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,
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.