"D--d--don't g--g--go so high!" stammered the little one, tremblingly; "suppose we should f--f--fall!"
"Well, s'pose we should?" answered Rob, gruffly. "You couldn't drown until you struck the water, so the higher we are the longer you'll live in case of accident."
This phase of the question seemed to comfort the frightened fellow somewhat; but, as he said, he had not a good head for heights, and so continued to tremble in spite of his resolve to be brave.
The weight on Rob's shoulders was not so great as he had feared, the traveling machine seeming to give a certain lightness and buoyancy to everything that came into contact with its wearer.
As soon as he had reached a sufficient elevation to admit of good speed he turned the indicator once more to the east and began moving rapidly through the air, the shipwrecked sailors dangling at either side.
"This is aw--aw--awful!" gasped the little one.
"Say, you shut up!" commanded the boy, angrily. "If your friend was as big a coward as you are I'd drop you both this minute. Let go my arm and keep quiet, if you want to reach land alive."
The fellow whimpered a little, but managed to remain silent for several minutes. Then he gave a sudden twitch and grabbed Rob's arm again.
"S'pose--s'pose the vine should break!" he moaned, a horrified look upon his face.
"I've had about enough of this," said Rob, savagely. "If you haven't any sense you don't deserve to live." He turned the indicator on the dial of the machine and they began to descend rapidly.
The little fellow screamed with fear, but Rob paid no attention to him until the feet of the two suspended sailors were actually dipping into the waves, when he brought their progress to an abrupt halt.
"Wh--wh--what are you g--g--going to do?" gurgled the cowardly sailor.
"I'm going to feed you to the sharks--unless you promise to keep your mouth shut," retorted the boy. "Now, then; decide at once! Which will it be--sharks or silence?"
"I won't say a word--'pon my honor, I won't!" said the sailor shudderingly.
"All right; remember your promise and we'll have no further trouble," remarked Rob, who had hard work to keep from laughing at the man's abject terror.
Once more he ascended and continued the journey, and for several hours they rode along swiftly and silently. Rob's shoulders were beginning to ache with the continued tugging of the vine upon them, but the thought that he was saving the lives of two unfortunate fellow-creatures gave him strength and courage to persevere.
Night was falling when they first sighted land; a wild and seemingly uninhabited stretch of the American coast. Rob made no effort to select a landing place, for he was nearly worn out with a strain and anxiety of the journey. He dropped his burden upon the brow of a high bluff overlooking the sea and, casting the vine from his shoulders, fell to the earth exhausted and half fainting.
17. The Coast of Oregon
When he had somewhat recovered, Rob sat up and looked around him. The elder sailor was kneeling in earnest prayer, offering grateful thanks for his escape from suffering and death. The younger one lay upon the ground sobbing and still violently agitated by recollections of the frightful experiences he had undergone. Although he did not show his feelings as plainly as the men, the boy was none the less gratified at having been instrumental in saving the lives of two fellow-beings.
The darkness was by this time rapidly enveloping them, so Rob asked his companions to gather some brushwood and light a fire, which they quickly did. The evening was cool for the time of year, and the heat from the fire was cheering and grateful; so they all lay near the glowing embers and fell fast asleep.
The sound of voices aroused Rob next morning, and on opening his eyes and gazing around he saw several rudely dressed men approaching. The two shipwrecked sailors were still sound asleep.
Rob stood up and waited for the strangers to draw near. They seemed to be fishermen, and were much surprised at finding three people asleep upon the bluff.