Mastodon And Will-o'-the Wisps


Bearwarden's bullet struck the mammoth in the shoulder, while

Ayrault's aim was farther back. As the balls exploded, a

half-barrelful of flesh and hide was shot from each, leaving two

gaping holes. Instantly he rushed among the trees, making his

course known for some time by his roars. As he turned,

Bearwarden fired again, but the hall flew over him, blowing off

the top of a tree.

or the chase!" said Ayrault. "There would be no excuse for

losing him."

Quickly pushing their raft to shore and securing it to the bank,

the three jumped off. Thanks to their rubber boots and galvanic

outfits which automatically kept them charged, they were as spry

as they would have been on earth. The ground all about them, and

in a strip twelve feet wide where the mammoth had gone, was torn

up, and the vegetation trodden down. Following this trail, they

struck back into the woods, where in places the gloom cast by the

thick foliage was so dense that there was a mere twilight,

startling as they went numbers of birds of grey and sombre

plumage, whose necks and heads, and the sounds they uttered, were

so reptilian that the three terrestrials believed they must also

possess poison fangs.

"The most highly developed things we have seen here," said

Bearwarden, "are the flowers and fireflies, most of the birds and

amphibians being simply loathsome."

As they proceeded they found tracks of blood, which were rapidly

attracting swarms of the reptile birds and snakes, which,

however, as a rule, fled at their approach.

"I wonder what can have caused that mammoth to move so fast, and

to have seemed so ill at ease?" said the doctor. "His motive

certainly was not thirst, for he did not approach the water in a

direct line, neither did he drink on reaching it. One would

think nothing short of an earthquake or a land-slide could

trouble him."

"There can be no land-slide here," said Ayrault, for the country

is too flat."

"And after yesterday's eruptions," added Bearwarden, "it would

seem as though the volcanoes could have scarcely enough steam

left to make trouble."

The blood-tracks, continuing to become fresher, showed them they

were nearing the game, when suddenly the trail took a sharp turn

to the right, even returning towards the lake. A little farther

it took another sharp turn, then followed a series of doublings,

while still farther the ground was completely denuded of trees,

its torn-up and trampled condition and the enormous amount of

still warm blood showing how terrific a battle had just taken


While they looked about they saw what appeared to be the trunk of

a tree about four feet in diameter and six feet long, with a

slight crook. On coming closer, they recognized in it one of the

forefeet of the mammoth, cut as cleanly as though with a knife

from the leg just above the ankle, and still warm. A little

farther they found the huge trunk cut to slivers, and, just

beyond, the body of the unfortunate beast with three of its feet

gone, and the thick hide cut and slashed like so much paper. It

still breathed, and Ayrault, who had a tender heart, sent an

explosive ball into its skull, which ended its suffering.

The three hunters then surveyed the scene. The largest and most

powerful beast they had believed could exist lay before them

dead, not from the bite of a snake or any other poison, but from

mechanical injuries of which those they had inflicted formed but

a very small part, and literally cut to pieces.

"I am curious to see the animal," said Cortlandt, "capable of

doing this, though nothing short of dynamite bombs would protect

us from him."

"As he has not stopped to eat his victim," said Bearwarden, "it

is fair to suppose he is not carnivorous, and so must have had

some other motive than hunger in making the attack; unless we can

suppose that our approach frightened him away, which, with such

power as he must possess, seems unlikely. Let us see," he

continued, "parts of two legs remain unaccounted for. Perhaps,

on account of their shape, he has been able the more easily to

carry or roll them off, for we know that elephant foot makes a

capital dish."

"From the way you talk," said Cortlandt, "one would suppose you

attributed this to men. The Goliath we picture to ourselves

would be a child compared to the man that could cut through these

legs, though the necessity of believing him to have merely great

size does not disprove his existence here. I think it probable

we shall find this is the work of some animal with incisors of

such power as it is difficult for us to conceive of."

"There is no indication here of teeth," said Bearwarden, "each

foot being taken off with a clean cut. Besides, we are coming to

believe that man existed on earth during the greater part, if not

the whole, of our Carboniferous period."

"We must reserve our decision pending further evidence," said


"I vote we take the heart," said Ayrault, "and cook it, since

otherwise the mammoth will be devoured before our eyes."

While Bearwarden and Ayrault delved for this, Cortlandt, with

some difficulty, parted the mammoth's lips and examined the

teeth. "From the conical projections on the molars," said he,

"this should be classed rather as a mastodon than as a mammoth."

When the huge heart was secured, Bearwarden arranged slices on

sharpened sticks, while Ayrault set about starting a fire. He

had to use Cortlandt's gun to clear the dry wood of snakes,

which, attracted doubtless by the dead mastodon, came in such

numbers that they covered the ground, while huge pterodactyls,

more venomous-looking than the reptiles, hovered about the

opening above.

Arranging a double line of electric wires in a circle about the

mastodon and themselves, they sat down and did justice to the

meal, with appetites that might have dismayed the waiting throng.

Whenever a snake's head came in contact with one wire, while his

tail touched the other, he gave a spasmodic leap and fell back

dead. If he happened to fall across the wires, lie immediately

began to sizzle, a cloud of smoke arose, and lie was reduced to


"Any time that we are short of mastodon or other good game," said

Ayrault, "we need not hunger if we are not above grilled snake."

All laughed at this, and Bearwarden, drawing a whiskey-flask from

his pocket, passed it to his friends.

"When we rig our fishing-tackle," he continued, "and have fresh

fish for dinner, an entree of rattlesnake, roast mastodon for the

piece de resistance, and begin the whole with turtle soup and

clams, of which there must be plenty on the ocean beach, we shall

want to stay here the rest of our lives."

"I suspect we shall have to," replied Ayrault "for we shall

become so like Thanksgiving turkeys that the Callisto's door will

be too small for us."

While they sat and talked, the flowers and plants about them

softly began their song, and, as a visual accompaniment, the

fire-flies they had not before noticed twinkled through the


"My goodness! " exclaimed Cortlandt, "how time goes here! We

started to get breakfast, and now it's growing dark."

Hastily cutting some thick but tender slices from the mastodon,

and impaling them with the remains of the heart on a sharpened

stake, they took up the wires, and the battery that had been

supplying the current, and retraced their steps by the way they

had come. Their rubber-lined cowhide boots protected them from

all but the largest snakes, and as these were for the most part

already enjoying their gorge, they trampled with impunity on

those that remained in their path. When they had covered about

half the distance to the raft, a huge boa-constrictor, which they

had mistaken for a branch, fell upon Cortlandt, pinioning his

arms and bearing him to the ground. Dropping their loads,

Bearwarden and Ayrault threw themselves upon the monster with

their hunting-knives with such vim that in a few seconds it beat

a hasty retreat, leaving, as it did so, a wake of phosphorescent


"Are you hurt?" asked Bearwarden, helping him up.

"Not in the least," replied Cortlandt. "What surprises me is

that I am not. The weight of that boa-constrictor would be very

great on earth, and here I should think it would be simply


Groping their way through the rapidly growing darkness, they

reached the raft without further adventure, and, once on the

lake, had plenty of light. Two moons, one at three quarters and

the other full, shone brightly, while the water was alive with

gymnotuses and other luminous creatures. Sitting and living upon

the cross-timbers, they looked up at the sky. The Great Bear and

the north star had exactly the same relation to each other as

when seen from the earth, while the other constellations and the

Milky Way looked identically as when they had so often gazed at

them before, and some idea of the immensity of space was conveyed

to them. Here was no change; though they had travelled three

hundred and eighty million miles, there was no more perceptible

difference than if they had not moved a foot. Perhaps, they

thought, to the telescopes--if there are any--among the stars,

the sun was seen to be accompanied by two small, dark companions,

for Jupiter and Saturn might be visible, or perhaps it seemed

merely as a slightly variable star, in years when sun-spots were

numerous, or as the larger planets in their revolutions

occasionally intercepted a part of its light. As they floated

along they noticed a number of what they took to be

Will-o'-the-wisps. Several of these great globules of pale flame

hovered about them in the air, near the surface of the water, and

anon they rose till they hung above the trees, apparently having

no forward or horizontal motion except when taken by the gentle

breeze, merely sinking and rising.

"How pretty they are!" said Cortlandt, as they watched them.

"For bodies consisting of marsh gas, they hold together


Presently one alighted on the water near them. It was

considerably brighter than any glow-worm, and somewhat larger

than an arc lamp, being nearly three feet in diameter; it did not

emit much light, but would itself have been visible from a

considerable distance. Cortlandt tried to touch it with a

raft-pole, but could not reach far enough. Presently a large

fish approached it, swimming near the surface of the water. When

it was close to the Jack-o'-lantern, or whatever it was, there

was a splash, the fish turned up its white under side, and, the

breeze being away from the raft, the fire-ball and its victim

slowly floated off together. There were frequently a dozen of

these great globules in sight at once, rising and descending, the

observers noticing one peculiarity, viz., that their brightness

increased as they rose, and decreased as they sank.

About two and a half hours after sunset, or midnight according to

Jupiter time, they fell asleep, but about an hour later Cortlandt

was awakened by a weight on his chest. Starting up, he perceived

a huge white-faced bat, with its head but a few inches from his.

Its outstretched wings were about eight feet across, and it

fastened its sharp claws upon him. Seizing it by the throat, he

struggled violently. His companions, awakened by the noise,

quickly came to his rescue, grasping him just as he was in danger

of being dragged off the raft, and in another moment Bearwarden's

knife had entered the creature's spine.

"This evidently belongs to the blood-sucking species," said

Cortlandt. "I seem to be the target for all these beasts, and

henceforth shall keep my eyes open at night."

As day would break in but little over an hour, they decided to

remain awake, and they pushed the dead bat overboard, where it

was soon devoured by fishes. A chill had come upon the air, and

the incessant noise of the forms of life about them had in a

measure ceased.

Cortlandt passed around a box of quinine as a preventive against

malaria, and again they lay back and looked at the stars. The

most splendid sight in their sky now was Saturn. At the

comparatively short distance this great planet was from them, it

cast a distinct shadow, its vast rings making it appear twice its

real size. With the first glimmer of dawn, the fire-balls

descended to the surface of the water and disappeared within it,

their lights going out. With a suddenness to which the explorers

were becoming accustomed, the sun burst upon them, rising as

perpendicularly as at the earth's equator, and more than twice as

fast, having first tinged the sky with the most brilliant hues.

The stream had left the forest and swamp, and was now flowing

through open country between high banks. Pushing the raft

ashore, they stepped off on the sand, and, warming up the remains

of the mastodon's heart, ate a substantial breakfast.

While washing their knives in the stream preparatory to leaving

it--for they wished to return to the Callisto by completing the

circle they had begun--they noticed a huge flat jelly-fish in

shallow water. It was so transparent that they could see the

sandy bottom through it. As it seemed to be asleep, Bearwarden

stirred up the water around it and poked it with a stick. The

jelly- fish first drew itself together till it touched the

surface of the water, being nearly round, then it slowly left the

stream and rose till it was wholly in the air, and,

notwithstanding the sunlight, it emitted a faint glow.

"Ah!" exclaimed Bearwarden, "here we have one of our

Jack-o'-lanterns. Let us see what it is going to do."

"It is incomprehensible to me," said Cortlandt, "how it maintains

itself; for it has neither wings nor visible means of support,

yet, as it was able to immerse itself in the stream, thereby

displacing a volume of liquid equivalent to its bulk, it must be

at least as heavy as water."

The jelly-fish remained poised in the air until directly above

them, when it began to descend.

"Stand from under!" cried Bearwarden, stepping back. "I, for one,

should not care to be touched."

The great soft mass came directly over the spot on which they had

been standing, and stopped its descent about three feet from the

ground, parallel to which it was slowly carried by the wind. A

few yards off, in the direction in which it was moving, lay a

long black snake asleep on the sand. When directly over its

victim the jelly globule again sank till it touched the middle of

the reptile's back. The serpent immediately coiled itself in a

knot, but was already dead. The jellyfish did not swallow, but

completely surrounded its prey, and again rose in the air, with

the snake's black body clearly visible within it.

"Our Will-o'-the-wisp is prettier by night than by day," said

Bearwarden. "I suggest that we investigate this further."

"How?" asked Cortlandt.

"By destroying its life," replied Bearwarden. "Give it one

barrel from your gun, doctor, and see if it can then defy


Accordingly Cortlandt took careful aim at the object, about

twenty-yards away, and fired. The main portion of the jellyfish,

with the snake still in its embrace, sailed away, but many pounds

of jelly fell to the ground. Most of this remained where it had

fallen, but a few of the larger pieces showed a faint luminosity

and rose again.

"You cannot kill that which is simply a mass of protoplasm," said

Cortlandt. "Doubtless each of those pieces will form a new

organism. This proves that there are ramifications and

developments of life which we never dreamed of."