The Radium Seekers - Fenton Ash - ebook

The Radium Seekers ebook

Fenton Ash

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Early science fiction, a cult classic, an enjoyable adventure. The story opens when our hero and his friends go to South America to look for radium, which has anti-gravity properties, and battle with a race of cruel Inca-type people who use the radium to fly, and disguise themselves as giant birds and terrorize the locals. „The Radium Seekers” is a fairly good novel written by Frank Aubrey. Francis Henry „Frank” Atkins (1847–1927) was a British writer of „pulp fiction”, in particular science fiction aimed at younger readers, writing at least three Lost-World novels along with much else. He wrote under the pseudonyms Frank Aubrey and Fenton Ash.

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Liczba stron: 390

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Contents

PREFACE

I. A PERSON OF NO GREAT WEIGHT

II. THE STORY OF THE "BLACK NUGGET"

III. WILD MEN OF THE WOODS

IV. THE DEN IN THE TREE

V. ASTONISHING THE NATIVES

VI. THE HAUNTED RUINS

VII. A FOUR-FOOTED RESCUER

VIII. WATCHED BY UNCANNY BEINGS

IX. AERIAL SERPENTS

X. A TERRIBLE NIGHT

XI. ARROWS FROM THE SKY

XII. THE PUMA BRINGS A MESSAGE

XIII. CAPTURE OF A "MAN-BIRD"

XIV. HARRY'S PERIL

XV. CORRESPONDENCE BY PUMA POST

XVI. LYONDRAH AND MYROLA.

XVII. THE MYSTERIOUS CLOUD

XVIII. THE FIGHT FOR THE CANOES

XIX. AQUATIC MANOEUVRES

XX. THE MAGIC FLYING CARPET

XXI. THE HIDDEN CITY

XXII. "THE LORD OF THE SERPENTS"

XXIII. ON EAGLES' WINGS

XXIV. IN THE VALLEY OF SERPENTS

XXV. A GREAT DISCOVERY

XXVI. LORD OF THE ISLES

XXVII. "THE SERPENT'S JAWS"

XXVIII. "THE SERPENT'S THROAT"

XXIX. CAST INTO PRISON

XXX. CONDEMNED TO DEATH

XXXI. MELIENUS DEFIES FEROUTAH

XXXII. UNDER THE RIVER OF FIRE

XXXIII. A NAVAL FIGHT

XXXIV. THE END OF THE MEN-BIRDS

XXXV. FEROUTAH'S TERRIBLE "DEATH CAGES"

XXXVI. A DASH FOR LIBERTY

XXXVII. CONCLUSION

PREFACE

WHEN I was a boy, stories of the weird and wonderful, of the mysterious and marvellous, always had a great attraction for my young imagination, so much so that whenever my supply of printed narratives of the kind ran short, I used to supplement the deficiency by thinking some out for myself. Then I began to relate them to my schoolfellows, who received them with so much approval that, in the end, I became a sort of champion “maker-up” of tales to the school.

Thus I may fairly say that I have gone through a kind of apprenticeship for the vocation of writer of fiction for boys. This fact it is which has inspired the hope that my present more matured imaginative inventions may be found not less acceptable, amongst a wider circle, than were my earlier fanciful flights to my schoolfellows. If this should be the case, then the results will be mutually agreeable and satisfactory, and will lend encouragement to further effort in the same direction.

I would, however, wish to warn those who have a liking for fiction of the “penny dreadful,” or “blood-and-thunder” order, that they will not find anything in my work to gratify their taste; nor will they find the dialogue besprinkled with specimens of the latest slang of the “gutter snipe” and the precocious “street Arab.” I am firmly of opinion that it should be possible for a writer of fair imagination to be able to hold the attention, and satisfy the legitimate craving for entertainment, of the youthful mind, without including in his work anything of an unwholesome or doubtful character.

On the other hand, be it here said, I am not of those who consider it imperative to mix up “little sermons,” or moral platitudes, with stories written for a boy’s leisure hours.

The world upon which we live is an inexhaustible storehouse of wonders, of which we may be sure that only comparatively a few have yet been revealed to us. There are more, far more, which are still hidden, and which are being slowly brought to light by the progress of modern scientific discovery, the ever-widening field of modern research, and the extension of modern travel and exploration. The imaginative mind which cares to gather up a few of the newest facts, and, travelling beyond them, carry their application a little farther, by what may be termed a speculative or scientific, rather than a poetic, licence, will find plenty of ideas and suggestions for the weaving of endless fanciful romances, which may be made to rival the old Arabian Nights’ Entertainment for marvels and fascinating interest.

In the present story I have but chosen one such idea from the many which thus offer themselves. It rests upon the supposed discovery of a metal with one or two new properties–certain novel attributes. Such a discovery being once assumed as a scientific possibility, a boundless field immediately opens to the imaginative mind or the speculative fancy, as to the situations, adventures, and new experiences it may be plausibly supposed to lead to. What the outcome, as here given, may be worth in the way of an entertaining story, and how far I may have succeeded in carrying out the idea to the satisfaction of the readers for whom I have written, it is, of course, for them to judge.

If, however, as I venture to hope, they find the effort to their liking, then I shall have the additional satisfaction of feeling that their pleasure has been wholly of an innocent character, and that they may even derive some profit from the perusal. I do not, as I have already hinted, believe in “writing in” moral lectures “between the lines” of a boy’s story; but I do believe it may be possible to entertain him in such a manner as to open his eyes to the vastness, the grandeur, of the works of the Great Creator, which surround him in multitudinous forms on all sides. I would like to suggest to him, to impress him with the conviction that, even as “there are as good fish in the sea as ever came out of it,” so there are as great wonders to be discovered, as marvellous secrets to be wrested from Nature, as any yet known to our limited intelligence, and that, quite possibly, he may be one of those destined to discover them.

In this way I would wish to arouse in him a sense of the illimitable possibilities of the world, of the universes, around him, and to stimulate in his mind that desire for knowledge, and interest in the boundless mysteries of the unknown, which are the first steps in the making of the world’s greatest scientists–chemists, engineers, electricians, naturalists, zoologists, botanists, explorers, archaeologists.

To succeed in the aims thus indicated, it may be claimed, is to place the writing of stories for boys upon a plane such as no writer needs be ashamed of.

I should like to say more in connexion with this view, but I forbear, lest I should arouse a lurking suspicion in the minds of my young readers that I am more anxious to instruct than to entertain. I can assure them that that is by no means the case, as indeed I think those who accompany me, in the following pages, into the Realms of Phantasy, will quickly discover for themselves.

–The Author.

I. A PERSON OF NO GREAT WEIGHT

“WELL, Staunton, here we are at the appointed place, and punctual to time! Now, at last, I suppose I shall know the meaning of my friend Wilfrid Moray’s mysterious message, and why he should have chosen this out-of-the-way spot for our meeting instead of the railway station or his own home.”

So spoke Harry Burnham, a good-looking, open-faced English youth, who had not so very long since put his schooldays behind him, and entered upon the threshold of that Tom Tiddler’s Ground–the life of the “grown-ups.”

His companion was one Sam Staunton by name, a tall, hardy, muscular man of middle age, a fine specimen of a faithful servitor of the good old-fashioned type.

“Lobsters and leeches!” exclaimed the man, gazing round him with evident surprise. “What a rum consultin’ shop to hold yer palaver in! Is this yer’ a dry dock we’re to unload in, I wonder?”

Sam was carrying a heavy portmanteau, and the suggestion of unloading was a welcome one, for it was a hot summer’s day.

“This,” said Harry, with a smile, “is an old shepherd’s hut, and the dry dock, as you term it, was once a walled-in sheepfold–all now more or less in ruins, as you can see.” He took a letter from his pocket, and glanced at it. “This is the ruined hut named in Wilfrid Moray’s letter, right enough; but he does not seem to be here, nor can I make out any sign of him, though one can see for a mile or two all round.”

“Marlinespikes an’ pill-boxes! but it be hot, Master Harry!” Sam muttered. He put down the portmanteau, and drew out an old coloured handkerchief, which he applied to his brows; then he continued, during intervals of the mopping process: “Will ye come to anchor ‘ere an’ wait for our convoy, or put on sail and make for Mr. Moray’s house? ‘Tain’t much farther on, be it? Does the perscripsh’n ye hold in yer hand give d’rections for us in case the writer bean’t ‘ere to give us our sailin’ orders?”

Sam Staunton was an old sailor, and had sailed much in “furrin parts.” But he had also, at one time, been in the service of a country apothecary, and his speech savoured of both occupations–a quaint jargon it then became, reminiscent partly of the sea and partly of the chemist’s shop, with, perhaps, a phrase or two from the doctor’s consulting-room thrown in.

Harry glanced about him again before replying. The two were standing upon a ridge of the South Downs. Before them, half a mile or so away, was the shore of the English Channel, where ships and steamers could he seen going to and fro. All around in other directions nothing was to be discerned but a wide expanse of undulating greensward, broken in a few places by clumps of trees.

“I don’t know whether to go on or not, Sam,” Harry presently said. “Certainly my friend Wilfrid is not here, and––”

“Bless you, bless you, my children!” said a voice behind them. They both turned sharply round, to find themselves confronted by a strange and somewhat startling apparition.

Above the top of the wall furthest from them they saw a young fellow, Harry’s senior by perhaps three or four years, who was looking down upon them with smiling face and eyes twinkling with merriment. The odd thing was that he seemed to be standing upon nothing in particular. His feet were two or three feet clear of the wall, and he was slowly rising into the air, without any sign of the means by which the marvel was accomplished.

In his hands he held a coil of stout cord, one end of which seemed to be fastened below the level of the wall. Otherwise there was absolutely nothing to form any connecting link between his body and the earth.

Slowly he continued to float upwards, the rope running through his hand as he ascended, and now he was five, six–soon ten feet above the wall.

“Great Scott!” Harry burst out, and then stood looking on, in ever-increasing wonder and surprise.

“Mermaids and oysters!” murmured Staunton, and he, too, remained with open mouth and staring eyes, a very picture of speechless, helpless amazement. As honest Sam was always wont to declare that he regarded the particular things he had thus named as two of the greatest wonders of creation, his utterance of the words at this precise moment sufficiently indicated the extreme state of “obfustication” to which he felt himself reduced.

Still the apparition rose steadily into the air until the coil of rope had all run out, when he remained quiescent at the end of the cord which, it could now be seen, was attached to his waist. There was a slight breeze, and it swayed him gently to and fro like a captive balloon anchored by a rope-There was little in the attire or equipment of this new kind of aeronaut to explain his thus remaining poised between heaven and earth. He was dressed in an ordinary tweed suit and carried with him nothing out of the common save the cord round his waist.

“Bless you, my children,” said the voice again, and the aerial gentleman spread his hands out benignantly. “You did me an injustice in thinking that I was late for our appointment.”

Then Harry found his tongue.

“Wilfrid! Wilfrid!” he gasped. “What in the world is the meaning of this? How is it done? What keeps you up there like that? Have you some new kind of balloon arrangement under your clothes?”

“Science, my dear Harry, is making great strides now-a-days, as doubtless you are aware, and you ought to know better than to show such surprise at what is merely a new scientific discovery. Do you not remember the mysterious ‘Black Nugget’ about which I wrote to you in my letters?”

“Yes, yes; I remember that,” Harry returned impatiently. “But what has that to do with it? How does it explain this performance of yours? You throw the fairies who float into the air in the transformation scenes at the pantomime quite into the shade. Jupiter! What a success you would be as a new kind of fairy!”

Wilfrid looked a little hurt.

“Science has nothing to do with fairies,” he replied, disdainfully. Meantime, Harry was recovering from his sense of bewilderment. He was now determined to master his astonishment and show that he could regard even such a development of science as this with sang froid. “Doesn’t it seem funny?” he asked. “Don’t you feel us if you wanted something to stand on?”

“H’m, well, yes; it does feel a little awkward at first–or did–for I have got a bit used to it now. What are you looking for?”

“I was just taking a look round to make sure there is no policeman in sight.”

“Why?”

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