The Land of the Changing Sun
The balloon seemed scarcely to move, though it was slowly sinking toward the ocean of
white clouds which hung between it and the earth.
The two inmates of the car were insensible; their faces were bloodless, their cheeks
sunken. They were both young and handsome. Harry Johnston, an American, was as dark
and sallow as a Spaniard. Charles Thorndyke, an English gentleman, had yellow hair and
mustache, blue eyes and a fine intellectual face. Both were tall, athletic in build and well-
Johnston was the first to come to consciousness as the balloon sank into less rarefied
atmosphere. He opened his eyes dreamily and looked curiously at the white face of his
friend in his lap. Then he shook him and tried to call his name, but his lips made no
sound. Drawing himself up a little with a hand on the edge of the basket, he reached for a
water-jug and sprinkled Thorndyke's face. In a moment he was rewarded by seeing the
eyes of the latter slowly open.
"Where are we?" asked Thorndyke in a whisper.
"I don't know;" Johnston answered, "getting nearer to the earth, for we can breathe more
easily. I can't remember much after the professor fell from the car. My God, old man! I
shall never forget the horror in the poor fellow's eyes as he clung to the rope down there
and begged us to save him. I tried to get you to look, but you were dozing off. I attempted
to draw him up, but the rope on the edge of the basket was tipping it, and both you and I
came near following him. I tried to keep from seeing his horrible face as the rope began
to slip through his fingers. I knew the instant he let go by our shooting upward."
"I came to myself and looked over when the basket tipped," replied the Englishman, "I
thought I was going too, but I could not stir a muscle to prevent it. He said something
desperately, but the wind blew it away and covered his face with his beard, so that I could
not see the movement of his lips."
"It may have been some instructions to us about the management of the balloon."
"I think not--perhaps a good-bye, or a message to his wife and child. Poor fellow!"
"How long have we been out of our heads?" and Johnston looked over the side of the car.
"I have not the slightest idea. Days and nights may have passed since he fell."
"That is true. I remember coming to myself for an instant, and it seemed that we were
being jerked along at the rate of a gunshot. My God, it was awful! It was as black as
condensed midnight. I felt your warm body against me and was glad I was not alone.