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   Chapter 5 No.5

The Land of the Changing Sun By Will N. Harben Characters: 7528

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04


"Follow me," said the captain stiffly, for there were several guards in white and gold uniforms pacing to and fro on the battlement-like walls. He led the two adventurers through a door in the base of the dome. At first they were dazed by a brilliant light from above, and looking up they beheld a marvel of kaleidoscopic colors formed by a myriad of electric-lighted prisms sloping gradually from the floor to the apex of the dome. Thorndyke could compare it to nothing but a stupendous diamond, the very heart of which the eye penetrated.

"Don't look at it now," advised Tradmos, in an undertone; "it was constructed to be seen from below, and to light the great rotunda."

Mutely the captives obeyed. At every turn they were greeted with a new wonder. The captain now led them round a narrow balcony on the inside of the vast dome, and, looking over the railing down below, they saw a vast tessellated pavement made of polished stones of various and brilliant colors and so artistically arranged that, from where they stood, lifelike pictures of landscapes seemed to rise to meet the vision wherever the eye rested. Statues of white marble, gold and bronze were placed here and there, and, in squares of living green, fountains threw up streams of crystal water. Tradmos paused for them to look down and smiled at their evident admiration.

"How far is it down there?" Thorndyke ventured to ask.

"Over a thousand feet," replied Tradmos. "Look across opposite and you will see that there are fifty floors beneath us, and each floor has a balcony like this overlooking the court."

"What is the sound that comes up from below?" asked the Englishman.

"It is the voices of the people and their footsteps on the stone."

"What people?"

"Don't you see them? Your eyes are dazzled by the light; I ought to have warned you against looking up into the dome. The people are down there; do the views in the pavement not look a little blurred?"

"Yes."

"Well, if you will look more closely you will see that it is a multitude of people."

"Great heavens!" exclaimed the Englishman, and he became deeply absorbed in the contemplation of the rarest sight he had ever seen. As he looked closely he noticed a black spot growing larger and nearer, and he glanced inquiringly at the captain.

"It is an elevator. There are a great many of them used in the palace, but none have happened to rise as high as this since we came. The one you see is coming for us." The next moment the strange vehicle was floating toward them. The captain opened the door and preceded the captives into the interior.

"The royal audience chamber," he said, carelessly, to the driver behind the glass of the adjoining compartment, and down they floated as lightly as a bubble-down past balcony after balcony, laden with moving throngs, until they alighted in a great conservatory.

Near them was a tall fountain the water of which was playing weird music on great bells of glass, some of which hung in the fountain's stream and others rose and fell, giving forth strange, submerged tones in the foaming basin.

"It is a new invention recently placed here by the king's son who is a musical genius," explained Tradmos. "You will be astonished at some of his inventions."

He led them, as if to avoid the great crowds that they could now hear on all sides, down a long vista of palms, the branches of which met over their heads, to the wide door of the audience chamber. A party of men dressed in uniforms of white silk with gold and silver ornaments bowed before the captain and made way for him.

The captives now found themselves in the most splendid and spacious room they had ever seen, at the far end of which was a long dais and on it an elaborate throne.

"I shall be obliged to leave you when the king comes," said Tradmos to Thorndyke, "but I shall hope to see you again. Don't forget my name and rank, for I may send you a message some time that may aid you." "Thank you," replied the Englishman, and then as a throng of beautiful young women came from a room on the side and gathered about the throne he added inquisitively: "Who are they?"

"The wives and daughters of the king and the wives of the princes," was the cautious answer, "but don't look at any one of them closely."

"I don't see how a fellow can help it; they are ravishingly beautiful, don't you think so, Johnston?"

"Don't be a fool," snapped the American, "don't you know enough to hold your tongue."

Tradmos smiled as if amused, and when he had shown them to seats near the great golden throne, he said:

"Stay where you are till the king sends for you, and then go and kneel before the throne. Do not rise till he bids you."

The captives thanked him and the captain turned away. The eyes of all the royal party now rested on the strangers, and it was hard for them to appear unconscious of it. A great crowd was slowly filling the room and an orchestra in a balcony on the left of the dais began to make delightful music on instruments the strangers had never before seen. After an entrancing prelude a sound of singing was heard, and far up in a grand dome, lighted like the one the captives had just admired over the central court of the palace, they saw a bevy of maidens, robed in white, moving about in mid-air, apparently unsupported by anything.

"How on earth is that done?" asked Thorndyke.

"I don't know," returned Johnston, speaking more freely now that the captain had gone. "I am not surprised at anything."

"Their voices are exquisite, and that orchestra-a Boston symphony concert couldn't be compared to it."

"There goes the sunlight again," cried Johnston, "by Jove, it is blue!"

The transition was sublime. They seemed transported to some other scene. The great multitude, the elegantly-dressed attendants about the throne, the courtiers, the beautiful women, all seemed to change in appearance; on the view through the wide doors leading to the conservatory, and the great swarming court beyond, the soft blue light fell like a filmy veil of enchantment.

"Wonderful!" exclaimed the American.

"It is ahead of our clocks, anyway," jested Thorndyke. "Any child that can count on its fingers could tell that this is the fifth hour of the day."

The music grew louder; there was a harmonious blare of mighty trumpets, the clang of gongs and cymbals, and then the music softened till it could scarcely be heard. There was commotion about the throne.

The king was coming. Every person on the dais stood motionless, expectant. A page drew aside the rich curtain from a door on the right, and an old man, wearing a robe of scarlet ornamented with jewels and a crown set with sparkling gems, entered and seated himself on the throne. The music sank lower; so soft did it become that the tinkling bells of the great fountain outside could be heard throughout the room.

The king bowed to the throng on the dais and spoke a few words to a courtier who advanced as he sat down. The courtier must have spoken of them, for the king at once looked down at Johnston and Thorn-dyke and nodded his head. The courtier spoke to a page, and the youth left the dais and came toward the captives.

"We are in for it," cautioned Thorndyke, "now don't be afraid of your shadow; we'll come out all right."

"The king has sent for you," said the page, the next instant. "Go to the throne."

They were the cynosure of the entire room as they went up the carpeted steps of the dais and knelt before the king.

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