The Lost City

Contents:
Author: Joseph E. Badger

Chapter VII. The Professor’s Great Anticipations.

A stretch and a yawn, which in Waldo’s case ended in a prolonged howl, which would not have disgraced either of their four-footed visitors of the past evening, then the brothers Gillespie sprung forth from the flying-machine, entering upon a race for the brawling mountain stream, "shedding" their garments as they ran.

"First man in!" cried Bruno, whose clothes seemed to slip off the more readily; but Waldo was not to be outdone so easily, and, reckless of the consequences, he plunged into the eddying pool, with fully half of his daylight rig still in place.

The water proved to be considerably deeper than either brother had anticipated, and Waldo vanished from sight for a few seconds, then reappearing with lusty puff and splutter, shaking the pearly drops from his close-clipped curls, while ranting:

"Another vile fabrication nailed to the standard of truth, and clinched by the hammer of—ouch!"

A wild flounder, then the youngster fairly doubled himself up, acting so strangely that Bruno gave a little cry of alarm; but ere the elder brother could take further action, Waldo swung his right arm upward and outward, sending a goodly sized trout flashing through the air to the shore, crying in boyish enthusiasm:

"Glory in great chunks! I want to camp right here for a year to come! Will ye look at that now?"

Bruno had to dodge that writhing missile, and, before he could fairly recover himself, Waldo had floundered ashore, leaving a yeasty turmoil in his wake, but then throwing up a dripping hand, and speaking in an exaggerated whisper:

"Whist, boy! On your life, not so much as the ghost of a whimper! The hole’s ramjammed chuck full of trout, and we’ll have a meal fit for the gods if—where’s my fishing tackle?"

Bruno picked up the trout, so queerly brought to light, really surprised, but feigning still further, as he made his examination.

"It really IS a trout, and—how long have you carried this about in your clothes, Waldo Gillespie?"

"Not long enough for you to build a decent joke over it, brother mine. Just happened so. Tried to ram its nose in one of my pockets, and of course I had to take him in out of the wet. Pool’s just full of them, too, and I wouldn’t wonder if—oh, quit your talking, and do something, can’t you, boy?"

Vigorously though he spoke, Waldo wound up with a shiver and sharp chatter of teeth as the fresh morning air struck through his dripping garments. He gave a coltish prance, as he turned to seek his fishing tackle; but, unfortunately for his hopes of speedy sport, the professor was nigh enough to both see and hear, and at once took charge of the reckless youngster.

"Wet to the hide, and upon an empty stomach, too! You foolish child! Come, strip to the buff, and put on some of these garments until—here by the fire, Waldo."

And thus taken in tow, the lad was forced to slowly but thoroughly toast his person beside the freshly started fire, ruefully watching his brother deftly handle rod and line, in a remarkably short space of time killing trout enough to furnish all with a bounteous meal.

"And I was the discoverer, while you reap all the credit, have all the fun!" dolefully lamented Waldo, when the catch was displayed with an ostentation which may have covered just a tiny bit of malice. "I’ll put a tin ear on you, Amerigo Vespucius!"

"All right; we’ll have a merry go together, after you’ve cleaned the trout for cooking, lad," laughed his elder.

Waldo gazed reproachfully into that bright face for a brief space, then bowed head in joined hands, to sob in heartfelt fashion, his sturdy frame shaking with poorly suppressed grief—or mirth?

Bruno passed an arm caressingly over those shoulders, murmuring words of comfort, earnestly promising to never sin again in like manner, provided he could find forgiveness now. And then, with deft touch, that same hand held his garment far enough for its mate to let slip a wriggling trout adown his brother’s back.

Waldo howled and jumped wildly, as the cold morsel slipped along his spine, and ducking out of reach, the elder jester called back:

"Land him, boy, and you’ve caught another fish!"

Although laughing heartily himself, Professor Featherwit deemed it a part of wisdom to interfere now, and, ere long, matters quieted down, all hands engaged in preparing the morning meal, for which all teeth were now fairly on edge.

If good nature had been at all disturbed, long before that breakfast was despatched it was fully restored, and of the trio, Waldo appeared to be the most enthusiastic over present prospects.

"Why, just think of it, will you?" he declaimed, as well as might be with mouth full of crisply fried mountain trout. "where the game comes begging for you to bowl it over, and the very fish try to jump into your pockets—"

"Or down your back, Amerigo," interjected Bruno, with a grin.

"Button up, or you’ll turn to be a Sorry-cus—tomer, old man," came the swift retort, with a portentous frown. "But, joking aside, why not? With such hunting and fishing, I’d be willing to sign a contract for a round year in this region."

"To say nothing of exploration, and such discoveries as naturally attend upon—"

"Then you really mean it all, uncle Phaeton?"

Leaning back far enough to pluck a handful of green leaves, which fairly well served the purpose of a napkin, Professor Featherwit brought forth pipe and pouch, maintaining silence until the fragrant tobacco was well alight. Then he gave a vigorous nod of his head, to utter:

"It has been the dearest dream of my life for more years gone by than you would readily credit, my lads; or, in fact, than I would be wholly willing to confess. And it was with an eye single to this very adventure that I laboured to devise and perfect yonder machine."

"A marvel in itself, uncle Phaeton. Only for that, where would we have been, yesterday?" seriously spoke the elder Gillespie.

"I know where we wouldn’t have been: inside that blessed cy-nado!"

"Nor here, where you can catch brook trout in your clothes without the trouble of taking them off, youngster."

"And where you’ll catch a precious hiding, without you let up harping on that old string; it’s way out of tune already, old man,"

"Tit for tat. Excuse us, please, uncle Phaeton. We’re like colts in fresh pasture, this morning," brightly apologised Bruno, for both.

Apparently the professor paid no attention to that bit of sparring between his nephews, staring into the glowing camp-fire with eyes which surely saw more than yellow coals or ruddy flames could picture; eyes which burned and sparkled with all the fires of distant youth.

"The dearest dream of all my life!" he repeated, in half dreamy tones, only to rouse himself, with a a start and shoulder shake, an instant later, forcing a bright smile as he glanced from face to face. "And why not? How better could my last years be employed than in piercing the clouds of mystery, and doubt, and superstition, with which this vast tract has been enveloped for uncounted ages?"

"Is it really so unknown, then, uncle Phaeton?" hesitatingly asked Bruno, touched, in spite of himself, by that intensely earnest tone and expression. "Of course, I know what the Indians say; they are full of a rude sort of superstitious awe, which—"

"Which is one of the surest proofs that truth forms a foundation for that very superstition," quickly interjected the professor. "It is an undisputed fact that there are hundreds upon hundreds of square miles of terra incognita, lying in this corner of Washington Territory. No white man ever fairly penetrated these wilds, even so far as we may have been carried while riding the tornado. Or, if so, he assuredly has never returned, or made known his discoveries."

"Provided there was anything beyond the ordinary to see or experience, shouldn’t we add, uncle?" suggested Waldo, modestly.

"There is,—there must be! No matter how wildly improbable their traditions may seem in our judgment, it only takes calm investigation to bring a fair foundation to light. In regard to this vast scope of country, go where you will among the natives, question whom you see fit, as to its secrets, and you will meet with the same results: a deep-seated awe, a belief which cannot be shaken, that here strange monsters breed and flourish, matched in magnitude and power by an armed race of human beings, before whose awful might other tribes are but as ants in the pathway of an elephant."

Waldo let escape a low, prolonged whistle of mingled wonder and incredulity, but Bruno gave him a covert kick, himself too deeply interested to bear with a careless interruption just then.

"Of course there may be something of exaggeration in all this," admitted the enthusiastic professor. "Undoubtedly, there is at least a fair spice of that; but, even so, enough remains to both waken and hold our keenest interest. Listen, and take heed, my good lads.

"You have often enough, of late days, noticed these mountains, and if you remark their altitude, the vast scope of country they dominate, the position they fill, you must likewise realise one other fact: that an immense quantity of snow in winter, rain in spring and autumn, surely must fall throughout the Olympics. Understand?"

"Certainly; why not, uncle Phaeton?"

"Then tell me this: where does all the moisture go to? What becomes of the surplus waters? For it is an acknowledged fact that, though rivers and brooks surely exist in the Olympics, not one of either flows away from this wide tract of country!"

The professor paused for a minute, to let his words take full effect, then even more positively proceeded:

"You may say, what I have had others offer by way of solution, that all is drained into a mighty inland sea or enormous lake. Granting so much, which I really believe to be the truth as far as it goes, why does that lake never overflow? Of all that surely must drain into its basin, be that enormously wide and deep as it may, how much could ordinary evaporation dispose of? Only an infinitesimal portion; scarcely worth mentioning in such connection. Then,—what becomes of the surplusage?"

Another pause, during which neither Gillespie ventured a solution; then the professor offered his own suggestion:

"It must flow off in some manner, and what other manner can that be than—through a subterranean connection with the Pacific Ocean?"

Bruno gave a short ejaculation at this, while Waldo broke forth in words, after his own particular fashion:

"Jules Verne redivivus! Why can’t WE take a trip through the centre of the earth, or—or—any other little old thing like that?"

"With the tank of compressed air as a life-preserver?" laughed Bruno, in turn. "That might serve, but; unfortunately, we have only the one, and we are three in number, boy."

"Only two, now; I’m squelched!" sighed the jester, faintly.

If the professor heard, he heeded not. Still staring with vacant gaze into the fire, his face bearing a rapt expression curious to see, he broke into almost unconscious speech:

"An enormous inland sea! Where float the mighty ichthyosaurus, the megalosaurus, in company with the gigantic plesiosaurus! Upon whose sloping shores disport the enormous mastodon, the stately megatherium, the tremendous—eh?"

For Waldo was now afoot, brandishing a great branch broken from a dead tree, uttering valiant war-whoops, and dealing tremendous blows upon an imaginary enemy, spouting at the top of his voice a frenzied jargon, which neither his auditors nor himself could possibly make sense out of.

Bruno, ever sensitive through his affectionate reverence for their uncle, caught the youngster, and cast him to earth, whereupon Waldo pantingly cried:

"Go on, please, uncle Phaeton. It’s next thing to a museum and menagerie combined, just to hear—"

"Will you hush, boy?" demanded Bruno, yet unable to wholly smother a laugh, so ridiculous did it all sound and seem.

But Professor Featherwit declined, his foxy face wrinkling in a bashful laugh. Whether so intended or not, he had been brought down to earth from that dizzy flight, and now was fairly himself again.

"Well, my dear boys, I dare say it seems all a matter of jest and sport to you; yet, after our riding in the centre of a tornado for uncounted miles, coming forth with hardly a scratch or a bruise to show for it all, who dare say such things may not be, even yet?"

"But,—those strange creatures are gone; the last one perished thousands upon thousands of years ago, uncle Phaeton."

"So it is said, and so follows the almost universal belief. Yet I have seen, felt, cooked, tasted, and ate to its last morsel a steak from a mammoth. True, the creature was dead; had been preserved for ages, no doubt, within the glacier which finally cast it forth to human view; yet who would have credited such a discovery, only fifty years ago? He who dared to even hint at such a thing would have been derided and laughed at, pronounced either fool or lunatic. And so,—if we should happen to discover one or all of those supposedly extinct creatures here in this terra incognita, I would be overjoyed rather than astounded."

Bruno looked grave at this conclusion, but Waldo was not so readily impressed, and, with shrugging shoulders, he made answer:

"Well, uncle, I’m not quite so ambitious as all that comes to. May I give you my idea of it all?"

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Chicago: Joseph E. Badger Jr, "Chapter VII. The Professor’s Great Anticipations.," The Lost City, ed. Altemus, Henry in The Lost City Original Sources, accessed July 20, 2024, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=GZW3CN7C43FFTTY.

MLA: Badger, Joseph E., Jr. "Chapter VII. The Professor’s Great Anticipations." The Lost City, edited by Altemus, Henry, in The Lost City, Original Sources. 20 Jul. 2024. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=GZW3CN7C43FFTTY.

Harvard: Badger, JE, 'Chapter VII. The Professor’s Great Anticipations.' in The Lost City, ed. . cited in , The Lost City. Original Sources, retrieved 20 July 2024, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=GZW3CN7C43FFTTY.