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The Land of the Changing Sun   By: (1858-1919)

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THE LAND OF THE CHANGING SUN

By Will. N. Harben

Chapter I.

The balloon seemed scarcely to move, though it was slowly sinking toward the ocean of white clouds which hung between it and the earth.

The two inmates of the car were insensible; their faces were bloodless, their cheeks sunken. They were both young and handsome. Harry Johnston, an American, was as dark and sallow as a Spaniard. Charles Thorndyke, an English gentleman, had yellow hair and mustache, blue eyes and a fine intellectual face. Both were tall, athletic in build and well proportioned.

Johnston was the first to come to consciousness as the balloon sank into less rarefied atmosphere. He opened his eyes dreamily and looked curiously at the white face of his friend in his lap. Then he shook him and tried to call his name, but his lips made no sound. Drawing himself up a little with a hand on the edge of the basket, he reached for a water jug and sprinkled Thorndyke's face. In a moment he was rewarded by seeing the eyes of the latter slowly open.

"Where are we?" asked Thorndyke in a whisper.

"I don't know;" Johnston answered, "getting nearer to the earth, for we can breathe more easily. I can't remember much after the professor fell from the car. My God, old man! I shall never forget the horror in the poor fellow's eyes as he clung to the rope down there and begged us to save him. I tried to get you to look, but you were dozing off. I attempted to draw him up, but the rope on the edge of the basket was tipping it, and both you and I came near following him. I tried to keep from seeing his horrible face as the rope began to slip through his fingers. I knew the instant he let go by our shooting upward."

"I came to myself and looked over when the basket tipped," replied the Englishman, "I thought I was going too, but I could not stir a muscle to prevent it. He said something desperately, but the wind blew it away and covered his face with his beard, so that I could not see the movement of his lips."

"It may have been some instructions to us about the management of the balloon."

"I think not perhaps a good bye, or a message to his wife and child. Poor fellow!"

"How long have we been out of our heads?" and Johnston looked over the side of the car.

"I have not the slightest idea. Days and nights may have passed since he fell."

"That is true. I remember coming to myself for an instant, and it seemed that we were being jerked along at the rate of a gunshot. My God, it was awful! It was as black as condensed midnight. I felt your warm body against me and was glad I was not alone. Then I went off again, but into a sort of nightmare. I thought I was in Hell, and that you were with me, and that Professor Helmholtz was Satan."

"Where can we be?" asked Thorndyke.

"I don't know; I can't tell what is beneath those clouds. It may be earth, sea or ocean; we were evidently whisked along in a storm while we were out of our heads. If we are above the ocean we are lost."

Thorndyke looked over the edge of the car long and attentively, then he exclaimed suddenly:

"I believe it is the ocean."

"What makes you think so?"

"It reflects the sunlight. It is too bright for land. When we got above the clouds at the start it looked darker below than it does now; we may be over the middle of the Atlantic."

"We are going down," said Johnston gloomily.

"That we are, and it means something serious."

Johnston made no answer. Half an hour went by. Thorndyke looked at the sun.

"If the professor had not dropped the compass, we could find our bearings," he sighed.

Johnston pointed upward. Thin clouds were floating above them. "We are almost down," he said, and as they looked over the sides of the car they saw the reflection of the sun on the bosom of the ocean, and, a moment later, they caught sight of the blue billows rising and falling.

"I see something that looks like an island," observed Thorndyke, looking in the direction toward which the balloon seemed to be drifting. "It is dark and is surrounded by light... Continue reading book >>




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