipper, driving Bill Scanlan
along, setting me on to a hundred odd jobs, but it was all full of
method and with a definite end. He developed an unexpected knowledge
of electricity and of mechanics and spent much of his time working at
the machinery which Scanlan, under his supervision, was now carefully
piecing together.

'Say, Mr. Headley, it's just dandy,' said Bill, on the morning of the
second day. 'Come in here and have a look. The Doc. is a regular
fellow and a whale of a slick mechanic.'

I had a most unpleasant impression that it was my own coffin at which
I was gazing, but, even so, I had to admit that it was a very adequate
mausoleum. The floor had been clamped to the four steel walls, and the
porthole windows screwed into the centre of each. A small trapdoor at
the top gave admission, and there was a second one at the base. The
steel cage was supported by a thin but very powerful steel hawser,
which ran over a drum, and was paid out or rolled in by the strong
engine which we used for our deep-sea trawls. The hawser, as I
understood, was nearly half a mile in length, the slack of it coiled
round bollards on the deck. The rubber breathing-tubes were of the
same length, and the telephone wire was connected with them, and also
the wire by which the electric lights within could be operated from
the ship's batteries, though we had an independent instalment as well.

It was on the evening of that day that the engines were stopped. The
glass was low, and a thick black cloud rising upon the horizon gave
warning of coming trouble. The only ship in sight was a barque flying
the Norwegian colours, and we observed that it was reefed down, as if
expecting trouble. For the moment, however, all was propitious and the
_Stratford_ rolled gently upon a deep blue ocean, white-capped here and
there from the breath of the trade wind. Bill Scanlan came to me in my
laboratory with more show of excitement than his easy-going
temperament had ever permitted him to show.

'Look it here, Mr. Headley,' said he, 'they've lowered that
contraption into a well in the bottom of the ship. D'you figure that
the Boss is going down in it?'

'Certain sure, Bill. And I am going with him.'

'Well, well, you are sure bughouse, the two of you, to think of such a
thing. But I'd feel a cheap skate if I let you go alone.'

'It is no business of yours, Bill.!

'Well, I just feel that it is. Sure, I'd be as yellow as a Chink with
the jaundice if I let you go alone. Merribanks sent me here to look
after the machinery, and if the machinery is down at the bottom of the
sea, then it's a sure thing that it's me for the bottom. Where those
steel castings are--that's the address of Bill Scanlan--whether the
folk round him are crazy or no.'

It was useless to argue with him, so one more was added to our little
suicide club and we just waited for our orders.

All night they were hard at work upon the fittings, and it was after
an early breakfast that we descended into the hold ready for our
adventure. The steel cage had been half lowered into the false bottom,
and we now descended one by one through the upper trap-door, which was
closed and screwed down behind us, Captain Howie with a most
lugubrious face having shaken hands with each of us as we passed him.
We were then lowered a few more feet, the shutter drawn above our
heads, and the water admitted to test how far we were really
seaworthy. The cage stood the trial well, every joint fitted exactly,
and there was no sign of any leakage. Then the lower flap in the hold
was loosened and we hung suspended in the ocean beneath the level of
the keel.

It was really a very snug little room, and I marvelled at the skill
and foresight with which everything had been arranged. The electric
illumination had not been turned on, but the semi--tropical sun shone
brightly through the bottle-green water at either porthole. Some small
fish were flickering here and there, streaks of silver against the
green background. Inside there was a settee round the little room,
with a bathymetric dial, a thermometer, and other instruments ranged
above it. Beneath the settee was a row of pipes which represented our
reserve supply of compressed air in case the tubes should fail us.
Those tubes opened out above our heads, and the telephonic apparatus
hung beside them. We could all hear the mournful voice of the captain
outside.

'Are you really determined to go?' he asked.

'We are quite all right,' the Doctor answered, impatiently. 'You will
lower slowly and have someone at the receiver all the time. I will
report conditions. When we reach the bottom, remain as you are until I
give instructions. It will not do to put too much strain upon the
hawser, but a slow movement of a couple of knots an hour should be
well within its strength. And now "Lower away!" '

He yelled out the two words with the scream of a lunatic. It was the
supreme moment of his life, the fruition of all his brooding dreams.
For an instant I was shaken by the thought that we were really in the
power of a cunning, plausible monomaniac. Bill Scanlan had the same
thought, for he looked across at me with a rueful grin and touched his
forehead. But after that one wild outburst our leader was instantly
his sober, self-contained self once more. Indeed, one had but to look
at the order and forethought which showed itself in every detail
around us to be reassured as to the power of his mind.

But now all our attention was diverted to the wonderful new experience
which every instant was providing. Slowly the cage was sinking into
the depths of the ocean. Light green water turned to dark olive. That
again deepened into a wonderful blue, a rich deep blue gradually
thickening to a dusky purple. Lower and lower we sank--a hundred
feet, two hundred feet, three hundred. The valves were acting to
perfection. Our breathing was as free and natural as upon the deck of
the vessel. Slowly the bathymeter needle moved round the luminous
dial. Four hundred, five hundred, six hundred. 'How are you?' roared
an anxious voice from above us.

'Nothing could be better,' cried Maracot in reply. But the light was
failing. There was now only a dim grey twilight which rapidly changed
to utter darkness. 'Stop her!' shouted our leader. We ceased to move
and hung suspended at seven hundred feet below the surface of the
ocean. I heard the click of the switch, and the next instant we were
flooded with glorious golden light which poured out through each of
our side windows and sent long glimmering vistas into the waste of
waters round us. With our faces against the thick glass, each at our
own porthole, we gazed out into such a prospect as man had never seen.

Up to now we had known these strata by the sight of the few fish which
had been too slow to avoid our clumsy trawl, or too stupid to escape a
drag-net. Now we saw the wonderful world of water as it really was. If
the object of creation was the production of man, it is strange that
the ocean is so much more populous than the land. Broadway on a
Saturday night, Lombard Street on a week-day afternoon, are not more
crowded than the great sea spaces which lay before us. We had passed
those surface strata where fish are either colourless or of the true
maritime tints of ultramarine above and silver below. Here there were
creatures of every conceivable tint and form which pelagic life can
show. Delicate leptocephali or eel larva shot like streaks of
burnished silver across the tunnel of radiance. The slow snake-like
form of muroena, the deepsea lamprey, writhed and twisted by, or the
black ceratia, all spikes and mouth, gaped foolishly back at our
peering faces. Sometimes it was the squat cuttlefish which drifted
across and glanced at us with human sinister eyes, sometimes it was
some crystal-clear pelagic form of life, cystoma or glaucus, which
lent a flower--like charm to the scene. One huge caranx, or horse
mackerel, butted savagely again and again against our window until the
dark shadow of a seven-foot shark came across him, and he vanished
into its gaping jaws. Dr. Maracot sat entranced, his notebook upon his
knee, scribbling down his observations and keeping up a muttered
monologue of scientific comment. 'What's that? What's that?' I would
hear. 'Yes, yes, chimoera mirabilis as taken by the Michael Sars. Dear
me, there is lepidion, but a new species as I should judge. Observe
that macrurus, Mr. Headley; its colouring is quite different to what
we get in the net.' Once only was he taken quite aback. It was when a
long oval object shot with great speed past his window from above, and
left a vibrating tail behind it which extended as far as we could see
above us and below. I admit that I was as puzzled for the moment as
the Doctor, and it was Bill Scanlan who solved the mystery.

'I guess that boob, John Sweeney, has heaved his lead alongside of us.
Kind of a joke, maybe, to prevent us from feeling lonesome.'

'To be sure! To be sure!' said Maracot, sniggering. 'Plumbus
longicaudatus--a new genus, Mr. Headley, with a piano-wire tail and
lead in its nose. But, indeed, it is very necessary they should take
soundings so as to keep above the bank, which is circumscribed in
size. All well, Captain!' he shouted. 'You may drop us down.'

And down we went. Dr. Maracot turned off the electric light and all
was pitch-darkness once more save for the bathymeter's luminous face,
which ticked off our steady fall. There was a gentle sway, but
otherwise we were hardly conscious of any motion. Only that moving
hand upon the dial told us of our terrific, our inconceivable,
position. Now we were at the thousand-foot level, and the air had
become distinctly foul. Scanlan oiled the valve of the discharge tube
and things were better. At fifteen hundred feet we stopped and swung
in mid-ocean with our lights blazing once more. Some great dark mass
passed us here, but whether swordfish or deep-sea shark, or monster of
unknown breed, was more than we could determine. The Doctor hurriedly
turned off the lights. 'There lies our chief danger,' said he; 'there
are creatures in the deep before whose charge this steel-plated room
would have as much chance as a beehive before the rush of a
rhinoceros.'

'Whales, maybe,' said Scanlan.

'Whales may sound to a great depth,' the savant answered. 'A Greenland
whale has been known to take out nearly a mile of line in a
perpendicular dive. But unless hurt or badly frightened no whale would
descend so low. It may have been a giant squid: They are found at
every level.'

'Well, I guess squids are too soft to hurt us. The laugh would be with
the squid if he could claw a hole in Merribanks' nickel steel.'

'Their bodies may be soft,' the Professor answered, 'but the beak of a
large squid would sheer through a bar of iron, and one peck of that
beak might go through these inch-thick windows as if they were
parchment.'

'Gee Whittaker!' cried Bill, as we resumed our downward journey.

And then at last, quite softly and gently, we came to rest. So
delicate was the impact that we should hardly have known of it had it
not been that the light when turned on showed great coils of the
hawser all around us. The wire was a danger to our breathing tubes,
for it might foul them, and at the urgent cry of Maracot it was pulled
taut from above once more. The dial marked eighteen hundred feet. We
lay motionless on a volcanic ridge at the bottom of the Atlantic.



Chapter 2

For a time I think that we all had the same feeling. We did not want
to do anything or to see anything. We just wanted to sit quiet and try
to realize the wonder of it--that we should be resting in the plumb
centre of one of the great oceans of the world. But soon the strange
scene round us, illuminated in all directions by our lights, drew us
to the windows.

We had settled upon a bed of high algae ('Cutleria multifida,' said
Maracot), the yellow fronds of which waved around us, moved by some
deep-sea current, exactly as branches would move in a summer breeze.
They were not long enough to obscure our view, though their great flat
leaves, deep golden in the light, flowed occasionally across our
vision. Beyond them lay slopes of some blackish slag-like material
which were dotted with lovely coloured creatures, holothurians,
ascidians, echini and echinoderms, as thickly as ever an English
spring time bank was sprinkled with hyacinths and primroses. These
living flowers of the sea, vivid scarlet, rich purple and delicate
pink, were spread in profusion upon that coal-black background. Here
and there great sponges bristled out from the crevices of the dark
rocks, and a few fish of the middle depths, themselves showing up as
flashes of colour, shot across our circle of vivid radiance. We were
gazing enraptured at the fairy scene when an anxious voice came down
the tube:

'Well, how do you like the bottom? Is all well with you? Don't be too
long, for the glass is dropping and I don't like the look of it.
Giving you air enough? Anything more we can do?'

'All right, Captain!' cried Maracot, cheerily. 'We won't be long. You
are nursing us well. We are quite as comfortable as in our own cabin.
Stand by presently to move us slowly forwards.'

We had come into the region of the luminous fishes, and it amused us
to turn out our own lights, and in the absolute pitch-darkness--a
darkness in which a sensitive plate can be suspended for an hour
without a trace even of the ultra-violet ray--to look out at the
phosphorescent activity of the ocean. As against a black velvet
curtain one saw little points of brilliant light moving steadily along
as a liner at night might shed light through its long line of
portholes. One terrifying creature had luminous teeth which gnashed in
Biblical fashion in the outer darkness. Another had long golden
antennae, and yet another a plume of flame above its head. As far as
our vision carried, brilliant points flashed in the darkness, each
little being bent upon its own business, and lighting up its own
course as surely as the nightly taxicab at the theatre-hour in the
Strand. Soon we had our own lights up again and the Doctor was making
his observations of the sea-bottom.

'Deep as we are, we are not deep enough to get any of the
characteristic Bathic deposits,' said he. 'These are entirely beyond
our possible range. Perhaps on another occasion with a longer hawser-'

'Cut it out!' growled Bill. 'Forget it!'

Maracot smiled. 'You will soon get acclimatized to the depths,
Scanlan. This will not be our only descent.'

'The Hell you say!' muttered Bill.

'You will think no more of it than of going down into the hold of the
_Stratford_. You will observe, Mr. Headley, that the groundwork here, so
far as we can observe it through the dense growth of hydrozoa and
silicious sponges, is pumicestone and the black slag of basalt,
pointing to ancient plutonic activities. Indeed, I am inclined to
think that it confirms my previous view that this ridge is part of a
volcanic formation and that the Maracot Deep,' he rolled out the words
as if he loved them, 'represents the outer slope of the mountain. It
has struck me that it would be an interesting experiment to move our
cage slowly onwards until we come to the edge of the Deep, and see
exactly what the formation may be at that point. I should expect to
find a precipice of majestic dimensions extending downwards at a sharp
angle into the extreme depths of the ocean.'

The experiment seemed to me to be a dangerous one, for who could say
how far our thin hawser could bear the strain of lateral movement; but
with Maracot danger, either to himself or to anyone else, simply did
not exist when a scientific observation had to be made. I held my
breath, and so I observed did Bill Scanlan, when a slow movement of
our steel shell, brushing aside the waving fronds of seaweed, showed
that the full strain was upon the line. It stood it nobly, however,
and with a very gentle sweeping progression we began to glide over the
bottom of the ocean, Maracot, with a compass in the hollow of his
hand, shouting his direction as to the course to follow, and
occasionally ordering the shell to be raised so as to avoid some
obstacle in our path.

'This basaltic ridge can hardly be more than a mile across,' he
explained. 'I had marked the abyss as being to the west of the point
where we took our plunge. At this rate, we should certainly reach it
in a very short time.'

We slid without any check over the volcanic plain, all feathered by
the waving golden algae and made beautiful by the gorgeous jewels of
Nature's cutting, flaming out from their setting of jet. Suddenly the
Doctor dashed to the telephone.

'Stop her!' he cried. 'We are there!'

A monstrous gap had opened suddenly before us. It was a fearsome
place, the vision of a nightmare. Black shining cliffs of basalt fell
sheer down into the unknown. Their edges were fringed with dangling
laminaria as ferns might overhang some earthly gorge, but beneath that
tossing, vibrating rim there were only the black gleaming walls of the
chasm. The rocky edge curved away from us, but the abyss might be of
any breadth, for our lights failed to penetrate the gloom which lay
before us. When a Lucas signalling lamp was turned downwards it shot
out a long golden lane of parallel beams extending down, down, down
until it was quenched in the gloom of the terrible chasm beneath us.

'It is indeed wonderful!' cried Maracot, gazing out with a pleased
proprietary expression upon his thin, eager face. 'For depth I need
not say that it has often been exceeded. There is the Challenger Deep
of twenty-six thousand feet near the Ladrone Islands, the Planet Deep
of thirty-two thousand feet off the Philippines, and many others, but
it is probable that the Maracot Deep stands alone in the declivity of
its descent, and is remarkable also for its escape from the
observation of so many hydrographic explorers who have charted the
Atlantic. It can hardly be doubted-'

He had stopped in the middle of a sentence and a look of intense
interest and surprise had frozen upon his face. Bill Scanlan and I,
gazing over his shoulders, were petrified by that which met our
startled eyes.

Some great creature was coming up the tunnel of light which we had
projected into the abyss. Far down where it tailed off into the
darkness of the pit we could dimly see the vague black lurchings and
heavings of some monstrous body in slow upward progression. Paddling
in clumsy fashion, it was rising with dim flickerings to the edge of
the gulf. Now, as it came nearer, it was right in the beam, and we
could see its dreadful form more clearly. It was a beast unknown to
Science, and yet with an analogy to much with which we are familiar.
Too long for a huge crab and too short for a giant lobster, it was
moulded more upon the lines of the crayfish, with two monstrous
nippers outstretched on either side, and a pair of sixteen-foot
antennae which quivered in front of its black dull sullen eyes. The
carapace, light yellow in colour, may have been ten feet across, and
its total length, apart from the antennae, must have been not less
than thirty.

'Wonderful!' cried Maracot, scribbling desperately in his notebook.
'Semi-pediculated eyes, elastic lamellae, family crustacea, species
unknown. Crustaceus Maracoti--why not? Why not?'

'By gosh, I'll pass its name, but it seems to me it's coming our way!'
cried Bill. 'Say, Doc, what about putting our light out?'

'Just one moment while I note the reticulations!' cried the
naturalist. 'Yes, yes, that will do.' He clicked off the switch and we
were back in our inky darkness, with only the darting lights outside
like meteors on a moonless night.

'That beast is sure the world's worst,' said Bill, wiping his
forehead. 'I felt like the morning after a bottle of Prohibition
Hoosh.'

'It is certainly terrible to look at,' Maracot remarked, 'and perhaps
terrible to deal with also if we were really exposed to those
monstrous claws. But inside our steel case we can afford to examine
him in safety and at our ease.'

He had hardly spoken when there came a rap as from a pickaxe upon our
outer wall. Then there was a long drawn rasping and scratching, ending
in another sharp rap.

'Say, he wants to come in!' cried Bill Scanlan in alarm. 'By gosh! we
want "No Admission" painted on this shack.' His shaking voice showed
how forced was his merriment, and I confess that my own knees were
knocking together as I was aware of the stealthy monster closing up
with an even blacker darkness each of our windows in succession, as he
explored this strange shell which, could he but crack it, might
contain his food.

'He can't hurt us,' said Maracot, but there was less assurance in his
tone. 'Maybe it would be as well to shake the brute off.' He hailed
the Captain up the tube.

'Pull us up twenty or thirty feet,' he cried.

A few seconds later we rose from the lava plain and swung gently in
the still water. But the terrible beast was pertinacious. After a very
short interval we heard once more the raspings of his feelers and the
sharp tappings of his claws as he felt us round. It was terrible to
sit silently in the dark and know that death was so near. If that
mighty claw fell upon the window, would it stand the strain? That was
the unspoken question in each of our minds.

But suddenly an unexpected and more urgent danger presented itself.
The tappings had gone to the roof of our little dwelling, and now we
began to sway with a rhythmic movement to and fro.

'Good God!' I cried. 'It has hold of the hawser. It will surely snap
it.'

'Say, Doc, it's mine for the surface. I guess we've seen what we came
to see, and it's home, sweet home for Bill Scanlan. Ring up the
elevator and get her going.'

'But our work is not half done,' croaked Maracot. 'We have only begun
to explore the edges of the Deep. Let us at least see how broad it is.
When we have reached the other side I shall be content to return.'
Then up the tube: 'All well, Captain. Move on at two knots until I
call for a stop.'

We moved slowly out over the edge of the abyss. Since darkness had not
saved us from attack we now turned on our lights. One of the portholes
was entirely obscured by what appeared to be the creature's lower
stomach. Its head and its great nippers were at work above us, and we
still swayed like a clanging bell. The strength of the beast must have
been enormous. Were ever mortals placed in such a situation, with five
miles of water beneath--and that deadly monster above? The
oscillations became more and more violent. An excited shout came down
the tube from the Captain as he became aware of the jerks upon the
hawser, and Maracot sprang to his feet with his hands thrown upwards
in despair. Even within the shell we were aware of the jar of the
broken wires, and an instant later we were falling into the mighty
gulf beneath us.

As I look back at that awful moment I can remember hearing a wild cry
from Maracot.

'The hawser has parted! You can do nothing! We are all dead men!' he
yelled, grabbing at the telephone tube, and then, 'Good-bye, Captain,
good-bye to all.' They were our last words to the world of men.

We did not fall swiftly down, as you might have imagined. In spite of
our weight our hollow shell gave us some sustaining buoyancy, and we
sank slowly and gently into the abyss. I heard the long scrape as we
slid through the claws of the horrible creature who had been our ruin,
and then with a smooth gyration we went circling downwards into the
abysmal depths. It may have been fully five minutes, and it seemed
like an hour, before we reached the limit of our telephone wire and
snapped it like a thread. Our air tube broke off at almost the same
moment and the salt water came spouting through the vents. With quick,
deft hands Bill Scanlan tied cords round each of the rubber tubes and
so stopped the inrush, while the Doctor released the top of our
compressed air which came hissing forth from the tubes. The lights had
gone out when the wire snapped, but even in the dark the Doctor was
able to connect up the Hellesens dry cells which lit a number of lamps
in the roof.

'It should last us a week,' he said, with a wry smile. 'We shall at
least have light to die in.' Then he shook his head sadly and a kindly
smile came over his gaunt features. 'It is all right for me. I am an
old man and have done my work in the world. My one regret is that I
should have allowed you two young fellows to come with me. I should
have taken the risk alone.'

I simply shook his hand in reassurance, for indeed there was nothing I
could say. Bill Scanlan, too, was silent. Slowly we sank, marking our
pace by the dark fish shadows which flitted past our windows. It
seemed as if they were flying upwards rather than that we were sinking
down. We still oscillated, and there was nothing so far as I could see
to prevent us from falling on our side, or even turning upside down.
Our weight, however, was, fortunately, very evenly balanced and we
kept a level floor. Glancing up at the bathymeter I saw that we had
already reached the depth of a mile.

'You see, it is as I said,' remarked Maracot, with some complacency.
'You may have seen my paper in the Proceedings of the Oceanographical
Society upon the relation of pressure and depth. I wish I could get
one word back to the world, if only to confute Bulow of Giessen, who
ventured to contradict me.'

'My gosh! If I could get a word back to the world I wouldn't waste it
on a square-head highbrow,' said the mechanic. 'There is a little wren
in Philadelphia that will have tears in her pretty eyes when she hears
that Bill Scanlan has passed out. Well, it sure does seem a darned
queer way of doing it, anyhow.'

'You should never have come,' I said, putting my hand on his.

'What sort of tin-horn sport should I have been if I had quitted?' he
answered. 'No, it's my job, and I am glad I stuck it.'

'How long have we?' I asked the Doctor, after a pause.

He shrugged his shoulders.

'We shall have time to see the real bottom of the ocean, anyhow,' said
he. 'There is air enough in our tubes for the best part of a day. Our
trouble is with the waste products. That is what is going to choke us.
If we could get rid of our carbon dioxide-'

'That I can see is impossible.'

'There is one tube of pure oxygen. I put it in in case of accidents. A
little of that from time to time will help to keep us alive. You will
observe that we are now more than two miles deep.'

'Why should we try to keep ourselves alive? The sooner it is over the
better,' said I.

'That's the dope,' cried Scanlan. 'Cut loose and have done with it.' .

'And miss the most wonderful sight that man's eye has ever seen!' said
Maracot. 'It would be treason to Science. Let us record facts to the
end, even if they should be for ever buried with our bodies. Play the
game out.'

'Some sport, the Doc!' cried Scanlan. 'I guess he has the best guts of
the bunch. Let us see the spiel to an end.'

We sat patiently on the settee, the three of us, gripping the edges of
it with strained fingers as it swayed and rocked, while the fishes
still flashed swiftly upwards athwart the portholes.

'It is now three miles,' remarked Maracot. 'I will turn on the oxygen,
Mr. Headley, for it is certainly very close. There is one thing,' he
added, with his dry, cackling laugh, 'it will certainly be the Maracot
Deep from this time onwards. When Captain Howie takes back the news my
colleagues will see to it that my grave is also my monument. Even
Bulow of Giessen-' He babbled on about some unintelligible scientific
grievance.

We sat in silence again, watching the needle as it crawled on to its
fourth mile. At one point we struck something heavy, which shook us so
violently that I feared that we would turn upon our side. It may have
been a huge fish, or conceivably we may have bumped upon some
projection of the cliff over the edge of which we had been
precipitated. That edge had seemed to us at the time to be such a
wondrous depth, and now looking back at it from our dreadful abyss it
might almost have been the surface. Still we swirled and circled lower
and lower through the dark green waste of waters. Twenty-five thousand
feet now was registered upon the dial.

'We are nearly at our journey's end,' said Maracot. 'My Scott's
recorder gave me twenty-six thousand seven hundred last year at the
deepest point. We shall know our fate within a few minutes. It may be
that the shock will crush us. It may be--'

And at that moment we landed.

There was never a babe lowered by its mother on to a feather-bed who
nestled down more gently than we on to the extreme bottom of the
Atlantic Ocean. The soft thick elastic ooze upon which we lit was a
perfect buffer, which saved us from the slightest jar. We hardly moved
upon our seats, and it is as well that we did not, for we had perched
upon some sort of a projecting hummock, clothed thickly with the
viscous gelatinous mud, and there we were balanced rocking gently with
nearly half our base projecting and unsupported. There was a danger
that we would tip over on our side, but finally we steadied down and
remained motionless. As we did so Dr. Maracot, staring out through his
porthole, gave a cry of surprise and hurriedly turned out our electric
light.

To our amazement we could still see clearly. There was a dim, misty
light outside which streamed through our porthole, like the cold
radiance of a winter morning. We looked out at the strange scene, and
with no help from our own lights we could see clearly for some hundred
yards in each direction. It was impossible, inconceivable, but none
the less the evidence of our senses told us that it was a fact. The
great ocean floor is luminous.

'Why not?' cried Maracot, when we had stood for a minute or two in
silent wonder. 'Should I not have foreseen it? What is this pteropod
or globigerina ooze? Is it not the product of decay, the mouldering
bodies of a billion billion organic creatures? And is decay not
associated with phosphorescent luminosity? Where, in all creation,
would it be seen if it were not here? Ah! It is indeed hard that we
should have such a demonstration and be unable to send our knowledge
back to the world.'

'And yet,' I remarked, 'we have scooped half a ton of radiolarian
jelly at a time and detected no such radiance.'

'It would lose it, doubtless, in its long journey to the surface. And
what is half a ton compared to these far-stretching plains of slow
putrescence? And see, see,' he cried in uncontrollable excitement,
'the deep-sea creatures graze upon this organic carpet even as our
herds on land graze upon the meadows!'

As he spoke a flock of big black fish, heavy and squat, came slowly
over the ocean bed towards us, nuzzling among the spongy growths and
nibbling away as they advanced. Another huge red creature, like a
foolish cow of the ocean, was chewing the cud in front of my porthole,
and others were grazing here and there, raising their heads from, time
to time to gaze at this strange object which had so suddenly appeared
among them.

I could only marvel at Maracot, who in that foul atmosphere, seated
under the very shadow of death, still obeyed the call of Science and
scribbled his observations in his notebook. Without following his
precise methods, I none the less made my own mental notes, which will
remain for ever as a picture stamped upon my brain. The lowest plains
of ocean consist of red clay, but here it was overlaid by the grey
bathybian slime which formed an undulating plain as far as our eyes
could reach. This plain was not smooth, but was broken by numerous
strange rounded hillocks like that upon which we had perched, all
glimmering in the spectral light. Between these little hills there
darted great clouds of strange fish, many of them quite unknown to
Science, exhibiting every shade of colour, but black and red
predominating. Maracot watched them with suppressed excitement and
chronicled them in his notes.

The air had become very foul, and again we were only able to save
ourselves by a fresh emission of oxygen. Curiously enough, we were all
hungry--I should rather say ravenous--and we fell upon the potted
beef with bread and butter, washed down by whisky and water, which the
foresight of Maracot had provided. With my perceptions stimulated by
this refreshment, I was seated at my lookout portal and longing for a
last cigarette, when my eyes caught something which sent a whirl of
strange thoughts and anticipations through my mind.

I have said that the undulating grey plain on every side of us was
studded with what seemed like hummocks. A particularly large one was
in front of my porthole, and I looked out at it within a range of
thirty feet. There was some peculiar mark upon the side of it, and as
I glanced along I saw to my surprise that this mark was repeated again
and again until it was lost round the curve. When one is so near death
it takes much to give one a thrill about anything connected with this
world, but my breath failed me for a moment and my heart stood still
as I suddenly realized that it was a frieze at which I was looking and
that, barnacled and worn as it was, the hand of man had surely at some
time carved these faded figures. Maracot and Scanlan crowded to my
porthole and gazed out in utter amazement at these signs of the
omnipresent energies of man.

'It is carving, for sure!' cried Scanlan. 'I guess this dump has been
the roof of a building. Then these other ones are buildings also. Say,
boss, we've dropped plumb on to a regular burg.'

'It is, indeed, an ancient city,' said Maracot. 'Geology teaches that
the seas have once been continents and the continents seas, but I have
always distrusted the idea that in times so recent as the quaternary
there could have been an Atlantic subsidence. Plato's report of
Egyptian gossip had then a foundation of fact. These volcanic
formations confirm the view that this subsidence was due to seismic
activity.'

'There is regularity about these domes,' I remarked. 'I begin to think
that they are not separate houses, but that they are cupolas and form
the ornaments of the roof of some huge building.'

'I guess you are right,' said Scanlan. 'There are four big ones at the
corners and the small ones in lines between. It's some building, if we
could see the whole of it! You could put the whole Merribank plant
inside it--and then some.'

'It has been buried up to the roof by the constant dropping from
above,' said Maracot. 'On the other hand, it has not decayed. We have
a constant temperature of a little over 32 Fahrenheit in the great
depths, which would arrest destructive processes. Even the dissolution
of the Bathic remains which pave the floor of the ocean and
incidentally give us this luminosity must be a very slow one. But,
dear me! this marking is not a frieze but an inscription.'

There was no doubt that he was right. The same symbol recurred every
here and there. These marks were unquestionably letters of some
archaic alphabet.

'I have made a study of Phoenician antiquities, and there is certainly
something suggestive and familiar in these characters,' said our
leader. 'Well, we have seen a buried city of ancient days, my friends,
and we carry a wonderful piece of knowledge with us to the grave.
There is no more to be learned. Our book of knowledge is closed. I
agree with you that the sooner the end comes the better.'

It could not now be long delayed. The air was stagnant and dreadful.
So heavy was it with carbon products that the oxygen could hardly
force its way out against the pressure. By standing on the settee one
was able to get a gulp of purer air, but the mephitic reek was slowly
rising. Dr. Maracot folded his arms with an air of resignation and
sank his head upon his breast. Scanlan was now overpowered by the
fumes and was already sprawling upon the floor. My own head was
swimming, and I felt an intolerable weight at my chest. I closed my
eyes and my senses were rapidly slipping away. Then I opened them for
one last glimpse of that world which I was leaving, and as I did so I
staggered to my feet with a hoarse scream of amazement.

A human face was looking in at us through the porthole!

Was it my delirium? I clutched at the shoulder of Maracot and shook
him violently. He sat up and stared, wonder-struck and speechless at
this apparition. If he saw it as well as I, it was no figment of the
brain. The face was long and thin, dark in complexion, with a short,
pointed beard, and two vivid eyes darting here and there in quick,
questioning glances which took in every detail of our situation. The
utmost amazement was visible upon the man's face. Our lights were now
full on, and it must indeed have been a strange and vivid picture
which presented itself to his gaze in that tiny chamber of death,
where one man lay senseless and two others glared out at him with the
twisted, contorted features of dying men, cyanosed by incipient
asphyxiation. We both had our hands to our throats, and our heaving
chests carried their message of despair. The man gave a wave of his
hand and hurried away.

'He has deserted us!' cried Maracot.

'Or gone for help. Let us get Scanlan on the couch. It's death for him
down there.'

We dragged the mechanic on to the settee and propped his head against
the cushions. His face was grey and he murmured in delirium, but his
pulse was still perceptible.

'There is hope for us yet,' I croaked.

'But it is madness!' cried Maracot. 'How can man live at the bottom of
the ocean? How can he breathe? It is collective hallucination. My
young friend, we are going mad.'

Looking out at the bleak, lonely grey landscape in the dreary spectral
light, I felt that it might be as Maracot said. Then suddenly I was
aware of movement. Shadows were flitting through the distant water.
They hardened and thickened into moving figures. A crowd of people
were hurrying across the ocean bed in our direction. An instant later
they had assembled in front of the porthole and were pointing and
gesticulating in animated debate. There were several women in the
crowd, but the greater part were men, one of whom, a powerful figure
with a very large head and a full black beard, was clearly a person of
authority. He made a swift inspection of our steel shell, and, since
the edge of our base projected over the place on which we rested, he
was able to see that there was a hinged trap-door at the bottom. He
now sent a messenger flying back, while he made energetic and
commanding signs to us to open the door from within.

'Why not?' I asked. 'We may as well be drowned as be smothered. I can
stand it no longer.'

'We may not be drowned,' said Maracot. 'The water entering from below
cannot rise above the level of the compressed air. Give Scanlan some
brandy. He must make an effort, if it is his last one.'

I forced a drink down the mechanic's throat. He gulped and looked
round him with wondering eyes. Between us we got him erect on the
settee and stood on either side of him. He was still half-dazed, but
in a few words I explained the situation.

'There is a chance of chlorine poisoning if the water reaches the
batteries,' said Maracot. 'Open every air tube, for the more pressure
we can get the less water may enter. Now help me while I pull upon the
lever.'

We bent our weight upon it and yanked up the circular plate from the
bottom of our little home, though I felt like a suicide as I did so.
The green water, sparkling and gleaming under our light, came gurgling
and surging in. It rose rapidly to our feet, to our knees, to our
waists, and there it stopped. But the pressure of the air was
intolerable. Our heads buzzed and the drums of our ears were bursting.
We could not have lived in such an atmosphere for long. Only by
clutching at the rack could we save ourselves from falling back into
the waters beneath us.

From our higher position we could no longer see through the portholes,
nor could we imagine what steps were being taken for our deliverance.
Indeed, that any effective help could come to us seemed beyond the
power of thought, and yet there was a commanding and purposeful air
about these people, and especially about that squat bearded chieftain,
which inspired vague hopes. Suddenly we were aware of his face looking
up at us through the water beneath and an instant later he had passed
through the circular opening and had clambered on to the settee, so
that he was standing by our side--a short sturdy figure, not higher
than my shoulder, but surveying us with large brown eyes, which were
full of a half-amused confidence, as who should say, 'You poor devils;
you think you are in a very bad way, but I can clearly see the road
out.'

Only now was I aware of a very amazing thing. The man, if indeed he
was of the same humanity as ourselves, had a transparent envelope all
round him which enveloped his head and body, while his arms and legs
were free. So translucent was it that no one could detect it in the
water, but now that he was in the air beside us it glistened like
silver, though it remained as clear as the finest glass. On either
shoulder he had a curious rounded projection beneath the clear
protective sheath. It looked like an oblong box pierced with many
holes, and gave him an appearance as if he were wearing epaulettes.

When our new friend had joined us another face appeared in the
aperture of the bottom and thrust through it what seemed like a great
bubble of glass. Three of these in succession were passed in and
floated upon the surface of the water. Then six small boxes were
handed up and our new acquaintance tied one with the straps attached
to them to each of our shoulders, whence they stood up like his own.
Already I began to surmise that no infraction of natural law was
involved in the life of these strange people, and that while one box
in some new fashion was a producer of air the other was an absorber of
waste products. He now passed the transparent suits over our heads,
and we felt that they clasped us tightly in the upper arm and waist by
elastic bands, so that no water could penetrate. Within we breathed
with perfect ease, and it was a joy to me to see Maracot looking out
at me with his eyes twinkling as of old behind his glasses, while Bill
Scanlan's grin assured me that the life-giving oxygen had done its
work, and that he was his cheerful self once more. Our rescuer looked
from one to another of us with grave satisfaction, and then motioned
to us to follow him through the trap-door and out on to the floor of
the ocean. A dozen willing hands were outstretched to pull us through
and to sustain our first faltering steps as we staggered with our feet
deep in the slimy ooze.

Even now I cannot get past the marvel of it! There we were, the three
of us, unhurt and at our ease at the bottom of a five-mile abyss of
water. Where was that terrific pressure which had exercised the
imagination of so many scientists? We were no more affected by it than
were the dainty fish which swam around us. It is true that, so far as
our bodies were concerned, we were protected by these delicate bells
of vitrine, which were in truth tougher than the strongest steel, but
even our limbs, which were exposed, felt no more than a firm
constriction from the water which one learned in time to disregard. It
was wonderful to stand together and to look back at the shell from
which we had emerged. We had left the batteries at work, and it was a
wondrous object with its streams of yellow light flooding out from
each side, while clouds of fishes gathered at each window. As we
watched it the leader took Maracot by the hand, and we followed them
both across the watery morass, clumping heavily through the sticky
surface.

And now a most surprising incident occurred, which was clearly as
astonishing to these strange new companions of ours as to ourselves.
Above our heads there appeared a small, dark object, descending from
the darkness above us and swinging down until it reached the bed of
the ocean within a very short distance from where we stood. It was, of
course, the deep-sea lead from the _Stratford_ above us, making a
sounding of that watery gulf with which the name of the expedition was
to be associated. We had seen it already upon its downward path, and
we could well understand that the tragedy of our disappearance had
suspended the operation, but that after a pause it had been concluded,
with little thought that it would finish almost at our feet. They were
unconscious, apparently, that they had touched bottom, for the lead
lay motionless in the ooze. Above me stretched the taut piano wire
which connected me through five miles of water with the deck of our
vessel. Oh, that it were possible to write a note and to attach it!
The idea was absurd, and yet could I not send some message which would
show them that we were still conscious? My coat was covered by my
glass bell and the pockets were unapproachable, but I was free below
the waist and my handkerchief chanced to be in my trousers pocket. I
pulled it out and tied it above the top of the lead. The weight at
once disengaged itself by its automatic mechanism, and presently I saw
my white wisp of linen flying upwards to that world which I may never
see again. Our new acquaintances examined the seventy-five pounds of
lead with great interest, and finally carried it off with us as we
went upon our way.

We had only walked a couple of hundred yards, threading our way among
the hummocks, when we halted before a small square-cut door with solid
pillars on either side and an inscription across the lintel. It was
open, and we passed through it into a large, bare chamber. There was a
sliding partition worked by a crank from within, and this was drawn
across behind us. We could, of course, hear nothing in our glass
helmets, but after standing a few minutes we were aware that a
powerful pump must be at work, for we saw the level of the water
sinking rapidly above us. In less than a quarter of an hour we were
standing upon a sloppy stone-flagged pavement, while our new friends
were busy in undoing the fastenings of our transparent suits. An
instant later there we stood, breathing perfectly pure air in a warm,
well-lighted atmosphere, while the dark people of the abyss, smiling
and chattering, crowded round us with hand-shakings and friendly
pattings. It was a strange, rasping tongue that they spoke, and no
word of it was intelligible to us, but the smile on the face and the
light of friendship in the eye are understandable even in the waters
under the earth. The glass suits were hung on numbered pegs upon the
wall, and the kindly folk half led and half pushed us to an inner door
which opened on to a long downward-sloping corridor. When it closed
again behind us there was nothing to remind us of the stupendous fact
that we were the involuntary guests of an unknown race at the bottom
of the Atlantic ocean and cut off for ever from the world to which we
belonged.

Now that the terrific strain had been so suddenly eased we were all
exhausted. Even Bill Scanlan, who was a pocket Hercules, dragged his
feet along the floor, while Maracot and I were only too glad to lean
heavily upon our guides. Yet, weary as I was, I took in every detail
as we passed. That the air came from some air-making machine was very
evident, for it issued in puffs from circular openings in the walls.
The light was diffused and was clearly an extension of that fluor
system which was already engaging the attention of our European
engineers when the filament and lamp were dispensed with. It shone
from long cylinders of clear glass which were suspended along the
cornices of the passages. So much I had observed when our descent was
checked and we were ushered into a large sitting-room, thickly
carpeted and well furnished with gilded chairs and sloping sofas which
brought back vague memories of Egyptian tombs. The crowd had been
dismissed and only the bearded man with two attendants remained.
'Manda' he repeated several times, tapping himself upon the chest.
Then he pointed to each of us in turn and repeated the words Maracot,
Headley and Scanlan until he had them perfect. He then motioned us to
be seated and said a word to one of the attendants, who left the room
and returned presently, escorting a very ancient gentleman,
white-haired and long-bearded, with a curious conical cap of black
cloth upon his head. I should have said that all these folk were
dressed in coloured tunics, which extended to their knees, with high
boots of fish skin or shagreen. The venerable newcomer was clearly a
physician, for he examined each of us in turn, placing his hand upon
our brows and closing his own eyes as if receiving a mental impression
as to our condition. Apparently he was by no means satisfied, for he
shook his head and said a few grave words to Manda. The latter at once
sent the attendant out once more, and he brought in a tray of eatables
and a flask of wine, which were laid before us. We were too weary to
ask ourselves what they were, but we felt the better for the meal. We
were then led to another room, where three beds had been prepared, and
on one of these I flung myself down. I have a dim recollection of Bill
Scanlan coming across and sitting beside me.

'Say, Bo, that jolt of brandy saved my life,' said he. 'But where are
we, anyhow?'

'I know no more than you do.'

'Well, I am ready to hit the hay,' he said, sleepily, as he turned to
his bed. 'Say, that wine was fine. Thank God, Volstead never got down
here.' They were the last words I heard as I sank into the most
profound sleep that I can ever recall.



Chapter 3

When I came to myself I could not at first imagine where I was. The
events of the previous day were like some blurred nightmare, and I
could not believe that I had to accept them as facts. I looked round
in bewilderment at the large, bare, windowless room with drab-coloured
walls, at the lines of quivering purplish light which flowed along the
cornices, at the scattered articles of furniture, and finally at the
two other beds, from one of which came the high-pitched, strident
snore which I had learned aboard the _Stratford_, to associate with
Maracot. It was too grotesque to be true, and it was only when I
fingered my bed cover and observed the curious woven material, the
dried fibres of some sea plant, from which it was made, that I was
able to realize this inconceivable eadventure which had befallen us. I
was still pondering it when there came a loud explosion of laughter,
and Bill Scanlan sat up in bed.

'Mornin', Bo!' he cried, amid his chuckles, on seeing that I was
awake.

'You seem in good spirits,' said I, rather testily. 'I can't see that
we have much to laugh about.'

'Well, I had a grouch on me, the same as you, when first I woke up,'
he answered. 'Then came a real cute idea, and it was that that made me
laugh.'

'I could do with a laugh myself,' said I. 'What's the idea?'

'Well, Bo, I thought how durned funny it would have been if we had all
tied ourselves on to that deep-sea line. I allow with those glass
dinguses we could have kept breathing all right. Then when old man
Howie looked over the side there would have been the whole bunch of us
comin' up at him through the water. He would have figured that he had
hooked us, sure. Gee, what a spiel!'

Our united laughter woke the Doctor, who sat up in bed with the same
amazed expression upon his face which had previously been upon my own.
I forgot our troubles as I listened in amusement to his disjointed
comments, which alternated between ecstatic joy at the prospect of
such a field of study, and profound sorrow that he could never hope to
convey his results to his scientific confreres of the earth. Finally
he got back to the actual needs of the moment.

'It is nine o'clock,' he said, looking at his watch. We all registered
the same hour, but there was nothing to show if it was night or
morning.

'We must keep our own calendar,' said Maracot; 'we descended upon
October 3rd. We reached this place on the evening of the same day. How
long have we slept?'

'My gosh, it may have been a month,' said Scanlan, 'I've not been so
deep since Mickey Scott got me on the point in the six round try-out
at the Works.'

We dressed and washed, for every civilized convenience was at hand.
The door, however, was fastened, and it was clear that we were
prisoners for the time. In spite of the apparent absence of any
ventilation, the atmosphere kept perfectly sweet, and we found that
this was due to a current of air which came through small holes in the
wall. There was some source of central heating, too, for though no
stove was visible, the temperature was pleasantly warm. Presently I
observed a knob upon one of the walls, and pressed it. This was, as I
expected, a bell, for the door instantly opened, and a small, dark
man, dressed in a yellow robe, appeared in the aperture. He looked at
us inquiringly, with large brown, kindly eyes.

'We are hungry,' said Maracot; 'can you get us some food?'

The man shook his head and smiled. It was clear that the words were
incomprehensible to him.

Scanlan tried his luck with a flow of American slang, which was
received with the same blank smile. When, however, I opened my mouth
and thrust my finger into it, our visitor nodded vigorously and
hurried away.

Ten minutes later the door opened and two of the yellow attendants
appeared, rolling a small table before them. Had we been at the
Biltmore Hotel we could not have had better fare. There were coffee,
hot milk, rolls, delicious flat fish, and honey. For half an hour we
were far too busy to discuss what we ate or whence it was obtained. At
the end of that time the two servants appeared once more, rolled out
the tray, and closed the door carefully behind them.

'I'm fair black and blue with pinching myself,' said Scanlan. 'Is this
a pipe dream or what? Say, Doc, you got us down here, and I guess it
is up to you to tell us just how you size it all up.'

The Doctor shook his head.

'It is like a dream to me also, but it is a glorious dream! What a
story for the world if we could but get it to them!'

'One thing is clear,' said I, 'there was certainly truth in this
legend of Atlantis, and some of the folk have in a marvellous way
managed to carry on.'

'Well, even if they carried on,' cried Bill Scanlan, scratching his
bullet head, 'I am darned if I can understand how they could get air
and fresh water and the rest. Maybe if that queer duck with the beard
that we saw last night comes to give us a once-over he will put us
wise to it.'

'How can he do that when we have no common language?'

'Well, we shall use our own observation,' said Maracot. 'One thing I
can already understand. I learned it from the honey at breakfast. That
was clearly synthetic honey, such as we have already learned to make
upon the earth. But if synthetic honey, why not synthetic coffee, or
flour? The molecules of the elements are like bricks, and these bricks
lie all around us. We have only to learn how to pull out certain
bricks--sometimes just a single brick--in order to make a fresh
substance. Sugar becomes starch, or either becomes alcohol, just by a
shifting of the bricks. What is it that shifts them? Heat.
Electricity. Other things perhaps of which we know nothing. Some of
them will shift themselves, and radium becomes lead or uranium becomes
radium without our touching them.'

'You think, then, that they have an advanced chemistry?'

'I'm sure of it. After all there is no elemental brick which is not
ready to their hands. Hydrogen and oxygen come readily from the sea
water. There are nitrogen and carbon in those masses of sea
vegetation, and there are phosphorus and calcium in the bathybic
deposit. With skilful management and adequate knowledge, what is there
which could not be produced?'

The Doctor had launched upon a chemical lecture when the door opened
and Manda entered, giving us a friendly greeting. There came with him
the same old gentleman of venerable appearance whom we had met the
night before. He may have had a reputation for learning, for he tried
several sentences, which were probably different languages, upon us,
but all were equally unintelligible. Then he shrugged his shoulders
and spoke to Manda, who gave an order to the two yellow-clad servants,
still waiting at the door. They vanished, but returned presently with
a curious screen, supported by two side posts. It was exactly like one
of our cinema screens, but it was coated with some sparkling material
which glittered and shimmered in the light. This was placed against
one of the walls. The old man then paced out very carefully a certain
distance, and marked it upon the floor. Standing at this point he
turned to Maracot and touched his forehead, pointing to the screen.

'Clean dippy,' said Scanlan. 'Bats in the belfry.'

Maracot shook his head to show that we were nonplussed. So was the old
man for a moment. An idea struck him, however, and he pointed to his
own figure. Then he turned towards the screen, fixed his eyes upon it,
and seemed to concentrate his attention. In an instant a reflection of
himself appeared on the screen before us. Then he pointed to us, and a
moment later our own little group took the place of his image. It was
not particularly like us. Scanlan looked like a comic Chinaman and
Maracot like a decayed corpse, but it was clearly meant to be
ourselves as we appeared in the eyes of the operator.

'It's a reflection of thought,' I cried.

'Exactly,' said Maracot. 'This is certainly a most marvellous
invention, and yet it is but a combination of such telepathy and
television as we dimly comprehend upon earth.'

'I never thought I'd live to see myself on the movies, if that
cheese-faced Chink is really meant for me,' said Scanlan. 'Say, if we
could get all this news to the editor of the Ledger he'd cough up
enough to keep me for life. We've sure got the goods if we could
deliver them.'

'That's the trouble,' said I. 'By George, we could stir the whole
world if we could only get back to it. But what is he beckoning
about?'

'The old guy wants you to try your hand at it, Doc.'

Maracot took the place indicated, and his strong, clear-cut brain
focused his picture to perfection. We saw an image of Manda, and then
another one of the _Stratford_ as we had left her.

Both Manda and the old scientist nodded their great approval at the
sight of the ship, and Manda made a sweeping gesture with his hands,
pointing first to us and then to the screen.

'To tell them all about it--that's the idea,' I cried. 'They want to
know in pictures who we are, and how we got here.'

Maracot nodded to Manda to show that he understood, and had begun to
throw an image of our voyage, when Manda held up his hand and stopped
him. At an order the attendants removed the screen, and the two
Atlanteans beckoned that we should follow them.

It was a huge building, and we proceeded down corridor after corridor
until we came at last to a large hall with seats arranged in tiers
like a lecture room. At one side was a broad screen of the same nature
as that which we had seen. Facing it there was assembled an audience
of at least a thousand people, who set up a murmur of welcome as we
entered. They were of both sexes and of all ages, the men dark and
bearded, the women beautiful in youth and dignified in age. We had
little time to observe them, for we were led to seats in the front
row, and Maracot was then placed on a stand opposite the screen, the
lights were in some fashion turned down, and he had the signal to
begin.

And excellently well he played his part. We first saw our vessel
sailing forth from the Thames, and a buzz of excitement went up from
the tense audience at this authentic glimpse of a real modern city.
Then a map appeared which marked her course. Then was seen the steel
shell with its fittings, which was greeted with a murmur of
recognition. We saw ourselves once more descending, and reaching the
edge of the abyss. Then came the appearance of the monster who had
wrecked us. 'Marax! Marax!' cried the people, as the beast appeared.
It was clear that they had learned to know and to fear it. There was a
terrified hush as the creature fumbled with our hawser, and a groan of
horror as the wires parted and we dropped into the gulf. In a month of
explanation we could not have made our plight so clear as in that
half-hour of visible demonstration.

As the audience broke up they showered every sign of sympathy upon us,
crowding round us and patting our backs to show that we were welcome.
We were presented in turn to some of the chiefs, but the chieftainship
seemed to lie in wisdom alone, for all appeared to be on the same
social scale, and were dressed in much the same way. The men wore
tunics of a saffron colour coming down to the knees, with belts and
high boots of a scaly tough material which must have been the hide of
some sea beast. The women were beautifully draped in classical style,
their flowing robes of every tint of pink and blue and green,
ornamented with clusters of pearl or opalescent sheets of shell. Many
of them were lovely beyond any earthly comparison. There was one--but
why should I mix my private feelings up with this public narrative?
Let me say only that Mona is the only daughter of Manda, one of the
leaders of the people, and that from that first day of meeting I read
in her dark eyes a message of sympathy and of understanding which went
home to my heart, as my gratitude and admiration may have gone to
hers. I need not say more at present about this exquisite lady.
Suffice it that a new and strong influence had come into my life. When
I saw Maracot gesticulating with unwonted animation to one kindly
lady, while Scanlan stood conveying his admiration in pantomime in the
centre of a group of laughing girls, I realized that my companions
also had begun to find that there was a lighter side to our tragic
position. If we were dead to the world we had at least found a life
beyond, which promised some compensation for what we had lost.

Later in the day we were guided by Manda and other friends round some
portions of the immense building. It had been so embedded in the
sea-floor by the accumulations of ages that it was only through the
roof that it could be entered, and from this point the passages led
down and down until the floor level was reached several hundred feet
below the entrance chamber. The floor in turn had been excavated, and
we saw in all directions passages which sloped downwards into the
bowels of the earth. We were shown the air-making apparatus with the
pumps which circulated it through the building. Maracot pointed out
with wonder and admiration that not only was the oxygen united with
the nitrogen, but that smaller retorts supplied other gases which
could only be the argon, neon, and other little-known constituents of
the atmosphere which we are only just beginning to understand. The
distilling vats for making fresh water and the enormous electrical
instalments were other objects of interest, but much of the machinery
was so intricate that it was difficult for us to follow the details. I
can only say that I saw with my own eyes, and tested with my own
palate, that chemicals in gaseous and liquid forms were poured into
various machines, that they were treated by heat, by pressure, and by
electricity, and that flour, tea, coffee, or wine was collected as the
product.

There was one consideration which was very quickly forced upon us by
our examination, on various occasions, of as much of this building as
was open to our inspection. This was that the exposure to the sea had
been foreseen and the protection against the inrush of the water had
been prepared long before the land sank beneath the waves. Of course,
it stood to reason, and needed no proof, that such precautions could
not have been taken after the event, but we were witnesses now of the
signs that the whole great building had from the first been
constructed with the one idea of being an enduring ark of refuge. The
huge retorts and vats in which the air, the food, the distilled water,
and the other necessary products were made were all built into the
walls, and were evidently integral parts of the original construction.
So, too, with the exit chambers, the silica works where the vitrine
bells were constructed, and the huge pumps which controlled the water.
Every one of these things had been prepared by the skill and the
foresight of that wonderful far-away people who seemed, from what we
could learn, to have thrown out one arm to Central America and one to
Egypt, and so left traces of themselves even upon this earth when
their own land went down into the Atlantic. As to these, their
descendants, we judged that they had probably degenerated, as was but
natural, and that at the most they had been stagnant and only
preserved some of the science and knowledge of their ancestors without
having the energy to add to it. They possessed wonderful powers and
yet seemed to us to be strangely wanting in initiative, and had added
nothing to that wonderful legacy which they had inherited. I am sure
that Maracot, using this knowledge, would very soon have attained
greater results. As to Scanlan, with his quick brain and mechanical
skill, he was continually putting in touches which probably seemed as
remarkable to them as their powers to us. He had a beloved mouth-organ
in his coat-pocket when we made our descent, and his use of this was a
perpetual joy to our companions, who sat around in entranced groups,
as we might listen to a Mozart, while he handed out to them the
crooning coon songs of his native land.

I have said that the whole building was not open to our inspection,
and I might give a little further detail upon that subject. There was
one well-worn corridor down which we saw folk continually passing, but
which was always avoided by our guides in our excursions. As was
natural our curiosity was aroused, and we determined one evening that
we would take a chance and do a little exploring upon our own account.
We slipped out of our room, therefore, and made our way to the unknown
quarter at a time when few people were about.

The passage led us to a high arched door, which appeared to be made of
solid gold. When we pushed it open we found ourselves in a huge room,
forming a square of not less than two hundred feet. All around, the
walls were painted with vivid colours and adorned with extraordinary
pictures and statues of grotesque creatures with enormous
head-dresses, like the full dress regalia of our American Indians. At
the end of this great hall there was one huge seated figure, the legs
crossed like a Buddha, but with none of the benignity of aspect which
is seen on the Buddha's placid features. On the contrary, this was a
creature of Wrath, open-mouthed and fierce-eyed, the latter being red,
and their effect exaggerated by two electric lights which shone
through them. On his lap was a great oven, which we observed, as we
approached it, to be filled with ashes.

'Moloch!' said Maracot. 'Moloch or Baal--the old god of the
Phoenician races.'

'Good heavens!' I cried, with recollections of old Carthage before me.
'Don't tell me that these gentle folk could go in for human
sacrifice.'

'Look it here, Bo!' said Scanlan, anxiously. 'I hope they keep it in
the family, anyhow. We don't want them to pull no such dope on us.'

'No, I guess they have learned their lesson,' said I. 'It's misfortune
that teaches folk to have pity for others.'

'That's right,' Maracot remarked, poking about among the ashes, 'it is
the old hereditary god, but it is surely a gentler cult. These are
burned loaves and the like. But perhaps there was a time--'

But our speculations were interrupted by a stern voice at our elbow,
and we found several men in yellow garments and high hats, who were
clearly the priests of the Temple. From the expression on their faces
I should judge that we were very near to being the last victims to
Baal, and one of them had actually drawn a knife from his girdle. With
fierce gestures and cries they drove us roughly out of their sacred
shrine.

'By gosh!' cried Scanlan, 'I'll sock that duck if he keeps crowding
me! Look it here, you Bindlestiff, keep your hands off my coat.'

For a moment I feared that we should have had what Scanlan called a
'rough house' within the sacred precincts. However, we got the angry
mechanic away without blows and regained the shelter of our room, but
we could tell from the demeanour of Manda and others of our friends
that our escapade was known and resented.

But there was another shrine which was freely shown to us and which
had a very unexpected result, for it opened up a slow and imperfect
method of communication between our companions and ourselves. This was
a room in the lower quarter of the Temple, with no decorations or
distinction save that at one end there stood a statue of ivory yellow
with age, representing a woman holding a spear, with an owl perched
upon her shoulder. A very old man was the guardian of the room, and in
spite of his age it was clear to us that he was of a very different
race, and one of a finer, larger type than the men of the Temple. As
we stood gazing at the ivory statue, Maracot and I, both wondering
where we had seen something like it, the old man addressed us.

'Thea,' said he, pointing to the figure.

'By George!' I cried, 'he is speaking Greek.'

'Thea! Athena!' repeated the man.

There was not a doubt of it. 'Goddess--Athena,' the words were
unmistakable. Maracot, whose wonderful brain had absorbed something
from every branch of human knowledge, began at once to ask questions
in Classical Greek which were only partly understood and were answered
in a dialect so archaic that it was almost incomprehensible. Still, he
acquired some knowledge, and he found an intermediary through whom he
could dimly convey something to our companions.

'It is a remarkable proof,' said Maracot that evening, in his high
neighing voice and in the tones of one addressing a large class, 'of
the reliability of legend. There is always a basis of fact even if in
the course of the years it should become distorted. You are aware--or
probably you are not aware'--('Bet your life!' from Scanlan)--'that
a war was going on between the primitive Greeks and, the Atlanteans at
the time of the destruction of the great island. The fact is recorded
in Solon's description of what he learned from the priests of Sais. We
may conjecture that there were Greek prisoners in the hands of the
Atlanteans at the time, that some of them were in the service of the
Temple, and that they carried their own religion with them. That man
was, so far as I could understand, the old hereditary priest of the
cult, and perhaps when we know more we shall see something of these
ancient people.'

'Well, I hand it to them for good sense,' said Scanlan. 'I guess if
you want a plaster god it is better to have a fine woman than that
blatherskite with the red eyes and the coal-bunker on his knees.'

'Lucky they can't understand your views,' I remarked. 'If they did you
might end up as a Christian martyr.'

'Not so long as I can play them jazz,' he answered, 'I guess they've
got used to me now, and they couldn't do without me.'

They were a cheerful crowd, and it was a happy life, but there were
and are times when one's whole heart goes out to the homelands which
we have lost, and visions of the dear old quadrangles of Oxford, or of
the ancient elms and the familiar campus of Harvard, came up before my
mind. In those early days they seemed as far from me as some landscape
in the moon, and only now in a dim uncertain fashion does the hope of
seeing them once more begin to grow in my soul.



Chapter 4

It was a few days after our arrival that our hosts or our captors--we
were dubious sometimes as to which to call them--took us out for an
expedition upon the bottom of the ocean. Six of them came with us,
including Manda, the chief. We assembled in the same exit chamber in
which we had originally been received, and we were now in a condition
to examine it a little more closely. It was a very large place, at
least a hundred feet each way, and its low walls and ceiling were
green with marine growths and dripping with moisture. A long row of
pegs, with marks which I presume were numbers, ran round the whole
room, and on each was hung one of the semi-transparent bells of
vitrine and a pair of the shoulder batteries which ensured
respiration. The floor was of flagged stone worn into concavities, the
footsteps of many generations, these hollows now lying as pools of
shallow water. The whole was highly illuminated by fluor tubes round
the cornice. We were fastened into our vitrine coverings, and a stout
pointed staff made of some light metal was handed to each of us. Then,
by signals, Manda ordered us to take a grip of a rail which ran round
the room, he and his friends setting us an example. The object of this
soon became evident, for as the outer door swung slowly open the sea
water came pouring in with such force that we should have been swept
from our feet but for this precaution. It rose rapidly, however, to
above the level of our heads, and the pressure upon us was eased.
Manda led the way to the door, and an instant afterwards we were out
on the ocean bed once more, leaving the portal open behind us ready
for our return.

Looking round us in the cold, flickering, spectral light which
illuminates the bathybian plain, we could see for a radius of at least
a quarter of a mile in every direction.

What amazed us was to observe, on the very limit of what was visible,
a very brilliant glow of radiance. It was towards this that our leader
turned his steps, our party walking in single file behind him. It was
slow going, for there was the resistance of the water, and our feet
were buried deeply in the soft slush with every step; but soon we were
able to see clearly what the beacon was which had attracted us. It was
our own shell, our last reminder of terrestrial life, which lay tilted
upon one of the cupolas of the far-flung building, with all its lights
still blazing. It was three-quarters full of water, but the imprisoned
air still preserved that portion in which our electric instalment lay.
It was strange indeed as we gazed into it to see the familiar interior
with our settees and instruments still in position, while several
good-sized fish like minnows in a bottle swam round and round inside
it. One after the other our party clambered in through the open flap,
Maracot to rescue a book of notes which floated on the surface,
Scanlan and I to pick up some personal belongings. Manda came also
with one or two of his comrades, examining with the greatest interest
the bathometer and thermometer with the other instruments which were
attached to the wall. The latter we detached and took away with us. It
may interest scientists to know that forty degrees Fahrenheit
represents the temperature at the greatest sea depths to which man has
ever descended, and that it is higher, on account of the chemical
decomposition of the ooze, than the upper strata of the sea.

Our little expedition had, it seems, a definite object besides that of
allowing us a little exercise upon the bed of the ocean. We were
hunting for food. Every now and then I saw our comrades strike sharply
down with their pointed sticks, impaling each time a large brown flat
fish, not unlike a turbot, which was numerous, but lay so closely in
the ooze that it took practised eyes to detect it. Soon each of the
little men had two or three of these dangling at his side. Scanlan and
I soon got the knack of it, and captured a couple each, but Maracot
walked as one in a dream, quite lost in his wonder at the ocean
beauties around him and making long and excited speeches which were
lost to the ear, but visible to the eyes from the contortion of his
features.

Our first impression had been one of monotony, but we soon found that
the grey plains were broken up into varied formations by the action of
the deep-sea currents which flowed like submarine rivers across them.
These streams cut channels in the soft slime and exposed the beds
which lay beneath. The floor of these banks consisted of red clay
which forms the base of all things on the surface of the bed of the
ocean, and they were thickly studded with white objects which I
imagined to be shells, but which proved, when we examined them, to be
the ear bones of whales and the teeth of sharks and the other sea
monsters. One of these teeth which I picked up was fifteen inches
long, and we could but be thankful that so fearful a monster
frequented the higher levels of ocean. It belonged, according to
Maracot, to a giant-killing grampus or Orca gladiator. It recalled the
observation of Mitchell Hedges that even the most terrible sharks that
he had caught bore upon their bodies the marks which showed that they
had encountered creatures larger and more formidable than themselves.

There was one peculiarity of the ocean depths which impresses itself
upon the observer. There is, as I have said, a constant cold light
rising up from the slow phosphorescent decay of the great masses of
organic matter. But above, all is black as night. The effect is that
of a dim winter day, with a heavy black thundercloud lying low above
the earth. Out of this black canopy there falls slowly an incessant
snowstorm of tiny white flakes, which glimmer against the sombre
background. These are the shells of sea snails and other small
creatures who live and die in the five miles of water which separate
us from the surface, and though many of these are dissolved as they
fall and add to the lime salts in the ocean, the rest go in the course
of ages to form that deposit which had entombed the great city in the
upper part of which we now dwelt.

Leaving our last link with earth beneath us, we pushed on into the
gloom of the submarine world and soon we were met by a completely new
development. A moving patch appeared in front of us, which broke up as
we approached it into a crowd of men, each in his vitrine envelope,
who were dragging behind them broad sledges heaped with coal. It was
heavy work, and the poor devils were bending and straining, tugging
hard at the sharkskin ropes which served as traces. With each gang of
men there was one who appeared to be in authority, and it interested
us to see that the leaders and the workers were clearly of a different
race. The latter were tall men, fair, with blue eyes and powerful
bodies. The others were, as already described, dark and almost
negroid, with squat, broad frames. We could not inquire into the
mystery at that moment, but the impression was left upon my mind that
the one race represented the hereditary slaves of the other, and
Maracot was of the opinion that they may have been the descendants of
those Greek prisoners whose goddess we had seen in the Temple.

Several droves of these men, each drawing its load of coal, were met
by us before we came to the mine itself. At this point the deep-sea
deposits and the sandy formations which lay beneath them had been cut
away, and a great pit exposed, which consisted of alternate layers of
clay and coal, representing strata in the old perished world of long
ago which now lay at the bottom of the Atlantic. At the various levels
of this huge excavation we could see gangs of men at work hewing the
coal, while others gathered it into loads and placed it in baskets, by
means of which it was hoisted up to the level above. The whole mine
was on so vast a scale that we could not see the other side of the
enormous pit which so many generations of workers had scooped in the
bed of the ocean. This, then, transmuted into electric force, was the
source of the motive power by which the whole machinery of Atlantis
was run. It is interesting, by the way, to record that the name of the
old city had been correctly preserved in the legends, for when we had
mentioned it to Manda and others they first looked greatly surprised
that we should know it, and then nodded their heads vigorously to show
that they understood.

Passing the great coal pit--or, rather, branching away from it to the
right--we came on a line of low cliffs of basalt, their surface as
clear and shining as on the day when they were shot up from the bowels
of the earth, while their summit; some hundreds of feet above us,
loomed up against the dark background. The base of these volcanic
cliffs was draped in a deep jungle of high seaweed, growing out of
tangled masses of crinoid corals laid down in the old terrestrial
days. Along the edge of this thick undergrowth we wandered for some
time, our companions beating it with their sticks and driving out for
our amusement an extraordinary assortment of strange fishes and
crustacea, now and again securing a specimen for their own tables. For
a mile or more we wandered along in this happy fashion, when I saw
Manda stop suddenly and look round him with gestures of alarm and
surprise. These submarine gestures formed a language in themselves,
for in a moment his companions understood the cause of his trouble,
and then with a shock we realized it also. Dr. Maracot had
disappeared.

He had certainly been with us at the coal pit, and he had come as far
as the basalt cliffs. It was inconceivable that he had got ahead of
us, so it was evident that he must be somewhere along the line of
jungle in our rear. Though our friends were disturbed, Scanlan and I,
who knew something of the good man's absent-minded eccentricities were
confident that there was no cause for alarm, and that we should soon
find him loitering over some sea form which had attracted him. We all
turned to retrace our steps, and had hardly gone a hundred yards
before we caught sight of him.

But he was running--running with an agility which I should have
thought impossible for a man of his habits. Even the least athletic
can run, however, when fear is the pacemaker. His hands were
outstretched for help, and he stumbled and blundered forward with
clumsy energy. He had good cause to exert himself, for three horrible
creatures were close at his heels. They were tiger crabs, striped
black and white, each about the size of a Newfoundland dog.
Fortunately they were themselves not very swift travellers, and were
scurrying along the soft sea bottom in a curious sidelong fashion
which was little faster than that of the terrified fugitive.

Their wind was better, however, and they would probably have had their
horrible claws upon him in a very few minutes had not our friends
intervened. They dashed forward with their pointed sticks, and Manda
flashed a power electric lantern, which he carried in his belt, in the
face of the loathsome monsters, who scuttled into the jungle and were
lost to view. Our comrade sat down on a lump of coral and his face
showed that he was exhausted by his adventure. He told us afterwards
that he had penetrated the jungle in the hope of securing what seemed
to him to be a rare specimen of the deep-sea Chimoera, and that he had
blundered into the nest of these fierce tiger crabs, who had instantly
dashed after him. It was only after a long rest that he was able to
resume the journey.

Our next stage after skirting the basalt cliffs led us to our goal.
The grey plain in front of us was covered at this point by irregular
hummocks and tall projections which told us that the great city of old
lay beneath it. It would all have been completely buried for ever by
the ooze, as Herculaneum has been by lava or Pompeii by ashes, had an
entrance to it not been excavated by the survivors of the Temple. This
entrance was a long, downward cutting, which ended up in a broad
street with buildings exposed on either side. The walls of these
buildings were occasionally cracked and shattered, for they were not
of the solid construction which had preserved the Temple, but the
interiors were in most cases exactly as they had been when the
catastrophe occurred, save that sea changes of all sorts, beautiful
and rare in some cases and horrifying in others, had modified the
appearances of the rooms. Our guides did not encourage us to examine
the first ones which we reached, but hurried us onwards until we came
to that which had clearly been the great central citadel or palace
round which the whole town centred. The pillars and columns and vast
sculptured cornices and friezes and staircases of this building
exceeded anything which I have ever seen upon earth.

Its nearest approach seemed to me to be the remains of the Temple of
Karnak at Luxor in Egypt, and, strange to say, the decorations and
half-effaced engravings resembled in detail those of the great ruin
beside the Nile, and the lotus-shaped capitals of the columns were the
same. It was an amazing experience to stand on the marble tessellated
floors of those vast halls, with great statues looming high above one
on every side, and to see, as we saw that day, huge silvery eels
gliding above our heads and frightened fish darting away in every
direction from the light which was projected before us. From room to
room we wandered, marking every sign of luxury and occasionally of
that lascivious folly which is said, by the lingering legend, to have
drawn God's curse upon the people. One small room was wonderfully
enamelled with mother-of-pearl, so that even now it gleamed with
brilliant opalescent tints when the light played across it. An
ornamented platform of yellow metal and a similar couch lay in one
corner, and one felt that it may well have been the bedchamber of a
queen, but beside the couch there lay now a loathsome black squid, its
foul body rising and falling in a slow, stealthy rhythm so that it
seemed like some evil heart which still beat in the very centre of the
wicked palace. I was glad, and so, I learned, were my companions, when
our guides led the way out once more, glancing for a moment at a
ruined amphitheatre and again at a pier with a lighthouse at the end,
which showed that the city had been a seaport. Soon we had emerged
from these places of ill omen and were out on the familiar bathybian
plain once more.

Our adventures were not quite over, for there was one more which was
as alarming to our companions as to ourselves. We had nearly made our
way home when one of our guides pointed upwards with alarm. Gazing in
that direction we saw an extraordinary sight. Out of the black gloom
of the waters a huge, dark figure was emerging, falling rapidly
downwards. At first it seemed a shapeless mass, but as it came more
clearly into the light we could see that it was the dead body of a
monstrous fish, which had burst so that the entrails were streaming up
behind it as it fell. No doubt the gases had buoyed it up in the
higher reaches of the ocean until, having been released by
putrefaction or by the ravages of sharks, there was nothing left but
dead weight, which sent it hurtling down to the bottom of the sea.
Already in our walk we had observed several of these great skeletons
picked clean by the fish, but this creature was still, save for its
disembowelment, even as it had lived. Our guides seized us with the
intention of dragging us out of the path of the falling mass, but
presently they were reassured and stood still, for it was clear that
it would miss us. Our vitrine helmets prevented our hearing the thud,
but it must have been prodigious when the huge body struck the floor
of the ocean, and we saw the globigerina ooze fly upwards as the mud
splashes when a heavy stone is hurled into it. It was a sperm whale,
some seventy feet long, and from the excited and joyful gestures of
the submarine folk I gathered that they would find plenty of use for
the spermaceti and the fat. For the moment, however, we left the
derelict creature, and with joyful hearts, for we unpractised visitors
were weary and aching, found ourselves once more in front of the
engraved portal of the roof, and finally standing safe and sound,
divested of our vitrine bells, on the sloppy floor of the entrance
chamber.

A few days--as we reckon time--after the occasion when we had given
the community a cinema view of our own proceedings, we were present at
a very much more solemn and august exhibition of the same sort, which
gave us in a clear and wonderful way the past history of this
remarkable people. I cannot flatter myself that it was given entirely
on our behalf, for I rather think that the events were publicly
rehearsed from time to time in order to carry on the record, and that
the part to which we were admitted was only some intermezzo of a long
religious ceremony. However that may be, I will describe it exactly as
it occurred.

We were led to the same great hall or theatre where Dr. Maracot had
thrown our own adventures upon the screen. There the whole community
was assembled, and we were given, as before, places of honour in front
of the great luminous screen. Then, after a long song, which may have
been some sort of patriotic chant, a very old white-haired man, the
historian or chronicler of the nation, advanced amid much applause to
the focus point and threw upon the bright surface before him a series
of pictures to represent the rise and fall of his own people. I wish I
could convey to you their vividness and drama. My two companions and I
lost all sense of time and place, so absorbed were we in the
contemplation, while the audience was moved to its depths and groaned
or wept as the tragedy unfolded, which depicted the ruin of their
fatherland, the destruction of their race.

In the first series of scenes we saw the old continent in its glory,
as its memory had been handed down by these historical records passed
from fathers to sons. We had a bird's-eye view of a glorious rolling
country, enormous in extent, well watered and cleverly irrigated, with
great fields of grain, waving orchards, lovely streams and woody
hills, still lakes and occasional picturesque mountains. It was
studded with villages and covered with farm-houses and beautiful
private residences. Then our attention was carried to the capital, a
wonderful and gorgeous city upon the sea-shore, the harbour crammed
with galleys, her quays piled with merchandise, and her safety assured
by high walls with towering battlements and circular moats, all on the
most gigantic scale. The houses stretched inland for many miles, and
in the centre of the city was a crenellated castle or citadel, so
widespread and commanding that it was like some creation of a dream.
We were then shown the faces of those who lived in that golden age,
wise and venerable old men, virile warriors, saintly priests,
beautiful and dignified women, lovely children, an apotheosis of the
human race.

Then came pictures of another sort. We saw wars, constant wars, war by
land and war by sea. We saw naked and defenceless races trampled down
and over-ridden by great chariots or the rush of mailed horsemen. We
saw treasures heaped upon the victors, but even as the riches
increased the faces upon the screen became more animal and more cruel.
Down, down they sank from one generation to another. We were shown
signs of lascivious dissipation or moral degeneracy, of the accretion
of matter and decline of spirit. Brutal sports at the expense of
others had taken the place of the manly exercises of old. There was no
longer the quiet and simple family life, nor the cultivation of the
mind, but we had a glimpse of a people who were restless and shallow,
rushing from one pursuit to another, grasping ever at pleasure, for
ever missing it, and yet imagining always that in some more complex
and unnatural form it might still be found. There had arisen on the
one hand an over-rich class who sought only sensual gratification, and
on the other hand an over-poor residue whose whole function in life
was to minister to the wants of their masters, however evil those
wants might be.

And now once again a new note was struck. There were reformers at work
who were trying to turn the nation from its evil ways, and to direct
it back into those higher paths which it had forsaken. We saw them,
grave and earnest men, reasoning and pleading with the people, but we
saw them scorned and jeered at by those whom they were trying to save.
Especially we could see that it was the priests of Baal, priests who
had gradually allowed forms and show and outward ceremonies to take
the place of unselfish spiritual development, who led the opposition
to the reformers. But the latter were not to be bullied or browbeaten.
They continued to try for the salvation of the people, and their faces
assumed a graver and even a terror-inspiring aspect, as those of men
who had a fearsome warning to give which was like some dreadful vision
before their own minds. Of their auditors some few seemed to heed and
be terrified at the words, but others turned away laughing and plunged
ever deeper into their morass of sin. There came a time at last when
the reformers turned away also as men who could do no more, and left
this degenerate people to its fate.

Then we saw a strange sight. There was one reformer, a man of singular
strength of mind and body, who gave a lead to all the others. He had
wealth and influence and powers, which latter seemed to be not
entirely of this earth. We saw him in what seemed to be a trance,
communing with higher spirits. It was he who brought all the science
of his land--science which far outshone anything known by us moderns
--to the task of building an ark of refuge against the coming
troubles. We saw myriads of workmen at work, and the walls rising
while crowds of careless citizens looked on and made merry at such
elaborate and useless precautions. We saw others who seemed to reason
with him and to say to him that if he had fears it would be easier for
him to fly to some safer land. His answer, so far as we could follow
it, was that there were some who must be saved at the last moment, and
that for their sake he must remain in the new Temple of safety.
Meanwhile he collected in it those who had followed him, and he held
them there, for he did not himself know the day nor the hour, though
forces beyond mortal had assured him of the coming fact. So when the
ark was ready and the water-tight doors were finished and tested, he
waited upon doom, with his family, his friends, his followers, and his
servants.

And doom came. It was a terrible thing even in a picture. God knows
what it could be like in reality. We first saw a huge sleek mountain
of water rise to an incredible height out of a calm ocean. Then we saw
it travel, sweeping on and on, mile after mile, a great glistening
hill, topped with foam, at an ever-increasing rate. Two little ships
tossing among the snowy fringe upon the summit became, as the wave
rolled towards us, a couple of shattered galleys. Then we saw it
strike the shore and sweep over the city, while the houses went down
before it like a field of corn before a tornado. We saw the folk upon
the house-tops glaring out at the approaching death, their faces
twisted with horror, their eyes staring, their mouths contorted,
gnawing at their hands and gibbering in an insanity of terror. The
very men and women who had mocked at the warning were now screaming to
Heaven for mercy, grovelling with their faces on the ground, or
kneeling with frenzied arms raised in wild appeal. There was no time
now to reach the ark, which stood beyond the city, but thousands
dashed up to the Citadel, which stood upon higher ground, and the
battlement walls were black with people. Then suddenly the Castle
began to sink. Everything began to sink. The water had poured down
into the remote recesses of the earth, the central fires had expanded
it into steam, and the very foundations of the land were blown apart.
Down went the city and ever down, while a cry went up from ourselves
and the audience at the terrible sight. The pier broke in two and
vanished. The high Pharus collapsed under the waves. The roofs looked
for a while like successive reefs of rock forming lines of spouting
breakers until they, too, went under.

The Citadel was left alone upon the surface, like some monstrous ship,
and then it also slid sideways down into the abyss, with a fringe of
helpless waving hands upon its summit. The awful drama was over, and
an unbroken sea lay across the whole continent, a sea which bore no
life upon it, but which among its huge smoking swirls and eddies
showed all the wrack of the tragedy tossed hither and thither, dead
men and animals, chairs, tables, articles of clothing, floating hats
and bales of goods, all bobbing and heaving in one huge liquid
fermentation. Slowly we saw it die away, and a great wide expanse as
smooth and bright as quicksilver, with a murky sun low on the horizon,
showed us the grave of the land that God had weighed and found
wanting.

The story was complete. We could ask for no more, since our own brains
and imagination could supply the rest. We realized the slow
remorseless descent of that great land lower and lower into the abyss
of the ocean amid volcanic convulsions which threw up submarine peaks
around it. We saw it in our mind's eye stretched out, over miles of
what was now the bed of the Atlantic, the shattered city lying
alongside of the ark or refuge in which the handful of nerve-shattered
survivors were assembled. And then finally we understood how these had
carried on their lives, how they had used the various devices with
which the foresight and science of their great leader had endowed
them, how he had taught them all his arts before he passed away, and
how some fifty or sixty survivors had grown now into a large
community, which had to dig its way into the bowels of the earth in
order to get room to expand. No library of information could make it
clearer than that series of pictures and the inferences which we could
draw from them. Such was the fate, and such the causes of the fate,
which overwhelmed the great land of Atlantis. Some day far distant,
when this bathybian ooze has turned to chalk, this great city will be
thrown up once more by some fresh expiration of Nature, and the
geologist of the future, delving in the quarry, will exhume not flints
nor shells, but the remains of a vanished civilization, and the traces
of an old-world catastrophe.

Only one point had remained undecided, and that was the length of time
since the tragedy had occurred. Dr. Maracot discovered a rough method
of making an estimate. Among the many annexes of the great building
there was one huge vault, which was the burial-place of the chiefs. As
in Egypt and in Yucatan, the practice of mummifying had been usual,
and in niches in the walls there were endless rows of these grim
relics of the past. Manda pointed proudly to the next one in the
succession, and gave us to understand that it was specially arranged
for himself.

'If you take an average of the European kings,' said Maracot, in his
best professional manner, 'you will find that they run to above five
in the century. We may adopt the same figure here. We cannot hope for
scientific accuracy, but it will give us an approximation. I have
counted the mummies, and they are four hundred in number.'

'Then it would be eight thousand years?'

'Exactly. And this agrees to some extent with Plato's estimate. It
certainly occurred before the Egyptian written records begin, and they
go back between six and seven thousand years from the present date.
Yes, I think we may say that our eyes have seen the reproduction of a
tragedy which occurred at least eight thousand years ago. But, of
course, to build up such a civilization as we see the traces of, must
in itself have taken many thousands of years.

'Thus,' he concluded--and I pass the claim on to you--we have
extended the horizon of ascertained human history as no men have ever
done since history began.'



Chapter 5

It was about a month, according to our calculations, after our visit
to the buried city that the most amazing and unexpected thing of all
occurred. We had thought by this time that we were immune to shocks
and that nothing new could really stagger us, but this actual fact
went far beyond anything for which our imagination might have prepared
us.

It was Scanlan who brought the news that something momentous had
happened. You must realize that by this time we were, to some extent,
at home in the great building; that we knew where the common rest
rooms and recreation rooms were situated; that we attended concerts
(their music was very strange and elaborate) and theatrical
entertainments, where the unintelligible words were translated by very
vivid and dramatic gestures; and that, speaking generally, we were
part of the community. We visited various families in their own
private rooms, and our lives--I can speak for my own, at any rate--
were made the brighter by the glamour of these strange people,
especially of that one dear young lady whose name I have already
mentioned. Mona was the daughter of one of the leaders of the tribe,
and I found in his family a warm and kindly welcome which rose above
all differences of race or language. When it comes to the most tender
language of all, I did not find that there was so much between old
Atlantis and modern America. I guess that what would please a
Massachusetts girl of Brown's College is just about what would please
my lady under the waves.

But I must get back to the fact that Scanlan came into our room with
news of some great happening.

'Say, there is one of them just blown in, and he's that excited that
he clean forgot to take his glass lid off, and he was jabbering for
some minutes before he understood that no one could hear him. Then it
was Blah Blah Blah as long as his breath would hold, and they are all
following him now to the jumping-off place. It's me for the water, for
there is sure something worth our seeing.'

Running out, we found our friends all hurrying down the corridor with
excited gestures, and we, joining the procession, soon formed part of
the crowd who were hurrying across the sea bottom, led by the excited
messenger. They drove along at a rate which made it no easy matter for
us to keep up, but they carried their electric lanterns with them, and
even though we fell behind we were able to follow the gleam. The route
lay as before, along the base of the basalt cliffs until we came to a
spot where a set of steps, concave from long usage, led up to the top.
Ascending these, we found ourselves in broken country, with many
jagged pinnacles of rock and deep crevasses which made it difficult
travelling. Emerging from this tangle of ancient lava, we came out on
a circular plain, brilliant by the phosphorescent light, and there in
the very centre of it lay an object which set me gasping. As I looked
at my companions I could see from their amazed expression how fully
they shared my emotion.

Half embedded in the slime there lay a good-sized steamer. It was
tilted upon its side, the funnel had broken and was hanging at a
strange angle, and the foremast had snapped off short, but otherwise
the vessel was intact and as clean and fresh as if she had just left
the dock. We hurried towards her and found ourselves under the stern.
You can imagine how we felt when we read the name '_Stratford_, London'.
Our ship had followed ourselves into the Maracot Deep.

Of course, after the first shock the affair did not seem so
incomprehensible. We remembered the falling glass, the reefed sails of
the experienced Norwegian skipper, the strange black cloud upon the
horizon. Clearly there had been a sudden cyclone of phenomenal
severity and the ._Stratford_ had been blown over. It was too evident
that all her people were dead, for most of the boats were trailing in
different states of destruction from the davits, and in any case what
boat could live in such a hurricane? The tragedy had occurred, no
doubt, within an hour or two of our own disaster. Perhaps the
sounding-line which we had seen had only just been wound in before the
blow fell. It was terrible, but whimsical, that we should be still
alive, while those who were mourning our destruction had themselves
been destroyed. We had no means of telling whether the ship had
drifted in the upper levels of the ocean or whether she had lain for
some time where we found her before she was discovered by the
Atlantean.

Poor Howie, the captain, or what was left of him, was still at his
post upon the bridge, the rail grasped firmly in his stiffened hands.
His body and that of three stokers in the engine-room were the only
ones which had sunk with the ship. They were each removed under our
direction and buried under the ooze with a wreath of sea-flowers over
their remains. I give this detail in the hope that it may be some
comfort to Mrs. Howie in her bereavement. The names of the stokers
were unknown to us.

Whilst we had been performing this duty the little men had swarmed
over the ship. Looking up, we saw them everywhere, like mice upon a
cheese. Their excitement and curiosity made it clear to us that it was
the first modern ship--possibly the first steamer--which had ever
come down to them. We found out later that their oxygen apparatus
inside their vitrine bells would not allow of a longer absence from
the recharging station than a few hours, and so their chances of
learning anything of what was on the sea-bed were limited to so many
miles from their central base. They set to work at once breaking up
the wreck and removing all that would be of use to them, a very long
process, which is hardly accomplished yet. We were glad also to make
our way to our cabins and to get many of those articles of clothing
and books which were not ruined beyond redemption.

Among the other things which we rescued from the _Stratford_ was the
ship's log, which had been written up to the last day by the captain
in view of our own catastrophe. It was strange indeed that we should
be reading it and that he should be dead. The day's entry ran thus:

'Oct. 3. The three brave but foolhardy adventurers have today, against
my will and advice, descended in their apparatus to the bottom of the
ocean, and the accident which I had foreseen has occurred. God rest
their souls. They went down at eleven a.m. and I had some doubts about
permitting them, as a squall seemed to be coming up. I would that I
had acted upon my impulse, but it would only have postponed the
inevitable tragedy. I bade each of them farewell with the conviction
that I would see them no more. For a time all was well, and at eleven
forty-five they had reached a depth of three hundred fathoms, where
they had found bottom. Dr. Maracot sent several messages to me and all
seemed to be in order, when suddenly I heard his voice in agitation,
and there was considerable agitation of the wire hawser. An instant
later it snapped. It would appear that they were by this time over a
deep chasm, for at the Doctor's request the ship had steamed very
slowly forwards. The air tubes continued to run out for a distance
which I should estimate at half a mile, and then they also snapped. It
is the last which we can ever hope to hear of Dr. Maracot, Mr.
Headley, or Mr. Scanlan.

'And yet a most extraordinary thing must be recorded, the meaning of
which I have not had time to weigh, for with this foul weather coming
up there is much to distract me. A deep-sea sounding was taken at the
same time, and the depth recorded was twenty-six thousand six hundred
feet. The weight was, of course, left at the bottom, but the wire has
just been drawn in and, incredible as it may seem, above the porcelain
sample cup there was found Mr. Headley's handkerchief with his name
marked upon it. The ship's company were all amazed, and no one can
suggest how such a thing could have occurred. In my next entry I may
have more to say about this. We have lingered a few hours in the hope
of something coming to the surface, and we have pulled up the hawser,
which shows a jagged end. Now I must look to the ship, for I have
never seen a worse sky and the barometer is at a8.5 and sinking fast.'

So it was that we got the final news of our former companions. A
terrific cyclone must have struck her and destroyed her immediately
afterwards.

We stayed at the wreck until a certain stuffiness within our vitrine
bells and a feeling of increasing weight upon our chests warned us
that it was high time to begin our return. Then it was, on our
homeward journey, that we had an adventure which showed us the sudden
dangers to which these submarine folk are exposed, and which may
explain why their numbers, in spite of the lapse of time, were not
greater than they were. Including the Grecian slaves we cannot reckon
those numbers at more than four or five thousand at the most. We had
descended the staircase and were making our way along the edge of the
jungle which skirts the basalt cliffs, when Manda pointed excitedly
upwards and beckoned furiously to one of our party who was some
distance out in the open. At the same time he and those around him ran
to the side of some high boulders, pulling us along with them. It was
only when we were in their shelter that we saw the cause of the alarm.
Some distance above us, but descending rapidly, was a huge fish of a
most peculiar shape. It might have been a great floating feather-bed,
soft and bulging, with a white under-surface and a long red fringe,
the vibration of which propelled it through the water. It appeared to
have neither mouth nor eyes, but it soon showed that it was formidably
alert. The member of our party who was out in the open ran for the
same shelter that we had taken, but he was too late. I saw his face
convulsed with terror as he realized his fate.

The horrible creature descended upon him, enveloped him on all sides,
and lay upon him, pulsing in a dreadful way as if it were thrusting
his body against the coral rocks and grinding it to pieces. The
tragedy was taking place within a few yards of us, and yet our
companions were so overcome by the suddenness of it that they seemed
to be bereft of all power of action. It was Scanlan who rushed out
and, jumping on the creature's broad back, blotched with red and brown
markings, dug the sharp end of his metal staff into its soft tissues.

I had followed Scanlan's example, and finally Maracot and all of them
attacked the monster, which glided slowly off, leaving a trail of oily
and glutinous excretion behind it. Our help had come too late,
however, for the impact of the great fish had broken the vitrine bell
of the Atlantean and he had been drowned. It was a day of mourning
when we carried his body back into the Refuge, but it was also a day
of triumph for us, for our prompt action had raised us greatly in the
estimation of our companions. As to the strange fish, we had Dr.
Maracot's assurance that it was a specimen of the blanket fish, well
known to ichthyologists, but of a size such as had never entered into
his dreams.

I speak of this creature because it chanced to bring about a tragedy,
but I could, and perhaps will, write a book upon the wonderful life
which we have seen here. Red and black are the prevailing colours in
deep-sea life, while the vegetation is of the palest olive, and is of
so tough a fibre that it is seldom dragged up by our trawls, so that
Science has come to believe that the bed of the ocean is bare. Many of
the marine forms are of surpassing loveliness, and others so grotesque
in their horror that they are like the images of delirium and of a
danger such as no land animal can rival. I have seen a black sting-ray
thirty feet long with a horrible fang upon its tail, one blow of which
would kill any living creature. I have seen, too, a frog-like beast
with protruding green eyes, which is simply a gaping mouth with a huge
stomach behind it. To meet it is death unless one has an electric
flash with which to repel it. I have seen the blind red eel which lies
among the rocks and kills by the emission of poison, and I have seen
also the giant sea-scorpion, one of the terrors of the deep, and the
hag fish, which lurks among the sea jungle.

Once, too, it was my privilege to see the real sea-serpent, a creature
which has seldom appeared before the human eye, for it lives in the
extreme depths and is seen on the surface only when some submarine
convulsion has driven it out of its haunts. Two of them swam, or
rather glided, past us one day while Mona and I cowered among the
bunches of lamellaria. They were enormous--some ten feet in height
and two hundred in length, black above, silver-white below, with a
high fringe upon the back, and small eyes no larger than those of an
ox. Of these and many other such things an account will be found in
the paper of Dr. Maracot, should it ever reach your hands.

Week glided into week in our new life. It had become a very pleasant
one, and we were slowly picking up enough of this long-forgotten
tongue to enable us to converse a little with our companions. There
were endless subjects both for study and for amusement in the Refuge,
and already Maracot has mastered so much of the old chemistry that he
declares that he can revolutionize all worldly ideas if he can only
transmit his knowledge. Among other things they have learned to split
the atom, and though the energy released is less than our scientists
had anticipated, it is still sufficient to supply them with a great
reservoir of power. Their acquaintance with the power and nature of
the ether is also far ahead of ours, and indeed that strange
translation of thought into pictures, by which we had told them our
story and they theirs, was due to an etheric impression translated
back into terms of matter.

And yet, in spite of their knowledge, there were points connected with
modern scientific developments which had been overlooked by their
ancestors.

It was left to Scanlan to demonstrate the fact. For weeks he was in a
state of suppressed excitement, bursting with some great secret, and
chuckling continually at his own thoughts. We only saw him
occasionally during this time, for he was extremely busy and his one
friend and confidant was a fat and jovial Atlantean named Berbrix, who
was in charge of some of the machinery. Scanlan and Berbrix, though
their intercourse was carried on chiefly by signs and mutual
back-slapping, had become very close friends, and were now continually
closeted together. One evening Scanlan came in radiant.

'Look here, Doc,' he said to Maracot, 'I've a dope of my own that I
want to hand to these folk. They've shown us a thing or two and I
figure that it is up to us to return it. What's the matter with
calling them together tomorrow night for a show?'

'Jazz or the Charleston?' I asked.

'Charleston nothing. Wait till you see it. Man, it's the greatest
stunt--but there, I won't say a word more. Just this, Bo. I won't let
you down, for I've got the goods, and I mean to deliver them.'

Accordingly, the community were assembled next evening in the familiar
hall. Scanlan and Berbrix were on the platform, beaming with pride.
One or other of them touched a button, and then--well, to use
Scanlan's own language, 'I hand it to him, for he did surprise us
some!'

'2L.O. calling,' cried a clear voice. 'London calling the British
Isles. Weather forecast.' Then followed the usual sentence about
depressions and anticyclones. 'First News Bulletin. His Majesty the
King this morning opened the new wing of the Children's Hospital in
Hammersmith--' and so on and on, in the familiar strain. For the first
time we were back in a workaday England once more, plodding bravely
through its daily task, with its stout back bowed under its war debts.
Then we heard the foreign news, the sporting news. The old world was
droning on the same as ever. Our friends the Atlanteans listened in
amazement, but without comprehension. When, however, as the first item
after the news, the Guards' band struck up the march from Lohengrin a
positive shout of delight broke from the people, and it was funny to
see them rush upon the platform, and turn over the curtains, and look
behind the screens to find the source of the music. Yes, we have left
our mark for ever upon the submarine civilization.

'No, sir,' said Scanlan, afterwards. 'I could not make an issuing
station. They have not the material, and I have not the brains. But
down at home I rigged a two-valve set of my own with the aerial beside
the clothes line in the yard, and I learned to handle it, and to pick
up any station in the States. It seemed to me funny if, with all this
electricity to hand, and with their glasswork ahead of ours, we
couldn't vamp up something that would catch an ether wave, and a wave
would sure travel through water just as easy as through air. Old
Berbrix nearly threw a fit when we got the first call, but he is wise
to it now, and I guess it's a permanent institution.'

Among the discoveries of the Atlantean chemists is a gas which is nine
times lighter than hydrogen and which Maracot has named levigen. It
was his experiments with this which gave us the idea of sending glass
balls with information as to our fate to the surface of the ocean.

'I have made Manda understand the idea,' said he. 'He has given orders
to the silica workers, and in a day or two the globes will be ready.'

'But how can we get our news inside?' I asked.

'There is a small aperture left through which the gas is inserted.
Into this we can push the papers. Then these skilful workers can seal
up the hole. I am assured that when we release them they will shoot up
to the surface.'

'And bob about unseen for a year.'

'That might be. But the ball would reflect the sun's rays. It would
surely attract attention. We were on the line of shipping between
Europe and South America. I see no reason why, if we send several, one
at least may not be found.'

And this, my dear Talbot, or you others who read this narrative, is
how it comes into your hands. But a far more fateful scheme may lie
behind it. The idea came from the fertile brain of the American
mechanic.

'Say friends,' said he, as we sat alone in our chamber, 'it's dandy
down here, and the drink is good and the eats are good, and I've met a
wren that makes anything in Philadelphia look like two cents, but all
the same there are times when I want to feel that I might see God's
own country once more.'

'We may all feel that way,' said I, 'but I don't see how you can hope
to make it.'

'Look it here, Bo! If these balls of gas could carry up our message,
maybe they could carry us up also. Don't think I'm joshing, for I've
figured it out to. rights. We will suppose we put three or four of
them together so as to get a good lift. See? Then we have our vitrine
bells on and harness ourselves on to the balls. When the bell rings we
cut loose and up we go. What is going to stop us between here and the
surface?'

'A shark, maybe.'

'Blah! Sharks nothing! We would streak past any shark so's he'd hardly
know we was there. He'd think we was three flashes of light and we'd
get such a lick on that we'd shoot fifty feet up in the air at the
other end. I tell you the goof that sees us come up is going to say
his prayers over it.'

'But suppose it is possible, what will happen afterwards!'

'For Pete's sake, leave afterwards out of it! Let us chance our luck,
or we are here for keeps. It's me for cutting loose and having a dash
at it.'

'I certainly greatly desire to return to the world, if only to lay our
results before the learned societies,' said Maracot. 'It is only my
personal influence which can make them realize the fund of new
knowledge which I have acquired. I should be quite in favour of any
such attempt as Scanlan has indicated.'

There were good reasons, as I will tell later, which made me the least
eager of the three.

'It would be perfect madness as you propose it. Unless we had someone
expecting us on the surface we should infallibly drift about and
perish from hunger and thirst.'

'Shucks, man, how could we have someone expecting us?'

'Perhaps even that could be managed,' said Maracot. 'We can give
within a mile or two the exact latitude and longitude of our
position.'

'And they would let down a ladder,' said I, with some bitterness.

'Ladder nothing! The boss is right. See here, Mr. Headley, you put in
that letter that you are going to send the universe--my! don't I see
the scare lines in the journals!--that we are at 27 North Latitude
and 28.14 West Longitude, or whatever other figure is the right one,
Got that? Then you say that three of the most important folk in
history, the great man of Science, Maracot, and the rising-star
bug-collector, Headley, and Bob Scanlan, a peach of a mechanic and the
pride of Merribank's; are all yellin' and whoopin' for help from the
bottom of the sea. Follow my idea?'

'Well, what then?'

'Well, then it's up to them, you see. It's kind of a challenge that
they can't forget. Same as I've read of Stanley finding Livingstone
and the like. It's for them to find some way to yank us out or to
catch us at the other end if we can take the jump ourselves.'

'We could suggest the way ourselves,' said the Professor. 'Let them
drop a deep-sea line into these waters and we will look out for it.
When it comes we can tie a message to it and bid them stand by for
us.'

'You've said a mouthful!' cried Bob Scanlan. 'That is sure the way to
do it.'

'And if any lady cared to share our fortunes four would be as easy as
three,' said Maracot, with a roguish smile at me.

'For that matter, five is as easy as four,' said Scanlan. 'But you've
got it now, Mr. Headley. You write that down, and in six months we
shall be back in London River once more.'

So now we launch our two balls into that water which is to us what the
air is to you. Our two little balloons will go aloft. Will both be
lost on the way? It is possible. Or may we hope that one will get
through? We leave it on the knees of the gods. If nothing can be done
for us, then let those who care for us know that in any case we are
safe and happy. If, on the other hand, this suggestion could be
carried out and the money and energy for our rescue should be
forthcoming, we have given you the means by which it can be done.
Meanwhile, good-bye--or is it au revoir?


So ended the narrative in the vitrine ball.

The preceding narrative covers the facts so far as they were available
when the account was first drawn up. While the script was in the hands
of the printer there came an epilogue of the most unexpected and
sensational description. I refer to the rescue of the adventurers by
Mr. Faverger's steam yacht Marion and the account sent out by the
wireless transmitter of that vessel, and picked up by the cable
station at the Cape de Verde Islands, which has just forwarded it to
Europe and America. This account was drawn up by Mr. Key Osborne, the
well-known representative of the Associated Press.

It would appear that immediately upon the first narrative of the
plight of Dr. Maracot and his friends reaching Europe an expedition
was quietly and effectively fitted up in the hope of bringing about a
rescue. Mr. Faverger generously placed his famous steam yacht at the
disposal of the party, which he accompanied in person. The Marion
sailed from Cherbourg in June, picked up Mr. Key Osborne and a
motion-picture operator at Southampton, and set forth at once for the
tract of ocean which was indicated in the original document. This was
reached upon the first of July.

A deep-sea piano-wire line was lowered, and was dragged slowly along
the bottom of the ocean. At the end of this line, beside the heavy
lead, there was suspended a bottle containing a message. The message
ran:

'Your account has been received by the world, and we are here to help
you. We duplicate this message by our wireless transmitter in the hope
that it may reach you. We will slowly traverse your region. When you
have detached this bottle, please replace your own message in it. We
will act upon your instructions.'

For two days the Marion cruised slowly to and fro without result. On
the third a very great surprise awaited the rescue party. A small,
highly luminous ball shot out of the water a few hundred yards from
the ship, and proved to be a vitreous message-bearer of the sort which
had been described in the original document. Having been broken with
some difficulty, the following message was read:

'Thanks, dear friends. We greatly appreciate your grand loyalty and
energy. We receive your wireless messages with facility, and are in a
position to answer you in this fashion. We have endeavoured to get
possession of your line, but the currents lift it high, and it sweeps
along rather faster than even the most active of us can move against
the resistance of the water. We propose to make our venture at six
tomorrow morning, which should, according to our reckoning, be
Tuesday, July 5th. We will come one at a time, so that any advice
arising from our experience can be wirelessed back to those who come
later. Once again heartfelt thanks.

Maracot. Headley. Scanlan.'


Mr. Key Osborne now takes up the narrative:

'It was a perfect morning, and the deep sapphire sea lay as smooth as
a lake, with the glorious arch of the deep blue sky unbroken by the
smallest cloud. The whole crew of the Marion was early astir, and
awaited events with the most tense interest. As the hour of six drew
near our anticipation was painful. A look-out had been placed upon our
signal mast, and it was just five minutes to the hour when we heard
him shouting, and saw him pointing to the water on our port bow. We
all crowded to that side of the deck, and I was able to perch myself
on one of the boats, from which I had a clear view. I saw through the
still water something which looked like a silver bubble ascending with
great rapidity from the depths of the ocean. It broke the surface
about two hundred yards from the ship, and soared straight up into the
air, a beautiful shining globe some three feet in diameter, rising to
a great height and then drifting away in some slight current of wind
exactly as a toy balloon would do. It was a marvellous sight, but it
filled us with apprehension, for it seemed as if the harness might
have come loose, and the burden which this tractor should have borne
through the waters had been shaken loose upon the way. A wireless was
at once dispatched:

"'Your messenger has appeared close to the vessel. It had nothing
attached and has flown away." Meanwhile we lowered a boat so as to be
ready for any development.

'Just after six o'clock there was another signal from our watchman,
and an instant later I caught sight of another silver globe, which was
swimming up from the depths very much more slowly than the last. On
reaching the surface it floated in the air, but its burden was
supported upon the water. This burden proved upon examination to be a
great bundle of books, papers, and miscellaneous objects all wrapped
in a casing of fish skin. It was hoisted dripping upon the deck, and
was acknowledged by wireless, while we eagerly awaited the next
arrival.

'This was not long in coming. Again the silver bubble, again the
breaking of the surface, but this time the glistening ball shot high
into the air, suspending under it, to our amazement, the slim figure
of a woman. It was but the impetus which had carried her into the air,
and an instant later she had been towed to the side of the vessel. A
leather circlet had been firmly fastened round the upper curve of the
glass ball, and from this long straps depended which were attached to
a broad leather belt round her dainty waist. The upper part of her
body was covered by a peculiar pear-shaped glass shade--I call it
glass, but it was of the same tough light material as the vitreous
ball. It was almost transparent, with silvery veins running through
its substance. This glass covering had tight elastic attachments at
the waist and shoulders, which made it perfectly watertight, while it
was provided within, as has been described in Headley's original
manuscript, with novel but very light and practical chemical apparatus
for the renovation of air. With some difficulty the breathing bell was
removed and the lady hoisted upon deck. She lay there in a deep faint,
but her regular breathing encouraged us to think that she would soon
recover from the effects of her rapid journey and from the change of
pressure, which had been minimized by the fact that the density of the
air inside the protective sheath was considerably higher than our
atmosphere, so that it may be said to have represented that half-way
point at which human divers are wont to pause.

'Presumably this is the Atlantean woman referred to in the first
message as Mona, and if we may take her as a sample they are indeed a
race worth reintroducing to earth. She is dark in complexion,
beautifully clear-cut and high-bred in feature, with long black hair,
and magnificently hazel eyes which looked round her presently in a
charming amazement. Sea-shells and mother-of-pearl were worked into
her cream-coloured tunic, and tangled in her dark hair. A more perfect
Naiad of the Deep could not be imagined, the very personification of
the mystery and the glamour of the sea. We could see complete
consciousness coming back into those marvellous eyes, and then she
sprang suddenly to her feet with the activity of a young doe and ran
to the side of the vessel. "Cyrus! Cyrus!" she cried.

'We had already removed the anxiety of those below by a wireless. But
now in quick succession each of them arrived, shooting thirty or forty
feet into the air, and then falling back into the sea, from which we
quickly raised them. All three were unconscious, and Scanlan was
bleeding at the nose and ears, but within an hour all were able to
totter to their feet: The first action of each was, I imagine,
characteristic. Scanlan was led off by a laughing group to the bar,
from which shouts of merriment are now resounding, much to the
detriment of this composition. Dr. Maracot seized the bundle of
papers, tore out one which consisted entirely, so far as I could
judge, of algebraic symbols, and disappeared downstairs, while Cyrus
Headley ran to the side of his strange maiden, and looks, by last
reports, as if he had no intention of ever quitting it. Thus the
matter stands, and we trust our weak wireless will carry our message
as far as the Cape de Verde station. The fuller details of this
wonderful adventure will come later, as is fitting, from the
adventurers themselves.'



Chapter 6

There are very many people who have written both to me, Cyrus Headley,
Rhodes Scholar of Oxford, and to Professor Maracot, and even to Bill
Scanlan, since our very remarkable experience at the bottom of the
Atlantic, where we were able at a point 200 miles south-west of the
Canaries to make a submarine descent which has not only led to a
revision of our views concerning deep-sea life and pressures, but has
also established the survival of an old civilization under incredibly
difficult conditions. In these letters we have been continually asked
to give further details about our experiences. It will be understood
that my original document was a very superficial one, and yet it
covered most of the facts. There were some, however, which were
withheld, and above all the tremendous episode of the Lords of the
Dark Face. This involved some facts and some conclusions of so utterly
extraordinary a nature that we all thought it was best to suppress it
entirely for the present. Now, however, that Science has accepted our
conclusions--and I may add since Society has accepted my bride--our
general veracity is established and we may perhaps venture upon a
narrative which might have repulsed public sympathy in the first
instance.

Before I get to the one tremendous happening I would lead up to it by
some reminiscences of those wonderful months in the buried home of the
Atlanteans, who by means of their vitrine oxygen bells are able to
walk the ocean floor with the same ease as those Londoners whom I see
now from my windows in the Hyde Park Hotel are strolling among the
flower-beds.

When first we were taken in by these people after our dreadful fall
from the surface we were in the position of prisoners rather than of
guests. I wish now to set upon record how this came to change and how
through the splendour of Dr. Maracot we have left such a name down
there that the memory of us will go down in their annals as of some
celestial visitation. They knew nothing of our leaving, which they
would certainly have prevented if they could, so that no doubt there
is already a legend that we have returned to some heavenly sphere,
taking with us the sweetest and choicest flower of their flock.

I would wish now to set down in their order some of the strange things
of this wonderful world, and also some of the adventures which befell
us until I came to the supreme adventure of all--one which will leave
a mark upon each of us for ever--the coming of the Lord of the Dark
Face. In some ways I wish that we could have stayed longer in the
Maracot Deep for there were many mysteries there, and up to the end
there were things which we could not understand. Also we were rapidly
learning something of their language, so that soon we should have had
much more information.

Experience had taught these people what was terrible and what was
innocent. One day, I remember, that there was a sudden alarm and that
we all ran out in our oxygen bells on to the ocean bed, though why we
ran or what we meant to do was a mystery to us. There could be no
mistake, however, as to the horror and distraction upon the faces of
those around us. When we got out on to the plain we met a number of
the Greek coal-workers who were hastening towards the door of our
Colony. They had come at such a pace, and were so weary that they kept
falling down in the ooze, and it was clear that we were really a
rescue party for the purpose of picking up these cripples, and
hurrying up the laggards. We saw no sign of weapons and no show of
resistance against the coming danger. Soon the colliers were hustled
along, and when the last one had been shoved through the door we
looked back along the line that they had traversed. All that we could
see was a couple of greenish wisp-like clouds, luminous in the centre
and ragged at the edges, which were drifting rather than moving in our
direction. At the clear sight of them, though they were quite half a
mile away, my companions were filled with panic and beat at the door
so as to get in the sooner. It was surely nervous work to see these
mysterious centres of trouble draw nearer, but the pumps acted swiftly
and we were soon in safety once more. There was a great block of
transparent crystal, ten feet long and two feet broad, above the
lintel of the door, with lights so arranged that they threw a strong
glare outside. Mounted on the ladders kept for the purpose, several of
us, including myself, looked through this rude window. I saw the
strange shimmering green circles of light pause before the door. As
they did so the Atlanteans on either side of me simply gibbered with
fear. Then one of the shadowy creatures outside came flicking up
through the water and made for our crystal window. Instantly my
companions pulled me down below the level of vision, but it seems that
in my carelessness some of my hair did not get clear from whatever the
maleficent influence may be which these strange creatures send forth.
There is a patch there which is withered and white to this day.

It was not for a long time that the Atlanteans dared to open their
door, and when at last a scout was sent forth he went amid
hand-shakings and slaps on the back as one who does a gallant deed.
His report was that all was clear, and soon joy had returned to the
community, and this strange visitation seemed to have been forgotten.
We only gathered from the word 'Praxa', repeated in various tones of
horror, that this was the name of the creature. The only person who
derived real joy from the incident was Professor Maracot, who could
hardly be restrained from sallying out with a small net and a glass
vase. 'A new order of life, partly organic, partly gaseous, but
clearly intelligent,' was his general comment. 'A freak out of Hell,'
was Scanlan's less scientific description.

Two days afterwards, when we were out on what we called a shrimping
expedition, when we walked among the deep-sea foliage and captured in
our hand-nets specimens of the smaller fish, we came suddenly upon the
body of one of the coal-workers, who had no doubt been overtaken in
his flight by these strange creatures. The glass bell had been broken
--a matter which called for enormous strength, for this vitrine
substance is extraordinarily tough, as you realized when you attempted
to reach my first documents. The man's eyes had been torn out, but
otherwise he had been uninjured.

'A dainty feeder!' said the Professor after our return. 'There is a
hawk parrot in New Zealand which will kill the lamb in order to get at
a particular morsel of fat above the kidney. So this creature will
slay the man for his eyes. In the heavens above and in the waters
below Nature knows but one law, and it is, alas! remorseless cruelty.'

We had many examples of that terrible law down there in the depths of
the ocean. I can remember, for example, that many times we observed a
curious groove upon the soft bathybian mud, as if a barrel had been
rolled along it. We pointed it out to our Atlantean companions, and
when we could interrogate them we tried to get from them some account
of what this creature could be. As to its name our friends gave some
of those peculiar clicking sounds which come into the Atlantean
speech, and which cannot be reproduced either by the European tongue
or by the European alphabet. Krixchok is, perhaps, an approximation to
it. But as to its appearance we could always in such cases make use of
the Atlantean thought reflector by which our friends were able to give
a very clear vision of whatever was in their own minds. By this means
they conveyed to us a picture of a very strange marine creature which
the Professor could only classify as a gigantic sea slug. It seemed to
be of great size, sausage shaped with eyes at the ends of stems, and a
thick coating of coarse hair or bristles. When showing this
apparition, our friends by their gestures expressed the greatest
horror and repulsion.

But this, as anyone could predicate who knew Maracot, only served to
inflame his scientific passions and to make him the more eager to
determine the exact species and sub-species of this unknown monster.
Accordingly I was not surprised when, on the occasion of our next
excursion, he stopped at the point where we clearly saw the mark of
the brute upon the slime, and turned deliberately towards the tangle
of seaweed and basaltic blocks out of which it seemed to have come.
The moment we left the plain the traces of course ceased, and yet
there seemed to be a natural gully amid the rocks which clearly led to
the den of the monster. We were all three armed with the pikes which
the Atlanteans usually carried, but they seemed to me to be frail
things with which to face unknown dangers. The Professor trudged
ahead, however, and we could but follow after.

The rocky gorge ran upwards, its sides formed of huge clusters of
volcanic debris and draped with a profusion of the long red and black
forms of lamellaria which are characteristic of the extreme depths of
Ocean. A thousand beautiful ascidians and echinoderms of every joyous
colour and fantastic shape peeped out from amid this herbage, which
was alive with strange crustaceans and low forms of creeping life. Our
progress was slow, for walking is never easy in the depths, and the
angle up which we toiled was an acute one. Suddenly, however, we saw
the creature whom we hunted, and the sight was not a reassuring one.

It was half protruded from its lair, which was a hollow in a basaltic
pile. About five feet of hairy body was visible, and we perceived its
eyes, which were as large as saucers, yellow in colour, and glittering
like agates, moving round slowly upon their long pedicles as it heard
the sound of our approach. Then slowly it began to unwind itself from
its burrow, waving its heavy body along in caterpillar fashion. Once
it reared up its head some four feet from the rocks, so as to have a
better look at us, and I observed, as it did so, that it had what
looked like the corrugated soles of tennis shoes fastened on either
side of its neck, the same colour, size, and striped appearance. What
this might mean I could not conjecture, but we were soon to have an
object lesson in their use.

The Professor had braced himself with his pike projecting forward and
a most determined expression upon his face. It was clear that the hope
of a rare specimen had swept all fear from his mind. Scanlan and I
were by no means so sure of ourselves, but we could not abandon the
old man, so we stood our ground on either side of him.

The creature, after that one long stare, began slowly and clumsily to
make its way down the slope, worming its path among the rocks, and
raising its pedicled eyes from time to time to see what we were about.
It came so slowly that we seemed safe enough, since we could always
out-distance it. And yet, had we only known it, we were standing very
near to death.

It was surely Providence that sent us our warning. The beast was still
making its lumbering approach, and may have been sixty yards from us,
when a very large fish, a deep-sea groper, shot out from the
algae-jungle on our side of the gorge and swam slowly across it. It
had reached the centre, and was about midway between the creature and
ourselves when it gave a convulsive leap, turned belly upwards, and
sank dead to the bottom of the ravine. At the same moment each of us
felt an extraordinary and most unpleasant tingling pass over our whole
bodies, while our knees seemed to give way beneath us. Old Maracot was
as wary as he was audacious, and in an instant he had sized up the
situation and realized that the game was up. We were faced by some
creature which threw out electric waves to kill its prey, and our
pikes were of no more use against it than against a machine-gun. Had
it not been for the lucky chance that the fish drew its fire, we
should have waited until it was near enough to loose off its full
battery, which would infallibly have destroyed us. We blundered off as
swiftly as we could, with the resolution to leave the giant electric
sea-worm severely alone for the future.

These were some of the more terrible of the dangers of the deep.. Yet
another was the little black Hydrops ferox, as the Professor named
him. He was a red fish not much longer than a herring, with a large
mouth and a formidable row of teeth. He was harmless in ordinary
circumstances, but the shedding of blood, even the very smallest
amount of it, attracted him in an instant, and there was no possible
salvation for the victim, who was torn to pieces by swarms of
attackers. We saw a horrible sight once at the colliery pits, where a
slave worker had the misfortune to cut his hand. In an instant, coming
from all quarters, thousands of these fish were on to him. In vain he
threw himself down and struggled; in vain his horrified companions
beat them away with their picks and shovels. The lower part of him,
beneath his bell, dissolved before our eyes amid the cloud of vibrant
life which surrounded him. One instant we saw a man. The next there
was a red mass with white protruding bones. A minute later the bones
only were left below the waist and half a clean-picked skeleton was
lying at the bottom of the sea. The sight was so horrifying that we
were all ill, and the hard-boiled Scanlan actually fell down in a
faint and we had some difficulty in getting him home.

But the strange sights which we saw were not always horrifying. I have
in mind one which will never fade from our memory. It was on one of
those excursions which we delighted to take, sometimes with an
Atlantean guide, and sometimes by ourselves when our hosts had learned
that we did not need constant attendance and nursing. We were passing
over a portion of the plain with which we were quite familiar, when we
perceived, to our surprise, that a great patch of light yellow sand,
half an acre or so in extent, had been laid down or uncovered since
our last visit. We were standing in some surprise, wondering what
submarine current or seismic movement could have brought this about,
when to our absolute amazement the whole thing rose up and swam with
slow undulations immediately above our heads. It was so huge that the
great canopy took some appreciable time, a minute or two, to pass from
over us. It was a gigantic flat fish, not different, so far as the
Professor could observe, from one of our own little dabs, but grown to
this enormous size upon the nutritious food which the bathybian
deposits provide. It vanished away into the darkness above us, a
great, glimmering, flickering white--and yellow expanse, and we saw it
no more.

There was one other phenomenon of the deep sea which was very
unexpected. That was the tornadoes which frequently occur. They seem
to be caused by the periodical arrival of violent submarine currents
which set in with little warning and are terrific while they last,
causing as much confusion and destruction as the highest wind would do
upon land. No doubt without these visitations there would be that
putridity and stagnation which absolute immobility must give, so that,
as in all Nature's processes, there was an excellent object in view;
but the experience none the less was an alarming one.

On the first occasion when I was caught in such a watery cyclone, I
had gone out with that very dear lady to whom I have alluded, Mona,
the daughter of Manda. There was a very beautiful bank loaded with
algae of a thousand varied colours which lay a mile or so from the
Colony. This was Mona's very special garden which she greatly loved, a
tangle of pink serpularia, purple ophiurids and red holothurians. On
this day she had taken me to see it, and it was while we were standing
before it that the storm burst. So strong was the current which
suddenly flowed upon us that it was only by holding together and
getting behind the shelter of rocks that we could save ourselves from
being washed away. I observed that this rushing stream of water was
quite warm, almost as warm as one could bear, which may show that
there is a volcanic origin in these disturbances and that they are the
wash from some submarine disturbance in some far-off region of the
ocean bed. The mud of the great plain was stirred up by the rush of
the current, and the light was darkened by the thick cloud of matter
suspended in the water around us. To find our way back was impossible,
for we had lost all sense of direction, and in any case could hardly
move against the rush of the water. Then on the top of all else a
slowly increasing heaviness of the chest and difficulty in breathing
warned me that our oxygen supply was beginning to fail us.

It is at such times, when we are in the immediate presence of death,
that the great primitive passions float to the surface and submerge
all our lesser emotions. It was only at that moment that I knew that I
loved my gentle companion, loved her with all my heart and soul, loved
her with a love which was rooted deep down and was part of my very
self. How strange a thing is a love like that! How impossible to
analyse! It was not for her face or figure, lovely as they were. It
was not for her voice, though it was more musical than any I have
known, nor was it for mental communion, since I could only learn her
thoughts from her sensitive ever-changing face. No, it was something
at the back of her dark dreamy eyes, something in the very depths of
her soul as of mine which made us mates for all time. I held out my
hand and clasped her own, reading in her face that there was no
thought or emotion of mine which was not flooding her own receptive
mind and flushing her lovely cheek. Death at my side would present no
terror to her, and as for myself my heart throbbed at the very
thought.

But it was not to be. One would think that our glass coverings
excluded sounds, but as a matter of fact the throb of certain air
vibrations penetrated them easily, or by their impact started similar
vibrations within. There was a loud beat, a reverberating clang, like
that of a distant gong. I had no idea what it might mean, but my
companion was in no doubt. Still holding my hand, she rose from our
shelter, and after listening intently she crouched down and began to
make her way against the storm. It was a race against death, for every
instant the terrible oppression on my chest became more unbearable. I
saw her dear face peering most anxiously into mine, and I staggered on
in the direction to which she led me. Her appearance and her movements
showed that her oxygen supply was less exhausted than mine. I held on
as long as Nature would allow, and then suddenly everything swam
around me. I threw out my arms and fell senseless upon the soft ocean
floor.

When I came to myself I was lying on my own couch inside the Atlantean
Palace. The old yellow--clad priest was standing beside me, a phial of
some stimulant in his hand. Maracot and Scanlan, with distressed
faces, were bending over me, while Mona knelt at the bottom of the bed
with tender anxiety upon her features. It seems that the brave girl
had hastened on to the community door, from which on occasions of this
sort it was the custom to beat a great gong as a guide to any
wanderers who might be lost. There she had explained my position and
had guided back the rescue party, including my two comrades who had
brought me back in their arms. Whatever I may do in life, it is truly
Mona who will do it, for that life has been a gift from her.

Now that by a miracle she has come to join me in the upper world, the
human world under the sky, it is strange to reflect upon the fact that
my love was such that I was willing, most willing, to remain for ever
in the depths so long as she should be all my own. For long I could
not understand that deep, deep intimate bond which held us together,
and which was felt, as I could see, as strongly by her as by me. It
was Manda, her father, who gave me an explanation which was as
unexpected as it was satisfying.

He had smiled gently over our love affair--smiled with the indulgent,
half-amused air of one who sees that come to pass which he had already
anticipated. Then one day he led me aside and in his own chamber he
placed that silver screen upon which his thoughts and knowledge could
be reflected. Never while the breath of life is in my body can I
forget that which he showed me--and her. Seated side by side, our
hands clasped together, we watched entranced while the pictures
flickered up before our eyes, formed and projected by that racial
memory of the past which these Atlanteans possess.

There was a rocky peninsula jutting out into a lovely blue ocean. I
may not have told you before that in these thought cinemas, if I may
use the expression, colour is produced as well as form. On this
headland was a house of quaint design, wide-spread, red-roofed,
white-walled, and beautiful. A grove of palm trees surrounded it. In
this grove there appeared to be a camp, for we could see the white
sheen of tents and here and there the glimmer of arms as of some
sentinel keeping ward. Out of this grove there walked a middle-aged
man clad in mail armour, with a round light shield on his arm. He
carried something in his other hand, but whether sword or javelin I
could not see. He turned his face towards us once, and I saw at once
that he was of the same breed as the Atlantean men who were around me.
Indeed, he might have been the twin brother of Manda, save that his
features were harsh and menacing--a brute man, but one who was brutal
not from ignorance but from the trend of his own nature. The brute and
the brain are surely the most dangerous of all combinations. In this
high forehead and sardonic, bearded mouth one sensed the very essence
of evil. If this were indeed some previous incarnation of Manda
himself, and by his gestures he seemed to wish us to understand that
it was, then in soul, if not in mind, he has risen far since then.

As he approached the house, we saw in the picture that a young woman
came out to meet him. She was clad as the old Greeks were clad, in a
long clinging white garment, the simplest and yet the most beautiful
and dignified dress that woman has ever yet devised. Her manner as she
approached the man was one of submission and reverence--the manner of
a dutiful daughter to a father. He repulsed her savagely, however,
raising his hand as if to strike her As she shrank back from him, the
sun lit up her beautiful, tearful face and I saw that it was my Mona.

The silver screen blurred, and an instant later another scene was
forming. It was a rock-bound cove, which I sensed to belong to that
very peninsula which I had already seen. A strange-shaped boat with
high pointed ends was in the foreground. It was night, but the moon
shone very brightly on the water. The familiar stars, the same to
Atlantis as to us, glittered in the sky. Slowly and cautiously the
boat drew in. There were two rowers, and in the bows a man enveloped
in a dark cloak. As he came close to the shore he stood up and looked
eagerly around him. I saw his pale, earnest face in the clear
moonlight. It did not need the convulsive clasp of Mona or the
ejaculation of Manda to explain that strange intimate thrill which
shot over me as I looked. The man was myself.

Yes, I, Cyrus Headley, now of New York and of Oxford; I, the latest
product of modern culture, had myself once been part of this mighty
civilization of old. I understood now why many of the symbols and
hieroglyphs which I had seen around had impressed me with a vague
familiarity. Again and again I had felt like a man who strains his
memory because he feels that he is on the edge of some great
discovery, which is always awaiting him, and yet is always just
outside his grasp. Now, too, I understood that deep soul thrill which
I had encountered when my eyes met those of Mona. They came from the
depths of my own subconscious self where the memories of twelve
thousand years still lingered.

Now the boat had touched the shore, and out of the bushes above there
had come a glimmering white figure. My arms were outstretched to
enfold it. After one hurried embrace I had half lifted, half carried
her into the boat. But now there was a sudden alarm. With frantic
gestures I beckoned to the rowers to push out. It was too late. Men
swarmed out of the bushes. Eager hands seized the side of the boat. In
vain I tried to beat them off. An axe gleamed in the air and crashed
down upon my head. I fell forward dead upon the lady bathing her white
robe in my blood. I saw her screaming, wild-eyed and open-mouthed,
while her father dragged her by her long black hair from underneath my
body. Then the curtain closed down.

Once again a picture flickered up upon the silver screen. It was
inside the house of refuge which had been built by the wise Atlantean
for a place of refuge on the day of doom--that very house in which we
now stood. I saw its crowded, terrified inmates at the moment of the
catastrophe. Then I saw my Mona once again, and there also was her
father who had learned better and wiser ways so that he was now
included among those who might be saved. We saw the great hall rocking
like a ship in a storm, while the awestruck refugees clung to the
pillars or fell upon the floor. Then we saw the lurch and fall as it
descended through the waves.  Once more the scene died away, and Manda
turned smiling to show that all was over.

Yes, we had lived before, the whole group of us, Manda and Mona and I,
and perhaps shall live again, acting and reacting down the long chain
of our lives. I had died in the upper world, and so my own
reincarnations had been upon that plane. Manda and Mona had died
under, the waves, and so it was there that their cosmic destiny had
been worked out. We had for a moment seen a corner lifted in the great
dark veil of Nature and had one passing gleam of truth amid the
mysteries which surround us. Each life is but one chapter in a story
which God has designed. You cannot judge its wisdom or its justice
until in some supreme day, from some pinnacle of knowledge, you look
back and see at last the cause and the effect, acting and reacting,
down all the long chronicles of Time.

This new-found and delightful relationship of mine may have saved us
all a little later when the only serious quarrel which we ever had
broke out between us and the community with which we dwelt. As it was,
it might have gone ill with us had not a far greater matter come to
engage the attention of all, and to place us on a pinnacle in their
estimation. It came about thus.

One morning, if such a term can be used where the time of day could
only be judged by our occupations, the Professor and I were seated in
our large common room. He had fitted one corner of it as a laboratory
and was busily engaged in dissecting a gastrostomus which he had
netted the day before. On his table were scattered a litter of
amphipods and copepods with specimens of Valella, Ianthina, Physalia,
and a hundred other creatures whose smell was by no means as
attractive as their appearance. I was seated near him studying an
Atlantean grammar, for our friends had plenty of books, printed in
curious right to left fashion upon what I thought was parchment but
which proved to be the bladders of fishes, pressed and preserved. I
was bent on getting the key which would unlock all this knowledge, and
therefore I spent much of my time over the alphabet and the elements
of the language.

Suddenly, however, our peaceful pursuits were rudely interrupted by an
extraordinary procession which rushed into the room. First came Bill
Scanlan, very red and excited, one arm waving in the air, and, to our
amazement, a plump and noisy baby under the other. Behind him was
Berbrix, the Atlantean engineer who had helped Scanlan to erect the
wireless receiver. He was a large stout jovial man as a rule, but now
his big fat face was convulsed with grief. Behind him again was a
woman whose straw-coloured hair and blue eyes showed that she was no
Atlantean but one of the subordinate race which we traced to the
ancient Greeks.

'Look it here, boss,' cried the excited Scanlan. 'This guy Berbrix,
who is a regular fellar, is going clean goofie and so is this skirt
whom he has married, and I guess it is up to us to see that they get a
square deal. Far as I understand it she is like a nigger would be down
South, and he said a mouthful when he asked her to marry him, but I
reckon that's the guy's own affair and nothing to us.'

'Of course it is his own affair,' said I. 'What on earth has bitten
you, Scanlan?'

'It's like this, boss. Here ha! a baby come along. It seems the folk
here don't want a breed of that sort nohow, and the Priests are out to
offer up the baby to that darn image down yonder. The chief high
muck-a-muck got hold of the baby and was sailin' off with it but
Berbrix yanked it away, and I threw him down on his ear-hole, and now
the whole pack are at our heels and--'

Scanlan got no further with his explanation, for there was a shouting
and a rush of feet in the passage, our door was flung open, and
several of the yellow-clad attendants of the Temple rushed into the
room. Behind them, fierce and austere, came the high-nosed formidable
Priest. He, beckoned with his hand, and his servants rushed forward to
seize the child. They halted, however, in indecision as they saw
Scanlan throw the baby down among the specimens on the table behind
him, and pick up a pike with which he confronted his assailants. They
had drawn their knives, so I also ran with a pike to Scanlan's aid,
while Berbrix did the same. So menacing were we that the Temple
servants shrank back and things seemed to have come to a deadlock.

'Mr. Headley, sir, you speak a bit of their lingo,' cried: Scanlan.
'Tell them there ain't no soft pickings here. Tell them we ain't
givin' away no babies this morning, thank you. Tell them there will be
such a rough house as they never saw if they don't vamose the ranche.
There now, you asked for it and you've got it good and plenty and I
wish you joy.'

The latter part of Scanlan's speech was caused by the fact that Dr.
Maracot had suddenly plunged the scalpel with which he was performing
his dissection into the arm of one of the attendants who had crept
round and had raised his knife to stab Scanlan. The man howled and
danced about in fear and pain while his comrades, incited by the old
Priest, prepared to make a rush. Heaven only knows what would have
happened if Manda and Mona had not entered the room. He stared with
amazement at the scene and asked a number of eager questions of the
High Priest. Mona had come over to me, and with a happy inspiration I
picked up the baby and placed it in her arms, where it settled down
and cooed most contentedly.

Manda's brow was overcast and it was clear that he was greatly puzzled
what to do. He sent the Priest and his satellites back to the Temple,
and then he entered into a long explanation, only a part of which I
could understand and pass on to my companions.

'You are to give up the baby,' I said to Scanlan.

'Give it up! No, sir. Nothin' doing!'

'This lady is to take charge of mother and child.'

'That's another matter. If Miss Mona takes it on, I am contented. But
if that bindlestiff of a priest--'

'No, no, he cannot interfere. The matter is to be referred to the
Council. It is very serious, for I understand Manda to say that the
Priest is within his rights and that it is an old-established custom
of the nation. They could never, he says, distinguish between the
upper and lower races if they had all sorts of intermediates in
between. If children are born they must die. That is the law.'

'Well, this baby won't die anyhow.'

'I hope not. He said he would do all he could with the Council. But it
will be a week or two before they meet. So it's safe up to then, and
who knows what may happen in the meantime.'

Yes, who knew what might happen. Who could have dreamed what did
happen. Out of this is fashioned the next chapter of our adventures.



Chapter 7

I have already said that within a short distance of the underground
dwelling of the Atlanteans, prepared beforehand to meet the
catastrophe which overwhelmed their native land, there lay the ruins
of that great city of which their dwelling had once been part. I have
described also how with the vitrine bells charged with oxygen upon our
heads we were taken to visit this place, and I tried to convey how
deep were our emotions as we viewed it. No words can describe the
tremendous impression produced by those colossal ruins, the huge
carved pillars and gigantic buildings, all lying stark and silent in
the grey phosphorescent light of the bathybian deeps, with no movement
save the slow wash of the giant fronds in the deep-sea currents, or
the flickering shadows of the great fish which passed through the
gaping doors or flitted round the dismantled chambers. It was a
favourite haunt of ours, and under the guidance of our friend Manda we
passed many an hour examining the strange architecture and all the
other remains of that vanished civilization which bore every sign of
having been, so far as material knowledge goes, far ahead of our own.

I have said material knowledge. Soon we were to have proof that in
spiritual culture there was a vast chasm which separated them from us.
The lesson which we carry from their rise and their fall is that the
greatest danger which can come to a state is when its intellect
outruns its soul. It destroyed this old civilization, and it may yet
be the ruin of our own.

We had observed that in one part of the ancient city there was a large
building which must have stood upon a hill, for it was still
considerably elevated above the general level. A long flight of broad
steps constructed from black marble led up to it, and the same
material had been used in most of the building, but it was nearly
obscured now by a horrible yellow fungus, a fleshy leprous mass, which
hung down from every cornice and projection. Above the main doorway,
carved also in black marble, was a terrible Medusa-like head with
radiating serpents, and the same symbol was repeated here and there
upon the walls. Several times we had wished to explore this sinister
building, but on each occasion our friend Manda had shown the greatest
agitation and by frantic gestures had implored us to turn away. It was
clear that so long as he was in our company we should never have our
way, and yet a great curiosity urged us to penetrate the secret of
this ominous place. We held a council on the matter one morning, Bill
Scanlan and I.

'Look it here, Bo,' said he, 'there is something there that this guy
does not want us to see, and the more he hides it the more of a hunch
have I that I want to be set wise to it. We don't need no guides any
more, you or I. I guess we can put on our own glass tops and walk out
of the front door same as any other citizen. Let us go down and
explore.'

'Why not?' said I, for I was as curious about the matter as Scanlan.
'Do you see any objection, sir?' I asked, for Dr. Maracot had entered
the room. 'Perhaps you would care to come down with us and fathom the
mystery of the Palace of Black Marble.'

'It may be the Palace of Black Magic as well,' said he. 'Did you ever
hear of the Lord of the Dark Face?'

I confessed that I never did. I forget if I have said before that the
Professor was a world-famed specialist on Comparative Religions and
ancient primitive beliefs. Even the distant Atlantis was not beyond
the range of his learning.

'Our knowledge of the conditions there came to us chiefly by way of
Egypt,' said he. 'It is what the Priests of the Temple at Sais told
Solon which is the solid nucleus round which all the rest, part fact
and part fiction, has gathered.'

'And what wisecracks did the priests say?' asked Scanlan.

'Well, they said a good deal. But among other things they handed down
a legend of the Lord of the Dark Face. I can't help thinking that he
may have been the Master of the Black Marble Palace. Some say that
there were several Lords of the Dark Face--but one at least is on
record.'

'And what sort of a duck was he?' asked Scanlan.,

'Well, by all accounts, he was more than a man, both in his power and
in his wickedness. Indeed, it was on account of these things, and on
account of the utter corruption which he had brought upon the people,
that the whole land was destroyed.'

'Like Sodom and Gomorrah.'

'Exactly. There would seem to be a point where things become
impossible. Nature's patience is exhausted, and the only course open
is to smear it all out and begin again. This creature, one can hardly
call him a man, had trafficked in unholy arts and had acquired magic
powers of the most far--reaching sort which he turned to evil ends.
That is the legend of the Lord of the Dark Face. It would explain why
his house is still a thing of horror to these poor people and why they
dread that we should go near it.'

'Which makes me the more eager to do so,' I cried.

'Same here, Bo,' Bill added.

'I confess that I, too, should be interested to examine it,' said the
Professor. 'I cannot see that our kind hosts here will be any the
worse if we make a little expedition of our own, since their
superstition makes it difficult for them to accompany us. We will take
our opportunity and do so.'

It was some little time before that opportunity came, for our small
community was so closely knit that there was little privacy in life.
It chanced, however, one morning--so far as we could with our rough
calendar reckon night and morning--there was some religious
observance which assembled them all and took up all their attention.
The chance was too good for us to miss and having assured the two
janitors who worked the great pumps of the entrance chamber that all
was right we soon found ourselves alone upon the ocean bed and bound
for the old city. Progress is slow through the heavy medium of salt
water, and even a short walk is wearying, but within an hour we found
ourselves in front of the huge black building which had excited our
curiosity. With no friendly guide to check us, and no presentiment of
danger, we ascended the marble stair and passed through the huge
carved portals of this palace of evil.

It was far better preserved than the other buildings of the old city--
so much so, indeed, that the stone shell was in no way altered, and
only the furniture and the hangings had long decayed and vanished.
Nature, however, had brought her own hangings, and very horrible they
were. It was a gloomy shadowy place at the best, but in those hideous
shadows lurked the obscene shapes of monstrous polyps and strange,
misformed fish which were like the creations of a nightmare.
Especially I remember an enormous purple sea-slug which crawled, in
great numbers, everywhere and large black flat fish which lay like
mats upon the floor, with long waving tentacles tipped with flame
vibrating above them in the water. We had to step carefully, for the
whole building was filled with hideous creatures which might well
prove to be as poisonous as they looked.

There were richly ornamented passages with small side rooms leading
out from them, but the centre of the building was taken up by one
magnificent hall, which in the days of its grandeur must have been one
of the most wonderful chambers ever erected by human hands. In that
gloomy light we could see neither the roof nor the full sweep of the
walls, but as we walked round, our lamps casting tunnels of light
before us, we appreciated its huge proportions and the marvellous
decorations of the walls. These decorations took the form of statues
and ornaments, carved with the highest perfection of art, but horrible
and revolting in their subjects. All that the most depraved human mind
could conceive of Sadic cruelty and bestial lust was reproduced upon
the walls. Through the shadows monstrous images and horrible
imaginings loomed round us on every side. If ever the devil had a
Temple erected in his honour, it was there. So too was the devil
himself, for at one end of the room, under a canopy of discoloured
metal which may well have been gold, and on a high throne of red
marble, there was seated a dreadful deity, the very impersonation of
evil, savage, scowling and relentless, modelled upon the same lines as
the Baal whom we had seen in the Atlantean Colony, but infinitely
stranger and more repulsive. There was a fascination in the wonderful
vigour of that terrible countenance, and we were standing with our
lamps playing upon it, absorbed in our reflections, when the most
amazing, the most incredible thing came to break in upon our
reflections. From behind us there came the sound of a loud, derisive
human laugh.

Our heads were, as I have explained, enclosed in our glass bells, from
which all sound was excluded, nor was it possible for anyone wearing a
bell to utter any sound. And yet that mocking laugh fell clear upon
the ears of each of us. We sprang round and stood amazed at what was
before us.

Against one of the pillars of the hall a man was leaning, his arms
folded upon his chest, and his malevolent eyes fixed with a
threatening glare upon ourselves. I have called him a man, but he was
unlike any man whom I have ever seen, and the fact that he both
breathed and talked as no man could breathe or talk, and made his
voice carry as no human voice could carry, told us that he had that in
him which made him very different from ourselves. Outwardly he was a
magnificent creature, not less than seven feet in height and built
upon the lines of a perfect athlete, which was more noticeable as he
wore a costume which fitted tightly upon his figure, and seemed to
consist of black glazed leather. His face was that of a bronze statue
--a statue wrought by some master craftsman in order to depict all the
power and also all the evil which the human features could portray. It
was not bloated or sensual, for such characteristics would have meant
weakness and there was no trace of weakness there. On the contrary, it
was extraordinarily clean-cut and aquiline, with an eagle nose, dark
bristling brows, and smouldering black eyes which flashed and glowed
with an inner fire. It was those remorseless, malignant eyes, and the
beautiful but cruel straight hard-lipped mouth, set like fate, which
gave the terror to his face. One felt, as one looked at him, that
magnificent as he was in his person, he was evil to the very marrow,
his glance a threat, his smile a sneer, his laugh a mockery:

'Well, gentlemen,' he said, talking excellent English in a voice which
sounded as clear as if we were all back upon earth, 'you have had a
remarkable adventure in the past and are likely to have an even more
exciting one in the future, though it may be my pleasant task to bring
it to a sudden end. This, I fear, is a rather one-sided conversation,
but as I am perfectly well able to read your thoughts, and as I know
all about you, you need not fear any misunderstanding. But you have a
great deal--a very great deal to learn.'

We looked at each other in helpless amazement. It was hard, indeed, to
be prevented from comparing notes as to our reactions to this amazing
development. Again we heard that rasping laugh.

'Yes, it is indeed hard. But you can talk when you return, for I wish
you to return and to take a message with you. If it were not for that
message, I think that this visit to my home would have been your end.
But first of all I have a few things which I wished to say to you. I
will address you, Dr. Maracot, as the oldest and presumably the wisest
of the party, though none could have been very wise to make such an
excursion as this. You hear me very well, do you not? That is right, a
nod or a shake is all I ask.

'Of course you know who I am. I fancy you discovered me lately. No one
can speak or think of me that I do not know it. No one can come into
this my old home, my innermost intimate shrine, that I am not
summoned. That is why these poor wretches down yonder avoid it, and
wanted you to avoid it a1so. You would have been wiser if you had
followed their advice. You have brought me to you, and when once I am
brought I do not readily leave.

'Your mind with its little grain of earth science is worrying itself
over the problems which I present. How is it that I can live here
without oxygen? I do not live here. I live in the great world of men
under the light of the sun. I only come here when I am called as you
have called me. But I am an ether-breathing creature. There is as much
ether here as on a mountain top. Some of your own people can live
without air. The cataleptic lies for months and never breathes. I'm
even as he, but I remain, as you see me, conscious and active.

'Now you worry as to how you can hear me. Is it not the very essence
of wireless transmission that it turns from the ether to the air? So
I, too, can turn my words from my etheric utterance to impinge upon
your ears through the air which fills those clumsy bells of yours.

'And my English? Well, I hope it is fairly good. I have lived some
time on earth, oh a weary, weary time. How long is it? Is this the
eleventh thousand or the twelfth thousand year? The latter, I think. I
have had time to learn all human tongues. My English is no better than
the rest.

'Have I resolved some of your doubts? That is right. I can see if I
cannot hear you. But now I have something more serious to say.

'I am Baal-seepa. I am the Lord of the Dark Face. I am he who went so
far into the inner secrets of Nature that I could defy death himself.
I have so handled things that I could not die if I would. Some will
stronger than my own is to be found if I am ever to die. Oh, mortals,
never pray to be delivered from death. It may seem terrible, but
eternal life is infinitely more so. To go on and on and on while the
endless procession of humanity goes past you. To sit ever at the
wayside of history and to see it go, ever moving onwards and leaving
you behind. Is it a wonder that my heart is black and bitter, and that
I curse the whole foolish drove of them? I injure them when I can. Why
should I not?

'You wonder how I can injure them. I have powers, and they are not
small ones. I can sway the minds of men. I am the master of the mob.
Where evil has been planned there have I ever been. I was with the
Huns when they laid half Europe in ruins. I was with the Saracens when
under the name of religion they put to the sword all who gainsayed
them. I was out on Bartholomew's night. I lay behind the slave trade.
It was my whisper which burned ten thousand old crones whom the fools
called witches. I was the tall dark man who led the mob in Paris when
the streets swam in blood. Rare times those, but they have been even
better of late in Russia. That is whence I have come. I had half
forgotten this colony of sea-rats who burrow under the mud and carry
on a few of the arts and legends of that grand land where life
flourished as never since. It is you who reminded me of them, for this
old home of mine is still united, by personal vibrations of which your
science knows nothing, to the man who built and loved it. I knew that
strangers had entered it. I inquired, and here I am. So now since I am
here--and it is the first time for a thousand years----it has
reminded me of these people. They have lingered long enough. It is
time for them to go. They are sprung from the power of one who defied
me in his life, and who built up this means of escape from the
catastrophe which engulfed all but his people and myself. His wisdom
saved them and my powers saved me. But now my powers will crush those
whom he saved, and the story will be complete.'

He put his hand into his breast and he took out a piece of script.
'You will give this to the chief of the water-rats,' said he. 'I
regret that you gentlemen should share their fate, but since you are
the primary cause of their misfortune it is only justice, after all. I
will see you again later. Meanwhile I would commend a study of these
pictures and carvings, which will give you some idea of the height to
which I had raised Atlantis during the days of my rule. Here you will
find some record of the manners and customs of the people when under
my influence. Life was very varied, very highly coloured, very
many-sided. In these drab days they would call it an orgy of
wickedness. Well, call it what you will, I brought it about, I
rejoiced in it, and I have no regrets. Had I my time again, I would do
even so and more, save only for this fatal gift of eternal life.
Warda, whom I curse and whom I should have killed before he grew
strong enough to turn people against me, was wiser than I in this. He
still revisits earth, but it is as a spirit, not a man. And now I go.
You came here from curiosity, my friends. I can but trust that that
curiosity is satisfied.'

And then we saw him disappear. Yes, before our very eyes he vanished.
It was not done in an instant. He stood clear of the pillar against
which he had been leaning. His splendid towering figure seemed blurred
at the edges. The light died out of his eyes and his features grew
indistinct. Then in a moment he had become a dark whirling cloud which
swept upwards through the stagnant water of this dreadful hall. Then
he was gone, and we stood gazing at each other and marvelling at the
strange possibilities of life.

We did not linger in that horrible palace. It was not a safe place in
which to loiter. As it was, I picked one of those noxious purple slugs
off the shoulder of Bill Scanlan, and I was myself badly stung in the
hand by the venom spat at me by a great yellow lamelli branch. As we
staggered out I had one last impression of those dreadful carvings,
the devil's own handiwork, upon the walls, and then we almost ran down
the darksome passage, cursing the day that ever we had been fools
enough to enter it. It was joy indeed to be out in the phosphorescent
light of the bathybian plain, and to see the clear translucent water
once again around us. Within an hour we were back in our home once
more. With our helmets removed, we met in consultation in our own
chamber. The Professor and I were too overwhelmed with it all to be
able to put our thoughts into words. It was only the irrepressible
vitality of Bill Scanlan which rose superior.

'Holy smoke!' said he. 'We are up against it now. I guess this guy is
the big noise out of hell. Seems to me, with his pictures and statues
and the rest, he would make the wardsman of a red light precinct look
like two cents. How to handle him--that's the question.'

Dr. Maracot was lost in thought. Then he rang the bell and summoned
our yellow-clad attendant. 'Manda,' said he. A minute later our friend
was in the room. Maracot handed him the fateful letter.

Never have I admired a man as I did Manda at that moment. We had
brought threatened ruin upon his people and himself by our
unjustifiable curiosity--we, the strangers whom he had rescued when
everything was hopelessly lost. And yet, though he turned a ghastly
colour as he read the message, there was no touch of reproach upon the
sad brown eyes which turned upon us. He shook his head, and despair
was in every gesture. 'Baal-seepa! Baal-seepa!' he cried, and pressed
his hands convulsively to his eyes, as if shutting out some horrible
vision. He ran about the room like a man distracted with his grief,
and finally rushed away to read the fatal message to the community. We
heard a few minutes later the clang of the great bell which summoned
them all to conference in the Central Hall.

'Shall we go?' I asked.

Dr. Maracot shook his head.

'What can we do? For that matter, what can they do?  What chance have
they against one who has the powers of a demon?'

'As much chance as a bunch of rabbits against a weasel,' said Scanlan.
'But, by Gosh, it's up to us to find a way out. I guess we can't go
out of our way to raise the devil and then pass the buck to the folk
that saved us.'

'What do you suggest?' I asked eagerly, for behind all his slang and
his levity I recognized the strong, practical ability of this modern
man of his hands.

'Well, you can search me,' said he. 'And yet maybe this guy is not as
safe as he thinks. A bit of it may have got worn out with age, and
he's getting on in years if we can take his word for it.'

'You think we might attack him?'

'Lunacy!' interjected the doctor.

Scanlan went to his locker. When he faced round he had a big
six-shooter in his hand.

'What about this?' he said. 'I laid hold of it when we got our chance
at the wreck. I thought maybe it might come useful. I've a dozen
shells here. Maybe if I made as many holes in the big stiff it would
let out some of his Magic. Lord save us! What is it?'

The revolver clattered down upon the floor, and Scanlan was writhing
in agonies of pain, his left hand clasping his right wrist. Terrible
cramps had seized his arm, and as we tried to alleviate them we could
feel the muscles knotted up as hard as the roots of a tree. The sweat
of agony streamed down the poor fellow's brow. Finally, utterly cowed
and exhausted, he fell upon his bed.

'That lets me out,' he said. 'I'm through. Yes, thank you, the pain is
better. But it is K.O. to William Scanlan. I've learned my lesson. You
don't fight hell with six-shooters, and it's no use to try. I give him
best from now onwards.'

'Yes, you have had your lesson,' said Maracot, 'and it has been a
severe one.'

'Then you think our case is hopeless?'

'What can we do when, as it would seem, he is aware of every word and
action? And yet we will not despair.' He sat in thought for a few
moments. 'I think,' he resumed, 'that you, Scanlan, had best lie where
you are for a time. You have had a shock from which it will take you
some time to recover.'

'If there is anything doing, count me in, though I guess we can cut
out the rough stuff,' said our comrade bravely, but his drawn face and
shaking limbs showed what he had endured.

'There is nothing doing so far as you are concerned. We at least have
learned what is the wrong way to go to work. All violence is useless.
We are working on another plane--the plane of spirit. Do you remain
here, Headley. I am going to the room which I use as a study. Perhaps
if I were alone I could see a little more clearly what we should do.'

Both Scanlan and I had learned to have a great confidence in Maracot.
If any human brain could solve our difficulties, it would be his. And
yet surely we had reached a point which was beyond all human capacity.
We were as helpless as children in the face of forces which we could
neither understand nor control. Scanlan had fallen into a troubled
sleep. My own one thought as I sat beside him was not how we should
escape, but rather what form the blow would take and when it would
fall. At any moment I was prepared to see the solid roof above us sink
in, the walls collapse, and the dark waters of the lowest deep close
in upon those who had defied them so long.

Then suddenly the great bell pealed out once more. Its harsh clamour
jarred upon every nerve. I sprang to my feet, and Scanlan sat up in
bed. It was no ordinary summons which rang through the old palace. The
agitated tumultuous ringing, broken and irregular, was calling an
alarm. All had to come, and at once. It was menacing and insistent.
'Come now! Come at once! Leave everything and come!' cried the bell.

'Say, Bo, we should be with them,' said Scanlan. 'guess they're up
against it now.'

'And yet what can we do?'

'Maybe just the sight of us will give them a bit of heart. Anyhow,
they must not think that we are quitters. Where is the Doc?'

'He went to his study. But you are right, Scanlan. We should be with
the others and let them see that we are ready to share their fate.'

'The poor boobs seem to lean on us in a way. It may be that they know
more than we, but we seem to have more sand in our craw than they. I
guess they have taken what was given to them, and we have had to find
things for ourselves. Well, it's me for the deluge--if the deluge has
got to be.'

But as we approached the door a most unexpected interruption detained
us. Dr. Maracot stood before us. But was it indeed the Dr. Maracot
whom we had known--this self-assured man with strength and resolution
shining from every feature of his masterful face? The quiet scholar
had been submerged, and here was a superman, a great leader, a
dominant soul who might mould mankind to his desires.

'Yes, friends, we shall be needed. All may yet be well. But come at
once, or it may be too late. I will explain everything later--if
there is any later for us. Yes, yes, we are coming.'

The latter words, with appropriate gesture, were spoken to some
terrified Atlanteans who had appeared at the door and were eagerly
beckoning to us to come. It was a fact, as Scanlan had said, that we
had shown ourselves several times to be stronger in character and
prompter in action than these secluded people, and at this hour of
supreme danger they seemed to cling to us. I could hear a subdued
murmur of satisfaction and relief as we entered the crowded hall, and
took the places reserved for us in the front row.

It was time that we came, if we were indeed to bring any help. The
terrible presence was already standing upon the dais and facing with a
cruel, thin-lipped, demoniacal smile the cowering folk before him.
Scanlan's simile of a bunch of rabbits before a weasel came back to my
memory as I looked round at them. They sank together, holding on to
each other in their terror, and gazing wide--eyed at the mighty figure
which towered above them and the ruthless granite-hewed face which
looked down upon them. Never can I forget the impression of those
semi-circular rows, tier above tier, of haggard, wide-eyed faces with
their horrified gaze all directed towards the central dais. It would
seem that he had already pronounced their doom and that they stood in
the shadow of death waiting for its fulfilment. Manda was standing in
abject submission, pleading in broken accents for his people, but one
could see that the words only gave an added zest to the monster who
stood sneering before him. The creature interrupted him with a few
rasping words, and raised his right hand in the air, while a cry of
despair rose from the assembly.

And at that moment Dr. Maracot sprang upon the dais. It was amazing to
watch him. Some miracle seemed to have altered the man. He had the
gait and the gesture of a youth, and yet upon his face there was a
look of such power as I have never seen upon human features yet. He
strode up to the swarthy giant, who glared down at him in amazement.

'Well, little man, what have you to say?' he asked.

'I have this to say,' said Maracot. 'Your time has come. You have
over-stayed it. Go down! Go down into the Hell that has been waiting
for you so long. You are a prince of darkness. Go where the darkness
is.'

The demon's eyes shot dark fire as he answered:

'When my time comes, if it should ever come, it will not be from the
lips of a wretched mortal that I shall learn it,' said he. 'What power
have you that you could oppose for a moment one who is in the secret
places of Nature? I could blast you where you stand.'

Maracot looked into those terrible eyes without blenching. It seemed
to me that it was the giant who flinched away from his gaze.

'Unhappy being,' said Maracot. 'It is I who have the power and the
will to blast you where you stand. Too long have you cursed the world
with your presence. You have been a plague-spot infecting all that was
beautiful and good. The hearts of men will be lighter when you are
gone, and the sun will shine more brightly.'

'What is this? Who are you? What is it that you are saying?' stammered
the creature.

'You speak of secret knowledge. Shall I tell you that which is at the
very base of it? It is that on every plane the good of that plane can
be stronger than the evil. The angel will still beat the devil. For
the moment I am on the same plane on which you have so long been, and
I hold the power of the conqueror. It has been given to me. So again I
say: Down with you! Down to Hell to which you belong! Down, sir! Down,
I say! Down!'

And then the miracle occurred. For a minute or more--how can one
count time at such moments?--the two beings, the mortal and the
demon, faced each other as rigid as statues, glaring into each other's
eyes, with inexorable will upon the two faces, the dark one and the
fair. Then suddenly the great creature flinched. His face convulsed
with rage, he threw two clawing hands up into the air. 'It is you,
Warda, you cursed one! I recognize your handiwork. Oh, curse you,
Warda. Curse you! Curse you!' His voice died away, his long dark
figure became blurred in its outline, his head drooped upon his chest,
his knees sagged under him, down he sank and down, and as he sank he
changed his shape. At first it was a crouching human being, then it
was a dark formless mass, and then with sudden collapse it had become
a semi-liquid heap of black and horrible putrescence which stained the
dais and poisoned the air. At the same time Scanlan and I dashed
forward on to the platform, for Dr. Maracot, with a deep groan, his
powers exhausted, had fallen forward in helpless collapse. 'We have
won! We have won!' he muttered, and an instant later his senses had
left him and he lay half dead upon the floor.

*

Thus it was that the Atlantean colony was saved from the most horrible
danger that could threaten it, and that an evil presence was banished
for ever from the world. It was not for some days that Dr. Maracot
could tell his story, and when he did it was of such a character that
if we had not seen the results we should have put it down as the
delirium of his illness. I may say that his power had left him with
the occasion which had called it forth, and that he was now the same
quiet, gentle man of science whom we had known.

'That it should have happened to me!' he cried. 'To me, a materialist,
a man so immersed in matter that the invisible did not exist in my
philosophy. The theories of a whole lifetime have crumbled about my
ears.'

'I guess we have all been to school again,' said Scanlan, 'If ever I
get back to the little home town, I shall have something to tell the
boys.'

'The less you tell them the better, unless you want to get the name of
being the greatest liar that ever came out of America,' said I. 'Would
you or I have believed it all if someone else had told us?'

'Maybe not. But say, Doc, you had the dope right enough. That great
black stiff got his ten and out as neat as ever I saw. There was no
come-back there. You clean pushed him off the map. I don't know on
what other map he has found his location, but it is no place for Bill
Scanlan anyhow.'

'I will tell you exactly what occurred,' said the Doctor. 'You will
remember that I left you and retired into my study. I had little hope
in my heart, but I had read a good deal at different times about black
magic and occult arts. I was aware that white can always dominate
black if it can but reach the same plane. He was on a much stronger--
I will not say higher--plane than we. That was the fatal fact.

'I saw no way of getting over it. I flung myself down on the settee
and I prayed--yes, I, the hardened materialist, prayed--for help.
When one is at the very end of all human power, what can one do save
to stretch appealing hands into the mists which gird us round? I
prayed--and my prayer was most wonderfully answered.

'I was suddenly aware of the fact that I was not alone in the room.
There stood before me a tall figure, as swarthy as the evil presence
whom we fought, but with a kindly, bearded face which shone with
benevolence and love. The sense of power which he conveyed was not
less than the other, but it was the power of good, the power within
the influence of which evil would shred away as the mists do before
the sun. He looked at me with kindly eyes, and I sat, too amazed to
speak, staring up at him. Something within me, some inspiration or
intuition, told me that this was the spirit of that great and wise
Atlantean who had fought the evil while he lived, and who, when he
could not prevent the destruction of his country, took such steps as
would ensure that the more worthy should survive even though they
should be sunk to the depths of the Ocean. This wondrous being was now
interposing to prevent the ruin of his work and the destruction of his
children. With a sudden gush of hope I realized all this as clearly as
if he had said it. Then, still smiling, he advanced, and he laid his
two hands upon my head. It was his own virtue and strength, no doubt,
which he was transferring to me. I felt it coursing like fire down my
veins. Nothing in the world seemed impossible at that moment. I had
the will and the might to do miracles. Then at that moment I heard the
bell clang out, which told me that the crisis had come. As I rose from
the couch the spirit, smiling his encouragement, vanished before me.
Then I joined you, and the rest you know.'

'Well, sir,' said I, 'I think you have made your reputation. If you
care to set up as a god down here, I expect you would find no
difficulty.'

'You got away with it better than I did, Doc,' said Scanlan in a
rueful voice. 'How is it this guy didn't know what you were doing? He
was quick enough on to me when I laid hand on a gun. And yet you had
him guessing.'

'I suppose that you were on the plane of matter, and that, for the
moment, we were upon that of spirit,' said the Doctor thoughtfully.
'Such things teach one humility. It is only when you touch the higher
that you realize how low we may be among the possibilities of
creation. I have had my lesson. May my future life show that I have
learned it.'

So this was the end of our supreme experience. It was but a little
time later that we conceived the idea of sending news of ourselves to
the surface, and that later by means of vitrine balls filled with
levigen, we ascended ourselves to be met in the manner already
narrated. Dr. Maracot actually talks of going back. There is some
point of Ichthyology upon which he wants more precise information. But
Scanlan has, I hear, married his wren in Philadelphia, and has been
promoted as works manager of Merribanks, so he seeks no further
adventure, while I--well, the deep sea has given me a precious pearl,
and I ask for no more.


THE END




This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia