Having found that he moved more swiftly when farthest from the earth's surface, because the air was more rarefied and offered less resistance, Rob mounted upwards until the islands of Japan were mere specks visible through the clear, sunny atmosphere.
Then he began his eastward flight, the broad surface of the Pacific seeming like a blue cloud far beneath him.
16. Shipwrecked Mariners
Ample proof of Rob's careless and restless nature having been frankly placed before the reader in these pages, you will doubtless be surprised when I relate that during the next few hours our young gentleman suffered from a severe attack of homesickness, becoming as gloomy and unhappy in its duration as ever a homesick boy could be.
It may have been because he was just then cut off from all his fellow-creatures and even from the world itself; it may have been because he was satiated with marvels and with the almost absolute control over the powers which the Demon had conferred upon him; or it may have been because he was born and reared a hearty, healthy American boy, with a disposition to battle openly with the world and take his chances equally with his fellows, rather than be placed in such an exclusive position that no one could hope successfully to oppose him.
Perhaps he himself did not know what gave him this horrible attack of "the blues," but the truth is he took out his handkerchief and cried like a baby from very loneliness and misery.
There was no one to see him, thank goodness! and the tears gave him considerable relief. He dried his eyes, made an honest struggle to regain his cheerfulness, and then muttered to himself:
"If I stay up here, like an air-bubble in the sky, I shall certainly go crazy. I suppose there's nothing but water to look at down below, but if I could only sight a ship, or even see a fish jump, it would do me no end of good."
Thereupon he descended until, as the ocean's surface same nearer and nearer, he discovered a tiny island lying almost directly underneath him. It was hardly big enough to make a dot on the biggest map, but a clump of trees grew in the central portion, while around the edges were jagged rocks protecting a sandy beach and a stretch of flower-strewn upland leading to the trees.
It looked beautiful from Rob's elevated position, and his spirits brightened at once.
"I'll drop down and pick a bouquet," he exclaimed, and a few moments later his feet touched the firm earth of the island.
But before he could gather a dozen of the brilliant flowers a glad shout reached his ears, and, looking up, he saw two men running towards him from the trees.
They were dressed in sailor fashion, but their clothing was reduced to rags and scarcely clung to their brown, skinny bodies. As they advanced they waved their arms wildly in the air and cried in joyful tones:
"A boat! a boat!"
Rob stared at them wonderingly, and had much ado to prevent the poor fellows from hugging him outright, so great was their joy at his appearance. One of them rolled upon the ground, laughing and crying by turns, while the other danced and cut capers until he became so exhausted that he sank down breathless beside his comrade.
"How came you here?" then inquired the boy, in pitying tones.
"We're shipwrecked American sailors from the bark 'Cynthia Jane,' which went down near here over a month ago," answered the smallest and thinnest of the two. "We escaped by clinging to a bit of wreckage and floated to this island, where we have nearly starved to death. Indeed, we now have eaten everything on the island that was eatable, and had your boat arrived a few days later you'd have found us lying dead upon the beach!"
Rob listened to this sad tale with real sympathy.
"But I didn't come here in a boat," said he.
The men sprang to their feet with white, scared faces.
"No boat!" they cried; "are you, too, shipwrecked?"
"No;" he answered. "I flew here through the air." And then he explained to them the wonderful electric traveling machine.