ONLY AUTHENTIC PORTRAIT OF
WILHELM HEINRICH SEBASTIAN VON TROOMP
(FROM THE OIL PAINTING).

BARON TRUMP’S
MARVELLOUS
UNDERGROUND
JOURNEY

BY
INGERSOLL LOCKWOOD
AUTHOR OF “TRAVELS AND ADVENTURES OF LITTLE BARON TRUMP AND HIS WONDERFUL DOG
BULGER” “WONDERFUL DEEDS AND DOINGS OF LITTLE GIANT BOAB AND HIS
TALKING RAVEN TABIB” “EXTRAORDINARY EXPERIENCES OF LITTLE
CAPTAIN DOPPELKOP ON THE SHORES OF BUBBLELAND” ETC.
ILLUSTRATED BY
CHARLES HOWARD JOHNSON
BOSTON
LEE AND SHEPARD PUBLISHERS
10 MILK STREET
1893
Copyright, 1892, by Ingersoll Lockwood
All Rights Reserved
Marvellous Underground Journey

v

BIOGRAPHICAL NOTICE OF WILHELM HEINRICH
SEBASTIAN VON TROOMP, COMMONLY
CALLED LITTLE BARON TRUMP

As doubting Thomases seem to take particular pleasure in popping up on all occasions, Jack-in-the-Box-like, it may be well to head them off in this particular instance by proving that Baron Trump was a real baron, and not a mere baron of the mind. The family was originally French Huguenot—De la Trompe—which, upon the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, took refuge in Holland, where its head assumed the name of Van der Troomp, just as many other of the French Protestants rendered their names into Dutch. Some years later, upon the invitation of the Elector of Brandenburg, Niklas Van der Troomp became a subject of that prince, and purchased a large estate in the province of Pomerania, again changing his name, this time to Von Troomp.

The “Little Baron,” so called from his diminutive stature, was born some time in the latter part of the seventeenth century. He was the last of his race in the direct line, although cousins of his are to-day well-known Pomeranian gentry. He began his travels at an incredibly early age, and filled his castle with such strange objects picked up here and there in the far away corners of the world, that the simple-minded peasantry came to look upon him as half bigwig and half magician—hence the vigrowth of the many myths and fanciful stories concerning this indefatigable globe-trotter. The date of his death cannot be fixed with any certainty; but this much may be said: Among the portraits of Pomeranian notables hanging in the Rathhaus at Stettin, there is one picturing a man of low stature, and with a head much too large for his body. He is dressed in some outlandish costume, and holds in his left hand a grotesque image in ivory, most elaborately carved. The broad face is full of intelligence, and the large gray eyes are lighted up with a good-natured but quizzical look that invariably attracts attention. The man’s right hand rests upon the back of a dog sitting on a table and looking straight out with an air of dignity that shows that he knew he was sitting for his portrait.

If a visitor asks the guide who this man is, he always gets for answer:—

“Oh, that’s the Little Baron!”

But little Baron who, that’s the question?

Why may it not be the famous Wilhelm Heinrich Sebastian von Troomp, commonly called “Little Baron Trump,” and his wonderful dog Bulger?

vii

INDICE

CHAPTER I.
 
PAGINA
 
BULGER IS GREATLY ANNOYED BY THE FAMILIARITY OF THE VILLAGE DOGS AND THE PRESUMPTION OF THE HOUSE CATS.—HIS HEALTH SUFFERS THEREBY, AND HE IMPLORES ME TO SET OUT ON MY TRAVELS AGAIN. I READILY CONSENT, FOR I HAD BEEN READING OF THE WORLD WITHIN A WORLD IN A MUSTY OLD MS. WRITTEN BY THE LEARNED DON FUM.—PARTING INTERVIEWS WITH THE ELDER BARON AND THE GRACIOUS BARONESS MY MOTHER.—PREPARATIONS FOR DEPARTURE. 1
 
 
CHAPTER II.
 
DON FUM’s MYSTERIOUS DIRECTIONS.—BULGER AND I SET OUT FOR PETERSBURG, AND THENCE PROCEED TO ARCHANGEL.—THE STORY OF OUR JOURNEY AS FAR AS ILITCH ON THE ILITCH.—IVAN THE TEAMSTER.—HOW WE MADE OUR WAY NORTHWARD IN SEARCH OF THE PORTALS TO THE WORLD WITHIN A WORLD.—IVAN’S THREAT.—BULGER’S DISTRUST OF THE MAN AND OTHER THINGS. 7
 
 
CHAPTER III.
 
IVAN MORE AND MORE TROUBLESOME.—BULGER WATCHES HIM CLOSELY.—HIS COWARDLY ATTACK UPON ME.—MY FAITHFUL BULGER TO THE RESCUE.—A DRIVER WORTH HAVING.—HOW I WAS CARRIED TO A PLACE OF SAFETY.—IN THE HANDS OF OLD YULIANA.—THE GIANTS’ WELL. 15
 
 
CHAPTER IV.
 
MY WOUND HEALS.—YULIANA TALKS ABOUT THE GIANTS’
WELL.—I RESOLVE TO VISIT IT.—PREPARATIONS TO ASCEND THE MOUNTAINS.—WHAT HAPPENED TO YULIANA AND TO ME.—REFLECTION AND THEN ACTION.—HOW I CONTRIVED TO CONTINUE THE ASCENT WITHOUT YULIANA FOR A GUIDE. 20
 
 
viiiCHAPTER V.
 
UP AND STILL UP, AND THROUGH THE QUARRIES OF THE DEMONS.—HOW THE CATTLE KEPT THE TRAIL, AND HOW WE CAME AT LAST UPON THE BRINK OF THE GIANTS’ WELL.—THE TERRACES ARE SAFELY PASSED.—BEGINNING OF THE DESCENT INTO THE WELL ITSELF.—ALL DIFFICULTIES OVERCOME.—WE REACH THE EDGE OF POLYPHEMUS’ FUNNEL. 28
 
 
CHAPTER VI.
 
MY DESPAIR UPON FINDING THE PIPE OF THE FUNNEL TOO SMALL FOR MY BODY.—A RAY OF HOPE BREAKS IN UPON ME.—FULL ACCOUNT OF HOW I SUCCEEDED IN ENTERING THE PIPE OF THE FUNNEL.—MY PASSAGE THROUGH IT.—BULGER’S TIMELY AID.—THE MARBLE HIGHWAY AND SOME CURIOUS THINGS CONCERNING THE ENTRANCE TO THE WORLD WITHIN A WORLD. 33
 
 
CHAPTER VII.
 
OUR FIRST NIGHT IN THE UNDER WORLD, AND HOW IT WAS FOLLOWED BY THE FIRST BREAK OF DAY.—BULGER’S WARNING AND WHAT IT MEANT.—WE FALL IN WITH AN INHABITANT OF THE WORLD WITHIN A WORLD.—HIS NAME AND CALLING.—MYSTERIOUS RETURN OF NIGHT.—THE LAND OF BEDS, AND HOW OUR NEW FRIEND PROVIDED ONE FOR US. 42
 
 
CHAPTER VIII.
 
“GOOD-MORNING AS LONG AS IT LASTS.”—PLAIN TALK FROM MASTER COLD SOUL.—WONDERS OF GOGGLE LAND.—WE ENTER THE CITY OF THE MIKKAMENKIES.—BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF IT.—OUR APPROACH TO THE ROYAL PALACE.—QUEEN GALAXA AND HER CRYSTAL THRONE.—MASTER COLD SOUL’S TEARS. 51
 
 
CHAPTER IX.
 
BULGER AND I ARE PRESENTED TO QUEEN GALAXA, THE LADY OF THE CRYSTAL THRONE.—HOW SHE RECEIVED US.—HER DELIGHT OVER BULGER, WHO GIVES PROOF OF HIS WONDERFUL INTELLIGENCE IN MANY WAYS.—HOW THE QUEEN CREATES HIM LORD BULGER.—ALL ABOUT THE THREE WISE MEN IN WHOSE CARE WE ARE PLACED BY QUEEN GALAXA. 56
 
 
ixCHAPTER X.
 
A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF MY CONVERSATIONS WITH DOCTOR NEBULOSUS, SIR AMBER O’PAKE, AND LORD CORNUCORE, WHO TELL ME MANY THINGS THAT I NEVER KNEW BEFORE, FOR WHICH I WAS VERY GRATEFUL. 63
 
 
CHAPTER XI.
 
PLEASANT DAYS PASSED AMONG THE MIKKAMENKIES, AND WONDERFUL THINGS SEEN BY US.—THE SPECTRAL GARDEN, AND A DESCRIPTION OF IT.—OUR MEETING WITH DAMOZEL GLOW STONE, AND WHAT CAME OF IT. 67
 
 
CHAPTER XII.
 
THE SAD, SAD TALE OF THE SORROWING PRINCESS WITH A SPECK IN HER HEART, AND WHAT ALL HAPPENED WHEN SHE HAD ENDED IT, WHICH THE READER MUST READ FOR HIMSELF IF HE WOULD KNOW. 73
 
 
CHAPTER XIII.
 
HOW I SET TO WORK TO UNDO A WRONG THAT HAD BEEN DONE IN THE KINGDOM OF THE MIKKAMENKIES, AND HOW BULGER HELPED.—QUEEN GALAXA’S CONFESSION.—I AM CREATED PRIME MINISTER AS LONG AS SHE LIVES.—WHAT TOOK PLACE IN THE THRONE-ROOM.—MY SPEECH TO THE MEN OF GOGGLE LAND, AFTER WHICH I SHOW THEM SOMETHING WORTH SEEING.—HOW I WAS PULLED IN TWO DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS AND WHAT CAME OF IT. 79
 
 
CHAPTER XIV.
 
BULGER AND I TURN OUR BACKS ON THE FAIR DOMAIN OF QUEEN CRYSTALLINA.—NATURE’S WONDERFUL SPEAKING-TUBE.—CRYSTALLINA’S ATTEMPT TO TURN US BACK.—HOW I KEPT BULGER FROM YIELDING.—SOME INCIDENTS OF OUR JOURNEY ALONG THE MARBLE HIGHWAY, AND HOW WE CAME TO THE GLORIOUS GATEWAY OF SOLID SILVER. 86
 
 
xCHAPTER XV.
 
THE GUARDS AT THE SILVER GATEWAY.—WHAT THEY WERE LIKE.—OUR RECEPTION BY THEM.—I MAKE A WONDERFUL DISCOVERY.—THE WORLD’S FIRST TELEPHONE.—BULGER AND I SUCCEED IN MAKING FRIENDS WITH THESE STRANGERS.—A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SOODOPSIES, THAT IS, MAKE BELIEVE EYES, OR THE FORMIFOLK, THAT IS, ANT PEOPLE.—HOW A BLIND MAN MAY READ YOUR WRITING. 91
 
 
CHAPTER XVI.
 
IDEAS OF THE FORMIFOLK CONCERNING OUR UPPER WORLD.—THE DANCING SPECTRE.—THEIR EFFORTS TO LAY HOLD OF HIM.—MY SOLEMN PROMISE THAT HE SHOULD BEHAVE HIMSELF.—WE SET OUT FOR THE CITY OF THE MAKE-BELIEVE EYES.—MY AMAZEMENT AT THE MAGNIFICENCE OF THE APPROACHES TO IT.—WE REACH THE GREAT BRIDGE OF SILVER, AND I GET MY FIRST GLANCE OF THE CITY OF CANDELABRA.—BRIEF ACCOUNT OF THE WONDERS SPREAD OUT BEFORE MY EYES.—EXCITEMENT OCCASIONED BY OUR ARRIVAL.—OUR SILVER BED-CHAMBER. 98
 
 
CHAPTER XVII.
 
IN WHICH YOU READ, DEAR FRIENDS, SOMETHING ABOUT A LIVE ALARM CLOCK AND A SOODOPSY BATHER AND RUBBER.—OUR FIRST BREAKFAST IN THE CITY OF SILVER.—A NEW WAY TO CATCH FISH WITHOUT HURTING THEIR FEELINGS.—HOW THE STREETS AND HOUSES WERE NUMBERED, AND WHERE THE SIGNBOARDS WERE.—A VERY ORIGINAL LIBRARY IN WHICH BOOKS NEVER GET DOG-EARED.—HOW VELVET SOLES ENJOYED HER FAVORITE POETS.—I AM PRESENTED TO THE LEARNED BARREL BROW, WHO PROCEEDS TO GIVE ME HIS VIEWS OF THE UPPER WORLD.—THEY ENTERTAINED ME AMAZINGLY AND MAY INTEREST YOU. 104
 
 
CHAPTER XVIII.
 
xiEARLY HISTORY OF THE SOODOPSIES AS RELATED BY BARREL BROW.—HOW THEY WERE DRIVEN TO TAKE REFUGE IN THE UNDER WORLD, AND HOW THEY CAME UPON THE MARBLE HIGHWAY.—THEIR DISCOVERY OF NATURAL GAS WHICH YIELDS THEM LIGHT AND WARMTH, AND OF NATURE’S MAGNIFICENT TREASURE HOUSE.—HOW THEY REPLACED THEIR TATTERED GARMENTS AND BEGAN TO BUILD THE CITY OF SILVER.—THE STRANGE MISFORTUNES THAT CAME UPON THEM, AND HOW THEY ROSE SUPERIOR TO THEM, TERRIBLE AS THEY WERE. 114
 
 
CHAPTER XIX.
 
BEGINS WITH SOMETHING ABOUT THE LITTLE SOODOPSIES, BUT BRANCHES OFF ON ANOTHER SUBJECT; TO WIT.—THE SILENT SONG OF SINGING FINGERS, THE FAIR MAID OF THE CITY OF SILVER.—BARREL BROW IS KIND ENOUGH TO ENLIGHTEN ME ON A CERTAIN POINT, AND HE TAKES OCCASION TO PAY BULGER A VERY HIGH COMPLIMENT, WHICH, OF COURSE, HE DESERVED. 123
 
 
CHAPTER XX.
 
THIS IS A LONG AND A SAD CHAPTER.—IT TELLS HOW DEAR, GENTLE, POUTING-LIP WAS LOST, AND HOW THE SOODOPSIES GRIEVED FOR HIM AND WHOM THEY SUSPECTED.—BULGER GIVES A STRIKING PROOF OF HIS WONDERFUL INTELLIGENCE WHICH ENABLES ME TO CONVINCE THE SOODOPSIES THAT MY “DANCING SPECTRE” DID NOT CAUSE POUTING-LIP’S DEATH.—THE TRUE TALE OF HIS TERRIBLE FATE.—WHAT FOLLOWS MY DISCOVERY.—HOW A BEAUTIFUL BOAT IS BUILT FOR ME BY THE GRATEFUL SOODOPSIES, AND HOW BULGER AND I BID ADIEU TO THE LAND OF THE MAKE-BELIEVE EYES. 129
 
 
CHAPTER XXI.
 
HOW WE WERE LIGHTED ON OUR WAY DOWN THE DARK AND SILENT RIVER.—SUDDEN AND FIERCE ONSLAUGHT UPON OUR BEAUTIFUL BOAT OF SHELL.—A FIGHT FOR LIFE AGAINST TERRIBLE ODDS, AND HOW BULGER STOOD BY ME THROUGH IT ALL.—COLD AIR AND LUMPS OF ICE.—OUR ENTRY INTO THE CAVERN WHENCE THEY CAME.—THE BOAT OF SHELL COMES TO THE END OF ITS VOYAGE.—SUNLIGHT IN THE WORLD WITHIN A WORLD, AND ALL ABOUT THE WONDERFUL WINDOW THROUGH WHICH IT POURED, AND THE MYSTERIOUS LAND IT LIGHTED. 140
 
 
xiiCHAPTER XXII.
 
THE PALACE OF ICE IN THE GOLDEN SUNLIGHT, AND WHAT I IMAGINED IT MIGHT CONTAIN.—HOW WE WERE HALTED BY A COUPLE OF QUAINTLY CLAD SENTINELS.—THE KOLTYKWERPS.—HIS FRIGID MAJESTY KING GELIDUS.—MORE ABOUT THE ICE PALACE, TOGETHER WITH A DESCRIPTION OF THE THRONE-ROOM.—OUR RECEPTION BY THE KING AND HIS DAUGHTER SCHNEEBOULE.—BRIEF MENTION OF BULLIBRAIN, OR LORD HOT HEAD. 150
 
 
CHAPTER XXIII.
 
LORD HOT HEAD AGAIN, AND THIS TIME A FULLER ACCOUNT OF HIM.—HIS WONDROUS TALES CONCERNING THE KOLTYKWERPS: WHERE THEY CAME FROM, WHO THEY WERE, AND HOW THEY MANAGED TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD OF ETERNAL FROST.—THE MANY QUESTIONS I PUT TO HIM, AND HIS ANSWERS IN FULL. 159
 
 
CHAPTER XXIV.
 
SOME FEW THINGS CONCERNING THE DEAR LITTLE PRINCESS SCHNEEBOULE.—HOW SHE AND I BECAME FAST FRIENDS, AND HOW ONE DAY SHE CONDUCTED BULGER AND ME INTO HER FAVORITE GROTTO TO SEE THE LITTLE MAN WITH THE FROZEN SMILE.—SOMETHING ABOUT HIM.—WHAT CAME OF MY HAVING LOOKED UPON HIM QUITE FULLY DESCRIBED. 164
 
 
CHAPTER XXV.
 
A SLEEPLESS NIGHT FOR BULGER AND ME AND WHAT FOLLOWED IT.—INTERVIEW WITH KING GELIDUS.—MY REQUEST AND HIS REPLY.—WHAT ALL TOOK PLACE WHEN I LEARNED THAT THE KING AND HIS COUNCILLORS HAD DECIDED NOT TO GRANT MY REQUEST.—STRANGE TUMULT AMONG THE KOLTYKWERPS, AND HOW HIS FRIGID MAJESTY STILLED IT, AND SOME OTHER THINGS. 171
 
 
xiiiCHAPTER XXVI.
 
HOW THE QUARRY MEN OF KING GELIDUS CLEFT ASUNDER THE CRYSTAL PRISON OF THE LITTLE MAN WITH THE FROZEN SMILE.—MY BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT, AND HOW I BORE IT.—WONDERFUL HAPPENINGS OF THE NIGHT THAT FOLLOWED.—BULGER AGAIN PROVES HIMSELF TO BE AN ANIMAL OF EXTRAORDINARY SAGACITY. 176
 
 
CHAPTER XXVII.
 
EXCITEMENT OVER FUFFCOOJAH.—I CARRY HIM TO THE COURT OF KING GELIDUS.—HIS INSTANT AFFECTION FOR PRINCESS SCHNEEBOULE.—I AM ACCUSED OF EXERCISING THE BLACK ART.—MY DEFENCE AND MY REWARD.—ANXIETY OF THE KOLTYKWERPS LEST FUFFCOOJAH PERISH OF HUNGER.—THIS CALAMITY AVERTED, ANOTHER STARES US IN THE FACE: HOW TO KEEP HIM FROM FREEZING TO DEATH.—I SOLVE THE PROBLEM, BUT DRAW UPON ME A STRANGE MISFORTUNE. 183
 
 
CHAPTER XXVIII.
 
HOW A LITTLE BURDEN MAY GROW TO BE A GRIEVOUS ONE.—STORY OF A MAN WITH A MONKEY IN HIS HOOD.—MY TERRIBLE SUFFERING.—CONCERNING THE AWFUL PANIC THAT SEIZED UPON THE KOLTYKWERPS.—MY VISIT TO THE DESERTED ICE-PALACE, AND WHAT HAPPENED TO FUFFCOOJAH.—END OF HIS BRIEF BUT STRANGE CAREER.—A FROZEN KISS ON A BLADE OF HORN, OR HOW SCHNEEBOULE CHOSE A HUSBAND. 190
 
 
CHAPTER XXIX.
 
SOMETHING CONCERNING THE MANY PORTALS TO THE ICY DOMAIN OF KING GELIDUS AND THE DIFFICULT TASK OF CHOOSING THE RIGHT ONE.—HOW BULGER SOLVED IT.—OUR FAREWELL TO THE COLD-BLOODED KOLTYKWERPS.—SCHNEEBOULE’S SORROW AT LOSING US. 200
 
 
xivCHAPTER XXX.
 
ALL ABOUT THE MOST TERRIBLE BUT MAGNIFICENT RIDE I EVER TOOK IN MY LIFE.—NINETY MILES ON THE BACK OF A FLYING MASS OF ICE, AND HOW BULGER AND I WERE LANDED AT LAST ON THE BANKS OF A MOST WONDERFUL RIVER.—HOW THE DAY BROKE IN THIS UNDER WORLD. 209
 
 
CHAPTER XXXI.
 
IN WHICH YOU READ OF THE GLORIOUS CAVERNS OF WHITE MARBLE FRONTING ON THE WONDERFUL RIVER.—IN THE TROPICS OF THE UNDER WORLD.—HOW WE CAME UPON A SOLITARY WANDERER ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVER.—MY CONVERSATION WITH HIM, AND MY JOY AT FINDING MYSELF IN THE LAND OF THE RATTLEBRAINS, OR HAPPY FORGETTERS.—BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THEM. 217
 
 
CHAPTER XXXII.
 
HOW WE ENTERED THE LAND OF THE HAPPY FORGETTERS.—SOMETHING MORE ABOUT THESE CURIOUS FOLK.—THEIR DREAD OF BULGER AND ME.—ONLY A STAY OF ONE DAY ACCORDED US.—DESCRIPTION OF THE PLEASANT HOMES OF THE HAPPY FORGETTERS.—THE REVOLVING DOOR THROUGH WHICH BULGER AND I ARE UNCEREMONIOUSLY SET OUTSIDE OF THE DOMAIN OF THE RATTLEBRAINS.—ALL ABOUT THE EXTRAORDINARY THINGS WHICH HAPPENED TO BULGER AND ME THEREAFTER.—ONCE MORE IN THE OPEN AIR OF THE UPPER WORLD, AND THEN HOMEWARD BOUND. 224
xv

ILUSTRACIONES.

PAGINA
 
Only Authentic Portrait of Wilhelm Heinrich Sebastian von Troomp (from the oil painting) Frontispiece
 
Departure from Castle Trump 9
 
Along a Highway of the Under World 23
 
Before her Majesty Galaxa, Queen of the Mikkamenkies 35
 
A Dinner easily provided for 47
 
Princess Crystallina uncovers her Heart 59
 
Crystallina’s Heart on a Screen 71
 
Bulger parts his Master from Princess Crystallina 83
 
The Formifolk try the Beat of the Baron’s Heart by Telephone 95
 
Barrel Brow engaged in reading Four Books at once 107
 
A Soodopsy Maiden reading her Favorite Poet 119
 
The Gigantic Tortoise that devoured Pouting Lip 131
 
Sailing away from the Land of the Soodopsies 143
 
The Battle for Life with the White Crabs 155
 
The Little Man with the Frozen Smile 167
 
Bulger shows the Baron Something Wonderful 179
 
The Baron’s Flight to the Ice Palace 191
 
Death of Fuffcoojah 197
 
Koltykwerpian Quarrymen hewing a Passage through the Wall of Ice 203
 
The Wonderful Ride on the Block of Ice 207
 
The Tropics of the Under World 213
 
Through the Revolving Door 219
 
Caught up in the Arms of the Torrent 225
 
Hurled out in the Sunshine 231
A MARVELLOUS UNDERGROUND
JOURNEY
1

CHAPTER I

BULGER IS GREATLY ANNOYED BY THE FAMILIARITY OF THE VILLAGE DOGS AND THE PRESUMPTION OF THE HOUSE CATS.—HIS HEALTH SUFFERS THEREBY, AND HE IMPLORES ME TO SET OUT ON MY TRAVELS AGAIN. I READILY CONSENT, FOR I HAD BEEN READING OF THE WORLD WITHIN A WORLD IN A MUSTY OLD MS. WRITTEN BY THE LEARNED DON FUM.—PARTING INTERVIEWS WITH THE ELDER BARON AND THE GRACIOUS BARONESS MY MOTHER.—PREPARATIONS FOR DEPARTURE.

Bulger was not himself at all, dear friends. There was a lack-lustre look in his eyes, and his tail responded with only a half-hearted wag when I spoke to him. I say half-hearted, for I always had a notion that the other end of Bulger’s tail was fastened to his heart. His appetite, too, had gone down with his spirits; and he rarely did anything more than sniff at the dainty food which I set before him, although I tried to tempt him with fried chickens’ livers and toasted cocks’ combs—two of his favorite dishes.

There was evidently something on his mind, and yet it never occurred to me what that something was; for to be honest about it, it was something which of all things I never should have dreamed of finding there.

Possibly I might have discovered at an earlier day what it was all about, had it not been that just at this time I was very busy, too busy, in fact, to pay much attention to any one, even 2to my dear four-footed foster brother. As you may remember, dear friends, my brain is a very active one; and when once I become interested in a subject, Castle Trump itself might take fire and burn until the legs of my chair had become charred before I would hear the noise and confusion, or even smell the smoke.

It so happened at the time of Bulger’s low spirits that the elder baron had, through the kindness of an old school friend, come into possession of a fifteenth-century manuscript from the pen of a no less celebrated thinker and philosopher than the learned Spaniard, Don Constantino Bartolomeo Strepholofidgeguaneriusfum, commonly known among scholars as Don Fum, entitled “A World within a World.” In this work Don Fum advanced the wonderful theory that there is every reason to believe that the interior of our world is inhabited; that, as is well known, this vast earth ball is not solid, on the contrary, being in many places quite hollow; that ages and ages ago terrible disturbances had taken place on its surface and had driven the inhabitants to seek refuge in these vast underground chambers, so vast, in fact, as well to merit the name of “World within a World.”

This book, with its crumpled, torn, and time-stained leaves exhaling the odors of vaulted crypt and worm-eaten chest, exercised a peculiar fascination upon me. All day long, and often far into the night, I sat poring over its musty and mildewed pages, quite forgetful of this surface world, and with the plummet of thought sounding these subterranean depths, and with the eye and ear of fancy visiting them, and gazing upon and listening to the dwellers therein.

While I would be thus engaged, Bulger’s favorite position was on a quaintly embroidered leather cushion brought from the Orient by me on one of my journeys, and now placed on the end of my work-table nearest the window. From this point of vantage Bulger commanded a full view of the park and the terrace and of the drive leading up to the porte-cochère. Nothing 3escaped his watchful eye. Here he sat hour by hour, amusing himself by noting the comings and goings of all sorts of folk, from the hawkers of gewgaws to the noblest people in the shire. One day my attention was attracted by his suddenly leaping down from his cushion and giving a low growl of displeasure. I paid little heed to it, but to my surprise the next day about the same hour it occurred again.

My curiosity was now thoroughly aroused; and laying down Don Fum’s musty manuscript, I hastened to the window to learn the cause of Bulger’s irritation.

Lo, the secret was out! There stood half a dozen mongrel curs belonging to the tenantry of the baronial lands, looking up to the window, and by their barking and antics endeavoring to entice Bulger out for a romp. Dear friends, need I assure you that such familiarity was extremely distasteful to Bulger? Their impudence was just a little more than he could stand. Ringing my bell, I directed my servant to hunt them away. Whereupon Bulger consented to resume his seat by the window.

The next morning, just as I had settled myself down for a good long read, I was almost startled by Bulger bounding into the room with eyes flashing fire and teeth laid bare in anger. Laying hold of the skirt of my dressing-gown, he gave it quite a savage tug, which meant, “Put thy book aside, little master, and follow me.”

I did so. He led me down-stairs across the hallway and into the dining-room, and then this new cause of discontent on his part became very apparent to me. There grouped around his silver breakfast plate sat an ancient tabby cat and four kittens, all calmly licking or lapping away at his breakfast. Looking up into my face, he uttered a sharp, complaining howl, as much as to say, “There, little master, look at that. Isn’t that enough to roil the patience of a saint? Canst thou wonder that I am not happy with all these disagreeable things happening to me? I tell thee, little master, it is too much for flesh and blood to put up with.”

4And I thought so too, and did all in my power to comfort my unhappy little friend; but judge of my surprise upon reaching my room and directing him to take his place on his cushion, to see him refuse to obey.

It was something extraordinary, and set me to thinking. He noticed this and gave a joyful bark, then dashed into my sleeping apartment. He was gone for several moments, and then returned bearing in his mouth a pair of Oriental shoes which he laid at my feet. Again and again he disappeared, coming back each time with some article of clothing in his mouth. In a few moments he had laid a complete Oriental costume on the floor before my eyes; and would you believe me, dear friends, it was the identical suit which I had worn on my last travels in far-away lands, when he and I had been wrecked on the Island of Gogulah, the land of the Round Bodies. What did it all mean? Why, this, to be sure:—

“Little master, canst thou not understand thy dear Bulger? He is weary of this dull and spiritless existence. He is tired of this increasing familiarity on the part of these mongrel curs of the neighborhood and of the audacity of these kitchen tabbies and their families. He implores thee to break away from this life of revery and inaction, and for the honor of the Trumps to be up and away again.” Stooping down and winding my arms around my dear Bulger, I cried out,—

“Yes, I understand thee now, faithful companion; and I promise thee that before this moon has filled her horns we shall once more turn our backs on Castle Trump, up and away in search of the portals to Don Fum’s World within a World.” Upon hearing these words, Bulger broke out into the wildest, maddest barking, bounding hither and thither as if the very spirit of mischief had suddenly nestled in his heart. In the midst of these mad gambols a low rap on my chamber door caused me to call out,—

“Peace, peace, good Bulger, some one knocks. Peace, I say.”

5It was the elder baron. With sombre mien and stately tread he advanced and took a seat beside me on the canopy.

“Welcome, honored father!” I exclaimed as I took his hand and raised it to my lips. “I was upon the very point of seeking thee out.”

He smiled and then said,—

“Well, little baron, what thinkest thou of Don Fum’s World within a World?”

“I think, my lord,” was my reply, “that Don Fum is right: that such a world must exist; and with thy consent it is my intention to set out in search of its portals with all safe haste and as soon as my dear mother, the gracious baroness, may be able to bring her heart to part with me.”

The elder baron was silent for a moment, and then added: “Little baron, much as thy mother and I shall dread to think of thy being again out from under the safe protection of this venerable roof, the moss-grown tiles of which have sheltered so many generations of the Trumps, yet must we not be selfish in this matter. Heaven forbid that such a thought should move our souls to stay thee! The honor of our family, thy fame as an explorer of strange lands in far-away corners of the globe, call unto us to be strong hearted. Therefore, my dear boy, make ready and go forth once more in search of new marvels. The learned Don Fum’s chart will stand thee by like a safe and trusty counsellor. Remember, little baron, the motto of the Trumps, Per Ardua ad Astra—the pathway to glory is strewn with pitfalls and dangers—but the comforting thought shall ever be mine, that when thy keen intelligence fails, Bulger’s unerring instinct will be there to guide thee.”

As I stooped to kiss the elder baron’s hand, the gracious baroness entered the room.

Bulger hastened to raise himself upon his hind legs and lick her hand in token of respectful greeting. The tears were pressing hard against her eyelids, but she kept them back, and encircling my neck with her loving arms, she pressed many and many a kiss upon my cheeks and brow.

6“I know what it all means, my dear son,” she murmured with the saddest of smiles; “but it never shall be said that Gertrude Baroness von Trump stood in the way of her son adding new glories to the family ’scutcheon. Go, go, little baron, and Heaven bring thee safely back to our arms and to our hearts in its own good time.”

At these words Bulger, who had been listening to the conversation with pricked-up ears and glistening eyes, gave one long howl of joy, and then springing into my lap, covered my face with kisses. This done, he vented his happiness in a string of earsplitting barks and a series of the maddest gambols. It was one of the happiest and proudest days of his life, for he felt that he had exerted considerable influence in screwing to the sticking-point my resolution to set out on my travels once again.

And now the patter of hurrying feet and the loud murmur of anxious voices resounded through the castle corridors, while inside and out ever and anon I could hear the cry now whispered and now outspoken,—

“The little baron is making ready to leave home again.”

Bulger ran hither and thither, surveying everything, taking note of all the preparations, and I could hear his joyous bark ring out as some familiar article used by me on my former journeys was dragged from its hiding-place.

Twenty times a day my gentle mother came to my room to repeat some good counsel or reiterate some valuable caution. It seemed to me that I had never seen her so calm, so stately, so lovable.

She was very proud of my great name and so, in fact, were every man, woman, and child in the castle. Had I not gotten off as I did, I should have been literally killed with kindness and Bulger slain with sweet-cake.

7

CHAPTER II

DON FUM’S MYSTERIOUS DIRECTIONS.—BULGER AND I SET OUT FOR PETERSBURG, AND THENCE PROCEED TO ARCHANGEL.—THE STORY OF OUR JOURNEY AS FAR AS ILITCH ON THE ILITCH.—IVAN THE TEAMSTER.—HOW WE MADE OUR WAY NORTHWARD IN SEARCH OF THE PORTALS TO THE WORLD WITHIN A WORLD.—IVAN’S THREAT.—BULGER’S DISTRUST OF THE MAN AND OTHER THINGS.

According to the learned Don Fum’s manuscript, the portals to the World within a World were situated somewhere in Northern Russia, possibly, so he thought, from all indications, somewhere on the westerly slope of the upper Urals. But the great thinker could not locate them with any accuracy. “The people will tell thee” was the mysterious phrase that occurred again and again on the mildewed pages of this wonderful writing. “The people will tell thee.” Ah, but what people will be learned enough to tell me that? was the brain-racking question which I asked myself, sleeping and waking, at sunrise, at high noon, and at sunset; at the crowing of the cock, and in the silent hours of the night.

“The people will tell thee,” said learned Don Fum.

“Ah, but what people will tell me where to find the portals to the World within a World?”

Hitherto on my travels I had made choice of a semi-Oriental garb, both on account of its picturesqueness and its lightness and warmth, but now as I was about to pass quite across Russia for a number of months, I resolved to don the Russian national costume; for speaking Russian fluently, as I did a score or more of languages living and dead, I would thus be enabled to come and go without everlastingly displaying my passport, or having 8my trains of thought constantly disturbed by inquisitive travelling companions—a very important thing to me, for my mind possessed the extraordinary power of working out automatically any task assigned to it by me, provided it was not suddenly thrown off its track by some ridiculous interruption. For instance, I was upon the very point one day of discovering perpetual motion, when the gracious baroness suddenly opened the door and asked me whether I had pared the nails of my great toes lately, as she had observed that I had worn holes in several pairs of my best stockings.

It was about the middle of February when I set out from the Castle Trump, and I journeyed night and day in order to reach Petersburg by the first of March, for I knew that the government trains would leave that city for the White Sea during the first week of that month. Bulger and I were both in the best of health and spirits, and the fatigue of the journey didn’t tell upon us in the least. The moment I arrived at the Russian capital I applied to the emperor for permission to join one of the government trains, which was most graciously accorded. Our route lay almost directly to the northward for several days, at the end of which time we reached the shores of Lake Ladoga. This we crossed on the ice with our sledges, as a few days later we did Lake Onega. Thence by land again, we kept on our way until Onega Bay had been reached, crossing it, too, on the ice, and so reaching the station of the same name, where we halted for a day to give our horses a well-deserved rest. From this point we proceeded in a straight line over the snow fields to Archangel, an important trading-post on the White Sea.

As this was the destination of the government train, I parted with its commandant after a few days’ pleasant sojourn at the government house, and set out, attended only by my faithful Bulger and two servants, who had been assigned to me by the imperial commissioner.

9

DEPARTURE FROM CASTLE TRUMP.

11My course now carried me up the River Dwina as far as Solvitchegodsk; thence I proceeded on my way over the frozen waters of the Witchegda River until we had reached the government post of Yarensk, and from here on we headed due East until our hardy little horses had dragged us into the picturesque village of Ilitch on the Ilitch. Here we were obliged to abandon our sledges, for the snows had disappeared like magic, uncovering long vistas of green fields, which in a few days the May sun dotted with flowers and sweet shrubs. At Ilitch I was obliged to relinquish from my service the two faithful government retainers who had accompanied me from Archangel, for they had now reached the most westerly point which they had been commissioned to visit. I had become very much attached to them, and so had Bulger, and after their departure we both felt as if we were now, for the first time, among strangers in a strange land; but I succeeded in engaging, as I thought, a trustworthy teamster, Ivan by name, who made a contract with me for a goodly wage to carry me a hundred miles farther north.

“But not another step farther, little baron!” said the fellow doggedly. I was now really at the foot hills of the Northern Urals, for the rocky crests and snow-clad peaks were in full sight.

I turned many a wistful look up toward the wild regions shut in by their sheer walls and parapets, shaggy and bristling with black pines, for a low, mysterious voice came a-whispering in my inward ear that somewhere, ah, somewhere in that awful wilderness, I should one day come upon the portals of the World within a World! In spite of all I could do Bulger took a violent dislike to Ivan and Ivan to him; and if the bargain had not been made and the money paid over, I should have looked about me for another teamster. And yet it would have been a foolish thing to do, for Ivan had two excellent horses, as I saw at a glance, and, what’s more, he took the best of care of them, at every post rubbing them until they were quite dry, and never thinking of his own supper until they had been watered and fed.

His tarantass, too, was quite new and solidly built and well 12furnished with soft blankets, all in all as comfortable as you can make a wagon which has no other springs than the two long wooden supports that reach from axle to axle. True, they were somewhat elastic; but I could notice that Bulger was not overfond of riding in this curious vehicle with its rattlety-bang gait up and down these mountain roads, and often asked permission to leap out and follow on foot.

At length Ivan reported everything in readiness for the start; and although I would have fain taken my departure from Ilitch on the Ilitch in as quiet a manner as possible, yet the whole village turned out to see us off—Ivan’s family, father, mother, sisters, and brothers, wife and children, uncles and aunts and cousins by dozens alone making up people enough to stock a small town. They cheered and waved their kerchiefs, Bulger barked, and I smiled and raised my cap with all the dignity of a Trump. And so we got away at last from Ilitch on the Ilitch, Ivan on the box, and Bulger and I at the back, sitting close together like two brothers that we were—two breasts with but a single heart-beat and two brains busy with the same thought—that come perils or come sudden attacks, come covert danger or bold and open-faced onslaught, we should stand together and fall together! Many and many a time as Ivan’s horses went crawling up the long stretches of mountain road and I lay stretched upon the broad-cushioned seat of the tarantass with a blanket rolled up for a pillow, I would find myself unconsciously repeating those mysterious words of Don Fum:—

“The people will tell thee! The people will tell thee!”

So steep were the roads that some days we would not make more than five miles, and on others a halt of several hours would have to be made to enable Ivan to tighten his horses’ shoes, grease the axles, or do some needful thing in or about his wagon. It was slow work, ay, it was very slow and tedious, but what matters it how many or great the difficulties, to a man who has made up his mind to accomplish a certain task? Do the storks or the wild geese stop to count the thousands of miles between 13them and their far-away homes when the time comes to turn their heads southward? Do the brown ants pause to count the hundreds of thousands of grains of sand which they must carry through their long corridors and winding passages before they have burrowed deep enough to escape the frost of midwinter?

There had been many Trumps, but never one that had thrown up his arms and cried, “I surrender!” and should I be the first to do it? “Never! Not even if it meant never to see dear old Castle Trump again!”

One morning as we went zigzagging up a particularly nasty bit of mountain road, Ivan suddenly wheeled about and without even taking off his hat, cried out,—

“Little baron, I cover the last mile of the hundred to-day. If thou wouldst go any farther north thou must hire thee another teamster; dost hear?”

“Silence!” said I sternly, for the fellow had broken in upon a very important train of thought.

Bulger, too, resented the man’s insolence, and growled and showed his teeth.

“But, little baron, listen to reason,” he continued in a more respectful tone, removing his cap: “my people will expect me back. I promised my father—I’m a dutiful son—I—”

“Nay, nay, Ivan,” I interrupted sharply, “curb that tongue of thine lest it harm thy soul. Know, then, that I spoke with thy father, and he promised me that thou shouldst go a second hundred miles with me if need were, but on condition that I give thee double pay. It shall be done, and on top of that a goodly present for your golubtchika (darling).”

“Little baron, thou art a hard master,” whimpered the man. “If the whim took thee thou wouldst bid me leap into the Giants’ Well just to see whether it has a bottom or not. St. Nicholas, save me!”

“Nay, Ivan,” said I kindly, “I know no such word as cruelty although I do confess that right seems harsh at times, but thou wert born to serve and I to command. Providence hath made 14thee poor and me rich. We need each other. Do thou thy duty, and thou wilt find me just and considerate. Disobey me, and thou wilt find that this short arm may be stretched from Ilitch to Petersburg.”

Ivan turned pale at this hidden threat of mine; but I deemed it necessary to make it, for I as well as Bulger had scented treachery and rebellion about this boorish fellow, whose good trait was his love of his horses, and it has always been my rule in life to open my eyes wide to the good that there is in a man, and close them to his faults. But, in spite of kind words and kind treatment, Ivan grew surlier and moodier the moment we had passed the hundredth milestone.

Bulger watched him with a gaze so steady and thoughtful that the man fairly quailed before it. Hour by hour he became more and more restive, and upon leaving a roadside tavern, for the very first time since we had left Ilitch on the Ilitch, I noticed that the fellow had been drinking too much kwass. He let loose his tongue, and raised his hand against his horses, which until that moment he had been wont to load down with caresses and pet names.

“Look out for that driver of thine, little baron,” whispered the tavern-keeper. “He’s in a reckless mood. He’d not pull up if the Giants’ Well were gaping in front of him. St. Nicholas have thee in his safe keeping!”

15

CHAPTER III

IVAN MORE AND MORE TROUBLESOME.—BULGER WATCHES HIM CLOSELY.—HIS COWARDLY ATTACK UPON ME.—MY FAITHFUL BULGER TO THE RESCUE.—A DRIVER WORTH HAVING.—HOW I WAS CARRIED TO A PLACE OF SAFETY.—IN THE HANDS OF OLD YULIANA.—THE GIANTS’ WELL.

When we halted for the night it was only by threatening the man with severe punishment upon my return to Ilitch that I could bring him to rub his horses dry and feed and water them properly; but I stood over him until he had done his work thoroughly, for I knew that no such horses could be had for love or money in that country, and if they should go lame from standing with wet coats in the chill night air, it might mean a week’s delay.

Scarcely had I thrown myself on the hard mattress which the tavern-keeper called the best bed in the house, when I was aroused by loud and boisterous talking in the next room. Ivan was drinking and quarrelling with the villagers. I strode into the room with the arrows of indignation shooting from my eyes, and the faithful Bulger close at my heels.

The moment Ivan set eyes upon us he shrank away, half in earnest and half in jest, and called out,—

“Hey, look at the mazuntchick! [Little Dandy!] How smart he looks! He frightens me! See his eyes, how they shine in the dark! Look at the little demon on four legs beside him! Save me, brothers! Save me—he will throw me down into the Giants’ Well! Marianka will never see me again! Never! Save me, brothers!”

“Peace, fellow,” I called out sternly. “How darest thou exercise thy dull wit on thy master? Get thee to bed at once, 16or I’ll have thee whipped by the village constable for thy drunkenness.”

Ivan clambered up upon the top of the bake oven, and stretched himself out on a sheepskin; then turning to the tavern-keeper, I forbade him under any pretext whatever to give my servant any more liquor to drink. “Akh, Vasha prevoskhoditelstvo [Ah, your Excellency!]” exclaimed the tavern-keeper with a gesture of disgust, “the fools never know when they have had enough. It matters not what the tavern-keeper may say to them. They tell us not to spoil our own trade. Akh! [Ah!] they don’t know when to stop. They have throats as deep as the ‘Giants’ Well!’”

“The Giants’ Well! The Giants’ Well!” I murmured to myself, as I again threw myself down upon the bag of hay which did service as a mattress for those who could afford to pay for it. It’s strange how those words seem to be in every peasant’s mouth, but I thought no more about it at that time. Sleep got the better of me, and with my usual good-night to the elder baron and the gracious baroness, my mother, I dropped off into sweet forgetfulness.

It is a good thing that I had the power of falling asleep almost at will, for with my restless brain ever throbbing and pulsating with its own over-abundance of strength, ever tapping at the thin panels of bone which covered it, like an imprisoned inventor pounding on his cell door and pleading to be let out into the daylight with his plans and schemes, I should simply have become a lunatic.

As it was, with the mere power of thought I ordered sweet slumber to come to my rescue, and so obedient was this good angel of mine, that all I had to do was simply to set the time when I wished to awaken, and the thing was done to the very minute.

As for Bulger, I never pretended to lay down any rules for him. He made it a practice of catching forty winks when he was persuaded that no danger of any kind threatened me, and 17even then, I am half inclined to believe that, like an anxious mother over her babe, he never quite closed both eyes at once.

Though entirely sobered by daybreak, yet Ivan went about the task of harnessing up with such an ill grace that I was obliged to reprove him several times before we had left the tavern yard. He was like a vicious but cowardly animal that quails before a strong and steady eye, but watches its opportunity to spring upon you when your back is turned.

I not only called Bulger’s attention to the fellow’s actions, and warned him to be very watchful, but I also took the precaution to examine the priming of the brace of Spanish pistols which I carried thrust into my belt.

We had scarcely pulled out into the highway when a low growl from Bulger aroused me from a fit of meditation; and this growl was followed by such an anxious whine from my four-footed brother, as he raised his speaking eyes to me, that I glanced hastily from one side of the road to the other.

Lo and behold! the treacherous Ivan was deliberately engaged in an attempt to overturn the tarantass and to get rid of his enforced task of transporting us any farther on our journey.

“Wretch!” I cried, springing up and laying my hand on his shoulder. “I perceive very plainly what thou hast in mind, but I warn thee most solemnly that if thou makest another attempt to overturn thy wagon, I’ll slay thee where thou sittest.”

For only answer and with a lightning-like quickness he struck a back-hand blow at me with the loaded end of his whipstock.

It took me full in the right temple, and sent me to the bottom of the tarantass like a piece of lead.

For an instant the terrible blow robbed me of my senses, but then I saw that the cowardly villain had turned in his seat and had swung the heavy handled whip aloft with intent to despatch me with a second and a surer blow.

Poor fool! he reckoned without his host; for with a shriek of rage, Bulger leaped at his throat like a stone from a catapult, and struck his teeth deep into the fellow’s flesh.

18He roared with agony and attempted to shake off this unexpected foe, but in vain.

By this time I had come to a full realizing sense of the terrible danger Bulger and I were both in, for Ivan had dropped his whip and was reaching for his sheath-knife.

But he never gripped it, for a well-aimed shot from one of my pistols struck him in the forearm, for I had no wish to take the man’s life, and broke it.

The shock and the pain so paralyzed him that he fell over against the dashboard half in a faint, and then rolled completely out of the wagon, dragging Bulger with him. The horses now began to rear and plunge. I saw no more. There was a noise as of the roar of angry waters in my ears, and then the light of life went out of my eyes entirely. I had swooned dead away.

It seemed to me hours that I lay there on my back in the bottom of the tarantass with my head hanging over the side, but of course it was only minutes. I was aroused by a prickling sensation in my left cheek, and as I slowly came to myself I discovered that it proceeded from the gravel thrown up against it by one of the front wheels of the tarantass, for the horses were galloping along at the top of their speed, and there on the driver’s seat sat my faithful Bulger, the reins in his teeth, bracing himself so as to keep them taut over the horses’ backs; and as I sat up and pressed my hand against my poor hurt head, the whole truth broke upon me:—

The moment Ivan had struck the ground Bulger had released his hold upon the fellow’s throat, and ere he had had a chance to revive had leaped up into the driver’s seat, and, catching up the reins in his teeth, had drawn them taut and thus put an end to the rearing and plunging of the frightened beasts and started them on their way, leaving the enraged Ivan brandishing his knife and uttering imprecations upon mine and Bulger’s heads as he saw his horses and wagon disappear in the distance. Now was it that a mad shouting assailed my ears and I caught a glimpse of half a dozen peasants who, seeing this, as they thought, 19empty tarantass come nearer and nearer with its galloping horses, had abandoned their work and rushed out to intercept it.

Judge of their amazement, dear friends, as their eyes fell upon the calm and skilful driver bracing himself on the front seat, and with oft repeated backward tosses of his head urging those horses to bear his beloved master farther and farther away from the treacherous Ivan’s sheath-knife.

As the peasants seized the animals by the heads and brought them to a standstill, I staggered to my feet, and threw my arms around my dear Bulger. He was more than pleased with what he had done, and licked my bruised brow with many a piteous moan.

“St. Nicholas, save us!” cried one of the peasants, devoutly making the sign of the cross; “but if I should live long enough to fill the Giants’ Well with pebbles, I never would expect to see the like of this again.”

“The Giants’ Well, the Giants’ Well!” I murmured to myself as I followed one of the peasants to his cot, standing a little back from the highway, for I stood sore in need of rest after the terrible experience I had just had. The blow of Ivan’s whip-handle had jarred my brain, and I was skilled enough in surgery to know that the hurt called for immediate attention. As good luck would have it, I found beneath the peasant’s roof one of those old women, half witches perhaps, who have recipes for everything and who know an herb for every ailment. After she had examined the cut made by the loaded whip-handle, she muttered out,—

“It is not as broad as the mountain, nor as deep as the Giants’ Well, but it’s bad enough, little master.”

“The Giants’ Well again,” thought I, as I laid me down on the best bed they could make up for me. “I wonder where it may be, that Giants’ Well, and how deep it is, and who drinks the water that is drawn from it?”

20

CHAPTER IV

MY WOUND HEALS.—YULIANA TALKS ABOUT THE GIANTS’ WELL.—I RESOLVE TO VISIT IT.—PREPARATIONS TO ASCEND THE MOUNTAINS.—WHAT HAPPENED TO YULIANA AND TO ME.—REFLECTION AND THEN ACTION.—HOW I CONTRIVED TO CONTINUE THE ASCENT WITHOUT YULIANA FOR A GUIDE.

It was a day or so before I could walk steadily, and meantime I made unusual efforts to keep my brain quiet, but in spite of all I could do every mention of the Giants’ Well by one of the peasants sent a strange thrill through me, and I would find myself suddenly pacing up and down the floor, and repeating over and over again the words, “Giants’ Well! Giants’ Well!”

Bulger was greatly troubled in his mind, and sat watching me with a most bewildered look in his loving eyes. He had half a suspicion, I think, that that cruel blow from Ivan’s whip-handle had injured my reasoning powers, for at times he uttered a low, plaintive whine. The moment I took notice of him, however, and acted more like myself, he gamboled about me in the wildest delight. As I had directed the peasants to drive Ivan’s horses back towards Ilitch on the Ilitch, until they should meet that miscreant and deliver them to him, I was now without any means of continuing my journey northward, unless I set out, like many of my famous predecessors, on foot. They had longer legs than I, however, and were not loaded with so heavy a brain in proportion to their size, and a brain, too, that scarcely ever slept, at least not soundly. I was too impatient to reach the portals to the World within a World to go trudging along a dusty highway. I must have horses and another tarantass, or at least a peasant’s cart. I must push on. My head was quite healed now, and my fever gone.

21“Hearken, little master,” whispered Yuliana; such was the name of the old woman who had taken care of me, “thou art not what thou seemst. I never saw the like of thee before. If thou wouldst, I believe thou couldst tell me how high the sky is, how thick through the mountains are, and how deep the Giants’ Well is.”

I smiled, and then I said,—

“Didst ever drink from the Giants’ Well, Yuliana?”

At which she wagged her head and sent forth a low chuckle.

“Hearken, little master,” she then whispered, coming close to me, and holding up one of her long, bony fingers, “thou canst not trick me—thou knowest that the Giants’ Well hath no bottom.”

“No bottom?” I repeated breathlessly, as Don Fum’s mysterious words, “The people will tell thee!” flashed through my mind. “No bottom, Yuliana?”

“Not unless thine eyes are better than mine, little master,” she murmured, nodding her head slowly.

“Listen, Yuliana,” I burst out impetuously, “where is this bottomless well? Thou shalt lead me to it; I must see it. Come, let’s start at once. Thou shalt be well paid for thy pains.”

“Nay, nay, little master, not so fast,” she replied. “It’s far up the mountains. The way is steep and rugged, the paths are narrow and winding, a false step might mean instant death, were there not some strong hand to save thee. Give up such a mad thought as ever getting there, except it be on the stout shoulders of some mountaineer.”

“Ah, good woman,” was my reply, “thou hast just said that I am not what I seem, and thou saidst truly. Know, then, thou seest before thee the world-renowned traveller, Wilhelm Heinrich Sebastian von Troomp, commonly called ‘Little Baron Trump,’ that though short of stature and frail of limb, yet what there is of me is of iron. There, Yuliana, there’s gold for thee; now lead the way to the Giants’ Well.”

22“Gently, gently, little baron,” almost whispered the old peasant woman, as her shrivelled hand closed upon the gold piece. “I have not told thee all. For leagues about, I ween, no living being excepting me knows where the Giants’ Well is. Ask them and they’ll say, “It’s up yonder in the mountains, away up under the eaves of the sky.” That’s all. That’s all they can tell thee. But, little master, I know where it is, and the very herb that cured thy hurt head and saved thee from certain death by cooling thy blood, was plucked by me from the brink of the well!” These words sent a thrill of joy through me, for now I felt that I was on the right road, that the words of the great master of all masters, Don Fum, had come true.

“The people will tell thee!”

Ay, the people had told me, for now there was not the faintest shadow of doubt in my mind that I had found the portals to the World within a World! Yuliana should be my guide. She knew how to thread her way up the narrow pass, to turn aside from overhanging rocks which a mere touch might topple over, to find the steps which nature had hewn in the sides of the rocky parapets, and to pursue her way safely through clefts and gorges, even the entrance to which might be invisible to ordinary eyes. However, in order that the superstitious peasants might be kept friendly to me, I gave it out that I was about to betake myself to the mountains in search of curiosities for my cabinet, and begged them to furnish me with ropes and tackle, with two good stout fellows to carry it for me, promising generous payment for the services.

They made haste to provide me with all I asked for, and we set out for the mountain path at daybreak. Yuliana, in order not to seem to be of the party, had gone on ahead by the light of the moon, telling her people that she wished to gather certain herbs before the sun’s rays struck them and dried the healing dew that beaded their leaves.

23

ALONG A HIGHWAY OF THE UNDER WORLD.

25All went well until the sun was well up over our heads, when suddenly I heard a woman, who proved to be Yuliana, utter a piercing scream. In a moment or so the mystery was solved. The old beldam came rushing down the mountain, her thin wisp of gray hair fluttering in the wind. Her hands were tied behind her, and two young peasants with birchen rods were beating her every chance they got.

“Turn back, turn back, brothers,” they cried to my two men. “The little wizard there has struck hands with this old witch. They’re on their way to the Giants’ Well. They’ll loosen a band of black spirits about our ears. We shall all be bewitched. Quick! Quick! Cast off the loads ye’re bearing and follow us.”

The two men didn’t wait for a second bidding, and throwing the tackle on the ground, they all disappeared like a flash, but for several moments I could hear the screams of poor Yuliana as these young wretches beat the old woman with their birchen rods.

Well, dear readers, what say ye to this? Was I not in a pleasant position truly? Alone with Bulger in that wild and gloomy mountain region, the black rocks hanging like frowning giants and ogres over our heads, with the dwarf pines for hair, clumps of white moss for eyes, vast, gaping cracks for mouths, and gnarled and twisted roots for terrible fingers, ready to reach down for my poor little weazen frame.

Did I fall a-trembling? Did I make haste to follow those craven spirits down the mountain side? Did I shift the peg of my courage a single hole lower?

Not I. If I had I wouldn’t have been worthy of the name I bore. What I did do was to throw myself at full length on a bed of moss, call Bulger to my side, and close my eyes to the outer world.

I have heard of great men going to bed at high noon to give themselves up to thought, and I had often done it myself before I had heard of their doing it.

In fifteen minutes, by nature’s watch—the sun on the face of the mountain—I had solved the problem. Now, there were two difficulties staring me in the face; namely, to find somebody 26to show me the way up the mountain, and if that body couldn’t carry my tackle, then to find somebody else who could.

It suddenly occurred to me that I had noticed some cattle grazing at the foot of the mountain, and, what’s more, that these cattle wore very peculiar yokes.

“What are those yokes for?” I asked myself, for they were of a make quite different from any that I remembered ever having seen, and consisted of a stout wooden collar from the bottom of which there projected backward between the beast’s forelegs a straight piece of wood armed with an iron spike pointing toward the ground. At the top the yoke was bound by a leather thong to the animal’s horns. So long, therefore, as the beast held his head naturally or even lowered it to graze, the yoke was drawn forward and the hook was kept free from the ground, but the very moment the animal raised his head in the air, at once the hook was thrown into the ground and he was prevented from taking another step forward. Now, dear readers, you may or may not know that when a cleft-hoofed animal starts to ascend a steep bank, unlike a solid-hoofed beast, he throws his head into the air instead of lowering it, and therefore it struck me at once that the purpose of this yoke was to keep the cattle from making their way up the sides of the mountain and getting lost.

But why should they want to clamber up the mountain sides? Simply because there was some kind of grass or herbage growing up there which was a delicacy to them, and knowing, as I well did, what risks animals will take and what fatigue they will undergo to reach a favorite grazing-ground, it struck me at once that if I would make it possible for them to reach this favorite food of theirs, they would be very glad to give me a lift on my way.

No sooner said than done. I forthwith retraced my steps until I fell in with a group of these cattle; and it did not take me many minutes to loosen their yokes from their horns and tie the hooks up under their bodies so that their progress up hill would not be interfered with.

27They were delighted to find themselves so unexpectedly freed from the hateful drawback which permitted them merely to view the coveted grazing-grounds from afar, and then having cut me a suitable goad, I again started up the mountain, driving my new friends leisurely on ahead of me.

Upon reaching the spot where the superstitious peasants had thrown the tackle to the ground, I proceeded to load it upon the back of the gentlest beast of the lot, and was soon on my way again.

28

CHAPTER V

UP AND STILL UP, AND THROUGH THE QUARRIES OF THE DEMONS.—HOW THE CATTLE KEPT THE TRAIL, AND HOW WE CAME AT LAST UPON THE BRINK OF THE GIANTS’ WELL.—THE TERRACES ARE SAFELY PASSED.—BEGINNING OF THE DESCENT INTO THE WELL ITSELF.—ALL DIFFICULTIES OVERCOME.—WE REACH THE EDGE OF POLYPHEMUS’ FUNNEL.

Generally speaking, people with very large heads are fitted out by nature with a pair of rather pipe-stemmy legs, but such was not my case. I was blest with legs of the sturdiest sort, and found no difficulty in keeping pace with my new four-footed friends who, to my delight, were not long in convincing me that they had been there before. Not for an instant did they halt at any fork in the path, but kept continually on the move, often passing over stretches of ground where there was no trail visible, but coming upon it again with unfailing accuracy. Once only they halted, and that was to slake their thirst at a mountain rill, Bulger and I following their example.

It was only too evident to me that they had in mind a certain grazing-ground, and were resolved to be satisfied with no other; so I let them have their own way, for, as it was still up, up, up, I felt that it was perfectly safe to follow their lead.

At last the mountain side began to take on quite another character. The gorges grew narrower, and at times overhanging rocks shut out the sunlight almost entirely. We were entering a region of peculiar wildness, of fantastic grandeur.

I had often read of what travellers termed the “Quarries of the Demons” in the Northern Urals, but never till now had I the faintest notion of what the expression meant.

Imagine to yourself the usual look of ruin and devastation 29around and about a quarry worked by human hands, then in your thoughts conceive every chip to be a block, and every block a mass; add four times its size to every slab and post and pediment, and then turn a mighty torrent through the place and roll and twist and lift them up in wild confusion, end on end and on each other piled, till these wild waters have builded fantastic portals to temples more fantastic, and arched wild gorges with roofs of rock which seem to hang so lightly that a breath or footfall might bring them down with terrible crash, and then, dear friends, you may succeed in getting a faint idea of the wild and awful grandeur of the scene which now lay spread out before me.

Would the cattle that had now led Bulger and me so safely up the mountain side know where to find an entrance to this wilderness of broken rock, and what was more important still, would they, when once engaged within its winding courts and corridors, its darkened maze of wall and parapet, its streets and plazas roughly paved as if by demon hands impatient of the task, know how to find their way out again?

Dear friends, man has always been too distrustful of his four-footed companions. They have much that they might tell us had they but speech to tell it with. I have often trusted them when it would have seemed foolhardy to you, and never once have I had cause to repent of doing so.

So Bulger and I, with stout hearts, followed straight after these silent guides, although I must confess my legs were beginning to feel the terrible strain I had put them to; but I resolved to push on ahead, at least until we had cleared the Demons’ Quarry, and then to bring my little herd to a halt and pass the rest of the day and the night season in well-earned repose.

Once within the quarry, however, all sense of fatigue vanished, and my thankful mind, entranced and fascinated by the deep silence, the awful grandeur, the mysterious lights and shadows of the place, lent me new strength. At length we had traversed 30this city of silence and gloom, and once again we emerged into the full glory of the afternoon sun.

Suddenly my little drove of cattle, with playful tossing of their heads, broke into a run, Bulger and I at their heels, however. It was a mad race; but, dear friends, when it ended I took off my fur cap and tossed it high into the air with a wild cry of joy, and Bulger broke out in a string of yelps and barks, for, look ye, the cattle were grazing away for dear life there in front of me, and as their breath reached me my keen nostrils recognized the odor of Yuliana’s herbs which she had bound on my hurt head.

Yes, we stood almost upon the brink of the Giants’ Well, but I was too tired to take another step farther, too tired, in fact, to eat, although I had a stock of dried fruit in my pockets, and noticed that the nests of the wild fowl were well supplied with eggs. Having unloosened the tackle from the back of the good beast that had carried it up the mountain for me, I threw myself on the ground and was soon fast asleep, with my faithful Bulger coiled up close against my breast.

In the morning the cattle were nowhere to be seen, but I didn’t trouble myself about them, for I knew that old Yuliana would be sent up after them the moment they were missed. After a hearty breakfast on half a dozen roasted eggs of the wild fowl, with some dried fruit and wintergreen berries, Bulger and I advanced to the edge of the Giants’ Well, or, rather, to the edge of the vast terraces of rock leading down to it, each of which was from thirty to fifty feet in sheer height.

Before I go any farther, dear friends, I must beg you to remember that I am an expert in the use of tackle, there being no knot, noose, or splice known to a sailor which I didn’t have at my fingers’ ends, a fact not to be wondered at when you take into consideration the thousands of miles which I have travelled on water.

Nor would I have you shake your heads and look only half persuaded when I go on describing our descent into the Giants’ 31Well, for of course you’ll be asking yourselves how I succeeded in getting the tackle down when there was no one left at the other end to untie it!

Know, then, that that was the smallest of my troubles; for, as any sailor will tell you, you only need to tie your line in what is known as a “fool’s knot,” to one end of which you make fast a mere cord. The moment you have reached the bottom, a sharp tug at the cord unties the fool’s knot, and your tackle falls down after you. My method was to lower Bulger down first, and then let myself down after him. In this way we proceeded from parapet to parapet, until at last we stood upon the very edge of the vast well, the existence of which had been so mysteriously hinted at in Don Fum’s manuscript. Its mouth was probably fifty feet in width, and by straining my eyes I satisfied myself of the existence of a shelf of rock on one side, as nearly as I could judge about seventy-five feet down. It was a goodly stretch, and would require every foot of my rope. You will not smile, I’m sure, when I tell you that I pressed Bulger to my breast, and kissed him fondly before lowering away. He returned my caresses, and by his joyous yelp gave me to understand that he had perfect faith in his little master.

In a few moments I had joined him on this narrow shelf of rock. Below us now was darkness, but think you I hesitated? I knew that my eyes would soon become accustomed to the gloom, and I also knew that when my eyes failed Bulger’s keener ones were there to help me out.

I rigged my tackle now with extra care, for I was really lowering my little brother on a sort of trip of discovery.

He was soon out of sight, and then, in spite of my calmness, I drew a quick breath, and my heart started upward a barleycorn or so. But hark! his quick, sharp bark comes plainly up to me. It means that he has landed upon a safe shelf or ledge, and the next moment my legs encircled the rope, and I began to glide noiselessly down into the stilly depths, his glad voice ringing in my ears.

32Again and again did I send my wise and watchful little brother down ahead of me, until at last, standing there and looking up, naught remained to me of the mighty outside world but a bright silver speck, like a tiny ray of light streaming through a pin-hole in the curtains of your chamber.

But stop, have we reached the bottom of the Giants’ Well? for with a trial plummet I find that the walls are no longer sheer; they slope inward, and gently too, almost so much so that I hardly need a line to continue my descent. Lighting one of my little tapers, I make my way cautiously around the edge. In half an hour I find myself back at the starting-place. The curve to the path has been always the same, while my trial plummet at all times has indicated the same slope to the rocky basin. And then for the first time, two certain words made use of by that learned Master of Masters, Don Fum, till then a mystery to me, stood out before my eyes as if written with a pen of fire upon those black walls thousands of feet below the great world of light which I had quitted a few hours before. Those words were Polyphemus’ Funnel! Yes, there could be no doubt of it: I had reached the bottom of the Giants’ Well. I stood upon the edge of Polyphemus’ Funnel!

33

CHAPTER VI

MY DESPAIR UPON FINDING THE PIPE OF THE FUNNEL TOO SMALL FOR MY BODY.—A RAY OF HOPE BREAKS IN UPON ME.—FULL ACCOUNT OF HOW I SUCCEEDED IN ENTERING THE PIPE OF THE FUNNEL.—MY PASSAGE THROUGH IT.—BULGER’S TIMELY AID.—THE MARBLE HIGHWAY AND SOME CURIOUS THINGS CONCERNING THE ENTRANCE TO THE WORLD WITHIN A WORLD.

The rocky sides of Polyphemus’ Funnel were apparently as well polished as those of any tin funnel that I had ever seen hanging in the kitchen of Castle Trump, so making fast my tackle and taking Bulger in my arms, away we went sliding down the side with the line passed under my arm for safety’s sake.

It was nearly a hundred feet to the bottom, for I had measured off the full length of my line before I had come to the apex of this gigantic cone, and not caring to tumble headlong down its pipe, I proceeded to light a taper and look about me.

Ah, dear friends, I can feel that shudder now, so terrible was it, and what wonder, too, for a glance at the pipe of the funnel told me that it was too small to let my body pass through. The agonizing thought flashed through my mind that I had committed a terrible error—that I had mistaken some vast pit for the Giants’ Well, that I had thrown Bulger’s and my own life away in mad and unreasoning haste, that I should never reach the wonderful World within a World, that there in that thick gloom must we lay our bodies and bones.

Or, thought I, may not the learned Master of Masters, Don Fum, have made an error himself in holding out the idea that the pipe of Polyphemus’ Funnel was large enough to admit the passage of a man’s body?

34In my almost frenzy I advanced to the mouth of the pipe, and, lowering myself into it, let my body sink as far as it would.

It caught at the shoulders, and after a careful examination I was forced to reach the brain-racking conclusion that my faithful Bulger and I had travelled our last mile together.

There was nothing for us to do but to lie down and die.

Lie down and die? Never! I had noticed in making the descent into the Giants’ Well that its side had much the appearance of being walled around by blocks of stone. With Bulger strapped to my back I would slowly climb up from shelf to shelf until my strength failed me, and then I would wait until I thought old Yuliana had come back to gather herbs, and possibly I might make her hear me.

In my despair I sighed and clutched my own arms, and as I did so one of my hands came into contact with something cold and slippery having the feel of tallow. Taking a pinch of the substance between my thumb and finger, I rubbed it thoughtfully for a moment, and then a ray of hope broke through the awful gloom that enshrouded me so pitilessly. It was black lead—there could be no doubt of it. It had made its way through a crack or crevice in Polyphemus’ Funnel, and I had rubbed it off in sliding down the side. With this greasy material to rub on the inside of the pipe to the funnel, and also to besmear myself with, mayhap I might yet slip through into the World within a World!

At any rate, I determined to make the trial, even if I left some of my skin on the flinty rock.

In order to collect my thoughts thoroughly, and that I might proceed step by step in that systematic order so characteristic of all my wonderful exploits, I sat down, and putting my arm around dear Bulger’s neck and drawing him up against me, I communed with myself for a good half-hour.

35

BEFORE HER MAJESTY GALAXA, QUEEN OF THE MIKKAMENKIES.

37Then all was in readiness for action; and to prove to you, dear friends, how careful Bulger was not to interrupt my train of thought, I have to report to you that although a small animal of the rat family came out from a crevice in the rock while I sat there thinking, as I could see by the light of my tiny wax taper, and had the temerity first to sniff at Bulger’s tail and then to give it a playful nip, yet the sagacious animal never budged a hair’s breadth.

“Mind hath ordered, now let hands obey!” I exclaimed, as I sprang up and began stripping off my outer garments. This done, I clambered up on the side of the funnel, and began to collect a supply of the black lead, which I deposited near the opening of the pipe. The next thing to do was to get Bulger through the pipe ahead of me. To this end I tied him up in my clothing, bag fashion, and began to lower away.

After paying out sixty-five or seventy feet of the line, he struck bottom, and by his loud barking gave me to understand that it was all right, that I might make the descent myself. Upon hearing his voice, I gave the line a few sharp tugs. He was not slow to comprehend my meaning, and in a moment or so had not only scrambled out of the bag himself, but pulled my clothing loose, so that I might draw the line up again.

My next step was to contrive a way to weight myself when the moment arrived to begin the descent, for I felt sure that I never should be able to arrange it so as to slip through the pipe unless something was pulling at my heels.

Cutting off about ten feet of the rope, I made fast one end of the piece to a long piece of rock, weighing about a hundred pounds. This I laid near the mouth of the pipe ready for use. But now came the most difficult thing of all—it was to draw my shoulders in on my breast and lash them securely in that position, by which plan I expected to reduce my width by at least two good inches.

These two inches thus gained, or, rather, lost, might be the means by which I would be able to slip through the pipe of Polyphemus’ Funnel and reach the vast underground passage leading to the World within a World. Putting a noose around my chest, just below my collar bone, I drew my shoulders in as 38tight as I could bear, and changed the slip knot into a hard one; then having made the other end of the line fast to the side of the funnel, I proceeded to wind myself up as the housewives often do a big sausage to keep it from bursting. This done, I set about rolling in the black lead until I was thoroughly smeared with it.

There was now but one thing more to do before dropping myself into the pipe, and that was to make fast the weight to my feet. It was no easy task, wound up as I was, with my arms lashed down against my body, but by the use of slip knots I finally accomplished the feat, and sitting down put my legs into the pipe and drew a long breath, for I felt as if I was skewered up in a straight jacket.

Bending down, I called out to Bulger. He answered with a yelp of joy that brought fresh vigor to my heart. Now was come the supreme moment which was to witness success or failure. Failure! Oh, what a dread word is that! and yet how often must human lips pronounce it, and in so doing breathe out the sigh in which it ends! Quickly lowering the weight, I wriggled off the edge of the opening, and straightened myself out as I slipped into the pipe.

Had I stopped it like a cork, or was I moving? Yes, down, down, gently, slowly, noiselessly, I went slipping through the pipe to Polyphemus’ Funnel. What did I care how that weight caused the line to cut into my ankles? I was moving, I was drawing nearer and nearer to Bulger, whose joyous bark I could hear now and then, nearer to the inner gates of the World within a World!

But woe is me! I suddenly stop, and in spite of all my efforts to start again by twisting, turning, and shaking my body, it refused to sink another inch, and there I stick.

“Oh, Bulger, Bulger,” I moan, “faithful friend, if thou couldst but reach me, one tug from thee might save thy little master!”

In a sort of a wild and desperate way I now began to feel about 39me as well as I could with my hands wedged in so close to my sides, but in a moment or so I had discovered the cause of my coming to such a sudden standstill.

I had struck a portion of the pipe that had a thread to it, like that which encircles a bolt of iron and makes a screw of it, and the thought came to me that if I could only succeed in giving a revolving motion to my body, I would with every turn twist myself farther down toward the end of the pipe.

I could feel that my knuckles and finger tips were being bruised and lacerated by this arduous work, but what cared I for the keen pain that darted from hands to wrists, and wrists to elbows! It was like twisting a screw slowly through a long nut, only the thread in this case was on the nut and the grooves in the screw, and that screw was my poor bruised little body!

All of a sudden, by the swinging of the weight, I could tell that it had passed out at the lower end of the pipe. It was pulling cruelly hard on my tender ankles, but I could twist myself no more; my strength was gone. I was at the point of swooning when I heard Bulger utter a loud yelp, and the next instant there was such a strong tug at my ankles that I sent forth a groan, but that tug saved me! It was Bulger who had leaped into the air, and catching the rope in his teeth had dragged his little master out of the pipe of Polyphemus’ Funnel!

We all fell into the same heap, Bulger, I, and the weight, fully ten feet, and very serious might have been the consequences for me had my fall not been broken by my striking on the pile of my clothing placed directly under the opening; and, dear friends, if you talked until the crack o’ doom you could not make me believe that my four-footed brother hadn’t placed those clothes there to catch me.

They weren’t thrown higgledy-piggledy into a heap either, but were laid one upon the other, the heaviest at the bottom.

Having unwound myself and lighted one of my wax tapers, 40I made haste to cast away the undergarment with its coating of black lead and resume my clothing; then stooping down, I made an examination of the floor. It was composed of huge blocks of marble of various colors, polished almost as smooth as if the hand of man had wrought the work; and then I knew that I was on Nature’s Marble Highway leading to the cities of the under world which Don Fum had mentioned in his book, and I remembered, too, that he had spoken of Nature’s Mighty Mosaics, huge fantastic figures on the walls of these lofty corridors, made up of various colored blocks and fragments laid one upon the other as if with design, and not by the wild, tempestuous whims of upbursting forces thousands of years ago, when the earth was in its mad and wayward youth. After a rest of several hours, during which I nursed my torn hands and bruised fingers, Bulger and I were up and off again along this broad and glorious Marble Highway. Strange to say, it was not the inky darkness of the ordinary cavern which filled these magnificent chambers, through which the Marble Highway went winding in stately and massive grandeur; far from it. The gloom was tempered by a faint glow that met us on the way ever and anon, like a ray of twilight gone astray. Anyway, Bulger, I noticed, could see perfectly well; so tying a bit of twine to his collar, I sent him on ahead, convinced that I could have no surer guide.

At times our path would be lighted up for an instant by the bursting-out of a little tongue of flame either on the sides or from the roof of the gallery. I was puzzled for quite a while to tell what it proceeded from; but at last I caught sight of the source, or rather the maker, of this welcome illumination. It proceeded from a lizard-like animal, which, by suddenly uncoiling its tail, had the power to emit this extremely bright flash of phosphorescent light, and in so doing he made a sharp crack, for all the world like the noise of an electric spark. Bulger was delighted with this performance; and on one occasion, not being able to control his feeling, he uttered a sharp bark, whereupon apparently ten thousand of these little torch-bearers 41snapped their tails at me at the same instant, and filled the vast place with a flash of light of almost lightning-like intensity.

Bulger was so frightened by the result of his applause that he took good care to keep quiet after this.

42

CHAPTER VII

OUR FIRST NIGHT IN THE UNDER WORLD, AND HOW IT WAS FOLLOWED BY THE FIRST BREAK OF DAY.—BULGER’S WARNING AND WHAT IT MEANT.—WE FALL IN WITH AN INHABITANT OF THE WORLD WITHIN A WORLD.—HIS NAME AND CALLING.—MYSTERIOUS RETURN OF NIGHT.—THE LAND OF BEDS, AND HOW OUR NEW FRIEND PROVIDED ONE FOR US.

So heavy with sleep did my eyelids become at last that I knew that it must be night in the outer world, and so we halted, and I stretched myself at full length on that marble floor, which, by the way, was pleasantly warm beneath us; and the air, too, was strangely comforting to the lungs, there being a complete absence of that smell of earth and odor of dampness so common in vast subterranean chambers.

My sleep was long-continued and most refreshing; Bulger was already awake, however, when I sat up and tried to look about me.

He began tugging at the string which I had fastened to his collar as if he wanted to lead me somewhere, so I humored him and followed along after. To my delight he led me straight to a pool of deliciously sweet and cold water. Here we drank our fill, and after a very frugal breakfast on some dried figs set out again on our journey along the Marble Highway. Suddenly, to my more than joy, the faint and uncertain light of the place began to strengthen. Why, it seemed almost as if the day of the upper world were about to break, so delicate were the various hues in which the ever-increasing light clothed itself: then, as if affrighted at its own increasing glory, it would fade away again to almost gloom. Ere many moments again this faint and 43mysterious glow would return, beginning with the softest yellow, then changing through a dozen different tints, and, like a fickle maid uncertain which to wear, put all aside and don the lily’s garb. Bulger and I wandered along the Marble Highway almost afraid to break a stillness so deep that it seemed to me as if I could hear those sportive rays of light in their play against the many-colored rocks arching this mighty corridor.

Now, as the Marble Highway swept around in a graceful curve, a dazzling flood of light burst upon us.

It was sunrise in the World within a World.

Whence came this flood of dazzling light which now caused the sides and arching roof to glow and sparkle as if we had suddenly entered one of Nature’s vast storehouses of polished gems? Shading my eyes with my hand I looked about me in order to try and solve the mystery.

It did not take me long to understand it all. Know then, dear friends, that the ceilings, domes, and arched roofs of this underground world were fretted with a metal of greater hardness than any known to us children of sunshine. Its seams ran hither and thither like the veins of gigantic leaves; and at certain hours currents of electricity from some vast internal reservoir of Nature’s own building, streamed through these metal traceries until they glowed with a heat so white as to give off the flood of dazzling light of which I have already spoken.

The current never came with a sudden rush or burst, but began gently and timidly, so to speak, as if feeling its way along. Hence the beautiful tints that always preceded sunrise in this lower world, and made it so much like the coming and going of our glorious sunshine.

The Marble Highway now divided, and the two halves of the fork curving away to the right and left enclosed a small but exquisitely ornamented park, or pleasure ground I might call it, provided with seats of some dark wood beautifully polished and carved. This park was ornamented with four fountains, each springing from a crystal basin and spreading out into a feathery 44spray that glistened like whirling snow in the dazzling white light. As Bulger and I directed our steps toward one of the benches with the intention of taking a good rest, a low growl from him warned me to be on the alert. I gave a second look. A human being was seated on the bench. Beside myself, as I was, with curiosity to come face to face with this inhabitant of the under world, the first we had met, I made a halt, determined to ascertain, if possible, whether he was quite harmless before accosting him.

He was small in stature, and clad entirely in black, a sort of loose, flowing robe much like a Roman toga. His head was bare, and what I could see of it was round, smooth, and rosy, with about as much hair, or rather fuzz, upon it as the head of an infant six weeks old. His face was hidden by a black fan which he carried in his right hand, and the uses of which you will learn later on. His eyes were shielded from the intense glare of the light by a pair of colored glass goggles. As he raised his hand between me and the light I couldn’t help catching my breath. I could see right through it: the bones were as clear as amber. And his head, too, was only a little less opaque. Suddenly two words from Don Fum’s manuscript flashed through my mind, and I exclaimed joyously,—

“Bulger, we’re in the Land of the Transparent Folk!”

At the sound of my voice the little man arose and made a low bow, lowering his fan to his breast where he held it. His baby face was ludicrously sad and solemn.

“Yes, Sir Stranger,” said he, in a low, musical voice, “thou art indeed in the Land of the Mikkamenkies (Mica Men), in the Land of the Transparent Folk, called also Goggle Land; but if I should show thee my heart thou wouldst see that I am deeply pained to think that I should have been the first to bid thee welcome, for know, Sir Stranger, that thou speakest with Master Cold Soul the Court Depressor, the saddest man in all Goggle Land, and, by the way, sir, permit me to offer thee a pair of goggles for thyself, and also a pair for thy four-footed companion, 45for our intense white light would blind thee both in a few days.”

I thanked Master Cold Soul very warmly for the goggles, and proceeded to set one pair astride my nose and to tie the other in front of Bulger’s eyes. I then in most courteous manner informed Master Cold Soul who I was, and begged him to explain the cause of his great sadness. “Well, thou must know, little baron,” said he, after I had taken a seat beside him on the bench, “that we, the loving subjects of Queen Galaxa, whose royal heart is almost run down,—excuse these tears, living as we do in this beautiful world so unlike the one you inhabit, which our wise men tell us is built, strange to say, on the very outside of the earth’s crust where it is most exposed to the full sweep of blinding snow, freezing blast, pelting hail, drowning rain, and choking dust,—living as we do, I say, in this vast temple by Nature’s own hands builded, where disease is unknown, and where our hearts run down like clocks that may have but one winding, we are prone, alas, to be too happy; to laugh too much; to spend too much time in idle gayety, chattering the time away like thoughtless children amused with baubles, delighted with tinsel nothings. Know then, little baron, that mine is the business to check this gayety, to put an end to this childish glee, to depress our people’s spirits, lest they run too high. Hence my garb of inky hue, my rueful countenance, my frequent outflowing of tears, my voice ever attuned to sadness. Excuse me, little baron, my fan slipped then; didst see through me? I would not have thee see my heart to-day, for some way or other I cannot bring it to a slow pace; it is dreadfully unruly.”

I assured him that I had not seen through him as yet.

And now, dear friends, I must explain that by the laws of the Mikkamenkies each man, woman, and child must wear in their garments a heart-shaped opening on their breast directly over their hearts, with a corresponding one at the back, so that under certain conditions, when the law allows it, each may have the right to take a look at his neighbor’s heart and see exactly 46how it is beating—whether fast or slow, whether throbbing or leaping, or whether pulsating calmly and naturally. But this privilege is only accorded, as I have said, under certain conditions, hence to shut off inquisitive glances each Mikkamenky is allowed to carry a black fan with which to cover the heart-shaped opening above described, and in this way conceal his or her feelings to a degree. I say to a degree, for I may as well tell you right here that falsehood is unknown, or, more correctly stated, impossible in the land of the Transparent Folk, for the reason that so wondrously clear, limpid, and crystal-like are their eyes that the slightest attempt to say one thing while they are thinking another roils and clouds them as if a drop of milk had fallen into a glass of the purest water.

As I sat gazing at this strange little being seated on the bench there beside me, I recalled a conversation which I had had with a learned Russian at Solvitchegodsk. Said he, speaking of his people, “We are all born with light hair, brilliant eyes, and pale faces, for we have sprung up under the snow.” And I thought to myself how delighted, how entranced, he would have been to look upon this curious being, born not under the snow, but far under the surface of the earth, where in these vast chambers of this World within a World, this strange folk had, like plants grown in a dark, deep cellar, gradually parted with all their coloring until their eyes glowed like orbs of pure crystal, until their bones had been bleached to amber clearness, and their blood coursed colorless through colorless veins. While sitting there following out this train of thought, the clear white light suddenly began to flicker and to play fantastic tricks upon the walls by dancing in garbs of ever-changing hues, now brightest yellow, now palest green, now glorious purple, now deepest crimson.

“Ah, little baron!” exclaimed Master Cold Soul, “that was an uncommonly short day. Rise, please.”

I made haste to obey, whereupon he touched a spring and the bench opened in the centre, disclosing two very comfortable beds.

47

A DINNER EASILY PROVIDED FOR.

49“In a few moments night will be upon us,” continued the Mikkamenky, “but thou seest that we have not been taken by surprise. I should explain to thee, little baron, that owing to the capricious manner in which our River of Light is apt both to begin and to cease flowing, we are never able to tell how long a day or a night will prove to be. This is what we call twilight. In thy world I suppose day goes out with a terrible bang, for our wise men tell us that nothing can be done in the upper world without making a noise; that your people really love noise; and that the man who makes the greatest noise is considered the greatest man.

“Owing to the fact, little baron, that no one in Goggle Land can tell how long the day will last, or how long it may be necessary to sleep, our laws permit no one to set any exact time when a thing shall be done, or to exact any promise to do this or that on a certain day, for, bless thy soul, that day may not be ten minutes long. Hence we say, ‘If to-morrow be over five hours long, come to me at the beginning of the sixth hour;’ and we never wish each other a plain good-night, but say, ‘Good-night, as long as it lasts.’

“What’s more, little baron, as night is apt to come upon us this way unawares, by law all the beds belong to the state; no one is allowed to own his own bed, for when night overtakes him he may be at the other end of the city, and some other subject of Queen Galaxa may be in front of his door, and no matter where night may overtake a Mikkamenky, he is sure to find a bed. There are beds everywhere. By touching a spring they drop from the walls, they pull out like drawers, they are under the tables and divans, in the parks, in the market-place, by the roadside; benches, bins, boxes, barrows, and barrels by pressing a spring may in an instant be transformed into beds. It is the Land of Beds, little baron. But ah! behold, the twilight goes to its end. Good-night as long as it lasts!” and with this Master Cold Soul stretched himself out and began to snore, having first carefully covered up the two holes in the front and back of 50his garment, so that I shouldn’t have a chance to take a peep through him in case I should wake up first. Bulger and I were right glad to lay our limbs on a real bed, although from the way my four-footed brother followed his tail around and around, I could see that he wasn’t particularly delighted with the softness of the couch.

51

CHAPTER VIII

“GOOD-MORNING AS LONG AS IT LASTS.”—PLAIN TALK FROM MASTER COLD SOUL.—WONDERS OF GOGGLE LAND.—WE ENTER THE CITY OF THE MIKKAMENKIES.—BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF IT.—OUR APPROACH TO THE ROYAL PALACE.—QUEEN GALAXA AND HER CRYSTAL THRONE.—MASTER COLD SOUL’S TEARS.

I don’t think the darkness lasted over three hours, perhaps it was longer; but Master Cold Soul was obliged to shake me gently ere he could rouse me.

“Now, little baron,” said he, after he had wished me a good-morning with the usual “as long as it lasts” tacked to it, “if thou art quite willing, I’ll conduct thee to the court of our gracious mistress, Queen Galaxa. Our wise men have often discoursed to her concerning the upper world and the terrible sufferings of its people, exposed as they are to be first frozen by the pitiless cold and then burned by the scorching rays of what they call their sun, and she will no doubt deign to be pleased at sight of thee, although I must warn thee that thou art most uncomely, that thou seemst so black and hard to me as scarcely to be human, but rather a bit of living earth or rock. I greatly fear me that thou wilt make our people extremely vain by comparison. Thy four-footed companion we know well by sight, having often seen his petrified image in the rocks of the dark chambers of our world.”

“Master Cold Soul,” said I, as we walked along, “when thou gettest to know me better thou wilt find me more comely, and although I shall not be able to show thee my heart, I hope to be able to prove to thee and thine that I have such a thing.”

“No doubt, no doubt, little baron,” exclaimed Master Cold 52Soul, “but be not offended. It is not more pleasant for me to tell thee these disagreeable things than it is for thee to hear them, but I am paid to do it and I must earn my wage. Vanity grows apace in our world, and I prick its bubbles whenever I see them.”

To my great wonder I now discovered that the world of the Mikkamenkies had its lakes and rivers like our own, only of course they were smaller and mirror-faced, being never visited by the faintest zephyr. To my question as to whether they were peopled with living things, Master Cold Soul informed me that they literally swarmed with the most delicious fish, both in scales and shells.

“But think not, little baron,” he added, “that we of Goggle Land have no other food than such as we draw from the water; for in our gardens grow many kinds of delicate vegetables, springing up in a single night almost as light as foam and just as white. But we are small eaters, little baron, and rarely find it necessary to put to death a large shellfish. We merely lay hold of his great claw, which he obligingly drops into our hand, and forthwith sets about growing another.”

“But tell me, I pray thee, Master Cold Soul,” said I, “where ye find the silk to weave such soft and beautiful stuff as that thy garment is fashioned from?”

“In this under world of ours, little baron,” replied Master Cold Soul, “there are many vast recesses not reached by the River of Light, and in these dark chambers flit about huge night moths, like restless spirits forever on the wing, but of course they are not, for we find their eggs glued against the rocky sides of these caverns and collect them carefully. The worms that are hatched from them spin huge cocoons so large that one may not be hidden in my hand, and these unwound give unto our looms all the thread they need.”

“And the beautiful wood,” I continued, “which I see about me carved and fashioned into so many articles, whence comes it?”

53“From the quarries,” answered Master Cold Soul.

“Quarries?” I repeated wonderingly.

“Why, yes, little baron,” said he, “for we have quarries of wood as no doubt thou hast quarries of stone. Our wise men tell us that thousands and thousands of years ago vast forests grown in your world were in the upheavals and fallings-in of the earth’s crust thrust down into ours, the gigantic trunks wedged closely together, and standing bolt upright just as they grew. At least, so we find them when we have dug away the hardened clay that has shut them in these many ages. But see, little baron, we are now entering the city. Yonder is the royal palace—wilt walk with me thither?”

Ah, dear friends, would that I could make you see this beautiful city of the under world just as it showed itself to me then, spread out so gloriously beneath the glittering domes and vaulted corridors, from which poured down upon the exquisitely carved and polished entrances to the living chambers of this happy folk, a flood of white light apparently more dazzling than our noonday sun!

It was a sight so strangely beautiful that many times I paused to gaze upon it. Young and old, all clad in the same gracefully flowing garbs of silk, now purple, now royal blue, and now rich vermilion, were hurrying hither and thither, each armed with the inevitable black fan, and the baby face of each aglow with life and sweet content, while a hundred fountains springing from crystal basins glistened in the dazzling white light, and ten times a hundred flags and gonfalons hung listless but rich in splendor from invisible wires. Strange music came floating along from the gracefully shaped barges with silken awnings, which were gliding noiselessly over the surface of the winding river, the oars stirring the waters until the wake seemed a path through molten silver.

As Bulger and I followed Master Cold Soul along the streets of polished marble, it was not long before a crowd of Mikkamenkies was at our heels, whispering all sorts of uncomplimentary 54things about us, mingled with not a few fits of suppressed laughter.

The Court Depressor reproved them sternly.

“Cease your ill-timed mirth,” said he, “and go about your business. Must I pause and tell you a grewsome tale to check your foolish gayety? Know ye not that all this silly mirth doth quicken your hearts and make them run down just so much sooner?”

At these words of Master Cold Soul they fell back, and put an end to their giggling, but it was only for a moment, and by the time we reached the portal of the royal palace, a still louder and noisier crowd was close behind us.

Master Cold Soul suddenly halted, and drawing forth a huge pocket-handkerchief, began to weep furiously. It was not without its effect, and from that moment I could see that the Mikkamenkies were inclined to take a more serious view of my arrival in their city, although it was only Cold Soul’s presence that kept them from bursting out into fits of violent laughter.

Above the portals of the queen’s palace there were large openings hewn in the rock for the purpose of admitting light into the royal apartments; but these windows, if they may be called such, were hung with silken curtains of delicate colors, so that the light which entered the throne room was tempered and softened. The room itself was likewise hung with silken stuffs, which gave it a look of Oriental splendor; but never in my travels among strange peoples of far-away lands had my eyes ever rested upon any work of art that equalled the crystal throne upon which sat Galaxa, Queen of the Mikkamenkies.

In the upper world most diligent search had never been able to unearth a piece of rock crystal more than about three feet in diameter; but here in Queen Galaxa’s throne four glorious columns at least fifteen feet in height, and at their base three feet in diameter, shot up in matchless splendor. Their lower parts shut in spangles of gold that glittered with ever-varying hues as a different light fell upon them. The cross pieces and 55pieces making up the back and arms had been chosen on account of the exquisitely beautiful hair and needle-shaped crystals of other metals which they enclosed. A silken baldachin of rare beauty covered in the throne, and from its edges dropped heavy cords and tassels of rich color and the perfection of human handicraft as to fineness and finish.

At the foot of the throne sat the young princess Crystallina; and standing behind her, and engaged in combing her long silken tresses, was her favorite waiting-maid, Damozel Glow Stone, while around and about, in files and group-wise, stood lords and ladies, courtiers and counsellors, by the dozen.

As Master Cold Soul advanced to salute the queen, a throng of the idlers who had followed at our heels crowded into the anteroom with loud outbursts of laughter. The Court Depressor was greatly incensed, and turning upon the throng he began weeping again with wonderful energy; but I noticed that it was nothing but sound: not a tear fell to obscure the crystal clearness of his eyes. Then he began chanting a sort of song which was intended to have a depressing influence on the wild mirth of the Mikkamenkies. I can only recollect one verse of this solemn chant of the Court Depressor. It ran as follows:—

“Weep, Mikkamenkies, weep, O weep,
For the eyeless man in the City of Light,
For the mouthless man in Plenty’s bowers,
For the earless man in Music’s realm,
For the noseless man in the Kingdom of flowers,
Weep, Mikkamenkies, weep, O weep!”

But they only laughed the louder, crying out,—

“Nay, Master Cold Soul, we will not weep for them; weep for them thyself.” At last Queen Galaxa raised the slender golden wand, tipped with a diamond point, that lay within her hand, and instantly a hush came upon the whole place, while every eye was riveted upon Bulger and me.

56

CHAPTER IX

BULGER AND I ARE PRESENTED TO QUEEN GALAXA, THE LADY OF THE CRYSTAL THRONE.—HOW SHE RECEIVED US.—HER DELIGHT OVER BULGER, WHO GIVES PROOF OF HIS WONDERFUL INTELLIGENCE IN MANY WAYS.—HOW THE QUEEN CREATES HIM LORD BULGER.—ALL ABOUT THE THREE WISE MEN IN WHOSE CARE WE ARE PLACED BY QUEEN GALAXA.

Owing to the soft air, the never-varying temperature, and the absence of all noise and dust, the Mikkamenkies, although they die in the end like other folk, yet do they never seem to grow old. Their skin remains soft and free from wrinkles, and their eyes as clear and bright as the crystal of Queen Galaxa’s throne.

At the time of our arrival in the Land of the Transparent Folk, Queen Galaxa’s heart had almost run down. In about two weeks more it would come quietly and gently to a stop; for, as I have already told you, dear friends, the heart of a Mikkamenky being perfectly visible when the dazzling white light in its full strength was allowed to shine through his body, why, it was a very easy matter for a physician to take a look at the organ of life, and tell almost to the hour when it would exhaust itself—in other words, run down. Galaxa looked every inch a real queen as she half-reclined upon her glorious crystal throne. She was clad in long, flowing silk garments of a right royal purple, and the gems which encircled her neck and wrists would have put to shame the crown jewels of any monarch of the upper world. Her garb had very much the cut and style of the ancient Greek costume, and the gold sandals worn by her added to the resemblance; but the one thing that excited my 57wonder more than all the others put together was her hair, so long, so fine and silken was it, such a mass of it was there, and so dazzling white was it—not the blue or yellow white that comes of age in our world, but a milk white, a cotton white. And as we drew near, to Bulger’s but not to my amazement, her hair began to quiver and rustle and rise, until it buried her whole throne completely out of sight. Of course I knew that, seated as she was upon a throne of glass, it was only necessary to send a gentle current of electricity through her to make her wonderful head of hair stand up in this manner, like the white and filmy tentacles of some gigantic creature of the sea, half-plant, half-animal.

“Rise, little baron,” said Queen Galaxa, as I dropped upon my right knee on the lowest step of the throne, “and be welcome to our kingdom. Whilst thou may be pleased to tarry here, my people shall bestir themselves to show thee all that may seem wonderful in thine eyes; for although our wise men have often discussed to us of the upper world, yet art thou its first inhabitant to visit us, and thy wonderful companion is right welcome too. Can he talk, little baron?”

“Not exactly, Queen Galaxa,” said I with low obeisance, “yet he can understand me and I him.”

“He is quite harmless, is he not?” asked the queen.

You may try to imagine how I felt, dear friends, when as I was about to say, “Perfectly so, royal lady,” to my amazement I saw Bulger advance and sniff at the Princess Crystallina and then draw back and show his teeth as she stretched out her hand to caress him.

Bending over him I reproved him in a whisper, and bade him kneel before the queen. This he proceeded to do, saluting her with three very stately bows, at which everybody laughed heartily.

“I would have him come nearer,” said the queen, “so that I may lay my hand upon him.”

At a sign from me Bulger began to lick his fore-paws very 58carefully, and then having wiped them on the rug, sprang up the steps of the throne and placed his front feet upon Queen Galaxa’s lap.

The fair ruler of the Mikkamenkies was delighted with this sample of Bulger’s fine manners, and in order to amuse her still further I proceeded to put Bulger through many of his quaint tricks and curious feats, bidding him “say his prayers,” “feign death,” “weep for his sweetheart,” “count ten,” “walk upright,” “go lame and cry to tell how it hurts.”

Scarcely had he gone half around the circle, feigning lameness, when the damozel Glow Stone began to weep herself, and stooping down commenced to caress Bulger and to kiss his lame foot, caresses which, to my more than surprise, Bulger was not slow in returning, and later too when I bade him choose the maiden he loved best and kiss her hand, he bounded straight toward Glow Stone and bestowed not one but twenty kisses upon her outstretched hands, while the princess Crystallina shrank away in fear and disgust from the “ugly beast,” as she termed him.

“Bid him bring my handkerchief to me, little baron,” cried Galaxa, throwing it on the floor. I did as the queen commanded, but Bulger refused to obey.

“Thou seest, Queen Galaxa,” said I with a low bow, “he refuses to lift the handkerchief without a command from thy royal self,” which delicate compliment pleased the lady mightily.

“How comes it, little baron,” she asked, “that thou shouldst be of noble lineage and thy brother, as thou callest him, plain Bulger?”

“It comes, royal lady,” said I right humbly, “as it often comes in the world which I inhabit, that honors go to them that least deserve them.”

“Well, then, little baron,” cried Galaxa gayly, “though I be but a petty sovereign compared with thine, yet may small rulers do acts of great justice. Bid thy four-footed brother kneel before us.”

59

PRINCESS CRYSTALLINA UNCOVERS HER HEART.

61At a word from me, Bulger prostrated himself on the steps of Galaxa’s crystal throne, and laid his head at her very feet.

Leaning forward she touched him lightly with her golden wand, and exclaimed, “Rise, Lord Bulger, rise! Queen Galaxa seated on her crystal throne bids Lord Bulger rise!”

In an instant Bulger raised himself on his hind feet and laid his head in the queen’s lap, while the whole room rang with loud huzzas, and every lady gently clapped her frail and glass-like hands, save the princess Crystallina who feigned to be asleep.

Queen Galaxa now undid a string of pearls from her neck and tied them with her own hands around Lord Bulger’s—and so it was that my four-footed brother ceased to be plain Bulger. Then turning to her counsellors of state, Queen Galaxa bade them assign a royal apartment to Lord Bulger and me, and gave strict orders that the severest punishment be at once visited upon any Mikkamenky who should dare to laugh at us or to make disrespectful remarks concerning our dark eyes and skins and weather-beaten appearance, for, as the royal lady said to her people, “Ye might look worse than they were ye compelled to live on the outside instead of the inside of the world, exposed to biting blasts, piercing cold, and clouds of suffocating dust.”

By the queen’s orders three of the wisest of the Mikkamenkies were selected to attend Bulger and me, look after our wants, explain everything to us—in a word, do all in their power to make our stay in Goggle Land as pleasant as possible.

Their names, as nearly as I can translate them, were Doctor Nebulosus, Sir Amber O’Pake, and Lord Cornucore. I should explain to you, dear friends, the meaning of these names, for you might be inclined to think that Doctor Somewhat Cloudy, Sir Clear-as-Amber; and Lord Heart-of-Horn might indicate that they were more or less muddled in their intellects. Far from it: I have already stated to you they were three of the very wisest men in the Land of the Transparent Folk, and the lack of clearness indicated by their names had reference solely to their eyes.

62Now, as you know, the learned men of our upper world have a different look from ordinary folk. They are stoop-shouldered, shaggy-eyebrowed, long-haired, pursed-lipped, near-sighted, shambling-gaited. Well, the only effect that long years of deep study had upon the Mikkamenkies was to rob their beautiful crystal-like eyes of more or less of their clearness.

Now I think you’ll understand why these three learned Mikkamenkies were named as they were.

At any rate, they were, in spite of their strange names, three most charming gentlemen; and no matter how many times I might ask the same question over again, they were always ready with an answer quite as polite as the one first given me. They did everything that I had a right possibly to expect them to do. Indeed, there was but one single thing which I would have fain had them do, and that was to let me look through them.

This they most carefully avoided doing; and no matter how warmed up they might become in their descriptions, and no matter how on the alert I was to catch the coveted peep, the inevitable black fan was always in the way.

Naturally, not only they, but all the Transparent Folk, felt a repugnance to have a perfect stranger look through them, and I couldn’t blame them for it either. I despaired of ever getting a chance of seeing a human heart beating away for dear life, for all the world just like the swing of a pendulum or the vibration of a balance wheel.

63

CHAPTER X

A BRIEF ACCOUNT OF MY CONVERSATIONS WITH DOCTOR NEBULOSUS, SIR AMBER O’PAKE, AND LORD CORNUCORE, WHO TELL ME MANY THINGS THAT I NEVER KNEW BEFORE, FOR WHICH I WAS VERY GRATEFUL.

Lord Bulger and I were more than pleased with our new friends, Doctor Nebulosus, Sir Amber O’Pake, and Lord Cornucore, although so eager were they to make us thoroughly comfortable, that they overdid the matter at times, and left me scarcely a moment to myself in which to make an entry in my notebook. They were extremely solicitous lest in my ignorance I should set down something wrong about them.

“For,” said Sir Amber O’Pake, “now that thou hast found the way to this under world of ours, little baron, I feel assured that we shall have a number of visitors from thy people every year or so, and I have already issued orders to have extra beds made as soon as the wood can be quarried.”

Doctor Nebulosus gave me a very interesting account of the various ailments which the Mikkamenkies suffer from. “All sickness among our people, little baron,” said he, “is purely mental or emotional; that is, of the mind or feelings. There is no such thing as bodily infirmity among us. Wine and strong drink are unknown in our world, and the food we eat is light and easily digested. We are never exposed to the danger of breathing a dust-laden atmosphere, and while we are an active and industrious people, yet we sleep a great deal; for, as our laws forbid the use of lamps or torches, except for the use of those toiling in the dark chambers, it is not possible for us to ruin our health by turning night into day. We go to bed the 64very moment the River of Light ceases to flow. The only ailment that ever gives me the least trouble is iburyufrosnia.”

“Pray, what is the nature of that ailment?” I asked.

“It is an inclination to be too happy,” replied Doctor Nebulosus gravely, “and I regret to say that several of our people attacked with this ailment have shortened their lives by refusing to take my remedies. It usually develops very slowly, beginning with an inclination to giggle, which, after a while, is succeeded by violent fits of laughter.

“For instance, little baron, when thou camest among us, many of our people were attacked with a violent form of iburyufrosnia; and although Master Cold Soul, the Court Depressor, made great efforts to check it, yet he was quite powerless to do so. It spread over the city with remarkable rapidity. Without knowing why, our workmen at their work, our children at their play, our people in doors and out, began to laugh and to be dangerously happy. I made examinations of several of the worst cases, and discovered that at the rate they were beating the hearts of most of them would run down in a single week. It was terrible. A council was hastily held, and it was determined to conceal thee and Lord Bulger from the public view, but happily my skill got the upper hand of the attack.”

“Didst increase the number of pills to be taken?” I asked.

“No, little baron,” said Doctor Nebulosus; “I increased their size and covered them with a dry powder, which made them extremely difficult to swallow, and in this way compelled those taking them to cease their laughing. But there were a number of cases so violent that they could not be cured in this way. These I ordered to be strapped in at the waist with broad belts, and to have their mouths held pried open with wooden wedges. As thou mayst understand, this made laughing so difficult that they speedily gave it up altogether.

“Ah, little baron,” continued the wise doctor with a sigh, “that was a sorry day for the human race when it learned how to laugh. It is my opinion that we owe this useless agitation 65of our bodies to you people of the upper world. Exposed as ye were to piercing winds and biting frosts, ye contracted the habit of shivering to keep warm, and, little by little, this shivering habit so grew upon you, that ye kept up the shivering whether ye were cold or not; only ye called it by another name. Now, my knowledge of the human body teaches me that this quivering of the flesh is a very wise provision of nature to keep the blood in motion, and in this way to save the human body from perishing from the cold; but why should we quiver when we are happy, little baron? All pleasure is the thought, and yet at the very moment when we should keep our bodies in as perfect repose as possible, we begin this ridiculous shivering. Do we shiver when we look upon the beauties of the River of Light, or listen to sweet music, or gaze upon the loving countenance of our gracious Queen Galaxa? But worse than all, little baron, this senseless quivering and shivering which we call laughter, unlike good, deep, long-drawn, wholesome sighs, empty the lungs of air without filling them again, and thus do we often see these gigglers and laughers fall over in fainting fits, absolutely choked by their own wild and unreasoning action. I have always contended, little baron, that we alone of all animals had the laughing habit, and I am now delighted to have my opinion confirmed by my acquaintance with the wise and dignified Lord Bulger. Observe him. He knows quite as well as we what it is to be pleased, to be amused, to be delighted, but he doesn’t think it necessary to have recourse to fits of shivering and shuddering. Through the brightened eye—true window of the soul—I can see how happy he is. I can measure his joy; I can take note of his contentment.”

I was delighted with this learned discourse of the gentle Doctor Nebulosus, and made notes of it lest the points of his argument might escape my memory, the more pleased was I in that he proved my faithful Bulger to be so wisely constructed and regulated by nature.

I made particular inquiry of my friends, Sir Amber O’Pake 66and Lord Cornucore, as to whether Queen Galaxa ever had any trouble in governing her people.

“None whatever,” was the answer. “In many a long year has it only been necessary on one or two occasions to summon a Mikkamenky before the magistrate and examine his heart under a strong light. The only punishment allowed by our laws is confinement for a shorter or longer time in one of the dark chambers. The severest sentence ever known to have been passed by one of our magistrates was twelve hours in length. But in all honesty, we must admit, little baron, that falsehood and deception are unknown amongst us for the simple reason that, being transparent, it is impossible for a Mikkamenky to deceive a brother without being caught in the act. Therefore why make the attempt? The very moment one of us begins to say one thing while he is thinking another, his eyes cloud up and betray him, just as the crystal-clear weather glass clouds up at the approach of a storm in the upper world. But this, of course, little baron, is only true of our thoughts. Our laws allow us to hide our feelings by the use of the black fan. No one may look upon another’s heart unless its owner wills it. It is a very grave offence for one Mikkamenky to look through another without that one’s permission. But as thou wilt readily understand, inasmuch as we are by nature transparent, it is utterly impossible for a marriage to prove an unhappy one, for the reason that when a youth declares his love for a maiden, they both have the right by law to look upon each other’s hearts, and in this way they can tell exactly the strength of the love they have for each other.” This and many other strange and interesting things did my new friends, Doctor Nebulosus, Sir Amber O’Pake, and Lord Cornucore impart unto me, and right grateful was I to good Queen Galaxa for having chosen them for me. Good friends are better than gold, although we may not think it at the time.

67

CHAPTER XI

PLEASANT DAYS PASSED AMONG THE MIKKAMENKIES, AND WONDERFUL THINGS SEEN BY US.—THE SPECTRAL GARDEN, AND A DESCRIPTION OF IT.—OUR MEETING WITH DAMOZEL GLOW STONE, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.

From now on Lord Bulger and I made ourselves perfectly at home among the Mikkamenkies. One of the royal barges was placed at our disposal, and when we grew tired of walking about and gazing at the wonders of this beautiful city of the under world, we stepped aboard our barge and were rowed hither and thither on the glassy river; and if I had not seen it myself I never would have believed that any kind of shellfish could ever be taught to be so obliging as to swim to the surface and offer one of their huge claws for our dinner, politely dropping it in our hand the moment we had laid hold of it. On one of the river banks I noticed a long row of wooden compartments looking very much like a grocer’s bins; but you may think how amused Bulger and I were upon coming closer to this long row of little houses to find that they were turtle nests, and that quite a number of the turtles were sitting comfortably in their nests busy laying their eggs—which, let me assure you, were the most dainty tidbits I ever tasted.

I think I informed you that the river flowing through Goggle Land was fairly swarming with delicious fish, the carp and sole being particularly delicate in flavor; and knowing, as I did, what a tender-hearted folk the Mikkamenkies are, I had been not a little puzzled in my mind as to how they had ever been able to summon up courage enough to drive a spear into one of these fish, which were as tame and playful as a lot of kittens or puppies, 68and followed our barge hither and thither, snapping up the food we tossed to them, and leaping into the air, where they glistened like burnished silver as the white light sparkled on their scales.

But the mystery was solved one day when I saw one of the fishermen decoying a score or more of fish into a sort of pen shut off from the river by a wire netting. Scarcely had he closed the gates when, to my amazement, I saw the fish one after the other come to the surface and float about on their sides, stone dead.

“This, little baron,” explained the man in charge, “is the death chamber. Hidden at the bottom of this dark pool lie several electric eels of great size and power, and when our people want a fresh supper of fish we simply open these gates and decoy a shoal of them inside by tossing their favorite food into the water. The executioners are awaiting them, and in a few instants the fish, while enjoying their repast and suspecting no harm, are painlessly put to death, as thou hast seen.”

One part of the city of the Transparent Folk which attracted Bulger and me very much was the royal gardens. It was a weird and uncanny place, and upon my first visit I walked through its paths and beneath its arbors upon my toes and with bated breath, as you might steal into some bit of fairy-land, looking anxiously from side to side as if at every step you expected some sprite or goblin to trip you up with a tough spider-web, or brush your cheeks with their cold and satiny wings.

Now, dear friends, you must first be told that with the loss of sunshine and the open air, the flowers and shrubs and vines of this underground world gradually parted with their perfumes and colors, their leaves and petals and stems and tendrils growing paler and paler in hue, like lovelorn maids whose sweethearts had never come back from the war. Month by month the dark greens, the blush pinks, the golden yellows, and the deep blues pined away, longing for the lost sunshine and the wooing breeze they loved so dearly, until at last the transformation 69was complete, and there they all stood or hung bleached to utter whiteness, like those fantastic clumps of flowers and wreaths of vines which the feathery snow of April builds in the leafless shrubs and trees.

I cannot tell you, dear friends, what a strange feeling came over me as I stepped within this spectral garden where ghost-like vines clung in fantastic forms and figures to the dark trellises, and where tall lilies, whiter than the down of eider, stood bolt upright like spirits doomed to eternal silence, denied even the speech of perfume, and where huge clusters of snowy chrysanthemums, fluffy feathery forms, seemed pressing their soft bodies together like groups of banished celestials in a sort of silent despair as they felt the warmth and glow of sunlight slowly and gradually quitting their souls; where lower down, great roses with snowy petals whiter than the sea-shells hung motionless, bursting open with eager effort, as if listening for some signal that would dissolve the spell put upon them, and give them back the sunshine, and with it their color and their perfume; where lower still beds of violets bleached white as fleecy clouds seemed wrapt in silent sorrow at loss of the heavenly perfume which had been theirs on earth; where, above the lilies’ heads shot long, slender, spectral stalks of sunflowers almost invisible, loaded at their ends with clusters of snowy flowers thus suspended like white faces looking down through the silent air, and waiting, waiting for the sunshine that never came; and higher still all over and above these spectral flowers, intwining and inwrapping and falling festoon and garland-wise, crept and ran like unto long lines of escaping phantoms, ghostly vines with ghostly blossoms, bent and twisted and wrapped and coiled into a thousand strange and fantastic forms and figures which the white light with its inky shadows made alive and half human, so that movement and voice alone were needful to make this garden seem peopled with sorrowing sprites banished to these subterranean chambers for strange misdeeds done on earth and condemned to wait ten thousand years ere sunlight and their color and their perfume should be given back to them again.

70While strolling through the royal gardens one day, Bulger suddenly gave a low cry and bounded on ahead, as if his eyes had fallen upon the familiar form of some dear friend.

When I came up with him he was crouching beside the damozel Glow Stone who, seated on one of the garden benches, was caressing Bulger’s head and ears with one of her soft hands with its filmy-like skin, while the other held its black fan pressed tightly against her bosom.

She looked up at me with her crystal eyes, and smiled faintly as I drew near.

“Thou seest, little baron,” she murmured, “Lord Bulger and I have not forgotten each other.” Since our presentation at court I had been going through and through my mind in search of some reason for Bulger’s sudden affection for damozel Glow Stone, but had found none.

I was the more perplexed as she was but the maid of honor, while the fair princess Crystallina sat on the very steps of the throne.

But I said nothing save to reply that I was greatly pleased to see it and to add that where Bulger’s love went, mine was sure to follow.

“Oh, little baron, if I could but believe that!” sighed the fair damozel.

“Thou mayst,” said I, “indeed thou mayst.”

“Then, if I may, little baron,” she replied, “I will, and prithee come and sit beside me here, only till I bid thee, look not through me. Dost promise?”

“I do, fair damozel,” was my answer.

“And thou, Lord Bulger, lie there at my feet,” she continued, “and keep thy wise eyes fixed upon me and thy keen ears wide open.”

“Little baron, if both thine and our worlds were filled with sorrowing hearts, mine would be the heaviest of them all. List! oh, list to the sad, sad tale of the sorrowing maid with the speck in her heart, and, when thou knowest all, give me of thy wisdom.”

71

CRYSTALLINA’S HEART ON A SCREEN.

73

CHAPTER XII

THE SAD, SAD TALE OF THE SORROWING PRINCESS WITH A SPECK IN HER HEART, AND WHAT ALL HAPPENED WHEN SHE HAD ENDED IT, WHICH THE READER MUST READ FOR HIMSELF IF HE WOULD KNOW.

“Little baron and dear Lord Bulger,” began the crystal-eyed damozel, after she had eased her soul of its load of woe by three long and deep, deep sighs, “know then that I am not the damozel Glow Stone, but none other than the royal princess Crystallina herself; that she whose hair I comb should comb mine; that she whom I have served for ten long years should have served me!”

“And to think, O princess,” I burst out joyfully, “that my beloved Bulger should have been the first to discover that she who was seated on the steps of the crystal throne was not entitled to the seat; to think that his subtle intellect should have been the first to scent out the wrong that had been done thee; his keen eye the first to go to the bottom of truth’s well; but, fair princess, I am bursting with impatience to know how thou thyself didst ever discover the wrong that has been done thee.”

“That thou shalt speedily know, little baron,” answered Crystallina, “and that thou mayst know all that I know I’ll begin at the very beginning: The day I was born there was great rejoicing in the land of the Mikkamenkies, and the people gathered in front of the royal palace and laughed and cried by turns, so happy were they to think they were to be governed by another princess after Queen Galaxa’s heart should run down; for, many years ago, a bad king had made them very unhappy, 74and they had hoped and prayed that no more such would come to reign over them. And pretty soon one of them began to tell the others what he thought the little princess would be like.

“‘She will be the fairest that ever sat upon the crys




Volver a SinResolver.com