Page:Avon Fantasy Reader 10.djvu/49

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poles. Remains of mammoths and mastodons have frequently been found in polar regions, even preserved in the ice. But Ponce de Leon came to late for that. No doubt the vast majority of legends and fables had a foundation of fact, and were handed down from tribe to tribe by word of mouth before sign-writing was in its crudest beginning. I have taken time and trouble to corroborate the log, a diary which Captain Ek kept through the years. It is an invaluable account of the world's progress, and the books occupy shelves of one wall in his Norwegian home. He had graciously and generously willed them to me at his death. And I have faith enough in the truth of his strange story, that I have entailed them to my son and grandson, fearing that I shall not be alive to give them to the world."

"But pitchblende and radium?" said Murphy again. "If a guy broke off a chunk of that there Bimini Bowl stuff. he'd have a reg'lar diamond mine in his own back yard, huh?"

"Look here," the voice of Commander Crayne was stern. "I want no risks taken by any of this company. You are under orders to obey me implicitly on this cruise. I am not questioning Captain Ek's veracity, nor casting doubt upon his story, but I forbid any man to leave the vicinity of this plane, or the company of the rest of us for a single instant, until we again reach the Aurora at Grant's Land. Professor Bjornsen, you realize as I do, that Captain Ek must not be allowed to endanger his life up here. My orders were to bring him north. My own duty is to return this company sound and uninjured, and I propose to do that to the best of my ability."

The scientist nodded.

"Now boys," the commander's tone was lighter, "better get some sleep. We'll repair this plane, circle the Bowl if possible, then start south, every man of us? He emphasized his words by a thump of his fist on the tiny table.

A smile crossed the face of the sleeping patriarch toward whom their eyes had turned.

"Bimini," breathed Murphy. "An' radium. Boy, oh boy, with a chunk o' that, and a dip around the brim, a man could sit pretty!"

Wrapped in fur parkas, they lay tightly packed in the small cabin of the Birmingham, yet it was not sleep which held them motionless through nine hours of repose. Crayne had scarcely closed his eyes than, like a fairy echo of that music of the Shades they had heard, came again the sound of song, poignantly sweet, so high-pitched that their nerves vibrated to music too acute for the eardrums to register. The aurora played between earth and the stars, but to Crayne there was the sensation of satin-smooth arms cradling his head, holding his body to the breast of some sweetness indescribable. And song coaxed him away. He could not translate those faint, fragile meanings of the music, but he understood. Nor could he shake off their unfolding caresses. Troubled by warnings of the flesh, he tried to free himself, in vain.

It was the Negro who drew him back from an abyss, for a clutch on his