Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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THE truth, it is said, is often stranger than fiction. It is not surprising, therefore, that the most amazing fiction is often based on truth. Even legends and myths generally have a basis in fact. Many strange and interesting legends are told about the old Incas of the Peruvian country, entitled to be termed a civilized race. What happened to those old Incas, for instance; how they disappeared and how they were lost to the world, is still merely a matter of conjecture—interesting conjecture, of course—and ethnologists have built many and various theories to account for their complete disappearance. It is a fascinating subject, and our new author has woven it into an absorbing tale. Do not fail to read this excellent story.
I AM a torn man now. It is with bare strength that I write this. But write I must. I must put it into words, so that the world will get it before I die. And I feel that I may die at any moment, the pain is so intense. But I am afraid the world will not be able to do anything—I am afraid it is too late to make use of what I discovered.
I don't know how long I have been gone from civilization. My mind had but lately cleared itself; my sense of time is gone; I don't know how long that blank period of mine existed. At this moment of writing I feel that the Supreme Being lifted the veil from my mental unconsciousness long enough for me to put down the entire happenings, the truth as I saw it, before I go forth from this earth.
My name is Doctor Henrich von Grossbach. You will perhaps recognize it. I was the greatest scientific student on the continent, head of the department of science in the largest university in Germany. My word in such matters always carried weight. It was never known to deviate from the path of fact and honesty. I mention this because I want to implant in you the feeling that you are reading the truth, and not the ravings of, perhaps, a distorted, fantastic mind. As I lie now, tossing from side to side, writing between spasms of terrible pain, but writing, I can groan in dismay to think that people might take this as the froth of a highly imaginative brain. If you ever believed anything in your life, believe me!
Scientists don't write fairy tales, let alone believe them. It takes the severest of trials to make them accept the most novel of ideas. And I, at the time of my active presence on the continent, was one of the hardest to convince. I was a true-bred scientist in that respect. Many men living—I presume that they still live—will vouch for the fact that Doctor Grossbach was hard to satisfy, but once convinced, was not a skeptic; that much of my reputation I can assert here without unduly heaping praise on myself. I want to convince you, to take away your skepticism,
Read this and believe it—though it will sound ridiculous beyond measure. One of the severest scientists of the. world lived through it....
TO begin with, I must explain that I was at one time the greatest living exponent of Peruvian history. I had spent years in the wilds of Peru ever searching—uncovering new lines of that civilized people, the Incas. Peru and the Incas were my hobby. The study of those tribes was something I liked immensely, something that was not an effort, but a pleasure.
Thus it was that one day during the summer I left Germany for Peru. I had a visitor. I had heard of him often, but, strange to say, I had never come in contact with him. It was more than strange, seeing that that person was one of the most inveterate of the Inca delvers, and inasmuch as I occupied a high pedestal along that line, we had never been thrown together. It was the celebrated American scientist, Professor Crowders.
He was announced in my home about a week before I intended to leave. All of my important paraphernalia had been sent forth the week before, and I was simply resting up for what I knew would be a strenuous but pleasant journey.
He proved to be a large man, with a short stubble of a beard. His massive shoulders, affixed atop his great body, were a fine base for that splendid head, its finely chiseled features and the luxuriant growth of flowing dark hair. I was impressed.
His trip had been made in order to see me.
"You are, I hear, off to Peru within a week?" asked the American, seated in the large library of my home.
"Then it is fortunate I decided to see you now," he said, his sparkling teeth gleaming. "I have long intended to visit you, but I am indeed successful in approaching you on the eve of your departure."
"What is it?" I inquired. His manner was not the empty sort; his very nature showed that he did nothing without weighing all consequences, and that his words were incrusted with much logic. I had that feeling from the start.
"You are headed this time, I think, for the southeastern part of Huanuco Junin?"
My itinerary was not unknown. "Yes," I answered.
"I presume that you have heard of the native talk and belief in that section—of the heavenly ascendance of the half-brother Tenta Raci and his followers?" he asked.
I had. That gaping hole in the history of Peru had never been filled to any extent. For years I had been enthused with the hope of finding something in connection with the lost race, but the enthusiasm had finally died for lack of discoveries. Many times I had listened to the natives offering up a prayer to Tenta Raci anxd his band; those simple folk believed that they had been taken skyward in a vast flame, and that they now reposed next to the Ruler, protecting their descendants.
Tenta Raci had been the half-brother of the first Inca ruler, Manco Capac. His religion had been almost a part of himself, and he had so convinced his followers of the near-by presence of the Ruler and his flame that they had followed him without a word. The fact that not a single vestige belonging to the lost people had ever been found, substantiated the belief of the ensuing generations that their ancestor had succeeded in reaching the kingdom of the Sun, an everlasting place.
Every time I had traveled to the southeast of the great mountain range, Huanuco Junin, I could not escape the atmosphere of superstition that pervaded the people living there. Much as I bad believed in the existence of a Tenta Raci years before, when I was but a young man, the sight of those worshiping natives of the present day made me look upon that half-brother as a sort of legendary character. Of course, history had made a place for the half-brother of Manco Capac; he had lived. But this fanatic worship I looked upon as the outgrowth of a hazy legend of an enchanted rise to glory.
"We know that Tenta Raci lived," said the American. "But we look no stock in that heavenly ascendance. Am I right, Doctor?"
"And we have found but little of what happened to that band?"
Again I acquiesced.
The American gazed at mc squarely. "I disregarded it also. But last year I was down there. I went through that malaria-infested territory which is deep in the heart of the Huanuco Junin. That district that you went through once, if you remember. What happened made me change my mind!"
"In what way?" questioned I.
"When you were there," Professor Crowdcrs asked me eagerly, "did you touch that last hill in the chain?"
I remembered that last hill clearly, as it stood before me, unscalable. "I surely did. But I didn't get anywhere. That is the one that presented no path. It was a home for winged animals only!"
"Birds, yes!" laughed Crowders. "You are hereby honored by gazing at the living bird! I have already been up there!"
My interest quickened. I plied the man with many questions, and he revealed that he had stumbled upon a covered trail that weaved its way up the precipitous side of the hill. I was surprised. That hill had taken a solid week of my time once, and I had not been able to find any means of ascending it
After explaining how he had found the opening leading upward, the American continued:
"I had gone about five hundred feet on the path with my native guide. Together we had been able to manage the steep ascent. We had just rested on a level ledge when my native uttered a cry and pointed to the side, near a small outcropping. There, sitting against a boulder, rather reclining under one, because it extended out about two feet and acted as a natural roof, was a skeleton. Of course I ran immediately to the spot, and let me tell you that running there was inviting death. I knelt down. At my touch the skeleton fell apart.
"I bridled my enthusiasm. The disintegration checked mc. A skeleton could not possess such a shape and fall apart like that unless it were unbelievably old.
IMAGINE my surprise when the clothing worn by that figure, in its fadedness, proved to be of old design and cut. I took a piece of the garment between my fingers and it shriveled up into fine powder. Through some uncanny natural force that skeleton had reposed under that lee and the climate had not succeeded in completely ravaging it. The outline was still there, undispellcd. Countless thoughts were beginning to leap through my mind. But I did what no real scientist would do!"
I asked him what. I was extremely interested.
"I took my guide and went away from there, back down the trail. I had intended to leave the vicinity before, because we had long overstayed our supply limit. The men were on the verge of leaving me. I had induced them to stay an extra day when the guide had shown me that path. But now that I had discovered that emaciated and dust-like figure, I left, for fear that a lengthy stay would force me to remain to delve deeper into the mystery of the hill, and I would be left without food or men.
"I knew that leaving that skeleton there would not be harming it, for if it could have endured the ages without intervention, it would not be trifled with until I got back. And I intended to return as soon as I could replenish supplies and get a new hold on the natives. The guide committed me to strict silence regarding the approach of the bill, if that meant anything.
"I went back. Misfortune descended suddenly. The guide got too close to one of those mustangs; it lashed out with its rear hoofs and caught him squarely in the face. His own mother wouldn't have recognized him then. We buried him near.
"That was the first disagreeable blow. It seemed that Fate had decided I should lay off for a while. By the time we got back to the first village the swift stream had taken half of my four-legged animals and the equipment. The natives grew dark and moody, and attributed all to my injudicious decision of remaining longer than necessary.
"When I finally got to the village on the tributary that empties into the Ucayali, I was laid up with the fever. I do not remember anything during that relapse. I must have been there weeks. If it were not for the hospitable natives, I would not have pulled through.
"When I recuperated, that shriveling figure of the Inca occupied most of my thoughts. It slowly but gently grew upon me that those faint designs were worn during the reign of Manco Capac. It became an obsession with me. I could have laid my life down for its conviction.
"I know now that I must have had a subconscious thought always within me about the lost race. Of course there was no association of that with the figure, but it hastened my desire for action. I was ready to go back; waxed impatient. I felt that I was on the brink of a colossal disclosure.
"But I never got started. The natives wouldn't listen to me. I couldn't get any supplies. And then I realized I needed a long recuperation most of all. So I went back to my own country."
Skeptical as I was, Crowders had me on the edge of the seat. I felt that he was telling me the truth without elaboration, that his beliefs were plausible.
"You know," I told him, "some native could have found his way up that hill during the past century."
"True," replied the American; "but no human body, I'll swear, would crumble to dust as did that one, in one century. And those designs—"
He rambled on, but it didn't take him long to win me over to his point of view. Perhaps it was because it was something that would rejuvenate my exploring blood—now that I knew I was going there. I felt as the Professor did—on the verge of a tremendous discovery. With this novel revelation I was like an explorer on his first jaunt. I made arrangements with him to sail with me. He had already prepared himself, it appeared. He had prophesied his going with me on the strength of his argument. I was very glad of that. He would be a splendid man on the trip, and together we could overcome all obstacles.
We sailed from Marseilles on board a French ship headed for South America. The voyage was uneventful. We crossed the Atlantic, buffeted by one mild storm, glided into the Caribbean, were hauled through the Isthmus and then dropped down the west coasts of Colombia and Ecuador, finally steaming into the port in Peru. Callao was always the first of my stops in the country and I knew the fair-sized city well.
Here I found my paraphernalia and supplies of bulk stored away as per my directions; and I immediately got in touch with my native, Tunja, who had been the guide on previous expeditions. He was overjoyed to see me, as I was to see him. He promised quick muster of the required natives who would accompany us, and I knew I could depend upon him to secure the best for the least outlay. Tunja would enhance any expedition.
We traveled overland, the pack-animals struggling with their loads. Crowders and I were the only white men. Many days of stifling heat we had, days which would ordinarily have discouraged anybody, but our enthusiasm was too great.
We entered that malaria-infested district. After leaving the village where the American had been ill, he took charge of the direction, and we ploughed through the Huanuco Junin, breaking brush at some points, striking faint paths at others. Our supply animals followed faithfully through every hardship, with the strapped burdens loading them down. They were used to this.
Qur objective lay in a terrifying section of the Huanuco Junin, along a diminishing chain of mountainous hills—a glade that receded from the edge of the forest about a hundred yards, ending up against a high hill whose sides were so precipitous that it appeared as if nothing could grasp hold thereon. Brush and occasional small trees cropped out of its sides, like intermittent growth of hair on bald spots.
At last we selected a choice spot in the clearing under the haughty cliffs and pitched our tents. The animals were loosened to browse in the grass; surrounded by impassable timber, the clearing would keep them harnessed to the green vegetation that sprouted plentifully and which they soon began to munch contentedly. A slow, winding stream crept along the southern rim of the steep hill, an infested water, which lazily pried its sight into the thick mysteries of this region, and finally gained admission into the Ucayali. It looked as if a better nucleus for the expedition could not have been chosen.
When we finally had everything up, it was with nervous haste that Professor Crowders led me along the lazy stream at the southern end of the hill and up against a large clump of foliage at the turn of the river. It brushed against the walls of the steep hill, and, from a distance, I could swear that there would be no use in attempting to scale the heights from that vantage. But with an ax the American chopped down several young saplings and, with my assistance, rolled a large boulder to one side.
There, gashed in the rock, was an opening. It was about two feet wide and five feet high, extending like a tunnel in an upward direction. Crowders led the way carefully and I followed. For about fifty feet the path rose and then broke into the open. I looked, around me and found that we were at a distance from the ground. From the surface below the thin trail on which we stood could not be seen.
So this had been the access that had remained obscure for ages! How could anyone down below have discerned that there was a thin path clinging to the side of the hill?
But our troubles had only begun. We weaved along so carefully that it seemed as if we were getting nowhere. The footing was precarious—one misstep would tumble you straight down; there was little opportunity for hand-gripping the smooth walls.
Ordinarily we would have returned to the ground and prepared ourselves with appropriate tools for climbing, but the heat and fervor were too deeply imbedded in us, now that we were upon the scant trail, to make any delay by going back.
The natives had seen us depart, but they had not seen us upon the hill. It was fortunate in a way, I thought; I didn't want to rouse their superstitions, should they happen to think anything about this hill,
I followed on Crowders' heels—rather I crawled snail-fashion after him—and we went down a small incline and rounded a bend. I was pretty well fagged, but the American whispered to me that a few feet ahead was the spot where he had encountered the reposing and crumbling Indian, and my fatigue and soreness disappeared with a thought. I was on pins, and could I have risen and hastened to my objective by running, as the American had done the first time. I would have done so decidedly. But the worming leather boots of my partner just in front of me offset any haste on my part.
The trail at this point was a little wider, and we rose. With a majestic finger, the big American pointed to a ledge that receded from the narrow one we were on and I saw an overhanging rock. I slipped from the path to the ledge and knelt at something that I could see lying under that protection.
OUR eyes did not deceive us; at least, mine didn't. I saw at a glance that I was dealing with a centuries' old problem and that the still visible texture of the garments was of old design. I fingered the leaning skeleton but could get no satisfactory grip on any portion of it, for it crumbled at the touch. Truly, it was a miracle how that body had survived the elements of nature.
"Our trip has not been in vain," said Crowders. I kept staring. "No. Do you realize what this means?"
The Professor was looking up the side of the hill.
"This," said I, "is just the beginning of a deep problem. This figure had at some time or other come along this path, either alone or with a company. This trail must have been accessible at that time but was later hidden by the forces of nature. There are many questions that crop up now, the greatest of which is this design. You guessed right, Professor, when you recognized Manco Capac's period on that body. It is too fantastic to think that that man has lain here since the thirteenth century, but my eyes tell me that it is more probable than not. The general run of later designs in the ensuing generations did not have the orthodoxy that this faint but clear weave shows. The mere sight of this creature of the dust seems to transport me back through countless ages."
Professor Crowders nodded gravely.
"We will leave this as it is, Professor, and get back to our camp," I continued. "What we know now justifies our return to arm ourselves well. We have a big task ahead of us to get to the top of this hill; but I am sure that we are on the verge of a discovery. What came this way must have left its mark some place above, and we are here to find where. No use working our way to the top unprepared."
My mind was traveling at high speed. Usually in my gleanings of the Inca people I had been faced with excavations, with some mountain diggings. This, however, afforded a mysterious angle right at the start, and I could have staked my life that there was some interesting reason back of it all. And mystery brought to mind stories—plenty of them—stories about Tenta Raci, for instance.
Crowders and I reached the bottom after a hazardous and breath-taking descent. We went out of the cave-like opening and carefully fixed the bushes so that they would suggest no opening, and appear undisturbed.
Our natives had assembled our stuff with precision. They had not missed us, since we had been gone only a few hours. We set about preparing for the morrow. Dusk was in the offing.
The night turned out to be chilly and the natives made a large fire after we had partaken of food. Professor Crowders and I hedged around the hypnotic blaze and sought warmth and comfort. Tunja and his men were lounging in the background murmuring softly to each other; occasionally one would rise and toss a few branches upon the conflagration. The majestic glare seemed to induct each being into his trend of thought; the mystic radiations of the dark throbbed in us.
Crowders and I ventured rarely into spoken words, for somehow our tongues refused to deal with what lay on our minds. We, mutually, seemed to want.to let our fancies do all the work of preparing a form and story to fit what we had already encountered. In a way it was better thus; talking ruins the depth of thought.
The natives were drifting off to their blankets one by one; they had had a severe day. It was no simple task for them to haul and force their way into this wild place. It brought the Professor and me into existing conditions and we broke from our thoughts and rose. I stretched my body and yawned. Tunja came up near us.
His form was stately for that of a native, his head thrown back.
"Señores," said he, "pardon me for interrupting. Perhaps you can spare me a few moments before you retire?"
"Certainly," answered I, dropping another yawn, "A few moments more or less will not put the morning any further away or bring it any closer. What's on your mind, Tunja?"
He paused a moment. "You know this territory you are in now?"
My sleepiness peeled off like an outer skin. The American glanced up quickly. "What of it?" he asked.
The guide was abashed. "You know, Doctor," he said to me, "of the superstition relating to my forebears who dwelt in these parts long ago?"
"You mean Tenta Raci?"
He nodded, fidgety.
I laughed. "I am surprised at you, Tunja. An intelligent man like you still letting himself get hoodwinked by black fables of long ago."
But he was serious. His countenance bore a reverent air and he didn't smile.
"Doctor," he said softly to me, "I believe in that religious story that was handed down to me."
I wanted to scoff and reprimand him. But my mind had run in ancient channels for a while now, and I was interested in that half-brother, Tenta Raci. I wanted to draw from Tunja all that he knew.
"You have an imaginative mind, Tunja," I laughed lightly. "Tell us what is the matter."
"Señores," started the guide awedly, "we are now on the ground which my forefathers trod. Their spirits walk about us now, I feel. Amongst our people the story of Tenta Raci is a legend we revere.
"I will not make it lengthy, Señores, for you need sleep. But years ago, as you know, the Inca people roamed over this domain. They were highly civilized. Legend tells that one Tenta Raci, the half-brother of the first Inca ruler, Manco Capac, led a gathering of worshipers up a mountain side to seek the god of life! Señores, my people worship Tenta Raci and his adherents. They believe that the god of life took them. My people pray to them for their life and happiness.
"Señores, this ground we sit on now is where the half-brother and his followers were swept up in a flame—at least, so tradition says. I have enough Inca blood in my veins to feel that the spirits of Manco Capac and his illustrious folk are living around me. I am ill at case. I know my sleep will be disturbed with dreams of them. Our people avoid this district. The other natives are only restless now, but I am sure that they will break their bonds if they stay here long. So I had to tell you this."
We calmed Tunja. He went off to bed with the assurance that we did not intend to remain in that region long. I didn't know then whether I uttered a falsehood, because the work on the morrow might be short. But how far from the truth I came!
EARLY the next morning Crowders and I strapped a stout rope around our mid-bodies and filled our pockets with odds and ends, which we decided would be necessary for the day. We crammed a few bits of dried food into our pockets and carried a climbing-pick each. With this equipment we hoped to combat the difficulties of the trail.
Tunja went along with us. We would need him. I knew. He opened his eyes widely when we broke away the brush and entered the cave-like formation. He set his face into a hardness, almost as if he wanted to drive away those suggestive thoughts that rose within him against his will power.
We connected the rope to Tunja and proceeded slowly along the narrow path, using the climbing-pick with safe and sure hands. The going was not so severe as on the previous day and much breath was conserved.
It was a spectacle to observe Tunja's reception of the dust-like figure of the Inca. He had gone with me through many of my expeditions and had acquired a staple knowledge of his forebears. In all that time nothing had disturbed him; he was never imaginative when he worked.
But now Tunja was noticeably shocked, despite his cold, impassive face and take-it-all-as-it-comes mien. Distinctly do I remember thinking to myself that the reclining figure, judging by the guide's expression, was a key that was going to open and reveal something that would expand the mind. We went on.
From the broad ledge, for a distance of seventy-five feet, there was fair traveling and we didn't have to resort to a taut line and carefully-placed picks. But the trail narrowed down to a hair's-breadth and some fifty feet from the top we hit sparse growths of old, gnarled vines protruding from the side of the hill just above the trail. Rather than making it easier, the extending branches imperiled the stepping. At one point the thin trail gave out completely; it appeared as if nature had prepared those wiry branches specifically for us. Without them it would have been a chance in a thousand to have scaled the space between the paths. We roped a stout branch and Tunja hoisted himself to it. He tested it and it responded with a faithful and reassuring touch before we permitted ourselves to crawl, aided by the guide's pull, to its protection. At that it took the combined strength of both the native and myself to pull the big American up the next stretch. We repeated this for a time until, we saw ahead of us the resumption of the trail, which must have been earthed over by some ages-old landslide.
Once upon the trail again, and only a few feet from the top, which loomed above our heads, we went with caution. It wouldn't do to stumble now when we were so near our goal, and opportunities to fall presented themselves at every step. I seldom looked straight down, even though I was accustomed to mountain scaling; this hill had too strong an accent on its perpendicular line.
Tunja reached the top first and took a deep breath. Then he helped us clamber over the rim, and with hardly a glance at our surroundings, we fell to the ground, gasping for air. My heart was palpitating and thumping like a bass drum. Though I wanted to get up and look around, my physical condition wouldn't let me. Long draughts of the morning atmosphere worked spasmodically into my lungs.
Crowders kicked himself to his feet. At the movement I turned over on my side and gazed around.
The top of the hill was not level. It was almost completely overgrown with tropical vegetation, but the foliage and growth didn't obscure the contours of the depression as it gently wound its way downward in the middle, volcano-like. It might have been a crater once, but it looked too small. Nature must have modeled it, thought I, along those fiery fashions, without actually intending it to expel molten lava.
I looked down at the country below and saw our men and animals, midgets on a wide landscape. Far off were the other hills which formed this range. The early morning blue of the sky seemed close and the sun was just beginning to evince its power upon us; in no time would those heat rays penetrate and give us moments of sweltering discomfort.
We started down the depression, taking care as we slid along the decline. We came to a clearing in the center, a rocky place where growth could not take hold.
Tunja called our attention to it as soon as we came into the open. He pointed to an immense, rock-like formation that stood at the border of the clearing. It must have been about fifteen feet in height. What quickened my blood was the sight of the black pit that stared at us from within the rock. It was an entrance of some sort.
I ran to it and peered in. The sides didn't have the smoothness that comes from modeling by human hands and I saw that we had Nature to contend with once more. I stooped a little and went through. The Professor came after mc, followed by Tunja.
The footing showed a slight grade downward. It grew intensely dark about fifty feet from the opening, and the Professor, who had fortunately included a torch among his effects, snapped it on.
We were slowly going down a natural tunnel that spread its walls farther and farther away as it developed. At a turn in the declining passage we stopped for a moment's talk; we decided to proceed with caution, as far as we could with safety.
We must have continued for about an hour along the passage, when I grew restless. The tunnel widened out to about ten feet and remained thus, without any devious channels. I could see Tunja's face shape up in the torch's beam, a set, long physiognomy.
"This is a strange descent, Crowders," I said, pausing. "Did you ever come across a cave with its passage so long and single?"
"It is peculiar," answered the Professor. "And we start right into this place like amateurs, without stepping to figure out anything. Why are we doing this? I'll tell you! The dust figure of the Inca is foremost on our minds!"
I nodded. We had rushed rather hastily into the dark; but we had been propelled by some sinister influence. That Inca must have been it. Tunja offered not a word.
We moved down the singular channel until we finally entered a large underground room- The American flashed the beam its full length. Treading around, we looked for something in the nature of a find. Near the opposing wall we heard for the first time a purr, .Something like a gentle swish-swish—the far-off noise of flowing water. Somewhere in the distance was an underground stream.
A consultation was held whether to return or continue our explorations. We were too far away from safety anyway should anything happen to us—no one knew whither we had gone. Our impulse was to advance; the memory of those hazardous and perilous paths over which we had passed prompted our decision; we didn't relish the idea of going back.
We weren't worried much. But there opened up on the side near the purring of the streamlet another entrance, that might be the beginning of a tunnel as endless as the one we had just quit. We didn't know how long we would have to be down here. We had to follow it, so of necessity the Professor directed his light into it and we went along the illuminated interior.
A short distance from the room my foot came in contact with a light metallic object and I picked it up. I discerned a rusty knife, an implement usually tucked in the belt. It had a carved handle that time had bested but which still revealed indications of a fine art. It was the first sign that we were hitting the right trail and that our efforts were not haphazard.
I WAS so excited that I almost shouted. This unnatural procession of ours certainly taxed our severest efforts, and what lay ahead of us was getting to be a source of anticipation that quickened my pulse. And this knife beckoned us on madly, for how could it have gotten underground in such a suggestive spot with a crumbling figure as an outpost on that trail? And the going was clear here. No diggings! But ahead! A passage down, down into the bowels of the earth, an unencumbered way, as if one were trudging downward to the domain of Lucifer himself.
As we progressed, the noise of the water grew louder and louder until it seemed that we were almost near a cataract. The passage narrowed down so that we had to go in single file. My hand brushed against the wall and I drew it back with a cry. The rock was hot.
I felt reluctant to proceed farther beside a boiling stream, but I knew that the water might actually be many feet away, with the rock between it and us. If that were the case, we could go ahead without fear of being boiled to death in case of sudden deluge; but in the dark it was very risky.
Professor Crowders was as anxious as I was to end up somewhere, so like true adventurers, we decided to continue the course, regardless of any danger.
We must have been several miles down when we got our first shock. During the entire descent we had not noticed it, partially because it was of weak strength and because our light was so evident. I called the Professor's attention to it for fear my eyesight had been deceived somewhat in the stygian blackness away from the torch.
Through the walls of the passage a dark ray seemed to be issuing, so dark that it appeared blacker than the original lightlessness. And there was a blue effect also. Crowders perceived the phenomenon. A faint suggestion of a coal-black ray emanated all around us. Tunja, the light of the torch thrown across his face, was an enigma; I didn't know whether he was going to revert to his ancient forebears and fall wildly upon his face or sink into a state of mental stupor.
I had no explanation for that dark radiation. Perhaps, thought I, some mineral rock of a new species exists here. Whatever it was, I felt that this was something vital to us. Tunja walked near me for some unaccountable reason.
As we went deeper, the black diffusion grew more noticeable; at times it had a faint tinge of blue in it. Aside from the slight decline in the path, it was not difficult progression. I had time to watch the steadily growing light as I walked. The black light, its beautiful velvet sheen glimmering, was getting blacker and blacker, and the blue, bluer and bluer!
For the first time we came to an intersection—a small tunnel that branched off the main one; it was a narrow, rocky entrance. Crowders immediately vetoed the advance through that opening, and we went straight ahead and downward, with the surge of the underground stream beside us always hissing in our ears.
The footing was not so favorable now. In places we slipped, rather than walked, down the smooth floor of the tunnel; something like cooled molten glass answered the soles of my boots. The black and blue gleam completely entered my body and, strangely, my head felt light, my legs unweary. At spots the gleam illuminated the surroundings, not enough to distinguish with full vision, but enough to make me feel that I was in another world. As a doctor of the sciences in the outer world I was completely at a loss here. From all around me sprayed, as if from nowhere, that mystical, satiating ray.
I haven't the least idea how long we had traveled the downward path, but it must have been a long, long time. Not once were we attacked by any suggestions of hunger; the bits of food were still in our pockets, untouched, and this, we found out later, had a definite meaning.
Tunja fell over something. When Crowders focused the light upon it we all let out a scream. Reposing against the wall was another one of those bodies that we had encountered out on the steep ascent. It was clothed in like garments. But what took our breaths away was that it was not decomposed, not aged dust like its mate, but a solid, resisting flesh!
I looked with wide eyes at my contemporary. My. hands trembled as I knelt. I couldn't utter a word for a moment.
"Doctor," burst out a spasmodic Tunja, "Let's go back."
I was attempting to collect my thoughts. I could see that the Professor was groping with himself, standing behind the native.
I silenced Tunja, reprimanding him for his weakness.
"Doctor," said the American to me, "no doubt you connect this body with that glow?"
I thought more of that emanation now; it must undoubtedly have had some influence on the -body of the Indian, for I felt sure, on the knowledge of my Inca history, that this Inca had lived in the twelfth century. The dress was the design of that period; no other, later fabric had the markings of this raiment
And this light, this ray! Something, an essence that did not exist in the world above, composed this radiation and kept a body,.dead for centuries perhaps, in.a more solid, lifelike form than any substance smeared on the mummies of old; and this Indian looked far from a mummy. He looked almost as if he were capable of rising at any moment.
We inspected the body thoroughly. It was of the first Inca dynasty, without doubt. But I couldn't understand it. They hadn't lived in this vicinity in numbers enough to leave bodies strewn around like that.
I caught sight of Tunja's strained face. "There is nothing unnatural here," I upbraided him. "Why be so unnerved?"
He caught his breath. "It's my Indian blood, I guess, Doctor. This odd light is to me a premonition. I feel that we are on a precipice, ready to be thrown down!"
"Calm yourself," returned I. "We are on earth, even though we are far underneath the surface. There is a curious light here, but with a little reasoning everything can be explained." It was hard to talk to him thus when even I felt moved by the rays. But it was my purpose to pacify his nerves. Crowders, in the pale light, had an impatient face—the countenance of a scientist on the verge of a discovery just beyond his reach. That the end of a disclosure was near seemed evident in the atmosphere.
"Let us continue," said the Professor eagerly. "This trail seems to have been made for a real mystery. Straight ahead it leads us; no breaks of any serious nature, with a little seasoning scattered here and there. I'm in favor of hounding this mystery to its lair."
He set off with the torch and I hurried after him. Tunja hobbled along behind me.
The radiations from the walls became more intense and brilliant as we went on. The electric torch the American carried was unnecessary now and he snapped it off and slipped it into his pocket. Our entire pathway was lighted with a soft effulgence. The tunnel continued downward; the underground stream was heard clearly, and we went on.
The subterranean passage came to an end. Yawning before us was a chasm about fifteen feet in width. The noise of the stream came up with a sudden rush. Looking sideways, I could see the steaming liquid issuing from a wide opening in the wall on top of the bottomless pit. This must have been the boiling water that we had followed, now letting itself out, flowing down to heaven knows where, through every nook or passage that would admit it.
OUR progress was at an end, it appeared to us; we couldn't span that wide void. The issuing light gave us a view of the wide ledge on the other side, but it might as well have been in another world for all the good it did us. It would be a dangerous attempt, to jump. We had no room to make a run—and that terrifying abyss stood ready, with all the odds in its favor, to permanently register us in her abode. It looked as if we had reached the end of our journey and the unfulfillmenf of our desires.
And then—I'll never forget that sight as long as I live—there appeared upon that ledge from apparently nowhere a stately, arm-folded figure. He looked slowly down into the steaming gulf, unconscious of us. My heart was beating furiously at that unearthly image posing there, gazing at the dropping stream. I couldn't get my eyes off him. He was something preternatural, ready to give way to thin air. He remained poised above that chasm, staring into its depths.
Tunja was abreast of me when he saw that figure. He let out a frightful scream and flopped down upon his knees, looking nothing like the civilized native I knew. At that moment I pitied him.
The figure suddenly raised his head and stared in our direction, surprise and wonder on his face. While I watched he disappeared and appeared almost immediately, another one coming after him. I saw that he had gone behind an obstruction. They looked hard at us, and soon there were half a dozen on the ledge watching us.
I pulled Tunja off the ground into an erect position. The Professor, I could hear, was breathing hard.
They must have made up their minds, because the first figure, the stately one, came close to the pit and raised his arm. I immediately followed suit.
Then he spoke, in surprisingly distinct tones in face of the noisy water, and in the purest Inca lengua had ever heard. I thought that I was a master of that ancient tongue, but I couldn't approach the enunciation of that man. It was a joy for me to hear it.
"You come from the outside?" he asked.
I nodded vigorously. I saw him smile, as if he were pleased that I recognized his tongue and understood.
The ledge upon which the bronzed men were standing was soon packed with surging people. From the first moment they had become aware of our presence they continued to arrive from behind that partition and stare at us.
The tall man who spoke, presumably the leader, raised his arms above his head, and immediately the men and women about him fell to their knees; They broke into a chant, a plaintive moan that gradually grew in intensity and soon filled the air vibrantly. Tunja, his eyes distended, fell to his knees and moaned.
Crowders looked at me. I didn't have to hear him speak to understand what he was conveying to me with his eyes. The chant was old. So old, that had I not known of that worship of the Sun, I would hardly have recognized it. Not that it was something I had heard before! No! This was the first time in my life, and I think the first time in ages, that a living person had listened to a song that was medieval, for I was convinced that it had not survived those old people, the Incas. But these people—who were they?
I tried hard to get a scrutiny of their garments, but. they were not near enough. The leader's face was fine and clear even in the distance, but all I could see was a cloak of some sort thrown around his shoulders.
A persistent thought seemed to reverberate through my mind. We had stumbled upon the living descendants of an Inca tribe. Down deep below the surface of the earth they bad survived civilization and its changés, and had remained to this day enmeshed in their old customs. It seemed too good to be true. I would be able to study them instead of excavations. The chant rolled into the tunnel in which we stood and the sound became deafening. I was thrilled, eager to go on, to get started.
The swing of the dozens of throats was all in the pure language of a dead race. To my ears it sounded sweet; in reality it might have been somewhat barbaric. In their ceremony they were offering: up thanks to some deity for delivering unto them someone from the outside. This clearly puzzled me. It had been a simple matter to follow the tunnel from the outside, and if they had desired to go out, thought I, they could have proceeded along the passage just as easily as we had. Little did I dream what a barrier was keeping them cooped up.
The curious light issued from every spot, the blue-black gleam throwing itself into us, was literally eating us up. I couldn't explain it, but I was being consumed. My head felt lighter; my legs felt the way they had years before, when I was a young man and athletic. I could feel coursing through my veins the blood of a young and lively body, and I wondered. Scientist that I was, I wasn't misled. It was not the thrill of seeing those aged gestures of the people before me that was changing me. Something was actually entering my body, and, in the sense of the word, rejuvenating the cells which composed me. A new form of metabolism. I couldn't describe it. I only felt it.
The rite came to an abrupt end and they raised themselves from the ground; The leader pointed to us.
"Go back to the intersection and take that other path. It will take you under this ledge. Make haste!"
I could feci the urge in his voice; the desire to talk to us forced the exhortations.
We turned back in that gleaming channel to the intersection. Not once did we utter any word. But the native kept murmuring. In a way I couldn't blame him. The blood of his ancestors was in his veins, to remain forever, and civilization could but instruct him; it could not prevent him from assembling the superstition which had descended to him. He had the look of one going to his doom.
But if such was doom, I was over-anxious to be there. The American led the way and his gait was a fast one. I didn't need encouragement to keep at his heels; I was close upon them. It was Tunja who did the forced hasting.
Once at the intersection, we turned down it. It was harder going than the smooth decline which we had just left. The way was scattered with rocks. The grade was steep; in some places the tunnel was so dangerous that we had to get down on all fours and crawl. Torch-light we didn't need. The exuding rays from the walls were very illuminating here, and at times very beautiful. As we went down and down, the light became brighter and brighter, suffusing me with a feeling of endurance. The roar of the stream which emptied into the yawning abyss was to our left this time, but it didn't worry me, as it did the previous time when I had feared coming upon it unawares.
We rounded a short curve. There, advancing haughtily and with firm step, was that inspiring figure who had addressed us at the. pit. Following him came men and women who, at the sight of us, quickened their steps.
We stopped. The man was garbed in the clothes of the Inca of medieval time. The designs upon the cloth were the same as those I had seen on drapings of bodies. His face had a fine aquiline nose; his forehead was broad; his hair was dark.
But what engaged my scrutiny was the blue-black stamp on everything, especially on the eye. I shifted my gaze to others who stood near and I was surprised to discover that they all had eyes of the same hue.
The imposing man, after a minute inspection of our dress, beckoned us to follow him. His fine form led us until we had passed the others, and they then fell in behind us.
IT was as bright now as the brightest room when lit by lamps. I could see everything that went on around me, and I could see ahead for some distance. We were entering a large subterranean chamber, whose ceiling was many feet above us, and which was inhabited by many people. There must have been fully a hundred of them there.
Our small party came to a stop near a stone slab upon which rested a carved seat. The leader Sat in it, chieftain-wise, and the others fell on their haunches around us. The three of us were the only ones left standing.
It looked like a tribunal of a kind, where we might have been on trial for our lives. In fact, a glimpse at my guide's countenance might have scared you into that belief; but I could see that there was a kind questioning on that chief's face and I had no fears. My dissective eyes were taking in everything of possible scientific count, and I was puzzled.
The face of each man or woman, so far as I could see. bore not the least vestige of fatigue, of sorrow, or of pain. They were smooth, as smooth as the skin of a newborn babe. And yet, as I glanced around, only adults greeted my glance; I could see no children. It was odd. Surely among an assemblage of this kind a child should be visible. And what further perplexed me was that I couldn't see any old persons among them. All were clean-featured, giving off the impression that they must have been born on the same day. The women were good to look upon, even though bronzed in skin, and eyes blue-black.
The old language smote my ear.
"At last you have come," uttered the chief. "The Creator has heard our prayers!"
The people, massed on the ground, nodded their heads.
"A prayer, my people! A prayer to the Creator!"
They fell on their faces as before, when the one on the slab rose and extended supplicating arms towards heaven. The same chant rose from a moaning whisper to a screaming pitch, and this time it was earsplitting, for we were in it. Tunja threw himself down and shrieked with them. Whether it was stark terror of a reversion to his ancestral blood, the sight of hia face dug into the ground presented a sorry spectacle;
I could feel the beauty of the thing, even as I watched. If I had been of spiritual inclination I might have let my mind take sway. The giant figure of the American at my side, I could see, had a soft look on his face.
The religious performance subsided and the leader opened his eyes.
"What century is this?" he asked of me.
I couldn't understand the purport of his query, but I replied: "The twentieth."
His eyes widened at that. They roved over our costumes more closely; our closely-cropped hair interested him particularly.
"The twentieth century," he murmured in an undertone, "impossible. A dream. So long!"
He seemed incredulous. But it was I who was becoming bewildered more and more. I could feel the gaze of the entire group upon us. It was not a hostile one, only curious.
"Who are you," asked I of the chief, "who speaks the Inca language in its ancient unmarred perfection;, who wears the robes and designs of that ancient people, and whose body is as upright as those were supposed to have been?"
"We," answered the lordly figure, "are Incas."
"Where is your abode?" asked I.
The chief waved his arm in a circle. "Here."
I looked around me but saw no more than I had seen heretofore, a large underground room lighted up by the curious gleam. There was no sign of dwelling construction, no sight of any of the implements necessary to the habitat of man. The only thing visible in the vast cave-like room was the carved stone slab upon which had been seated the head of the tribe.
I was very impatient. My explorer's blood came to the fore. I thought of but one thing now.
"You were an educated and civilized race centuries ago," I told him. "Your ancestors knew the value of records. Was there some way they left their history to you, here in this underground abode?"
I was convinced, since nothing was ever heard of this band of Incas, that they had in some manner survived from some previous day and had descended down to the present. I was intensely anxious, now that I was piercing the gloom with a breath of light, to uncover the records of this unknown people. It would be a valued acquisition.
But I was disappointed. The man shook his head. "We needed none. It is all written indelibly in our minds!"
"What!" said I. "You claim to possess memories in which are stored the happenings of your ancestors?"
Again the chief shook his head.
I was getting bemuddled, not at all befitting the conduct of a scientist. The whole procedure wasn't acting in harmony.
"You still don't understand," said the leader in a low yoke; "are we not sufficient proof of our existence? There were no descendants!"
The American spoke up. "But there must have been descendants. You couldn't have been born without elders. Explain that."
The Inca swept us with a patient glance. "I see that you understand me not. I said that there were no people before us here. What I am trying to get you to comprehend is that we, the people you see around you, have lived here for the last eight hundred years in the flesh. We are over eight hundred years old!"
It was a few moments before I fully understood what he told me. Then it crashed clown upon my mind. Any other time or place I would have laughed at such a statement. It would have been ridiculous beyond measure. But now I didn't scorn his words. I couldn't. I felt that he wasn't jesting, that it was too true to be ludicrous. And why?
The invigorating ray that illumined this large chamber gave me cause to doubt anything and nothing. Every minute that I stood in its shining light, my body and mind had been getting lighter, my thoughts clearer; as if the mist of years was being lifted solidly from me and a clear and lucid wave of thought was entering.
"Being underground for so long a time," continued the Inca, "never seeing the sun, never smelling a green blade of grass, not being able to get away from the chains which bound us here, and yet living—living—no wonder we lost our sense of time. To us there is no morning, no night. That is why I asked of you what century we live in now. We must have lived here for eight hundred years!"
"Tell us everything," I urged. "Please start from the beginning. But above all, explain how you have lived eight centuries. No one can possibly exist for so long."
The imperious Inca passed his arm over his people. "Even now that we have actually survived those years, it is hard to believe that it is so. But if this is the twentieth century, then we are over eight hundred years old!" He looked suddenly at me, curiously. "Man, how comest that you speak the tongue almost as we? You look not like an Inca!"
I explained my position to him, told of my study of that folk of the Middle Ages, my love for it. From Manco Capac on, I told him, I excelled in its knowledge.
At the mention of Manco Capac, his face broke into brilliance, though not without a tinge of pure sadness.
"You know of Manco Capac? Would that I had taken his word!"
YOU can imagine how I felt when he said that—as if someone of our present day had found a man who had lived in the days of Christopher Columbus and who knew him well enough to take his proffered advice. My head reeled! Take the word of one who was alive in 1100!
"You know our history; you know our customs, then," spoke the sad voice of the Inca. "Could those moments, which are but a delightful memory now, be brought back to us, those sweet times with our people!" Every head swayed in unison.
"Explain everything to us," I begged. I wanted so to free my mind from any doubt, to believe this genuine action of a lost people.
"I," revealed the haughty figure, "I am Tenta Raci. Have you unearthed in our history the existence of one Tenta Raci?"
I heard a crash. Tunja had fallen face downward. His body was groveling in the ground. With the mist that had fallen once again upon me, I could not blame him. If a wandering breeze had caught me at that moment, it would have tumbled me over, so weakened was I.
"Manco Capac's half-brother!" ejaculated I.
"You know!" he wondered. "Do the Incas still exist?"
I shook my head. "Fallen to the dust long ago, are those civilized peoples." I pointed to the fallen man; "That is the remaining flesh of your people."
Tenta Raci closely inspected the guide. "At last! After hundreds of years, to be informed that nothing remains." A great sigh rose from the mass.
"Why does this man," he indicated Tunja, "fall at our feet and bespeak the tone of worship?"
I explained to him, almost half-worshipfully myself, the tradition of one Tenta Raci, the half-brother of Manco Capac, who had gone to a heaven, and how the modern descendants prayed to him.
The Inca nodded as if he understood. "And you?" he asked of me.
I told him of the peoples that were spread across the wide earth, the hundreds of millions who lived now, new races, new nations. His eyes were grave.
"Then the Inca people are no more?"
"No more!" returned I.
"Gone," he whispered, his face raised; "gone are the people of the Sun. Gone are those beautiful roads that carried the feet of my people. Gone are those peaceful valleys, the lordly mountains we dwelled among, when alas! I hoped for better tidings after so many years!" His head fell on his chest sadly.
Professor Crowders looked at me. In his eyes I read wonder, but belief. He did not doubt.
"How have you managed to live so long?" I finally asked. This was the key to the whole situation.
Tenta Raci raised his head. His face was lined. "The rays! These beautiful but cursed rays!" He let his hand move majestically about him. "Oh! That we never should have been permitted to have lived so long, only to find out that our blood and flesh are gone!"
I had the answer now. And every trace of doubt was gone from within me. My head was very light, my muscles getting stronger every moment! The rays! So they were of that power! To keep the body cells in constant replacement—a process of continual rejuvenation! Why this meant immortality!
Was my expedition a success? My mind kept telling me that we had brought to light a discovery that had every other one in the world dimmed for its importance. It was the greatest thing the world would ever know. Millions of possibilities were springing from my subconsciousness.
"This is true, Doctor," said Professor Crowders. "I believe it all." He put his hand on his left eye. "This eye has not had its full vision for the past twenty years. I suffered an accident once. But now it can see as clearly as the other one!"
And that is what I was experiencing. I was fifty-eight years old; I felt as if I were twenty-one. Can I describe the feeling? Hardly! No one on the earth above had ever been transformed as we were. They couldn't understand it, feel it.
"How is it," I asked the Inca chief suddenly, "that you have existed here for so long without food and water? Where are they?"
As I asked him this I bad my misgivings. I was reminded of the fact that we had not partaken of food since leaving the camp at the bottom of the hill, and it had been hours of weary, body-racking travel that should have demanded nourishment.
The Inca acted as one reminiscent. "Food! Food!" he mused. "We haven't eaten anything or drunk anything for eight centuries! The rays supply us with everything. It is strange to talk of food. My mouth has taken nothing for centuries!"
On the impulse, I dug my hand into my pocket and removed the scraps of food which I had placed there. I put a hardened piece of bread into my mouth and started to masticate it. I spat it out immediately. I had no desire to eat, and I suddenly discovered that it was because I had no taste. Was it this ray that supplied to the human body all the necessary elements for its maintenance and construction? It could be nothing else, thought I. My body was feeling different. I could sense it undergoing a constant metamorphosis, yet I suffered no ill effects; rather I experienced that desire to fling my arms up, up, and act as one possessed with wings, so light-bodied was I.
"Why do you all look alike? And why are there no children visible?" asked I.
Tenta Raci didn't answer for a moment. "Any question you would ask, I would be compelled to answer 'the rays.' There can be no other. They have the power to change everything. But there is one thing they do that balances their giving of ever-life. And that is, the women of our band can never bear children. They give—those rays, but they take more!"
I turned to gather in closely the real essence of the beams emanating from the walls. Deep, bright blue-black was all that I could tell of color; but soft, completely suffusing.
I thought of the wonder that would strike the world when I would make known the discovery! I thought of the countless cures that could be wrought, of the passing of disease and sickness from the human race. I saw now why these many Incas were almost alike in looks: Those rays, over a lengthy period of time, would make them similar. It showed that they were uttering the truth. To think that the earth possessed a cure for its ailments and the answer to immortal life, something that was discovered by a band of medieval Incas in the twelfth century, and to be still unknown in the twentieth.
"Immortal life!" cried I. "Think what it will mean to the races of the earth!"
The Inca chieftain said:: "No! No immortal life, my friend. Because we have lived for so long, is that your idea of immortal life? This life is a curse! We are prisoners here!"
"How so?" I inquired anxiously, remembering.
"We can never go from this underground home. We are here to remain, until the end of time, perhaps!"
All my hopes crashed. I sensed something dire and dreadful under it all.
"We can never leave," continued Tenta Raci, "because to go out into the open sunlight is to reap the worst tortures. These rays are soothing here; but should we leave the tunnel and go some place where there are no rays, then our bodies would succumb. I have seen several members of this tribe fall to the ground in fearful agony!"
I REMEMBERED the disintegrated body of the Inca out on the ledge. And then that one in the faint effulgence in the tunnel. I understood, now, that somehow the rays had kept that body in the tunnel in a preserved state, but had not possessed enough power to retain it in life, when it had gone away from the main body of the emanations.
Suddenly a thought entered my mind and I faced the Inca with terror.
"Then it will do the same harm to us!" Tenta Raci confirmed my suspicions. "Yes. Even now it has taken a hold upon you. You can return to the outside, for there is yet time; but you will suffer when once your body is away from these rays. Soon it will be too late; there will be no degree of safety."
I didn't know what to do. The American was eyeing me calmly, waiting for me to decide. I knew that he would abide by my decision.
"Take us around your place here," I said to Tenta Raci with haste. "We want to see everything here. Then we will leave at once!"
The people of the supposed heaven rose. The chief quit the stone slab. "Our place is droll. There is nothing of much value. We have nothing to do but live and think. There is only one thing we enjoy doing here, and that is carving articles from this rock that gives forth the life!"
He led us down into a larger excavation. On all sides were to be seen the most beautiful of carved art. I picked up a vase and inspected it. There was nothing like it on the earth above. It was too gorgeous. Its scintillating blue-black darts of fire continuously issued from the crystal-like rock.
And that was all. Only that room of carved beauties. Could that be the only thing they had done in eight centuries and have retained their equanimity of mind? If so, that ray must possess potent factors that molded over aeons of custom, and the mind.
I was hurried by that revelation of disaster to us. I wasn't afraid of death. If it were to concern me only, I would gladly forego everything and live on here, to glean the essentials of the ray for future lives. But I was a scientist. I must acquaint the world with my discovery. They must find some means to accept it, so that they might benefit by it. I would, I feared, be smiled at when I made this known, but I didn't worry much about that. It was the greatest moment of my life, and I had to give it to the people.
And with this, I took the vase in my hands. The Inca chief urged me to take more, but I could carry this with safety, and nothing more. Crowders and Tunja also took things.
I hastily conferred with the Professor and he advised instant departure. The tribe, headed by Tenta Raci, surrounded us, murmuring something that sounded like a farewell chant, and led us down the path and up the passageway. There was a sad look upon the Inca's face. I could see that he regretted the fact that we were to leave him and his people. Long years were ahead of him before he might see anybody else, if anything should go wrong with us. But once I would acquaint the world, there would be plenty of arrivals.
We were near the juncture of the tunnels when we heard the noise. It was a loud roar.
"It's the subterranean stream," I explained.
The Inca leader stopped with a frown upon his handsome face. "It sounds louder than ever before!"
There opened upon us an aperture in the walls, and a sudden deluge of steaming water soaked us.
"She's broken out!" yelled one. "And the hole is getting larger!"
We rushed pellmell forward, but the whole wall fell upon us. The underground stream, flowing, for ages in a channel that was slowly corroding, was free at last. I was seared by the continuous flow of the hot water.
I reached the intersection and dry ground. Looking back, I saw the Professor suddenly fall backwards into the rising waters. I saw other bodies struggling to get away from the eddying, vaporous liquid.
I was the only one free. I darted to save my colleague from disaster, but a swirl of the powerful current caught me before I got far and made me retreat. I was frantic. But I couldn't make any headway in that unleashed stream. I was drenched.
A wave caught me in the back and carried me to the intersection, higher ground. Water was rising and coming my way. It looked like a forewarning, an order to be moving fast. With one backward glance at the tomb of my friends, I ran. I came to the large room. I could hear the swishing of coming water. My body felt suddenly drawn, but I didn't stop. The bluish ray was practically gone now. Darkness was all I had. But my mind was driving me on, out of this burial place. I remembered reaching the opening to the cave; seeing the sunshine dawn in all its splendor. I have some faint idea that I skidded down that trail, and survived only by that one chance in a million. Then I distinctly remembered, the last thing, a sudden tightening of my muscles, an indescribable ache, and á terrific noise.
THIS amazing manuscript was forwarded to the university in Germany where Doctor Grossbach once taught. His pinched handwriting was recognized, and authentic. It had been years since he had been reported lost, together, with the celebrated American scientist, Professor Crowders. The university sent the present head of the department, then Doctor Grossbach's understudy, to Peru, the locality in the malaria-infested district. He found Doctor Grossbach in a native hut in the last stages of life. At his request, he buried him in the soil be loved. But before he died: Doctor Grossbach vouched for the document he had written. The wasted man showed him the beautiful vase, the evidence indisputable of what had happened. But it was never brought back to civilization. It was stolen by the natives. Somewhere in the wilds of Peril lies the convincing proof of this fantastic story. And that hill in the Huanuco Junin range is now a crater.
Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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