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MATTHEW J. ROYAL

THE ISLE OF THE VIRGINS
(THE UNKNOWN ISLAND)

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First published by
Wenborne-Sumner Co., Buffalo, NY, 1899
Reprinted (with revisions) as "The Unknown Island"
by Street & Smith, New York, 1906
(Medal Library Book #358)

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Version Date: 2018-07-12
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"The Isle of the Virgins,"
Wenborne-Sumner Co., Buffalo, NY, 1899


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"The Unknown Island" ("The Isle of the Virgins")
Street & Smith, New York, 1906


Frontispiece.

Illustration

"What is it, anyhow?" exclaimed one.


TABLE OF CONTENTS



I. — THE LONDON COMPANY.

"GENTLEMEN," said the President, concluding his address, which had been closely followed and liberally applauded, "I think we have now but the last step to take—the selection and appointment of a suitable person for that position which Dr. Parkman has demanded to be filled. Four weeks ago I committed to Major Payne the work of searching out a desirable man. He has found it no easy task to get men willing to engage in an enterprise that seems to offer no rewards but hardships, dangers, and, perchance, death. However, he has presented me with the names of about forty candidates gathered from all parts of the United Kingdom, and he is now ready to report. He is, as you are aware, a keen judge of men, and I, for one, am willing to abide by his selection. Gentlemen, what have you to say?"

The President sat down and looked around upon the assembled company, who numbered about a dozen persons. They were all men of wealth, influence, and social position in London. One had been a Cabinet Minister, and, until he had developed a strong tendency toward Radicalism and acquired a general reputation for eccentricity, had stood high in the favor of his Sovereign; another held a title and graced a seat in the House of Lords; while a third had distinguished himself successively as a diplomatist, historian, and archaeologist. The last named was the first to break the silence that followed the President's remarks.

"Do the forty men from whom we are to make our selection know anything of the nature or the object of the expedition?" he asked.

"No," replied the President, "they know nothing beyond the fact that the chosen man must be completely at the service of the Company; that he must, while in the Company's employ, sever all ties that bind him to home and country."

"I do not find it hard to believe that Major Payne had a difficult task," said Lord Fitzwalter in a languid drawl. "Men willing and ready to make that sacrifice are scarce."

"It was not that alone which made it difficult, my lord, but the attributes which this man must possess. My instructions to Major Payne on the point read as follows:

"'Find us a man sound in body and in limb; of intrepid daring and of cool judgment; one that can endure cold, hunger, and fatigue. He must be a person of at least fair education, and of unimpeachable character. He must be quick to decide, resolute when decided, and able to face death, if necessary, without flinching.'"

"I would like to see the man that answers that description," said the Savant, who occasionally indulged in humor. "As you have included most of the virtues known on earth, I should think it would be difficult to find him short of Heaven."

"Yet, Major Payne asserts he has found him," replied the President, "and the Major, as you know, makes few mistakes. He is now ready to present his report. Shall I call him in?"

"Yes," responded each member of the Company, which, as yet, had not seen fit to give itself a name, perhaps, the better to preserve the secret of its existence and doings.

The President touched a bell on the table beside him. Presently a door opened and Major Payne appeared. One glance at the Major's face, with its iron jaw, aquiline nose, and keen gray eyes peering out from beneath their shaggy brows, was enough to convince any physiognomist that its owner was a man of character, as well as a judge of character. He bowed to the members of the company, and, after a few concise preliminary remarks, said:

"Gentlemen, out of forty-two men of whom England may well be proud, I have selected three who might have defended the Pass at Thermopylae, or stood beside Horatius Cocles on the Bridge of the Tiber. You can now make your selection."

"Tell us something about these men," said the President. Lord Fitzwalter and the others leaned forward, with interest depicted on their faces; and, the Major, clearing his throat, began:

"One is fifty-five years of age; served at Delhi and Lucknow, and came out of the Crimean war with honorable scars and the Victoria Cross. The second is also a soldier. He served with distinction in the Crimea, taking part in the famous Balaklava charge, which, in itself, is sufficient proof of his bravery and adherence to duty. The third is a young man who pleases me more by the promise he gives for the future, than by the record he can show of the past. His best recommendation is that he resembles, in every way I can see, his late distinguished father, under whom I had the honor to serve in three campaigns."

"Have you yourself a choice, Major Payne?" asked the President.

"I have, sir," replied the Major promptly.

"You would answer for him?"

"With my life."

"Bring him in please."

Major Payne left the room and presently returned, ushering in a young man, at the first sight of whom every member of the Company rose to his feet in astonishment.

The new-comer was scarcely more than a boy in years, yet the term "boy" could not fittingly be applied to one who had about him such a resolute air of manliness. He was about five feet, eleven inches in height, and of magnificent proportions. He carried himself with a degree of ease and grace that bespoke suppleness and strength. His face, lit up by a pair of dark-brown eyes, was remarkably handsome—women would have called it beautiful—and in it reposed that look of self-confidence that indicates firmness and the will to do and dare. This young Adonis was the man chosen by Major Payne for the above-mentioned position.

"Major Payne," said Lord Fitzwalter, who was the first to recover from the effects of his surprise, "We did not expect you to bring in a beardless youth—with all respect to the young gentleman—to accept responsibilities great enough for a man of iron frame and iron will. We thought you had better judgment."

"Is there any particular virtue in a beard, my lord?" asked the Major, eyeing the nobleman with ill-concealed disdain. "I am not aware that Caesar, Napoleon, or Washington was adorned with a hirsute appendage. At least the cuts I have seen don't say so."

There was silence for some moments; then the President asked:

"Are we to understand that this is the best man you could find in England?"

"I didn't find him in England," answered the Major proudly, "though I searched the country from Cornwall to the Cheviot Hills. This young man is from Dumfries, Scotland."

The Major himself was a good Scotchman.

The members of the Company took no pains to conceal their dissatisfaction and disappointment, and it was some time before the Major could get another hearing.

"Gentlemen," said he gravely, taking no apparent notice of the lack of courtesy their surprise excused them for showing, "you have done me the honor of leaving to my judgment, which you have more than once seen fit to extol, the selection of a suitable person to fill the important post referred to by Dr. Parkman. I have made my choice. Permit me to introduce to you Mr. John Fairfax."

The calmness with which this graceful speech was delivered, the dignified manner of the Major, and the smile that played about the features of the young stranger had a visible effect upon the members of the Company. They looked at one another, and resumed their seats, apparently ashamed of having emerged from their aristocratic impassivity.

"Mr. Fairfax," said the nobleman, "if you knew the nature of the position referred to, you could not blame us for having been somewhat unfavorably impressed by your youthful appearance. It is such that the discretion that comes from worldly experience, and the strength and hardihood that are developed by years of toil and dangers, are absolutely necessary to the successful discharge of the duties involved. Ninety-nine men out of a hundred would shrink from it."

The young man bowed; he did not look as if he felt called upon to speak. The Major folded his arms and regarded with intense satisfaction the bearing of his handsome protégé.

"We feel, however," continued Lord Fitzwalter, "that we are bound to consider any candidate whom Major Payne recommends. How old are you?"

"Twenty-two."

"Married?"

"No."

"In the event of being selected, are you willing to accept this position with all its dangers and responsibilities?"

"So far as the danger is concerned, I am," replied the young man, "but I must know the responsibility attached before I can answer that part of the question."

"We cannot explain the responsibility till you have taken an oath that you will not divulge it or any secret of the Company's."

"I cannot take such an oath, sir, till I am assured I shall be burdened with no secret troublesome to my conscience."

The Company seemed not displeased with this answer. The young man showed himself to be both cautious and conscientious.

The oath was taken. John Fairfax, whether engaged or not, was to betray none of the Company's secrets, unless impelled to do so by conscientious scruples or the demands of honor and justice.

"And now," said the President, "listen. We—the Company—are sending on a secret expedition one Dr. Parkman, Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. The object will be made known to you by him when you have been some days at sea. It is of the utmost importance to the Company."

"Is it in every way a legitimate enterprise?" asked Fairfax.

"Yes. We are known as men who would not engage in anything else. It may necessitate travel in foreign lands, and entail upon Dr. Parkman and those who accompany him hardships and great dangers. Its success depends largely upon Dr. Parkman's living long enough to carry it out. He is an old man, and is far from being robust in health. He is quite unable to defend himself from danger. The man we select must travel with him as his body-guard; he must be responsible for his personal safety. That's all."

"I will accept the charge," said Fairfax.

"Are you willing to pledge yourself by oath to forsake home and country in the interests of the expedition while it lasts?"

"I am."

A half hour's conversation followed. All necessary details were discussed and settled. Then the young man took the following oath:

"I, John Fairfax, do hereby promise to travel with Dr. Parkman wheresoever he may choose to go, until released either by his death or the successful termination of the Expedition. I swear that, so far as may lie in my power, I will protect him from insult and danger. If necessary I will risk my life and limb in his defence."


II. — DR. PARKMAN, F.R.G.S.

TWO months later, the Eurydice, a vessel specially fitted up by the London Company, was ploughing its way through a chop-sea in the Pacific Ocean, some degrees South of the Equator. The renowned Dr. Parkman was on board, and with him, the man that had sworn to stand by him in all dangers, and to follow him whithersoever he might lead. The voyage so far had not been unpleasant. The Doctor had his books to interest him—works on geology, astronomy, and navigation, and old classical authors that he perused with avidity; his companion had his pipe to solace him while he lounged lazily about on the deck, and a few works of some of the modern authors to amuse him in the evenings.

Fairfax had tried from the first to learn something of the object of the enterprise from the Doctor, but found him inclined to be very uncommunicative. It was not till they were rounding Cape Horn, where they encountered some rough weather, and the Doctor became so sick that he thought he was going to die, that he was willing to tell anything. Then he gave only an outline of the project and the causes of its being set on foot.

They were in search, he said, of a mysterious island, which as yet, it was supposed, had never been visited by anyone from the known world. Its exact location was not known. Their duty was to find it or perish in the attempt.

This information staggered Fairfax. He could not conceive how the eccentric old man had managed to get English capitalists interested in his visionary scheme. At a period, not far from the close of the nineteenth century, when explorations (except, perhaps, in the interior of the African continent) were a thing of the past, it seemed to him absolutely preposterous that there should be an undiscovered island, however small.

"Tell me, Doctor," said he, as he sat in his friend's state- room, a week later, and watched him eating a supper, surprisingly large for a man claiming to be ill, "what on earth put the idea of this strange island in your head? What proof have you of its existence? You admit that neither you nor anyone else ever visited it?"

"That's so. Pass me some of the chicken—and cut another slice of bread, John—That's it—Thanks."

"Don't you think if there was any such island as you speak of, some of our navigators would have come across it before this?"

"Our navigators, as you call them, John, have heretofore based all their reckonings on the assumption that the earth is round. Instead of circumnavigating a globe, as they have foolishly supposed, they have been wandering around a central point on a flat surface. Outside of that circle that marks the limits of their explorations, there is a world unknown to them. Cut that piece of ham for me, and pass the condiments."

"Good Heavens!" exclaimed Fairfax, as he realized he was the pledged follower of a man who was in all probability crazy. "Are you not a believer in the rotundity of the earth?"

The Doctor shook his head, emitted a surly grunt, and went on eating. His manner so annoyed the young man that he broke out with:

"Look here, Doctor, when I set out on this expedition, I supposed the man I swore to follow was at least sane enough to accept, as the world does, the Copernican System of—"

"Humph! Copernicus was an old fool. What credit the world gives him belongs to Pythagoras and others who derived their knowledge from the Chaldeans, Hindus, and Egyptians. Tho had more sense than either he or Ptolemy, who simply resurrected a doctrine that the Platonists and Aristotelians had believed in for ages, and made an ass of himself with his theory of epicycles. It seems the older the world grows the more easily it is duped."

"I agree with you," muttered Fairfax, thinking of himself and the London Company, and vowing never again to pledge himself to anything blindly.

"If Copernicus is wholly right how was it that Thales, the Milesian, predicted a solar eclipse six hundred years before the birth of Christ? Answer me that, John."

"I know nothing about it," said Fairfax somewhat sharply. He was angry with himself and everyone else.

"We have it on no less an authority than Herodotus, who says that during a battle between the Medes and Lydians—"

"O dear! O dear! It's awful!"

"What?"

"To think I am pledged to act on a theory opposed to all that is established in the most perfect of the sciences."

The Doctor laughed, which was a rare thing for him to do.

"Stuff and nonsense," he exclaimed. "Astronomical science is still in its infancy. We are fated to see the overthrow of many of the popular notions of to-day. We will see, re-established, on conclusive and satisfactory evidence, the theory that the earth is the quiescent centre of the universe, with the sun and the other celestial bodies its servants. John, there are wonderful things in this world of ours that we know very little about."

"I'll admit that," said Fairfax, "but the most wonderful thing to me is how you ever got any sensible men to listen to you—especially a body of conservative Englishmen. It seems like a dream to me that I, who had always been credited with an average degree of common sense, am connected with such a wild scheme. Does anyone else on board know the ridiculous object of our cruise?"

"Yes, the captain and two of the officers, who are, like yourself, sworn to secrecy, and to follow me wherever I choose to go. That gang of rough sailors knows nothing whatever about it. They have agreed to go wheresoever they are commanded and ask no questions. That's all I'll tell you to-night."

The fact that three others knew the secret eased Fairfax's mind a little. They were apparently sensible men and not likely to be led away by delusions. They were all pretty well educated. The Captain, a middle-aged man with a weather-beaten face, was Dr. Parkman's brother. He was a good seaman, a strict disciplinarian, and, when not engaged in his duties, a jolly sociable person.

The project did not now seem quite so foolish, though it was not exactly the one to recommend itself to sensible, practical men. All were sworn not to return till the expedition ended successfully or Dr. Parkman died.

One evening, two months from the time Fairfax entered the service of the Company, he approached Captain Parkman, who was sitting on the deck, enjoying a smoke, and watching the bounding, heaving mass of waters about him.

"Captain," said he, "the Doctor has told me the object of our journey, and has sent me to you for further particulars. Will you tell me how he got the idea there was any such island not yet known to the civilized world?"

"Yes. Come alongside," answered the Captain, "and I'll reel it off. Two years ago this summer, my brother and I were aboard a vessel bound for Hong Kong. When we were in a certain place—"

"Whereabouts, Captain?"

"Never mind, boy. You'll learn that, perhaps, later on. One evening the Doctor and I were sitting together on the deck, just as you and I are now. It was a calm evening in July; not a ripple on the water and scarcely the suggestion of a breeze. We were talking of one thing and another, the beauty of the night and so on, when, of a sudden, the Doctor grasped my arm and exclaimed:

"'Look! Look! In the Northern Sky!'

"I looked where he pointed, and leaped to my feet in astonishment too great for words. It was the most wonderful sight I have ever seen. There, in the northern sky, as distinct as on a map, was the picture of an island, with the outlines of its hills, valleys, and rivers discernible."

"A mirage!"

"Yes. It was oblong in shape. Near it was another island, perhaps one-twentieth as large. I had read of these mirages before and was skeptical. I had met sailors who affirmed they had seen portions of countries, hundreds of miles away, reflected in the sky. One man, whom I have always regarded as a truthful person, has told me that, on an occasion when he was on a sailing vessel in the Levant, he saw a picture of the City of St. Petersburg in the heavens. By the aid of a strong glass he identified the Neva with its bridges, the Arsenal, the great Fortress of Peter and Paul, and the Imperial Palace. Another has told me that when sailing south of the Azores, through the Sargasso Sea, he and others saw the outline of the southern portion of the Scandinavian peninsula reflected distinctly in the sky. He recognized it the more readily on account of a part of Jutland being also visible.

"Well, when the Doctor and I saw this island, we were anxious to get an idea of its size and location. It is hard to judge the distance of an isolated object in the sky, for the eye has nothing to help it—no intervening object from which to get an idea of its relative position."

"Why did you not use your telescopes?"

"I was going to tell you that we did so," replied Captain Parkman, "and we had reason for still greater astonishment; for lo! the island seemed so close that we could quite distinctly see some of the objects upon it. The Doctor, who is a man of extensive knowledge, believed it was within a radius of a few miles from our vessel.

"There was a piece of country, perhaps forty by twenty miles in area, the most beautiful I have ever seen. Two small rivers flowed from a ridge of hills that ran the entire length of the island, and there was a number of towns and villages, of which two were much larger than the rest.

"The Doctor went in for details, while I studied the general appearance. The result of our joint survey was a map, hastily drawn while the impressions were still fresh in our minds. The Doctor still has this map in his possession; it is necessarily a crude and imperfect sketch. He fixed his vision attentively on the largest town, and declared it surpassed, in grandeur, ancient Rome. He asserts that, in a large square in the centre of the city, was a monument or obelisk that appeared to be of gold. He drew my attention to it, but, before I could focus it, the mirage vanished, and, shortly afterwards, the sky was darkened by clouds, and a terrific thunderstorm raged for an hour.

"I was not a captain then, and had no authority, but I managed to ascertain an approximate idea of our latitude and longitude—a fact which my brother and I have ever since kept secret. When we returned to England we made known to the men you saw—the Company—sufficient to interest them in the organization of an expedition for the purpose of discovering this remarkable island, and the good things it may contain. We are of the belief that it is peopled by a strange race of beings, who are, perhaps, as ignorant of the existence of any other world as we are of their several names."

Fairfax thanked Captain Parkman for his information, and walked away, his mind filled with strange and worrying thoughts. The whole thing seemed ridiculous. A company of English aristocrats, with more money than brains, and more credulity than either, had fitted up a handsome vessel, and provided Dr. Parkman with the means of searching for an island which Fairfax believed existed only in the old man's vivid imagination. True, the Captain corroborated the story, and he appeared to be a sensible fellow; yet he was the Doctor's brother, and this, in itself, was sufficient, in the eyes of an unprejudiced person, to throw some doubt on his sanity. Besides, as likely as not, he had been half full of grog on the occasion of the alleged mirage.

As for the officers and the sailors, it was easy to account for their being in the expedition. The assurance of good pay, and the promise of rich rewards in the event of success, would scarcely be needed to make them jump at any enterprise offering excitement, some danger, and comparative idleness.

Fairfax was sorry he had come. He had never dreamt of such a wild-goose expedition as this. He had supposed it was some sensible enterprise from which he could, by his talents and the faithful discharge of his duties, reap commensurate rewards. Instead of that he was pledged to follow the Doctor wherever he should choose to go, which might be anywhere, considering he was so easily led by his whims. It was a serious situation. The life of John Fairfax was too precious to be wasted in an attempt to find an island which a crack-brained old scientist claimed to have seen in the sky!


III. — BOXALL, THE HERCULES.

THESE considerations did not make young Fairfax think, for one moment, of shirking his duty. He was determined to stick to his charge through thick and thin; and, so conscientious was he, that he deemed it his duty not only to go to his aid in absolute danger, but also to see that he was shielded as much as possible from minor discomforts. Though, as yet, the Doctor's movements were circumscribed by the limits of the boat, the love of exploring, inherent in his nature, prompted him to push his way into all sorts of nooks and corners. He was as restless as a child. Wherever he saw an effect he sought to find a cause, making every one about him uneasy till his curiosity was satisfied. A marlin-spike was a fit subject for a metaphysical dissertation; a carelessly-dropped nautical expletive was sure to draw forth a lengthy homily bristling with classical quotations. The sailors were a rough lot, despite the fact that most of them had been selected on the strength of testimonials covering other good qualities than mere indifference to danger. They did not like this spirit of enquiry in the old man. He asked too many questions, they thought, and interfered altogether too much with them, their work, and their amusements. They first showed their dislike by chaffing him, and, as he took this with bad grace, being a surly old fellow, they began, by and by, to play rough jokes upon him, blaming them invariably on the cabin-boy, Butt Hewgill, who was anything but a practical joker. This got the Doctor down very severely on the harmless Butt; which encouraged the sailors to go to further lengths, till, at last, Fairfax was obliged to interfere to save both the Doctors dignity and Butt's body.

As a consequence, Fairfax became very unpopular with the jokers, and, as he took no pains to conciliate them, they did not try to hide their dislike. One of them, in particular, became very inimical toward him, and did his best to engender the same degree of hatred in his companions. He was Mart Boxall, or "The Terror," as he was commonly called. He was a man of large stature and wonderful strength. He was some fifteen years older than Fairfax, and was a terror in the full sense of the word. There was scarcely a man on the vessel that did not stand in dread of him, when his anger was aroused, which was quite often. He was by nature a bully, and, as he knew the fear in which he was held, he availed himself of every possible occasion to pick a quarrel and develop it into a fight.

The Captain had a knack of getting along peaceably with him, and so had Maloney, an Irishman, who usually cajoled him into good humor by the exercise of his native wit and blarney; but both took care to avoid him as much as possible.

Several times since the expedition began, the Terror had made remarks in the hearing of Fairfax that were calculated to excite his anger, but his good sense forbade him to notice them. He considered himself bound, by his pledge, to sink all thoughts of self, to swallow insults, and submit to personal inconveniences for the sake of Dr. Parkman. To involve himself in danger, by yielding, for a moment, to pride, was, he deemed, an act of infidelity to his charge.

Boxall, seeing he could not aggravate the young man in this way, and stung to madness by being quietly ignored, sought to do him harm by lowering him still further in the eyes of the sailors.

"Mates," said he, "Fairfax is a swell as holds his head too high. He thinks you an' me is too far beneath him to be noticed. A lubber as feels he's too good for the company of gents wants to be taken down. Eh, lads? What do you think?"

The sailors acquiesced in this opinion, and expressed themselves as eager and happy to witness "the taking down" of any young man whose ideas were too exalted. They were ready to approve any doctrine that partook of a democratic spirit, especially when promulgated by a man so willing and able to back his arguments by physical force.

"We'll show him an English swell ain't no better'n us. Eh, mates?"

"Ay, Ay, Boxall," came the response from the crowd, and the Terror sat down with the same feeling of satisfaction as Marc Antony experienced when he heard the Roman populace take up the cry, "Death to Brutus!"

Fairfax had sufficient penetration to see he was held in no very high esteem, but he bothered his head very little about it. The sailors were no fit companions for him, being, for the most part, bad and dangerous men, and he kept aloof from them as much as possible. But he found it necessary occasionally to go among them to look for the ubiquitous old Doctor, whose sour tongue and temper were forever getting him into trouble.

One evening he went below and found the Doctor, as usual, finding fault and interfering with the men. He wanted them to carry on their sports after what he considered to have been the manner of conducting the Olympic games of Ancient Greece, and he was eager to teach them a rare style of wrestling that, he claimed, was introduced by Iphitus, King of Elis.

Fairfax knew this was just what the sailors wanted, as it served them with grounds for playing their rough pranks upon the old man. Conceiving it his duty to see his charge suffered no indignity, he went up to him, and taking him gently by the arm, said:

"Doctor, come up above and leave these men alone. You have no business down here. You're in the way."

"He ain't," cried Boxall, glad of the chance to drag the young man into trouble. "Leave the old gent alone and mind your own affairs. He's just watchin' our sport."

"I supposed he had been bothering you by the way you were treating him," said Fairfax quietly.

"No, not a bit. He's perfectly welcome. Sit down yourself an' watch the fun if you think our company ain't a little too low for you."

Fairfax appeared not to notice that the speaker's tone and manner, no less than his words, conveyed the deliberate intention of insulting him. He sat down with a look of perfect good-nature in his face, and laughingly said:

"Oh, I guess I can stand your company a little while; but don't let me interrupt your games."

There are certain events in our lives that appear trivial till we view them through the vista of years, when they assume an importance that surprises us. We find, perchance, they have been potential in shaping our destiny. We would gladly spare the reader a narration of the incidents that followed—we would overlook them as unimportant—as mere episodes of common occurrence among sailors—if it were not that they produced great effects. Boxall's invitation to Fairfax, simple as it was, had a direct influence on the life and fortune of every man aboard the Eurydice.

"Do you ever do any jumping?" asked the Terror.

"Not much," replied Fairfax, "but go on. I like to watch."

Having drawn the Doctor down beside him on the seat, he watched the sailors as they vied with one another in leaping and other feats of agility and skill. Then they got to wrestling, and he noticed there were several fine athletes among them. So far as muscular development and size were concerned, it would be hard to bring together a finer lot of men. But Boxall was by far the best. For strength and activity he was a wonder. He contended with two big, powerful sailors at once, and, in less than a minute, threw them both.

After awhile they commenced lifting heavy weights. Several among them proved themselves able, with one hand, to raise, upward from the shoulder, ten times, a hundred-pound weight, and two or three shouldered, with apparent ease, a sack weighing nearly three hundred pounds. But Boxall surpassed them all. The hundred-pound weight seemed like a cricket-ball in his hands, and he shouldered weights the others could scarcely move on the floor. Maloney was a powerful man, too. He succeeded, after a great struggle, in raising a nine-hundred pound weight a couple of inches from the floor. When he accomplished this the sailors broke into cheers, and Fairfax, ever ready to applaud a fine feat, clapped his hands also. This pleased the good-natured Maloney, but aggravated the jealous Boxall, who turned to Fairfax and said: "Let us see you lift it, sonny."

Fairfax shook his head to decline the invitation.

"Then don't crow so much. Come here Maloney. Sit down."

Maloney approached and sat down on the very weight he was after lifting.

"Now," exclaimed Boxall, "will any man here wager I can't lift him and his load?"

"I will," shouted the aggressive Doctor Parkman, rising suddenly to his feet.

"Keep quiet, sir," whispered Fairfax, pulling him back on to the bench. "Go on Boxall. He didn't mean it."

Boxall bent his gigantic frame, and, placing an arm each side of Maloney's knees, seized the iron block. All breathlessly awaited the result of the trial. Slowly, slowly, as the veins on his Herculean arms stood out like whip-cords, the weight was seen to move, and, a moment later, it rose fully six inches from the floor! Maloney got off it, and Boxall walked two steps forward and laid it down so gently that it made little or no noise.

A burst of applause, in which Fairfax heartily joined, followed this marvellous feat, and the Doctor was beside himself with excitement. Nothing would do him but he must try to lift it too, and Fairfax had hard work to restrain him. The sailors, seeing a chance for fun, did all they could to encourage the old man in his foolish attempt, and Fairfax remonstrated and expostulated.

"Let him try it, swell," said Boxall. "Mebbe you an' him can lift it. Give him a chance."

"I will not," said Fairfax, ignoring the personal insult. "He is liable to kill himself."

Quite a scene followed, but Fairfax managed to get the meddlesome old Doctor up-stairs and into his state-room.

Half an hour later, as he was lying on a bench on deck, he heard a footstep behind him, and a voice whispered in his ear:

"Mr. Fairfax."

It was the cabin-boy, Butt Hewgill. His right name was Robert, but the sailors had given him the euphonious name of Butt, partly because of the likeness of his figure to a cask, and partly on account of his fondness for adversative conjunctions, as shown in his readiness to argue. He was about fifteen years old, but was almost as large as two boys of that age, being enormously fat. Standing at a distance, he could easily be mistaken for a small vat, or a sack of meal. Once the sailors tied a rope around him, threw him overboard, and hauled him out again, pretending they mistook him for one of the large water-buckets. He had a plaintive, whining voice, and a very melancholy cast of countenance. There was not a trace of conscious humor in him, and yet he rarely spoke without exciting laughter in others, for, the more serious he became, the more comical he looked. His favorite pastime was reading; his favorite author, strange to say, the immortal Shakespeare. He had got hold of an old volume of the bard's works somewhere, and he pored over its pages at every possible chance. The interest he took in passages far beyond his understanding, and the ease with which he could quote apt speeches were surprising.

Fairfax's first inclination, when he saw the massive figure beside him, was to laugh, but he modified it into a smile when he saw Butt's rotund face. It contorted into various comical expressions indicative of a desire to excite secrecy and caution. Putting his band to the side of his mouth, the lad whispered:

"Mr. Fairfax, you're in danger!"

"In danger, Butt! Nonsense! You must check those wild flights of imagination."

"But I'm serious, sir."

"Yes, you look serious. Go on."

"The men have sent me up to ask you to come down and act as referee for them."

"What are they doing?"

"They're going to have a friendly boxing match, they say—but—don't go down, Jack," as he saw the latter rising. "Don't go down; methinks they mean to do you harm."

"Harm! Nonsense."

"Yes; they'll use you well for awhile and pretend to show you respect as referee, but they mean to do you mischief."

"How do you know?"

"I heard them when they didn't think I was listening. There's some of them great fighters, and I saw Boxall split a board with his fist. Some say he once struck a man and killed him. They have it made up to get you in among them, and coax you to put on the gloves with some of them. They'll let you win for awhile; they'll pretend you're whipping them, and then, just when you think you're a fighter, Dick Smithers says either he or Boxall will pitch in and pound the life out of you."

This was just what the rough sailors proposed doing. They were going to have some fun with the "English Swell," as they called Fairfax. Not one of them knew the capacity in which our hero stood. Why he was with the expedition had been a subject of much speculation on their part. They had seen the Captain and the officers show him considerable deference, and they had seen him lounging around as if entirely free of responsibility. They were forced to the conclusion he must be a friend of one of the aristocratic members of the Company sent out to act as a spy upon them.

"Don't go down, sir. Don't go down," pleaded Butt.

"Yes, I will. Come along. They won't harm me."

Down-stairs stepped Fairfax, followed by the quaking Butt, whose piteous, but suppressed, lamentations previous to the event showed just how bad he could feel if harm befell the young man that had befriended him.


IV. — FAIRFAX.

THE only one of the sailors that protested against the proposed "fun with the swell" was Maloney. He was a warm-hearted Irishman, quiet as a lamb if people let him alone and behaved themselves; brave, and as fierce as a lion when aroused. Like many of his countrymen, he would put up with a great deal more himself than he would stand to see others suffer. He was a fine specimen of manhood, being over six feet in his stockings and proportionately built. Though not so strong as the Terror, whose marvellous strength we have seen, he was nevertheless as good as two ordinary men, and, when aroused, was able and complaisantly willing to contend with half a dozen. Numbers seemed to affect him only in so far as they increased his interest in the contest.

He was liked by all the sailors except the Terror, who, because he could not cow him as he did the others, felt bitter toward him. The Terror was feared rather than liked; had this fear been removed there was probably not a man on the vessel that would have followed his lead, because he had qualities that even bad men dislike. But fear being one of the great motives by which men can be influenced, Boxall held greater sway over the crew than Captain Parkman.

Maloney knew what was in store for young Fairfax if Boxall got him in his hands. He believed the brute would try to kill him by a blow or by crushing him. From a love of justice and fair play he argued with, and appealed to, the men, but was overruled by the influence which the Terror brought to bear on them.

Just as Fairfax, followed by the lugubrious Butt, stepped smiling down the hatchway, Maloney was called away to do duty at the wheel. This was unfortunate, for the chivalrous Maloney had made up his mind to defend the young man if it cost him his life.

"Fairfax," he whispered, as he was passing, "for God's sake turn back. Go above beyant. Thim divils has it in them to do you mischief."

"O I don't think so, Mike."

"Listen to me avic. That divil Boxall 'll kill you. He's taken a dislike to you, an' has incensed the others—the blackguard. Come back boy. Come back. Follow me."

He looked over his shoulder as he passed and made comically earnest gesticulations of warning and coaxing, but Fairfax did not follow. The daring young fellow, laughing the while, threw a piece of rope after Maloney, and sauntered down toward the sailors.

It was not that he was without fear the sailors meant mischief, but he thought the time had come to correct some of the erroneous impressions they had formed of him. The word "Swell" stood for a good deal with them. It embraced nearly all the qualities such men dislike. Fairfax understood the significance they attached to it, and believed he had only to display a little courage to dispel their repugnance to him. He considered that, in all probability, these men were destined to be his companions for years, perhaps for life, and sooner or later, it must be decided just how he was to stand among them. To show fear, by remaining above, would only intensify their dislike. He must prove to them he was no coward. He must enforce their respect at all hazards.

But no thought of self influenced his decision. Since the day he took his oath he had viewed everything from the standpoint of Dr. Parkman's interests. So far as he was personally concerned, he cared not what the sailors thought of him. He would have avoided the danger he now saw confronting him, and lain under the imputation of cowardice, if he had hot been certain it meant a series of troubles for his charge. Humiliation for himself meant insecurity for the man who looked to him for protection.

This was the first danger that arose from his conscientious regard for the duties of his position. He was fated to meet many more; but none productive of such far-reaching results. The events of the next ten minutes had a direct influence on the future of every man connected with the enterprise, from the solemn-visaged cabin-boy, Butt Hewgill, to the pompous President of the London Company.

"Soft you, a word or two before you go, Mr. Fairfax," said Butt, tugging at Fairfax's sleeve in the excitement of his fear.

"Keep quiet, Butt. You'd better go above."

"No, no! I'll stay with you, Mr. Fairfax," and the lad, his faithfulness serving the place of courage, followed in the rear.

The sailors were congregated in the forward part of the ship between decks. They were exchanging sundry expressive winks and smiles, when Fairfax walked up to them and quietly said:

"Well mates, what's up? Some fun, eh?"

"You bet," replied Smithers. "We're goin' to have a little impromptu jollification among ourselves—on the quiet—d'ye see?" and he glanced at several of his companions and conveyed signs he little guessed Fairfax understood.

"And you want me to be referee, eh?"

"Yes, we thought it well to get some great person as could look away up into the clouds, an' give impartial decisions. Do you see?"

"Perhaps I don't know enough about the game for that."

"O you'll learn," said Boxall ironically. "Anything you don't know we're willin' to teach you. Eh lads?" and he winked at the sailors.

"Ay, ay," came from all sides.

"All right then mates," said Fairfax, coolly taking a seat on top of a cask, "I'm master of ceremonies now and I must be obeyed. Sit down you fellows, and make room there for the contestants."

The men, a little surprised by his sang froid, seated themselves around in a semi-circle, and Fairfax called upon the first pair of boxers.

Two young sailors stepped out, and, putting on a pair of rather hard gloves, began to spar. They pummelled each other in a kind of good-natured way for some minutes, and one of them dropped, pretending to be beaten.

"I award the fight to Potter," said Fairfax.

"No you don't," yelled a dozen voices, and every man with well-feigned anger rose to his feet, "Give square decisions. Smith won."

Fairfax understood their base purpose. They intended in concert to dispute every one of his decisions, as a means of bringing about the real "fun." Even Potter, the victor, joined in the chorus of dissent.

"Change that decision! Take that back!" shouted several stalwart fellows, as they advanced threateningly toward our hero.

"I'll take back nothing," replied the latter coolly, drawing a revolver and levelling it upon the foremost of them. "Stand back. I'll shoot the first man disputes the referee's decisions. Next couple come forward."

He spoke laughingly, as if he understood they were only joking, but there was firmness in the tone of his voice. Surprised as they were, they were cunning enough to make pretence of joking also, and, with loud laughs and coarse jests, they sat down, giving a mock cheer for the swell referee. The young fellow's conceit—they had not yet come to regard it as courage—only served to heighten their amusement, and produced in them glowing anticipations of the coming "fun."

Fairfax put away the revolver and called for order. All became silent, pretending to hold the referee in awe, but that worthy did not fail to notice the glances and winks, pregnant with meaning, that passed from one to another.

Boxall and Smithers stepped out, and after bowing to the referee, donned the gloves, shook hands, and began to box. Fairfax watched them closely. They purposely made the most awkward movements. Two schoolboys could not have shown less skill. Smithers would strike Boxall and run away a few steps. Boxall would follow, give him a cuff, get one in return, and afterwards pretend to have been knocked down by a blow. It was easy to see through the trick. Both were expert boxers and able to compete with the best trained athletes. Boxall, besides being skilful, was as active as a kitten, and could fell an ox with a blow of his fist.

"A draw!" said Fairfax when they had concluded. There now followed a silence such as portends a storm. Smithers was the first to break it.

"Did you ever have the gloves on, Fairfax," he asked carelessly.

"A few times," answered the young man.

"Come and try them on with me."

The big bully spoke with affected friendliness and innocence, while the men around him tried hard to keep their faces straight.

"O no, no," said Fairfax, pretending to be much more afraid than he was, "not with you Smithers, not with you. You're nearly as good as Boxall. You might hurt me."

"Pshaw! He won't hurt you," growled the Terror. "Go on. It's just in fun."

Fairfax yielded, at length, to the sailor's entreaties and assurances he would not be hurt, and put on the gloves. Just as he had expected, Smithers played a deceptive game. The brute twice pretended to have been knocked down when he had been scarcely touched, and each time he complimented Fairfax on his science.

But he had not seen Fairfax's science yet, as the latter was playing a game also. He made the wildest passes and movements,—some of them so awkward that the spectators fairly shook with laughter.

It was great sport, this playing with an "English swell." If they had only known it, Dumfries, Scotland, sends out very few swells, but quite a number of sinewy, cool-headed fellows that have a happy knack of taking their own part; and, within the last year, she had sent out a man who had vanquished all Scotland in the Caledonian games.

The two sparred in this manner for some time, and at last Fairfax saw, from a wicked gleam in his opponent's eyes, that the moment had come.

It came even sooner than he expected, for he got a stunning blow between the eyes that laid him on his back, and started a howl of laughter that could have been heard two miles away. But he was on his feet again in a moment, cool and smiling as before, and approached Smithers, who exclaimed:

"How do you like that, eh?"

"He can stand a blow," whispered Boxall, who knew just how hard it was to smile after receiving such a crack.

Smithers, dropping the mask at the request of the sailors who were getting impatient to see the fun, now pitched in, and dealt several quick and heavy blows, which, a little to his surprise, and the surprise of the spectators, were rendered ineffective by some very clever parrying and dodging; and the first thing he knew he got a pretty hard tap on the nose that drew the blood. He made a vicious rush and got a second blow that caused him to stagger.

Just at this moment the tall form of Maloney appeared, and his manly voice rang out:

"Stop this you ruffians! Would you kill the poor boy? Fairfax leave that man alone. He's too much for you."

A dozen voices rose in protest, and Boxall gave Maloney a terrible look of hatred.

"See here mates," said Fairfax. "Before we go any further I want to tell you something. Stand back Maloney. Smithers isn't going to hurt me."

"Of course not. Go on with the story."

All waited in breathless silence, wondering what the "swell" had to say.

"Quick," said Boxall, exchanging winks with the others. "Spit out your story quick, for I'm going to give you some lessons in the manly art."

"Well mates," said Fairfax, "I've been for the last three days pondering over a question. It seemed to me to be necessary I should do a certain thing. About an hour ago I settled it. I made up my mind I'd do it or die in the attempt."

"What do you mean to do?" asked the crowd.

"I mean to thrash Boxall just as soon as I have got through with Smithers," was the calm reply.


V. — THE EURYDICE.

IF a thunderbolt from a serene sky had dropped down among them there could not have been a greater look of astonishment on the faces of these rough sailors. They stood speechless, looking at the slim, dark-eyed young fellow who had the audacity and foolhardiness to stand within six feet of "The Terror" and calmly proclaim his settled intention of chastising him. All interest in Smithers, as an active participant in the scene, died out in that moment. He was as effectively relegated to the back ground—nay, plunged to the depths of subordinacy—as if he had been thoroughly whipped. The challenge, flung at the feet of the recognized champion, Boxall, simply robbed Smithers of his individuality. He seemed to be impressed with this notion himself, for, after staring a moment at the dumbfounded crowd, he pulled off the gloves, withdrew to a little distance, and began to wash his bloody face.

For some moments not a word was spoken. The scene was too dramatic for words. The sailors stood stock-still, as if they realized that speech and action were, for the time, exclusively the prerogatives of the two foremost figures of the picture. Incredulous surprise may express itself in shouts; silence alone is compatible with such astonishment as was depicted on their faces.

The young man certainly meant what he said, for there he was, taking off the gloves, his coat and vest, and tightening his suspenders in the form of a belt around his waist. He threw aside his cap, collar, and necktie, as if he were going to take a bath, drew a ring from his finger and put in his pocket, and, advancing to Maloney, said in a voice loud enough for all to hear:

"Maloney, I'll trust you to see I get fair play. There's a man on this boat that I'm going to thrash or he'll thrash me. I'm going to whip the Terror till he cries 'mercy', or get killed in the attempt."

Maloney drew him aside and tried to dissuade him from his mad undertaking. He whispered in his ear a dozen warnings of Boxall's almost superhuman strength and fiendish nature.

"There are no ten men on the boat that could overpower him, Fairfax," he said. "You'll be killed if you go within reach of him. For God's sake don't attempt it. Take the advice and warning of a friend that would stand by you through thick and thin—one that knows what the Terror can do."

Reasoning and advice were of no avail. The demon of rage and determination had taken such possession of Fairfax that he quivered from head to foot. The look in his face almost frightened his friend.

"Mike," he whispered, "it is too late to retreat now. Besides I've got to do my sworn duty. If this man is allowed to go unchecked, he will be a living menace to Dr. Parkman's safety. I may get badly thrashed, but, if I make anything like a good fight, it will diminish Boxall's dangerous influence on the men."

Half a dozen helped the Terror to strip, and, when he stepped out and displayed his massive figure, there was scarcely a man present that did not expect to see Fairfax a corpse in less than a minute. That individual, however, appeared more unconcerned than ever, for there was not a tremor in his voice as he said in a clear, loud tone:

"Boxall, you will understand that this fight is to continue till one of us acknowledges he is beaten. I ask no quarter and I'll give none."

"Agreed," cried Boxall, and his jaws snapped together, while his face assumed an expression truly diabolical.

Smithers and Maloney were chosen to act as seconds. The latter's parting injunction to his principal was given with tears in his eyes.

"My boy," he said, "beware an' keep out of his reach. He'd crush the life out of you. He's got a peculiar grip they call 'The Terror's Clinch' an' no man ever came out of it alive. Look out for his blows too. They're death."

Fairfax squeezed his hand and whispered some words in his ear. Then he leaped lightly to the centre of the cleared space, where Boxall was awaiting him.

They faced each other amid a silence that was broken only by the splashing of the water against the vessel's sides, the noise of the officers on the deck, and the piteous whining of poor Butt Hewgill, who lay concealed behind a pile of luggage.

While they stood eyeing each other and waiting for the word, there was opportunity for the spectators to note their disparity in size, and to form conjectures as to how long the young man could possibly live before such an antagonist. The Terror had the advantage of nearly a hundred pounds in weight; he was fully four inches taller than Fairfax, and was so much larger that it seemed as if Fairfax could have stood behind him and not been seen. His lower limbs suggested the idea of two Norwegian pines; while his arms, with their great knots of muscles so prominent, resembled limbs of oak. He was a veritable giant.

But Fairfax, stripped, was a picture,—a picture that would have delighted the eye of a Titian or a Corregio. He was tall and slim, yet of compact build. Every graceful curve of his limbs bespoke agility and strength. His face was now pale, but it was the paleness that arises from a determination to do or die rather than the pallor of fear. To all appearance, he was as calm as if he were about to take some simple exercise. Only his eyes betrayed the spirit within him; they blazed with a fierce and wicked light. He looked like a young Roman gladiator who had entered the arena to face fearful odds and die—a victor in death.

"All ready. Set to," shouted Smithers, and the contest began.

For the first few moments it looked as if Fairfax was afraid of his opponent, for he dodged his rushes, and ducked his head to avoid the blows, anyone of which would have sufficed to kill an ordinary man. But, when two whole minutes had passed, and Boxall had failed to inflict even a scratch on him, his clever dodging was regarded as the essence of good tactics rather than as a sign of fear. As yet he had not tried to deliver a blow.

Suddenly Boxall made a wicked rush and his heavy right first shot out like a piston-rod. Fairfax was quick enough to avoid the blow, but, in leaping aside, he tripped and fell, and before he could get to his feet Boxall had grappled with him.

"Heavens, Fairfax, be careful," roared the stentorian Maloney, who thought his friend must surely perish in the grasp of a man who could easily handle one thousand pounds.

Fairfax succeeded in getting the best hold; he got his right hand on the Terror's throat. The two fell to the floor, and rolled over each other several times, which brought them near an open hatchway leading to the hold. The crowd saw the danger and shouted a warning, but it was too late. The combatants, locked tight in each other's embrace, rolled over the edge and fell down the hatchway.

The fight was ended. Accident had helped to decide the issue. When the sailors looked down into the hold they saw Boxall lying on his back senseless, and Fairfax kneeling by his side. The latter was unhurt.

Boxall was still senseless when he was taken out, but he revived shortly afterward, and was able to walk about, apparently little the worse for his fall. He showed no inclination immediately to resume the fight, but he hurled, at the head of Fairfax, the threat that he would yet get even with him.

"And mark my words, youngster," he concluded, "when we next fight one of us will be crushed."

He spoke the truth.

Of all the things of the world that man values there is none more unstable in its nature than popularity. The minds of men are as easily influenced as the waters of the ocean, which can be stirred to its depths by the dropping in of a pebble. Yesterday Boxall reigned supreme by the force of the terror he could inspire among his shipmates. He was now no less abject than the once mighty Napoleon when he first touched the shores of St. Helena. His fall was as complete as if he had been whipped, for he had been defied, and had failed to overthrow the issuer of the defiance. His prowess was in question so long as young Fairfax remained unthrashed.

As for the latter, he was content to let matters remain as they were. He could gain nothing by taking advantage of Boxall's temporary weakness. He saw he had risen in the respect and esteem of the sailors, and he knew that, for the future, Dr. Parkman would be safe from their annoyances. He told Boxall he would meet him in fair fight any time he desired, and then, in company with the gratified Maloney, he walked off, showing the same carelessness of manner as he had from the beginning.

The Eurydice ploughed on through the waters of the ocean at a speed that would have been satisfactory to the sailors had any particular port been in view. Paradoxical as it seems, sailors enjoy the water more than the land, and yet the greater part of their pleasure at sea is derived from the joyful expectation of reaching port. Now there was no particular destination, and this, together with the fact that the Captain and the officers carefully kept secret the object of the expedition and the reckonings, filled the crew with dissatisfaction that gradually sought an outlet in murmurs. Boxall and Smithers did all they could to stir up dissension. They showed the men the injustice that was being done them. They were being kept in complete ignorance of the position of the vessel and of its course. If anything were to happen the Captain and his officers, the crew would be left alone, in a great ocean, without the knowledge necessary to navigate the ship.

About a week after the fight, Maloney sought out Fairfax and drew him into conversation.

"My boy," he said, "if you have any influence with the Captain, you ought to whisper a word of advice in his ear. The men are gettin' dangerous. They don't like the idea of sailin' around, at the whim of an ould Doctor, who growls instead of spakin', an' talks of nothin' but first principles an' parallaxes, an' nebular theories, an' such things. Can you do anything?"

"It's not my place to interfere," answered Fairfax. "I am as ignorant of our whereabouts as the men themselves. My grievance is just as great, but I gave my word to follow and obey."

"Bedad an' I'll let the men know this. They were under the belief you were in the Captain's confidence. Whereabouts do you think we are?"

"I don't know, Maloney. I am a poor sailor, but for several days I have been studying the signs with a view to making a guess."

"Well?"

"I think we are still within the Tropic of Capricorn. The uniform westerly flow of the waters, the altitude of the sun, and the temperature show that."

"Are we near South America?"

"That I cannot say, but I think not. I have noticed many times, and especially at night, that our course has been changed. The sailors might have noticed it too, if they had not been taken up so much with criticising the Captain. We are, I believe, cruising about in mid-ocean."

"Well, mark my words, Fairfax, there's somethin' goin' to happen. The divil's in Boxall since you gave him the set back by darin' him. He won't spake to me at all, not even to pass the time o' day."

This was true. Boxall was filled with feelings of resentment and malice. He tried to foment a mutiny among the men, and would have succeeded, but that Maloney assured them Fairfax was as far from knowing the Captain's secret as themselves. This set Boxall against the sailors and everyone else. For several days he went about in a sullen manner, refusing either to do his work or to speak with any one. In his heart he was determined upon revenge. Fairfax tried to make friends with him, and got a look of hate that, had it the power to kill, would have blasted him on the spot.

One evening the Captain, his officers, the Doctor, and Fairfax were seated together on the deck, discussing the question of what was best to be done with Boxall. All agreed that danger was imminent, if steps of precaution were not taken. The Terror was no ordinary man. He had a mind capable of conceiving any wickedness, and a will that would stop at nothing. He was plainly under the impression he was a misused man, and his black looks eloquently told he would brook no real or imagined wrong. One of the officers suggested putting the fellow in irons for a week.

"That would do no good," said Captain Parkman. "We couldn't keep him in irons throughout the expedition, and his incarceration would only intensify his hate and desire to have revenge when released. Moreover, a punishment extending over several days would have the effect of engendering sympathy among the other sailors, and no one knows what might result from it. The punishment to be effective must be short and quick."

"Captain," suggested Fairfax, "I should think it would be well to reason with the fellow. Appeal to his nobler instincts, show him his suspicions are unfounded and—"

"You don't know him, Fairfax," exclaimed Hardy, the first mate. "The man is a brute. He hasn't one redeeming trait."

It was at length agreed that Boxall should be overpowered, put in irons, and flogged for insubordination and attempts to incite rebellion. The next day was settled upon for the punishment.

It would have been better for all on board had they carried out their intention then and there. Next day was too late, as will be seen.

The Terror overheard every word of the discussion. Concealed behind a pile of rope and tackle, he listened to the verdict pronounced against him, and his breast heaved with the fierce passions of hate and revenge.

"You lubbers," he muttered hoarsely through his clenched teeth. "You'll flog me, will you? We'll see. I'll have revenge on you all or I'll die for it—and that before daylight."

He left his hiding-place stealthily, and not one of the men knew he had been on the deck.

That night was beautifully bright and calm. The firmament, lit up by the pale silver moon, and studded with countless stars, was reflected in all its grandeur in the vast expanse of placid water beneath. It was a glorious night—one that should have dispelled all evil thoughts from man and turned his heart to the Infinite Being who could make a world of such beauty.

At midnight all on board were asleep, except two or three actively engaged in the management of the vessel, the watchman, and one other person.

The last named was Boxall. He had no desire to sleep. His mind was filled with a fiendish plan of revenge. By half past twelve he had made his way unnoticed into the hold, where the fuel and provisions were stored. His movements were stealthy and catlike. Lighting a lantern he set it upon a cask, and, taking, from beneath his coat, a bag, he opened it and drew forth an auger and several other tools. He then tightly fastened the hatch-cover, threw off his coat, and set to work. His horrible purpose it is unnecessary to explain.

About three o'clock the watchman, by the merest accident, noticed there was something wrong with the vessel. One step of investigation led to another, and, at last, he discovered there was nearly a foot and a half of water in the hold. He immediately raised the alarm.

The Captain was quickly on deck. There was the wildest scene of excitement, as the men scrambled up through the hatches, some of them scarcely half-dressed.

The pumps were set working at once, and the sailors labored with zeal; but they could gain no headway. The leakage was so great that the water rose upon them at the rate of eighteen inches to the hour.

Fairfax volunteered with the first mate to go below and search for the hole, but, after an hour's vain groping about in the water, returned and took his place at the pumps. There was no great disorder. The men behaved well, and readily obeyed Captain Parkman's orders. Even Boxall, to the surprise of all, showed a disposition to obey. No one guessed he was doing it to avert suspicion. In his evil heart he was rejoicing, for he was willing to purchase revenge with his own life.

By daylight it had become evident that no efforts could keep the vessel afloat; the hold was nearly half full of water.

"Lower the boats!" shouted Captain Parkman, and the men sprang to execute his order.

Fairfax rushed off to bring his charge. He found him in his state-room, already making preparations to abandon the ship. The old man had put some things in a carpet-bag, and he now asked Fairfax to strap it about his back. The latter was surprised to find him so cool and collected.

"Come Doctor. Hurry up," he cried. "The vessel is sinking!"

"John, I have been thinking over Bessel's parallax of the Star 61 Cygni and—"

Fairfax seized him by the shoulders and hurried him out through the cabin and on to the deck where there was now the wildest scene of confusion and dismay. The men, instead of descending into the boats, were shouting at the top of their voices and cursing in a manner frightful to hear. A deadly fear came upon Fairfax when he learned the cause of the uproar.

The small boats, as well as the Eurydice, had been scuttled!


VI. — FIVE, INCLUDING MALONEY.

THE majority of the sailors, realizing that there was nothing to save them from a watery grave, acted like mad beasts. They shouted for the author of the mischief to show himself that they might tear him to pieces, and none was louder in his demands than Boxall. Seeing two or three regard him with suspicion, he pointed at Dr. Parkman and exclaimed:

"There! There he stands!"

Immediately—before Fairfax could guess their intention—two or three sailors sprang forward and, seizing the Doctor, threw him over the rail into the sea.

"Man overboard!" cried Hardy.

The Captain, Maloney and several others, who had been vainly endeavoring to repair one of the boats, hurried forward; but already a dark object had slipped quietly over the vessel's side, and a second splash was heard in the water. It was John Fairfax, ever mindful of his oath. Having sunk and again risen to the surface, he swam round and round, waiting for the Doctor to reappear. At last a head came above the water. He grasped it, and swam away from the vessel toward a spar, which had been thrown overboard. This he reached, and clung to with his half-drowned charge in his arms.

Boxall, with a murderous look in his face, picked up a sledge- hammer and raised it above his head, with the deliberate intention of hurling it at the men in the water. But the missile never left his hands. A shot from Captain Parkman's pistol was heard, and the next moment Boxall lay on the deck.

Overboard now went planks, doors, casks, and everything that could be of help to keep them afloat.

Smithers and two or three others had been engaged in constructing a small raft out of some planks and spars, and this was also thrown overboard.

"Overboard all for your lives!" shouted Captain Parkman. "The vessel is sinking!"

There was one wild cry, followed by a noise of splashing, and, a second later, the vessel careened over on its side, displaying in its bottom two large holes which the miscreant, Boxall, had bored. Then there was a death-like silence, succeeded by a gurgling, bubbling noise resembling a groan, and the Eurydice sank, drawing down with it all that were unfortunate enough to be within the influence of its suction.

Fairfax was not among these. Anticipating the danger, he had swum with his charge as far away from the vessel as he could.

He now looked around and saw the water strewn with planks, casks, and a few persons madly struggling for life. Seeing one object larger than the rest, he swam toward it, drawing the inanimate Doctor after him. He reached it, and, after much difficulty, pulled himself and his friend on to it. It proved to be the raft which Smithers and the others had so hastily put together. It was about sixteen feet long, and ten or twelve feet in width. Just as he was turning to see what help he could render the others, he noticed a hand clinging to the farther end of the raft. He crawled forward over the Doctor's body, reached out his arms, and helped on hoard the stalwart but half-drowned Maloney, whose first word, scarcely audible, was one of gratitude.

At this moment a cry was heard, and, turning, Fairfax beheld, about forty feet away, the ponderous Butt Hewgill, lying like a log in the water. As was afterwards learned, Butt had never sunk after the first immersion consequent upon his fall. He had refrained from making an effort, and on that account, and, perhaps, because he was so large, had floated like a cork. Fairfax plunged into the water, swam toward him, and seized him by the collar. Just as he was about to return with the lad in tow, a large object came to the surface between him and the raft. It did not need a second glance to tell him it was the inhuman Boxall.

The latter had not been touched by the bullet discharged from Captain Parkman's pistol; he had cunningly dropped, when the shot was fired, to give the impression he was killed. He had leaped into the water just before the vessel sank.

For a moment Fairfax thought he saw, in the Terror's wild eyes, an expression that meant he would prevent his regaining the raft if he could. Whether or not he guessed rightly is hard to say; certainly Boxall was too exhausted to carry out such a purpose. Throwing up his arms, and uttering a cry, he was just about to sink, when Fairfax, reaching out to a plank near him, gave it a shove and sent it within his reach. Boxall clutched it wildly, and, with renewed hope, struggled to get his chest on to it.

Maloney had by this time recovered sufficiently to rise to his feet and unfasten a piece of rope attached to the raft. With very good aim he threw an end of the rope so that Fairfax, who had meantime come closer, was able to catch it and place it between his teeth.

Still holding Butt by the hair, our hero was pulled by Maloney toward the raft As he was passing the plank to which Boxall clung, he reached out and grasped it with his left hand, in this way saving the life of the man who had been willing to die to gratify his passion of revenge.

Had it not been for his well-known laziness, Butt's conduct would have been regarded by his companions as a bit of unexampled stoicism. He did not move a muscle to save himself. Even when lifted on to the raft, he lay as passive as a log, as if he were no more than a disinterested spectator of the scene.

After Fairfax had got aboard, Boxall was hauled on with the greatest difficulty. He was not senseless, but, either from baffled rage or exhaustion, he lay quiet and suffered himself to be rolled to the center of the raft so that it might not capsize.

Though Fairfax and Maloney scanned the water on all sides, they could see no other human being. The brave Captain Parkman, with his officers and the rest of the crew, had perished.

It was a sad sight, that beautiful morning, to see, on the shining surface of the ocean, but a few bits of wreckage, where, a short time before, had sailed a gallant ship freighted with human souls.

Wonderful and incomprehensible are the ways of the Omnipotent, who, in His Infinite Wisdom, saw fit to place, among the rescued, the very man that had caused such wanton destruction! Boxall gazed on the ruin he had wrought, and not even a sigh of regret escaped him. If there was a legible expression on his wicked countenance, it was one of dissatisfaction at the incompleteness of his revenge.

Of the five human beings on the raft only two were able or willing, to put forth an effort for safety.

"Boxall," cried Maloney, eyeing him with a comic expression of disdain, "can't you give us a hand to gather thim casks an' boxes, an' tie a few more planks to the raft?"

No response came from the surly Boxall; only a look full of hate.

"Och! you lazy vagabon', you'd rather dhrown than work. I believe in my heart it was you scuttled the ship."

"Shish!" whispered Fairfax, seeing Maloney's honest Irish temper rising. "Let's have peace. Our safety depends upon united action."

"H'm! United action! With three of them prosthrate," grunted the disgusted Maloney. "Get up Goliath," he added, giving Butt a shove with his foot. "Get up you lazy bundle of averdepoise an' don't be a dead weight on us."

But Butt was not to be moved to action any more than the sullen Boxall, or the helpless Doctor, who had revived, and was now crying like a child over the loss of his brother, the warm- hearted Captain.

Fairfax and Maloney secured as many of the boxes and casks as they could, and considerably enlarged and strengthened the raft by the addition of several planks. They found in the water quite a large piece of canvas, which, having become inflated, like Butt's capacious trousers, had not sunk.

With this, a couple of planks, and some nails, secured by tearing up one of the boxes, they managed to fix up a very good sail; and, the wind rising shortly afterwards, they were soon borne some distance from the scene of the wreck.

All that day they drifted along with the ever increasing wind, and, as night approached, there came up signs of a storm. Dark clouds gathered in the sky, and the wind grew so strong that the raft, unshapely as it was, seemed fairly to fly along.

Fairfax and Maloney were brave men, but their hearts sank within them when they saw the sea becoming so agitated that, at times, they were raised ten feet high on a wave and then plunged to a depth as low.


VII. — MALONEY, AND THE OTHER FOUR.

DARKNESS came on and added to the terrors of the ship-wrecked sufferers. The storm increased in violence. The thunder rolled, and the lightning flashed so vividly and so frequently that it seemed as if they were surrounded by a phosphorescent sea. The boxes and casks, upon which they had relied for food and drink, were swept away. The sail was torn off, and drew with it the planks to which it was attached. The raft itself threatened every moment to go to pieces, under the beating of the angry, merciless waves which tossed it about like a cork. It seemed a miracle that it held together.

Its terrified and half drowned occupants clung to it with the tenacity of despair, three of them lying crosswise and holding on to the outside planks with the hope of keeping it together till the storm should subside. Butt and the Doctor did nothing but cling to Fairfax, and whine with fear. Their moans, for they were terribly sick, were pitiable to bear. The Doctor, from sheer misery, tried, several times, to throw himself into the sea, and would have succeeded but for the watchfulness of Fairfax, who did not once forget his sworn duty.

Fairfax and Maloney displayed the courage of heroes. Heedless of their own sufferings, they did all they could to inspire their companions with hope, though they had very little themselves. Assailed by hunger, thirst, and sea-sickness, they maintained their dreadful struggle against the force of the elements, knowing that, if they should succeed in living till daylight, there would still be little chance of rescue. They were alone in a great ocean, without food, and beyond the reach of succor.

By midnight the tempest had considerably abated, though the sea was still running high. The clouds, that, like a funeral pall, had obscured the sky, began gradually to roll away, and the moon, peeping fitfully through the rifts, lighted up the turbulent ocean in all its terrible grandeur and desolation. At no time during the night were the sufferers so impressed with the horror and loneliness of their situation.

"Boys," said Maloney when, about two o'clock the wind suddenly fell, "keep up your courage. We don't know what's comin' next."

"Perhaps you could tell us," growled Boxall.

"O then you're the miserable, hateful Turk," answered Maloney. "You're enough to give one sore eyes. I'd rather walk with a Hottentot through the Sahara Desert than ride with you in a gold chariot."

"I want something to eat," groaned Butt.

"Be patient," whispered Fairfax.

"'Pon me word Goliath you're the most wonderful piece of anatomy I ever saw,"—Maloney had a habit of giving nicknames—"I believe in my heart whin you're dyin' you'll be callin' for your meals. What are you sayin', Doctor? Keep still Boxall, you mumblin' haythen, an' let th' ould gentleman articulate."

"I think it is all over," said the Doctor faintly.

"D'ye mane the storm?"

"No—our existence."

"That's a consolin' piece of information. When did you arrive at that discovery?"

"We can't do without food. I'm starving."

"See here," returned Maloney, "for the last twenty-four hours I've kept two biscuits in my pocket waitin' for just such an extremity."

"Give us them! Give us them!" cried Boxall, Butt, and the Doctor together.

Maloney and Fairfax divided the two biscuits among their three starving companions, but took no bite themselves.

At last morn broke, fair and beautiful, and lo! there was land in sight away to the west. Fairfax could not suppress a cry of delight when he saw the dark ridge with a light hazy mist suspended over it. His transports exceeded those of Columbus when he first descried San Salvador. In a moment Mike was awake and his shouts of joy aroused the others.

"O glory be to the saints this day! There's blessed terra firma that I never expected to put a foot on again!"

Butt rubbed his sleepy eyes and gazed like one out of his mind, while the poor old Doctor shed tears of gratitude and joy.

"Be the livin' Cadi," cried the jubilant Maloney, "I don't care whether it's Bengal or Iceland. I'll run any man a foot-race when we land. I never expected to have the use of my mud-hooks again."

"Easy, Mike," said Fairfax. "We have to land first."

"Aisy is it? There's nothing to hindher us now. Sure I could throw a cow by its tail that little distance."

"It's a good six miles," returned Fairfax, "and if I don't mistake we're receding from the land. There seems to be a current or swell keeping us back."

"Then let us try," burst out poor Butt, his melancholy visage lengthening with the prospect of drifting seaward.

"Yes, yes. Try, try," pleaded the Doctor in accents that smote Jack's heart with pity.

Fairfax liked the old man who, in spite of his cranky ways, had a kind heart and showed much fondness for his protector.

"We'll do our best, Doctor," he said. "Keep up your courage and with God's help you'll be saved."

He looked around to find something with which they might propel the raft, but there was not even a piece of one of the boxes left.

"We're at the mercy of the waves," whined Butt.

"Keep still, you omadhaun," grunted Maloney. "Haven't we been at their mercy all night?"

Saying this, he lay flat on his breast on the side of the raft and began to use his huge arm for a paddle, thrusting it full length into the water. Fairfax prostrated himself, in the same manner, on the opposite side, and, between their efforts, the craft moved, though its progress was terribly slow.

"Look out for sharks!" exclaimed Butt, getting as near the centre as he could.

"O you disconsolate growler," cried Maloney. "You an' Boxall 'ud thry the patience of a saint."

Boxall sat still, with an expression on his face like that of Nero when he fiddled over burning Rome. He made no effort to help.

"Why don't you rip off a plank and use it as a scull?" suggested Dr. Parkman, who had become suddenly filled with a new interest in life.

Fairfax and Maloney rose to their knees and exchanged glances. Neither could understand how they had failed to think of this excellent plan. With one jerk of their powerful arms, they tore away an outside plank, and, fixing it in a notch in the end of the raft, began to scull. They made some headway toward the land, and soon the counteracting influence of currents ceased to he felt. The spirits of all rose rapidly. Maloney hummed the "Cruiskeen Lawn," and the Doctor mumbled a lecture on hydrodynamics. Even Butt's lugubrious countenance showed a ray of hope.

After Fairfax had worked alone for nearly an hour he allowed himself to be relieved by Maloney and took his first rest.

Nothing could exceed the beauty of the scene that presented itself to his view as he sat there enjoying the balmy morning breeze. The charming landscape, the gently-rising hills covered with beautiful verdure, and the clumps of trees thick with luxuriant foliage seemed to him features of a terrestrial paradise.

He was regarding the land with mingled feelings of gratitude and joy when he was startled by a shout, a fierce oath, and a splash, and the raft nearly capsized. Turning quickly he saw that Boxall had fallen overboard and was just disappearing in the water. The ruffian had sprung at Dr. Parkman with the intention of stabbing him, but had missed his footing and tumbled over him. The look that appeared in his face when, a moment later, he came to the surface and saw the raft several yards away from him could not be described. A composite picture of Pluto and his Furies would scarcely be more terrible.

"Pull away and leave him," cried Butt, who was so earnest in his desire to part company with the Terror that he crawled back to help Maloney with the navigation of the craft. Boxall refused all invitations to come aboard, but he swam after the raft till it reached the mouth of a little creek, when he suddenly disappeared, and was seen no more. They looked for him for several minutes, and then gave up the search, assuming he had stabbed himself and sunk.

The Doctor was the first to land, and immediately his disposition underwent a change. He became quite cheerful, as if, in leaving the sea, he was parting with an uncongenial element.

Little did he know that he was standing on that wonderful island whose reflection he had seen in the sky! None of them dreamt that blind chance had led them to the discovery of that which they had set out to seek.


VIII. — THE ISLAND.

THE first action of each member of the little band was to quench his thirst in the cool, pellucid water of the creek. Then they clambered up on the bank and ate heartily of berries which grew about quite plentiful. They partook also of a root somewhat like a potato, which the Doctor dug out of the ground with his knife. He called it psoralea esculenta, and told them it had been much used by the North American Indians. Maloney remarked that he thought it tasted better for the elegant name.

Having, to some degree, assuaged their hunger, they indulged in congratulations and shouts of joy, and threw themselves upon the velvety, grass-covered ground to rest and enjoy the picturesque scene before them. They were evidently in a tropical country, though, as they could tell from the course of the sun, they were a very considerable distance from the equator.

Quite close to the shore, and parallel with it, ran a ridge of hills which prevented their seeing farther than three-quarters of a mile inland. There were no signs of habitation, but, some distance to the south, there was a rising piece of ground that appeared to bear marks of tillage. After escaping from the horrors of shipwreck and storm, it was a delight to admire the verdant and refreshing aspect of the country, the rich soil, the magnificent vegetation and the glorious wealth of flowers that everywhere greeted the enraptured eye. The whole scene as viewed in the sunshine of that fine morning was indescribably beautiful and romantic.

"It surpasses the Vallombrosa," said the Doctor, who was more often materialistic than aesthetic in his views.

"It's the country for me," exclaimed Maloney. "I could live an' die here in peace."

"It's very peaceful and pleasant just now," said Fairfax, "but we may not find it so when we have passed yonder hill. I'd like to ascend it before we take any rest."

Butt Hewgill was evidently not of the same notion for he was already stretched out on his back sound asleep. In about a quarter of an hour they roused the lad and started toward the hill, keeping by the bank of the rivulet, which flowed therefrom. Though they were fatigued—especially Fairfax, who had not closed his eyes since the disaster—they were in jubilant spirits. The Doctor became quite playful, and imparted so much of his cheerfulness to Butt that Maloney called them "the two childer."

They never dreamed that they were entering a new world; that they were to meet with a remarkable race of people; that they were to see wonderful sights and encounter dangers and adventures of the strangest character.

As they approached the hill, the valley fairly sparkled with flowers in brilliant bloom, and the air was fragrant with the sweet odors they diffused. Colors and tints vied with one another in splendor. It was as if nature had favored one enchanted place and lavished all her richest beauties on it. It was an earthly paradise. They could have imagined that here Rinaldo wooed his Armida, that here Dido and Calypso, by their allurements, detained Aeneas and Ulysses.

The hill at this point was about four hundred and fifty feet in height. It sloped gradually, so that the ascent was very tiresome. Fairfax took the arm of the Doctor and assisted him, while Maloney encouraged Butt's locomotion by alternately shouting and poking him in the ribs.

When they had arrived within fifty yards of the summit, and to a piece of ground that was almost level, they sat down to rest, and indulge in speculations as to what they should soon see. They were in the centre of a cleared space about half an acre in area, which, save for one little clump of trees, extended quite to the apex. On every other side the wood was so dense that they could not see farther than a few yards.

They had rested some minutes, and were just about to resume the ascent, when they heard sounds as of footsteps and the crackling of twigs.

"What's that?" exclaimed the Doctor.

"Hush! Keep quiet," whispered Fairfax.

The next moment they leaped to their feet, startled and astonished.

From the wood came forth a body of over two dozen armed men of a peculiar appearance, who quickly surrounded them and closed in upon them.

They were different from any human beings our party had ever seen before. Their skin was very white, much whiter than that of the average European, and they were not so large. The tallest among them was scarcely five feet, nine inches, while some of them were barely over five feet.

Their leader, who stood at some distance, was about five feet, eight. He was of handsome figure.

They stared in bewilderment at the strange visitors, who stared in return. It is a question which party was the more surprised. That they belonged to different races of humanity was apparent to each.

With the exception of the leader, who remained standing in the shadow of the trees, and could not be closely examined, all the soldiers had the same peculiar facial expression, which is hard to describe. It was not exactly a fretted expression, and yet there were prominent lines on their foreheads and about their mouths, though some of them were quite young. It was a serious look that at once suggested fretfulness and resignation, hard work and the desire to work hard. They might have passed for theological students, but for a certain look of firmness and savagery that showed they were inured to physical exertion, and the exercise of fierce pursuits.

Not the least remarkable feature about them was their dress, which was almost identical with that of the ancient Romans. They wore a coarse tunic that came down below the knees, and was fastened about the waist by a girdle. On their feet were sandals. Their head-dress was a straw hat, conical in shape, which gave them a very grotesque appearance. Their weapons consisted of a bow and a quiver of arrows, a short broad-sword, a spear slung across the back so that the point raised itself high above the left shoulder, and a shield which was strapped to the chest.

When the leader, who had been eyeing Fairfax for some time, stepped out and confronted our party, their astonishment increased. They beheld a figure that would have attracted attention, and even admiration, in the most brilliant court in Europe. He was a most handsome person, and was as different from the rest, both as to facial features and dress, as can be imagined. He was about same age as Fairfax. Perhaps the only thing in common between him and his companions was the whiteness of the skin; and even in this respect they differed, for, while theirs was a pale, sickly complexion, his waxen cheeks were tinged with a healthy color, and his lips were as red as cherries. Cleopatra or Poppaea would have envied him his complexion. Graceful in movement and in person, he had a face that even now, in spite of the surprise pictured upon it, was smiling with a happy, contented—almost languidly- contented—expression, and he had large, lustrous, dark-blue eyes that were singularly attractive. With his fair hair clustering under his hat, and a roguish expression on his countenance, he looked more like a Cupid than a Son of Mars. His hands were soft and white and, on one of his fingers, he wore two jewelled rings.

But his dress, from its oddity, its contrast with that of the others, and its incongruity with the surroundings, was remarkable in the extreme. It was almost the same in style as that worn by the French nobility toward the close of the period of Louis XIV. He had the silver-buckled shoes and hose, which set off to fine advantage his well-shaped limbs; the tight fitting silk breeches, reaching to the knee and tied on the outside with ribbon; and the rich vest and the long, square-cut coat, trimmed with point lace and ornamented with gold buttons. He had not the hat of the period, but, as our friends afterwards learned, it was worn by some on the island.

For several minutes this striking figure was the cynosure of all eyes. He seemed to have been born to command admiring attention. His own men watched him to be ready to hear and execute his orders when he got through inspecting the visitors. Our party gazed at him because there was about him a fascination that was irresistible. Each one of them felt the force of his magnetic presence. At last he spoke—and lo! it was in the English tongue—in a voice that was firm, clear, and melodious.

"Who are you?" he asked.

Butt Hewgill fainted.


IX. — SIONE, THE LEADER.

THE question was addressed to Fairfax, who was no more surprised to hear the English language spoken than he had been to see the seventeenth century dress on terms of intimacy with the Roman tunica. Had he seen Octavius Caesar and Henry of Navarre bridging centuries of time and hobnobbing together, he could not have been more astonished. He stood still, unable to speak; so Maloney, with his Hibernian readiness and fluency, shouted out:

"We're pilgrims, since you're dacent enough to ask; an' now, if you don't mind, tell us who you an' thim hungry lookin' spalpeens in the kilts are; an', if you could inform us, at the same time, where we could get somethin' to eat, we'd be behouldin' to you."

The tone of this answer evidently displeased the leader, for a dark frown overspread his handsome face. He made a sign to his men, and about a dozen of them quickly advanced and made Maloney prisoner. Mike showed resistance, but was soon given to understand he would have to be more civil to Sione, the leader, or he would lose his life.

Again Fairfax was questioned. He related how they had been shipwrecked, and how the four of them, the only survivors, had been cast ashore, but said nothing of the object of their expedition.

On hearing the story Sione showed some agitation; whether it was pity or displeasure our friends could not tell. Then he announced, in a calm, dignified way, that Fairfax and his companions must consider themselves his prisoners, and submit to be taken before the High Monarch. On hearing a murmur of dissent from Maloney and the Doctor, he displayed, in a manner apparently accidental, a good Damascus sword, thereby conveying a gentle hint that force was his only arbitrator.

He next applied to his lips a little silver whistle, at the sound of which there appeared, from over the hill, a dozen or more men, dressed in tunics, who carried with them three palanquins.

In the first of these Butt Hewgill was placed; and, as they made arrangements for his comfort, it became evident he was to have a whole palanquin to himself.

It might here be remarked that the soldiers displayed toward Butt a considerable degree of respect, not unmingled with awe. His immense size—he was nearly as broad as two of them—may have had something to do with it; and it is possible that the melancholy look on his face, so much like the expression on their own, may have engendered a bond of sympathy.

Maloney and the Doctor were placed in the next palanquin, and Fairfax in the third. The latter asked Sione if he might he permitted to ride with the Doctor, but got no satisfaction, and wisely concluded it best to hold his peace.

Off started the procession: A body of soldiers ahead; then Butt's palanquin on the shoulders of eight men; then that of the Doctor and the noisy Mike; and in the rear came Fairfax, with no less a personage by his side than Sione himself.

From the summit of the hill they got a splendid view of the country through which they were about to pass. It was a glorious panorama of beauty, well deserving the name, which they afterwards learned it bore—The Land of Flowers. They saw, stretching away before them to the glimmering sea, distant nearly thirty miles, a fine tract of land, diversified by hill and dale, covered with beautiful verdure, and dotted with innumerable groves, whose foliage, catching the soft, rich glow of the morning sunshine, presented to the eye every variety of color. Towns and villages were scattered thickly about, and, near the mouth of a river which ran almost in a straight course from the ridge to the sea, was a city of considerable size, whose spires, turrets, and domes were faintly visible.

Their view to the southward was obstructed by dense clumps of vegetation, consisting of every species known to tropical countries; but they afterwards learned that the southern portion of the island, while much more thickly populated, was of no less striking and varied beauty.

They traveled in a line almost at right angles to the shore which they had left. They passed several pretty little villages, whose houses were of ancient and primitive style; and they saw numbers of people, who, for the most part, were attired like the soldiers. A few wore the toga, a sleeveless gown, which was loose and flowing and covered the whole body, falling from the shoulders to the ankles in graceful folds. They saw mothers with their little children, old women, and men of all ages, but not once did they see a young girl.

Fairfax marvelled at this, and was told by Sione that there were very few maidens on the island; in the upper part of it there, perhaps, could not be found a dozen, between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five.

"This is an island then?" said Fairfax, who thought he could best secure useful information by showing as little surprise as possible.

"Yes."

"Can you tell me something about its people—their habits and customs?"

"I could, of course," replied Sione calmly, and smiling at the look of wonder his companion could not conceal, "but you will learn all this in time. I prefer to listen to your story."

"I have told you mine. I should like to know something of this island as I may not be here long."

He spoke as if he had only to purchase a ticket and step aboard a boat in order to get away.

Sione laughed, and regarded him with an expression that puzzled him to read.

"You are not likely to leave it," he said.

"Why not?" asked Fairfax.

"It may not be the will of the High Monarch."

"He surely wouldn't keep us prisoners."

Sione smiled, and, ignoring Fairfax's request to explain the nature of the harm he and his companions had done, asked him if they had such beautiful scenery in the country he came from.

"I have never seen so much beauty concentred in one place," said Fairfax, "but tell me—answer me one question. Who are you people that inhabit this island? Are you a race distinct from ours? Have you any traditions among you? Where did you get our language?"

"The High Monarch must first see you."

Fairfax felt annoyed; and yet he could not find it possible to take offence at the smiling, good-natured, but apparently conceited young fellow beside him.

Sione seemed to regard him with feelings of admiration and friendship, and so long as Fairfax talked, he appeared satisfied to sit and watch him and nod his handsome head whenever some part of the narration specially interested him. He listened intently while our hero gave an account of the habits and customs and institutions of the people of his world; and he seemed particularly pleased with the description of English country life. He had a quiet dignity that sat well upon him and alone prevented him from appearing effeminate beside the manly young Fairfax.

By and by the latter, worn out with his long continued exertions, became very drowsy—a fact that gave Sione much amusement—and at last fell asleep. When he awoke it was with a start; he was surprised to find his head pillowed on Sione's breast, and the latter's arm about his neck. He sat up and apologized; whereon Sione laughed, and, blushing, said:

"I thought it better to support your head than to let you fall out."

"Thank you. You are very kind."

"You seem tired."

"I am. What do you think the King will do to us?"

"The King!" exclaimed Sione, laughing and showing a set of pearly teeth. "We have no kings here. You will be brought before the High Monarch."

"Is that a woman?"

"Most certainly."

"Why do you say 'most certainly'?"

"Do you not have queens in your country?"

"Yes. Our present monarch is a queen. She is a good ruler and a noble woman."

"Most certainly."

Fairfax stared at the speaker, but met only an innocent, half- inquisitive, half-amused expression that forced him to smile in spite of himself. He was about to spere again, as Scotchmen say, when the procession came to a stop, and he heard the voice of Maloney exclaim:

"You puny haythens, where are you takin' us? My two legs are cramped from sittin' in this hencoop."

Fairfax stepped out of the palanquin ahead of Sione, who, though he was as nimble as a kitten, waited till two of his men approached, uncovered their heads, and assisted him to dismount.

"That young chap with the velvet coat and knee throwsers takes lots o' waitin' on," said Maloney to Fairfax, as the latter joined him and the Doctor. "Who is he anyhow? Is he a Grand Duke?"

"His name is Sione," answered Fairfax. "That's all I know about him, except that he seems a civil sort of fellow, and is somewhat fond of fun."

"He must be very high in authority," remarked Dr. Parkman. "See how respectfully, and even obsequiously, the soldiers bow before him."

"He's only a bit of a boy. Sure he's not commenced to wear long throwsers yet. He has a face like a woman."

"He's no child," returned the Doctor. "He comports himself as one born to command, and can be firm when occasion calls for it, I'll warrant. He's a handsome lad too. What grace! What dignity! That suit sets off his fine figure to advantage."

They were standing on the bank of the river, which, at this point, was navigable for small boats. It was overhung, on both sides, as far as they could see, by trees which, the Doctor said, were a species of cypress.

About a quarter of a mile away, was a bend in the river, round which there suddenly appeared two boats, each propelled by four rowers, dressed like the soldiers. The boats drew up to the shore near them and stopped; whereupon Sione, his prisoners, and a number of his soldiers embarked, Sione stepping into the same boat as our party. Eight more men took up oars and soon the two vessels were making good progress down stream.

The banks were too high to allow our friends a view of the surrounding country, but frequently a number of the natives appeared thereon, and gazed upon them with astonishment. These differed neither in complexion nor in general appearance from those we have described. Some wore the tunic; others—and their number was less—the toga. The latter did not look quite so sad as the former, nor was the same fierce look of determination in their countenances. They had more of a contented expression, as if their lot was not altogether one of hardship and toil. The women that now and then appeared seemed absolutely cheerful, Their faces were very white, almost waxen, and many of them were very good-looking. They were of all ages, between twenty-six or twenty-eight and eighty. Their attire was the same in style as that of the men, only their tunics were longer and furnished with wide sleeves. Most of them wore ornaments, such as bracelets and rings.

It would be impossible to describe the looks of astonishment and curiosity on the faces of these women as they regarded the strangers, who were so different in appearance from the men about them. They gazed and stared, as the aborigines of America did at the invading Europeans.

Fairfax, perhaps, came in for the most of their attention. Many a one rivetted her eyes on him alone. Many a one nudged her companions to look and behold what was, to them all, no doubt, a vision of masculine beauty.

A less modest man than Fairfax could not have failed to notice such openly-expressed admiration and interest, but our hero was more of a philosopher than beau, and the thing occupying his mind was the marked difference of expression in the countenances of the men and of the women.

"Tell me Doctor," said he, "can you make it out? Those thin, puny fellows, that look so ridiculous in the tunics, are all sad- faced; they look like galley slaves; while the men in the togas are comparatively pleasant."

"I have been thinking of the same thing, Fairfax," said the Doctor. "It strikes me there are wide chasms between the various social strata here. But what beats me is that the men in the toga virilis—See, there are a couple of them smiling like Roman praetors!—look sad compared with the women who are smilingly happy."

At this point the boats came to another bend in the river, and drew up to the shore. All disembarked. Our party were wondering if they had reached the place of their destination, when along came three handsome gondolas, furnished with gold-embroidered canopies. In these, by the order of Sione, they seated themselves.

The gondolas, under the propulsion of current and dexterously wielded oars, shot swiftly along, and, at the end of about two hours, our travellers reached the city they had seen from the hill, which, to all appearance, was even more beautiful than "Beautiful Venice."

They passed under several bridges, whereon stood gazing crowds, that, at the sight of a richly dressed figure in the hindmost gondola, uncovered their heads and shouted:

"Sione! Sione!"

They met other gondolas and sandolos whose occupants, on seeing Sione, immediately stopped their boats, uncovered their heads, and addressed the same salutation.

Sione accepted the homage about as coolly as the Shah of Persia would the greeting of a dervish, yet he smiled pleasantly and without affectation. He was evidently receiving what he was accustomed to regard his rights.

If he had been in the least observant he would have noticed—and, no doubt, he did—the looks of surprise on the faces of his captives, especially Butt Hewgill, who stared like an owl.

Our adventurers were beginning to realize the importance of the personage with whose company they had been honored. Fairfax already felt a liking for the handsome, dignified young leader who had made so little show of his greatness and had been so courteous and civil. He had been treated to a show of kindness when he had fallen asleep, and, since embarking, he had discovered on one of his fingers, a handsome jewelled ring, which Sione must have put there before he awoke.

It augured well.

On sped the gondolas, now shooting under arched bridges, now darting between crowded pleasure-boats that hastened out of the way; on between rows of magnificent houses that lined the river- banks; past beautiful gardens that touched the water's edge wherein played sparkling fountains, and gay groups lounged idly about; past public squares, public buildings and little palaces that represented every conceivable style of architecture, from the ancient Doric to the Elizabethan.

Everywhere our friends saw amazing incongruities that pleased rather than offended the eye; everywhere there were evidences of a highly advanced state of civilization, with its concomitants, wealth, refinement, taste and luxury.

They had hardly time to conjecture what the next surprise would be, when the gondolas stopped before a pair of high iron gates, and lo! before them stood a palace, that for architectural grandeur, if not for size, surpassed Windsor Castle.

The gates were thrown open, a foot-bridge was lowered, and, a few moments later, our four adventurers were led up a stairway of marble steps, between files of armed men, toward a portal that suggested grandeur and magnificence beyond it.

The gate was plated with gold!


X. — THE HIGH MONARCH.

DR. PARKMAN and his followers, on entering the Palace of the High Monarch, were absolutely bewildered by the strange and gorgeous sights they beheld. Led by Sione and a guard of men, they passed through several high rooms, that were just sufficiently lighted to reveal, to their astonished eyes, evidence of grandeur, such as is seen only in Oriental palaces. At the end of a wide hall they were met by the largest man they had yet seen, whose stature was little less than that of Maloney. He proved to be Gondaga, the Lord High Executioner. He made a profound obeisance to Sione, who scarcely noticed it, and, turning, led the whole party into a spacious courtroom, that was richly and elaborately ornamented. The ceiling was beautifully carved and painted; the walls glowed with crimson; and the glittering floor was paved with white mosaics. At one end was a high throne, adorned with purple and gold, behind which hung heavy rich curtains covering an entrance to an adjacent apartment.

Seated on one side of the court-room, on benches arranged in tiers, one above another, were some twenty or thirty wrinkled and dyspeptic-looking men, dressed in dark togas, who seemed to be about as old as Dr. Parkman. Taken individually they looked quite intellectual, but, when they were viewed as a body, this effect was lost in their resemblance to a band of monkeys. They had the same sad expression that was noted on the faces of the soldiers, but not the latter's look of ferocity that bespoke a continual mental warring against their lot in life.

They regarded our travellers, Butt Hewgill, in particular, with looks of wonder and awe, that made vain, and even ridiculous, their attempts to maintain a dignified composure. Some of them seemed absolutely frightened. They bowed low to Sione, who, for the first time it was remarked, showed care in returning a salutation.

Our friends were led to an enclosed space in front of the throne, and were allowed to seat themselves, Sione remaining near them and acting as if he were their patron rather than their captor. He looked strikingly handsome in his elegant attire, and it was not to be wondered at that the prisoners glanced oftener at him than at the strange-looking old men on the benches.

"I wonder who those ould clehericauns are," whispered Maloney to the Doctor. "They remind me of a sthring o' dhried herrin's that—"

"Hush!" said Sione, who had overheard him.

"They are the Seneces. In their hands, to some extent, rests your fate."

This was enough to put our adventurers on their best behavior. Maloney found it hard to remain quiet, but he gave in to the Doctor's earnest request that he should do nothing to alienate Sione's goodwill. He assumed a comic look of humility and penitence, and stared steadily at the Seneces. Fairfax's hopes were also based on Sione, who, though he seemed but a boy, acted like a person of great influence, going about the room quite freely, and speaking without hesitation to different members of the Seneces. While there was no particular deference in his manner toward them, they took the greatest pains to show him respect, as if they felt highly honored by his attention. One man, who was considerably older than the rest, and who afterwards proved to be the leader of the Seneces, kissed Sione on the cheek, and received a kiss in return.

This surprised our friends, but Sione, on rejoining them, explained that it was a customary salutation among equals, and was sometimes, but rarely, indulged in by persons of different ranks who desired to be friends. He looked as if he had a notion to kiss Fairfax, and proclaim his friendship there and then, but our hero made no show of reciprocation. He turned his attention to the Seneces, who chattered away like so many parrots and anon cast curious glances at the prisoners.

At length a hush fell upon the room. All eyes were turned toward the curtains behind the throne. They opened, and an old man, whose age could have been scarcely less than a hundred, appeared, followed by a herald, who exclaimed in stentorian tones:

"Alzira! Alzira! The High Monarch!"

All rose to their feet at this announcement. There was a dead silence for nearly a minute, during which time the prisoners felt they were being watched by unseen eyes.

At last appeared the Queen, accompanied by two women who were evidently her daughters. All three were gorgeously attired in the fashion which prevailed among the court ladies in France during the latter part of the seventeenth century.

Behind them came eight very old men, who, with the one that had preceded the herald, formed a body known as the Cognoscentes. Their coming together with the Seneces, as in the present case, turned both bodies into one general council known as the Gerusia, or assembly of elders, whose function it was to advise the High Monarch.

This information Sione whispered to Dr. Parkman while the royal personages were entering.

The Queen was a very handsome woman, yet her aspect was forbidding. Cruelty and suspicion lurked in every feature of her countenance. She was above the average height, and her figure and carriage were very imposing.

Her daughters were veiled, but, as our friends thought, if their faces corresponded with their graceful figures they were even more handsome than their stately mother.

Queen Alzira took her seat and proceeded, in a business-like way, to give her attention to the case before her. She glanced at the strangers, and, though she must have been as much surprised as her daughters, whose frames shook with agitation, she displayed no sign of it in her manner or looks. Her dignity seemed equal to any occasion, however extraordinary. She simply frowned, whereupon Butt Hewgill fell upon his knees and cried for mercy, till Maloney stopped him by adroitly poking him in the ribs.

Sione had told Fairfax that, on the entrance of Her Majesty, he and his friends must kneel, to which Fairfax and Maloney had replied they would kneel to no woman. Sione showed much concern, and tried to whisper some words of advice to our hero, who, with the Doctor and Maloney, rose to his feet and made a respectful bow.

"Kneel before the High Monarch and the Princesses," exclaimed the Seneces in unison.

Our friends, with the exception of Butt, stood erect.

"Who are these men that dare appear before our Majesty and refuse to kneel?" said the Queen angrily. "Who are they, good Sione?"

Sione dropped gracefully on one knee, and then arose and approached the throne. In a voice, sweetly musical, he related how the ship-wrecked strangers had been seen some distance away on the water, how they had landed, leaving one of their number to sink, and how his men had conveyed them hither. Who they were, or whence and why they came he could not well explain.

Fairfax noted, with satisfaction, that, while Sione seemed anxious to give an impartial statement, he endeavored to present them in the best possible light to his Sovereign. He remarked, too, that the Queen listened to the recital with the greatest interest, which was shared in by her daughters and all present, and that she frowned with displeasure.

"What harm can we have done?" thought he. "It is surely no crime to have saved ourselves from a watery grave."

The Queen conferred with her Cognoscentes, and presently one of them came forward and said:

"Men of another race, my Sovereign demands to know who you are, and why you seek to disturb the peace of our island by coming here. Is your own world not large enough for you? Speak, whoever among you is leader."

Dr. Parkman arose, and imitating Sione, bent his knee to the floor.

"Your Majesty," said he, as he resumed his former attitude, "if we fail to give satisfactory answers to your questions, you can attribute it to our surprise at finding here a race of people differing in so many respects from ourselves, and yet possessing so many things in common with us—notably the language with which we clothe our thoughts. At the outset, we wish to assure you that we came here with no evil intentions. We think our appearance, and the helpless condition in which you found us ought to relieve us from the suspicion of having sought to bring discord among you."

He then gave a long account of his voyage, to which the Queen and the Seneces listened with ever increasing signs of fear and displeasure. He told of the great world they had left; of its various races of people, with the salient points of difference in their languages, customs and habits; and showed how small this island must be, in comparison even with one small island that boasted of being "Mistress of the Seas."

"Is not your Majesty surprised," said he, in conclusion—"to find that there is another world so vast; that your island is so small that it has escaped the notice of navigators who have scoured the five great oceans I have named?"

The Queen smiled. She was evidently inclined to like Dr. Parkman, who showed her, in his manner and speech, so much deferential respect.

"No," she answered, "we have not been ignorant of the existence of another and greater world, but we wish to have no communication with it, and hence regard your coming here as an intrusion."

"We will go away if it please your Majesty."

"How could you do so?" she asked. "You have no vessel."

"Nothing is impossible to Englishmen," replied the Doctor calmly, little dreaming that his vain boast was to produce the most direful consequences.

Queen Alzira bit her lip with vexation. The Seneces and Cognoscentes glanced at one another in alarm. The Doctor's words meant a good deal to them.

"Yes, your Majesty," continued the simple old man, "we will be pleased to go away if it be your desire. We will—"

"That can never be," she said somewhat sternly. "We do not desire the outside world to become acquainted with us."

"May I presume to ask your Majesty if others have touched the shores of your island before?"

"You are not the first. But none have ever left it who landed."

"I crave your Majesty's pardon if I offend by saying that we must be an exception. I and my followers—"

The Doctor got no further in his remarks. He was interrupted by the loud hum of angry dissent that arose from the benches occupied by the Seneces.

The Queen sat bolt upright. A look of wrath overspread her handsome features. She was about to strike a small gong near her, when one of her daughters gently touched her arm and whispered some words to her, whereupon she desisted, and, turning to Dr. Parkman, said:

"Insolent man, how dare you speak thus? We will teach you that the will of the High Monarch is supreme. Gondaga, take these prisoners to the Bastile."

"The Bastile!" exclaimed Fairfax and the Doctor in one breath.

"Yes, the Bastile," said the Queen, who had caught their involuntary ejaculation. "You were not aware that we, too, have a Bastile. You will have a chance to become acquainted with it. Away!"

Our friends were absolutely dumbfounded. Here was an island unknown to the world, and yet it had institutions that existed in Europe centuries ago, and some that prevailed among the Romans before the birth of our Saviour. It was astonishing.

Fairfax looked around to catch the eye of Sione, but the latter was not in the room. He had retired while the Doctor was relating his story.

The change that followed was so sudden and unexpected that our adventurers might well have thought they were in one of those frightful dreams that occupy but an infinitesimal portion of time. The edict had scarcely fallen from the Queen's lips when they were seized and carried bodily out of the court, through several rooms and halls, across a short open courtyard, and into a building nearly as large as the palace itself. After traversing several musty corridors, they were thrust into a dungeon, and the door closed upon them with a bang resembling thunder.


XI. — A VISION OF LOVELINESS.

THE cell was large and, as Maloney said, "aisily able to accommodate the four of them." It was almost dark; but a few streaks of light came through a small iron-barred window about six feet above their heads. At one end were two rude beds, a wash-stand, and two stools; and at the other end, near the wall, stood a screen. What the screen was for they could not tell. At any other time they would have conjectured a good deal on the matter, but just now their minds were occupied with the events that had lately occurred and with their chances of regaining liberty.

"What are we put in here for?" whined Butt.

"For thrason," said the mischievous Maloney. "You'll be guillotined two hours afther daylight because you didn't prosthrate your delicate carcass before her nibs, the Queen."

"What have I done, I prithee tell me?"

"Keep quiet, Butt," said Fairfax. "Stop teasing him, Maloney. Our case is serious enough. Doctor, I can't understand what offence we have given."

"I am of the opinion," said the Doctor—and the wild-eyed Butt hung on his every word—"that the mere fact of our landing on their island is offence enough. I believe what Alzira says, that no one ever left it after landing upon it."

"How would you account for this strange race of people?"

"An' their ould fangled styles as ancient as Caesar?" added Maloney.

"My theory," said the Doctor, "and it is based partly on what that handsome young fellow, Sione, told me on the boat, is that the island was first peopled by a number of the ancient Romans, though how they got here is to me an inexplicable mystery. They are certainly of Roman origin. Their dress and some of their customs prove as much, and some of their words are pure Latin."

"But that would not account for the English language, many modern customs, and the dress of Sione and the royal ladies which is almost exactly of the style that prevailed in France in the reign of Louis XIV."

"Sione hinted to me," replied the Doctor, "that this island has been twice visited since the first settlers came: Once, when feudalism was at its height in Europe, and again about the period you mention—the reign of Louis XIV. As for the extremely fair complexion of the people, assuming they were of the Caucasian race, their skin would be white; climatic influences may have made it whiter."

"What's that got to do with gettin' out of this ugly hole?" exclaimed Maloney, tugging at the iron door that would have resisted twenty times his strength.

"It's no use, Maloney. You may as well sit down," said the philosophic Dr. Parkman. "We're here till the Queen sees fit to release us."

"Arrah bad scran to her an' her ould Seneces. Why can't they let gentlemen alone? We did nothin' but ate a few berries."

"That's so, but they look at things in a different light."

"Can't we escape?" asked Butt plaintively.

"We might," replied the facetious Maloney, "if we could find a chink in the wall big enough to let you through."

"No, Butt," said Fairfax, "escape for the present is out of the question. Even if we could get out of this we would certainly be recaptured. The best thing we can do is to wait patiently till something turns up. I fancy that young fellow, Sione, will try to mollify the Queen's anger."

So they waited; and as there was nothing else to do, talked about what they had seen, and discussed their chances of being released. They were not altogether cheerless. Each of them, except the lachrymose Butt, had some hope that the Queen would relent, but all disliked the indignity and discomfort of their position. Had they known Queen Alzira as well as they afterwards knew her, they would not have based such high hopes on her mercy.

As tired as Fairfax was, he could not sleep, and for a long time lay listening to the breathing of his companions, who slept soundly. He was just falling into a doze, when his ear caught what he thought to be the sound of a footstep at the end of the cell.

He listened. The noise was repeated. Apparently someone had entered and was secreted behind the screen. How the entrance had been effected he could not imagine; the door was fifteen feet away from the screen.

He rose to his feet, and, at the same moment, in the dim light, he saw a white hand and arm protrude over the screen and beckon him toward it. He advanced to the spot but found no one there.

"The want of sleep is muddling my brain," he said aloud. "I could swear I saw someone and heard a rustling sound."

"So you did," was the soft whisper which came from the wall behind him.

"Who are you?" exclaimed Fairfax.

"Hush! Come nearer. Give me your hand," was the reply.

He approached the wall, and, reaching out his hand, felt it clasped by a hand that was much smaller, softer, and warmer than his own.

"Come."

"Where?"

"Shish! Not a word. Come quickly."

A little door had opened in a part of the wall where his eye had been unable to detect even the sign of a door, and, following his mysterious conductor, he emerged from the cell. To do so he had to stoop, as the door was less than four feet high.

"Who are you?" he asked, while his breath came fast.

It was too dark to see the person beside him.

"A friend," was the whispered reply. "Come."

"I cannot leave my companions."

"For a few moments only. It is for your sake and theirs. I'll bring you back."

Fairfax instinctively felt it was a woman's hand he held. There was something in the touch that was different from that of the rough hand of a man. He allowed himself to be led forward to where there was sufficient light to enable him to see the outline of the form beside him. It was, as he had divined, a woman. She was tall and of most magnificent figure. She was dressed in a fleecy robe of white, and her face was veiled.

He was surprised beyond expression. He had seen no women about the palace but the Queen and the princesses, and, though they all possessed graceful figures, they could not compare with this statuesque model.

Thinking it might be a trap set by the Queen to get him into further trouble, he relinquished her hand and said: "Where are you taking me?"

"Into the next cell. Do you mistrust me?"

"No, but—

"I assure you it is for your own good. I am your friend."

"You?"

"Yes. Come. To remain here is dangerous."

Her voice was wondrously soft and sweet. It had that alluring quality we ascribe to the voices of the Sirens; yet there was a ring of sincerity in it that affected Fairfax. He took a couple of steps forward and came to a sudden stop.

"How do I know you are my friend?" he said.

"I will prove it," she replied, coming nearer to him.

"How?"

"In the manner customary among us."

She came so close that he could feel her warm breath on his cheek. Suddenly, before he could guess her intention, she slightly raised her veil and kissed him. The veil was lowered so quickly that he had no time to see her features even if the semidarkness had permitted it.

For a moment he was so staggered he knew not what to do or say. A strange influence was bringing him under its domination. It was not the kiss, though it thrilled through him like an electric shock, nor the force of her magnetic presence, which he had felt from the first. He knew, from what Sione had told him, that friendships were proffered and confirmed by this form of salutation, and that the custom was quite a common one. It was the fear that he might be taking a step prejudicial to the interests of the man he had sworn to protect, a feeling that he ought not to tread a path the whole extent of which he could not plainly see. He made another movement as if to retreat.

"Come on," repeated the siren-like voice, and again he felt the soft, warm hand clasping his own.

He followed her into the cell she had spoken of, which was empty and well lighted. Having fastened the door, she stood listening for a few moments, her head slightly lowered, and her bosom heaving with excitement.

"Sit down," she whispered, and she motioned him to a bench.

Fairfax watched her, thinking he had never seen, or even imagined, such a superb picture of grace. She surpassed the divine Hebe.

Presently she approached and seated herself beside him.

"I have brought you here to have a talk with you," she said, drawing her veil tighter so that there was no possibility of his seeing her face. "I want to give you some advice."

"Thank you. I will hear it."

"The Queen fears you and your companions, and will not feel easy till she has put you to death."

"What for?"

"For no other reason than to save her queendom. She and the Cognoscentes believe that, if you left the island, others would find out its existence and whereabouts and we should be disturbed."

"It is foolish to talk of our leaving the island."

"She thinks not. She remembers what your old friend said—"

"Ridiculous boast. He asserted that Englishmen could do anything."

"Well, she believes it. Unfortunately for yourself, you look like a man who could accomplish much. You ought to remove this impression."

"Tell me, are we the first Europeans to come here?"

"No. The island was twice visited before to-day. Of the first visit I know very little. It occurred hundreds of years ago. Most of the traditions concerning it are in the possession of the Queen and the Cognoscentes, who do not encourage the spread of such knowledge. With this influx of people—their number was not large—came those mediaeval customs that are to be found amongst us to-day."

Fairfax felt like asking her a very pertinent question, which her last words suggested, but, seeing she was about to continue, he remained silent.

"About two centuries after the discovery of America," she said, "a French exploring party was lost in the Pacific, and drifted to this island, where they remained and became a part of the people. That is, some of them; the greater number, I believe, were put to death. I myself am directly descended from a French Marquis who, with his wife and family, was amongst the number cast ashore."

"That accounts, I presume, for your people being so far advanced in civilization?"

"Yes; they owed much to the Europeans, who took the trouble to teach them, but they were far from being barbarians before these strangers came."

"Why has your island not become known to the world before this?"

"As to that, there are two opinions prevalent here. The greater number of the wise and learned think that the earth is flat, and that our island is outside of the world you have explored. Those who believe in the globular form of the earth, say that a convergence of ocean currents, some distance away, gives, to the surrounding waters, an influence that prevents—except at two times in the year—vessels from coming near us. The present is one of those times. Had it been three days later, the current would not have borne you toward the land. That was why your approach was seen; we were on the lookout."

"I beg your pardon a moment," said Fairfax. "Much of what you have said presupposes a knowledge, on your part, of considerable that has happened in our world."

"To be sure," she answered, and he could hear her laughing behind her veil. "I, like a good many more here, am better acquainted with the history of your world than that of our own little island. You will find amongst us some that can tell you all about the Assyrian, Persian, Macedonian, and Roman Empires; how each successively rose and declined. You will find few laying claim to any degree of scholarship, that are unable to bridge with events the time extending from the subversion of the Western Empire of the Romans down to the very end of the world's history."

"Good Heavens! When is that?" exclaimed Fairfax in amazement.

"O, I forgot," she said, laughing, "with you, it has not yet ended. We had ceased to expect another visitation."

"It is astonishing."

"Not at all. The knowledge came with the European visitors, several of whom were people of rank and very highly educated. They were willing to teach; we, to learn, for you can easily imagine that our little island, which we could explore in a week, would have less attractions for us than that vast outside, magical world. O you must teach me the rest of its history! You must let me know what has happened since—Tell me, did the Man of the Iron Mask die? Did they find out who he was?"

"He died and his secret with him," said Fairfax, "and I'll be glad to tell you all I know when I have opportunity. Meantime explain to me how it is that ancient Roman customs prevail and—"

"Hadn't we better talk of your safety? We have been forgetting it. I have not long to stay. I am running great risks for you. I could not see you die."

Fairfax was puzzled. A strange female was interested in his safety. She was endangering herself for him! Who on earth could she be?

"Thank you," he said, "I should like to see the face of my new friend."

"I am not a new friend."

"I should like to see your face anyhow. It must be beautiful."

His last remark escaped him before he thought of himself. Somehow her personality influenced him in the direction of candor. The girl laughed—a rippling, musical laugh, that showed she was pleased, as well as amused—and made a pretense of tying her veil still tighter.

"Why do you think so?" she asked.

Fairfax did not say that, in her white robes, she looked so magnificently grand that her face must be angelic in its beauty; but he thought so nevertheless. He mumbled something about wanting to be able to recognize her in future.

"Come let us discuss a plan for your safety," she said. "You must—"

"Let me see your face first."

"Is it of greater importance?"

"Yes."

"Well—"

Another rippling laugh, that was pleasant to hear, and she rose to her feet, a perfect model of symmetry and grace. Well might Fairfax be excused for assuming that her face must be divinely fair. Could any other than the face of a goddess be allied to a figure so superb?

She slowly unwound her veil, laughing the while.

His heart beat fast as she said playfully and coquettishly.

"I hope you will like me."

The veil fell, and Fairfax started to his feet in astonishment that even his high expectations failed to modify. Before him stood a vision of beauty such as no painter or sculptor, modern or ancient, ever dreamed of. The sight of her loveliness almost took his breath away. She could not be described. Her golden hair alone was a poem, but it could not be read while her cheeks of alabaster whiteness dilated the vision; her features could not he examined in detail while her beautiful eyes dazzled the one who gazed upon her. She was simply a bewitching, intoxicating, ravishing dream of splendor as she stood smiling at the look of surprise on his face.

Why was Fairfax so astonished that he could not speak? It was not alone the revelation of a world of loveliness that confounded him.

It was the woman herself. He had seen her before. She was the leader of the soldiers—Sione!


XII. — THE ROYAL LADIES.

"YOU look surprised," said the laughing Sione.

"It would be hard for me to look otherwise," replied Fairfax. "I was never so amazed in my life."

"Are you disappointed?"

"No; far from it. But I do not understand."

"Understand what?"

"To-day I saw you a leader of the soldiers, in male attire that became you wonderfully well; now you are dressed like the rest of your sex, and look even more charming."

He did not say this by way of compliment; but it was evident she accepted it as such. She smiled, and, blushing a rosy red, said:

"Well."

"It bewilders me. You are a woman."

"That need not surprise you. I am Commander-in-Chief of the Militia. On this island woman holds all offices of superiority and command, except one or two that are attended with drudgery and little honor."

"What!"

Fairfax's eyes opened wider and wider, and Sione, smiling, went on:

"In your world, I believe, woman is considered the weaker vessel. Here the case is reversed. Man, except in a physical sense, is the weaker. Woman, as regards authority, is man's superior. She is at the head of the State; at the head of the household. She rules. Man obeys her, as the women obey the men in your world."

"Wonderful! I cannot see how the men, being stronger, submit to it."

"You don't understand it because it is so different from the notions which the customs of your country give you. Here, man is of a rank lower than woman's. He is her slave. He is actuated in everything by a chivalric devotion to her as a superior being. The highest rank or office to which man can attain (there are two exceptions) does not place him on a level with the humblest woman. The Cognoscentes are the advisers of the Queen; the Seneces are a Legislative Council. The members of these, on account of their age and their wisdom—the only considerations that could gain them preferment—are alone regarded as equal to the humblest married woman, but they are of a rank far lower than that of the maidens."

"Can the latter be distinguished by their dress?"

"Yes, as a general rule. I am now wearing the conventional dress of a maiden. I wear male attire only when in my official capacity."

"Tell me—"

"No. No more now," said Sione, smiling at the look of astonishment on his face. "Your life is of more account to me than your enlightenment in the matter of our social customs. I hope it is to you."

"Yes. You are very kind."

"I have come particularly to warn you to beware of Gondaga. Do not offend the Queen again. Try to conciliate her. Let no foolish notions of pride stand in the way."

"I and my friends cannot submit to being treated as children by your Queen."

"She will send for you soon," interrupted Sione, taking no apparent notice of what he had said, "and she will ask you many questions. A sullen look on your part, an indiscreet word, a refusal to do homage to her Majesty may cost you your life. Nay, you may be put to death without giving further offence."

"It is good of you to warn me."

"I came to tell you something else you may use to your advantage."

"What?"

"The Queen's daughters admire you—a fact that may be both favorable and unfavorable to your interests, for, even if you should love one, you cannot love both, and trouble is likely to come from it. However, they would have it in their power to save you and your friends, if you won, and retained, their good- will. Try to please them. Yet take care. Don't lose your heart to either of them."

"Why?"

Sione looked round, bent slightly forward as if listening, and then made a sign to Fairfax to keep still. Evidently her ear had caught a sound.

"Give me your hand," she whispered in excitement, and she arose from the bench. "Come quickly."

He followed the beautiful girl as he was bidden. When they reached the door, through which they had passed from the cell, Sione paused and listened. Though Fairfax could not see her, he knew she was trembling with fear. He started himself when he heard sounds of voices in the cell.

"It's Gondaga," she whispered. "He may have received an order for your execution."

"I don't want to get you into trouble by keeping you here," said Fairfax. "Open the door and I'll slip in."

She opened the door cautiously. He crawled in, and lay quiet in the corner of his cell. It was quite dark, but scarcely had he touched the floor when a light appeared, and Gondaga and two other men entered. They uttered an exclamation of surprise when they saw him. Evidently they had searched the corner before and found it empty. Maloney and the Doctor, who were awake, seemed even more surprised. Fairfax stole a look toward the small door, and was overjoyed to find it had been closed in time. The beautiful Sione was safe.

"Come. The High Monarch wants you," said Gondaga.

"All right. Come Doctor, Maloney—"

"She wants you alone."

"I can't go without the old gentleman," said Fairfax, mindful of his oath. "I don't want to leave him."

There came a time when he regretted having let Gondaga know this much.

"You must come alone. She commands it."

Fairfax hesitated. He did not like to leave the Doctor, but a sign, conveyed to him by the latter, helped him to conclude that, after all, perhaps, it was better to comply with the order. He submitted to being blindfolded by Gondaga and his men, and followed them.

At the end of about fifteen minutes they stopped, and the bandage was taken from his eyes. He found himself in a room about half the size of the court, but altogether different from it in appearance. Everything that could suggest luxury and magnificence was there. It was evidently one of the palace drawing-rooms, for there were handsome sofas, couches, and lounging chairs disposed about. Besides Gondaga and his men, who immediately retired to a corner of the room, there were present eight or ten of the Cognoscentes and Seneces that he had seen some hours before. These talked together in whispers, and looked very grave, as if they were confronted by a question that transcended in importance anything that had ever been submitted to them.

Fairfax seated himself because he was too fatigued to stand any longer, and he found that, while all looked surprised at his action, no one raised any objection.

Presently two of the Seneces left their places, and drew aside heavy rich curtains, between which appeared, a moment later, Queen Alzira and her two daughters. One of them, the elder, had very homely features, but she was of elegant figure, and was possessed of so much grace and dignity that she made a passable appearance. When she saw Fairfax, a blush suffused her faded cheeks, and she dropped her sad-looking eyes.

The younger princess was a very pretty girl, with an air of sprightliness and good-humor that enhanced her attractiveness. She, too, looked at our hero, but in a different way from that of her sister. Her glances were coquettish, half defiant.

On their entrance, Fairfax arose from his chair and allowed one knee to touch the floor. Then he stood erect, and calmly waited for the Queen to speak.

Alzira stood for some moments regarding him with a puzzled expression of countenance. She seemed pleased with his respectful obeisance, and yet somewhat disconcerted by his marked independence of manner. She advanced to a chair, elevated above the rest, and took her seat. Her daughters seated themselves one on each side of her.

"Ozito," she said, "approach and stand before me."

Fairfax looked around to see who Ozito was, when one of the Cognoscentes came forward and explained that he, Fairfax, was meant. He stepped forward in obedience to the order, and, at the same moment, at a sign given by the Queen, all of the men, except three Cognoscentes, left the room.

There was silence for fully a minute, during which time our hero underwent a scrutiny that was by no means agreeable to him. It seemed to give pleasure to the royal ladies, however, for their faces brightened, and, in their eyes, shone a light that the Cognoscentes were not slow to interpret as that of admiration.

At length the Queen spoke.

"Ozito," she said, "you and your friends have offended us in more ways than one."

"If it was by seeking safety and shelter on your island, your Majesty," replied Fairfax, "the elements of nature are more to blame than we. If we offended you to-day by the omission, or violation, of certain forms of court etiquette, we plead ignorance of the customs of your fair country."

"That is well answered," said the Queen, smiling, "and I am inclined to release you from the death I had intended for you; but your pardon will depend upon your action in the matter I now present to you."

Fairfax bowed, and Alzira turned to the Cognoscentes, with whom she held a consultation in whispers for several minutes. It seemed to be more a matter of show than anything else, for, while they listened to her with the greatest deference, they seemed afraid to make suggestions. They did little more than nod their heads.

Fairfax was so exhausted that once he staggered, and almost fell. The Princesses, who had never taken their admiring eyes off him, noticed this, and spoke to their mother.

"Ozito," said the Queen, turning toward him. "These are my daughters, Ayzala and Numeni. They say you are fatigued. You may sit down."

He expressed some words of thanks, and dropped into a chair. He could see the looks of pleasure on the faces of the Princesses. They smiled, and blushed slightly when he bowed to them in recognition of their thoughtfulness.

Presently the Queen touched a silken cord, and a female page entered the room.

"Send the Commander-in-Chief here," was the order given. In a few moments Sione entered, and Fairfax was surprised to find that worthy personage in the seventeenth century dress she wore when he first saw her. She looked very enchanting—irresistibly so—and it was easy to see the princesses were not pleased to have her present. Ayzala, the elder, in particular, showed dissatisfaction, and frowned when she saw a smile of recognition pass between Sione and Fairfax.

As for the latter, his drowsiness was gone. In the presence of such ravishing beauty as Sione's, he was wide awake, and alive to the wonderfully magnetic force of her personality. To see her, as she appeared in her military attire, was to experience an overpowering, but delicious, sense of intoxication. She was a dream—a poem.

Sione was called into consultation with the Queen and the Cognoscentes, and, whatever was the subject discussed, she held views different from those of the others, and expressed them quite forcibly. Whether from the power of her beauty, or her rank, or from the power of both, she drew, from the aged Cognoscentes, a show of homage and deference scarcely second to that accorded the Queen.

Presently Alzira turned to our hero and said:

"Ozito, you and your friends can never leave our island; and you cannot remain on it unless you become a part of ourselves. If you make an attempt to leave, death will be the penalty. If you choose to become one of us, accept me as your Sovereign, and promise obedience to our laws, I will give to you, in marriage, my daughter, Ayzala, release your companions, and make you a prince. What do you say?"


XIII. — ONLY A MAN.

FAIRFAX was so astounded that, for a moment or two, he doubted he was not dreaming. It was all so much like a scene of the Arabian Nights. He glanced at Ayzala. She was blushing and trembling with suspense; and in her eyes was an earnest, pleading expression that touched him less than it bewildered him. She had fallen desperately in love with him and was making no attempt to conceal it.

Sione was as pale as death when Fairfax arose to speak. She evidently thought it impossible for him to refuse the offer.

"Your Majesty," he began, not knowing what to say, and inwardly laughing at the ridiculousness of his position. "You are very good to offer such honors to me, but I must decline them."

"Decline them!" exclaimed the Queen angrily. All were astonished at this apparent insult to her Majesty. The Cognoscentes turned pale, Ayzala nearly fainted, and the Queen looked full of wrath. Only Numeni and Sione seemed pleased; but the latter looked frightened as well, for her friend was in danger.

"Why do you decline the proffered hand of my daughter, the Princess Ayzala?" asked the Queen.

"Because I am unworthy of so exalted and estimable a person," answered our hero, who was glad Maloney was not present to add to his discomfort. "It is not my nature to aspire to reach the level of those so far above me."

This answer pleased the Queen mightily, for she did not see the double meaning in it, and it caused such a change in the countenance of Ayzala, that, for a moment, she looked almost handsome.

"Ozito," said the Queen, "we are satisfied as to your worthiness. Ayzala herself is pleased with you, and has chosen you for her husband."

Here Ayzala blushed a deep scarlet, and Sione and Numeni bit their lips.

"By Jove, they're going to dispose of me in spite of myself," thought Fairfax. Aloud he said: "It is very good of your Majesty to say so."

"Had you always been a subject of ours, there would now be nothing further to say in the matter," continued Alzira, "but, as you come from a land where other customs prevail, we will show you the courtesy of asking your wishes. Answer, therefore: Will you let Ayzala take you in marriage?"

This was a great condescension on the part of Alzira. It seemed to surprise the Cognoscentes, who had never seen her act in any other than the most arbitrary way; but it did not deceive her daughters, who knew her words meant nothing less than a command, put, through a whim of hers, into interrogative form.

Fairfax looked at Sione. Her face was very pale, and he could see her trembling with suppressed excitement. If she were in Ayzala's place, he felt that he could accept the offer, close the bargain, and save his friends. But he would not marry Ayzala if it were to place him on the throne.

"Your Majesty," he replied, "I am overcome by the honor you heap upon me. The only way I know to show my appreciation is to ask you to allow me to wait until such time as I may prove to the lovely Ayzala I am worthy of her."

This clever speech gave Alzira and the Princess Ayzala much pleasure, as was seen in their looks. They smiled very affably. The Queen told him that he and Ayzala would be considered as betrothed until gamos-day, which was now at hand. At the tournament, which was then to take place, he would have a chance to prove his worthiness, and meanwhile he and his friends would be entertained in the Castle.

There were three persons to whom this announcement did not give pleasure. These were Sione, Numeni, the younger Princess, and a man who had long hoped to gain the hand of Ayzala—Gondaga, the Lord High Executioner, who, from that moment, was Fairfax's deadly enemy.

Butt Hewgill was nearly stupefied, when, half an hour later, he, Maloney and the Doctor were ushered into a gorgeously- furnished room in the Palace. There, waiting to receive them, was their friend Jack Fairfax, surrounded by everything that was luxurious and magnificent. A sumptuous repast was spread on an ebony table, and a number of females, in Greek costume, were flitting about ready to bring them anything they desired.

There was no chance to talk among themselves, no chance to question Fairfax as to the cause of this sudden change in their condition. They had to bridle their curiosity, affect an air of nonchalance, and sit down to partake of the viands, which were of the choicest description.

Though Fairfax knew well this state of affairs could not last, that trouble must come from it sooner or later, he could not help enjoying the amazement of Butt and Maloney. Both were gifted with prodigious appetites, and with more than the average degree of curiosity, and it was the essence of fun to see them trying to satisfy both at once. They would fill their mouths with Pantagruelic zest, steal furtive glances around the room, and cast eloquent looks toward their companion beseeching him to explain.

But greater was the surprise of the females—all women above the age of twenty-five—who, at the Queen's order, and for the first time in their lives, honored men by waiting upon them. They had never seen such men before, and had certainly never seen such vigorous execution at a table.

From the mercurial Maloney, they looked to the sad-visaged, corpulent Butt, who, on an island, where all the males were lean, might well have been put on exhibition as a curiosity. Then they looked at the handsome Fairfax, who carried himself so differently from all men they had ever known; who displayed none of those signs of servility they were so accustomed to see; and their opinions could be read in the glances they exchanged among themselves.

When the banquet had fairly begun, another band of females entered, bearing musical instruments of the mandolin order, and discoursed sweet music for the delectation of the strangers. Everything possible was done by Queen Alzira to make it pleasant for her guests. Her orders were that they should want for nothing that could be procured.

"'Pon me veracity this is a threat," exclaimed Maloney, no longer able to restrain himself. "Play on with your banjos, girls—some good lively music so that my friend Butt here can ate faster."

"Hush! Keep quiet, Mike," whispered Fairfax, taking a mouthful to resist laughter.

"D'ye see this delicate little boy, girls? His name is Butt. He's only a hundhred an' fifty years ould. It took him all that time to grow to his present capacious dimensions. He's a lineal descendant of the renowned Finn MacCool that—"

"Mike!"

The musicians were so disconcerted that they kept but poor time. Butt must have appeared to them somewhat as the Brobdignagians did to Gulliver, and Maloney was still a greater phenomenon, for he was the first jolly man they had ever seen.

At last the banquet was over, and our four friends were led to separate apartments, in the Palace. Fairfax was favored with a room that connected by a door with Dr. Parkman's.

The rest they enjoyed that night was deliciously refreshing.

Next day everything possible was done for their entertainment, and they were allowed to roam about the Castle and the grounds at will; yet each one of them felt he was being watched by unseen eyes, and that his every movement was being speculated upon and criticised. Go where he would Fairfax would encounter Gondaga, and the look the latter gave him each time left him no doubt that he was an object of jealousy and fierce hate to the Lord High Executioner.

Both he and Dr. Parkman had an interview with the Queen. She treated them most courteously, yet with the reserve and dignity of manner becoming to a Sovereign. She listened to their account of their voyage and the disaster that had overtaken them, and asked many questions that were hard to evade—all pointing in one direction, and aimed at finding the answer to the one great question that was puzzling the Cognoscentes and the Seneces, and, indeed, nearly all the inhabitants of the city:

Where had the strangers been going? What had been the object of their expedition?

She inquired what great events had taken place, in the world's history, since the last influx of Europeans, which, as nearly as our friends could make out, was toward the close of the seventeenth century, and Dr. Parkman satisfied her curiosity by giving her a historic sketch of such length, that Fairfax thought it was never going to end. She showed especial interest in the French Revolution; in its causes, which were all arguments against the exercise of arbitrary power; and in its effects, some of them so far-reaching as to be still felt. The overthrow of certain monarchies, the rise of popular government, and the general growth of democracy had more interest for her than the extension of commerce between nations, the advance of science, and the wonderful inventions and improvements of the nineteenth century. Arkwright and Watt, who had heaped blessings on humanity at large, found less favor in her eyes than Pitt and Hastings, who had outshone Mazarin and Richelieu in aggrandizing their sovereigns.

She wanted to know what part women had played in the world's history of late, and showed considerable surprise when Dr. Parkman informed her that woman had done very little, except in an indirect way, by keeping within her proper sphere, the domestic circle, and thus encouraging man. Was it possible the last two centuries had not produced a Joan of Arc, a Boadicea or a Semiramis? It was quite possible, the Doctor said. Modern civilization was hard on woman.

Altogether it was a very pleasant chat. In dismissing them, the Queen thanked them for their information, and promised them both many honors when Ozito and her daughter, Ayzala, were married.

The thought of a union with Ayzala was most repugnant to Fairfax, and it seriously bothered him to think that the woman regarded him as her property, when he had not the slightest intention of marrying her.

"Doctor," he said, when they were all together and imagined they were alone, "I don't like the idea of deceiving anyone with false hopes. I think I should tell the Queen I will not marry Ayzala."

"Wait a little longer, my son," returned the old man, who had lost all the acerbity of tongue he had shown on the vessel. "Time may get us out of the difficulty. You are not to blame."

"But time will make it worse for Ayzala, who—"

"Marry the girl," interrupted Maloney. "She's a decent woman an' you might do worse."

"I wouldn't marry her if it was to save me from immediate hanging," said Fairfax.

Gondaga, concealed behind a set of curtains, overheard these words, and smiled grimly as he thought how he could use them to his advantage. He left his hiding-place, and went straight to seek an interview with the Queen.

A half hour later Fairfax met Sione in one of the halls of the Palace. She was looking lovely, but her smiles and light-hearted manner were gone. On his inquiring the cause of her sadness, she said:

"I am not well to-day. Do you intend to marry Ayzala?"

"Never."

A flush of joy lighted up her face in a moment, and, before Fairfax knew what she was going to do, she took hold of his hand, placed another ring on his finger, and departed smiling.

"The plot thickens," muttered our astonished hero, as, turning, he came face to face with Ayzala, who had probably seen and overheard what passed between him and Sione.

"So you have deceived me," she said.

Her face was pale with anger, jealousy, and the stings of unrequited love.

Fairfax knew not what to say. Chivalrous and tender-hearted, he wished to spare her feelings, yet he could not honestly say a word that would not give her pain. He did not believe her love was real, but he did believe she could suffer as much through her pride, as through her affections.

"You love Sione," she said. "You do not love me."

She had opened the battle herself and there was now no help for it.

"Ayzala," he replied, "I do not love Sione, and it is equally true I do not love you. In our world it takes a long time, sometimes years, to establish such an affection as you profess to have for me; and besides—"

"In your world," she interrupted, "there are many men from whom, perhaps, it is hard to choose. Here there is but one man, and the choice is easy. It is you-you-you."

"That is neither here nor there," said Fairfax, quite unconscious of his play upon words, and, letting the compliment fall off him as easily as water drips off a mackintosh. "In time I might get to like you—indeed I now regard you as an estimable person—but I must be candid and tell you I can never either love or marry you."

"You must. You are mine."

"I did not promise you."

"You have nothing to say in the matter. I chose you and I'll choose you again publicly on gamos-day. I loved you at first sight. You are mine by right."

"By what right?"

"By the law; by the Queen's command. I chose you. I am the Princess Ayzala, the daughter of generations of Queens. Would you dare set your will against the heir to the throne, the daughter of the royal Alzira?"

"Ayzala, leave aside the question of what I dare to do. I tell you here I dare to die rather than be coerced into marrying one I do not love. And let me tell you that, in our world, we wed only when we love."

"I love you."

"But I have no love for you—only respect."

"You have nothing to do with it. You are only a man."

"Only a man!"

"That's all. Here the meanest woman, let alone a mighty princess, has the right to choose her husband. I'll see the Queen."

She departed, weeping, to tell her story to her royal mother, who, at that very moment, was receiving it, in a distorted form, from the wicked Gondaga.

"So you tell me, Gondaga, he insults our Majesty by refusing to wed our daughter Ayzala?"

"Yes, I heard him," replied the Lord High Executioner. "All four of them are laughing over it now. They have called the beautiful Ayzala ridiculous names."

"We'll see," said the Queen, with a wrathful look. "Ah! here is Ayzala now. Is it true that he spurns you, my daughter?"

"Yes. He loves Sione. She gave him a ring and betrothed him to her."

The Queen flew into a terrible rage, and vowed vengeance on the man that had put an indignity on the daughter of the royal house.

"Tell me, Gondaga," she asked, "can you devise a punishment for him without actually putting him out of the way? I don't want him to die—just yet."

"I can, your Majesty," he replied, making a profound salaam; and forthwith he conveyed to her a plan, that, for fiendish cruelty, was worthy of his office of Lord High Executioner.

He felt himself all the more able to carry it out heartily, when, some minutes later, having renewed his proposals for the hand of Ayzala, he was repulsed with these words:

"Gondaga, I will not wed you. Since I have seen him of the beautiful face and manly form, I have lost what little regard I had for you. Go away. You are ugly. I hate you."

When Gondaga got out of her presence he gnashed his teeth, and swore he would mar the beauty of Ozito. The Queen had given her consent to his proposed plan of punishment. He would add a few little details on his own account. He would see that it all ended in the removal of this obstruction from the path leading to the apex of his ambition.


XIV. — GONDAGA.

SIONE, having been called before the Queen, pleaded her case so well as to disarm her Sovereign and Ayzala of every feeling but that of jealousy. She explained that, having been the first to see Fairfax, and having been captivated by him, she had felt she had a right to put a ring on his finger. In consideration of his being unacquainted with the customs of the country, however, she had refrained from openly declaring her love for him. Now, that she had so worthy a rival as the fair and good Ayzala, she was willing, though it gave her pain, to withdraw in her favor. She was willing to regard Ozito merely as an esteemed friend. It will be seen that the beautiful Sione was quite diplomatic. Ayzala was so delighted with her that she kissed her, and the Queen showed her pleasure by giving her a handsome present.

Meanwhile Fairfax had conveyed to his friends the news of his interview with the Queen and Ayzala. They received it with dismay. They realized, even more clearly than he did, that danger must come from this open defiance of the will of the High Monarch. They predicted trouble, and, while they were talking about it, Gondaga appeared at the door of the room.

The sardonic smile on the brutal countenance of the Lord High Executioner was sufficient to confirm the worst fears that had been entertained. It strongly belied his expression of sympathy and regret that he had been made the bearer of the Queen's command. He threw open the door, and a dozen or more armed men entered.

Our friends were roughly seized and conveyed to the same cell from which they had been taken the previous evening. They made no resistance, for they knew it was useless and even foolish to do so. Dr. Parkman had admonished them to submit quietly to everything but the infliction of actual pain, in the hope that the Queen would come to regard them with trust.

"It's pretty hard to hold my temper in," said Maloney when he landed in the cell. "My two fists are achin' for a few cracks at those half-starved lookin' sojers. An' that ugly Gondaga—I hope the day 'll come when I'll have the pleasure of a tussle with him."

For the next forty-eight hours there was no change in their situation. Their meals were brought regularly to them, but they were of the scantiest and most unsubstantial kind, and they were offered water that, thirsty as they were, they could not even taste.

This was not done by order of the Queen, who had some hope of ultimately figuring as mother-in-law to Fairfax, but by the secret command of Gondaga, who united, to his other offices, that of Keeper of the Bastile. He was ready for any and every means of securing revenge, and he had an object in giving Fairfax such food as would weaken him physically. Fairfax was fated soon to learn what that object was.

About midnight of the third day of their captivity, Fairfax, who was lying asleep in the corner behind the screen, felt himself touched on the arm, and immediately started to his feet. He could see no one in the darkness, and was about to lie down again under the belief that it was a hallucination of his fevered brain, when a hand was placed on his shoulder and a soft voice whispered in his ear:

"Take care. I have come, at great risk, to warn you of danger."

"What danger?"

"Gondaga means to do you harm. He will enter your cell to- night. Here is a weapon. Be on your guard."

Before he could reply or utter a word of gratitude, the hands dropped from his shoulders, and, a second later, he heard the small door close softly. He knew it was Sione that had undergone risks to warn him.

His first action was to arouse Maloney and convey to him the information he had gained. Mike, ever ready for a "scrimmage," as he called it, agreed with him that it was unnecessary to awaken Butt and the Doctor until there was absolute danger. They lay side by side on the floor in such positions that they could command a view of the door, if a light appeared.

At the end of about ten minutes, during which time they had listened intently, the door opened softly, almost noiselessly. They kept up deep breathing in simulation of sleep, and Butt, under the gentle caresses of Morpheus, helped on the illusion by snores whose genuineness could not be doubted.

Gondaga entered, carrying a light. Behind him came two ferocious-looking men.

"They are asleep," whispered Gondaga. "Now is your time. Be quick. That's the man."

The villain had hired two assassins to do his deadly work, men with faces as repulsive and evil-looking as his own. He set down the light and retired, closing the door all but an inch or so after him.

The men showed no hesitation. They advanced to where Fairfax and Maloney lay, and were just stooping down, presumably to stab them, when out shot, with terrific force, two pairs of feet that struck them, and sent them whirling over in a heap on the floor. Before they could rise they were pinioned in an iron grasp.

Both were large men, as compared with some on the island, but they were like children in the hands of the muscular Scotchman and Irishman. They received a terrible beating, and would probably have been killed, if Gondaga had not entered and asked the prisoners to desist. The villain expressed surprise at the occurrence, and declared his regret that the occupants of the cell should have been disturbed. The men, he said, had entered without his knowledge, and he would see that they were punished. He made a show of scolding them as he took them out.

Our friends were now certain their lives were in great danger. Gondaga was not likely to rest with this ineffectual attempt to secure revenge. He regarded Fairfax as a barrier to his ambition, and he would avail himself of one of the numberless chances afforded him by his position to get him out of his way. He was all the more dangerous because he had the power to conceal his enmity.

They barricaded the door with one of the beds, and set up the wash-stand in such a position that, if the door should be pushed open, even a few inches, the stand would fall and make sufficient noise to arouse them. Then they lay down and were soon asleep.

But Fairfax's repose was fated to be again disturbed. Scarcely had he lost consciousness when his arm was touched, and, rising to his feet, he heard Sione say:

"Come."

He knew he could trust Sione, who had proven her friendship in several ways, so, without hesitation, he followed her. He suggested to her that Gondaga might also enter by this small door and do harm to his companions in his absence, but she assured him that the door was known to but three persons, one of whom was herself. As Commander-in-Chief of the Militia she had become acquainted with all the secret passages of the Bastile, a confidence that was not reposed in the Keeper.

As before, she took his hand and led him through the darkness till they came to the lighted cell where they had had their long conversation.

The moment Fairfax saw her he asked her what was the matter. She appeared in great trouble and, for some moments, could not speak. Her lovely face wore an expression of pain and there were tears in her eyes.

"What is the matter, Sione?" he asked.

A deep sigh was her only answer. He took her white hand in his, and imprinted a kiss upon it.

"Sione," he said, "I thank you for having saved my life. Tell me what is your trouble."

"It is your trouble as well as mine," she answered. "I am commanded by the Princess Numeni to bring you secretly to her presence. She is now waiting to receive you and hear your account of your voyage. Should you resist her blandishments, the result will be as bad. She will become your enemy and you will certainly die."

"Have no fear for me, Sione," he replied, trying to use the most non-committal language. "I am neither afraid of the Princess Numeni's charms nor the power of my enemies."

She gave him one long look, in which there was a world of pleading. Then she said calmly:

"Follow me."

She led him through many a winding passage, anon stopping shortly, and gracefully leaning forward, in an attitude of listening, to ascertain if their footfalls had attracted attention. She trod as lightly as a chamois, and, but for the slight rustle of her light silken garments, and the soft, warm pressure of her hand, Fairfax could have imagined she was some ethereal being privileged, for the time, to commune with mortals.

But she appeared more human after they had left the semi- darkness of the fortress, crossed the courtyard, and entered the Palace. Here, at times, when, having heard a sound that startled her, she crouched back into some place of concealment and drew Fairfax with her, the light shone upon her and illumined her marvellous beauty, showing beneath the loose fold of her tunic the neck and shoulders of alabaster whiteness, the cherry-ripe lips, the cream-like face now paler from her fear, the wealth of golden hair, and the magnificent eyes with their wondrous speaking depths. She was an incarnation of dazzling loveliness.

"Softly," she whispered. "It would mean death for you if you were discovered here."

"And you?" he asked.

"If found with you I would be in great danger. Alone, I am privileged to go anywhere about the Castle."

"Let me follow you at a short distance then."

"Hush! Keep my hand."

Through richly-carpeted halls they made their way, and arrived, at length, in front of a door leading to the Princess Numeni's boudoir.


XV. — THE PRINCESS NUMENI'S BOUDOIR.

SIONE, without any announcement whatever, opened the door and walked in. She had been told to do so by one who had an object in almost everything she said or did.

Fairfax followed.

The room in which he found himself was the grandest he had yet seen. His eyes were fairly dazzled by the splendor of the rich carpet, the elegant furniture, the hangings, exquisitely embroidered and embossed in gold, and the brilliant mirrors lighted up from their gold candle-brackets.

Numeni, richly attired, was reclining on a magnificent couch, a picture of unstudied grace, reading a book and pretending that she was not aware of the presence of anyone else.

Fairfax had opportunity to note that she was beautiful, and that she had employed art to heighten her beauty for the occasion. But he did not know that her maid had spent over two hours at the work. Her cheeks were rouged, and her eyebrows delicately pencilled, though she would have looked quite bewitching without it. Her languid air, and a dozen other indefinable signs conveyed to him the impression that she was a coquette of the first water.

Sione waited some time and yet Numeni did not look up. The artful lady had taken too much pains to assume this satisfactory pose, too much care to have her head set, in the most attractive way, on her dainty hand, to change it before it should have had time to make an impression. There was a large mirror opposite her, and in this she had studied her attitude till the very moment she had heard the door opening.

Sione understood her purpose, and, fearing the result, was jealously anxious to disturb her.

"Your Highness," she began.

Numeni turned a page of her book with considerable noise, and went on reading, pretending not to have heard. She also let one white jewelled hand fall carelessly over the edge of the couch to increase the bewitching effect, which it did.

"Your Highness," repeated Sione, stepping toward her and speaking aloud, "I have brought the young man to you."

"Ah, it is you, good Sione," said the Princess, looking up languidly. "I am very glad to—O!"—feigning just to have seen the stranger—"this is the young man whom they have been so unkind as to imprison."

Here she cast at Fairfax a look that was intended to enchant him on the spot. It was the same look Cleopatra gave Antony the day they met at Tarsus.

"Your Highness," said Fairfax, making a profound obeisance, "I am told you were kind enough to send for me."

The Princess gracefully arose from the couch, and, motioning him to be seated, took a chair a short distance from him, where, she knew, the light would shine on her face, and set her off to the best advantage. Nervous as she certainly was, she managed to appear composed.

"Yes," said she, "I thought it possible I might do something to aid you. I regret your imprisonment."

"Thank you. Your Highness is very kind."

"But you must say nothing to anyone,—not even your friends."

"You need have no fear. I shall not compromise you."

"I am sure you will not It would bring trouble to me. I am only the younger princess."

She was certainly very pretty, and she spoke nicely, having the faculty of setting a person at his ease. In one minute Fairfax knew she was his friend, and would remain so so long as he did not greatly offend her.

Sione's pain was noticeable. She dreaded the effects of those arts she knew the Princess to be mistress of. She read her every thought and wish. She started to leave the room, but Numeni called her back.

"Sione remain. You may be able to advise me how to help this young man. We must not let him die."

Sione sat on a sofa near the door, and watched the little comedy.

"What is your name?" asked the Princess.

"Fairfax, your Highness."

"What does that mean? All names should have a meaning."

"I don't know."

"Ozito shall be your name. It is more appropriate."

"What does it mean?"

"The Beautiful."

Fairfax blushed to the tips of his ears, Sione frowned and pressed her little foot on the soft carpet, while the Princess smiled and went on:

"None of our men have deserved the appellation for more than a century. I doubt now that any of them ever did really deserve it. Do you know why you have been imprisoned?"

"Yes. Because I would not wed your sister, the Princess Ayzala."

"Just so; and why do you refuse? You know it is the women who propose marriage here."

"Because I would die rather than marry one I did not love."

This answer, delivered with a degree of firmness they were not accustomed to seeing in men, agitated both Numeni and Sione. They exchanged glances, and, for the moment, looked just the least bit uncomfortable. They knew that the force of this man's personality was implanting in their minds a germ of doubt as to the superiority of their sex, and each wondered why the other showed so little worry about it.

"I agree with you," said the Princess, after a pause of some length. "There should be no marriage without love. One presupposes the other. That's why I am unwed. My mother wished me to choose and marry a husband, and I declined, because I saw none I could love. Three gamos-days have passed, since I left the Isle, and still I have not taken a husband."

She was prettier when her face was lighted up by interest in her subject.

"I don't understand your Highness," said Fairfax.

"Of course not," she replied, smiling. "I had forgotten you are a stranger to our social customs. Sione tells me that, in your world, the maidens actually wait to be chosen by the men. Is it so?"

"Yes, as a general rule."

"Dear me! What an absurd and unjust system! A woman to sit and wait for suitors; to let go by the one she loves, who would love her if he dared; and to be compelled, in the end, perhaps, to accept one she dislikes rather than live in horrible loneliness! It is monstrous! What social happiness can there be amongst you? You reduce woman to the level of a chattel. You deprive her of the right—at least as much hers as man's—to struggle for the possession of the one she loves."

It was with the utmost difficulty Fairfax retained his gravity. The force of the girl's argument, he thought, was killed by the bewitching way in which she delivered it, by the alluring glance of her eye, and the coquettish toss of her head. It suggested the thought that, if custom had wronged woman in placing limitations upon the exercise of her acknowledged prerogatives, nature had befriended her by giving her the opportunities to wreak revenge.

He was about to put this thought into words when Numeni said:

"Our system is the outcome of a civilization that had developed before yours began. Explain it to him Sione."

Sione advanced, and was about to obey the will of the Princess, when the latter changed her mind and said:

"No, Sione, you may sit down again. I'll not trouble you. I'll explain it myself."

She had seen Fairfax cast an admiring glance at Sione, who, she knew, would, during the recital of the story, present to the eye a more interesting picture than herself.

Sione resumed her seat, and Numeni, toying with her gold- fringed fan, and peering from behind it like the most accomplished Andalusian flirt, said:

"You must understand, sir, that all our maidens, between the ages of fourteen and twenty-one (or twenty-five, as they may see fit) reside, by themselves, on the Isle of the Virgins, where no men, except a few of the Seneces, are allowed, under pain of death, to set foot. When gamos, or marriage, day arrives, which is twice a year, all the Virgins that have reached the age of twenty-one, and are desirous of leaving the Isle, or, in other words, are desirous of getting mates, are brought hither to be present at the great tournament held in honor of the occasion.

"At this tournament, all of the young men desiring wives contend with one another in various games, and show off their skill, agility, and strength to the best advantage. The Virgins take great interest in these games, because their future happiness is involved. They watch the contestants closely, and choose, from among them, whomsoever they desire as husbands."

"Pardon me, your Highness," said Fairfax, becoming interested in the subject, and admiring not a little the coquettish Princess, who had such a pretty way of telling her story. "As I understand it, it is physical perfections only that appeal to your husband-seeking maidens."

"That is not so," said Numeni. "We all admire and appreciate those mental attainments that must, in any community, raise man above his fellows. The State itself recognizes, and rewards, intellectual superiority. But physical beauty in man is so rare as to be an anomaly, and this fact has tended"—here she laughed and exchanged a glance with the blushing Sione—"to place a premium on handsome men. Should such a one appear he will not be allowed to enjoy celibacy long."

"Where do you get your ideals of manly beauty if you have no good-looking men on your island!" asked Fairfax. "And where do the maidens get them, if they are kept in seclusion till they attain their majority?"

"That," said Numeni, "is the most puzzling question you have asked me, despite the fact that it has often occurred to me. Can you answer it, Sione?"

The lovely virgin thus addressed blushed a deep scarlet, and made answer that she supposed nature had endowed them with a certain instinct that enabled them to see the defects in the men about them. For herself, she said, she had long had an ideal, but never dreamt it had a living counterpart till—

Here she stopped, her face suffused with blushes.

Fairfax, seeing her embarrassment without understanding its exact cause, came to her relief by asking the Princess if the men had no voice in the matter of wedlock.

"None, whatever," replied Numeni, with a killing smile. "The State wouldn't tolerate it. Tomorrow is gamos-day, and, as the Queen intends to have all the prisoners present, you will have an opportunity to see how the choosing is done."

"Will Ayzala have a choice?" he asked with a considerable degree of anxiety.

"Yes, as the heir apparent, she has the first selection. The second choice is mine. The third belongs to Sione, who is next in rank to myself. Sione and I left the Isle together, and three gamos-days have passed without our seeing anyone to suit us. Our men are ugly as you may have observed."

"They are certainly not handsome. Why is it?"

"The hard work and practices to which they have been used since their early youth, have stunted their growth, and given them the homely expression you see. I'll soon have you taught, won't I?" she added, with a pretty toss of her head.

Fairfax glanced at the beauteous Sione, and read her feelings in her looks.

"Sione, you may retire," said the Princess.

Sione rose and left the room.

For some time after the door had closed, Numeni sat silent, watching the young man with no trace of the smile her countenance had worn from the beginning. He was becoming nervous under the force of her steady gaze, when she suddenly said:

"Will you not marry Ayzala? It would save your life and the lives of your friends."

"No."

"Foolish, headstrong boy! Do you want to die?"

"No."

"Well, I see only one way to save your life."

"How is that?"

"Someone of rank must choose you for husband to-morrow."

"Indeed."

"Yes; and, as I don't like to see you die, and as you won't let Ayzala save you—"

"Well?"

"I'll choose you myself."

He was overwhelmed. He had not been long enough in a country where the females did the courting and choosing, to be prepared for such a proposal. He thought Numeni a little bold in declaring such an intention, whereas she was only following the established custom of the country.

"Yes, I'll choose you, Fairfax. I set my heart on you from the first. You are the only man I ever saw."

"Pardon me your Highness," he said, rising from his seat. "Let me go back to my prison. If we are discovered, you—"

"No, no," she exclaimed. "Remain. We must discuss the question of your safety," and, seizing his hand, she drew him down on the sofa beside her.

He was filled with perplexity and fear. Numeni would choose him publicly next day, and to refuse her would he openly to insult the Queen. He thought a moment and said:

"But I fear your Highness will be late. Ayzala has first choice has she not?"

"You fear it do you?" exclaimed the Princess joyfully, as she reached out her hand for him to kiss. "I am very glad to learn, by your use of that word, that I am agreeable to you. Don't fear for Ayzala. She will not be there."

The last sentence was uttered in a whisper close to his ear, and the tone, no less than the words themselves, convinced him that Numeni intended to use means to prevent Ayzala's being there.

They conversed for fully half an hour, Numeni doing most of the talking, and Fairfax politely endeavoring to conceal his desire to get back to his friends. He was worrying about his charge, and mentally accusing himself of being negligent of his duty.

At a signal from the Princess, Sione re-appeared. She was clad in the attire in which Fairfax had first seen her. She had made the change since leaving the room.

"Sione, I wish the young man to be brought back to his cell. I have found a means to save his life."

Then, smiling with joy, Numeni whispered something in Sione's ear that almost made the latter faint.

Fairfax made a profound bow to the Princess, and followed his conductress out of the room.

When they had gone some distance along a hall, and were turning to pass through a room, Sione stopped Fairfax, and, taking hold of his hands, looked up in his face, and said:

"I want you to tell me the truth."

"I will do so, Sione."

"Do you love Numeni?"

"No."

"Did you say you would marry her?"

"No."

"Then she told me an untruth. Come on. We can talk as we go. They are all at rest in the Palace."

Sione's purpose was to eradicate, before they reached the cell, any impression Numeni might have made on the young man's heart, and to do it by fair means—by simply arousing an affection for herself.

But the Princess was too sharp for her. She had no intention of letting Sione have Fairfax to herself all the way to the cell.

"The way is long," she muttered, as she saw him and Sione leave the room, and observed the look of hope on the face of the latter. "A heart could be won in half that distance,—and Sione is beautiful—dangerously beautiful. Too good an opportunity for Sione."

She arose from her couch, and passed through a doorway at the end of the room opposite to that by which they had left.


XVI. — A MIDNIGHT ADVENTURE.

WHEN Sione and Fairfax had gone some distance through the Castle, and were entering a hall leading directly to an entrance upon the gardens, they were startled and astonished at coming plump against the Princess Numeni, who had arrived by a shorter way, and concealed herself in the darkness to hear what they might say. In this, no doubt, she was agreeably disappointed, for she heard nothing but a reference from Fairfax to the late attempt upon his life.

"I beg your Highness's pardon," exclaimed he and Sione in one breath.

"Don't mind," said the Princess, laughing, "you didn't hurt me. I thought it better to come with you, Sione, to accompany you back. You might be afraid."

"O no, not in the least," replied Sione. She was even more surprised than Fairfax to find that the Princess would undertake so unconventional and dangerous a step as entering the Bastile, especially after midnight.

"Lead the way, Sione. You have the keys, haven't you?"

"Yes."

Numeni let Sione go in advance. She then took Fairfax's arm and said:

"Come on, sir. It would not be fair to let you run this risk alone."

As they proceeded through the gardens and the courtyard, the Princess kept up a rattling fire of talk, in whispers, which Sione vainly endeavored to hear. It was the flattering, seductive babble of a skilled coquette, and it amused Fairfax mightily.

They succeeded in passing the guards and gaining access to the Bastile without attracting attention, Sione's influence as Military Leader enabling her to overcome obstacles that would otherwise have been insurmountable.

When they had got about half way to the cell, they were startled by the sounds of voices. Some persons were in the passage in front of them! Sione, who was slightly in advance of her companions, crouched quickly back in the shadow of the wall. "Hush!" she whispered.

"What is that commotion?" asked the Princess.

"It is Gondaga and his men bringing in a prisoner," replied Sione, "and, whoever he may be, he is making a spirited resistance. There are six of them trying to overpower him."

It never struck Fairfax that the quarrelsome prisoner was a man he knew quite well.

When the gaolers had succeeded in getting their man into the cell, they closed the door upon him, and two remained to guard it, while Gondaga and the others came away in the direction of Fairfax and the young women. The latter trembled with fear, but their companion, who stood between them, encouraged them, by whispered entreaties, not to be afraid, and to refrain from crying out. They seemed to forget all about the superiority of woman, as they clung to him for protection.

"Has not the Princess a right to go where she pleases?" he asked, wondering at her extreme dread of being seen by Gondaga.

"I am as amenable to the law as you are," she answered. "If this were discovered I should be punished."

"Then I think your Highness and Sione had better leave me and get back to the Palace. Quick! Now is the time. They are certainly coming this way."

"What! Leave you in danger?" exclaimed Numeni, clinging even more tightly to him. "Neither of us would do that."

"No indeed," said Sione.

He could not help admiring both girls, who showed so much loyalty in spite of their fear. He coaxed them again to return, and leave him to his fate, when Numeni said firmly:

"No, we'll not leave you till you're safe in your cell. It is my fault you are here. If you were found outside of it you would not live six hours."

Gondaga and his men were now within twenty feet of them.

"Pardon me, your Highness," whispered Fairfax, "there is an embrasure in the wall here. If you and Sione are not afraid to get into it—shish! Quick!"

The embrasure was too small to hold the three, but the girls stepped in, and Fairfax stood in front of them, with his face turned toward the passage. His clothes being dark, he hoped to be mistaken for a part of the wall. Gondaga passed by, without noticing the tall figure, and so did all the others, except one. This man was about ten feet behind his companions. When he came opposite our hero, he stopped, and looked directly at him. The light, carried by one of the men immediately behind Gondaga, had revealed for a moment Fairfax's raiment.

The latter did not move. He could hear the Princess mutter to herself: "We are lost." He squeezed her fingers, hoping she would take it as a warning not to speak. The poor frightened girl threw her arms about him, and he knew then they were discovered.

The man stood gazing for a moment, as if he doubted the evidence of his vision. Then, without uttering a sound, he stepped toward the wall, and put out his hand, presumably to settle the question by his sense of touch. The same moment, before he could draw his sword, or even cry out, he was caught in an iron grasp, and his tunic was held so tightly round his mouth and ears, that he could neither hear nor speak. He was so frightened that he made no struggle, but allowed Fairfax to press him tight against the wall.

It was all done so quietly that Gondaga and his men did not hear the noise. Their own footsteps resounded through the corridor so that a scuffle might have taken place behind them without their hearing it. Without missing their companion they walked about twenty yards up the corridor and sat down, probably to have a chat, or amuse themselves by telling stories. One of their number appeared to be something of a wit, and to be blessed with an unusually lively disposition. He talked quite loudly and made his companions laugh once. It was the first laugh our hero had heard proceeding from a man belonging to the island, and he instantly attributed it to the fact that the Bastile was managed solely by men, the posts of goaler and keeper being considered beneath the dignity of women.

The Princess and Sione were astonished to see Fairfax render the man so powerless, and hold him as if he were a mere child; still they were as much afraid as ever, for they were hemmed in on both sides. They could go neither forward nor back.

"We must get out of this," said Fairfax suddenly. "I see Gondaga has missed this man. They are looking for him. They are about to return."

"Wait," said Sione. "I know one other way, but it is very—"

"Where is it?" interrupted Fairfax.

"Through the next cell to the right and—"

"Follow me then. Quick."

He forced the man along ahead of him, keeping close to the wall; and Numeni and Sione followed. He reached the door; a shove opened it. Forcing the man before him, he entered, and Sione and the Princess following, he closed the door and placed his body against it. A glance showed him that there was a door on the opposite side of the cell.

The man now began to struggle, but he was quickly overpowered and pressed down to the floor; and his tunic was tied so tightly around his head that he could neither hear nor cry out.

"Where is the passage you speak of, Sione?" asked Fairfax.

"It is very difficult and dangerous—"

"Never mind that if it will take you and the Princess out of this place."

"We would have to make our way to the extreme end of the building, descend from a window, and seek a boat; then row on the river around to the left side, and enter by a door of which I have the key."

"Will that take us to the cell?" asked Numeni.

"No, but to a place farther away from the cell, but from which it can be reached with less likelihood of danger."

"It's too bad," said Fairfax, "I couldn't think of you and Her Highness undergoing that danger. Is there any way by which you could get back to the Castle and leave me to take my chances?"

Neither of the girls would hear of this; they declared they would see him safe, cost what it might.

"Quick, Sione, lead the way. I hear their footsteps," said the Princess.

Before Sione could take a step, there was a loud thump on the door, which would have opened, if Fairfax had not had his back against it. Gondaga and his men shoved against the door, but Fairfax held it fast, and, at the same time, kept his man prisoner on the floor with his foot.

"Sione," he whispered, as the latter approached to help him, "which way do you turn when you leave this room?"

"To the left."

"Then run quickly you and the Princess. I'll follow. Quick. I'm going to let go the door."

The maidens, astonished at his strength and coolness, hurried out of the room. He waited till the party outside made a combined effort, when he suddenly let go the door and dashed out after the women.

The noise that fell upon his ears assured him of the success of his stratagem. Gondaga and three of his men fell through the doorway, and rolled over one another. Then they grappled with the man on the floor, and nearly pounded the life out of him, thinking he was the one that had tried to bar their progress.

"Quick," said Fairfax, as he caught up to the frightened maidens. "We'll be pursued instantly."

He grasped the Princess about the waist, and, taking Sione's hand, urged her to greater speed. They passed through two cells, and, turning to the right, entered a corridor running parallel to the main one. They could hear the rough voice of Gondaga questioning the man whom Fairfax had nearly smothered.

Though our hero realized his danger, he thought less of it than the risk to which the two brave girls were putting themselves on his account. He again urged them to go back, but without avail.

"Don't think of me," said the Princess. "I enjoy this excitement, if only I am not found out and disgraced. Quick, Sione. Keep ahead of us."

This part of the corridor was well-lighted, and they were in danger of being seen, but presently Sione turned off to the right, and led them into a room that was in total darkness. This they entered none too soon, for the sounds of their pursuers coming down the corridor could be distinctly heard.

"Be careful," whispered Sione. "Here is a stairs."

"Oh I am weak with fright," exclaimed the Princess. "I am almost—"

Before she could finish her sentence she was caught up and carried in a pair of strong arms, as if she weighed no more than a doll, and, a few seconds later, all three were at the top of the stairs. Sione opened a door, and they stepped out on to a small iron balcony overhanging the river. The night was dark and cloudy. There was no sign of life on either side of the river, and, to all appearances, the whole city was wrapped in slumber. They could see a few lights twinkling in one wing of the Castle, but all about the Bastile was dark and gloomy.

Sione found an iron ladder against the wall and attached to it, but it needed strength and courage to descend by it, as it was nearly two feet away from the balcony.

"Are you afraid to wait here while I am taking the Princess down?" asked Fairfax.

"No," was Sione's reply.

He clasped the arms of Numeni tightly about his neck, and begged her not to release her hold. She promised obedience, and he lifted his own weight and hers on to the ladder. Down he went as nimbly as a skilled fireman, and, when he reached the bottom, he found there was scarcely more than enough dry ground to afford Numeni a seat. With the exception of this one place, the water touched the whole length of the building.

"Wait one moment your Highness," he whispered, when he had taken off his coat and laid it down for her to sit on. "Don't be afraid," and he was up the ladder again before she could reply.

She sat there wondering at it all, and feeling in her heart a new sensation. She was sure she was the first woman that had ever been carried in a man's arms; she was sure this was the only man that could act with so little show of hesitation under such circumstances. Even with the danger before her, she hoped the adventure was not yet quite through with. She hoped there were more balconies to descend, more stairs to climb, and at least a few more semi-dark passages to tread. It was a grand thing to be weak and afraid when there was strength and courage to lean on.

Sione, being in her military attire, would have descended unaided but for the distance the ladder was from the balcony. She could reach it, but she was afraid to trust her weight to the strength of her arms. Though she was a much heavier burden than Numeni, she gave Fairfax less trouble. She clung to him with confidence in his strength, and soon was borne to the side of the Princess, who exclaimed:

"I'll never forget this night. If we come out safe, and our friend is pardoned, I'll regard it as the pleasantest of my life."


XVII. — CUNNING NUMENI.

NUMENI'S remark showed her to be fond of adventure and excitement; but, after all, she was a Princess, for whom detection was a less serious matter than it was for her companions. To Fairfax it meant death; to Sione, a fate, perhaps, nearly as bad; while, at the most, Numeni could only suffer disgrace and the forfeiture of her title and privileges. Still this was bad enough, and she was thoroughly frightened, being willing, she said, to die rather than to let the Queen and the Seneces find it out.

A noise was heard in the cell above their heads. It was Gondaga and his men, who, as yet, did not know for whom they were searching. Two of them came out on the balcony and looked down, but they could not see the fugitives who were concealed in the shadow of the wall.

There was only a small bit of ground to afford the three a refuge; a few feet on either side of them was the water. To make matters worse, the boat, which Sione had expected to find at the foot of the ladder, was ten yards away and tied by a rope to a ring in the wall.

The Princess moved her foot and a stone rolled into the water.

"Hark! Do you hear that noise?" asked someone on the balcony.

"No. Where?" said Gondaga.

"Below. Directly beneath us, and—stay! Is that not someone down there? Look!"

The two maidens were nearly paralyzed with fear. Nothing but their companion's whispered warning, and the force of his masterly presence, could have prevented their uttering a cry. During the oppressive silence that followed they knew the men were looking down at them and listening, and they scarcely dared to breathe.

"I see no one," said Gondaga. "There cannot be anyone there."

"There is. I am almost sure of it," returned the other. "Drop a weight down there and see."

The girls would have shrieked in terror if Fairfax had not actually laid a hand over the mouth of each.

"Shish! Keep still," he whispered beneath his breath. "Don't move. I'll save you."

Quickly, but noiselessly, he crawled forward over the two panting maidens, and, placing a hand on the ground each side of them, held himself in such a position over them that he formed a shield of protection. The weight could not strike them without first crushing him.

It was an awful sensation—waiting for an object of unknown size to fall upon them, and to all three the seconds seemed minutes in length. The girls were so astounded by the young man's display of nerve and coolness that they were unable to utter an exclamation. He would have thought they had fainted from fright, if he had not heard their hearts beating and felt their warm breath on his cheeks.

"Shish!" he breathed, as he heard the stone roll off the balcony and rattle against the wall. It struck his shoulder and rolled harmlessly into the water. Then all was still. The brave girls, with a strength derived from their protector, had passed successfully through the ordeal.

"There is no one there," said Gondaga, after a moment's pause. "Whoever they are, they are still in the Bastile. Quick; away and search every cell. Look in the strangers' cell also."

They left the balcony, and the door closed with a bang.

"We are lost," said Sione. "They will go to your cell and find you missing. To attempt escape is punishable by death."

Both women trembled with fright. The severe tension being relaxed, they felt their weakness and inability to cope any longer with the dangers ahead of them. Could they have seen a means to do so, they would willingly have sacrificed themselves to save their friend.

Fairfax stood thinking a moment, and the next dived into the water like a fish. It was just such emergencies that called into play his best powers. The maidens could not suppress a slight scream; but presently they were relieved by seeing him emerge from the water and climb into the boat.

After some difficulty, he untied it, and, picking up an oar, guided it to where they lay. Sione got in without assistance, but the Princess had to be helped in,—whether from the weakness of fright, or the desire to put her new knight to trouble is hard to say.

Sione took the oars and rowed the boat in a manner that showed she understood what she was doing. She kept it close to the wall of the Bastile for about thirty feet, and then steered it into an arched passage that ran underneath the building. Here it was so dark that they could not see one another. They were obliged to keep silent on account of the echoes that magnified the slightest sounds into noises of the most alarming character.

The Princess was very nervous, and clung shivering to Fairfax's arm. Her head nestled against his shoulder, and he could feel her give a start at every sound.

His own imagination was stirred by the impenetrable gloom. He thought of Lethe and the grim ferryman, Charon; the Ancient Mariner and the Albatross; Jason and the "justling rocks;" and Ulysses' passage between Charybdis and Scylla. He wondered if Sione had ever navigated a craft through here before, and, if so, to what end.

Suddenly the boat touched something and stopped. Sione got out and reached forward her hand to guide Fairfax, who supported Numeni on his arm. A little platform or wharf led them to a door through which they passed, entering a large and gloomy cell. Here they rested a moment to discuss the question of what was best to be done. Gondaga had, by this time, no doubt, visited the cell and discovered Fairfax's absence. If they proceeded in that direction, they were likely to be caught by the searchers.

Once more our hero besought the girls to leave him and save themselves, but they refused to seek safety while he was in danger.

"I never tried to get a friend in prison before," remarked Sione, without any attempt at jocularity. "I had not thought it possible for such a necessity to arise."

"Let us try again," said Numeni. "Lead the way, and Ozito and I will follow you."

When they got half way to the cell they found it absolutely impossible to proceed further without being seen. Gondaga himself was ahead of them and walking in the same direction. He was shouting out orders to his men, who could be heard running here and there, opening and closing doors, and calling to one another.

The three fugitives retreated quickly, making their way toward the Castle.

"Come," said the Princess, as they emerged from the Bastile, "I'll have to bear the responsibility. It is only fair that I should. Come back to my boudoir and I'll try a plan to outwit Gondaga and my royal mother."

Nearly half an hour was spent in stealthy creeping across the courtyard and the gardens, and through rooms and halls of the Palace, and at last, the three of them arrived safely in Numeni's boudoir. Hand in hand they had made the distance, Fairfax ever between the two girls. Each, being young and hopeful, had enjoyed the excitement, though danger attended every step. Each knew that the night's experience was likely to build up a strong friendship among them, if jealousy, the offspring of intense love, would not step in to spoil it.

"Sit down a moment, both of you," said Numeni. "Lock the door Sione. Now listen: Ozito I want you to conceal yourself behind those curtains near the door, and not to move till Sione enters the second time. Sione you will go at once to your room, and be ready to come the moment you are called. When you leave here the second time, you will go straight back to your room, remain a quarter of an hour, and then come back here. Do you understand?"

"For my part I do," said Fairfax. "But tell me, your Highness, is this stratagem likely to get you or Sione into trouble. I could not—"

"Never mind. Leave that to Sione and myself. I think we're both of the same mind."

Sione bowed, and, after a short whispered consultation with Numeni, hurried out of the room.

Fairfax concealed himself behind the curtains, wondering what the pretty coquette was going to do. He was beginning to have great faith in her; she was clever and had considerable courage.

Her first action was to pick up an elegant gown and put it on, so that it covered and concealed her dress. Then she went to the other end of the room, where there stood a bed, surrounded by heavy velvet curtains, beautifully embroidered and embossed, and covered by a canopy richly garnished with cloth of gold. She drew aside the curtains and threw herself on the bed.

Almost the same moment a bell was heard to tinkle, and the Princess began to moan as if in great pain.

"What on earth is she going to do?" Fairfax asked himself. "I am sorry I came here. If I'm caught, I'll be killed on the spot."

A thought flashed across his mind that this might be a trap that had been set for him, but he dismissed it as quickly, as a most unworthy suspicion. For the last hour the brave girl had acted in such a manner that he would stake his life on the validity of her friendship. Still there were good grounds for feeling uncomfortable. She was young and impulsive, and not any too wise. Her plan might miscarry.

Suddenly a door across the room opened, and he saw two females enter. He held his breath and listened, as they approached the bed, whereon the Princess lay moaning.

"What is the matter with your Highness?" asked one.

"Oh! I am nearly dead with pain," screamed Numeni. "Oh!—don't speak—but listen. Irene, go you immediately to Sione's room and tell her to come hither. Portia go you quietly to my mother, the Queen, and ask her to come. Oh! Quick! Oh!"

Away flew both of the girls on their errands, and Fairfax, frightened as he was, fairly shook with inward laughter.

"The sly little fox," he muttered. "Who would have thought it? Why she is a princess of comediennes. I wonder what she's going to do."

A few minutes passed, during which time Numeni kept up her counterfeit moaning, now and then breaking the monotony by shrieking.

Presently Irene entered, and, a moment later, Portia, from opposite sides of the room.

"Her Majesty will be here directly," announced one.

"Sione will make all haste," said the other. "Ah, here she is now," she added, as Sione entered the room with an expression of innocent surprise on her beautiful face.

Sione walked quickly to the bed.

"What can I do for you, Numeni?" she asked.

"Sione, have you a key of the cell in which the strangers are incarcerated?"

"Ho! Ho!" muttered Fairfax; and he listened more intently, seeing that there was to be an element of seriousness infused into the comedy.

"No, your Highness," replied Sione. "There are but two keys."

"Where are they?"

"Gondaga holds one. The other is in the armory."

"Well, go you and take the key from the armory—"

"I dare not without the Queen's consent, your Highness."

The two servants listened to it all, quite unconscious of the fact that they had purposely been made witnesses of the scene.

"I'll take the responsibility," said Numeni. "Get that key and proceed to the strangers' cell in the Bastile and—"

Strive as he might, Fairfax could not hear the rest, which was uttered in a whisper. But Sione heard it, for, the next moment, she passed out of the door, near which he stood concealed.

The Queen, entered, and the moaning grew louder.

"What is the matter, my child? Are you ill?" she asked.

"Oh, mother, I am very—Oh!—very ill. I had been dreaming and woke up with—Oh!—such a pain. Following a sudden notion that entered my head, I despatched Portia for you—"

"That was right, Numeni. Where is the pain?"

"Here—there—all over—Oh!—and I sent Irene to fetch Sione—"

"Sione!"

"Yes. Sione came and I ordered her to go to the armory and get a key. You will not be angry, mother?"

"No child, but—"

"And told her to go to the strangers' cell, in the Bastile, and fetch that old Doctor,—Dr. Parkman, you call him, I think, and—"

"Yes, yes, child, but what for?"

"To cure me. It was a sudden notion, and my pain was so great I could not wait to ask your consent. I know that Doctor will—Oh!—cure me—the old man that looks so clever. Sione obeyed because she thought I'd die—Oh! Oh! The pain! The pain! O mother don't be angry with me—Oh!"

Fairfax was amazed.

The daring of the girl, the ingeniousness of her plan, the tact with which she was carrying it out provoked his admiration; but, at the same time, he felt dreadfully uncomfortable in the belief that some unforeseen thing would occur to make the issue a failure.

The Queen, Irene, and Portia did all they could to alleviate Numeni's alleged suffering, but so well did she simulate pain, that they thought her case hopeless.

Alzira, hard-hearted, and even cruel, as she was, loved her child, and was quite willing to humor her by allowing the old Doctor to exert his skill.

Presently Fairfax heard a step outside the door, and then the sound of some heavy object falling. This was a preconcerted signal, devised by the cunning Numeni, who now heard it, and at once set up a terrible cry of pain that drew the attention of the Queen and the servants away from the door. Sione entered, and she and Fairfax stood at the bedside before they were noticed.

"You are not the Doctor," exclaimed Numeni, looking up at Fairfax with well-feigned surprise and disappointment. "What do you mean, Sione, by bringing him here? It is the Doctor I wanted—Dr. Parkman—Oh!"

"This is a great mistake, Sione," said the Queen. "The Doctor is the old man with the white hair."

Sione pretended to be surprised at the information.

"I beg your pardon," she said, bowing.

"I beg your Majesty's pardon, as well," exclaimed Fairfax. "Had I known the object of this young man's visit—" here he glanced at the blushing Sione—"I could have informed him I was not Dr. Parkman. I am very sorry the Princess is ill."

"Oh! Oh!—the pain! The pain!" screamed Numeni.

"Go quickly and fetch the Doctor," cried the Queen. "Quick! My child must not die."

"One moment, please," said Fairfax calmly. "If your Majesty and Her Highness will pardon my boldness, I will inform you that I, too, know something of medicine. I diagnosed this case at a glance. It calls for immediate action. The Doctor is an old man and slow in his movements. It will take him twenty minutes to get here, let alone the time he'll waste by asking questions. I can cure the Princess if your Majesty will honor me by her permission to try."


XVIII. — WITS ALL ROUND.

ALL were amazed at these words; but none so much so as Numeni and Sione. They stared in bewilderment at the young man, who stood at the foot of the bed, as calm and collected as a statue, and looking as wise as an Aesculapius or a Paracelsus. They knew not what to think of it.

"Would your Highness permit me to try my humble skill, if your gracious mother, the Queen, should consent?" he asked tenderly.

"Yes," answered Numeni with a groan. "Oh! be quick someone and cure me, or I may die."

Fairfax looked at Alzira who, unable to resist the deference and flattery insidiously conveyed by his words and manner, said:

"You have my consent."

"Thank you."

He threw off his coat, in order to make the scene as impressive as possible. Availing himself of the prerogatives of a physician, he ordered the servants around in a firm, but courteous, manner, and asked the Queen to have various things brought instantly, such as a coarse towel, a pitcher of water, some salt, a little vinegar, and things that he knew, could be easily procured. The Princess helped on the game by moaning like a little girl that had broken her toy.

"Will your Majesty kindly stand a little further away from the bed, and let me on that side? That's it. Thanks," he said.

The Queen immediately complied with his request. She went a few feet below the foot of the bed, and called to Sione to stand out of the young man's way.

He was given full charge of the room. He sat on the side of the bed and felt Numeni's pulse; then he helped her into a sitting posture and examined her tongue. He looked at her gravely a moment, and said:

"Has your Highness ever had this pain before?"

"Never—Oh!"

She screamed, and then buried her head in the pillow for no other reason than that she feared she could not keep a serious countenance while his eye was upon her.

Portia and Irene re-entered the room, bearing trays, on which were all the things he had called for, and a dozen more. They liked to wait on this wonderful young man who was not afraid to act like a woman in the Queen's presence.

Fairfax picked up a glass, put a little water in it, added a few grains from two or three vessels on the trays, and, taking a piece of paper from his pocket and unfolding it, dropped its imaginary contents in with the rest. Knowing every eye was upon him, he took as much pains as a Hindoo magician to throw a veil of mystery over his actions. He stirred the mixture, smelt it, tasted it, stirred it again, and then handed the glass to the Queen and asked her kindly to hold it. She did so and gazed at him with wonder and admiration of his skill.

He now requested the Princess to do several things that filled the others with surprise, and herself with a desire to laugh outright. He had her lean forward and breathe quickly; lie down and breathe slowly; and sit up straight and hold her breath; after which he pretended to count her heart-beats.

He next rubbed the back of her neck and breathed his breath on it; then he took a wet towel and laid it about her throat.

She shivered at the contact of the cold towel, and he knew, from the look she gave him, that she would try to pay him back for his trick. He retaliated, in advance, by letting a little stream of cold water flow down beneath her collar.

Her neck having been dried by Portia, he approached her with the glass he had taken from the Queen's hand, and said:

"Your Highness, if you are not better when you drink this, I am willing to forfeit my life."

Numeni drank the liquid and shuddered, for Fairfax, unable to resist the temptation to extract some fun from the occasion, had made it very unpalatable. Vinegar was the chief ingredient.

All waited with breathless interest to see the effect. The Queen was exceedingly nervous, and Sione was quite pale.

Suddenly the Princess arose from the bed and stood on her feet, smiling joyfully.

"Mother," said she, "I am cured. There is not a vestige of the pain left. He has saved my life."

She seized Fairfax's hand, and squeezed it with a great show of gratitude, and gave him a look that as much as said:

"Now, hasn't my plan succeeded?"

Little did she know that the success of her artifice was fated to get Fairfax into the most serious danger.

Queen Alzira was surprised and delighted, and there is no knowing how she might have rewarded the young man's skill, if there had not been a serious interruption to the little comedy.

It came in the form of a knock on the door, followed by the entrance of a page, who announced that Gondaga, the Lord High Executioner, had news for Her Majesty, and craved an audience of her.

"He chooses an unseemly hour," said the Queen.

"It appears to be something of unusual importance, your Majesty—a State matter."

"Let him enter the next room."

So saying, Alzira departed, and Sione, Numeni, and Fairfax exchanged looks that were too full of varied meanings to be read. Each of them had a presentiment that something terrible was going to happen. The consciousness of guilt made them all the more susceptible to the influence of fear.

Before they had time to exchange a word, the page re-entered with a summons for them to appear at once in the Queen's presence. They went into the next room and found Her Majesty in consultation with Gondaga. She wore a grave, and even stern, expression of countenance, and in her flashing dark eyes was a look that was anything but auspicious for the culprits.

Gondaga frowned like an Alpine thundercloud when he saw Fairfax.

"This is the prisoner that escaped, your Majesty," he said, his hatred overcoming his astonishment.

"You are wrong, Gondaga," replied the Queen. "The young man was brought here from his cell by royal order. He has cured, by his wonderful skill, my daughter, the Princess Numeni, who has been nigh death."

Gondaga started, and gave Fairfax a look full of hate. Then he turned to the Queen, and, bowing, said:

"Your Majesty will excuse, I hope, the zeal which has led me to this mistake. I entered his cell three hours ago and found him missing."

"Three hours ago?" exclaimed the Queen. "It is but a few minutes—half an hour at most—since he was summoned here."

The villain had anticipated just such a reply. With a boldness that was characteristic of him, he had purposely exaggerated the time, knowing he could escape from the entanglement more easily than Fairfax. It was from his exaggeration that the danger now arose. It was sure to lead to a desire, and ultimately to an attempt, to reconcile the apparent inconsistencies.

Sione and Numeni turned pale with fright—a fact that did not escape Gondaga's attention. Fairfax alone kept his countenance, and stood with folded arms, as cool in appearance as if he were a spectator at a cricket-match.

"Sione, did you not enter his cell?" asked the Queen.

"I did, your Majesty," replied Sione. "I went in obedience to the request of Her Highness."

She spoke with perfect truth, for she had entered to convey the warning and bring Fairfax secretly to the Princess.

"Was it three hours ago?"

"It does not seem so long, your Majesty."

"Gondaga, you must be mistaken," said the Queen, a flush of anger appearing in her face. "It cannot be more than half an hour ago."

Sione's changing countenance and Numeni's attempts to convey signs to her were not lost on the Lord High Executioner. He was a very observant man, and he had the faculty of deducing big conclusions from apparently insignificant data. Quick and subtle reasoning—or divination, as it is sometimes called—told him that he had the game in his own hands if he played it boldly, and he was sufficiently endowed with the gambler's instinct to do so. He stepped before the Queen and, making a genuflexion, said:

"Your Majesty, I am compelled to repeat that it was three hours ago. Four of my men were with me and will bear me out. There are two of them within immediate call. You can question them. I have also to say that we pursued three persons the entire length of the Bastile, and we have reason to believe that one of them, at least, was a woman."

A deep and painful silence followed this indirect accusation. Gondaga, smiling like a Mephistopheles, kept his eyes on the Queen, who appeared to be unusually disturbed.

"Fairfax," she said at length, turning to our hero, and fixing her piercing look upon him, "you have heard what this man says. Is it true?"

Not a muscle of Fairfax's face moved till he began to speak. His quiet dignity impressed every one present. Not deigning to look at Gondaga, he bowed before the Queen and said:

"Your Majesty, so far as I have been able to judge of the laws and institutions of your fair country, they are founded on a sense of justice and right. So far as I have been able to judge of yourself, you are animated by a spirit of fairness in dealing with your subjects. I would not make this personal allusion to your Majesty, but that I am a stranger, accustomed to laws somewhat different from yours, and I expect you to acknowledge, in this case, a principle that obtains in our country."

"What is that principle, Ozito?" she asked.

It was impossible for her, as a woman, and even a strong- minded woman, wholly to escape the effects of the insidious flattery of his words and manner. She fought against it, but it partly conquered her, because it was something new. Time might make her impervious to it.

"The principle is, your Majesty," he said, "that an accused man is not compelled to testify either for, or against, himself. If you desire me to answer your question, I will do so; I prefer to say no more than that I am unconscious of having done you any wrong."

"Well, well, we'll see. I was on the point of rewarding you for what you have done—you have cured my child—but Gondaga lays against you a charge that is too serious to pass without investigation. You will be taken back to your cell till after the tournament."

She made a sign to Gondaga, and, next moment, Fairfax was marched off to the Bastile.

Sione was ordered to retire, and from the tone of the Queen's voice, and the look she gave her, the girl felt she was suspected. She went to her room, which was scarcely less elegant than Numeni's, but was still unbefitting such beauty as hers. She disrobed, and sobbed herself to sleep, only to have fretful dreams of a pretty Princess and a remarkably handsome young fellow that carried her (Sione's) heart with him.

The Queen questioned Numeni and got plenty of replies, without any information, yet she left the room with a feeling that there was something wrong.

The Princess did not sleep at once. Her first action, after her mother left her, was to pour out a glass of her favorite wine and quaff it. Then she stole softly into her sister Ayzala's room to see if the latter had drunk a draught she had specially prepared for her.

She found the glass empty, and returned to her room saying:

"It is well. Ayzala drank the wine I drugged. She will not be at the tournament to-morrow. I will have Ozito."

Foolish girl! Ayzala had outwitted her! The wine Numeni had just drunk was no other than that she had prepared for her sister Ayzala!

We will follow our adventurous hero, who was led away from the Queen's presence by Gondaga and his men. No word was spoken till they had proceeded some distance through the Bastile. Then—

"Your clothes are wet," said Gondaga.

"Are they?" said Fairfax with a careless air, though the remark staggered him for a moment. He had forgotten all about his clothes, which had got a soaking when he was in the river after the boat. When he and the maidens had entered the first gloomy cell after leaving the boat, and, while they were resting and discussing the course to be taken, he had availed himself of the darkness to wring all the water he could from his clothes, and no one had noticed his condition while he was in Numeni's boudoir.

But now Gondaga put his hand on his shoulder, and said:

"Your clothes are wet. You have been in the water. Look you, men, you'll be witnesses to this. His clothes couldn't get wet in the cell."

Nothing more was said of the matter just then, and Fairfax was thrust into his dungeon.

As soon as the door was closed and locked, he turned to find his companions, that he might learn from them if anyone had visited them during his absence. The room was perfectly dark, and he had no means of striking a light. He called to them, but got no answer; he thought they must be sound asleep. He made his way across the cell and ran his hands over the beds. They were empty! He called again,—twice—thrice; no answer, no sound but the echo of his own voice. He crawled on his hands and knees about the floor, even under the beds, and behind the screen, but there was no trace of his friends.

A horrible fear came over him when he realized he was separated from the man he had sworn to follow and defend with his life. In his mental agony he reproached himself for having deserted Dr. Parkman, though reason should have assured him he had not been to blame. He tore at the cell door like a madman, and called loudly on Gondaga to come and tell him where his protégé was. He went behind the screen and searched for the small door, and shoved with all his strength against the place where he thought it was. But in vain; he was a prisoner, in a dungeon from which no man could escape. He racked his brains to think what could have become of his companions, and how he could get to them; he tried every conceivable plan of making himself heard; and he pulled and tugged at the door till the perspiration rolled in streams down his face.

At last he sank back exhausted on the floor a few feet from the door. A score of wild conjectures as to the fate of his friends were thronging through his brain, when he was startled to his senses by a noise which came from the opposite side of the cell.

There was someone moving from behind the bed; someone whose footstep was light and stealthy, though his frame was heavy, as could be told by the creaking of the bed when he leaned his weight on it! He had long been suppressing his breathing, for now he breathed heavily, and twice he coughed.

Fairfax jumped to the conclusion that Gondaga had put an assassin in his cell, and he was confirmed in this opinion when he heard the man creeping along by the wall toward him. As he had no weapon, he moved away, keeping always close to the wall and, as nearly as he could judge, about opposite his would-be assassin. The latter began to mutter to himself, and something like a curse escaped him when he tripped over a stool and fell against one of the beds. Whether he was hurt or not, he lay still, and, soon afterward, Fairfax heard, proceeding from him, vigorous snores and deep breathing that were too natural to be taken for other than the signs of sleep.

Fairfax sat down with his back against a wall, intending to keep on the alert and defend himself if danger threatened. But he had not calculated on his exhaustion and the narcotic effect of the rhythmical snores. Before he knew it, he was fast asleep.


XIX. — THREADS.

HE awoke with a start on the opening of his cell door. His first feeling was one of relief at finding he was alive, for he instantly recalled what had taken place, and how he had succumbed to sleep. He could hear his supposed would-be murderer still snoring, and he knew that, for the present, there was no danger from that quarter.

He was ordered by Gondaga to come out of the cell, and he readily obeyed, feeling that almost any change was acceptable. He was brought to the Palace and led again into the Queen's presence just as it was breaking day.

To his surprise, he was received with a show of courtesy. Alzira again acknowledged her indebtedness to him for what he had done, and assured him she regretted the necessity of regarding him as a prisoner pending the investigations. The law on this point, she said, was very rigid. She smiled so sweetly, as if to make up for the inflexibility of the law, that Fairfax was forced to the conclusion she was the most hypocritical woman he had ever seen. On asking her in what way he could now serve her, he was staggered to find that he had been sent for again to exert his medical skill. She wished him to cure one of the Cognoscentes, Leon, who was a special favorite of hers, and an adviser she could not bear to lose. He had taken very ill during the night and was now at the point of death.

"You wish me to treat him!" exclaimed Fairfax.

"I wish you to cure him," she replied, and her manner and looks, if not her words, were imperative.

He realized his serious situation and was greatly alarmed. His counterfeit cure of the Princess had given him a reputation he would be asked, perhaps often, to sustain. Knowing his incapacity, he dreaded the results that would come from failure to cure. Moreover, he knew it was sinful to tamper with a case he did not understand, to endanger the patient's life, and prevent him from having the services of a competent physician. He saw the evil consequences of having abetted the Princess Numeni's deceit, which had before appeared to be justified by the circumstances. He shrank back in horror, and besought the Queen to release him from so important a task.

Alzira was offended, and, with his repeated entreaties, became quite angry, accusing him of a desire to see her lose a favorite adviser. He protested, and tried to convince her he was restrained only by a lack of confidence in his ability; but she would not listen. He had performed one remarkable cure; he could perform another and save her Leon.

He saw there were two alternatives: Compliance with her desire, which might hasten Leon's death; or a stubborn refusal, which would precipitate his own, and, perhaps, that of his friends.

He thought for a moment—Alzira meanwhile watching his countenance—and said:

"Your Majesty, you must not interpret my reluctance as a desire to show disobedience or as a sign of indifference. Knowing the limited extent of my medical knowledge, and particularly my lack of experience—you see I am a very young man,—I am affrighted by the gravity of the case I am asked to treat."

"But you cured the Princess Numeni almost instantaneously."

"Hers was a case I happened to understand."

"Tell me what was her malady, since you understand it so well."

Our conscientious hero was again filled with alarm. Being a lover of truth, he hated a lie. He was in a bad dilemma, and he judged that the only way out of it was to confound the Queen by a phalanx of words she could not understand.

"Your Majesty," he said, "the Princess Numeni's complaint was not so serious as you would think. It is one peculiar to some young persons of very lively dispositions. A concatenation of causes, indefinable and unexplainable, had brought about a dilatation and contraction of a cordated muscular viscus, situated in the thorax, and the result was a copiousness of fluid in the sanguiferous vessels."

"Was it as bad as that?"

"Quite as bad, your Majesty."

He had escaped telling a lie. His answer pleased the Queen, but it so increased her confidence in his knowledge and skill, that she repeated her requests for him to treat Leon.

An idea suddenly occurred to him.

"Your Majesty," said he, "I will ask you to grant me a favor. Have my aged friend, Dr. Parkman, brought here, and he and I together will treat Leon. In a case so serious there should be a consultation of physicians."

The Queen sent at once for Dr. Parkman. She was more pleased than ever, Fairfax's earnestness having temporarily overcome her suspicions. He, too, was pleased, for, by this stratagem, he not only saved himself from wrong-doing, but also found his charge.

In due time the Doctor appeared, and his face beamed with delight when he saw Fairfax alive and well. He at once offered to do all he could for Leon, but was surprised when the Queen told him he was to work in conjunction with, and in a subsidiary way to, Fairfax. He saw the sign which the latter managed to convey to him, and he took it as a hint to say nothing.

They were conducted to the farthest end of the Palace where, in a handsomely furnished room, they found the patient. He was nearly one hundred years old, and was dying simply of old age. Both Fairfax and the Doctor saw this at a glance, but only the former saw the danger it put them in. Nothing on earth could save Leon; his time had come. Yet, because they could not restore him to life, health and vigor, they would be punished. They had no chance to talk together, for two of the Cognoscentes were present, and watched their every action with suspicion.

Dr. Parkman, who had a stock of medicines with him in the bag which he had saved from the wreck, mixed up some powders and, putting them in a glass, with some water, gave it to the old man to drink. He informed him he would not recover, but the cordial would stimulate him, and free him from pain for the last few hours he might have to live.

Then he and his friend came away, the Cognoscentes watching them closely till they were well out of the room. Fairfax seized the first opportunity to enquire about Maloney and Butt, and, to his great delight, learned they were still alive and well. Their only discomfort had arisen from a change of cells, and their separation from Fairfax, who, they believed, had been put to death. Maloney had struck one of the guards, but as yet had received no intimation that he was to be punished for it.

Fairfax and the Doctor were not taken back to their cell, but were led by one of the Cognoscentes, Potiphar, to the court-room, where they had the honor of being introduced to several of the Seneces.

The form of introduction was peculiar. Potiphar seized the left hand of each of the two persons he wished to make acquainted, and brought them together till the tips of their fingers touched. Then he pronounced the persons' names twice, and dropped the hands; whereupon the new acquaintances kissed, or were supposed to kiss, each other on both cheeks.

Our friends were amused with the grotesqueness of the pantomime, but they submitted bravely to the kissing, distasteful as it was. They made a great mistake, however, in not returning each kiss, as etiquette and custom called for. It was accepted by the Seneces as a proof of their reluctance to establish firm and enduring friendship, and it afterwards told heavily against them, for the Seneces were, in a manner, a powerful body.

Having been taken to a banquet-room, Fairfax and the Doctor were served with a delicious breakfast, which they ate in company with Potiphar, the prospective leader of the Cognoscentes.

Potiphar talked freely and gave them much information concerning the island and its people; but his mind seemed to be taken up most with the tournament, which would begin, he said, in a few hours.

The young maidens were already on their way from the Isle, in charge of ten Seneces; after their arrival a few simple formalities had to be gone through with before the great event would take place. It happened this time, that the number of virgins was smaller than usual. There were less than fifty, and they were all members of the very highest families in the State. As a consequence, the contestants in the games would be limited to members of the upper aristocracy, the only exception being Gondaga, who had performed, for the State, certain services that entitled him to consideration.

The meal being over, Fairfax and the Doctor were brought before the Queen, who told them they were restored to her favor, and would have it so long as they proved deserving. The occasion, she said, was one where her will could rise superior to the law, and Ozito's services had appealed very strongly to her.

She had no more idea than they how soon they were to lose her favor. Her frank admission that she could juggle with the law (it greatly amused the Doctor) showed that it depended not alone on their merit. Their lives were, even now, hanging by a thread that was likely to snap at any moment.


XX. — A PAGE FROM DR. PARKMAN'S DIARY.

BEFORE describing the tournament, with which our friends were connected, it will be necessary to tell the reader something more about the island and the peculiar race of people inhabiting it. Our account, necessarily imperfect, is an abridgment of notes made in his diary by Dr. Parkman, the day of the tournament. His sources of information were Potiphar, one of the Seneces, the Queen, Sione, and Fairfax himself, who had learned considerable from Numeni.


(From a Diary compiled by Dr. Benjamin Parkman for the use of the London Company.)

The Island of Flowers is situated, to the best of our knowledge and belief, some five hundred miles outside of the circle which marks the limits of the world as known to man. (The reader is asked to remember that the Doctor was a disbeliever in the rotundity of the earth. He held to theories in astronomy that could not be reconciled with either the Copernican, or the Ptolemaic system.) It is oblong in shape and some twelve hundred miles in area—facts that would lead us to believe it is the island we were in search of, though we are not yet positive on this point. Its surface is generally level, or slightly undulating, and the soil is extremely rich. The river by which we came (we referred to it in our former notes) is called the Skarra (we are unable to trace the etymology of the word); and one a few miles farther south, which runs in the same direction, is appropriately named the Errant, for it is meandering in its course. We might mention this as one point of difference between the Island of Flowers and the one seen in the sky. The rivers of the latter appeared as straight as bulrushes.

There are two cities, Trebylon and Arcassa, situated respectively on the Skarra and the Errant. The former is the seat of government and contains the royal palace. At present writing we are in Trebylon, which reminds us very much of Venice, as, like that beautiful city, it has its bridges and gondolas.

A short distance—perhaps four miles—east of the delta of the Skarra is the Isle of the Virgins. It is very small in area, and compact in shape. On it reside nearly all the maidens of the aristocracy.

If we retain the royal favor, which is most uncertain, we expect, in a day or two, to acquire much more information on these points from Potiphar, one of the Queen's advisers, whom we have found to be an affable, and exceedingly intelligent man.

In our former notes we have described the appearance of the people, and said considerable respecting their habits, customs, and dress. We are at present able to supplement this information with a few facts gained from the person we have just mentioned—Potiphar.

The island was first peopled by a number of the ancient Romans; but how they came here we are unable definitely to ascertain. Potiphar informs us that there is but one tradition existent that could clear the point; and that we find so utterly ridiculous, so much opposed to reason, that we forbear to mention it.

We have, however, a conjecture of our own, and when we set it alongside the facts mentioned in the appendix to our first notes, it seems not unreasonable:

During the first Punic war, the Roman Consul, Regulus, was ordered by the Senate to carry the war into Africa (this was shortly after the Romans had built a fleet of vessels on the model of a Carthaginian ship wrecked on their coast), and having landed on the coast, defeated the Carthaginians. But he was subsequently defeated by his enemies, under the command of Xanthippus, a Spartan general, and many of his men were taken prisoners. A few of the Romans had their wives with them; others intermarried with the Carthaginians. Sometime afterwards, Hanno, a Carthaginian general, made a voyage round the coast of Africa, with a view to settling colonies thereon, (there is still extant a Greek version of his own account of the voyage) and on one of the vessels was a number of the Romans and their wives. This vessel was lost, having drifted (perhaps intentionally) westward from that part of Africa now known as Cape Colony, and was never heard of again. We believe that it reached the Island of Flowers, and that the people on board became its primitive inhabitants.

We could adduce several facts in support of the foregoing theory, but will, at present, give only one, which serves also to account for another strange thing.

We have seen, on the island, some traces of the Greeks, in a few of the customs, and institutions of the people, in some of the words in use, and in the dress of the females of the aristocracy. Some of these traces are so distinct as to lead us to believe there were some Greeks among the number who first came here; and, assuming our main theory to be correct, it is not difficult to prove that such was the case.

Some time before the First Punic War, the Greeks effected settlements on the island of Sicily, and a number of them joined the Syracusans when the latter confederated with the Carthaginians. After the war commenced, the Syracusans joined the Romans, and there was a considerable number of Greeks in the ranks of Regulus when that general was defeated. Moreover, Hanno himself states there were a few Greeks in his expedition, and that the commander of the vessel which bore the Romans and was lost, was a nephew of Xanthippus.

Potiphar says the island was next visited by an English vessel, some time during the twelfth century; but we believe it was at a later period, after the discoveries of Vasco de Gama and Columbus had awakened a new interest in explorations. We intend to seek further enlightenment on this point.

We agree with Potiphar as to the time of the third influx of Europeans. It was toward the close of the seventeenth century, after France and England had begun to devote so much attention to colonization in various parts of the world. A French vessel bound for India via Cape Horn was wrecked in the South Pacific, and a number of those on board drifted on a piece of the wreck to the Island of Flowers.

All this accounts for that high state of civilization and learning, which at first surprised us; for the English language being spoken; for the very great number of words of classical origin in use; and for the heterogeneous character of the dress, manners, customs, and institutions of the people.

The inhabitants of the island are divided into two classes; the free, and the slaves. The latter form fully three-fifths of the population. They live in the southern portion of the island, and are not supposed to cross the Errant, except when it is necessary to perform labor. Among the former there are various ranks, the highest being an especially privileged class. From these are chosen all who hold any offices whatsoever.

A peculiar feature of the social system is the esteem in which women are held. Woman is superior to man. She is at the head of the household, and at the head of the State. She has inalienable rights to which man cannot aspire. Even among the slaves, women are held in high esteem, and, should a female slave (slave in name only) desire to cross the Errant, she can do so, and will be accepted as an equal by the lowest rank of free- women. Very few cross, however, as their lot is quite as pleasant as that of the females who live in the north. The word slave, as applied to them, does not carry the meaning usually attached to it; and it is not applied to the Virgins at all.

Among the men of all classes, there prevails a delicate sense of honor and chivalry. They cherish the finest feelings and most respectful attachment toward the female sex. No woman is allowed to do any work that is in the least laborious, and she can avoid work altogether if she choose. We are told it is a rare thing to see women take any part in work, beyond giving directions to the men.

Whether this accounts for the unhappy looks on the faces of the men, and the smiling countenances of the women, it is hard to say; we believe it does, for Potiphar tells us that the males are put to work at the age of eight.

The whole goes to prove our oft-asserted theory that slavery is the natural outcome of any social system that may obtain among a people. But we find we have dilated upon this subject in our former notes.

The government is monarchical. Potiphar calls it a limited monarchy, but we fail to see anything to prevent the exercise of despotic authority. The Queen has a body of advisers known as the Cognoscentes, all of whom are very old and learned men. Women formerly constituted this body, but, in time, a feeling grew up that the duties entailed too much mental labor, as the debates were sometimes of interminable length; and, the office falling into disrepute among them, it was thrown open to men, and is now the highest honor to which they can aspire. They never reach it, however, till they have at least one foot in the grave. The Seneces are a legislative body, and are supposed to represent the people. They assist in the government, and the Queen takes no important step without consulting them. Potiphar argues from this that they have popular government. The Seneces and Cognoscentes, he says, possess powers similar to those of the ancient Saxon Witanagemot. They can resist the encroachments of the crown, and can even change the order of succession if they see fit.

We fail to see how this can be, however, since both the Seneces and Cognoscentes are appointed by the Queen and hold office at her pleasure. She may exercise no prerogative without consulting them, but we believe it is all show, for we notice that they approach her in the most obsequious manner. She evidently regards it good policy to let the people think they have a hand in the government, and the Seneces and Cognoscentes are too wise to undeceive anyone.

Yet we must say they get along well together. The machinery of the government runs smoothly, and the higher aristocracy—the only class we have seen as yet—seems contented.

We scarcely expect to see the same contentment among the other classes, who are entirely unrepresented in the farcical form of government which Potiphar boasts of as being popular.

(Signed) Benjamin Parkman.


XXI. — VIRGINS' DAY.

AFTER Fairfax and the Doctor had had an audience of Queen Alzira, they were treated to two quite unexpected favors. The first of these was the release of Butt and Mike, who joined them in a room in the Palace, and nearly shook the hands off Fairfax, so glad were they to see him.

"We thought you were dead," said Butt plaintively. "Gone to that undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveller—"

"We did," put in Maloney, "for that villain, Gondaga, said you were gone, an' we supposed he had helped to get rid of you."

"No," said Fairfax, "I had some adventures, but escaped unhurt," and then, in a few words, he related what had happened.

"She's a cunnin' little colleen," said Maloney, when he had heard of Numeni's trick. "Women are the same the world over. They can raise lies to the dignity o' truth. I'll wager the half o' my fortune she's in love with you, Fairfax;" which showed that Maloney was gifted with considerable penetration.

The second treat, accorded to all four, was the privilege of seeing the city. They could ride in palanquins or walk as they might see fit. They chose the latter, and started off, having, as the Queen said, two hours at their disposal before it would be necessary to return in order to be present at the games. Sione, Potiphar, six of the Seneces, and a body-guard of eight females escorted them, so that they were in honorable company. But Fairfax suspected that the Queen had less intention to do them honor than to see that their every action was watched.

The eight females, attired, like Sione, in the long square-cut coat, embroidered vest, and knee breeches, walked ahead. They carried no other weapon than their swords, and they strode with the grace of a Lafayette or a Prince de Condé. Sione and Fairfax walked next, talking in whispers, so that the others could not hear them; then came the Doctor and Potiphar discussing Political Economy and the other social sciences; next came Maloney and Butt, each arm in arm with one of the Seneces; and behind walked the rest in a body.

The strangers attracted much attention in the streets. On every corner there stood crowds of the citizens, who stared in open-mouthed astonishment and wonder. They had heard various rumors and theories during the last few days, and now they came to have them verified or exploded. The occasion was certainly the most important in their lives. They were brought face to face with representatives of another world, which they had often heard of and regarded, perhaps, as a myth; and, while they found them to be flesh and blood creatures, like themselves, they saw sufficient striking points of difference between them and themselves to make them wonder. They were furnished with food for conjecture for many weeks to come.

Sione received nearly as much attention as our friends, being everywhere greeted with the acclamations of the people. That she stood high in popular favor was evident from their shouts:

"Sione! Sione! Long live the good Sione!"

Our friends were surprised at the grandeur and magnificence of the city. The public buildings were models of architectural beauty, and some of them were very large. There were many residences as fine as any that stood in ancient Pompeii; and all seemed to have been constructed with a view to luxury and comfort. On every hand there were evidences of a highly aesthetic taste among the people. The streets and squares were paved, and here and there stood sparkling playing fountains at which the passers-by satisfied their thirst, or cooled themselves. It was ancient Rome over again.

As they proceeded, they met heralds announcing, in connection with the health of the Queen and that of the Royal Family, the fact that this was gamos-day, and that the Virgins had arrived from the Isle. The information was hardly necessary, as many of the citizens had seen the Virgins, when they disembarked about two miles down the river; and the news had gone quickly around the city.

Shortly after leaving the Palace, Potiphar had pointed out, to our friends, the place where the games were to be held; and now, early as it was, the people were going in scores, in order to secure seats. Gamos-day was the great holiday of the year; there was nothing else that interested the people so much. It was always looked forward to eagerly, because it was a day of general pleasure and rejoicing, and a time of special privileges.

On their way back to the Palace, the pedestrians passed through a large public square, in the centre of which stood a huge bronze monument. As soon as Dr. Parkman saw it he surprised all those around him by throwing up his hands and wildly shouting:

"Eureka! Eureka! The Island is ours! We have found it at last!"

"What do you mean?" asked the astonished Potiphar.

"We have found the island which we saw in the heavens,—the island of which we have been in search. I claim possession of it for the London Company."

All stared at the excited man who uttered this strange, intemperate language. Fairfax nudged him to be quiet, but it only made matters worse.

"Fairfax! Fairfax!" he exclaimed. "Our mission is nigh accomplished. Give me your hand."

He seized and wrung his friend's hand in the enthusiasm of his almost insane joy, while the people, who stood around, exchanged looks of wonder and fear.

The Seneces were the most amazed. They whispered among themselves, and then two of them slipped quietly out of the crowd and made their way quickly in the direction of the Palace.

Fairfax knew what this meant; they had gone to inform Queen Alzira, and they would picture the affair in the worst possible color. He thought to make light of the matter by laughing at the Doctor, and speaking jocularly to him, but neither Potiphar nor the Seneces smiled. They had been alarmed by the Doctor's strange and significant language.

Sione now gave the word to return and the party started, no one making any attempt to keep up a conversation. Fairfax dared not go to the Doctor's side to warn him, lest his action should add to the suspicion of the Seneces, who, no doubt, looked upon this as the greatest danger that had ever confronted the State.

Before they had got half way to the Castle, they were met by two messengers, and a body of Her Majesty's Female Guards. One of the messengers handed Sione a letter. She read it, and turned pale. She glanced nervously at Fairfax, who understood, by instinct, the cause of her agitation, and then issued a command to the soldiers. In an instant our four friends were surrounded and seized, and, the crowd making way, they were marched off to the Castle.

They were again confined in the Bastile, and made acquainted with the causes of their arrest. Fairfax and the Doctor were accused of the murder of Leon, who had died shortly after they left the Palace. The Princess Numeni was also supposed to be dead, and Fairfax was the cause, having, as Gondaga said, administered, in the Queen's presence, certain powders with intent to kill.

The Princess Numeni, it will be remembered, had partaken of the very draught she herself had prepared for her sister Ayzala, in order to keep the latter from being present at the games and choosing Ozito. The result was she could not now be aroused to consciousness, and naturally the Queen blamed the man who had asked permission to treat her, and had professed to cure her.

Our friends were in a serious situation, and they quite realized it; their alarm increased when, a few minutes later, another charge was laid against them—that of treason.

The two Seneces that had departed from the square, had conveyed to the Queen, the Doctor's mysterious and excited utterances, and she at once issued an order for punishment. No trial was deemed necessary, as the charges preceding that of treason were abundantly proved. The strangers sought the overthrow of the State and had begun by taking the lives of the Queen's daughter and her chief adviser. What the punishment was to be we shall soon see; the credit of its invention belonged to Gondaga, before whom there was now opening up a vista of possibilities very flattering to his ambition.

The tournament began at nine o'clock. There were several trials of skill in archery, in which only the young men of the highest class took part. Then twelve fencing contests took place, followed by a mock fight in which all were engaged.

At ten o'clock all the prisoners of the Bastile were brought out to witness the games proper. They were led into a large circular space, enclosed by high walls, around which, on the inside, ran rows of seats arranged in tiers one above another. On one side was a roofed building about forty feet long. It had no wall on the side facing the arena, but a row of vertical iron bars secured the prisoners and yet permitted them to see and to be seen. Behind these bars Fairfax and his friends were placed, and were not allowed to sit down. There were about thirty other prisoners besides themselves, and the looks on their faces showed they dreaded what was to follow. Fairfax could not see them all, but he noted that some, like not a few of the prisoners of the old Bastile, had countenances that expressed more of benevolence than of wickedness.

All eyes were centered on Dr. Parkman and his followers, for the news of their having been shipwrecked and captured had gone the round of the upper part of the island, and created a degree of interest and curiosity never before known. Some of the crowd had come solely to see the strangers, and among these was a number of titled persons, well advanced in age, who had not been present at the public games for many a year.

Fairfax did not look up till he had taken his position behind the bars, and in front of the other prisoners. Then he saw a sea of faces before him. He judged there could be no less than eight or ten thousand people present, and they all seemed to be looking at him. Women were the predominating element; they occupied the higher seats, which afforded the best view of the arena. The men sat on the lower benches, and a few stood on the ground, just outside of the ropes that encircled the arena.

Opposite the prisoners' building was a canopied grandstand, the seats of which were considerably higher than the rest. In the front, on a temporary throne, sat Queen Alzira, and behind, and around her, the Princess Ayzala, Sione, and some twenty Maids of Honor. Back of these were the Cognoscentes and Seneces, and many members of the highest families in the State.

About twenty feet to the right was another covered stand, considerably elevated, in which sat a number of young females, all about the age of twenty-one. These were the Virgins, who had just come from the Isle, and were, on this day, to choose husbands from among the competitors. They were all dressed in Graecian costume, dazzlingly white, and presented an array of beauty seldom to be seen. To Europeans they were astonishingly beautiful, for their faces were nearly as white as wax, yet tinged with the red glow that denotes health. They gazed in wonder at the crowd, and eyed the men particularly, for they had lived, since their childhood, where no men were to be seen, except a few of the aged Seneces. They had come here to get husbands, and men alone interested them. They studied face after face, and now and then the countenance of one of them would light up as she saw some young man whose looks pleased her.

There was an unconscious coquettishness of manner about them all that enhanced their beauty. They would drop their eyes occasionally and blush, and then peer up again, and smile when they met some masculine gaze that pleased them; for the young men were not debarred from the agreeable privilege of looking at them.

It occurred to Fairfax, who was one of those quiet thinkers, that, if the young folks were allowed some time to get acquainted and do a little courting on their own account, they would soon make a choice without the trouble of a tournament. The maidens seemed ready to take almost anyone, he thought; and the men might be well satisfied to get any of the maidens, for each and every one of them was fascinating. Some of the Virgins' glances clearly said, "I want you;" and the recipients of those eloquent glances usually expressed their satisfaction by smiles. Next moment everybody was looking at somebody else and waiting to smile.

Fairfax remarked that Sione, Ayzala, and two of the Maids of Honor were also dressed in white Graecian costume, and he concluded from this that they were anxious to get husbands. But he did not notice, what a thousand others noticed, that the eyes of three-fourths of the Virgins soon came to be fixed on himself; and that more than one pair sent forth a smiling glance that bespoke more than admiration.

The Princess Numeni was not present, and Fairfax regretted it, for now that he was a prisoner, he could not conceive there was any danger of his being chosen by anyone, especially by a princess. Though he did not like being behind the bars, he regarded it as a fortunate thing just at this juncture, as it afforded him perfect immunity from danger. It put him out of the reach of Ayzala, Numeni, or any other designing maiden.

In this he was partly mistaken. Prisoners, except those guilty of base crimes, frequently took part in the games; but, as will be seen, theirs was an ordeal to be dreaded. According to the laws of the State, if a prisoner acquitted himself well and overcame the tremendous odds against him, he was raised to a state of equality with the other competitors; and, on the following day, was granted a new trial.

But such cases were rare. More prisoners died from the effects of their struggles to gain liberty in this way than ever survived to tell that they had won wives. Gondaga was the only one that had succeeded within the memory of the present generation, and his had been one of the milder ordeals.


XXII. — THE TOURNAMENT.

AT a signal given by the Queen, a female herald stepped into the arena and announced, through a trumpet, that the Princess Numeni was not dead as reported (Here the spectators clapped their hands and shouted), but she was unable to leave her bed.

The news was gratifying to Fairfax, not because he thought it lessened his danger, but because he did not wish to lose his brave little friend. He glanced at Ayzala to see how she was affected, and her eyes met his. She gave him a smile of recognition.

"Heavens!" he muttered to himself, "Princess as she is, she is willing to recognize me—a prisoner. She is surely not going to choose me for her husband."

This was precisely Ayzala's intention. She was not to he deterred by the thought of setting a dangerous and unpopular precedent. She loved the young man, and with her, love was something to "level all ranks and lay the shepherd's crook beside the sceptre." She would save Ozito's life by exercising a privilege belonging to her rank. She would defy her august mother if opposed by her. Fairfax's friendly smile made her radiant with happiness. She accepted it as a proof that he loved her, or, at least, thought sufficiently well of her to let her save his life by choosing him for a husband. Yes. She was sure of it. He had smiled again and bowed! It never struck her that a mere chivalrous notion had prompted him to this acknowledgment of her kind recognition of him.

Had she been a blackamoor, Fairfax would have done the same. His smile had expressed gratitude,—nothing more. He could not but admire, and appreciate, the goodness of heart and fidelity that enabled her to brave the eyes of the crowd and smile at a condemned prisoner. But he was not going to wed her for it. He would stay in the Bastile first. Had it been the Princess Numeni, he felt it would not have been so bad. He had already seen in her some of the finest qualities, that well outweighed her weaknesses. She was a lovable girl; but the kind he would choose for a friend, rather than for a wife. Had Ayzala's privilege belonged to Sione, his position would have been even more bearable. He half loved the beautiful girl whom he had first believed to be a boy and had admired as such. He now caught her eyes, and she smiled, her smile expressing a world of sympathy, love and sadness.

Sione's choice came after Ayzala's, and she saw her new-born happiness and joy about to leave her. With a selfishness, that is a part of intense love, she preferred that her loved one should remain in prison rather than that Ayzala should have him. Perhaps Ayzala would fail to brave the great crowd of eyes before her; if so, she, Sione, would not. She would choose him and demand that the Queen give him a trial.

In all that assemblage of beauty Sione had no peer. From time to time the eyes of nearly every competitor rested on her, only to turn away again, hopelessly and sadly. There was not in her face a sign that any one of them stood a chance. She was not for them. Such a goddess was for a god only, and there were no native gods on the Island.

Yet some of the young men were quite handsome in a way, and had been considered very handsome until within the last few days, when a new ideal of masculine beauty had been created; but they had the failing common to all the males of the island—a lack of that air of self-reliance that women like to see in men. They had been accustomed to regard women as superior beings.

Again the herald stepped forth, and proclaimed Her Majesty's command that the games proper should begin. As was customary on gamos-day, the prisoners should be indulged with permission to look on, and, afterwards, to take part in the more serious contests.

Gondaga, whose fifth time it was to contend for a wife—he had been but three years a widower—was the first to step into the arena. He was followed by thirty or forty others, and a series of contests of leaping, running, and tossing rings took place. The rings were thrown at an upright stake in the ground, the object being to encircle the stake with the rings, or make the latter rest as near it as possible. It was almost identical with our game of quoits. Some showed considerable skill and agility, particularly in the leaping, a few jumping over twelve feet in what we call a "standing jump."

Next came a game in which there were over a hundred contestants, half of them being on each side. It was something like the Rugby game of football, only it was more roughly played, and, instead of a ball, they used a stuffed bag as large as several footballs.

Fairfax now noticed a thing he had failed to observe sooner, that satisfied, to some extent, a point on which he had been curious. He had wondered if the competitors had not some way to show severally the maidens they strove for. Even though, as males, they had no right to choose partners, still it seemed only natural they should be permitted to show what virgins they aspired to. Now it was plain to him. Each man wore on his breast, either a card bearing the number of the seat occupied by his lady-love, or some device that corresponded to a similar adornment worn by her. This was, in many cases, made easy by the maidens' wearing conspicuous objects at their throats or waists. Fairfax noticed one plump, pretty maiden who wore a simple white ribbon about her neck, and he afterwards counted five men wearing similar ribbons. He looked immediately to see what Sione wore; and experienced a thrill of pleasure at finding she had nothing particularly distinctive about her person. Indeed she needed nothing more than nature had given her—a face and form so lovely that she could have gone through life without a name. Some of the competitors wore her number, but she remarked it not.

As our hero surmised, the wearing of a motto indicated a desire on the part of the wearer to marry; while the simple fact of a man's being a competitor in the games showed that he disliked celibacy and was open for offers—or rather, for acceptance.

At the conclusion of the football game, the injured were carried out of the arena, and the crowd applauded.

The Virgins were becoming more and more excited, as many of them, by this time, had made up their minds as to whom they should choose. Those that had not definitely made up their minds had favorites on whom they staked their sympathies and bestowed their smiles and applause.

No doubt it will strike the thoughtful reader, as it did Fairfax, that there was a possibility of embarrassments and complications arising out of a number of virgins admiring the same man. It will be seen that they had a way of settling such cases, though it rarely gave satisfaction to all concerned.

The next games were the manly ones of boxing, wrestling, and lifting and throwing heavy weights. These occupied nearly two hours, and were greatly enjoyed by the spectators. Some of the men were stronger than they looked, and lifted no mean weights; while many were quite expert in wrestling and sparring. Gondaga was among the best, and, had Fairfax been judge, he would have awarded him the Queen's Prize, which was always given on gamos- day to the competitor whose feats surpassed those of the others.

At last the arena was cleared of all but twenty competitors, who, by universal acknowledgment, were the best and most worthy to engage in the final contests. The fact that they outdid the others gave them only one advantage so far as their marriage prospects were concerned; it kept them longer under the eyes of the Virgins, and put them in a more favorable light. But it gave them other advantages. It opened up the possibility of acquiring enduring fame and receiving State favors; and it made them eligible for the Queen's Prize, which carried with it a special privilege. They promenaded, in single file, three times around the arena to music furnished by a band of female players.

Fairfax supposed the choice of mates was now about to begin, but such was not the case.

These men were simply following a custom, centuries old, the only object of which was to give the maidens a chance to view them, and compare their personal merits. Some walked with an affected gait, but their number was small; the majority kept their heads humbly down, except while passing the Virgins' stand, when they cast imploring glances at certain maidens.

"Well, I'm a thraitor to principle if they'll ever marry me off that way," whispered Maloney to Fairfax. "The idea o' them fellows lavin' it all to the girls, who despise them, in their hearts, because they can't hould up their heads an' act like men! Give me the custom of ould Kerry, where the lads do the courtin', slip their arms around the colleens' waists, cajole them with blarney, snatch a pogue, an' tell them to name the day."

"Hush, Mike! What's this now?"

"The girl with the thrumpet again."

"A female Stentor," said the Doctor.

The music ceased, and there followed a death-like silence, which was presently broken by the herald's announcement:

"According to custom, Her Majesty decrees that every prisoner wishing to avail himself of the opportunity, may run an ordeal suited to the gravity of the charge on which he has been incarcerated. Those accused of lighter offences will be tried first."

There was a slight, but general, movement on the part of the spectators, which indicated an especial interest in what was about to take place. Nearly every one shifted his or her position somewhat; leaned farther forward, or sat more upright in order to get the best possible view. A thrill of excitement ran through them all.

The twenty successful contestants took up such positions that, while standing several yards apart from one another, they formed a line extending completely around the arena.

The first prisoner was brought out and informed that he would have to make his way once around the arena, meeting, and defeating, in short fistic encounter, each man that opposed his progress. He declined the offer, amid the jeers and shouts of the crowd, and was sent back to his cell to remain there till next gamos-day, or till the natural expiration of his term. Two more followed his example, and were laughed at by the crowd; but they preferred their gloomy cells to freedom purchased by broken bones and battered heads. They deemed it madness to attempt to defeat twenty men one after the other.

The fourth prisoner, who, perhaps, had not had the blessing of Heaven's air as a free man for years, took a full minute to decide. He would, no doubt, have taken longer, but the spectators were becoming impatient. At last, with a sudden clenching of his fists, indicative of a convulsive effort of his will, he accepted the chance and confronted the first man. He overcame him, rushed past him and engaged with the second, with whom he had a long and savage encounter. Having defeated him and the third, he faced the fourth, who dealt him a blow that knocked him off his feet. He arose again, but was so fatigued and sore, from the effects of his struggles with four successive men, that he staggered toward the centre of the arena. This was a sign that he gave up the attempt; so he was seized and led off to the Bastile amid the deafening cheers of the crowd. It was cruel sport.

The twenty men who formed the circle were athletes trained for the occasion; and it was to their interest, however much they might sympathize with a prisoner, to fight desperately, and prevent his escape.

The next prisoner brought out was a man of gigantic size. He was nearly a head taller than Gondaga, who stood in the circle. Fairfax did not see him until he had accepted the offer and attacked the first man. Then he judged from his execution that his chances were good.

The prisoner went to work with a will that astonished the spectators. He knocked the men right and left, and very few faced him the second time. His huge arms worked like parts of a great machine, and he caused consternation as he went. He literally mowed the men down, Gondaga getting a blow that laid him on his back.

When, in a steady, systematic manner this Hercules had hewn his way to the fourteenth man he made a spurt, and, with a roar like that of an enraged bull, dashed past the last six men, knocking them down like nine-pins as he went.

A cheer from ten thousand throats went up to the skies, and the man was awarded liberty, and allowed to stand in the arena with the other contestants. He took his place next to the last one he had vanquished, and, for the first time, our friends saw his face.

A cry of surprise burst simultaneously from their lips.

They recognized the victor.

It was Boxall, The Terror!


XXIII. — THE ORDEAL.

THE sudden appearance of the Terror on the scene demands a word of explanation.

When our shipwrecked friends had abandoned the search for him, believing him to be drowned, he emerged from his hiding place among the reeds, and crawled on to the edge of the bank. Here he remained concealed till they went over the hill, when he rose to his feet and shook his fist after them, saying:

"Hal Ha! You lubbers! You'll hear more o' Boxall yet. Thought he'd drownded did ye? Not him. He's too good a swimmer an' diver for that."

Following their example, he slaked his thirst, which was greater than theirs on account of the quantity of brandy he had drunk, and ate greedily of the berries which grew in profusion along the bank.

For several days he wandered about the northern part of the island, frightening the wits out of the people, who had never before seen such a giant. At last he was captured and brought before the Queen, who was much alarmed at the appearance of another stranger. She allowed him to tell his story, and, strange to say, his manner pleased her, for Boxall was a cunning man and set himself to work to create a good impression.

He told a pitiable story of his inhuman treatment at the hands of his companions, who had left him to perish in the sea; and he threw out dark hints as to the motives that had prompted them to come to the island; all of which strengthened the Queen's suspicions regarding them. He was sent to prison to be confined till an investigation should be made.

He was the very prisoner that Sione, Fairfax, and Numeni had heard quarrelling with the guards in one of the corridors of the Bastile, and he was also the man whom Fairfax had mistaken for an assassin in the darkness of his cell.

There was tremendous excitement among the spectators when Boxall accomplished the remarkable feat of overcoming, in quick succession, twenty men. He was looked upon as a wonder, which he certainly was.

Ten other prisoners were brought out, and they all declined the ordeal; for they saw that, difficult as the task had been before, it was now much more difficult. They had not only twenty men to vanquish, but also the new man (Boxall) who had conquered the other twenty individually.

The next turn fell upon Dr. Parkman, who, to the horror and amazement of his friends, accepted the offer, and stepped from behind the bars before Fairfax could grasp his arm or utter a word to dissuade him.

"Come back here, Docthor," shouted Maloney. "D'ye want to get killed?"

"Doctor, Doctor," pleaded Fairfax; while Butt Hewgill raised his voice to a piteous falsetto in his efforts to restrain him.

It was no use. The foolish old man was very headstrong, and was bent on fighting for his liberty, though he had not the strength of a twelve years old boy. The crowd yelled with delight at his action, while his three friends begged and implored him to come back. Fairfax tried to get to his side, but the guards closed and locked the iron gate.

The Doctor was now informed that, his offence being of the most serious kind, the ordeal was correspondingly difficult and dangerous. He was to stand at one end of the arena, and the crowd of twenty-one men was to be let loose upon him. They were all to attack him at once. His business was to march the full length of the arena, in spite of the force arrayed against him. If he should succeed, he was to be set free; if not, he was to be put to death. Such was the terrible ordeal devised by the infamous Gondaga, for the punishment of Dr. Parkman and his protector. It meant certain death, and death in its worst form.

The crowd, at least that part of it that at once understood the ordeal, seemed displeased; while some looked positively disgusted. There were looks of sympathy on all sides, and the Virgins were pale and nervous. Even the Princess Ayzala was seen to touch the Queen's arm and whisper to her, but Alzira put on her most cruel and determined look, and made no sign to stay the proceedings.

Dr. Parkman had a good opportunity now, if he were in the mood to take advantage of it, to settle the question as to whether the Crown exercised despotic authority, or was held in check by the so-called representatives of the people.

There was Alzira, surrounded by ten thousand of her most influential subjects, including the Cognoscentes and the Seneces, every one of whom, as his or her face showed, was opposed to this iniquitous and cruel act. Yet not one dared to speak, except her daughter, Ayzala, and Sione, both of whom were silenced by dark and angry looks. The Queen was a despot; her people were slaves. A servile parliament, obsequious ministers, and close adherence to the forms of constitutional government enabled her to make her will the will of the people.

The foolish Dr. Parkman was not deterred by the sight of overwhelming odds; he threw off his coat and stepped to his place in the arena. The twenty-one men, including Boxall, received the word from Gondaga, and were advancing in a body to the attack, when a shout, like the roar of an angry sea-lion, was heard, and a man bounded into the arena, seized the Doctor by the arm, and, pulling him away, threw himself in front of him.

It was Fairfax!

He and Maloney had united their strength to pull at one of the iron bars till they bent it sufficiently to let Fairfax crawl out with the greatest difficulty. Two of the guards who opposed his progress received kicks that disabled them for further interference. Maloney tried to follow, but his huge frame got stuck between the bars.

"Stand back, you inhuman brutes," roared Fairfax, as he placed himself between the Doctor and his assailants. "You miserable cowards, would you strike an old man?"

The twenty-one men paused and stared in astonishment at the young Spartan, who, with flashing eyes, heaving chest, and distended nostrils, stood like an enraged panther ready to spring upon the first one that approached.

"Stand back," he shouted, "I'll kill the first man that advances!"

It was a grand sight; and it affected the vast crowd, for, after a short silence, a mighty cheer burst forth and ascended to the skies.

The Queen was embarrassed and annoyed.

"How dare you take such a liberty?" she exclaimed.

"I dare do anything to save the man I'm sworn to defend," answered Fairfax, "Not all the force on your Island can restrain me if there's a finger raised against him."

"Charge!" shouted Gondaga, having received a signal from the Queen; and the attack began. The men advanced, not one at a time, but in a body, Boxall being to the extreme left.

Fairfax knew he must not engage with Boxall while there was anyone else to watch, so he edged slightly to the right. His doing so made some of them think he was afraid; and five of them, wishing to distinguish themselves, made a rush at him. He placed himself on guard and struck down four one after another. Three of them sank with groans, and did not rise again.

He turned to look at Boxall—the only one he dreaded—and found him about to seize the Doctor. The ruffian's back was toward him; the opportunity was too good to be lost. Fairfax sprang forward and delivered a blow that would have killed any other man in the arena but him who received it. Boxall staggered, and, one of his feet catching on the Doctor's prostrate body, he slipped and fell. Fairfax, knowing his life and the Doctor's hung in the balance, hesitated not to do what, under ordinary circumstances, he would have died before doing. He leaped up in the air and came down with all his weight on the prostrate giant, thereby rendering him insensible. Then, turning quickly, and seeing his assailants closing upon him, he uttered a shout like that of an Apache Indian, jumped into their midst, and dealt blows right and left.

Every man he struck fell to the earth, and very few tried to get to their feet again. Two, that attempted to leap on his back, received backward kicks that doubled them up like doughnuts and sent them whirling along the sand. Gondaga, with a wicked look on his face, approached and was treated to the surprise of his life. He received a whack that broke his jaw and made a sound heard by every spectator present. It knocked him down, as well as the man who stood behind him; and, before he could rise, he was seized by a pair of strong hands and tossed over the ropes. He fell upon the heads of three of his terror-stricken companions that were crawling out under the ropes, and they were borne to the ground by his weight.

Fairfax was now pretty well master of the situation. There were only nine men left to face him, and some of these were so frightened by the effects of his ponderous blows that they hesitated to advance.

"Come on," he shouted. "If you don't attack me I'll attack you."

Saying this, he made a rush at them, and five of them actually turned and fled from the arena.

The cheers that resounded on all sides were deafening, and he could hear Maloney making more noise than a dozen.

Gondaga had arisen to his feet and re-entered the arena. He was trying to urge on the other four men, when Fairfax rushed at him and struck him a blow on the neck.

That blow ended the ordeal!

Gondaga dropped dead, without so much as a groan. The four men, seeing this, hurried out of the arena. They were filled with fear of the young giant's tremendous blows.

Let us look at the result of this strange and uneven contest, where one side had both the advantage and the disadvantage of numbers.

One man was stunned, who was only now reviving; two men were dead; two more dying; seven, unable to rise on account of broken bones; and the rest so paralyzed with fear that they either fled from the arena or lay where they had fallen.

And the victor?

He was standing in the centre of the arena with scarcely a scratch! He had received but a few light blows!

He looked a moment at the prostrate men, and then turned away, only to come face to face with Boxall, who was as fresh as ever and anxious to renew the fight.


XXIV. — THE QUEEN'S FAVOR.

IT is unnecessary to state to the intelligent reader that it was not strength alone, nor skill, nor agility, nor yet a combination of all three that decided the late remarkable contest, for the defeated side, being numerically twenty-one times as great, had more of each, and all, of those qualities. He knows that Fairfax had more than half won the battle when, by taking advantage of an unguarded moment, he felled the man who had just defeated individually the other twenty.

The minds of men are easily influenced. A slight thing that will not affect an individual, will sometimes move a crowd. When the Saxons, contending bravely with the invading Normans, saw their leader, Harold, fall, they turned and fled; and the same thing happened on Killiecrankie and other fields. Agincourt would not have been won had Henry V. fallen; nor would Henry VIII., the despot, have been so feared by his people, had not Wolsey, his minister, whom Henry could, and did, shatter with a word, been also feared by them.

The fortunate blow that felled Boxall saved Fairfax and his friend from a horrible death. It made him a Sampson in the eyes of his assailants who, with the exception of Gondaga and one or two others, from that moment, only made a show of fighting, because they were under the gaze of the crowd, and remained in the arena, because they dared not leave it.

When Fairfax saw the vindictive Boxall confront him, he stood for a moment as if about to make a spring; then he dropped his arms and strode to that part of the arena directly in front of Queen Alzira's throne.

"Your Majesty," he said, in a firm, loud voice, "you subjected, to a cruel ordeal, my aged friend, Dr. Parkman. I am his sworn protector. I have done the work for him. I ask you to release him, and I am willing to stand another ordeal for myself and my friends."

"Young man," replied the Queen, affecting a graciousness of manner for the sake of appearing well in the eyes of her subjects—she was shrewd enough to see her late acts had not pleased them—"your action entitles you to release, but not your friend. Dr. Parkman is charged with murder and treason, and he must remain a prisoner till it pleases our Majesty to give him a trial."

"You say I am released?"

"Yes. The issue of your combat places you on the same footing as the other competitors. You are free to accept any Virgin that may choose you."

A buzz of voices, in the stand to the right, told that this was cheering news to the Virgins, each one of whom, at that moment, began to speculate on her chances.

"May I remain by my friends during the rest of the games?" asked Fairfax.

"You may."

He bowed and walked down the arena to where Dr. Parkman lay, weak with fright, in the arms of Maloney, who had, at last, got through the bars. He did not look at Boxall as he passed him.

All the other prisoners declined to face any ordeal whatever. Maloney would have rejoiced in a scuffle, but, for the sake of Butt and the Doctor, preferred to remain a prisoner.

The business of selecting the victor and awarding the Queen's Prize now began. The competitors were called into the arena, from which the dead and wounded men had been removed. Only a few presented themselves, for it was understood that none should enter the final contests, but those that had acquitted themselves remarkably well. Boxall, availing himself of his new right, entered, to the great delight of the crowd, who expected some rare sport. They continued to regard him as an invincible athlete, notwithstanding he had been knocked down by Fairfax, for he had been plainly taken at a disadvantage, and it had been noticeable that the younger man, wonderful as he was, continually sought to avoid him.

Several trials of strength and skill took place. After a awhile the number of contestants dwindled down to four, of which Boxall was one. He held his own very well in the trials calling for agility; when it came to handling heavy weights, he was like a giant among children. Within twenty minutes from the start, the other three competitors had withdrawn, leaving him the winner.

Amid loud applause, he was summoned before the Queen, and it surprised his countrymen, who remembered his rough and awkward manners on shipboard, to see how well he acted. He made a genuflection, bowed his head, and, rising slowly, put on such a modest look that the Queen was visibly pleased. There was a deep silence as Alzira addressed him.

"Your name is—?"

"Boxall, your Majesty," he replied, bowing low.

"A very appropriate name. You are very strong."

"I have never met my equal. I don't think the man lives who could out-lift me."

"I can believe that, for your exhibition of strength to-day has astonished and pleased us all."

"Excuse me, your Majesty. You have not yet seen one half of my strength. That has been mere child's play."

He straightened himself up proudly and smiled with the consciousness of his muscular advantages. It was pleasant to be a giant, in a land where the men were physically weak.

"Can it be so?" said Alzira.

"It is. If you would like to see what I can do I shall be happy to show you," and he stood with a look on his face that plainly declared he was anxious to make a display.

"Boxall," said the Queen, smiling and surveying the big burly giant, "I admire strength. I admire, above all things, a strong man"—this was music to the ears of the Terror—"but my people have been assembled here for hours, and there is much to be done yet. If they are not tired,"—she looked around and smiled graciously upon her subjects—"if they would like to see an exhibition of your powers, I would also."

One general cheer and a clapping of hands expressed the wish of the crowd; it was delighted with the prospect of such an exhibition.

Boxall was the most gratified person present. Receiving the Queen's consent, he set to work with alacrity to please and astonish.

What must the other competitors have thought when he began to toss over his head weights which they had failed to move on the ground? His feats were remarkable, and doubly so to the Islanders. He performed about a dozen great feats, and ended with two that surpassed the rest. He engaged in "a tug of war" with four men, and succeeded in pulling them across a line marked on the ground. Then he invited the four to lift a block of iron that stood in the arena; and, after they, with great difficulty, had raised it four inches from the ground, he bent his gigantic frame, seized it, and lifted it to his knees.

The people went wild with enthusiasm. They had never seen anything like it.

The Queen called Boxall before her, and informed him that not only had he won his freedom but also a reward which she was pleased to bestow on him.

"Would you like to become one of my subjects?" she asked.

"Nothing would give me greater pleasure, your Majesty," he said. "I would deem it an honor," and he smiled, and bent his knee to the ground.

"Then I appoint you to the office made vacant by the unfortunate death of Gondaga. Rise, Lord High Executioner, Boxall!"

Loud applause greeted this announcement, and a hundred persons envied the fortunate Boxall.

Fairfax and his friends heard it with astonishment and dismay. Boxall, Lord High Executioner! The crafty Alzira had made the appointment for a purpose, and Fairfax guessed it. Boxall did not like his fellow-countrymen, and, for that reason, was pleasing to her. He was to be Keeper of the Bastile! He was to be their gaoler; and they were to be in the power of a human beast who was their deadliest enemy. Well might poor Butt Hewgill whine with fear.

It was now announced that the Queen's Prize was to be given; and, as was the usual custom, a privilege was to go with it. The winner was entitled to ask of the Queen any favor he chose, and it had never yet been known that a High Monarch refused to grant the request of a Champion of the Games.

Fairfax's heart gave a sudden leap. Why had he not entered the final competition? If he had won, he could ask for Dr. Parkman's release, and the Queen would have to grant it. He was dissatisfied with himself, as all strong-minded men are when they find they have let an opportunity slip by. He would have been allowed to enter, as the Queen had placed him on terms of equality with the other contestants; but, though he delighted in athletic contests, he had refrained simply because he had no wish to display his God-given strength for such a motive as vainglory. He looked toward Boxall; the latter was waiting to receive the prize from the Queen, and reveling in the delight which the applause afforded him.

Presently the band, which had begun, stopped playing, and the herald again appeared with the trumpet through which she shouted:

"Before awarding the Prize, the Queen demands to know if there is any competitor that thinks he can vanquish Boxall. If so, according to custom, he is given a last chance. If he take it and fail, he cannot be chosen for husband till next gamos-day. If he defeats the mighty Boxall he will secure the Prize and the privilege of asking any favor from Her Majesty. Speak. Does any competitor want this last chance?"

The contestants shook their heads and retired from the arena.

"Speak!" repeated the herald. "This is the last chance. Will anyone attempt to vanquish Boxall?"

"Yes. I will."

The words came ringing up clear and distinct from the prisoners' end of the amphitheatre, and the excited spectators rose to their feet to see who uttered them. Surprised to find that anyone had the audacity to contest the Prize with the giant Boxall, they looked and saw Fairfax, who had arisen from his seat and was now advancing up the arena. He walked slowly, and twice he looked back and spoke some words to his friends who were trying to dissuade him from his purpose.

The Queen bit her lips when she saw him, and so did Boxall, but the admiring Virgins did not, nor did the crowd that sent up cheer after cheer.

His name was entered as a competitor against Boxall, and the herald announced that the contest would take place immediately after dinner.


XXV. — THE CONTEST.

THE crowd which gathered, after dinner, to witness the trial of strength and skill between the two champions, was even larger than it had been in the morning. The fame of the athletes had spread about the city in two short hours, and all that could flocked to the vast uncovered amphitheatre.

The faces of the Virgins wore a new look; those that in the forenoon had settled their choice, now seemed wavering and undecided. A man had appeared, who, whether he proved the victor or not, was beyond all other men when considered in the light of a prospective husband. And he had looked so grand when contending with so many men! How desperately he had fought! What prodigious feats of valor he had accomplished to save his aged friend! Too bad he should now be pitted against an invincible giant! It was not fair. It should not be allowed.

The maidens cast many a longing glance at Fairfax, when he appeared with Butt, Maloney, and the Doctor; and, if their hearts and minds could have been read, the story would not have been very gratifying to the crowd of young men who shiveringly waited to be chosen.

The latter looked after Fairfax and admired his fine figure and graceful carriage. They wished they possessed the like advantages; they wished, above all, that they could look so cool and collected when they were going out to face overwhelming odds.

Amid the blare of trumpets, Queen Alzira appeared, surrounded by her train. She seemed in much better humor than in the morning. She bowed and smiled pleasantly to her subjects, who dropped on their knees and remained kneeling till she had taken her seat. Perhaps Ayzala or Numeni had had some talk with her; perhaps she had thought seriously over the events of the morning and derived a wholesome lesson therefrom. The spontaneous outburst of popular applause accorded to a man against whom she had openly shown prejudice, had, no doubt, taught her the inexpediency of alienating the good will of even a small portion of her subjects.

Numeni was not present; the herald announced that, though she was improving, she was still too ill to appear.

Fairfax remarked that Sione was looking very pale; that her bosom heaved with excitement, and her hands trembled. He did not know that the lovely girl was worrying only for him, whom, in her heart, she called her Ozito. Having seen Boxall's strength, and having little idea of Fairfax's, she had come to the conclusion her hero would he crushed to death, particularly as she had read in Boxall's look his animosity toward his young rival.

After a few formalities, the contest began. It was agreed that there should be trials in six different games, and that each of the competitors should have the right to name what three of the games should be. The man winning the greater number out of the six, would be declared the champion.

Lots were drawn for first choice, and Boxall won. He named wrestling as the first test, because, confident in his strength, he hoped and intended to crush Fairfax in such a manner as to render him unable to take part in the other games. He had crushed to death more than one strong man in his life-time, and he had no scruples about doing it again. He had had the penetration to see that it would not cause the Queen any displeasure. He stepped to the center of the arena and stood waiting, with folded arms. He had concealed, in his breast, inside his clothing, a weapon with sharp points facing outward, so that he could inflict a death- wound by crushing.

"Revenge at last," he whispered through his clenched teeth when Fairfax confronted him.

The crowd scarcely breathed as the wrestlers made the first rush for a hold. There was such an apparent disparity in size and strength that their sympathies inclined to the younger man, whom they fully expected to see overwhelmed.

Boxall secured the best hold, but, before he could avail himself of the advantage, Fairfax broke away. They rushed together again and got a side hold, each with an arm around the other, and a hand grasping the other's hand. They struggled, and bent their shoulders half way to the ground, and straightened up again and rocked to and fro without either throwing the other.

The crowd roared with delight. It was a struggle of giants, for the young man had proven himself a giant.

Suddenly Boxall tried a trick, but Fairfax, who knew every twist and turn in wrestling, caught him at it. Then he tried another, and Fairfax, feigning ignorance of it, encouraged him. Boxall, having secured a satisfactory hold, swayed to the right, as if he was about to fall; all that was necessary to make the trick a success was that Fairfax should shove him, when his leg would be caught at the knee and he would fall underneath.

It is a fine trick among skilled wrestlers; it was a child's trick to the young Scotchman, who could scarcely refrain from laughing when Boxall tried it. Boxall kept swaying backward, waiting for his opponent to act on the apparent advantage and throw his weight upon him. For some time Fairfax ignored the invitation, but at last accepted it, and shoved him hard.

Immediately Boxall let himself fall. But he did not fall on top of his rival, as he had expected. Fairfax, who knew the counter-trick, shifted his leg, just as Boxall was falling, and, at the same time, placed his left foot upon Boxall's right. This enabled him to take advantage of Boxall's attempt to save himself by falling on his hands, and also to shove him; and the result was that Fairfax was on his feet and Boxall was on his back.

The howl of rage to which the Terror gave vent was lost in the roar of applause that rewarded the clever manoeuvre. He had defeated himself in his own game. He leaped to his feet to continue the wrestling, but was reminded that the agreement called for only one bout. He gnashed his teeth; he had expected to kill his rival in that one bout, and now his chance was gone.

It was Fairfax's turn to name what the next contest should be, as by agreement, the choice was to alternate. To Boxall's surprise, the game suggested was one in which he excelled, namely tossing heavy weights. A large block of iron was secured that made a good, but heavy weight to cast from the shoulder. Each man was to have three throws, his longest throw being the one to count in his favor.

Boxall made the first essay and cast the weight fifteen feet. Fairfax followed with sixteen feet.

Boxall threw again and made about eighteen, and Fairfax came after with seventeen feet, two inches.

Boxall was now delighted, for he felt sure his opponent had exerted every muscle during his last throw. He raised the block again, and, putting his toe to the mark, bent his huge body. He cast the weight twenty-one feet, eight inches.

A great shout of applause followed this remarkable throw, and Boxall, with a wicked smile of triumph, crossed over to the side of the arena and sat down.

There was a silence, deep as death, when Fairfax raised the weight and stepped lightly to the mark. He was smiling as if he had not fallen short in his last throw. With a spring of his lithe body, and a shove of his arm he sent the block whirling through the air. It struck nearly a foot beyond Boxall's mark, and the cry went up from the herald:

"Boxall 0; Fairfax 2."

The Terror was now in a rage fearful to see, and his wrath increased when he observed the confident smile on his rival's face, and heard the rapturous applause.

Fairfax smiled for two reasons: he wished to excite Boxall to madness, and he wanted to inspire with confidence poor Sione, who, he thought, would faint from suppressed fear and excitement. It made his heart warm to the lovely girl to see the interest she took in him; how her face paled when she feared he would be beaten; how it lighted up with joy when he was successful. She joined heartily in the applause of the crowd, who were surprised at the two successive overthrows of the giant they had believed invincible.

Boxall named the next contest. It was to be lifting, and this being something that depended on strength alone, he confidently hoped for victory. He would have named boxing, but that he wanted to win at least one game before he killed his antagonist, and boxing would give him that coveted opportunity. He walked to the centre of the arena and laid one large iron block on top of another. Then he bent his body, seized the weight, and lifted it as high as his hips.

The crowd applauded vociferously, for there were no three native athletes that could together lift it.

Fairfax stepped smiling into the arena and seized the weight amid a silence so great and oppressive that the breathing of the excited mass of spectators could be heard. His body was bent over it so long that all thought him powerless to move it, and Boxall became so excited that he shouted:

"Help him, somebody!"

Suddenly the weight was seen to move! It rose higher—higher—higher, till it reached Fairfax's shoulder, and then—wonder of wonders!—the young man walked off down the arena with it.

No sound; not a word. The silence of an astonished crowd was the tribute to the young Hercules as he halted in front of the royal stand, and, depositing his load, bowed to Queen Alzira and gave Sione a smile.

Fairfax was supposed to lead off with the second and last trial of lifting, and all eyes were upon him as he advanced to the centre and piled four iron blocks one upon the other. He seized the weight, and, without a moment's hesitation, lifted it as high as his knees and slowly set it down. Then he took two small blocks and, with one in each hand, held them out at arm's length. Lastly he took a heavy iron ball and whirled it five times in the air, catching it four times in his hands and the fifth time catching it in one hand, the other being behind his back.

It would be impossible to describe the enthusiasm of the spectators, or the look on Boxall's face as he stepped into the arena to essay these feats. He struggled at the large weight for fully two minutes, and, though he moved it, he was unable to lift it clear of the ground. Then he tried the feat of holding out, at arm's length, the two blocks; and, though he managed to hold one at a time, for a short space, he could not raise both together. He failed miserably in his attempt to handle the iron ball. He could neither throw it as high as Fairfax sent it, nor could he catch it. The feats called for skill as well as strength.

"Fairfax 3. Boxall 0," was the herald's announcement, as Fairfax stepped out to claim his right of naming the next contest.

"What is it to be?" asked Boxall.

"Boxing," answered Fairfax quietly.

"Without gloves, I hope."

"If the Queen permits it."

The Queen readily gave her consent. Being rather masculine, she delighted in trials of strength, and the rougher the contests were the better. She also assented to Boxall's request that the combat should continue till one of the men, by his own acknowledgment, should be beaten.

The Terror stepped into the arena with murder in his eyes. His previous defeats had not daunted him. He believed he could deal blows that would kill the young man, and he had, besides, on one of his fingers, a sharp steel ring that could cut like a knife.

They sparred for fully five minutes without either receiving a blow, and it is safe to assume that the Islanders never before saw such an exhibition of pugilistic science. Boxall was flushed and excited; Fairfax was cool, but as pale as death. Each knew that this, the fourth contest, was to be the last.

Boxall sent in six vicious blows in quick succession, but they all fell short of their mark, being either dodged or parried with a skill that was astonishing. Again he struck and missed, and again was the crowd surprised at the young man who, guarding himself so well, had not yet tried to deliver a blow.

But Fairfax knew what he was doing, as could be seen by the flash of the dark eyes that watched every move of his skilful, but excited, opponent. He no longer smiled. There was an expression on his face as fierce as any Boxall ever wore.

Suddenly there was a commotion among the spectators. A mighty, deafening shout arose to the heavens. Several women, from long- suppressed excitement, fainted, and among them were Sione and Ayzala. Maloney's stentorian voice could be heard above all others.

The cause of the din was very simple.

Fairfax had been standing quiet and cool, apparently trying to do nothing but guard himself with his wonderful skill, when there came a change, as sudden and unexpected by the crowd, as a lightning flash on a serene and cloudless day. His right fist flew out like a bomb discharged from a mortar, and Boxall fell to the ground with a broken nose and his face covered with blood. He did not rise at the end of a minute—the time allowed for recovery—and, at the end of two minutes, he was carried unconscious out of the arena.

Fairfax had struck one blow!

It was worse than the kick of a horse!


XXVI. — A CRITICAL SITUATION.

WHEN the uproar, consequent upon the signal defeat of Boxall, had subsided, Fairfax, whom God had endowed with remarkable strength, walked up before the throne of the High Monarch and said:

"Your Majesty, as the winner in the contest, I wish to avail myself of that privilege you have promised as an accompaniment to the Prize."

"What favor have you to ask?"

"The immediate release of my three friends."

"You ask something very difficult to grant," said Queen Alzira. "There are serious charges against you and Dr. Parkman."

"Your Majesty," he replied, in a voice loud enough to be heard by those nearest the Queen, "we are accused of the death of Leon, who succumbed to old age; Dr. Parkman is charged with treason because he uttered some words not half as ridiculous as much of his ordinary talk; and you accuse me of having attempted to poison the Princess Numeni, who, I am sure, will exonerate me when she recovers."

"Well, well, we'll see. Meantime, as I never break my word, you and your friends are free."

Fairfax could have kissed the hem of her garment in gratitude when he heard the glad announcement. It brought the tears to his eyes. He was afterwards to learn, with a shock, what motive induced Alzira to be so lenient. He thanked her and, having received the Prize, hurried down through the arena to his friends. As he went, every eye was upon him; thousands uttered his name and extolled his mighty deeds. He heard the wild applause, but it did not give him half so much pleasure as the look he got from a pair of bright blue eyes that illumined the most perfect face he had ever seen—the face of Sione, who had recovered from her faint.

Nor did it please him as much as the congratulatory greeting of his friends, whom he had amazed by his wonderful achievements. The old Doctor threw his arms about his neck, Butt cried with joy, and Maloney shouted and talked so fast that his utterances were an unintelligible jargon.

The choosing of husbands, for some strange and unexplained reason, was postponed till night, and it was announced that only those directly concerned would be permitted to be present. The crowd went away disappointed at losing its accustomed treat, but it showed no sullenness. There was not heard a single murmur; which confirmed Dr. Parkman in his opinion that, despite the existence of a legislative council, and a body empowered to alter the succession, the Queen was an independent ruler—a despot.

Our friends were well treated, so well, in fact, that Fairfax became suspicious, for he had learned to mistrust the cruel and crafty Alzira. They were given private rooms in the Castle, and allotted special servants to wait upon them and obey their commands. All their old privileges were restored.

In one of these rooms the four were sitting, merrily discussing the late events, when a female page entered, and informed Fairfax that the Queen wished to see him. He followed the page till they entered the Queen's boudoir—an apartment so magnificently furnished as to present to the eye a gorgeous scene of luxurious splendor.

Alzira was reclining in an easy chair ornamented with gold. She was looking fully ten years younger than she had appeared at the games, her beauty having been heightened by the skilful use of cosmetics. She was superbly attired. Dismissing the page, she received Fairfax kindly, and bade him be seated.

He sat down near the door.

"No, not there," she said smiling. "Sit here,—near me." She pointed to a chair within reach of her.

Fairfax did as he was directed, wondering what he had done to deserve this mark of royal favor.

He looked around, expecting to see someone, but there was not even an attendant present. He and Queen Alzira were alone!

"Ozito," said she, "I have something to say to you. I postponed the espousals to-day on your account, because I feared you would get into serious trouble. Many of the Virgins looked as if they intended to choose you, and, as my daughter Ayzala, who loves you, fainted, and had to be borne away from the amphitheatre, I thought it wrong to submit you to the risk of being secured by any of the others."

"There was no danger, your Majesty. I trust the Princess Ayzala is now better."

"Yes. Tell me, Ozito, have you ever been in love? Answer me truthfully."

"I will, your Majesty. I don't think I have ever been in love."

He deemed it unnecessary and unwise to tell her that he was fast falling in love with the most beauteous girl in her domains.

"Do you think you could love—in time?" she asked.

"Yes," he said, after a pause. "I think I could," and again he thought of the entrancing Sione.

"Could you ever love Ayzala?"

"I think not, your Majesty. In fact I am sure of it. I respect her, but that's all. I would a thousand times prefer Numeni to her."

"Numeni!"

The Queen looked surprised, and, Fairfax thought, displeased; so he quickly added:

"But of course I don't love her either."

"Well," continued Alzira, apparently much relieved, "what I want to say is that many of the Virgins will choose you for a husband to-night. They have a right, by the law, to do so, but the right of the Princess Ayzala—she being a daughter of the royal house—takes precedence of theirs. You must not show a willingness to take any of those Virgins. I forbid it."

"I shall remember your Majesty's words."

"Very good. One of the Royal Family, who has the foremost right, will choose you, and it is my will you should accept her. You will have honors lavished upon you. You will be the first man to be raised to a dignity equal to woman's."

"But, your Majesty—"

"Listen, Ozito. Mark well what I say, and ponder over it during the hours that intervene. A daughter of the royal house will, this night, publicly choose you for her husband. It will be she who has the best right. You must accept her, and accept her with a show of willingness and pride in the honor conferred upon you. Otherwise our dignity is insulted—disgraced. If you take her to wife—none of our men would dare refuse—you will be made happy; if you reject her offered hand, I swear you and your friends will be put to death."

She laid her hands on his shoulders and hissed a repetition of the last words in his ear; then she looked up smiling in his face and said:

"Because, Ozito, this woman, this daughter of the royal house, loves intensely him who overthrew all competitors, and I, as Queen, will not see her disappointed."

Fairfax was alarmed. To marry the Princess Ayzala was wormwood and gall to him, and yet he felt it almost a duty since it would save Dr. Parkman's life. Knowing he could do nothing better than temporize, he said:

"You are very good, indeed, to honor me so."

The Queen was delighted. Grasping his hands familiarly, and dropping, for the moment, all the bearing of a Sovereign, she said:

"Ozito, you will be more honored. Your home will be in the Palace. You would like to live in the Palace, wouldn't you?"

"Certainly, your Majesty, if—"

He was going to say more. He was going to add a modification so strong that it would almost nullify his positive assertion, when the Queen, entirely mistaking his meaning, and overjoyed with the belief that he was consenting not only willingly, but even gladly, threw her arms about his neck, in a motherly way, and, drawing his head toward her, kissed him on the forehead.

A wonderful condescension for Queen Alzira!

"I am glad of this, Ozito," she said. "I rejoice. Kneel and I will raise you to a rank entitling you to aspire to the hand of a member of the Royal House."

Fairfax, hoping in his heart his prospective royal mother-in- law would not become so effusively demonstrative again, knelt, as he was bidden, and she tapped him on the back with a sword. He could not help experiencing a nervous thrill while she was performing the ceremony.

"Rise Sir John Fairfax," she said, "you are now elevated to a rank—the first created on this island; I have borrowed it from your world—that enables you to wed the royal person who will this night choose you."

"Will your Majesty kindly tell me what my rank is?"

"You are of the same rank as young Sione, that is one step below the Princesses."

Fairfax thanked the Queen, and, having enquired how Numeni was, expressed a wish to see her. The idea had suddenly occurred to him that, if he could get into Numeni's presence, he might secure a chance to say a few words privately to her. If so, he would tell her how the Queen was determined to wed him to the Princess Ayzala—the daughter of the Royal House, as she impressively called her—and, perhaps, the cunning Numeni, who was jealous of Ayzala, might invent, and execute, some plan to prevent matters coming to such a pass. There was no time to be lost, so he repeated his wish to see Numeni, and judge, from her pulse and temperature, how she was getting along.

"Confound it," he thought, "if the worst came to the worst, and I had to ally myself with the Royal House, I'd take Numeni ahead of Ayzala ten times over."

The Queen, suspecting nothing, but, on the contrary, crediting him with kind motives, led him to Numeni's boudoir. She went in herself first, and presently returned to lead him in.

Fairfax found Numeni in her bed. She was asleep and breathing heavily. The richly embroidered counterpane drawn up to her chin, and the mass of wavy auburn hair caressing the silken pillow, threw into relief the beautiful white face with its expression of child-like innocence. She had never appeared more attractive. She had never come so near to touching the heart of Fairfax. She would have melted a Sir Percivale.

The Queen seemed anxious to get him away, perhaps to bring him to Ayzala, but Fairfax did not wish to leave the room till he had had a word with his friend, Numeni. He had so much confidence in the clever girl that he believed he had only to whisper his trouble, and she would save him in some way or other.

"She is sleeping soundly," said the Queen. "Let us go."

"Pardon me, your Majesty, I'd like to feel her pulse first."

Taking advantage of his new rank, he advanced to the bed, without asking permission, and picked up Numeni's plump white hand that lay outside the coverlet.

"She is quite feverish, your Majesty," he said, and, as he held the Queen's eyes with his own, he secretly pinched Numeni's wrist in order to wake her.

But she did not wake. She turned on her back, and apparently sank in deeper sleep.

Cunning Numeni!

"Isn't she beautiful?" whispered Fairfax.

"Yes," said the Queen, not knowing whether to feel pleased or not.

"She favors your Majesty."

"Do you think so?"

"I do. She is the image of you. What beautiful hair she has!"—he had already discovered Queen Alzira's susceptibility to flattery. "Her pulse beats fast," he added, holding Numeni's hand in one of his, and stroking it with his other hand.

"You say she is feverish?"

"Yes, your Majesty."

There was a moment's silence, and then Fairfax got a surprise that nearly caused him to fall off the edge of the bed where he sat. The little hand he held in his pinched his fingers!

What did it mean?

He looked at the fair Princess; she was, to all appearance, in deep sleep. Her bosom rose and fell with the wonted regularity of repose. Stray tresses of her hair, catching her breath, undulated with the evenness of little ripples on the sunlit water. It was scarcely possible to think she was not in sweet slumber.

"Your Majesty," said Fairfax, "would it be troubling you too much if I asked you to let me have a glass of very strong wine or liquor—as quickly as possible? I want to see the effect of—"

His manner spoke more than his words, for the whole force of his mind was bent on rendering Alzira subservient to his one great wish. He almost tried to mesmerize her.

"I have, in the room next to my boudoir," she said, "some very old wine that—"

"Just the thing, your Majesty," he exclaimed. "If you'd be so kind—O may I ask you to hurry?"

As he spoke he kept his eyes on her face, and, at the same time, exchanged pinches with the hand he held imprisoned.

The Queen hesitated a moment, as if loth to leave the room; observing which, Fairfax bent his head over Numeni's chest, ostensibly to count her heartbeats.

"I'll fetch it in a moment," said the Queen, and she departed quickly, intending, as he well knew, to be the shortest possible length of time out of the room.

The moment she disappeared, Fairfax heard a faint laugh close to his ear, and, raising his head, he saw gazing up at him, the mischievous-looking eyes of the Princess Numeni.

"What are you doing?" she asked, trying to refrain from laughing. "I have been awake all the time. I heard the nice things you said of me."

"Your Highness, I want to speak to you," he whispered. "The Queen threatens death to me and my friends if I do not marry Ayzala. I must give my answer to-night. Can you save me? I can't marry her."

"I could try."

"O thank you. I knew you would."

"Tell me one thing," she said quickly, holding his hands and looking up in his face.

"Well?"

"What would my reward be?"

"I don't know. I'd do almost anything to get out of marrying Ayzala—that is, without jeopardizing my friends."

"Will you wed me, if I save you?"

Fairfax thought a moment, and there flashed upon his mind a vision of loveliness he had first seen in seventeenth century court dress. He thought, too, of the bitterness of a life spent with Ayzala, the terrible results if he rejected her, and the oath given to save Dr. Parkman at any personal sacrifice.

"Will you marry me if my intervention alone saves you?" asked Numeni, drawing his face closer to hers, and looking into the very depths of the mirrors of his soul.

"Yes."

There was one wild, glad cry, and, the next moment, his neck was encircled by a pair of soft, white arms, his head was drawn down to the pillows, and a shower of warm kisses rained upon his face.

"Ozito! Ozito!" exclaimed the impulsive girl, "you are mine! You are mine! O I love you!"

"What does this mean? Release him," cried an angry voice at the foot of the bed.

Fairfax and Numeni looked up and were struck dumb with terror.

Queen Alzira stood before them!


XXVII. — THE EXCITED VIRGINS.

"WHAT does this mean?" repeated Queen Alzira, her handsome face fairly blazing with wrath.

Fairfax stood erect and faced her, but said not a word. He was determined not to open his mouth till Numeni had given him his cue.

The Queen looked from one face to the other. In Fairfax's she could read nothing, not even embarrassment; in Numeni's she saw very little more, for the girl was quick-witted and cunning enough to assume a sleepy look.

"Is this what you sent me out of the room for?" she asked, throwing the full power of her piercing black eyes on Fairfax.

"No," he answered quietly.

"Explain this, then."

"Mother," interrupted Numeni, "you must not blame the young man. He is wholly innocent. Listen to me. I was asleep, and woke up to find someone bending over me, counting my heart-beats. Thinking it was my dear sister, Ayzala, I threw my arms about her neck (as I supposed) and passionately begged her not to take Ozito from me—saying he was mine, as I had been dreaming. The poor young man was frightened,—I frightened you, sir, didn't I? I am very sorry, but I was not fully awake. I hope you'll forgive me. You know, when we first wake from deep sleep, we are not fully conscious of the objects around us—and I had been very feverish. Oh dear!"

Here she began to counterfeit weeping so naturally that an adamantine heart would have been softened.

The Queen was by no means convinced, but Numeni, with alternate laughing and crying, entreated her so vehemently to credit her story, that, at last, she consented to let the matter pass. But she warned the Princess—and her manner forced Fairfax to take the warning as meant chiefly for himself—that if anything more passed between them, beyond the ordinary conventional civilities, the consequences would be fearful. Her looks gave terrible emphasis to her threat.

As Fairfax left the room he saw Numeni's face, and the sad look on it appealed to his sympathy. He thought the Queen was going to conduct him into Ayzala's presence, to let him have some conversation with his future bride, but he was agreeably disappointed. She took him around the Castle to show him the many objects of interest it contained, and she did him the extreme honor of taking his arm and leaning upon it. He had never thought to be favored with the arm of a Queen, nor, in his wildest moments, had he ever dreamt that a Queen would force him to become her son-in-law.

How he dreaded Ayzala! The thought of marrying her made him shudder. The hour of the espousals was drawing so near that he could not concentrate his mind on anything else.

"Queen Alzira," he said, when they had almost made the rounds of the Castle, and he had, by clever and judicious flattery, got her into good humor, "how old is Ayzala?"

"She is twenty-five."

"Is that all?"

"That's all. Numeni is twenty-three."

"Don't you think I am too young to wed? I am not yet twenty- three."

"The man who can overthrow twenty men and a giant is no child. If you were ten years younger I would say you were of marriageable age."

"But—"

"Sir John Fairfax, you are the only man on the island. Our women never saw a man before."

He saw it was no use. He would have to wed Ayzala or let his friends and himself suffer death. There was no third way out of it.

It suddenly occurred to him that it would only be right to consult his friends in the matter. They were at least half as much interested in it as he was. If they wished him to save them at such a sacrifice, he would do it; if not, he would reject Ayzala and suffer the penalty.

He got away from the Queen at last, but had great difficulty in doing so, as she seemed anxious to keep him with her up to the last hour.

"You'll make a loquacious mother-in-law," he said to himself, as he left her room. "I sincerely hope Ayzala's tongue is shorter."

He explained his difficulty to his friends and they listened with patience and sympathy. But they could not help him form any resolution. They were all willing to die rather than to have him save them by a marriage repugnant to him. Even Butt Hewgill spoke of "shuffling off his mortal coil" in preference to accepting such a sacrifice from him. The poor lad, in his earnestness, looked as noble as the Knight of La Mancha the day he first rode out ahead of Sancho Panza.

"Sure you might as well marry the purty Ayzala," said Maloney. "You needn't be bothered with her long. The Docthor here'll mix you up a pill, an' you can smuggle it into her tay-cup. They'll think she died o' joy."

Fairfax smiled; he knew Maloney was joking, though there was nothing but seriousness in the big fellow's face, except away down in the depths of his twinkling blue eyes, where could be seen, by one who knew him, a hundred little dancing devils of mischief.

Maloney was an upright, God-fearing man, who loved his brother (and that was every one) better than himself. If he had faults, they were those that "leaned to virtue's side," that sprang from virtue itself. He had become warmly attached to Fairfax and he now showed a deep sympathy for him in his trouble. He advised him to think of himself only and not to enter into so serious a compact as marriage without good grounds.

Night came, and with it the event that had caused an abnormal beating of hearts on the island for several days. The Palace, illuminated throughout, presented a grand spectacle, and so did the large hall wherein the ceremony was to take place.

Queen Alzira sat on a magnificent throne at one end of the room. Near her were the Princess Ayzala and Sione, the latter looking more lovely than the fairest rose that ever bloomed.

Along the left side of the room sat the young men, Fairfax and his friends being among them, and on the opposite side were the Virgins dressed as already described. No others were present, except six of the Cognoscentes and the two Maids of Honor that desired husbands.

It is a question if ever a room contained such a nervous- looking assemblage before. The Virgins were nervous because they feared they would not get the objects of their choice; the men were nervous for a similar reason, and for the additional reasons that they might get maidens they did not want, or get none at all; and Sione was in an agony of mind because Ayzala's choice preceded hers, and she knew Ayzala would select Fairfax.

It is unnecessary to say that Fairfax and his friends had the greatest cause to feel uncomfortable. The slightest indiscretion on their part was likely to cost them their lives, and it was almost impossible for them not to make some blunder, ignorant as they were of the ethics of the place.

At a signal from the Queen the ceremony began. The Virgins first rose from their seats and walked three times round the room, in single file, swinging, as they went, white silken scarfs, which, as our friends remarked, they had held, in their hands, in the morning. As they slowly passed the men, each Virgin fixed her eyes steadily on the man of her choice. Then they resumed their seats, and the men made three circuits of the room in the same manner. But the latter carried no scarfs, nor did they even glance at the maidens as they passed them. They were there to be selected, and for nothing else, unless it was to be rejected altogether. They no longer had the privilege—allowed them in the morning—of looking at the Virgins, and smiling at them, and trying to win their attention. They had now nothing to depend upon but the impression they had made in the morning—and chance (directed by capricious woman). Poor fellows! They were made to feel the inferiority of their sex. In their dark togas they looked like mourners at a funeral.

Our friends did not join the procession till Potiphar stepped down the room and informed them that it was the Queen's wish that all but Dr. Parkman, should take the floor. It was evidently her intention that the strangers should intermarry with her people; so, at the Doctor's whispered advice, the other three arose and followed the crowd. The men were three times as numerous as the Virgins, and this fact gave our friends some hope that they would not be chosen.

When the third circuit had been completed, the men halted, and the Virgins rose and formed in a line facing them. Then both lines resumed the march, but in opposite directions, the men keeping to the outside of the room, and the maidens forming an inner circle. It was a very pretty sight, the motion being slow, graceful and rhythmical, and the dark togas contrasting pleasingly with the white dresses and scarfs.

Suddenly the men stopped, folded their arms, and hung down their heads; while the women kept on, gradually widening their circle as they went round the room, and thus getting closer to the men.

While this was going on, Fairfax saw the Princess Numeni, arrayed in white, enter the room and speak to the Queen. The latter frowned and whispered some words to her; whereupon Numeni left the room with her head cast down.

Again the procession stopped, and as suddenly moved on again; and the first thing John Fairfax knew a silken scarf was thrown over his head and pulled tightly about his neck. Then another, and another, and, looking up, he saw that the Virgins were throwing their scarfs like lassoes over the heads of the men. In a moment he had over a dozen scarfs around his neck, and they kept coming so fast that his face was soon covered, and he could see no more.

For fully a minute he stood, wondering what was going to happen to him, when he heard a hubbub of noise, and a pattering of feet, and, pressing down the scarfs from his face, he looked out and saw he was standing in the centre of the room—alone. The others had taken their seats. He felt quite bewildered, with every eye upon him, and a bundle of scented scarfs so tight about his throat and face that he was nearly smothered. Knowing nothing better to do, he resumed his former seat, muttering to himself, as he crossed the room: "What next?"

He had hardly sat down when another surprising thing occurred. Nearly one hundred and forty out of the one hundred and fifty men arose from their seats and marched in a line out of the room, bowing low to Queen Alzira as they passed her throne. They looked very sad and dejected, but there was not a trace of anger or resentment visible in their countenances. Fairfax noticed that there was not a single one of them with a scarf about his neck, and he rightly judged this was the cause of their abrupt and rather unceremonious departure. They had failed to get wives! They were only men, and on the Island of Flowers men were slaves to capricious women.

The next act in the farcical comedy began with an announcement made by the herald:

"The Virgins will now be awarded their chosen men, and the espousals will take place, subject to the will and pleasure of Her Majesty."

"Ho! Ho!" muttered Dr. Parkman, almost audibly. "Subject to the will and pleasure of Her Majesty! A petticoat despotism!"

The observant Doctor was fast getting interesting notes for the diary he was keeping for the London Company.

The man nearest the Queen stepped before the throne, and immediately two pretty Virgins advanced to his side. He had two scarfs on his shoulders; and each maiden seized the ends of the scarf she had placed there and began gently to pull. The poor fellow was in a state of nervousness bordering upon trepidation. He had been selected! He had been selected by no less than two maidens, and he seemed at a loss to know which one he preferred. Perhaps the object of his choice had not seen fit to honor him; perhaps she was still seated with the other Virgins. If so, he had no remedy. He had but the consolation that stood on either side of him. He was only a man!

Presently the Queen spoke—our friends could not catch her words, which were very few—and one of the young maidens retired to her seat crestfallen. The other fortunate girl threw away her rival's scarf, and, seizing the two ends of her own, marched down toward the unoccupied seats at the end of the room, leading her man, who followed after her like a frightened school- boy.

The next three men were disposed of in short order, for they wore only one scarf each. Two of them seemed quite pleased with the Virgins to whom they had been allotted; they had evidently not expected to be chosen at all. The third one was terribly disappointed; he had been foolish enough, as his glances showed, to aspire to the hand of one of the Maids of Honor.

When the next man had taken his place before the throne Fairfax nearly fell off his seat in astonishment.

It was Butt Hewgill! A silken scarf was around his neck, and a bewitchingly pretty little smiling girl stood by his side. Fairfax instantly recognized her as one that had made desperate attempts to flirt with himself earlier in the day. Butt began to cry, and, the Queen enquiring the cause, he said, in a voice that would have made the Moor of Venice appear ridiculous:

"Most potent, grave, and reverend—"

At this point, Maloney, whose neck was enveloped in two scarfs, interrupted him by shouting out:

"If it plaze your Majesty, the poor boy is married already. He has a wife and six childher at home. Don't you see he's broken hearted with the thought of bigamy an' a deserted family?"

Whether this announcement was heard or not, it seemed to disconcert no one but Butt himself, who fell on his knees and begged for mercy. With a Promethean look of terror on his face, he was led off to the end of the room, a captive in the hands of the petite and happy maiden.

Fairfax was next called upon to step out, and, immediately, he was surrounded by a bevy of girls—there were fully thirty of them—whose scarfs he had torn in his efforts to get a breath of air. Though he had shown the courage of a lion in the arena, he now looked more bewildered than Butt and nearly as frightened, for the girls were tugging at their scarfs, and smiling, and whispering, and coaxing him to choose them. In such cases, where the victor in the games was selected by two or more Virgins, it was customary to let the matter he settled by his own choice; and, as a rule, the Queen permitted a good deal of innocent wrangling and noise on the part of the Virgins.

"Choose me—me; no me please—I want you—not she—I love you best—no I do—choose me," came in whispers from all sides, and Fairfax's brain was whirling with anger and excitement, when he saw some of the maidens actually trying to seize his hands. Losing all sense of gallantry for the moment, he shouted:

"Stand back, you infuriated little devils, or I'll—"

"Order," cried the herald.

Fairfax looked up. The Queen was smiling. He had not displeased her.

"Virgins retire to your seats," continued the herald. "It is not her Majesty's will that any of you shall have Ozito. (Fairfax could hear a buzz of voices among the girls.) One of the Royal House, with the highest right, is about to espouse him."

Fairfax's heart beat fast. His hour had come. He looked at Ayzala, whose cheeks were flushed with pleasurable excitement, and got a loving look in return. He glanced at Sione and saw that she was pale and trembling.

"Sir John Fairfax," said the herald, "a daughter of the Royal House is about to honor you by choosing you for husband!"

Fairfax heard one piteous cry, and, turning his head, saw the beautiful Sione fall to the floor in a faint. The same moment his hand was seized and a voice whispered in his ear:

"Ozito, I, a daughter of the Royal House, take you as husband."

He turned to look at his future wife, and was struck with amazement and terror. Never had he received such a shock; never had the blood leapt back to his heart with such a rush.

The woman, who held his hand and smiled lovingly in his face, was not the Princess Ayzala! It was the Queen herself—Alzira!


XXVII. — THE ROYAL BANQUET.

FAIRFAX did not utter a word, even when the question was asked him:

"Does it not please you to accept, as wife, Her Majesty, Queen Alzira?"

He saw Sione carried senseless out of the room; he saw Ayzala walk out after her, sobbing in despair, and he heard the buzz of whispered conversation among the maidens behind him. Then he felt his hand pinched, and Alzira's voice whispered in his ear:

"Are you going to insult my Majesty by publicly refusing me? Take care. Remember my oath."

He never could recall what he said or did, but Dr. Parkman recorded, in his notes, that the young man folded his arms, and quietly answered:

"Alzira, I am thankful for the honor, but I cannot marry you."

This is, in truth, what Fairfax did say, but the excitement was so great, at the time, that few heard or understood his words. The Queen took advantage of the hum of noise to speak to the herald, and, in a moment, the latter came to the front, and said aloud:

"The espousal has taken place. Ozito feels overcome by the honor conferred upon him, and requests me to express his gratitude and joy."

Fairfax looked up. He saw the Queen advance to her throne and beckon him to a seat by her side. Scarcely knowing what he did, but fully cognizant of the terrible look on her face, he took the seat indicated, and, like one in a dream, watched the proceedings till they came to an end.

The issue was not generally satisfactory. Thirty-one of the maidens got no husbands at all chiefly on account of the desire and attempt on the part of most of them to secure Fairfax. Maloney contrived to get rid of his two maidens by cunningly pretending he wanted them both, which so offended them that they asked, and received, permission to withdraw from the choice they had made.

As Fairfax left the room, arm in arm with the Queen, he caught a glimpse of Butt Hewgill, and, depressed as he was, he had to laugh. Butt was trying to explain to his maiden that he had no desire to become a benedict, and she was laughing, and teasing, and showing him he had no voice in the matter at all.

Fairfax escorted the Queen to her boudoir. On the way, they met Numeni, who, with well-feigned looks of joy and happiness, kissed her mother and congratulated her on her coming nuptials.

"I wish you and your friend Dr. Parkman to partake of a banquet with me to-night," said the Queen. "A page will notify you within an hour."

Fairfax bowed and left her, his mind in a state of turmoil. He realized now that he loved the graceful Sione, and he longed to see her, but to try to do so might put her in danger, for the Queen had shown she was jealous of her.

He had not been ten minutes in the company of his friends, when a gentle tap was heard on the door. Maloney opened it, and the Princess Numeni rushed in. Her face was very pale, and she trembled with fright.

"Ozito," said she, "I want to speak to you. Quick! Come behind those curtains. Someone may enter and find me here."

Fairfax made a sign to Maloney to keep up a conversation—which no man was better qualified to do—and followed the Princess behind the curtains that overhung the door connecting this room with Dr. Parkman's.

"Now, what is it, Numeni?" he asked. "Why do you look so pale? Speak! What has happened?"

"O Fairfax, you are in terrible danger. You have insulted the Queen, and she means to have revenge by taking your life."

She went on to warn him, and convey a terrible suspicion of an immediate danger he stood in, when a rap was heard on the door, and the same moment Maloney pulled the curtains.

"Go out. Don't mind me," whispered Numeni in terror. "Join your friends quickly."

Fairfax at once stepped from behind the curtains, leaving the girl alone. He was just in time, for the door of the room opened, and in walked the Queen.

"Did the Princess Numeni enter this room just now?" she asked, almost before she had crossed the threshold.

Fairfax felt the blood in his veins turning cold. He would suffer anything rather than get the Princess into trouble.

"No, your Majesty," answered Maloney, with a countenance as grave as Cardinal Mazarin's, "but I heard a tiny, fairy-like little footstep passin' down the hall a minute ago."

"One of my pages saw her enter either this or the next room," continued the Queen, glancing at Butt Hewgill's tell-tale face which was usually expressionless. She stepped toward the curtains!

"Your Majesty," began Fairfax, and then he stopped, for the Queen had pulled aside the curtains and there was no one there.

"Dr. Parkman," she said, "I'll take the liberty to go into your room," and she immediately passed through and began a search.

Having seen that the outer door of the Doctor's room was locked, and looked around some moments, she came back between the curtains and, assuming a smiling expression, said:

"I am glad to find my suspicion unfounded. Numeni is not here. Dr. Parkman, the banquet is ready. Come. Ozito give me your arm."

Fairfax did as he was bidden, and the three of them left the room. The two men had little idea of the danger they were stepping into.

When the door had closed upon them, Maloney turned to his companion and said:

"Well, Butt, my bould bouchal, what d'ye think o' that? Eh? Ain't the wimmen an' girruls divils the world over?"

"Whither can she have fled?" exclaimed the poetic Butt.

"'Pon me conscience I dunno, Butt avic, but we'll institute a sarch. Take a hould o' that lamp an' we'll explore the Docthor's room."

"But—"

"Come on here, you ohsthreperous, argufyin' bundle o' humanity, an' don't thrip over th' ottomans. We've got to find the fair colleen."

They searched and searched; they peered behind curtains, and under the two beds; they upturned nearly every article of furniture in both rooms, but found no trace of the Princess Numeni.

"Be the Cadi, she must be a fairy!" exclaimed Maloney, scratching his head, and staring at the rotund face of his companion.

"She's beautiful enough to be one," said Butt.

"Oho! What a coinosoor you've got to be on beauty lately—since the girl put the scarf on your neck. I suppose in another week or so you'll—Hark! Did you hear ara bit o' laughter, Butt?"

"Methinks my ears did catch—"

"Whist! There it is again! Arrah wisha Butt, I have it," said Maloney, and he advanced to the bed and raised the coverlet.

There, curled up in Dr. Parkman's bed, lay the cunning Princess Numeni, who had a brain equal to any emergency.

"You little divil!" exclaimed Maloney when he saw Her Highness, "if all the girruls on the Island were like you, Butt an' me'd turn Turks."

Numeni laughed, and, like a fay released from Queen Titania's realm, sprang from her place of concealment and hurried from the room, leaving Maloney and Butt staring at each other in amazement.

Meanwhile Fairfax and the Doctor had seated themselves at a magnificent banquet with Queen Alzira. No other person was present. The Queen sat at the head of the table, having one of her guests at each side. The edibles were of the choicest kind, and there were delicious fruits and rare sparkling wines to tempt and stimulate the appetite.

Alzira had dressed herself most superbly for the occasion, and looked exceedingly handsome. She was in a very merry mood, and did the honors with a graciousness that quite surprised, and won, the Doctor; but Fairfax fancied he could detect something forced in her manner, and he disliked the light that, at times, shone in her piercing black eyes. Numeni's warning was still ringing in his ears, and it made him quick to suspect, so that he came to believe there was some dark purpose lurking beneath Alzira's assumption of gaiety.

"Fairfax," said the Queen, "you received my offer of marriage with very bad grace to-night."

Fairfax knew that he and his friends were in the power of a merciless woman; that their lives hung on the slenderest thread. It behooved him to say nothing that would give her further annoyance.

"I was overcome by surprise and the high honor your Majesty conferred on me," he answered.

Her rejoinder came quickly.

"But you did not look like one that had received a joyful surprise."

"I cannot say I was overjoyed, your Majesty. If I were more worthy—"

"Ozito, I appreciate your gallantry, but doubt your sincerity. Now let me ask you: Are you willing and ready to wed me to- morrow?"

"No, your Majesty, I am not."

The words were out of his mouth before he could check the sudden uprising of the candor and truth within him.

The Queen turned pale; but suddenly mastered herself and laughed—a harsh, grating laugh. In that one moment she formed a decision on the greatest question that had ever occupied her mind.

"Ozito," she said, "I am compelled to admire your straightforward way of speaking, and, instead of feeling angry with you, I am pleased. I'll ask you both to drink with me to the health of the winner of to-day's games."

She poured out two glasses of wine, as she spoke, and handed one to each of the men.

Fairfax's sharp eyes, which missed very little, noticed that she had previously filled her own glass from a different decanter. The circumstance at once struck him as being odd, and, in some occult manner, recalled Numeni's warning. What intricate and delicate operation of reasoning took place in his brain in that one short moment, it is difficult to say,—we often attribute to instinct the most subtle work of the mind—but the glass had not touched his hand before the germ of a horrible suspicion had developed into a firm conviction:

The wine was poisoned! He was as sure of it as if he had seen the deadly drug put in! His blood ran cold in his veins!

The woman was an incarnate fiend. She was bent on murdering them both.

She arose smiling, and pronounced the toast, and, bowing to Fairfax, sat down. Then she raised her glass to drink, and, at the same moment, to Fairfax's horror, Dr. Parkman raised his glass.

But the liquid never passed the Doctor's lips. The young man arose from his seat, reached across the table, and gave his aged friend a slap in the face that sent the glass spinning to the floor, where it shivered into a thousand shining pieces.

"What does this mean?" cried the astonished Queen springing to her feet.

"It means I'll allow no man, not even my best friend, to insult your Majesty in my presence," calmly answered Fairfax.

Poor Dr. Parkman, his cheek quite red and tingling with pain, stared in bewilderment at him, not knowing that the cruel blow had been delivered solely to save his life.

"How did he insult me?" asked Alzira.

"Listen, your Majesty, I'll explain. He neglected to show you honor by following one of the most ancient forms of courtesy in our country. When we sit to a banquet with a superior we do him the honor of exchanging glasses with him—just as I do now. It's an old and revered custom, and I'm astonished at the Doctor's rudeness in ignoring it."

Saying this, Fairfax placed his poisoned wine before the Queen; then picking up her glass and holding it before his face, he said:

"Now, your Majesty, let you and me drink the toast together!"


XXIX. — BRAVE NUMENI.

THE Queen was absolutely astounded. Caught in her own trap by a man ten times more clever than her clever and crafty self, she sat, for a minute, a picture of mingled shame, fright, and baffled rage. She stared steadily at the young man to learn, from his countenance, whether or not his act had been the offspring of suspicion; but his face was hard to read. She could as easily have solved the riddle of the Graecian Sphinx.

She did not drink her wine; she slyly laid it to one side, and Fairfax pretended not to notice the omission. He kept up a pleasant stream of talk, and, having apologized to the Doctor, explained to him the origin of the alleged custom. He had great difficulty in restraining the old man from opening up a dangerous argument on the subject.

When the banquet was over the two men rejoined their friends, and the Doctor, for the first time, learned the cause of his protector's seemingly cruel act. The four talked long over the occurrence, and the danger it proved them to be in, and, at length, retired, weary and worn out, to their respective sleeping apartments.

Next morning Fairfax arose late, and his first act was to open the door leading into Dr. Parkman's room, to see that his charge was safe and well. His horror can be imagined when he found the room empty, and Maloney's and Butt's room likewise unoccupied. He searched the beds and every nook and corner of each of the rooms, but could find no trace of them. His friends were gone! They had been removed during the night.

Terrified by the thought of their possible fate, he hurried out into the hall, and went from one end of it to the other, boldly opening doors and looking into the interiors of the rooms. One of these was occupied, but he was in too great haste, and too much worried, to apologize for the intrusion.

"Tell me," he said, "did you see my friends?"

The occupant of the room started and turned round.

It was a woman! She was attired in the French costume worn by Sione, and Fairfax instantly recognized her as the first maiden that had thrown a scarf over his head the previous evening, and as one of the ladies that had sat in the Queen's stand during the games.

"No," she answered.

"May I ask who you are?"

"I am Commander-in-Chief of the Militia."

"I thought Sione held that post."

"She did till yesterday. I have succeeded her in the command."

"Where is she?"

"I don't know."

"Is she in the Palace?"

"No, she has left the Palace. I don't know where she has gone."

Fairfax strode out of the room and down the hall without even thinking of his rudeness. He was well-nigh frantic. All kinds of horrible conjectures assailed his mind. His friends had by this time, perhaps, been put to death, and he himself reserved for a worse fate. He knew Queen Alzira was bent on getting them all out of her way, and he had, but a few hours before, seen in what a diabolical way she could attempt it. She was as vindictive as Boxall, and a great deal more treacherous.

Then Sione was gone. Perhaps she had been put to death also, though the law of the land held women exempt from death.

Poor Sione!

Now that she was gone—sacrificed, no doubt, to the jealousy and hate of the wicked Queen—Fairfax realized how passionately he had loved her. Her, whom he had first seen as a laughing boy, yet possessed of the dignity and firmness of a military leader, he had found to be a creature of lovable sweetness and gentleness. She was the embodiment of all the virtues allotted to woman, and was a vision of matchless beauty.

His mind was occupied with thoughts of her, when it suddenly occurred to him that he, the sworn protector of Dr. Parkman, had allowed him to be taken away from his sight. He rushed from room to room, like one out of his mind, trying to find someone whom he could interrogate, but, with the exception of a female page, whom he scared into flight, he saw no one.

Becoming desperate, he resolved to force his way to the Queen's presence and demand of her an explanation, when he suddenly came opposite an ornamented door that he remembered having seen before. It was the door leading to the Princess Numeni's boudoir.

At once he thought of his little friend, and determined to appeal to her. He rapped lightly twice and got no answer; then, hearing footsteps at the head of the broad stairs near him, and not wishing to be seen, he opened the door and walked in. The Princess was not there. The room was empty. He waited and listened till he felt sure there was no one in the hall, and then turned to go out. He came face to face with Queen Alzira, who wore a frown as ugly as Medusa's.

"What are you doing here?" she cried wrathfully.

"Where are my friends?" asked Fairfax ignoring her question.

"I demand to know what you're doing here."

"And I demand to know what you've done with my friends. Look here, Alzira, if you don't restore them to me I'll shake the very foundations of your throne." He raised himself to such a height and looked so terrible that Alzira cowered before him.

His outburst of anger did him very little good. It caused the Queen to summon help and, within five minutes, he was surrounded and seized, and led away by Boxall and his men. He made no resistance, as his mind was in such a state that he could welcome any change. He was brought again to the Bastile, and confined in the same old cell, where he received the cheerless information that he was to be publicly guillotined five days hence. He enquired of Boxall what had become of Dr. Parkman and his friends, and got in reply a surly grunt accompanied by a look of demoniacal hate.

All through that long day and night, and the following day, he lay in his dungeon tortured by the terrible thoughts that kept crowding upon his brain. His protection of Dr. Parkman had become a work of love, and he could not reason himself into the belief that he had not been neglectful of his duty. At times he became almost frenzied. He leaped to his feet like a lion and tore at the walls and doors of his cell, only to fall back exhausted into his former despair.

His meals were brought to him regularly but he did not touch them. He believed they contained poison.

During the second night, when he was exhausted by his efforts and the want of food, and in a state of despair bordering on madness, he heard the small door, in the corner, open softly, and someone enter. He lay still, caring little of the fact that it might be an assassin, when he heard a voice that caused him to leap to his feet.

"Jack," it said, in the softest whisper.

He rushed across the cell, and, in the enthusiasm of his joy, and gratitude to his faithful friend, seized her hand and kissed it, exclaiming:

"Your Highness, this is most kind of you. I will never forget your goodness."

"Shish! Not so loud," she said, "I have brought you food. I was afraid you had eaten of the food they gave you."

"No. I knew as well as if I had had proof of it, that it contained deadly poison. Where are my friends, Numeni? O tell me where are my friends?"

"I don't know. You must eat. We'll talk afterwards."

To please her, rather than to satisfy his hunger, he hastily devoured a portion of the food she brought him, and listened to her account of how she had found her way hither. It had taken her over twenty-four hours, and the brave little girl said she would have spent, a life-time in the task, before abandoning him to his cruel fate. The secret door had given her the greatest trouble, but by carefully following out the directions given her by Sione, who had had the foresight to believe it would prove useful, she at length found it, and succeeded in opening it.

Brave Numeni!

He questioned her concerning the Doctor, Butt, Maloney and Sione, but she could tell him nothing; he noticed her voice quivered when she answered him respecting the last mentioned individual.

The Doctor, she fancied, had been taken to the Isle of the Virgins, but it was only a conjecture based upon impressions whose origin she could not account for. Knowing Fairfax would he wanting news of him, she had dared to question her mother, and had been repulsed with a severe scolding for her meddlesomeness.

She remained with the prisoner for over an hour, trying to cheer him, and assuring him she would do everything in her power to bring the Queen to relent. She had already won a powerful ally, she said, in Potiphar, the leader of the Cognoscentes, and also of the Gerusia, who had become very fond of Dr. Parkman, and wished to help him.

She left Fairfax a supply of food and a bottle of wine for the next day, and departed. The following night she came again, and the next, each time braving dangers that would have made an ordinary woman quail. She brought him food both times, but no hope in the way of knowledge of his friends, except that she was more strongly of the opinion Dr. Parkman was on the Isle of the Virgins.

Why did Numeni not inform him she was sure the Doctor was on the Isle, for she had pretty good proof of it?

We shall see.

On the fourth night, she was unusually sad. The Queen, she said, was inexorably bent on having him executed. She had convened a meeting of the Cognoscentes and Seneces, and explained her wish, and they had supported her, Potiphar's being the only dissenting voice.

"Then they have held my trial though I have not been present?" said Fairfax.

"Yes. Poor Jack!"

"And I am to die to-morrow?"

"They say so. Oh it is terrible! I must save you."

"Numeni you are a brave, good girl, one that would be an ornament to our world."

"I'd like to go to your world, Jack."

He had told her to call him Jack, as he detested the name he had been given by the Queen.

"Would you?"

"Yes—if you go back. But we're wasting time. You must escape."

"Escape?"

"Yes. Wait till I think."

She sat on the only seat he had to offer her—a stool; and in the darkness they talked for fully an hour, trying to settle upon some way for him to elude the vigilance of the guards that were posted here and there in the corridors. She had bribed two of them to let her pass, but she knew it would be useless to ask them to connive at his escape. She did not tell him that she had actually tested two of the gaolers, who were fond of her, and had offered them nearly all the jewels she possessed.

"Hark!" exclaimed Fairfax, suddenly. "There is a noise in the corridor! Someone's opening the door!"

Quick as a flash Numeni sprang to her feet.

"I'll leave the small door open," she whispered, and departed just as Boxall and one of his men entered.

"Well, you'll not be a trouble to us much longer," grunted Boxall, showing his teeth in a malicious laugh.

"Won't I?" said Fairfax quietly. "I may live to give you another thrashing yet."

He was not averse to holding a protracted conversation with the new Keeper of the Bastile, as he wished to gain sufficient time to allow Numeni to get safely back to the Castle. He therefore talked away for about ten minutes, saying only such things as, he knew, would make Boxall retort. At length the Terror said:

"Well now, Fairfax, we've had enough of this. It's time you knew what we're here for. It gives me great pleasure to announce that you're to come with us to be put through a few gentle tortures before daylight, to kind o' freshen you for the guillotine. Come."

He and his companion advanced, and put out their hands to seize the prisoner. As they did so, Fairfax picked up a stool, and, swinging it round his head, felled them both. A moment later he had passed through the small doorway and adjacent cell, and was hurrying down a corridor.


XXX. — ELYSIAN FIELDS.

REMEMBERING the way Sione had led him when they had been accompanied by Numeni, Fairfax dashed down the corridor and turned into the dark room, in which were the stairs they had ascended. Up these he crept softly, but quickly, and, when he reached the landing, he stopped, confronted by a sight that sent a chill over him.

There were no less than thirteen men between him and the door through which he must pass to get to the balcony. Twelve sat side by side, on a long bench, and had their backs turned toward him; the other man, holding a bunch of keys in his hand, stood before them. They were evidently having some kind of meeting, as the twelve were listening attentively to the man who had the floor.

Fairfax did not listen long, for the subject of their discussion—his execution—was by no means agreeable to him. He dashed forward, and, seizing the end of the bench, jerked it up suddenly, spilling the twelve men in a heap on the floor. Then he grasped the thirteenth man by the throat, and ordered him to open the door. The fellow tried, but shook so violently with fear that he could not find the key; whereupon, Fairfax, seeing the others rising, and hearing Boxall's heavy tread on the stairs, seized the door with both hands, and, with a mighty effort, wrenched it open, breaking the lock.

Before the astonished guards could collect their scattered senses, he had gained the balcony, crossed the balustrade, and gone halfway down the ladder. When he reached the bottom, he dived into the water and swam toward the boat, which was tied to the wall in the place he had first found it. He got into it and succeeded in unfastening it, but not before missiles were thrown at him. Some passed very close to his head, and two or three struck the boat; but no harm was done, and, in a few minutes, he was quite a little distance down the stream.

He intended to abandon the boat, after he had gone a couple of hundred yards, and swim to the shore, but he found the current so strong that he could make quite rapid progress, and, as yet, there were no signs of his being pursued.

It would have been better for him had he left the boat when he intended, but it is not given to man to peer into futurity, or see very far on a cloudy night. He worked hard at the oars and, in a few minutes, was over half a mile away from the Bastile. He could see the lights of the Castle and its tall towers looming up against the sky. There were no sounds of life on either side of the river, and he concluded the guards had mistaken the direction of his flight.

When he had proceeded about a mile, his ears caught a sound—a strange, rumbling noise like that of a mill. He dropped the oars to listen, and found that the boat shot swiftly along without any propulsion on his part. The sound ahead of him was alarming. It was the rushing of waters, and each moment it became louder till it smote his ears with a mighty roar. His heart almost ceased to beat when the horrible truth flashed upon him. He was nearing a cataract! He now recollected having heard Potiphar speak of the Falls where many a one had lost his life. Instantly he seized the oars and tried to stop the boat, but all his giant strength was of no avail. The current was stronger than he was. He tried to row toward the shore, to steer obliquely so that the current would help him, but both oars snapped in two in the struggle, and the boat's head turned to the centre of the river. He shouted, and immediately there came, from the shore, a loud mocking laugh that told him the guards had followed to rejoice at his fate.

He was now within twenty yards of the Falls, and, as he saw there was no hope, he threw himself in the bottom of the boat, folded his arms, and commended his soul to God. Above the roar of the waters he could hear the fiendish yells of Boxall and his men. Then the boat shot out into the air, and, after a moment, during which he experienced the worst of all sensations,—that of falling—he was engulfed in the waters below. He had fallen about fifty feet!

For several seconds he was conscious of being rolled about by the mad waves, and of being plunged to a great depth, after which he was tossed completely out of the water. He fell back again, and at once began to swim. The first few strokes were hard, for there was a suction drawing him toward the cataract, but, exerting all his strength, he soon found himself in water comparatively placid.

He was not seriously hurt, though his body was sore in several places and his head ached terribly. After he had swum some twenty yards, he touched the bank, whereon he crawled, and his first action was to fall on his knees and return thanks to God for his deliverance.

Then, suddenly thinking of the advantage he would gain if his pursuers should believe him to have been drowned, he hurried away from the place as fast as he could, keeping close to the bank of the river. His miraculous escape gave him renewed confidence and hope, impressing him with the belief it was Heaven's will he should live to accomplish his work. After a half hour's fast walking, he came in sight of the sea and could hear its murmur on the still night air. It was a beautiful night. The moon, which had been obscured by the clouds, came out and illumined the earth with its silvery light. It made the water before him appear like a great mirror wherein were reflected the fleecy clouds and countless stars. He could see, about four miles away, the dark outline of the Isle of the Virgins, and he determined to swim to it. Numeni believed the Doctor was there and he was going to act on her belief.

As he approached the shore, he found that the river widened and emptied into the sea by two branches, forming a delta, nearly half a mile in width. He saw no signs of a boat, and he formed the correct conclusion that the Islanders were not a sea-going people; that, for them, the ocean had terrors that precluded the desire for intimacy. Even, as he remarked, there were no dwellings near the shore; the nearest house to where he stood, was fully three-quarters of a mile inland.

He came across a plank within a few yards of the beach. He shoved it into the water, and, throwing himself upon it, began to swim toward the Isle. The water was so much warmer than the air, that he found it pleasant, especially as he had felt chilly in his wet clothes.

Before he had accomplished a quarter of the distance, a breeze sprang up and gradually the sea became agitated. This retarded his progress, making swimming very difficult, but he kept on, putting all his strength into his strokes, and keeping in mind the man he was bound by oath to protect. At length, after a struggle lasting nearly three hours, he reached the Virgins' Isle, and was almost thrown on the beach by a wave. He crawled to a little clump of trees, a few yards from the shore, and threw himself down to rest. He slept almost as soon as he touched the ground—slept soundly, though there was nothing over him but his wet clothes and the canopy of heaven—and did not awake till the sun was well up in the sky.

But it was not the sun that aroused him. It was the sounds of voices that, for some time, had formed a part of his dreams. He raised himself wearily on his elbow and looked around. There was no one in sight, and he concluded it had been his dreams. He was too fatigued to exert his vision, yet he could not fail to notice he was in a charming place. Velvety grass, luxuriant flowers, and fresh green foliage made it a veritable garden of Eden. He saw something else also—something that surprised him beyond anything he had yet seen—a ship, at anchor, in a little bay, about half a mile up shore. It was a very small three-masted vessel, and, so far as he could see, it differed very little from those of our world. He did not know that that ship was the only means of communication between the two islands, and that it was now lying in its natural harbor. It made periodical trips across the strait, and twice a year conveyed, to the mainland, the virgins arrived at marriageable age.

He closed his wearied eyes again and slept, and dreamt of voices and ships—a fleet of them, with the Eurydice in the middle—and beautiful groves, and fairies, and castles; and everything he saw seemed to be rushing over a wild cataract, near which stood broken-nosed Boxall, who shouted with demoniacal glee.

Shortly after he became unconscious, a couple of dozen heads popped out from behind the surrounding trees, from behind clumps of bushes, and tufts of long grass, and beds of flowers; and, the next moment, as many human beings were forming themselves in a circle round John Fairfax.

The uprising of Roderick Dhu's warriors in Clan Alpine's glen was not more sudden!


XXXI — THE VIRGINS' CAPTURE.

FAIRFAX slept on, unconscious of the fact that a score of beautiful maidens stood around him gazing at him with astonishment and admiration. They had come down to the shore to indulge in their morning sports; skipping, bathing, chasing one another along the beach, picking flowers, and hide and seek. It was while engaged in the last mentioned game that they saw Fairfax. They shrieked and hurried away, frightened and bewildered, and concealed themselves just as he awoke.

When he sat up and rubbed his eyes, and looked about him, they saw he was not such a fierce-looking object after all; and, when he lay down and slept again, they became brave enough to approach in order to get a better view. They were absolutely thunderstruck! They had never beheld a man before—at least such a man as this! They had seen a few old men—most of them feeble, and tottering in their senility—advisers to the Queen of the Virgins' Isle; and, away back in their childhood, they had seen some young men and boys, enveloped in dark tunics, and wearing sad faces; but never had they looked on a picture of masculine grace and beauty such as that which now lay asleep on the grass before them. It was the dawn of a new life for them; the opening of a new epoch in their world's history. No longer would they he content with basking in the sunshine on the sands, chasing golden butterflies, or romping together through sylvan groves. No longer would the singing of the birds, the delicious scents of the flowers, and the glorious beauty of their island home reconcile them to the companionship they had so long considered a joy. They were to learn, for the first time, that there was such a thing in the world as anxiety.

"And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew." By and by, their numbers giving them confidence, they became less afraid, and narrowed their circle till they could almost reach to the sleeper.

"What is it, anyhow?" exclaimed one—a pretty little golden-haired maiden, with a dimpled chin and roguish blue eyes. The tone of her voice indicated that she was not in such a maze of doubt as her words would imply.

"It's a man, Hippolyta," answered another, who had shown less fear, but quite as much interest and surprise.

"A man, is it? Then I guess I will leave the Isle next gamos- day."

From this remark, and a little rippling laugh that ran around the circle, it could be inferred that Hippolyta, in a moment of rashness born of ignorance, had vowed to remain single as long as possible.

"Isn't he beautiful?" was the exclamation of another; and it seemed to express the thought uppermost in the minds of all, for they nodded their pretty heads, and gave vent to a volley of "aye's" and "yes's" that made an average of at least three to each maiden.

For fully a quarter of an hour they continued to pass complimentary remarks on the sleeper's appearance, and then they began conjecturing who he was and whence and how he came. He could not be from the Land of Flowers, for one of the maidens had once been there, to see a dying father, and she averred the Island contained no men comparable to this magnificent being.

"In fact," said she, "it contains no men at all, if this is what we are to understand a man to be."

Then there arose the serious question of what they should do with him—it never entered their heads to remain passive—and suggestions followed one another fast and thick. But no two maidens thought alike, or even sufficiently alike to render possible a compromise. Each thought the others sadly lacking in the judgment essential to the settlement of such a question.

On one point, however, they were a unit. They would not let the young man escape, nor would they let him perish for want of food and kind attention. He must live. But they almost quarreled on the question of whose property he should be. Each maiden claimed him as hers, and said she would have him in spite of all opposition; whereupon someone more thoughtful than the rest, pointed out the difficulties that stood in the way of private ownership. Communism had hitherto prevailed, and would still, no doubt, continue to be the law of the Isle; and—greatest difficulty of all—the Queen of the Isle would undoubtedly admire him, and avail herself of her right to choose him.

This caused their individual interests, for the moment, to merge into a common desire to keep him from the eyes of their Queen, who had not only the advantage of power over them, but also that of superior beauty.

"I'll tell you, Virgins," said one, a big Amazonian damsel with dark hair reaching almost to the ground, "let us bind him and bear him to an unoccupied room in the Castle—the one in the left wing, which the Queen never enters—and we'll fetch him food. Then we'll either cast lots for him, or let him choose one of us."

While no one seemed particularly pleased with this bold plan, which involved so many risks of her losing the prize, all deemed it the safest and most practicable one under the circumstances, for if the stranger now awoke, he might escape.

Fairfax slept on, in blissful unconsciousness of the conspiracy against his liberty. The babble of talk, though mainly argumentative in its tone, had a soothing and lulling effect upon him, for, in its relation to him, it was of a sympathetic quality. He dreamt of blooming myrtle groves, and Arcadian bowers, of soft whispering winds that played music through the trees, of limpid babbling brooks, wherein the sunlight danced, and of nymphs and fays and enchanted palaces.

It was a strange and beautiful sight to see those innocent maidens bind the sleeping Adonis with bands of plaited grass, and rushes, and vines, and place him on a rudely-constructed litter and bear him to the Castle. How deftly they tied him, how tenderly they raised him, and how carefully they bore him can be imagined when he did not wake till they had deposited him on a luxurious couch, in the room mentioned by the wise virgin.

Then the cessation of motion aroused him, and he sat up, and rubbed his eyes, and stared, in complete bewilderment, at the band of maidens around him. They were all attired in white Graecian costume, and were lovely to look upon. Some were of large and majestic stature; others were of slight and delicate figure; but the faces of all of them wore a look of health, which out-door exercise and the salt sea-air had given them. They regarded the young man with looks of awe when they saw him stand up and heard him enquire where he was. Then the boldest of them—the Amazonian projector of the movement—informed him he was in the Palace of the Virgins' Queen, and that they had found him on the beach.

"Why did you bring me here?" he asked.

"That we might settle which of us is to have you," was the startling reply.

"How have me?"

"For husband. We all leave the Isle next gamos-day and—"

"Do you, indeed? Well I hope to leave it sooner than that."

"O no, you can't."

"Can't? Why?"

"We intend to hide you somewhere, out of the Queen's sight, until gamos-day. Don't we, Virgins? Eh?"

"Ay. Ay. Yes. Yes," chorused the group.

"Yes, we'll hide you from her and take the best of care of you. We'll feed you, and give you drink, and amuse you and—"

"Well I'll be hanged!"

"O no, don't fear. We'll see that you are not discovered. Tell us something."

"What?"

"Which of us would you choose if we should leave it to you?"

"You'll take me—me—me. Won't you?" chimed in a dozen.

Fairfax sat down and laughed so loudly that the Virgins became alarmed lest someone should hear him.

"Well this beats all I've seen yet," he muttered. "They're going to settle my fate in spite of me."

At this moment the maidens missed one of their number—Circe—that had threatened to inform the Queen if her claim was not allowed—the said claim being based on her having been the first to discover the treasure. They became afraid, and asked the young man to hide lest he should be seen.

"What will I hide for?" he asked.

"Because the Queen may take you from us. Besides, if you are discovered, you may be put to death for coming on our Isle."

"Well girls I must get out of this," he said rising. "I must—"

A dozen maidens sprang forward and pushed him back on the couch. "No, no. You must not go!" they cried. "You must stay," and they seized him by the shoulders, and the arms; and one, more desperate than the rest, encircled his neck with her arms.

Fairfax shoved them gently away, and, sinking back on the couch, broke into a roar of laughter.

"Oh dear! Oh dear! What will we do?" they muttered, and they glanced timidly at the doors, and wrung their hands in bewilderment.

"I have a plan for concealing him, Virgins," said one. "We must act on it quickly."

It was the Amazon that spoke. She had the brain to invent, and the will to execute. The others looked up to her as to a leader.

"What is it?" they asked. "Speak! He is willing to abide by the plan—to help us. Look! He is smiling! What is the plan?"

"Go one of you to my room and fetch the costume I wore yesterday. Fetch my chiton also. We will dress him in it and he will pass before the new Queen as a Virgin. He is taller than I, but we can sew on another instita. Quick! He must dress as a Virgin."

It was a relief to Fairfax to hear a knock on the door. The Virgins started and trembled like frightened doves. Even the Master Mind temporarily lost her nerve. The door opened, and in walked four old men, at the sight of one of whom Fairfax leaped to his feet and shouted:

"Dr. Parkman!"

Dr. Parkman it was, alive and well, and so overjoyed at seeing his young friend that he threw his arms about his neck and kissed him.

The maidens shivered, and exchanged glances.

"Fairfax! Fairfax, my son! Is it you? I had feared you were dead."

"How did you come here, Doctor?"

"Wait. I'll tell you. Let me first introduce to you these three gentlemen. They are Seneces to the Queen of the Virgins' Isle."

Fairfax looked around. The maidens had fled from the room, and he was alone with his friend and the three Seneces.

When the ceremony of introduction was over, the Doctor said:

"Fairfax, after you and I had separated that night, I was aroused by a page, who told me the Queen wished to see me alone. I was ushered into her presence, and found her in very bad humor. She used me uncivilly, and I thought I was going to be put to death when I learned that the object of my being summoned was to tell me that the Queen of the Virgins' Isle had chosen me as one of her Seneces, and that I must depart at once. I asked permission to see my friends, which was denied, and that night I was brought here on the ship which lies in the harbor. The new Queen has treated me with uniform courtesy and kindness. She has just heard from one of the maidens that a stranger has arrived, and you are to come with us to her presence."

"This is strange," said Fairfax. "How is it Alzira let you go?"

"She couldn't help herself. The Queen here has, by law, a right to select any aged men she wishes to be her Seneces, and she saw fit to honor me. I know it goaded Alzira to madness."

"Which she tried to revenge on me."

"Probably. Come. We must lose no time."

Fairfax followed the Doctor and his colleagues, and was ushered into a large court-room similar to that in Alzira's palace. There were about two hundred white-robed maidens seated around, who stared at him when he entered, and there were six more Seneces. At the farther end of the room was the Queen's grand throne.

Fairfax was led by the Seneces to a seat in front of the throne, and Dr. Parkman remained by his side. The two friends, despite the fact that so many eyes were upon them, talked away and related their adventures to each other. Neither knew what had become of Butt and Maloney, and they were so busy discussing the chances of their being alive that they did not notice the entrance of the Queen and her train. First came the Maids of Honor, then three Seneces, and lastly the Queen herself, who was brilliantly beautiful. She walked with matchless grace toward the gilded throne, and was just about to sit when she saw the handsome stranger talking to Dr. Parkman.

There was a little cry, and then a great commotion, and, looking up, Fairfax saw that the Queen had fainted, and was being borne out by her attendants. The same moment one of the Seneces, with an angry and suspicious look in his face, stepped forward to him and said:

"There is something about you that has affected our Queen."

"Tut! Tut! He's affecting them all," said Dr. Parkman, and he smiled as he looked around on the throng of staring maidens.


XXXII. — THE QUEEN.

WHEN the two hundred Virgins saw their Queen faint at the sight of the attractive stranger, their hearts sank within them, for they knew she admired him and would give up her throne to secure him. Each one of them was forthwith seized with a spirit of mutiny, and it is not improbable a revolution would have broken out on the Isle of the Virgins, if it had not fortunately occurred to one of them to remark:

"We can't all have him."

This brought them to their senses. The revolution was stayed. Two hundred maidens will never take up arms in a cause that, when won, will shower benefits on only one of them.

They sat still, and watched the young man, as he was led out by the Seneces, and then they prattled and gabbled in twos, and three, and dozens, and indulged in comments upon his god-like appearance, and speculated as to the chances of a new dynasty being established. For it must be known that, if a Queen of the Virgins' Isle desired to take a husband, she had first to abdicate her throne.

We will leave the court-room, where no longer parliamentary procedure is observed; we will leave the distracting hum of voices, and follow our hero, who has been conducted to a banquet- room, where, with Dr. Parkman and the other Seneces, he has taken his seat at a table loaded with all the delicacies the most fastidious palate could desire.

Dr. Parkman was in great glee, and did much talking, But his colleagues were very reticent. They were alarmed at the events that were happening. Men were forbidden, under pain of death, to set foot on the Isle, and yet here was this stranger partaking of a banquet, served by order of the Queen. In obeying the Queen, who said they were to treat the young man courteously, they were abetting her in an unconstitutional act, for which they were liable to be punished. It was plain to them that Her Majesty's forgetfulness of the dignity of her position was due to her having fallen in love with the stranger.

Fairfax remarked their lack of composure and attributed it to their concern about his safety. He had not the slightest doubt that rigid punishment would be meted out to him, and he felt very nervous when, at the conclusion of the banquet, a page came to conduct him to the presence of the Queen. He was to have an audience of her.

He listened to Dr. Parkman's whispered instructions as to the formalities he should observe, and then followed the page. She led him to a waiting-room, and bade him be seated till she learned when Her Majesty would be disposed to see him. He sat down, his heart beating fast. He had a presentiment that he was approaching one of the greatest crises of his life.

The page entered the next room, which, for magnificence and splendor, was not surpassed by any in Queen Alzira's Palace. There was but one person there—the Queen herself, robed in white, and seated on a couch. She was marvellously beautiful. No statue of Diana or Venus ever presented a figure more exquisitely graceful; no pen or brush ever depicted a face more ravishingly lovely. Her cheeks were now suffused with blushes, as she beckoned the page to her side.

"Where is he?" she asked.

"In the ante-room, your Majesty."

"Ah, well—bring him in."

The page departed, and the Queen lowered her veil, her hands trembling the while. "Oh, if he only loved me!" she muttered, "how happy I should be."

Fairfax entered with bowed head, and, following the page across the room, dropped on one knee before the Queen. He heard the page depart, and then waited fully a minute with his head still bowed down; for he had promised Dr. Parkman to obey his instructions.

"This is a queer situation," he thought. "The Queen and I alone and both silent! Peculiar forms of etiquette! When the deuce is she going to speak?"

She spoke at last, and her voice, coming through her veil, was low and muffled, yet as sweet as the soft strains of an Aeolian harp.

"Why did you come to our isle, bold stranger?" she asked.

Fairfax raised his head. He saw that the room had been somewhat darkened. The objects around him were as indistinct as if it were the hour of twilight. The Queen reached out her jewelled hand, and, taking his arm, drew him to an ottoman at her feet.

"You may sit," she said. "Now speak."

"Your Majesty, I will tell you why I came," said he, and he gave her an account of the chief events that had happened since he first touched upon the shores of the Island of Flowers.

"So Alzira and her two daughters wished to marry you?" said the Queen, when he had concluded.

"Yes."

"And why did you not wed one of them?"

"Because I did not love them."

"They say Numeni is pretty and attractive."

"Numeni is a good girl, but I am not in love with her."

"You seem hard to please. Have you ever been in love?"

"Yes, your Majesty. I love one woman and her alone will I wed, if I wed at all, which is very problematical."

He could hear the Queen's heart beating with excitement, and he noticed her making great efforts to retain her composure.

"Who is the woman you love?" she asked.

"I do not care to name her, your Majesty."

"You must. Remember I am the Queen. Is it someone you left in your own world?"

"O no. We have no such women there."

"Then who is it?"

"Her name is Sione, your Majesty."

Again the Queen showed excitement and embarrassment. He thought she was going to faint, but she mastered herself and said:

"Are you so attached to this woman that you could not wed anyone else?"

"Yes. It was on her account I refused all others. I would have saved my friends by marrying Ayzala, had it not been for her. My love was so great that I could not make the sacrifice."

"There are some beautiful maidens on this Isle."

"I have seen some of them, your Majesty. They cannot compare with her."

"And are you determined to have no one but Sione?"

"Quite determined."

"Not even me?"

"Not even you."

A pause followed, and Fairfax was wondering what would happen next, when the Queen put one of her white arms around his neck and whispered:

"I love you, sir. At sight of you to-day I fainted. Will you not marry me?"

"No, your Majesty. I have told you I love another,—he most beautiful woman on earth, as well as the best."

The Queen sighed, and said her heart would break if he refused her. Fairfax expressed his sorrow that he was obliged to give her pain, and tried gently to remove her arm from his neck, but she threw the other arm around also, and locked her fingers together so that he was made a prisoner.

"You will never wed anyone but me," she whispered. "I am a Queen—Queen of the Virgins' Isle. I have the best right to choose you."

"Please release me, your Majesty," he said. "If you were not a Queen, accustomed to homage and obedience, I would release myself by force. Let me go."

She clasped him even more tightly.

"Never she cried. 'You are my prisoner till you promise to wed me."

"I love Sione."

"Will you not give up Sione for me?"

"No, not for the world.

"I am as beautiful as Sione. See!"

She pulled a cord and almost immediately the room was brilliantly lighted.

Fairfax, finding himself released, rose to his feet, and the same moment the Queen dropped her veil and turned her face toward him. There was a rippling, musical laugh, followed by a burst of joyful surprise, and a sigh of happiness; and Her Majesty, the Queen of the Virgins' Isle, was clasped in the arms of John Fairfax. Was it because she surpassed in loveliness the lovely Sione? No. It was because she was the lovely Sione herself.


XXXIII. — THE FLIGHT.
As published in "The Isle of the Virgins," 1899

FAIRFAX and Sione conversed together for some time, and the latter explained how she had become Queen. Alzira had appointed her because she was next in rank to Ayzala and Numeni, neither of whom wanted the throne, as they intended to marry. Alzira was also influenced by her desire to get Sione away from the Castle, for she had observed the attachment springing up between her and Fairfax.

Sione's first act on receiving her appointment was to avail herself of her privilege to choose some person to be one of her Seneces. She chose Dr. Parkman, knowing that it would, in a measure, take him out of Alzira's power, and thus make Fairfax happy.

Of Maloney and Butt she knew nothing, nor had she been able to learn anything of Fairfax himself previous to her departure. Her glad surprise on seeing him was the true cause of her fainting.

Fairfax related his adventures, dwelling as little as possible on Numeni's visits to his cell. He told how Boxall and his men believed him to have perished in the cataract.

"That is a good thing," said Sione. "Let us see if we cannot turn it to advantage."

They discussed many plans, and, at last, hit upon one, which Fairfax was to carry out that night. Sione at first opposed it, because it involved her hero in danger, but, in the end, gave way when she found he could not be moved. Dr. Parkman was not to be informed of their intention just yet.

When night fell, Fairfax, having kissed Sione good-bye, departed secretly from the Palace, and made his way to the sea- shore. He saw several groups of romping maidens playing like little children, but he managed to get past them without being seen. He found a boat where Sione had said he would, and, getting into it and putting the oars to work, he was soon far out on the water. In about an hour he reached the delta of the Skarra, and, having secured the boat in a safe place, began his march along the river-bank. He went slowly, taking great care not to let himself be seen by anyone happening to be about. He had a perilous work before him, but he approached it with a heart considerably lightened by the knowledge that Dr. Parkman and Sione were safe.

It was about midnight when he reached the Bastile. He saw at once that there was something unusual going on. Lights gleamed from several windows in the lower part of the building, and he heard shouts and curses that convinced him Boxall was having trouble with some of his prisoners. He made his way carefully along in the shadow of the wall, till he came to an open door, which the guards had abandoned in their desire to get a view of what was going on inside. Entering, he found himself in a corridor, and, to his amazement, ran against the Princess Numeni, pale, trembling, and so excited that she could scarcely stand.

"O Jack! Jack!" she cried, when she saw him. "They are going to torture your friends. I tried to save them, but couldn't. Oh, they will kill you too!"

"Where are they? Quick, Numeni. Speak. Where are they?" he cried; and, in his excitement, he caught the arm of the trembling Princess.

She led him down the corridor, and stopped before the door of a cell, from which there issued shouts, cries, and savage imprecations. Fairfax shoved open the door and looked in. The sight that met his eyes fairly horrified him. There were Butt Hewgill and Maloney, held down on the floor by a number of men, while the inhuman Boxall and another were preparing to torture them. Maloney had struggled like a giant, without avail; he had just given up all hope.

In an instant, Fairfax was through the doorway, and had wrenched an iron bar from one of the gaolers. The next moment it had swung round his head and laid Boxall and two of his companions corpses on the floor. Half a dozen others were felled before the crowd had time to retreat to the opposite side of the cell. Then Butt was seized by the shoulders and lifted to his feet.

"Quick! The door, Maloney!" shouted Fairfax, as he jerked Butt toward it and knocked down a gaoler who was entering.

All three got through the door, and Fairfax had closed it and seized it on the outside before the ruffians recovered from their surprise. Then a dozen of them sprang to the door, and uniting their strength, struggled to open it.

"Run for your lives while I hold the door," whispered Fairfax. "Numeni will lead you out. Turn to the left and run along the river-bank till I overtake you. Quick! Farewell, Numeni."

The three, obeying his command, hurried down the corridor. He exerted all his strength to hold the door till they could escape. It was a terrible struggle. The men in the cell were desperate, and had the advantage of the iron bar which ran across the door on the inside, and afforded them a hold. He felt himself gradually weakening, and was just about to give up, when he turned his head and found Maloney by his side. The brave fellow said he could not desert him in danger. He had told Butt to hurry along the river-bank at full speed. Numeni had promised to point out the way.

"Run Mike, I'm going to let go the door," whispered Fairfax.

Maloney stood back, and the door flew open. As it did, three men rushed out, only to get knocked down by the bar which the Irishman had picked up. Two more were knocked down by Fairfax, and then the crowd held back.

"They're coming round the other way," said Maloney. "Run for our lives."

He grasped the hand of Fairfax, and the two fled down the corridor. They found the door still open, and none of the guards about.

Out into the air and along the river-bank they ran, never stopping to look back. To their astonishment they did not come up with Butt till they had gone nearly half a mile, and, with him, they found the Princess Numeni, whom no entreaties could induce to leave her friends till she was assured they were safe.

They heard the shouts around the Bastile, and, for a time, they thought they were being pursued, but they hurried along, making as little noise as possible. Fairfax helped the clumsy Butt, while Maloney almost carried "the pretty colleen," as he called the Princess Numeni.

At last, after many a fright, they reached the delta, all four of them well fatigued with their efforts; and Fairfax had no trouble in finding his boat. Numeni refused to leave them; she was determined to accompany them to their country or perish with them. Fairfax tried to dissuade her, mentioning even, in an indirect way, his intention of marrying Sione. It was no use. Whether the information shocked Numeni or not, she betrayed no sign. She was determined to leave an island where she had not a single friend. She loved Sione, she said, better than all she was leaving behind, and she wished to be a sister to her and Jack.

Fairfax could not resist the pleading of the faithful little girl, whom he loved as dearly as a sister. He assured her that, since she was so anxious to share his risks, he was glad to have her. He gave her a seat in the boat and soon all four were far out from the Island.

As they neared the shore of the Isle, they saw a light on the ship. It surprised Numeni, but not Fairfax, who had expected it as a signal. In twenty minutes more they were on board the "Numeni," a snug little schooner of somewhat ancient style, where Maloney and Butt were astounded to find Dr. Parkman, Sione and some twenty Virgins, skilled in the management of the ship. (These Virgins, like Numeni, were willing to leave their native Isle and take chances on reaching a land that produced men like the sample they had found on the shore. The dark-haired Amazon was among them, and so were Hippolyta, Circe and several others that had assisted to make Fairfax prisoner.)

Everything and everybody seemed prepared for a voyage. There were provisions, and a crew, and officers; and Maloney, to his surprise, was greeted as Captain. He seemed delighted with the position, and smiled benignly on the twenty blushing maidens thus put under his command. He assumed a new dignity from that moment, reserving his old manner for his friends, and the officer next in command to himself, with whom, it was noticed, he got along particularly well.*

[*We have looked over Captain Maloney's papers and found that his first mate was the dark- haired Amazon referred to by the author.—Editor.]

Braving all the risks of such an undertaking, our friends sailed away from the Isle of the Virgins, out into the open sea. They directed their course northward, as nearly as they could judge, and, at the end of seventeen days, having had nothing but fine weather, they had the good fortune to fall in with an English vessel bound for Valparaiso, and were taken in tow.

A month later they all reached England and registered at the Marlborough House, London, as guests of the astonished and delighted London Company.


XXXIII. — THE FLIGHT.
Revised version published in "The Uknown Island," 1906

FAIRFAX and Sione conversed together for some time, and the latter explained how she had become Queen. Alzira had appointed her because she was next in rank to Ayzala and Numeni, neither of whom wanted the throne, as they intended to marry. Alzira was also influenced by her desire to get Sione away from the Castle, for she had observed the attachment springing up between her and Fairfax.

Sione's first act on receiving her appointment was to avail herself of her privilege to choose some person to be one of her Seneces. She chose Dr. Parkman, knowing that it would, in a measure, take him out of Alzira's power, and thus make Fairfax happy.

Of Maloney and Butt she knew nothing, nor had she been able to learn anything of Fairfax himself previous to her departure. Her glad surprise on seeing him was the true cause of her fainting.

Fairfax related his adventures, dwelling as little as possible on Numeni's visits to his cell. He told how Boxall and his men believed him to have perished in the cataract.

"That is a good thing," said Sione. "Let us see if we cannot turn it to advantage."

They discussed many plans, and, at last, hit upon one, which Fairfax was to carry out that night. Sione at first opposed it, because it involved her hero in danger, but, in the end, gave way when she found he could not be moved. Dr. Parkman was not to be informed of their intention just yet.

When night fell, Fairfax, having kissed Sione good-bye, departed secretly from the Palace, and made his way to the sea- shore. He saw several groups of romping maidens playing like little children, but he managed to get past them without being seen. He found a boat where Sione had said he would, and, getting into it and putting the oars to work, he was soon far out on the water. In about an hour he reached the delta of the Skarra, and, having secured the boat in a safe place, began his march along the river-bank. He went slowly, taking great care not to let himself be seen by anyone happening to be about. He had a perilous work before him, but he approached it with a heart considerably lightened by the knowledge that Dr. Parkman and Sione were safe.

It was about midnight when he reached the Bastile. He saw at once that there was something unusual going on. Lights gleamed from several windows in the lower part of the building, and he heard shouts and curses that convinced him Boxall was having trouble with some of his prisoners. Entering, he found himself in a corridor, and, to his amazement, ran against the Princess Numeni, pale, trembling, and so excited that she could scarcely stand.

"O Jack! Jack!" she cried, when she saw him. "They, are going to torture your friends. Oh, they will kill you too!"

"Where are they? Quick, Numeni. Speak!" he cried.

She led him down the corridor, and stopped before the door of a cell, from which there issued shouts, cries, and savage imprecations. Fairfax shoved open the door and looked in. There were Butt Hewgill and Maloney, held down on the floor by a number of men, while the inhuman Boxall and another were preparing to torture them.

In an instant, Fairfax was through the doorway, and had wrenched an iron bar from one of the gaolers. The next moment it had swung round his head and laid Boxall and two of his companions corpses on the floor.

"Quick! The door, Maloney!" shouted Fairfax, as he jerked Butt toward it and knocked down a gaoler who was entering.

All three got through the door, and Fairfax had closed it and seized it on the outside before the ruffians recovered from their surprise.

"They're coming round the other way," exclaimed Maloney. "Run for our lives."

He grasped the hand of Fairfax, Numeni and Butt had already fled, and the two sped down the corridor. They found the door still open, and none of the guards about.

Out into the air and along the river-bank they ran, never stopping to look back. To their astonishment they did not come up with Butt till they had gone nearly half a mile, and, with him, they found the Princess Numeni, whom no entreaties could induce to leave her friends till she was assured they were safe.

At last, after many a fright, they reached the delta, all four of them well fatigued with their efforts; and Fairfax had no trouble in finding his boat. Numeni refused to leave them; she was determined to accompany them to their country or perish with them.

Fairfax could not resist the pleading of the faithful little girl, whom he loved as dearly as a sister. He assured her that, since she was so anxious to share his risks, he was glad to have her. He gave her a seat in the boat and soon all four were far out from the Island.

In twenty minutes more they were on board the "Numeni," a snug little schooner of somewhat ancient style, where Maloney and Butt were astounded to find Dr. Parkman, Sione and some twenty Virgins, skilled in the management of the ship.

Everything and everybody seemed prepared for a voyage. There were provisions, and a crew, and officers; and Maloney, to his surprise, was greeted as Captain. He seemed delighted with the position, and smiled benignly on the twenty blushing maidens thus put under his command. He assumed a new dignity from that moment, reserving his old manner for his friends, and the officer next in command to himself, with whom, it was noticed, he got along particularly well.*

[*We have looked over Captain Maloney's papers and found that his first mate was the dark- haired Amazon referred to by the author.—Editor.]

Braving all the risks of such an undertaking, our friends sailed away from the Isle of the Virgins, out into the open sea. They directed their course northward, as nearly as they could judge, and, at the end of seventeen days, having had nothing but fine weather, they had the good fortune to fall in with an English vessel bound for Valparaiso, and were taken in tow.

A month later they all reached England and registered at the Marlborough House, London, as guests of the astonished and delighted London Company.


THE END