Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 1

  • I am forced to admit that even though I had traveled a long distance to plac_owen Tyler's manuscript in the hands of his father, I was still a trifl_keptical as to its sincerity, since I could not but recall that it had no_een many years since Bowen had been one of the most notorious practica_okers of his alma mater. The truth was that as I sat in the Tyler library a_anta Monica I commenced to feel a trifle foolish and to wish that I ha_erely forwarded the manuscript by express instead of bearing it personally,
  • for I confess that I do not enjoy being laughed at. I have a well-develope_ense of humor—when the joke is not on me.
  • Mr. Tyler, Sr., was expected almost hourly. The last steamer in from Honolul_ad brought information of the date of the expected sailing of his yach_oreador, which was now twenty-four hours overdue. Mr. Tyler's assistan_ecretary, who had been left at home, assured me that there was no doubt bu_hat the Toreador had sailed as promised, since he knew his employer wel_nough to be positive that nothing short of an act of God would prevent hi_oing what he had planned to do. I was also aware of the fact that the sendin_pparatus of the Toreador's wireless equipment was sealed, and that it woul_nly be used in event of dire necessity. There was, therefore, nothing to d_ut wait, and we waited.
  • We discussed the manuscript and hazarded guesses concerning it and the strang_vents it narrated. The torpedoing of the liner upon which Bowen J. Tyler,
  • Jr., had taken passage for France to join the American Ambulance was a well-
  • known fact, and I had further substantiated by wire to the New York office o_he owners, that a Miss La Rue had been booked for passage. Further, neithe_he nor Bowen had been mentioned among the list of survivors; nor had the bod_f either of them been recovered.
  • Their rescue by the English tug was entirely probable; the capture of th_nemy U-33 by the tug's crew was not beyond the range of possibility; an_heir adventures during the perilous cruise which the treachery and deceit o_enson extended until they found themselves in the waters of the far Sout_acific with depleted stores and poisoned water-casks, while bordering upo_he fantastic, appeared logical enough as narrated, event by event, in th_anuscript.
  • Caprona has always been considered a more or less mythical land, though it i_ouched for by an eminent navigator of the eighteenth century; but Bowen'_arrative made it seem very real, however many miles of trackless ocean la_etween us and it. Yes, the narrative had us guessing. We were agreed that i_as most improbable; but neither of us could say that anything which i_ontained was beyond the range of possibility. The weird flora and fauna o_aspak were as possible under the thick, warm atmospheric conditions of th_uper-heated crater as they were in the Mesozoic era under almost exactl_imilar conditions, which were then probably world-wide. The assistan_ecretary had heard of Caproni and his discoveries, but admitted that he neve_ad taken much stock in the one nor the other. We were agreed that the on_tatement most difficult of explanation was that which reported the entir_bsence of human young among the various tribes which Tyler had ha_ntercourse. This was the one irreconcilable statement of the manuscript. _orld of adults! It was impossible.
  • We speculated upon the probable fate of Bradley and his party of Englis_ailors. Tyler had found the graves of two of them; how many more might hav_erished! And Miss La Rue—could a young girl long have survived the horrors o_aspak after having been separated from all of her own kind? The assistan_ecretary wondered if Nobs still was with her, and then we both smiled at thi_acit acceptance of the truth of the whole uncanny tale:
  • "I suppose I'm a fool," remarked the assistant secretary; "but by George, _an't help believing it, and I can see that girl now, with the big Airedale a_er side protecting her from the terrors of a million years ago. I ca_isualize the entire scene—the apelike Grimaldi men huddled in their filth_aves; the huge pterodactyls soaring through the heavy air upon their bat-lik_ings; the mighty dinosaurs moving their clumsy hulks beneath the dark shadow_f preglacial forests—the dragons which we considered myths until scienc_aught us that they were the true recollections of the first man, handed dow_hrough countless ages by word of mouth from father to son out of th_nrecorded dawn of humanity."
  • "It is stupendous—if true," I replied. "And to think that possibly they ar_till there—Tyler and Miss La Rue—surrounded by hideous dangers, and tha_ossibly Bradley still lives, and some of his party! I can't help hoping al_he time that Bowen and the girl have found the others; the last Bowen knew o_hem, there were six left, all told—the mate Bradley, the engineer Olson, an_ilson, Whitely, Brady and Sinclair. There might be some hope for them if the_ould join forces; but separated, I'm afraid they couldn't last long."
  • "If only they hadn't let the German prisoners capture the U-33! Bowen shoul_ave had better judgment than to have trusted them at all. The chances are vo_choenvorts succeeded in getting safely back to Kiel and is strutting aroun_ith an Iron Cross this very minute. With a large supply of oil from the well_hey discovered in Caspak, with plenty of water and ample provisions, there i_o reason why they couldn't have negotiated the submerged tunnel beneath th_arrier cliffs and made good their escape."
  • "I don't like 'em," said the assistant secretary; "but sometimes you got t_and it to 'em."
  • "Yes," I growled, "and there's nothing I'd enjoy more than handing it t_hem!" And then the telephone-bell rang.
  • The assistant secretary answered, and as I watched him, I saw his jaw drop an_is face go white. "My God!" he exclaimed as he hung up the receiver as one i_ trance. "It can't be!"
  • "What?" I asked.
  • "Mr. Tyler is dead," he answered in a dull voice. "He died at sea, suddenly,
  • yesterday."
  • The next ten days were occupied in burying Mr. Bowen J. Tyler, Sr., an_rranging plans for the succor of his son. Mr. Tom Billings, the late Mr.
  • Tyler's secretary, did it all. He is force, energy, initiative and goo_udgment combined and personified. I never have beheld a more dynamic youn_an. He handled lawyers, courts and executors as a sculptor handles hi_odeling clay. He formed, fashioned and forced them to his will. He had been _lassmate of Bowen Tyler at college, and a fraternity brother, and before,
  • that he had been an impoverished and improvident cow-puncher on one of th_reat Tyler ranches. Tyler, Sr., had picked him out of thousands of employee_nd made him; or rather Tyler had given him the opportunity, and then Billing_ad made himself. Tyler, Jr., as good a judge of men as his father, had take_im into his friendship, and between the two of them they had turned out a ma_ho would have died for a Tyler as quickly as he would have for his flag. Ye_here was none of the sycophant or fawner in Billings; ordinarily I do not wa_nthusiastic about men, but this man Billings comes as close to my conceptio_f what a regular man should be as any I have ever met. I venture to say tha_efore Bowen J. Tyler sent him to college he had never heard the word ethics,
  • and yet I am equally sure that in all his life he never has transgressed _ingle tenet of the code of ethics of an American gentleman.
  • Ten days after they brought Mr. Tyler's body off the Toreador, we steamed ou_nto the Pacific in search of Caprona. There were forty in the party,
  • including the master and crew of the Toreador; and Billings the indomitabl_as in command. We had a long and uninteresting search for Caprona, for th_ld map upon which the assistant secretary had finally located it was mos_naccurate. When its grim walls finally rose out of the ocean's mists befor_s, we were so far south that it was a question as to whether we were in th_outh Pacific or the Antarctic. Bergs were numerous, and it was very cold.
  • All during the trip Billings had steadfastly evaded questions as to how w_ere to enter Caspak after we had found Caprona. Bowen Tyler's manuscript ha_ade it perfectly evident to all that the subterranean outlet of the Caspakia_iver was the only means of ingress or egress to the crater world beyond th_mpregnable cliffs. Tyler's party had been able to navigate this channe_ecause their craft had been a submarine; but the Toreador could as easil_ave flown over the cliffs as sailed under them. Jimmy Hollis and Colin Shor_hiled away many an hour inventing schemes for surmounting the obstacl_resented by the barrier cliffs, and making ridiculous wagers as to which on_om Billings had in mind; but immediately we were all assured that we ha_aised Caprona, Billings called us together.
  • "There was no use in talking about these things," he said, "until we found th_sland. At best it can be but conjecture on our part until we have been abl_o scrutinize the coast closely. Each of us has formed a mental picture of th_apronian seacoast from Bowen's manuscript, and it is not likely that any tw_f these pictures resemble each other, or that any of them resemble the coas_s we shall presently find it. I have in view three plans for scaling th_liffs, and the means for carrying out each is in the hold. There is a_lectric drill with plenty of waterproof cable to reach from the ship'_ynamos to the cliff-top when the Toreador is anchored at a safe distance fro_hore, and there is sufficient half-inch iron rod to build a ladder from th_ase to the top of the cliff. It would be a long, arduous and dangerous wor_o bore the holes and insert the rungs of the ladder from the bottom upward;
  • yet it can be done.
  • "I also have a life-saving mortar with which we might be able to throw a lin_ver the summit of the cliffs; but this plan would necessitate one of u_limbing to the top with the chances more than even that the line would cut a_he summit, or the hooks at the upper end would slip.
  • "My third plan seems to me the most feasible. You all saw a number of large,
  • heavy boxes lowered into the hold before we sailed. I know you did, becaus_ou asked me what they contained and commented upon the large letter 'H' whic_as painted upon each box. These boxes contain the various parts of a hydro-
  • aeroplane. I purpose assembling this upon the strip of beach described i_owen's manuscript—the beach where he found the dead body of the apelik_an—provided there is sufficient space above high water; otherwise we shal_ave to assemble it on deck and lower it over the side. After it is assembled,
  • I shall carry tackle and ropes to the cliff-top, and then it will b_omparatively simple to hoist the search-party and its supplies in safety. O_ can make a sufficient number of trips to land the entire party in the valle_eyond the barrier; all will depend, of course, upon what my firs_econnaissance reveals."
  • That afternoon we steamed slowly along the face of Caprona's towering barrier.
  • "You see now," remarked Billings as we craned our necks to scan the summi_housands of feet above us, "how futile it would have been to waste our tim_n working out details of a plan to surmount those." And he jerked his thum_oward the cliffs. "It would take weeks, possibly months, to construct _adder to the top. I had no conception of their formidable height. Our morta_ould not carry a line halfway to the crest of the lowest point. There is n_se discussing any plan other than the hydro-aeroplane. We'll find the beac_nd get busy."
  • Late the following morning the lookout announced that he could discern sur_bout a mile ahead; and as we approached, we all saw the line of breaker_roken by a long sweep of rolling surf upon a narrow beach. The launch wa_owered, and five of us made a landing, getting a good ducking in the ice-col_aters in the doing of it; but we were rewarded by the finding of the clean-
  • picked bones of what might have been the skeleton of a high order of ape or _ery low order of man, lying close to the base of the cliff. Billings wa_atisfied, as were the rest of us, that this was the beach mentioned by Bowen,
  • and we further found that there was ample room to assemble the sea-plane.
  • Billings, having arrived at a decision, lost no time in acting, with th_esult that before mid-afternoon we had landed all the large boxes marked "H"
  • upon the beach, and were busily engaged in opening them. Two days later th_lane was assembled and tuned. We loaded tackles and ropes, water, food an_mmunition in it, and then we each implored Billings to let us be the one t_ccompany him. But he would take no one. That was Billings; if there was an_specially difficult or dangerous work to be done, that one man could do,
  • Billings always did it himself. If he needed assistance, he never called fo_olunteers—just selected the man or men he considered best qualified for th_uty. He said that he considered the principles underlying all voluntee_ervice fundamentally wrong, and that it seemed to him that calling fo_olunteers reflected upon the courage and loyalty of the entire command.
  • We rolled the plane down to the water's edge, and Billings mounted the pilot'_eat. There was a moment's delay as he assured himself that he had everythin_ecessary. Jimmy Hollis went over his armament and ammunition to see tha_othing had been omitted. Besides pistol and rifle, there was the machine-gu_ounted in front of him on the plane, and ammunition for all three. Bowen'_ccount of the terrors of Caspak had impressed us all with the necessity fo_roper means of defense.
  • At last all was ready. The motor was started, and we pushed the plane out int_he surf. A moment later, and she was skimming seaward. Gently she rose fro_he surface of the water, executed a wide spiral as she mounted rapidly,
  • circled once far above us and then disappeared over the crest of the cliffs.
  • We all stood silent and expectant, our eyes glued upon the towering summi_bove us. Hollis, who was now in command, consulted his wrist-watch a_requent intervals.
  • "Gad," exclaimed Short, "we ought to be hearing from him pretty soon!"
  • Hollis laughed nervously. "He's been gone only ten minutes," he announced.
  • "Seems like an hour," snapped Short. "What's that? Did you hear that? He'_iring! It's the machine-gun! Oh, Lord; and here we are as helpless as a lo_f old ladies ten thousand miles away! We can't do a thing. We don't kno_hat's happening. Why didn't he let one of us go with him?"
  • Yes, it was the machine-gun. We would hear it distinctly for at least _inute. Then came silence. That was two weeks ago. We have had no sign no_ignal from Tom Billings since.