Masterworks of Adventure: Lost Worlds

The Ultimate Anthology: 32 Classic Tales

Long before Indiana Jones... The ‘Lost World’ or ‘Lost Race’ genre was one of the most popular genres of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This Masterworks of Adventure anthology is a collection of 32 tales considered to be among the best and most influential works. We started with 333: A Bibliography of the Science-Fantasy Novel, by Crawford, Donahue and Grant (1953), which lists the best works published before 1950, then cross-referenced them with Science-fiction, the Early Years by Everett Franklin Bleiler and Jessica Amanda Salmonson’s Lost Race Check Guide, the ultimate checklist for collectors. You’ll find stories told in a variety of styles: travelogues, boy’s adventure, romantic adventure, philosophical adventure and pulp fiction. Some have been made available for Kindle for the very first time and are exclusive to ROH Press.

What people are saying

She: The most famous of the ‘lost world’ novels. It was incredibly popular and is still one of the best-selling books of all time, having sold over a hundred million copies. ~ Graeme Shimmin

The Lost World: “The tone and techniques that Conan Doyle first refined in The Lost World have become standard narrative procedures in popular entertainment of the present day.” ~ Michael Crichton

Eureka: “One of the finer books of its kind, unfortunately very rare.” ~ Jessica Amanda Salmonson

The Knight of the Silver Star: “Excellent tale.” ~ Jessica Amanda Salmonson

The Phantom City, A Volcanic Romance: “Intelligently written.” ~ Everett Franklin Bleiler, Science-fiction, the Early Years

Check out each title's rating on Goodreads.com

The Mountain Kingdom

Chapter 1: An April Morning

MY EXPERIENCE IN THE LITERARY way has been so small that it was only after great persuasion that I was induced to commence this history. Being conscious of my shortcomings, I wished to hand over the task to some one more capable of doing it justice; and it was not until my friends, the Hon. Eric Trevanion and Mr. Francis Lee, of Nepaul, had used considerable pressure that I gave in to them. They said that as I had been leader it was my duty to give an account of our marvellous adventures to the world, and no one else had any right to do it. So, in the end, I consented, though it was with much reluctance.
Before beginning, however, it may be necessary for me to remind the reader that there is an ancient proverb to the effect that “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Otherwise, he or she may be apt to forget that this is a true narrative, and not the creation of an imaginative novelist’s brain. The incidents I intend to relate, especially in the latter half of this volume (always provided, of course, that I do not throw up the whole thing in disgust by that time) may appear, to say the least of it, strange and uncommon, as, indeed, they appeared to us ourselves at the time; but it is known, on the authority of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Strange things we saw, and strange things we did, as shall be related in their proper places—things of which, in our philosophy, we never at one time even dreamt. But we are wiser now, thanks to the expedition above referred to; and I hope that my readers, before they finish all that I mean to write, may be in the same condition.
Well, making the best of an uncongenial job—for, even at college, I was more at home with a bat or an oar than a pen—I suppose I shall have to begin at the beginning. Know, then, that on a certain spring morning in the year of grace 187—, I, Douglas Dalziel of Airth, Esquire, was in my twenty-fourth year. Airth, which, as every one knows, is in Inverness-shire, N.B., had passed into my possession on attaining my majority, my father having died nine years previously. He had had one younger brother, who, all through my boyhood and youth, was a mystery to me. For a long time all that I knew of him was that he had died or been killed somewhere abroad; that his loss had been so acutely felt by my parents that they could hardly bear to hear his name mentioned; and that a monument had been erected to his memory in the family burying-place, the inscription on which ran:

ALISTER DOUGLAS DALZIEL.
Born, 1825. Died, 1851.
“He, the young and strong, who cherished Noble longings for the strife,
By the roadside fell and perished.
Weary with the march of life.”

Often in my boyhood, while my father was still alive, have I stood by this monument, musing on my uncle’s probable fate, and wishing I could know more of one whom I placed alongside of Richard Coeur de Lion, Ivanhoe, the Knight of the Leopard, and my other favourite heroes of chivalry.
One day, when I was about twelve, I summoned up courage to ask my father concerning him. I don’t know why I had not done so before, unless it was that intuitively I had felt that it was a subject about which he did not care to talk, and accordingly I had curbed my impatience until it was no longer possible to do so.
I shall never forget the look of pain which crossed his face when I put my question; but after considering for a minute or two he merely replied:
“Not just now, Douglas; you are still too young to understand. When you are older I may tell you the story of his death. But never speak to me of him again, my boy, for it costs me more pain than I like to own even to think of him.”
After that I said no more, though my curiosity underwent no abatement.
Then my father died, and shortly afterwards I was sent to Rugby, whence I passed to Oxford. In the midst of the work and play of school and college, I thought less of the mystery surrounding my uncle’s death, and it was only on rare occasions during vacation time that the desire to unravel it returned to me.
At Rugby and Brasenose my greatest chum was the Hon. Eric Trevanion, the youngest of the four sons of Lord Trevanion. In school and out of it, we were well-nigh inseparable; and so our common delight may be imagined when Eric’s father bought the castle and estate of Loch-Eyt, which was, as it were, next door to our house in Lochaber. We had now finished our careers at Oxford (doing nothing very distinguished, I am afraid), and what we should do, or where we should go next, was still a controversial matter. But during this spring we were enjoying ourselves at home—a thing which at no time presented any great difficulties to us.
Well, on this April morning in 187—, I had occasion to pass my uncle’s monument, and I stood still, as in my boyhood, to read the inscription. Doing so, the same desire as of old came over me, but more irresistibly than it had ever done before; and, as I remembered my father’s words before his death, I determined to ask my mother to tell me my uncle’s story. Surely it was now time that I should know!
The resolution was no sooner taken than I acted upon it. Returning at once to the house, I sought my mother’s room, and finding her disengaged, I asked her to tell me all about my Uncle Alister.
Contrary to my expectation, she made no demur, but only said:
“I have been anticipating such a request for a long time, Douglas, and have only wondered that it was not made sooner. Your poor father, before he died, told me that he had promised to tell you the whole story, and asked me to do so instead. The tale is a sad one to me, and I do not like to dwell upon it; but you may as well hear it just now as later.”
Settling herself comfortably in her chair, while I took possession of another by her side, she commenced.
“You know that your Uncle Alister was your father’s younger brother, and they were passionately fond of each other, so much so that they were seldom apart. After our marriage, Alister, at that time about your age, continued to stay with us. He was a tall and good-looking young fellow, and one of the strongest men in the county; and he was such a general favourite that I believe he could have raised a regiment from amongst his admirers.
“Your father, like many more of the family, had been a great traveller before he succeeded to the estates, and had been over most of America and Africa. He had been about to start for India when his father died, and the principal ambition of his life was to thoroughly explore the unknown places of Asia before he died. He had curious ideas of the wealth that perhaps lay in many of the out-of-the-way parts of that vast continent; and, had he lived, I believe he would have carried out his intentions.
“Well, Alister had also the family craze for travel—a craze which I see is developing itself in you, Douglas; and this your father, in default of going himself, strove to turn into an Asiatic channel. But Alister inclined to Africa, and seemed to care little for Asia. I saw that your father would, for very little cause, be off himself to Central Asia, and that the only way to prevent such a thing would be to get Alister to go in his stead. Accordingly I added my influence to Evan’s—your father’s— and, his brain once fired by thoughts of adventure, he was not difficult to manage.
“In 1850 he started for India, his only companion being an Anglo-Indian of the name of John Nimmo, who had been introduced to him in London as a traveller who had gone through Southern China from Canton to Burma. Nimmo was desirous of further travel, and as he knew much of the languages and manners of many of the peoples of Eastern Central Asia, he seemed just the partner for Alister.
“We first heard from him when he reached Calcutta. He had by that time, in conjunction with Nimmo, decided his course, which was to strike through Assam to the frontier of Burma and Thibet. Then they meant to see if it were possible to cross the intervening mountains and follow the Yang-tse-Kiang northward by way of Bathang and Miniak to its sources; and passing through the Tartar province of the Koko-Nor and the Chinese one of Kansuh, reach the great wall of China, which he and Nimmo would attempt to follow eastward to Peking. This enterprise was bold even to rashness, for at that time the Chinese Empire was shut to foreigners, or rather Europeans, on pain of death. But Alister and his friend apparently thought little of the danger, and we on our part could only hope that he would return all right.
“About three months later we got another letter which had been given to a native guide on the frontiers of Burma, and brought by him to Calcutta. This told of their progress through Assam. Everything had gone well so far—natives friendly, country splendid, and game plentiful.
“This was the last letter your uncle wrote. A year passed without any further news of the travellers, and we were just beginning to feel anxious when a letter arrived from Nimmo from Rangoon containing the sad news that Alister had been murdered by a band of roving brigands in the region of the lakes of the Koko-Nor. But get the letter from my escritoire. It is in the top right-hand drawer above the other papers. Here are the keys.”
Deeply interested in the narrative, I hastened to obey, and in a few seconds returned with the letter, of which I give a verbatim copy:—

At Messrs. J. and A. Swan’s, Rangoon,
31st October, 1851.

My Dear Sir,
I only arrived here this morning, and consequently can only send you a few lines at present to tell you of the sad fate of your brother, Mr. Alister Dalziel. Fuller particulars will arrive by next mail.
After passing the frontier into Thibet we struck northward—slightly north-west—keeping as far as possible out of the track of native villages, and after incredible difficulties had been surmounted, we reached Sourmang in September. There finding the natives favourably disposed towards us we wintered, starting again in April, and reaching the fertile plains of the Koko-Nor shortly after. Hearing that it would be impossible to penetrate eastward without being discovered and arrested by the Chinese authorities, we determined to go westward through Turkestan and so into Kashmir.
On the evening of the 15th of May we encamped on the banks of one of the small lakes near the Koko-Nor, or Blue Sea. About eight o’clock Alister saw a cloud of dust approaching from the south-east, and by the aid of his glass he made out this to be caused by a large troop of mounted Kolo (brigands, the terror of the peaceful Tartars) coming directly towards us. There was no time to flee. They soon sighted us, and rode down upon us, spear in hand. We held up our hands in token of surrender, but they either did not understand us or did not wish to do so; and in a few minutes we were completely surrounded. I was at once knocked down by a blow on the back of the head, and as I lay on the ground I saw your brother empty his revolver amongst them. He was then set upon by at least six Kolo, and he had received many thrusts, which must have been fatal, before I lost consciousness.
When I recovered I was being cared for by an honest Tartar family, who had found me after the brigands left. On inquiring for your brother I learned that the dead had been thrown by the Kolo into the lake. After my recovery I retraced my steps, eventually reaching Burma in safety.
There can be no doubt, my dear sir, that your brother was killed, and before closing this letter (the post leaves in ten minutes) I must express to you my deep sorrow at the occurrence. Alister had become like a brother to me, and I feel his loss acutely. I will write fuller to-morrow, and meanwhile am, yours very sincerely,

John G. Nimmo.

“We waited for several days,” continued my mother, “for the promised letter, but on its non-arrival your father telegraphed to the firm mentioned in Mr. Nimmo’s letter, Messrs: J. and A. Swan, bankers, of Rangoon, and from them he received the intelligence that Nimmo had gone up country immediately, with what purpose no one knew.
“Inquiries were set on foot, but all in vain. To this day no more has been heard of Nimmo; and at the time it was conjectured that he had been killed by dacoits in Upper Burma. But, unfortunately, there could be no doubt about the truth of his story. Everything pointed to the same conclusion—the wound on the back of his head, the condition in which he reached Rangoon, and the story he told so circumstantially to the people there. His disappearance was the only doubtful point, and he might have had powerful reasons of his own for it.
“Your father’s inquiries regarding the Kolo only served to confirm Nimmo’s statements. These brigands are hordes of Si-fan, or Eastern Thibetans, who, descending from their mountains like the Highlanders of old, pillage and murder the Mongol tribes who wander over the fruitful plains of the Koko-Nor. They very seldom take prisoners; they are not averse to murder if their purpose can be accomplished in no other way; and, in short, nothing could be more likely than that your uncle had been killed by them.
“That is all the story, Douglas, for it would be too painful for me to tell you how the news affected your father and myself. Indirectly, we were responsible for Alister’s death; and I believe your father was never the same man again. He could not bear to hear the incident spoken of, and to the day of his death he reproached himself, perhaps too much, for his share in the matter.”
So this was my uncle’s sad story! I confess that I was strangely affected while my mother was narrating the events that led up to his death; and after thinking over the matter in all its bearings, I cried, impulsively:
“Mother, I don’t believe my uncle was killed by these brigands!”
“Why?” she asked, with more indifference than I had expected.
“That fellow Nimmo wasn’t killed, and why should uncle be? True, he fired at them, and Nimmo saw him receive several thrusts; but, all the same, he had fully as much chance as his friend, and I believe he’s alive yet, though perhaps in captivity. Then Nimmo’s disappearance looks rather queer, to say the least of it, and that letter of his strikes me as somewhat hypocritical. No, I don’t think he was killed, and I’ve a good mind to go in search of him—or, at least, to make sure.”
I may here mention that my mother was quite right when she said that I was developing a craze for travel. Such crazes are, I think, hereditary; certainly my father’s had descended to me; and this story had served to give mine the impetus it needed. I had always longed to be an explorer, and Central Asia would do as well as, perhaps better than, any other part of the globe; it was certainly less known and much more difficult of access, and there was more than the usual danger when one got there—things not to be despised in this latter end of the nineteenth century.
No wonder, then, that I was quite excited over my new idea. My brain seemed on fire as I pondered over the story I had heard, and considered the chances of finding my uncle still alive. Thibet!—Tartars!—there was magic in the very names; and it was a magic which, in my case at, least, did not take long in accomplishing its purpose.
With my usual impulsiveness—my friends tell me I am very impulsive—I wished to bring down atlases and books of travel at once; but my mother interposed with a still better suggestion.
“I think you might do worse than take a walk over to Loch-Eyt to see Eric; and perhaps you may be able to discuss the matter more calmly on your return.”
I was all eagerness to find out what my friend thought of the matter; so I adopted the proposal on the instant, and, five minutes later, I was striding across the moors to Loch-Eyt Castle, with my faithful dog Tray trotting by my side.