The Skylark of Space, E. E. "Doc" Smith, Amazing Stories August, September and October 1928. Note: The copyright for this magazine short fiction has expired in the United States and was not renewed, thus, The Skylark of Space now resides in the public domain.

"That was a wonderful bluff, Dick!" exclaimed the Kofedix in English as soon as Nalboon and his guards had disappeared. "That was exactly the tone to take with him, too—you've sure got him guessing!"

"It seemed to get him, all right, but I'm wondering how long it'll hold him. I think we'd better make a dash for the Skylark right now, before he has time to think it over, don't you?"

"That is undoubtedly the best way," Dunark replied, lapsing into his own tongue. "Nalboon is plainly in awe of you now, but if I understand him at all, he is more than ever determined to seize your vessel, and every darkam's delay is dangerous."

The Earth-people quickly secured the few personal belongings they had brought with them. Stepping out into the hall and waving away the guards, Seaton motioned Dunark to lead the way. The other captives fell in behind, as they had done before, and the party walked boldly toward the door of the palace. The guards offered no opposition, but stood at attention and saluted as they passed. As they approached the entrance, however, Seaton saw the major-domo hurrying away and surmised that he was carrying the news to Nalboon. Outside the door, walking directly toward the landing dock, Dunark spoke in a low voice to Seaton, without turning.

"Nalboon knows by this time that we are making our escape, and it will be war to the death from here to the Skylark. I do not think there will be any pursuit from the palace, but he has warned the officers in charge of the dock and they will try to kill us as soon as we step out of the elevator, perhaps sooner. Nalboon intended to wit, but we have forced his hand and the dock is undoubtedly swarming with soldiers now. Shoot first and oftenest. Shoot first and think afterward. Show no mercy, as you will receive none—remember that the quality you call 'mercy' does not exist upon Osnome."

Rounding a great metal statue about fifty feet from the base of the towering dock, they saw that the door leading into one of the elevators was wide open and that two guards stood just inside it. As they caught sight of the approaching party, the guards raised their rifles; but, quick as they were, Seaton was quicker. At the first sight of the open door he had made two quick steps and had hurled himself across the intervening forty feet in a long football plunge. Before the two guards could straighten, he crashed into them, his great momentum hurling them across the elevator cage and crushing them into unconsciousness against its metal wall.

"Good work!" said Dunark, as he preceded the others into the elevator, and, after receiving Seaton's permission, distributed the weapons of the two guards among the men of his party. "Now we can surprise those upon the roof. That was why you didn't shoot?"

"Yes, I was afraid to risk a shot—it would give the whole thing away," Seaton replied, as he threw the unconscious guards out into the grounds and closed the massive door.

"Aren't you going to kill them?" asked Sitar, amazement in every feature and a puzzled expression in her splendid eyes. A murmur arose from the other Kondalians, which was quickly silenced by the Kofedix.

"It is dishonorable for a soldier of Earth to kill a helpless prisoner," he said briefly. "We cannot understand it, but we must not attempt to sway him in any point of honor."

Dunark stepped to the controls and the elevator shot upward, stopping at a landing several stories below the top of the dock. He took a peculiar device from his belt and fitted it over the muzzle of his strange pistol.

"We will get out here," he instructed the others, "and go up the rest of the way by a little-used flight of stairs. We will probably encounter some few guards, but I can dispose of them without raising an alarm. You will all stay behind me, please."

Seaton remonstrated, and Dunark went on:

"No, Seaton, you have done your share, and more. I am upon familiar ground now, and can do the work alone better than if you were to help me. I will call upon you, however, before we reach the dock."

The Kofedix led the way, his pistol resting lightly against his hip, and at the first turn of the corridor they came full upon four guards. The pistol did not move from its place at the side of the leader, but there were four subdued clicks and the four guards dropped dead, with bullets through their brains.

"Seaton, that is some silencer," whispered DuQuesne. "I didn't suppose a silencer could work that fast."

"They don't use powder," Seaton replied absently, all his faculties directed toward the next corner. "The bullets are propelled by an electrical charge."

In the same manner Dunark disposed of several more guards before the last stairway was reached.

"Seaton," he whispered in English, "now is the time we need your rapid pistol-work and your high-explosive shells. There must be hundreds of soldiers on the other side of that door, armed with machine-cannon shooting high-explosive shells at the rate of a thousand per minute. Our chance is this—their guns are probably trained upon the elevators and main stairways, since this passage is unused and none of us would be expected to know of it. Most of them don't know of it themselves. It will take them a second or two to bring their guns to bear upon us. We must do all the damage we can—kill them all, if possible—in that second or two. If Crane will lend me a pistol, we'll make the rush together."

"I've a better scheme than that," interrupted DuQuesne. "Next to you, Seaton, I'm the fastest man with a gun here. Also, like you, I can use both hands at once. Give me a couple of clips of those special cartridges and you and I will blow that bunch into the air before they know we're here."

It was decided that the two pistol experts should take the lead, closely followed by Crane and Dunark. The weapons were loaded to capacity and put in readiness for instant use.

"Let's go, bunch!" said Seaton. "The quicker we start the quicker we'll get back. Get ready to run out there, all the rest of you, as soon as the battle's over. Ready? On your marks—get set—go!"

He kicked the door open and there was a stuttering crash as the four automatic pistols simultaneously burst into practically continuous flame—a crash obliterated by an overwhelming concussion of sound as the X-plosive shells, sweeping the entire roof with a rapidly-opening fan of death, struck their marks and exploded. Well it was for the little group of wanderers that the two men in the door were past masters in the art of handling their weapons; well it was that they had in their tiny pistol-bullets the explosive force of hundreds of giant shells! For rank upon rank of soldiery were massed upon the roof; rapid-fire cannon, terrible engines of destruction, were pointing toward the elevators and toward the main stairways and approaches. But so rapid and fierce was the attack, that even those trained gunners had no time to point their guns. The battle lasted little more than a second, being over before either Crane or Dunark could fire a shot, and silence again reigned even while broken and shattered remnants of the guns and fragments of the metal and stone of the dock were still falling to the ground through a fine mist of what had once been men.

Assured by a rapid glance that not a single Mardonalian remained upon the dock, Seaton turned back to the others.

"Make it snappy, bunch! This is going to be a mighty unhealthy spot for us in a few minutes."

Dorothy threw her arms around his neck in relief. With one arm about her, he hastily led the way across the dock toward the Skylark, choosing the path with care because of the yawning holes blown into the structure by the terrific force of the explosions. The Skylark was still in place, held immovable by the attractor, but what a sight she was! Her crystal windows were shattered; her mighty plates of four-foot Norwegian armor were bent and cracked and twisted; two of her doors, warped and battered, hung awry from their broken hinges. Not a shell had struck her: all this damage had been done by flying fragments of the guns and of the dock itself; and Seaton and Crane, who had developed the new explosive, stood aghast at its awful power.

They hastily climbed into the vessel, and Seaton assured himself that the controls were uninjured.

"I hear battleships," Dunark said. "Is it permitted that I operate one of your machine guns?"

"Go as far as you like," responded Seaton, as he placed the women beneath the copper bar—the safest place in the vessel—and leaped to the instrument board. Before he reached it, and while DuQuesne, Crane, and Dunark were hastening to the guns, the whine of giant helicopter-screws was plainly heard. A ranging shell from the first warship, sighted a little low, exploded against the side of the dock beneath them. He reached the levers just as the second shell screamed through the air a bare four feet above them. As he shot the Skylark into the air under five notches of power, a steady stream of the huge bombs poured through the spot where, an instant before, the vessel had been. Crane and DuQuesne aimed several shots at the battleships, which were approaching from all sides, but the range was so extreme that no damage was done.

They heard the continuous chattering of the machine gun operated by the Kofedix, however, and turned toward him. He was shooting, not at the warships, but at the city rapidly growing smaller beneath them; moving the barrel of the rifle in a tiny spiral; spraying the entire city with death and destruction! As they looked, the first of the shells reached the ground, just as Dunark ceased firing for lack of ammunition. They saw the palace disappear as if by magic, being instantly blotted out in a cloud of dust—a cloud which, with a spiral motion of dizzying rapidity, increased in size until it obscured the entire city.

Having attained sufficient altitude to be safe from any possible pursuit and out of range of even the heaviest guns, Seaton stopped the vessel and went out into the main compartment to consult with the other members of the group, about their next move.

"It sure does feel good to get a breath of cool air, folks," he said, as he drew with relief a deep breath of the air, which, at that great elevation, was of an icy temperature and very thin. He glanced at the little group of Kondalians as he spoke, then leaped back to the instrument board with an apology on his lips—they were gasping for breath and shivering with the cold. He switched on the heating coils and dropped the Skylark rapidly in a long descent toward the ocean.

"If that is the temperature you enjoy, I understand at last why you wear clothes," said the Kofedix, as soon as he could talk.

"Do not your planes fly up into the regions of low temperature?" asked Crane.

"Only occasionally, and all high-flying vessels are enclosed and heated to our normal temperature. We have heavy wraps, but we dislike to wear them so intensely that we never subject ourselves to any cold."

"Well, there's no accounting for tastes," returned Seaton, "but I can't hand your climate a thing. It's hotter even than Washington in August; 'and that,' as the poet feelingly remarked, 'is going some!'

"But there's no reason for sitting here in the dark," he continued, as he switched on the powerful daylight lamps which lighted the vessel with the nearest approach to sunlight possible to produce. As soon as the lights were on, Dorothy looked intently at the strange women.

"Now we can see what color they really are," she explained to her lover in a low voice. "Why, they aren't so very different from what they were before, except that the colors are much softer and more pleasing. They really are beautiful, in spite of being green. Don't you think so, Dick?"

"They're a handsome bunch, all right," he agreed, and they were. Their skins were a light, soft green, tanned to an olive shade by their many fervent suns. Their teeth were a brilliant and shining grass-green. Their eyes and their long, thick hair were a glossy black.

The Kondalians looked at the Earthly visitors and at each other, and the women uttered exclamations of horror.

"What a frightful light?" exclaimed Sitar. "Please shut it off. I would rather be in total darkness than look like this!"

"What's the matter, Sitar?" asked the puzzled Dorothy as Seaton turned off the lights. "You look perfectly stunning in this light."

"They see things differently than we do," explained Seaton. "Their optic nerves react differently than ours do. While we look all right to them, and they look all right to us, in both kinds of light, they look just as different to themselves under our daylight lamps as we do to ourselves in their green light. Is that explanation clear?"

"It's clear enough as far as it goes, but what do they look like to themselves?"

"That's too deep for me—I can't explain it, any better than you can. Take the Osnomian color 'mlap,' for instance. Can you describe it?"

"It's a kind of greenish orange—but it seems as though it ought not to look like that color either."

"That's it, exactly. From the knowledge you received from the educator, it should be a brilliant purple. That is due to the difference in the optic nerves, which explains why we see things so differently from the way the Osnomians do. Perhaps they can describe the way they look to each other in our white light."

"Can you, Sitar?" asked Dorothy.

"One word describes it—'horrible.'" replied the Kondalian princess, and her husband added:

"The colors are distorted and unrecognizable, just as your colors are to your eyes in our light."

"Well, now that the color question is answered, let's get going. I pretty nearly asked you the way, Dunark—forgot that I know it as well as you do."

The Skylark set off at as high an altitude as the Osnomians could stand. As they neared the ocean several great Mardonalian battleships, warned of the escape, sought to intercept them; but the Skylark hopped over them easily, out of range of their heaviest guns, and flew onward at such speed that pursuit was not even attempted. The ocean was quickly crossed. Soon the space-car came to rest over a great city, and Seaton pointed out the palace; which, with its landing dock nearby, was very similar to that of Nalboon, in the capital city of Mardonale.

Crane drew Seaton to one side.

"Do you think it is safe to trust these Kondalians, any more than it was the others? How would it be to stay in the Lark instead of going into the palace?"

"Yes, Mart, this bunch can be trusted. Dunark has a lot of darn queer ideas, but he's square as a die. He's our friend, and will get us the copper. We have no choice now, anyway, look at the bar. We haven't an ounce of copper left—we're down to the plating in spots. Besides, we couldn't go anywhere if we had a ton of copper, because the old bus is a wreck. She won't hold air—you could throw a cat out through the shell in any direction. She'll have to have a lot of work done on her before we can think of leaving. As to staying in her, that wouldn't help us a bit. Steel is as soft as wood to these folks—their shells would go through her as though she were made of mush. They are made of metal that is harder than diamond and tougher than rubber, and when they strike they bore in like drill-bits. If they are out to get us they'll do it anyway, whether we're here or there, so we may as well be guests. But there's no danger, Mart. You know I swapped brains with him, and I know him as well as I know myself. He's a good, square man—one of our kind of folks."

Convinced, Crane nodded his head and the Skylark dropped toward the dock. While they were still high in air, Dunark took an instrument from his belt and rapidly manipulated a small lever. The others felt the air vibrate—a peculiar, pulsating wave, which, to the surprise of the Earthly visitors, they could read without difficulty. It was a message from the Kofedix to the entire city, telling of the escape of his party and giving the news that he was accompanied by two great Karfedo from another world. Then the pulsations became unintelligible, and all knew that he had tuned his instrument away from the "general" key into the individual key of some one person.

"I just let my father, the Karfedix, know that we are coming," he explained, as the vibrations ceased.

From the city beneath them hundreds of great guns roared forth a welcome, banners and streamers hung from every possible point, and the air became tinted and perfumed with a bewildering variety of colors and scents and quivered with the rush of messages of welcome. The Skylark was soon surrounded by a majestic fleet of giant warships, who escorted her with impressive ceremony to the landing dock, while around them flitted great numbers of other aircraft. The tiny one-man helicopters darted hither and thither, apparently always in imminent danger of colliding with some of their larger neighbors, but always escaping as though by a miracle. Beautiful pleasure-planes soared and dipped and wheeled like giant gulls; and, cleaving their stately way through the numberless lesser craft; immense multiplane passenger liners partially supported by helicopter screws turned aside from their scheduled courses to pay homage to the Kofedix of Kondal.

As the Skylark approached the top of the dock, all the escorting vessels dropped away and Crane saw that instead of the brilliant assemblage he had expected to see upon the landing-place there was only a small group of persons, as completely unadorned as were those in the car. In answer to his look of surprise, the Kofedix said, with deep feeling:

"My father, mother, and the rest of the family. They know that we, as escaped captives, would be without harness or trappings, and are meeting us in the same state."

Seaton brought the vessel to the dock near the little group, and the Earthly visitors remained inside their vessel while the rulers of Kondal welcomed the sons and daughters they had given up for dead.

After the affecting reunion, which was very similar to an earthly one under similar circumstances, the Kofedix led his father up to the Skylark and his guests stepped down upon the dock.

"Friends," Dunark began, "I have told you of my father, Roban, the Karfedix of Kondal. Father, it is a great honor to present to you those who rescued us from Mardonale—Seaton, Karfedix of Knowledge; Crane, Karfedix of Wealth; Miss Vaneman; and Miss Spencer. Karfedix DuQuesne," waving his hand toward him, "is a lesser Karfedix of Knowledge, captive to the others."

"The Kofedix Dunark exaggerates our services," deprecated Seaton, "and doesn't mention the fact that he saved all our lives. But for him we all should have been killed."

The Karfedix, disregarding Seaton's remark, acknowledged the indebtedness of Kondal in heartfelt accents before he led them back to the other party and made the introductions. As all walked toward the elevators, the emperor turned to his son with a puzzled expression.

"I know from your message, Dunark, that our guests are from a distant solar system, and I can understand your accident with the educator, but I cannot understand the titles of these men. Knowledge and wealth are not ruled over. Are you sure that you have translated their titles correctly?"

"As correctly as I can—we have no words in our language to express the meaning. Their government is a most peculiar one, the rulers all being chosen by the people of the whole nation...."

"Extraordinary!" interjected the older man. "How, then, can anything be accomplished?"

"I do not understand the thing myself, it is so utterly unheard-of. But they have no royalty, as we understand the term. In America, their country, every man is equal.

"That is," he hastened to correct himself, "they are not all equal, either, as they have two classes which would rank with royalty—those who have attained to great heights of knowledge and those who have amassed great wealth. This explanation is entirely inadequate and does not give the right idea of their positions, but it is as close as I can come to the truth in our language."

"I am surprised that you should be carrying a prisoner with you, Karfedo," said Roban, addressing Seaton and Crane. "You will, of course, be at perfect liberty to put him to death in any way that pleases you, just as though you were in your own kingdoms. But perchance you are saving him so that his death will crown your home-coming?"

The Kofedix spoke in answer while Seaton, usually so quick to speak, was groping for words.

"No, father, he is not to be put to death. That is another peculiar custom of the Earth-men; they consider it dishonorable to harm a captive, or even an unarmed enemy. For that reason we must treat the Karfedix DuQuesne with every courtesy due his rank, but at the same time he is to be allowed to do only such things as may be permitted by Seaton and Crane."

"Yet they do not seem to be a weak race," mused the older man.

"They are a mighty race, far advanced in evolution," replied his son. "It is not weakness, but a peculiar moral code. We have many things to learn from them, and but few to give them in return. Their visit will mean much to Kondal."

During this conversation they had descended to the ground and had reached the palace, after traversing grounds even more sumptuous and splendid than those surrounding the palace of Nalboon. Inside the palace walls the Kofedix himself led the guests to their rooms, accompanied by the major-domo and an escort of guards. He explained to them that the rooms were all inter-communicating, each having a completely equipped bathroom.

"Complete except for cold water, you mean," said Seaton with a smile.

"There is cold water," rejoined the other, leading him into the bathroom and releasing a ten-inch stream of lukewarm water into the small swimming pool, built of polished metal, which forms part of every Kondalian bathroom. "But I am forgetting that you like extreme cold. We will install refrigerating machines at once."

"Don't do it—thanks just the same. We won't be here long enough to make it worth while."

Dunark smilingly replied that he would make his guests as comfortable as he could, and after informing them that in one kam he would return and escort them in to koprat, took his leave. Scarcely had the guests freshened themselves when he was back, but he was no longer the Dunark they had known. He now wore a metal-and-leather harness which was one blaze of precious gems, and a leather belt hung with jeweled weapons replaced the familiar hollow girdle of metal. His right arm, between the wrist and the elbow, was almost covered by six bracelets of a transparent metal, deep cobalt-blue in color, each set with an incredibly brilliant stone of the same shade. On his left wrist he wore an Osnomian chronometer. This was an instrument resembling the odometer of an automobile, whose numerous revolving segments revealed a large and constantly increasing number—the date and time of the Osnomian day, expressed in a decimal number of the karkamo of Kondalian history.

"Greetings, oh guests from Earth! I feel more like myself, now that I am again in my trappings and have my weapons at my side. Will you accompany me to koprat, or are you not hungry?" as he attached the peculiar timepieces to the wrists of the guests, with bracelets of the deep-blue metal.

"We accept with thanks," replied Dorothy promptly. "We're starving to death, as usual."

As they walked toward the dining hall, Dunark noticed that Dorothy's eyes strayed toward his bracelets, and he answered her unasked question:

"These are our wedding rings. Man and wife exchange bracelets as part of the ceremony."

"Then you can tell whether a man is married or not, and how many wives he has, simply by looking at his arm? We should have something like that on Earth, Dick—then married men wouldn't find it so easy to pose as bachelors!"

Roban met them at the door of the great dining hall. He also was in full panoply, and Dorothy counted ten of the heavy bracelets upon his right arm as he led them to places near his own. The room was a replica of the other Osnomian dining hall they had seen and the women were decorated with the same barbaric splendor of scintillating gems.

After the meal, which was a happy one, taking the nature of a celebration in honor of the return of the captives, DuQuesne went directly to his room while the others spent the time until the zero hour in strolling about the splendid grounds, always escorted by many guards. Returning to the room occupied by the two girls, the couples separated, each girl accompanying her lover to the door of his room.

Margaret was ill at ease, though trying hard to appear completely self-possessed.

"What is the matter, sweetheart Peggy?" asked Crane, solicitously.

"I didn't know that you...." she broke off and continued with a rush: "What did the Kofedix mean just now, when he called you the Karfedix of Wealth?"

"Well, you see, I happen to have some money...." he began.

"Then you are the great M. Reynolds Crane?" she interrupted, in consternation.

"Leave off 'the great,'" he said, then, noting her expression, he took her in his arms and laughed slightly.

"Is that all that was bothering you? What does a little money amount to between you and me?"

"Nothing—but I'm awfully glad that I didn't know it before," she replied, as she returned his caress with fervor. "That is, it means nothing if you are perfectly sure I'm not...."

Crane, the imperturbable, broke a life-long rule and interrupted her.

"Do not say that, dear. You know as well as I do that between you and me there never have been, are not now, and never shall be, any doubts or any questions."

"If I could have a real cold bath now, I'd feel fine," remarked Seaton, standing in his own door with Dorothy by his side. "I'm no blooming Englishman but in weather as hot as this I sure would like to dive into a good cold tank. How do you feel after all this excitement, Dottie? Up to standard?"

"I'm scared purple," she replied, nestling against him, "or, at least, if not exactly scared, I'm apprehensive and nervous. I always thought I had good nerves, but everything here is so horrible and unreal, that I can't help but feel it. When I'm with you I really enjoy the experience, but when I'm alone or with Peggy, especially in the sleeping-period, which is so awfully long and when it seems that something terrible is going to happen every minute, my mind goes off in spite of me into thoughts of what may happen. Why, last night, Peggy and I just huddled up to each other in a ghastly yellow funk—dreading we knew not what—the two of us slept hardly at all."

"I'm sorry, little girl," replied Seaton, embracing her tenderly, "sorrier than I can say. I know that your nerves are all right, but you haven't roughed it enough, or lived in strange environments enough, to be able to feel at home. The reason you feel safer with me is that I feel perfectly at home here myself, not that your nerves are going to pieces or anything like that. It won't be for long, though, sweetheart—as soon as we get the chariot fixed up we'll beat it back to the Earth so fast it'll make your head spin."

"Yes, I think that's the reason, lover. I hope you won't think I'm a clinging vine, but I can't help being afraid of something here every time I'm away from you. You're so self-reliant, so perfectly at ease here, that it makes me feel the same way."

"I am perfectly at ease. There's nothing to be afraid of. I've been in hundreds of worse places, right on Earth. I sure wish I could be with you all the time, sweetheart girl—only you can understand just how much I wish it—but, as I said before, it won't be long until we can be together all the time."

Dorothy pushed him into his room, followed him within it, closed the door, and put both hands on his arm.

"Dick, sweetheart," she whispered, while a hot blush suffused her face, "you're not as dumb as I thought you were—you're dumber! But if you simply won't say it, I will. Don't you know that a marriage that is legal where it is performed is legal anywhere, and that no law says that the marriage must be performed upon the Earth?"

He pressed her to his heart in a mighty embrace, and his low voice showed in every vibration the depth of the feeling he held for the beautiful woman in his arms as he replied:

"I never thought of that, sweetheart, and I wouldn't have dared mention it if I had. You're so far away from your family and your friends that it would seem...."

"It wouldn't seem anything of the kind," she broke in earnestly. "Don't you see, you big, dense, wonderful man, that it is the only thing to do? We need each other, or at least, I need you, so much now...."

"Say 'each other'; it's right," declared her lover with fervor.

"It's foolish to wait. Mother would like to have seen me married, of course; but there will be great advantages, even on that side. A grand wedding, of the kind we would simply have to have in Washington, doesn't appeal to me any more than it does to you—and it would bore you to extinction. Dad would hate it, too—it's better all around to be married here."

Seaton, who had been trying to speak, silenced her.

"I'm convinced, Dottie, have been ever since the first word. If you can see it that way I'm so glad that I can't express it. I've been scared stiff every time I thought of our wedding. I'll speak to the Karfedix the first thing in the morning, and we'll be married tomorrow—or rather today, since it is past the zero kam," as he glanced at the chronometer upon his wrist, which, driven by wireless impulses from the master-clock in the national observatory, was clicking off the darkamo with an almost inaudible purr of its smoothly-revolving segments.

"How would it be to wake him up and have it done now?"

"Oh, Dick, be reasonable! That would never do. Tomorrow will be most awfully sudden, as it is! And Dick, please speak to Martin, will you? Peggy's even more scared than I am, and Martin, the dear old stupid, is even less likely to suggest such a thing as this kind of a wedding than you are. Peggy's afraid to suggest it to him."

"Woman!" he said in mock sternness, "Is this a put-up job?"

"It certainly is. Did you think I had nerve enough to do it without help?"

Seaton turned and opened the door.

"Mart! Bring Peggy over here!" he called, as he led Dorothy back into the girls' room.

"Heavens, Dick, be careful! You'll spoil the whole thing!"

"No, I won't. Leave it to me—I bashfully admit that I'm a regular bear-cat at this diplomatic stuff. Watch my smoke!"

"Folks," he said, when the four were together, "Dottie and I have been talking things over, and we've decided that today's the best possible date for a wedding. Dottie's afraid of these long, daylight nights, and I admit that I'd sleep a lot sounder if I knew where she was all the time instead of only part of it. She says she's willing, provided you folks see it the same way and make it double. How about it?"

Margaret blushed furiously and Crane's lean, handsome face assumed a darker color as he replied:

"A marriage here would, of course, be legal anywhere, provided we have a certificate, and we could be married again upon our return if we think it desirable. It might look as though we were taking an unfair advantage of the girls, Dick, but considering all the circumstances, I think it would be the best thing for everyone concerned."

He saw the supreme joy in Margaret's eyes, and his own assumed a new light as he drew her into the hollow of his arm.

"Peggy has known me only a short time, but nothing else in the world is as certain as our love. It is the bride's privilege to set the date, so I will only say that it cannot be too soon for me."

"The sooner the better," said Margaret, with a blush that would have been divine in any earthly light, "did you say 'today,' Dick?"

"I'll see the Karfedix as soon as he gets up," he answered, and walked with Dorothy to his door.

"I'm just too supremely happy for words," Dorothy whispered in Seaton's ear as he bade her good-night. "I won't be able to sleep or anything!"