The Lost Continent: "Splendidly colourful, imaginative and gloriously entertaining." ~ Lin Carter
Atlantida: “Well imagined, with much scholalry detail on the geography of French north Africa and the classical literature on Atlantis. The narrative is fast-moving and hold's one's interest well. All in all, perhaps the best of the older Atlantis fictions..” ~Everett Franklin Bleiler, Science-fiction, the Early Years
The Toll of the Sea: “One of the better lost races of the period, with well-realized moments, a convincing culture, reasonable characters, and competent writing.” ~Everett Franklin Bleiler, Science-fiction, the Early Years
Queen of Atlantis: Much the best of the Atkins adventures.” ~Everett Franklin Bleiler, Science-fiction, the Early Years
When the World Shook:
“A really splendid romance, rich in color, fresh and gorgeous in its imaginative qualities and power, and needless to add, absorbingly interesting...” ~The New York Times (1919)
Another blanket in the shadows alongside sat up suddenly and gave vent to a restrained, gurgling series of chuckles, which at first provoked the tall man to further expletives and then, as the humour of the episode dawned upon him, caused him to join in the laughter.
“That’s the third pair of blankets I’ve burned a hole in since last month,” he drawled, “all of which is a sure sign it’s time I was hikin’ out of these hills, even if there ain’t nothin’ superstitious in me.”
He held the blanket aloft and examined the holes with a rueful air as he continued:
“Now I suppose, since you’ve been away so long, and have studied so much, and have got to be Captain James Tipton of the United States Navy, instead of plain Jimmy Tip that was dragged up with me escortin’ wanderin’ cows over the range, you’ll say it ain’t no sign; but I’m still plain Bill Pape, cow man and miner, who knows what he knows, which is more than some men ever learn from books.”
“Plain Bill Pape,” with the air of a man who has had his say, threw down the blankets, fumbled in his pockets, produced tobacco and papers, and calmly rolled a cigarette. He seated himself on the blankets, while his companion looked at him for a minute as he bulked large against the glow of the night with his shadow thrown slantwise like that of a rock in the light of the moon. Then he, too, as if wide awake, yawned, disencumbered himself from his blankets, stretched his arms, and sought comfort in smoke.
“You weren’t asleep—were you, Bill?”
“Just gettin’ that way, Jimmy; same as the feller that could almost hear the possum he was diggin’ out.”
He puffed in silence for a few moments and then deftly flicked the half-burned cigarette toward the coals. Far away the chittering, melancholy howl of a coyote awoke many echoes, an ember cracked, and then all was still.
“Jimmy,” he said, low, and with a taint of awkwardness, “I’m kind of glad you woke up. I’ve got somethin’ to tell you which I’ve been thinkin’ of ever since we came out of Cheyenne on this little huntin’ trip, and the sign on the blankets makes it sure. We’re goin’ to be in Cheyenne again tomorrow night, and then I suppose you’ll be sayin’: ‘So long, Bill; good-bye,’ and takin’ the train back to Frisco. Well, it’s just this: you may be sayin’ good-bye for good. I’m leavin’ the range and I ain’t comin’ back. I’m leavin’ everything you and me has known. I’m goin’ to South America.”
The officer, with a gesture of surprise and protest, turned his head.
“Bill, you aren’t in earnest, are you?” he asked. “What on earth put that notion in your head? What’s the matter with you? What do you want to leave here for? Why, man, you belong here; you’re a part of it all. You were born here on this range. You—”
“Yes, that’s just it—born here,” came the interruption. “See here, Jimmy,” he said abruptly, swinging around on his hips until he faced the other; “I’m sick of it! It’s been a good many years since you left Wyoming—the time you got appointed down to Annapolis. You went away and learned things, and kept goin’ ahead and doin’ something worthwhile. Now you’re a captain of a cruiser.”
He halted for a moment, as if seeking words to show that he harboured no envy, and then continued in a contained tone of voice:
“Well, when you went away it was pretty lonesome for me, seein’ as we’d been boys together, played together, and lived together ever since we could remember; but I kept on because there wasn’t nothin’ else to do. Just punched cows all summer, and when winter came travelled on a piece and mined, if I could raise a grub stake. Punched holes all the way from Zacatecas to Klondike, but never got much of anything for it. Why, if I’d saved all the holes I’ve made and chopped ’em up, I reckon I’d have a hole trust and could rent ’em out for artesian wells at a right fair rake-off. That’s about all I’ve got to show for myself.”
He paused, fumbled for another paper, and sought a live ember, while his companion sat in moody silence.
“But, Bill,” he said irrelevantly, “you’ve always been here when I came back.”
“Yes,” came the drawling response, “because I was just like you—always came back. Let me see—we’ve had a trip together about once every couple of years, and, Jimmy, it’s always seemed mighty good to be with you again. You haven’t swelled up none, even though you have done big things, and are boss of a ship, and inventor of a new-fangled sort of telegraph, and a general all-round hell-of-a-feller; but Bill Pape’s still Bill Pape, punchin’ cows in the summer and holes in the winter, busted on everything but friends, chasin’ rainbows because there’s gold in the linin’, swearin’ a lot, drinkin’ some, tryin’ to forgive his enemies and doin’ what he can to be on the square, and amountin’ to—nothin’ Just this.”
He threw his hands wide in an elegant gesture of contempt.
“Why, Jimmy,” he added, with a sudden change of voice, “you and me ain’t boys no longer. There’s a right smart of gray comin’ into your hair, and I’m forty. It’s twenty-five years ago since you and I rode, stirrup to stirrup and spur to spur, across an open range, when there was no barbed wire fence, and we worked from Montana to the Panhandle. When you can’t work no more our Uncle Samuel’s goin’ to make you an admiral, and you can quit; but there’s no one goin’ to care for Bill Pape. I’m goin’ to go where the country’s still new.”
He rapped each word out decisively and as decisively continued:
“And I’m goin’ so far into that new country that I’ll find something and come out with enough, or” he paused for an instant and then concluded in a softer tone, “or else when you shake hands with me tomorrow night and say ‘So long, Bill,’ it’ll be for the last time.”
He folded his arms over his knees and sat staring at a blaze which had sprung up, while Captain James Tipton held reverie. Something in the conversation had recalled the old days and the truth of them all, and the changed conditions into which their divergent paths had led. Reading the tale of unrest, he was sorry, vaguely sorry, that the paths might not have travelled together. Why, the range wouldn’t be worth coming to again without this truest friend of all! It would be strange and desolated like a graveyard of boyhood; the last living link would be gone, and the very hills seem alien. He took the usual man’s method of avoiding a display of sentiment and turned the subject to a joke.
“Why, Billy,” he said, “if you go to South America, you’ll get lazy or lost, or become a crank like old Dr. Martinez—a croaker.”
“And bother folks by predictin’ the end of the world, or some such truck? Not me!” responded Pape emphatically.
Pape laughed a little, indicating relief at the whimsical turn, and then, as if the name of Martinez had provoked his curiosity, straightened his legs out and turned toward the officer.
“Jimmy,” he asked, “what’s all this Martinez stuff about, and why? Explain it to me. Turn it loose. You know I don’t get to read a paper once a month and then all I ever hear of him is a joke.”
“Yes,” the officer responded, “a jest; but I’m not of those who dub him a fool. He is a scientist, for all of that. He had a Spanish father, an American mother, was born in Washington, educated at Harvard and abroad, and became a professor in an American university. He specialized in geology and drifted into seismic theories—”
“Whoa! Back up! You’re tanglin’ my picket rope. I’ve wanted to know what that word means so much I’ve laid awake nights thinkin’ about it.”
The captain explained, and then went ahead when his companion gave a slow “Um-m-m-mh” of understanding.
“Well, he evolved the theory that inasmuch as the world is a globe with a heated interior—”
“Which I don’t believe, because I can see it’s flat.”
“And there is a chain of vents—volcanoes—when these chains become extinct, as it is very probable they will, new ones must be formed. Hence he claims that, at some time, basing his theories on his admittedly profound knowledge of geology, there will be such a series of earthquakes and volcanic outbursts as the world has never known since Atlantis was submerged, or when Lemuria, which Ernest Haeckel claims witnessed the transition of the man-ape, was lowered into the waters.”
Again he was interrupted; this time by a loud guffaw of laughter which echoed back and forth among the foothills and sounded hollowly over the lower sand dunes. The plainsman rolled over on his blankets.
“Wow!” he shouted. “That’s Jimmy talkin’. That’s my old pal, Jimmy! I don’t know anything about all that stuff. What I asked you about was Martinez.”
“Just what I’m telling you,” the officer continued in a tone of exasperation, showing that he was unaccustomed to being treated without certain respect; “but maybe you don’t understand. This man, Dr. Pablo Martinez, predicted these things. Did it often. After a while they laughed at him. They commenced to cartoon him. They called him the Prognosticator of Evil. He resigned, disappeared, and now is in South America—Valparaiso—I think; but I believe he knows more than all his detractors combined. That’s all.”
His tone of finality was almost that of boyish injury, which Pape interpreted and smilingly ignored.
“Go on, Jimmy,” he urged. “I’m interested, even if I do get gay occasionally. I don’t get all of it, but what about this earthquake business?”
He turned over on his blankets with his arms beneath his head, when the officer, mollified, and interested in the theme, continued:
“Dr. Martinez predicates that changes in the earth’s crust take place at regular intervals and are as immutable as any other of Nature’s laws. You know what a fault in a mine is? Well, there are faults, or weak places, where the shell of the earth is more flexible and, therefore, more subject to earthquakes than in other places. Along these faults are located all the volcanoes. There is a long one running from Alaska southward through the great mountain chain to Patagonia, and in this belt there are frequent earthquakes.”
“Tryin’ to bluff me, aren’t you, Jimmy! Well, I’ll take a chance all right. Andes look good to me. Plenty of gold down there, if a feller can find it,” was sleepily interjected from the other blanket.
“It’s not a bluff, Billy; I’m giving you a lesson,” the captain remonstrated. “Now, you see there is another fault running from Alaska through Japan and following near the coast of China, Java, Borneo, and Australia. These two faults I have outlined are the largest and are, as one might say, the seams in the earth’s crust, like the seams in the cover of a baseball.”
“That’s all right, it’s a flat earth just the same,” was again interjected. But the officer paid no heed.
“In 1883 there occurred the most wholesale volcanic outburst in modern times. Thirteen volcanoes were active at one time along this Java, Borneo, and Sumatra fault, and Krakatoa blew its head off—”
“Like a cowpuncher at a missionary bazaar; but go on, I’m listenin’.”
“Blew its top off with a report that was felt clear through the earth, and which set up a wave of air that encircled it three times before it stopped.”
“That’s goin’ some. Wow!”
“It discharged mud enough at that time, it is estimated, to equal that which the Mississippi River discharges in two hundred and fifty years, and this in addition to the enormous quantities of pumice stone and molten lava it threw out. Then came an alternation in the reawakening of the other great seam, when San Francisco suffered its disastrous shock among other cities in that long zone. Then came another but minor alternation when Vesuvius and Ætna were again active. These last, Martinez claimed, were merely preliminary to an immense outburst which, owing to structural change of the earth’s crust, might be expected beneath the waters of the Southern Pacific ocean, and would cause an immense tidal wave over a wide area. The Messina disaster, it is generally believed, was local in nature. When he got that far, bureaus were established for better information, and then, when the great tremor didn’t come on time, and he kept on defending his position, they ridiculed him and, in a general burst of laughter, he left the country, Now do you understand it?”
There was no reply, and Tipton peered toward his companion to discover that he had fallen placidly asleep, with his face turned full to the light of the moon, and his long, strong arms folded across his splendid chest. With a grunt of annoyance and disdain, the officer rolled over in his blankets, lifted his feet into the air to gather round them the folds of a “cowboy tuck,” and stretched himself out. He forgot Martinez with his predictions and thought only of his own life. Tomorrow night he would be on the way to the Pacific port, where he would don his uniform and assume the necessary cloak of dignity befitting executive position. He would take command of the beautiful new cruiser, the Seattle, and life would drop back to its routine. The big, quiet hills of his boyhood would be far from sight, the wide-sweeping winds from their crests bringing the scent of balsam and fir would be replaced by the salt breath of the sea, and Bill Pape, now asleep over there in his blanket, would be gone, probably forever.
Accustomed as he was to partings, this one would be the worst. It was like bidding farewell to youth. Almost everything else of the old life was gone; there was none of immediate kin left, and only the old landmarks, unfeeling, unchangeable and aloof, would remain. This was his longest intimacy, and all the years of education, of advancement and of action had not lessened the affection he bore the man beside him. Big Bill Pape, cowboy and miner, half illiterate, wholly shrewd, unqualifiedly honest, recklessly fearless, and always loyal! Going now to South America, abandoning the hills they had known in boyhood, and with his determination finally resolved because he had burned the third hole in his blanket—“a sure sign that he must move on!”
With a sense of hovering trouble he went to sleep, and the moon passed on over the Wyoming hills, and the coyote yelped in the distance as the night waned, regardless of its slumbering children.
The friends followed the habit of the plains all the next day, for to exhibit any outward sign of affection would be merely sentimental. They rode into Cheyenne, their ponies’ feet clattering along the paved main street leading to the railway station, in time to meet the westbound train. Already, loathe to part, they had relinquished themselves to their silence and their own thoughts, and when they dismounted stood speechless and watched the baggage trucks unload themselves. The hurrying commercial travellers passed them, a man in rough garb bade an affectionate good-bye to a very homely woman, the noise subsided a little and the conductor from far up the long platform shouted, in a gradual crescendo, “All-l a-b-o-ard!”
Jim put his hand out to meet the other. They gripped very tightly. The train started to move, and the Pullman porter, with a carpeted step still clutched in his hand, swung on and waited to close the vestibule door. “So long, Billy. Good-bye,” the officer called.
The creaking of the wheels, now turning more rapidly, almost drowned the answered “So long, Jimmy.”
The train dropped swiftly away into the darkening west, its red taillights looking backward like receding eyes. The platform was nearly deserted, and the big man threw away his cigarette with an explosive gesture.
“Just as I knew it would be,” he muttered disconsolately. “So long, good-bye!’ Damn it! There ain’t nothin’ in the whole world but ‘so longs’ and ‘good-byes!’”